Sunday, December 11, 2016

Future Ready Libraries Change Lives

In October, I had the privilege of co-presenting a TL Virtual Cafe Webinar about Future Ready Libraries. Since that time, I continue to think about the Future Ready movement. I have also been learning more about OER (Open Educational Resources) after hearing Andrew Marcinek (@andycinek) present about these important tools for teachers during the same TL Virtual Cafe Webinar session.

I have enjoyed connecting our students to other schools this fall. Recently, we have been encouraging our students to connect to distant places for the purposes of reading to younger students, Mystery Skype, and student-led innovation presentations. We have also held several collaborative events in the school library. I want to use this space to talk about two of my favorite Future Ready Library components from the fall semester of 2016.

Build Instructional Partnerships

There are so many opportunities to build instructional partnerships in the school library. School libraries have numerous resources and physical space for a multitude of possibilities. They also have information professionals that are able to assist teachers in building immersive programming to deepen student learning. Several times per semester, we work to assist our teachers in grades 8-12 to bring their classroom novels to life in the library. The following are just two examples of such programming.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Mrs. Judy Morton, 12th Grade English teacher, approached us about a collaboration based on Hosseini's, A Thousand Splendid Suns, at the first of the year. We were very excited about this possibility because she wanted her AP Literature learners to prepare immersive content about life in Afghanistan for her other classes to experience. The two-day program was a great success! Her AP classes did a wonderful job of presenting the life and culture of Afghanistan during the program. I am hoping one of the students that participated in the event will team up with me to write a future blog article about the collaboration. I think it will be interesting to learn about the impact of the event from a student perspective.

Students taught about Afghan clothing at this library station

All of the student presenters wrote reflections about their projects. These are a few of their writings that stood out to me:

The students we taught learned more about the culture as well as the war and laws in Afghanistan. For example, before the war, women were allowed to express themselves with different styles of color and clothing pieces; however, with Sharia law partially dealing with women's rights, the government limited women to what they could wear out of the house. The most valuable thing about our project was that we were very involved with teaching the students about the different types of clothing. People volunteered to let us put hijabs on their heads so they could get a feel for what some of the Afghan children had to wear... - Erica H.

These students presented about Afghan literature

The most valuable part of this project was becoming a teacher, which forced our group to know our information like the back of our hand. It was interesting to watch my group mates get more comfortable as the day went on as I also tried to do. It was awesome seeing our group stand together and lead the lesson. The project also allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and speak confidently... - Caleb D.

I'm so glad that this student-led event was transformative for all involved. I hope that Mrs. Morton will collaborate with us again in the library.


I recently wrote about the Fearless collaboration we presented to students this year. This 8th-grade collaborative program (based on Fearless by Eric Blehm) has been a success since we started it in 2012. The book is based on the life of Navy SEAL and Arkansan, Adam Brown. This year we decided to have the event close to Veteran's Day which allowed us to use that as a powerful theme to better connect the content to local civic services. One of the most important changes we made this year was inviting local military (Army National Guard), law enforcement, and emergency service personnel to attend and show their vehicles on the last day of the three-day program. This seemed to connect with many students.

The vehicles on display were a big hit with students

After the program, I interviewed students on video if they gave me permission to do so. One student said, "I never would have thought about thanking a soldier or firefighter or a police officer if it weren't for this program... It opened my eyes." (See the video of his comment in the YouTube link below) The program was transformative for this learner. I wonder how many other students were impacted this way? We are so glad the library could be a part of this experience for our learning community!

Lead Beyond the Library

I love helping create an environment of innovation and collaboration in the school library. In addition, I like to knock down the school walls by connecting students and teachers to distant places. If you have a webcam and Twitter available, you can connect your learning community virtually anywhere! By choosing to do this, you will model what a connected classroom can look like. Teachers will want this for their own classrooms! We have connected more than ever this fall. I want to share some of the most powerful moments of the fall Skype adventures for our learners.


Last week I reflected on our participation in Microsoft's Skype-a-Thon activity. This was significant because our learners had the opportunity to connect with professionals from the Microsoft Corporation and the Department of State in Washington D.C. Planning such events takes a lot of time and preparation for our students to participate, but it is worth it. One of our students, Krystyna, had the opportunity to interact with both Microsoft employees over the two-day Skype-a-Thon event. She was able to ask Robyn Hrivnatz (Marketing and Education Programs Manager, US Education at Microsoft) questions about getting a job with the giant technology company. Following the interactions, Krystyna's thinking was changed, she realized she could possibly someday work for Microsoft. Through connecting and inquiry, Krystyna was changed forever. Learning from Robyn helped her envision a new possible future. This is the power of connecting with others, and it is why I want to connect our library to new friends frequently! I'm hoping Krystyna will write a reflection for me to publish on the blog so we can learn more about this through her own voice. She said she would, so I am hopeful (and I hope you are too)!

Future Connections

Through Twitter and the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert community, I'm able to connect with more distant educators. Recently I connected with Mio (@mibra_mio), an English teacher in Japan. She emailed me a video her students had created of daily life and clubs at her school. I have been showing it to our lunch crowds at school. If students have questions about what they see, I Tweet the questions (either in text or video clip form) to Mio. She is going to have her students respond back! I can't wait to see what they say.

I was so excited to meet Soheir in Egypt via Skype!

I also had a Skype session with Soheir (@sou_2022). She is a science teacher in Alexandria, Egypt. It was very exciting to talk to her about potential connections next semester as our 9th-grade civics classes transition to geography! We have lots to look forward to in the coming months. I've already been talking to several of our faculty, and they are very interested in connecting with Soheir and her students.

Leading beyond the library can happen much easier when school librarians have good relationships with teachers. Most of the faculty at our school are open to trying new things with us in the library. I believe that helping teachers connect outside of our state and country is a worthy activity. It helps our students become global citizens!


As I reflect on these two Future Ready components (Build Instructional Partnerships and Lead Beyond the Library), I realize that they have the potential to enhance the lives of students and teachers. Our library collaborations with teachers have helped deepen the learning of our students each year we have presented them. I also reflect back to Krystyna, the 10th-grade student that visited with Microsoft employees via Skype. She now knows it is possible that she could work for a company like Microsoft someday. That connection may have transformed her life and given her new goals!

Future Ready Libraries change lives. It's a great time to be in our profession!

How we held the 2016 Skype-a-Thon in the library!

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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