School libraries help bridge technology, learning

| Susan Klemond | August 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

Books and eReader

Along with crisp new paper books, Holy Spirit School students this fall might notice additions in their library and classrooms, such as audio books and Internet-based interactive white boards, which will help them continue developing media technology skills, according to Mary Wollmering, the school’s librarian/media specialist.

“We can’t expect children to power down when they enter the school building,” said Wollmering, who in addition to running Holy Spirit’s library also teaches the K-8 school’s upper level students computer skills and web-based research.

More tools for learning

Their libraries might not look much different, but a number of the 85 schools that the archdiocese’s roughly 21,600 elementary and middle school students attend are adding new technology that will impact how kids read and learn in just about every subject — whether or not they’re in the library, according to Mary Kane, the archdiocese’s assistant superintendent of schools.

From laptops to hand-held devices such as Apple iPods and iPads, schools are expanding their teaching tools for more differentiated learning. All 95 schools in the archdiocese are equipped with high-speed Internet, Kane said.

Schools are using books and other kinds of media, Kane said. “I think they’ve done a very good job of just looking at both ways of using those resources.”

Using a variety of resources helps prepare students for high school. “In order to meet the needs of more users, we’re trying to provide access in multiple formats,” said Judith Roggow, librarian at De La Salle High School and chair of the high school group of the Catholic School Librarian and Media Directors Association.

“It’s trying to adjust our offerings to meet the needs of the digital learners,” she said. “Students are all digital natives. They grew up with the stuff, and so we need to provide it to them in that content and that format.”

Paper books are definitely still a big part of learning, Wollmering said, adding that a fair amount of her library/media budget still goes toward traditional paper books. Many students still like the tactile nature of such books, she said, adding that the images in picture books don’t show up very well in e-readers.

At the same time, Wollmering said students who have e-readers are excited about reading and she is considering purchasing the devices for the library. Holy Spirit also is working to prepare students for the demands of high school by familiarizing them with applications such as Google Docs, which enables students to work collaboratively.

Students learn on computers in some libraries, while at other schools they are taught by library or technology specialists in their classrooms. Also, many libraries are using technology in their check-out systems, Kane said.

St. Michael School in St. Michael is expanding its computer lab in part as it adds the seventh grade at the school, said Amy Huberty, technology specialist. It has purchased 26 laptops for all the students as well as 27 iPod Touch audio devices to help younger students develop reading fluency.

“Our goal hopefully is in the future to go to a true one-to-one [student-to-computer] program,” she said. “Financially, in this economy, we can’t do it right now. We’re investigating all there is out there in technology, and at this point we decided to add this additional lab of MacBooks.”

Changing landscape

Similar to many of the schools adding technology to their media offerings, St. Michael depends in part on donations.
Like Wollmering, Huberty also teaches computer classes. Far from just handling books, some librarians now also work with other forms of media.

Some schools, like St. Michael, employ an IT specialist to manage technology, according to Kane. Whether they’re in the library, the computer lab or the classroom, librarians and technology specialists have an important role in guiding students through the rapidly changing media landscape.

“As teachers, we’re preparing kids to be contributing citizens in the world, and you see technology is changing every day,” Huberty said.

“I don’t know what the world is going to look like when the third-grader I’m teaching this year is out in the world, so I have to do what I can to give them that foundation so that when they are out in that world, they can take the skills that they’ve learned and apply them to the new technology.”

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Category: Back to School