Month: May 2016

DonorsChoose.org

Valentine gift

At DonorsChoose.org full time public school teachers- yes, this includes teachers who are in charge of the library, aka librarians or media specialists– can sign up to seek funding for school projects and materials they need. Much like Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, educators can tap into a network of individuals much larger than the school community and their own personal circle of friends and acquaintances. The fact is, people want to help. Particularly if they can see how the money was spent and are able to interact at some level with the recipients.

The great thing about this site is that it’s very simple and straightforward. Teachers sign up (for free), detail out the materials and/or activities they need, and the campaign starts. Costs are verified by a member of the DonorsChoose team who then makes the purchases and sends items directly to the school. Finally, teachers are asked to send thank you letters, photos and a report. Donors can search by location; teacher or school; grade level, type of project or resource; amount needed; or by a keyword of their own choosing. They can fund a small part of the project or all of it. Sometimes there’s even a flash funding event where an organization or famous person- such as Google or Bill Gates, steps in and funds the whole thing. But mostly, it’s just regular people who want to feel useful.

And it works.  At DonorsChoose.org, 74% of the projects get fully funded. And on average, this happens within 27 days. Feel like cutting through the red tape, anyone? What I love is the range of projects that educators post. Here’s a few good examples:

  • Sally Ride Science – Literacy and eBooks for STEM learning:  A fantastic program that recognizes the role of literacy in STEM activities. This campaign is to fund a year’s worth of access to digital content and analytics.
  • Teacher of Three Oaks Library: A simple request for more library books. The teacher has identified three of the most important genres lacking from the library and then listed each book desired in the three categories.
  • A list of “Nearby Projects” yields 10 projects in my own school district! I like this one which is asking for bean bag chairs for the reading center.

Educators, if you haven’t already used DonorsChoose.org, please give it a whirl. And parents, please pass the word on to your children’s teachers.

Advertisements

Library + Makerspace = Learning Hub

connected learning
shiela connects by Alice Keeler (CC-BY 2.0)

Ohmygosh! This was such a simple, practical article about creating effective makerspaces. It got me dreaming about the makerspace that is supposedly coming to my daughter’s school. I really need to get better plugged in there because I didn’t even know they were putting one in. I would have loved to provide some input.

Most importantly, I would have asked if there was any way that it could be connected to the library. I think it’s a real missed opportunity to not have these two learning spaces connected. The library, after all, is a place where students are exposed to new and previously unexplored ideas. In an ideal world, there’s enough library time each week for library programs that help students actively engage with those ideas through collaborative, hands-on projects. We know this is how students learn. Having a makerspace would be a step in the right direction.

Modern school libraries have moved waaay beyond the role of merely supporting traditional literacy (reading and writing), toward being a key player in ensuring students meet state standards related to digital, visual, textual and technological literacy (which apply to K-5, not just the older kids). The modern library is a place of learning and doing. As Joyce Frye Willams puts it, “Our libraries should transition to places to do stuff, not simply places to get stuff.  We need to stop being the grocery store and become the kitchen” (take a minute to explore my colleagues’ website about makerspaces where I discovered this quote; it’s about highschool makerspaces, but very informative with lots of relevant resources.)

By separating the makerspace from the library, we risk marginalizing the library and move further away from giving our students an integrated, collaborative learning experience. You could almost argue that it sends a message that reading, writing, and inquiry/research have nothing to do with making things, undervaluing both the the library and the makerspace. Instead, we should be modelling the idea of connected learning, demonstrating that learning occurs in different contexts, is production-centered, and is powered by student interest (Harlan, 2015). One of the district’s core strategies for becoming “the model of educational excellence and innovation” is stated on page eight of its strategic plan: “The library is an important and central hub of each campus. The library can and should be involved in every aspect of the educational process.” Adding a makerspace to the library would help bring this vision of a learning hub into reality in a big way. Both libraries and makerspaces are important investments of time, money and energy, and should be maximized for optimal impact. They are, after all, more similar than they are different, sharing the common mission to “ignite a love of learning and a sense of curiosity in all students”- which, incidentally, is the school’s stated vision. Sounds like a win-win-win-win to me.

References

Harlan, M.A., (2015) Literacy and Media Centers in the Twenty-First Century. In Hirsh, S., Editor, Information Services Today: An Introduction. (pp. 53 – 61). Blue Ridge Summit: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

ISTE Connects (2016, May 11) 7 Tips for Creating a Learner-Centered Makerspace International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Sannwald, S. Burns. M., Miranda, G. & Westcoat, M. (2015) Makerspace Toolkit.