Encouraging Student Technology Use in Library Media Programs

Instructor: Kim-Kathie Knudsen

Kim-Kathie has taught high school and college Spanish and has worked as a professional development specialist and instructional technology administrator. She has a master's degree in Teaching and Curriculum and is currently working on her doctorate in Educational Leadership.

The role of a library media specialist has transitioned from being a keeper of the books to a facilitator of digital research. Learn how to encourage and promote the use of technology by students in your library/media programs.

Not Your Grandma's Library

Jane is beginning her 5th year as a library media specialist, and her principal has asked her help in transforming the library from a quiet place where students come to check out books and do research to a collaborative space, infusing technology and research. Jane has done her research, talked to other librarians, and chatted with teachers, but where does she start with this transition?

Today's library/media specialists are not just experts in static information and library organizational skills, but are making the transition into the digital world, helping students research using digital tools. Now more than ever, school districts are adding technology either through a 1:1 program, which puts devices into the hands of every student, or a shared cart environment, which provides devices for students to share at school. Some districts allow students to take those computers home, and librarians are asked to have a hand in this process. The library/media center, if designed properly, can become a focal point of the school, and serve to meet the needs of both students and teachers in digital innovation, while providing the necessary tools and resources to increase student use of technology.

Technology in the Library

Encourage collaboration by adding furniture grouped in small group spaces.

Looking around the library, Jane decides to change the physical layout of the library from traditional rows and tables to a design that fosters innovation and collaboration. Keeping in mind that students need access to digital equipment, she begins the redesign process.

Simply providing digital resources to teachers is not enough to encourage technology use in the library. One way to increase usage is to design a space that encourages students to use digital tools while in the library. Look at your existing space and determine if there are enough outlets or power cords for the charging of devices. Some libraries have charging stations on or under tables, while others have space for USB charging through portable solutions. Digital tools foster collaboration and a completely quiet space can be too restrictive for students. Consider adding a quiet space in a corner or classroom attached to the library and then encourage collaboration in your library by adding furniture grouped in small group spaces, whiteboards to encourage ideas and creative thinking, and art supplies for projects and student work.

The physical space of the library is important, but so is the digital space. The library media specialist is a digital leader in the school, and the library website should serve as a model and guide for the rest of the school. Make your digital space welcoming to students, so they can find digital resources easily. List your databases, online card catalogs, and newest eBooks. Become active on social media and encourage students to engage with the library over Twitter, giving them incentives to visit the library. List the resources and services provided, so students know when they are welcome to visit the library. Train library staff to troubleshoot devices, and let students know they can get tech help from the front desk.

Curriculum Connections

Jane has updated her website and redesigned her physical space. Students are beginning to use technology in the library to collaborate with others and complete digital research. Her next step is to work with teachers to bring them into the library so students can use technology there. How does she begin?

Encouraging student technology use in the library means providing the opportunity for students to use digital resources to solve problems, to collaborate with others while attaining 21st century skills, and to acquire new knowledge. Besides providing a welcoming environment to encourage tech use in the library, library media specialists can work with classroom teachers to provide resources for students to do these things inside the curriculum. Librarians can offer to provide lessons for students on digital literacy, research techniques, internet safety, and resources specific to a content area. Teachers and librarians can collaborate on lessons with the goal of teachers bringing classes to the library to use technology and the librarians serving as resources or even co-teachers for lessons to teach students how to use digital resources appropriately.

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