Linking Literature to Makerspaces

Libraries seem to be the space where makerspaces are taking off.

a makerspaceThe library is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

A makerspace is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

In schools, the library is the only learning space not limited by curriculum; it is an open learning space, which can be interpreted in many ways, and I suggest that this is why so often makerspaces find their place there. Outside of schools, public libraries are increasingly one of the only ‘3rd places‘ where people can feel free to meet, collaborate and learn, without the pressure to spend (even coffee shops move you along if you linger without a coffee in front of you).  Not to mention that library staff are often the most open to new, exciting and innovative ways of interacting and engaging with learning and technology!

I have written before on makerfaires, resourcing makerspaces and the role of makerspaces in enabling creativity and creation.

However recently, I got to thinking about how there is a natural link between this new development in library culture – makerspaces, and one of the original and most seminal aspects of libraries – books.

There are several types of ‘maker’ books, and this blog will look at each in turn. But first, a description of these maker book categories.

The first and most literal interpretation are books that describe how to make things. These books have existed for as long as anyone can remember, but as the maker movement grows in popularity, have moved back into the limelight. Now, as well as the ever present craft and hobby books, there are also books available on a wide range of project types.

The second type of maker book are those about the maker movement. Either charting its development, or describing how or why you need a makerspace, these books are less in number, but are essential reading for anyone considering moving into this space from an educational or practical perspective.

The third and least considered category of maker books are picture books and other literature that features characters that display a ‘maker’ mindset. These beautiful books are fantastic for inspiring an open mind, a ‘give it a go’ attitude and for reinforcing the importance of persistence and problemsolving.

So – what are some of the best examples of each of these categories of maker book, and how can you use them to inspire young learners to get excited about inventing, innovating and creating?

Books about making things (category 1):

One of the surefire ways to ensure a successful makerspace is to get the students involved and engaged in what such a space might look like, and what local interests it might encourage and enable. So why not inspire them by creating a collection of books that encourage exactly the type of activities you might include in your space? There are literally thousands of ‘how to’ books for every craft, hobby or activity you could even think of; this selection is just a small sample of the wonders that await you at your library or bookshop. Look for books that are highly visual, that offer projects at a range of expertise levels, and that feature activities suitable to your local context. Check out the titles below, and if you would like to see more, have a look at this work-in-progress list for further suggestions.

PicMonkey Collage

Books about the maker movement (category 2):

Anyone wanting to implement a makerspace should spend some time reading and learning about the ideas and thinking behind the concept. Laura Fleming, in her recently published book, Worlds of Making, spends much of the first chapter emphasising the importance of an innovative, empowering, safe culture, where failure is celebrated as a way to learn, and makers feel confident to take risks. Without this, even the most well-equipped makerspaces can fail, says Fleming.

Another essential part of planning a successful makerspace in a school is having a shared understanding of the reasons why it is being introduced – a strong understanding of the learnings possible in a makerspace, as well as how it contributes to the curriculum is how to ensure the makerspace is not seen as just this year’s fad. One of the essential texts which covers this is Invent to Learn, by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, which gives an amazing introduction not only to the practicalities of makerspaces, but also the pedagogical understandings and reasoning informing this movement in schools.  Informing much of the maker movement is STEAM/STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics. Titles that explore this connection include Design Make Play by Margaret Honey and David E Kanter, as well as From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts by David A. Sousa and Thomas J. Pilecki. 

Beyond these practical texts, those interested in implementing makerspaces might also benefit from a deeper understanding of the maker movement in general, as well as some of the research regarding the importance of innovation, creativity and the need to prepare students for a future unlike anything we currently experience. Titles that you might consider include Creating Innovators and the Maker Movement Manifesto; books that examine what innovation looks like, how to develop innovative thinking and why creating, inventing and just getting your hands dirty making can lead to discoveries not possible through any other type of learning.IMG_0576

So you want a Makerspace is a list of these books and more; it is, as all good curated collections are, a work in progress, but it will put you on the path, and give you lots of food for thought. Almost all of these titles are currently available for loan to Brisbane Catholic Education staff through ResourceLink (link requires staff login), otherwise, try your local library or buy online or at your local bookshop.

Books about the Maker Mindset (Category 3)

The third group of books, and the least well known, are the growing number of picturebooks that have been written with little makers (and not so little makers) in mind. These books encourage the ‘give it a go’ ‘fail = first attempt in learning’ mindset that we want all students to have. From Rosie Revere, Engineer to Monkey with a Toolbelt, to Harvey, the boy who couldn’t fart, who invents a farting machine to resolve his problem, these cute characters encourage children to get hands on with their learning. Beyond being engaging stories, these picture books provide a great starting point to inspire children’s own initiative and inquiry, and can be the catalyst for any number of adventures.

Other titles, for older readers include The Invention of Hugo Cabret (suitable for readers around 10 years of age) and for adults looking for a novel with a maker mindset, why not consider Makers by Corey Doctorow, a sci-fi future tale of technology and enterprise.

 

Examples of all of these types of maker books can be found on my Pinterest Board, Makerspace Picturebooks (and lists of other inspiring titles):

Why not create a display in your library, and inspire discussion around making, makerspaces and the potential creative use of library space for providing another avenue for learning and discovery; it could be the first step into a larger world!

 

Images appearing in this post are CC Licenced and used with permission from:

Phillipe Put, Thomas Leuthard, IMagineCup, Hindrik Sijens, Kenny Louie, L’ubuesque Boite a Savon, Sarah Houghton, Stuart Madeley.

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Resourcing the contemporary curriculum.

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians places great emphasis on the work of education to be realistic and responsive to new local, regional and global demands (MEETYA, 2008).  This emphasis is at the heart of Brisbane Catholic Education’s Learning and Teaching Framework (site accessible only to Brisbane Catholic Education Employees).

“As a Catholic Christian community, we educate all to live the gospel of Jesus Christ as successful, creative and confident, active and informed learners; empowered to shape and enrich our world.”
Learning and Teaching Framework,
Brisbane Catholic Education, 2012

The Religious Education Curriculum continues to deepen the call of educators to be responsive to the contemporary demands of education so to;

“…form students who are challenged to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and who are literate in the Catholic and broader Christian tradition so that they might participate critically and authentically in faith contexts and wider society.”
Religious Education Archdiocese of Brisbane,
Brisbane Catholic Education, 2013

The classroom teacher of Religious Education must draw on these contextual understandings to access, curate, engage, innovate and collaborate to resource both Religious Education and the Religious Life of the School so students learning experiences are rich, dynamic, engaging and contemporary.

ACCESS

ResourceLink is Brisbane Catholic Education’s contemporary resourcing and information centre, providing staff from Brisbane Catholic Education and Religious Institute schools, the Brisbane Catholic Education Office and other Archdiocesan groups with access to a diverse range of high quality resources to support their work.

Our work is driven by the need to ensure that our physical resources such as DVDs, print texts, puppets, posters, Indigenous Australian realia, interactive kits, music scores, music CDs, prayer and spirituality kits and religious realia as well as our online resources such as eBooks and Audio books (only available to Brisbane Catholic Education staff and students), curated online content, blog and films are easily accessible and user friendly.

Borrowers can access the ResourceLink library catalogue via the Brisbane Catholic Education public page  or via the Brisbane Catholic Education portal or K-web.  Browsing can be done via multiple ways but first a simple key word search will (in most cases) draw suitable results.

If signed in borrowers can book the resource then and there for a time which is suitable for the planning of learning and teaching within the Religious Education classroom.

Whilst the ResourceLink catalogue is one possible way of accessing high quality resources for Religious Education there are many other sources that can be accessed to locate appropriate resources for learning and teaching:

Some of ResourceLink’s favourites are:

The Trove website states that Trove is an exciting, revolutionary and free search service.  With millions of items, Trove is an unrivalled repository of Australian material.  Trove is for all Australians.  Whether you are tracing your family history, doing professional research, reading for pleasure, teaching or studying.

AustralianScreen is a promotional and educational resource providing worldwide online access to information about the Australian film and television industry and is operated by the National Film and Sound Archive.

Scootle is a repository of quality digital resources to support the Australian Curriculum which can be used directly by students and by teachers to learn, teach and collaborate.

CURATE

The term curator, from its Latin roots means to “take care”.  As educators we often are curating much content, making decisions about the quality and value of resources, text, technology and other learning activities. Sometimes a great resource is located, but when it comes to teach that topic again, it can’t be located again.  With the advent of social bookmarking and other online curation platforms, educators have powerful tools to curate quality digital content.  You can learn more about content curation and online curation strategies and tools at these links.

Kay Oddone (Librarian ResourceLink) and Susanna Di Mauro (Education Officer Information and Systems ResourceLink) promote the idea that anyone can locate resources but it is what an individual does after they locate such a resource that is really exciting.  In their roles with ResourceLink this team of curators work through a specific process to identify and curate quality resources and content.

Firstly it is important to review the resource or content and ask critical questions of it:

  1. What is the focus and scope of the learning?
  2. Who is the target audience for the resource?
  3. Is this resource or content appropriate for our particular context and need?
  4. Is this the best type of resource for this context and need?
  5. Who is the author or creator and are they a reputable authority?
  6. What is the content and is it accurate, current and valuable?
  7. How should users access the resource or content in keeping with appropriate protocols?

Secondly it is important to discern the best way to curate the resources or content for access by students by asking a range of questions:

  • What is the literacy and numeracy levels of the audience?
  • Are there any permissions or security needed to access these resources?
  • What are the logistical implications for users in accessing these resources?
  • How user friendly is the curation tool and is it suitable for the target audience?
  • Is the curation approach in keeping with appropriate copyright and creative commons licencing?

After the content is reviewed and the curation platform has been chosen, teachers and students should be able to access diverse resources or content in a variety of ways given the technological and connected environment of learning today.

There are multitudes of curation tools available for use. Here are some of our favourites:

Pinterest is a really easy to use app, which is very appealing because it is highly visual. Unfortunately recent changes to Pinterest have resulted the need for users to have an account before they can easily view the ‘boards’ or curated items. As account holders must be aged 13 or above, this limits its use with younger students. While it may still be a very useful tool for teachers and older students, we encourage the use of other tools such as Blendspace or Sitehoover for sharing resources with students.

Suitable for secondary students and teaching teams. This online tool will catalogue your texts for you.  Users can then add appropriate ‘tags’ for searching reviews or creating book lists.  These can then be shared with students, colleagues, parents or the wider educational community.

Suitable for primary students, this online tool collates useful websites in one location and is accessible from any computer.

Is suitable for all students. Users can collect, publish, and share curated web content.

Suitable for high school students and educators, users can build engaged audiences through publishing by curation. This is a highly visual tool, with the capacity to add detailed reflections on each ‘scooped’ item.

Suitable for all students to access. Users can organise, explore and share online content by creating content ‘pearls’, which can be displayed in a mindmap style.

Please note that many social media and curation tools require users to be aged 13 and above before creating their own accounts. For younger students, it is suggested that the teacher creates a class account which is co-curated by students, or teachers share their curated lists with students.

 

ENGAGE

A question that we often ask at ResourceLink is how might a resource be used as a way of unpacking multiple ideas or learning within a classroom.  There are so many great texts, resources, DVDs, online content or web tools available that we are often spoilt for choice.  Given this, the old adage “that less is more is something to hold on to.”  Often one resource can open up different learning pathways.  Taking for example Shaun Tan’s picture book The Lost Thing*, secondary or primary teachers can use this picture book as a starting point for study in Religious Education, English, History or Visual Arts.
* The book and video of which are available for loan to ResourceLink borrowers.

INNOVATE

Some people think that innovation it is outside of their particular experience or skill base.  Everyone can innovate in some way, be it in the manner in which they access or share resources or perhaps through the creation of a resource for learning experiences using mobile technology.

 

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians calls educators to be responsive to the contemporary landscape within which they teach (MEETYA 2008).  Educators are challenged to innovate, not only in the approach taken to resourcing but also the approach taken to technology and pedagogy as well.  Ruben R. Puentedura’s model of Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition or SAMR, whilst focused on mobile technology, provides a lens to approach resourcing. Quality resources not only enhance student learning, can transform it.  Read more about Puentedura’s model and mobile learning here.

How might you innovate the way you resource for learning and teaching?  Firstly go shopping.  Not to buy anything, but to see how retailers or cafes or restaurants are developing spaces and experiences to engage consumers.  Education, it can be argued, is similar to that experience as educators seek to engage students, and encourage ‘buy-in’. Importantly a significant amount of time should be spent understanding the context of the audience.  Firstly, identify the demands of the curriculum, content areas and achievement standards.  What is required? How is this already taking place?  Is there a need to innovate?  If so why?  Armed with this reflection it is then necessary to consider further the context of the class.   Who are the learners?  What are the individual learning needs?  What are the challenges and opportunities within the school in terms of access to technology?  What are the needs of the school community?

Being responsive to this context, you might substitute a DVD for a reader kit or augment a book with an eBook or modify a learning experience that moves from a re-enactment to a re-development and design and redefine the way students are learning by using technology and resources in a way not done before.

 

COLLABORATE

Teaching isn’t done in isolation.  Quality educators are collaborative. Once more the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians challenge educators to develop stronger partnerships (MEETYA 2008).  This is certainly an important part of quality contemporary resourcing.  The value of collaborative partnerships is vital in the delivery of an exciting dynamic learning environment.  Each member of the community has a contribution to make to the dialogue of student achievement within a school – especially the students.

Who might you turn to collaborate with?

  • Assistant Principal Religious Education or Religious Education Coordinator.
  • Teacher Librarian or School Librarian.
  • Colleagues beyond the subject area.
  • Students, parents and family members.
  • The wider community
    • The local parish
    • Local interest groups
    • Other schools
  • The world.

See how other educators are collaborating in a beyond their schools here.  If you are interested in this global collaborative approach to education, learn more from the work of Julie Lindsay at Flat Connections.

 

 

Resourcing contemporary learning and teaching requires a renewed approach. If educators are to work towards the goals as outlined in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australian then now is the time to take stock, to reimagine and to see how they can access, curate, engage, innovate and collaborate to work towards supporting student achievement within a contemporary context.

“If school systems are to be able to bring more students than ever before to higher levels of accomplishment than ever before, they will need to do some different things and do them in different ways…”

(Levin, 2007, p 230)

Co-Authors:

Susanna di Mauro (Education Officer Information and Systems ResourceLink)

Kay Oddone (Librarian ResourceLink)

Benjamin van Trier (Education Officer ResourceLink)

References:

Brisbane Catholic Education (2011) Learning and Teaching Framework, Brisbane, Brisbane Catholic Education.

Brisbane Catholic Education (2013) Religious Education Archdiocese of Brisbane, Brisbane, Brisbane Catholic Education.

Levin, B. (2008). How to change 5000 schools: a practical and positive approach for leading change at every level. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Education Press.

MCEETYA. (2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians. Melbourne: Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs.

Resourcing the Australian Curriculum: Building Digital Collections – a review

2013-09-11_1125Members of the ResourceLink team were recently privileged to participate in the Syba Academy and SCIS sponsored seminar ‘Resourcing the Australian Curriculum: Building Digital Collections Conference’.

This seminar was of great interest to us, as ResourceLink has been working hard over the past 18 months to deliver a digital library to all schools in the Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) Archdiocese. This roll-out, which is a product of collaboration with BCE Information Services, Softlink and Overdrive, has been one of the ways we are supporting the provision and modelling of contemporary library services. We have also been focusing on enriching our collection to provide a wide range of both physical and digital resources, including websites, apps, streaming videos and lists of curated sites, and so we were eager to learn more about whether we were taking the right approach, and how to improve our processes and protocols.

We were thrilled when the organisers contacted us, and asked if we would also share our journey in delivering the BCE Digital Library as part of the day, by participating in a panel of speakers sharing their experiences.

speakers-photo

Speakers included Lyn Hay, CSU, Pru Mitchell, SCIS, Colleen Foley, NSW DET, David Munnoch, Trinity Grammar School, and Kay Cantwell, ResourceLink.

Building Digital Collections

The day began with a keynote from Lyn Hay Lecturer and Course Coordinator of the Master of Applied Science (Teacher Librarianship), at Charles Sturt University. Lyn’s keynote gave an overview of the value and importance of  building digital collections. She presented an overwhelming array of research and evidence which demonstrated how school libraries,  qualified teacher librarians and rich collections of both physical and digital resources positively impact upon student achievement and improved literacy levels.

Many are questioning the need for libraries, as access to information appears ubiquitous. With the answer to every question seemingly a ‘Google’ away, it is a common misconception that libraries and library staff are no longer needed. Hay’s presentation concisely demonstrated why this is untrue, highlighting a wide range of research, including:

  • Stephen Krashen on the role of reading in literacy development,
  • Francis, Lance, & Lietzau, (2010) on the role of school libraries and their impact on student achievement
  • Softlink (2012) on the positive relationship between literacy results and school library resourcing and
  • Hughes (2013) on how the ratio of library staff to students has a significant effect on student achievement in reading and writing

The presentation also pointed out how libraries and the provision of digital as well as physical collections provide not only what users need and demand, but also provide equity of access, which are two of the underlying reasons why BCE went ahead with the provision of the Digital Library in a centralised way – to offer equity and access to a wide and balanced collection to complement the schools’ existing physical collections.

Hay also highlighted (literally) the huge number of content descriptions within the Australian Curriculum that are able to be resourced by libraries which offer both physical and digital resources – and that the inclusion of ebooks and audiobooks in any school collection was, in her words, ‘a no-brainer’, simply because of the number of learning opportunities they offered in supporting the introduction of the Australian Curriculum, and in learning areas well beyond English, including History, Science and Geography, as well as General Capabilities and meeting the needs of diverse students.

eBooks and eLending

2013-09-11_1423The session after morning tea was presented by Pru Mitchell and Colleen Foley, and together they focused on eBooks and eLending, and how the provision of a digital collection is vital for 21st century education.  Pru focused on the considerations schools need to make before launching into  digital library provision, while Colleen spoke about links to the curriculum, and reported on the NSW Department of Education trial of a digital library in schools, which they reported on in Ebooks for Leisure and Learning. The report found that students and teachers both reported increased enjoyment in reading, and students believed that using ebooks improved their writing, independent reading and creativity, while teacher librarians noted an improvement in reading comprehension. You can read more in the November 2012 Scan article ‘Ebooks for Leisure and Learning‘ by Colleen Foley.

Both presentations confirmed the processes and protocols BCE has put in place for the delivery of our Digital Library. These strategies included the importance of providing a range of both digital and physical resources to learners, the necessity for those implementing the systems to have a strong and shared understanding of digital rights management and different licensing agreements and to have a plan for providing centralised access to all resources, whether physical or digital, through the institution’s library management system.

BCE is fortunate that strategic planning had already led to all schools within BCE converting to the Oliver Library Management System in the years prior to the delivery of the Digital Library. This has enabled us to deliver access to the ebooks and audiobooks by centrally exporting records into each school’s library catalogue, ensuring that all users across BCE schools have equal access. It also has meant that complex licensing agreements can be managed centrally.

eBooks and eReaders: Panel of Practice

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by KimCarpenter NJ: http://flickr.com/photos/kim_carpenter_nj/7565537700/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by KimCarpenter NJ: http://flickr.com/photos/kim_carpenter_nj/7565537700/

The panel of practice session featured David Munnoch, sharing his experiences rolling out a variety of digital resource platforms at his school library at Trinity Grammar School, and my own presentation on our experiences in the delivery of the BCE Digital Library for the Archdiocese. A summary of what I presented is available here.

The afternoon session focused on maximising access to digital resources. Lyn Hay presented a very comprehensive overview on the importance of content curation as a role of the contemporary library, and Pru Mitchell gave participants a rundown on the value of providing a library catalogue to users that provides one point of access for all library resources.

Content Curation

This image at http://www.bethkanter.org/good-curation-vs-bad-curation/ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5 License.

Content curation is a huge field, and worthy of its own blog post. ResourceLink has been engaging in content curation for some time, using many of the tools Hay discussed, including Pinterest, Storify and of course Diigo. Not just creating lists of links, content curation is the selection of specific online resources, which are value-added to in the form of a contextualised commentary. Examples of ResourceLink’s curation include our Diigo lists to support the Religious Education Curriculum the ResourceLink Pinterest boards and the use of Storify to compile tweets shared at various professional learning events (such as the Storify created for this very seminar!).

Resource Discovery and Maximising Access

Pru Mitchell’s presentation about library catalogues was also affirming, as ResourceLink has been working to model contemporary collection development and cataloguing. Pointing to articles from Joyce Valenza and Judy O’Connell, Mitchell outlined how a rich collection of digital and physical resources, well catalogued, enhances user access, as they are more likely to experience success finding quality resources to meet their needs from an OPAC search than from a Google search, where the amount of irrelevant information is so overwhelming. A library catalogue can provide a central point of access to a range of materials, and even across library collections – for example, the ResourceLink library catalogue allows users to search across our own collection and our Digital Library collection, as well as Trove, Scootle and the Film and Sound Archive, from within the same interface.

Thank you Syba Academy and SCIS

Syba Academy and SCIS have put together a fantastic seminar here, which all Teacher Librarians and those involved in resourcing schools should consider attending.  The day had an air of positivity, as Teacher Librarians and those who support resourcing in schools were reminded not only of the key role they play in education, but also of the exciting, challenging and ever expanding world in which they inhabit. Libraries are no longer confined to four walls and rows of shelves – they can be the portal to a wealth of resources, and a place for meeting, learning, exploring, inventing, creating and so much more!

We at ResourceLink have accepted this challenge, and are constantly investigating new ways to support our clients. In an age of ‘infowhelm’, libraries and librarians are best placed to support information management and access, and we use the best tools available to make this possible.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by LibraryGirlCC

 

Living ‘appily ever after in the library


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Serge Melki
In education, mobile devices have taken a strong hold – and for good reason. They are less expensive than computers, more portable, and far more responsive for impatient learners who demand instant access. There are thousands of apps designed with an educational focus, and many more productivity and content-creation apps that can be used effectively by students to facilitate and enhance their learning. Like all new technology, apps bring challenges to the school library – the centre in the school for resource and information management.

The library’s resource management role

The school library may be given the responsibility for managing the school’s fleet of mobile devices, and is certainly a natural centre for managing the purchasing of apps. This is an opportunity for the library to develop another area of service for students and teachers, and to reinforce the resource management role of the library.

Managing apps can present challenges, as most mobile devices are designed to be owned and managed by an individual. When managed centrally, creative approaches are needed to ensure the device is set up to meet multiple users’ needs while complying with complex legal limitations.

Identifying apps

It can be overwhelming to keep track of recommendations for app purchases. Time-poor teachers often leave requests until the last moment, or request an app that meets the same needs as one already installed on school devices. One way to manage this is to create an online form that teachers complete in order to request the purchase of apps. You can see an example of such a form here.

Online forms may be embedded into webpages, meaning the request form can be built into the library’s online presence. Using a form such as this controls the flow of app requests, helps teachers to consider why they are requesting the app and how they are going to use it, and also gives library staff time to manage the app purchasing and loading process. Having a set time each week for app loading, and making this clear on the form, should go some way to streamline  requests and ensure apps are ready for lessons.

Cataloguing apps


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Glyn Lowe Photoworks
Once apps are purchased, the next step in effective management is to add these to the library catalogue.  As well as providing access to the range of hard copy resources that are physically stored on the library shelves, the school library catalogue should also be a doorway to a range of carefully curated digital resources, including apps.

By cataloguing apps, librarians are placing into the hands of users a way of finding quality apps that have been evaluated from an educational perspective and which, through the use of metadata, may be linked to other supporting resources and tools. Cataloguing apps also allows librarians to quickly identify whether an app has already been purchased and the device it has been loaded onto, which is an organisational boon for those managing large fleets of devices.

Curating and promoting apps

Of course, there also needs to be an awareness of the range of apps that are available on school devices. It is here that social bookmarking tools such as Pinterest and Pearltrees may be useful. These curation tools create appealing visual displays, and are popularly used by students and teachers to manage information. A Pinterest board of apps related to inquiry learning, for example, is a great way for librarians to advertise apps already purchased, and how they might be used. Similarly, Pearltrees allows for apps to be categorised according to learning area or topic.

Acquiring apps

One of the best things about apps is their relatively low cost. Although a few specialist apps can be expensive, on the whole paid apps range from 99c up to $10. In addition, there are many free apps available, some fully functional, and others as ‘lite’ versions that provide a ‘try before you buy’ experience.

The decision to choose the free or paid version is dependent upon the app. In many cases, choosing the paid version of an app results in a better experience for users. This is for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is that, essentially, nothing is really free and, often, free apps are funded with advertising or require ‘in app’ purchases in order to reach full functionality. Secondly, some free apps allow the user to create content, but limit the ways of exporting or sharing the finished product. Other times, the app will watermark the content, or limit the number of times something can be produced.

Even though apps are relatively inexpensive, paying for apps to be installed on multiple devices can quickly increase costs. There is a misconception that one app may be installed on up to five devices; however, this only holds true for personal use, and schools must purchase one app per device. Accessing Apple’s volume licencing goes some way to reducing these costs for those using Apple devices although not all apps are available through this program.

Who manages the purchases of apps, and how they are purchased is also an issue that must be addressed. If apps are being loaded centrally by the library staff, then it makes sense that they should be in charge of purchasing. The budget for these purchases may be centralised, or may form part of the app request process (i.e. teachers must ensure they have enough funds available to purchase apps that they request). Often gift cards are used to remove the need for credit cards, which can add an extra layer of complexity. An added benefit of using gift cards is that these frequently go on sale, allowing users to save up to 20% on the cost of purchase.

Evaluating apps

Evaluation of Apps

Click on this image to download a printable PDF of an evaluation form

Ideally, every app should be carefully evaluated before it is purchased, to ensure the best use of school funds. When evaluating apps, there are three main aspects that must be considered: purpose, design and content, and process.

Quality teaching comes from using apps that are not just chosen because they were recommended, but when teachers recognise the app’s purpose and potential.

 
This includes teachers knowing and being able to articulate:

•    what added value the app brings to the learning context
•    how the app enriches and adds to the pedagogy being used

•    the potential for the app to amplify learning through creation, remixing, publication and sharing
•    a familiarity with where the app sits within Puentedura’s SAMR model and whether or not the app simply automates or substitutes for a traditional learning task, or if it brings about truly informative and transformative learning, that simply could not be achieved any other way. (based on the work of Rosenthal Tolisano, May 27 2012).

The design of the app is hugely important. The app should be intuitive to allow user independence. It should provide a secure and stable platform, with a variety of ways to share the content created. It is also worthwhile to check if student data can be stored, so that if an activity is interrupted partway through, work may be resumed from the same point at a later time. Ideally, the app will also be flexible in use, suitable for a range of learners, or for a range of learning experiences.

 

Finally the content and processes of the app must be evaluated. This evaluation will be dependent upon curriculum requirements, the classroom context and the experience of those working with the app. Criteria such as the authenticity of the learning, the connections to the curriculum and the opportunities for differentiation and personalisation should be considered. Many apps are excellent in providing rapid and effective feedback to learners, and allow learners to be creative and self-directed in problem solving.

There are many checklists and rubrics available online to guide this evaluation (some are available here). Schools may find that it is best to create individualised criteria, to reflect unique school needs and requirements. One of the best ways of managing the information gathered from this evaluation process is to use an online form, so that evaluations are collected in the form of a spreadsheet that all users may access. An example may be seen here.

e-reading vs apps

Another way libraries are using mobile devices is as e-readers. The distinction between an e-book, an e-audiobook and an app is becoming increasingly blurred, and an app may provide another way of engaging a reader. While there is some evidence to suggest students are growing to prefer e-readers to traditional books (Bosman, 2011 and Indiana State University, 2013), there is still a place for a physical collection. The decision to offer e-books and audio books via mobile devices is one that libraries might make as a way of meeting the needs of many different types of learner, and to offer a variety of avenues to access information. The evolution of e-books in the library space is one that demands close observation, and cannot be ignored by librarians who are operating at the cutting edge of this area.

Libraries are always being challenged to take on new and innovative ways of delivering information and resources to their patrons. Effective management of mobile devices and apps takes forward planning, but the benefits of having a well-organised and centralised system for evaluating, purchasing, cataloguing and loading apps will result in a service that is appreciated by all members of the school community.

References:

Bosman, J. (2011). E-readers catch younger eyes and go in backpacks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://173.201.102.115/eslefl/miscstudent/downloadpagearticles/untitled5.pdf

Indiana State University. (2013, May 24). Research Shows Students Perform Well Regardless of Reading Print or Digital Books. Newswise. Retrieved June 5, 2013, from http://www.newswise.com/articles/research-shows-students-perform-well-regardless-of-reading-print-or-digital-books2

 

This article was originally published in SCIS Connections, Issue 86.

You can view it online here:

http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/issue_86/articles/living_appily_ever_after_in_the_library.html