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5 Ways Librarians Can Connect Students to the World Through Technology

American Libraries Association.pngApril is School Library Month—a time to celebrate teacher librarians and library programs in schools and communities across the country. Today, Shannon McClintock Miller, former teacher librarian for Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa, shares ways to use libraries to enable global projects for students. And dive deeper with Shannon on Twitter during #Globaledchat this Thursday, April 6 at 8pmET. [Just type #Globaledchat into the search box to join the conversation.]

By guest blogger Shannon McClintock Miller

To prepare for life and careers, it is essential for our students to be global digital citizens, connected virtually to others around the world. These connections can be made through digital tools and apps found both in and beyond libraries. To empower educators and district leaders to leverage digital technology, the Alliance for Excellent Education created the Future Ready Librarian framework. The section on Empowers Students as Creators, states that librarians must "encourage and facilitate students to become increasingly self-directed as they create digital products...[to] engage them in critical thinking, collaboration, and authentic, real-world problem solving." As teacher librarians, we know that this is important and essential to the success of our students.

Let's look at five ways teacher librarians can empower students by connecting them to digital tools, experiences, others, and the world.

1. Buncee

buncee_example.pngBuncee brings student stories to life! Buncee is a digital creation and presentation tool.  It is easy and fun to use, engaging students in the creation process of digital stories by letting them add all kinds of content, including stickers, animations, photos, videos, drawings, audio, videos, and even links. Once their projects are complete, they can be shared with others around the world, making it easy to connect and collaborate both within the library and outside of the school community.

One of my favorite Buncee projects occurred when we connected with 250 other libraries and schools for the Cantata Learning Winter Around The World Global Project. Students used Buncee to tell their stories of winter by using artwork they drew, photos they took, and stories special to where they live.

2. Padlet

padlet_example.pngPadlet is one of the easiest places for your students to connect, collaborate, and share with others in the world. It is a digital platform that lets users add content to a Padlet page in the form of a note with messages, hyperlinks, photos, or videos. The Padlets can be personalized by changing and adding unique backgrounds, rearranging the notes, and turning on the ability to respond to the notes. You can make a Padlet private and password protected or public, which gives students the ability to engage with others in the library, school community, and even throughout the world.  

After we created the Buncee referenced above, a Padlet was created and used for the connection we made with another teacher librarian, Craig Seasholes and his students at Sanislo Elementary in Seattle, Washington. It was a terrific place for them to share stories, celebrate their creations, and get to know one another before, during, and after our planned virtual connection.

3. Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a tool that nurtures student voice and builds student communication skills. In Flipgrid, teachers add a topic, and students respond with a short video. Then everyone engages with each other by watching the videos and leaving video or written comments.  

The online nature of this communication allows students to use Flipgrid both locally and globally. It is a fun way to share books they love, build their communication skills, learn about others, recognize similarities and differences, and celebrate special events such as World Read Aloud Day.

4. Skype in the Classroom

In the library, there is always a reason to connect virtually. You might want to have an author visit to read their new book or ask a penguin expert from the Calgary Zoo teach your first graders. It might be a high school group of young adults in India who want to learn from new friends in Iowa. Or it might even be a parent and their child wanting to demonstrate how to plant a field of corn or decorate a cake in their family bakery. Whatever it might be, Skype in the Classroom is my favorite place to go to make these connections happen for students.  

I love being able to use Skype in the Classroom to look for connections that will be meaningful and enhance what is happening in the library and classrooms. These Skype connections take our students outside of the four walls of the library and bring others in almost every day. By tapping into the growing network of school librarians across the globe, I taught with others and shared with their students in ways I never thought possible. Skype not only empowered my students, it also empowered me as a teacher librarian looking to change the world.  

5. Instagram

My students use Instagram to share what is happening in the library with each other, our community, and the world. After creating an Instagram account for the library, I added the app and account to an iPad. I talked to all of the K-12 students and teachers I worked with about Instagram, using social media, and what would be awesome to share and post. I also sent a letter to parents about our new Instagram account and how we were going to use it in the library.  Then we started using Instagram every day to share stories from the library. The students post pictures of new books, projects, special events, Skype connections, and other things they want to remember and share.  

In one photo taken and shared by a second grader, the student hops on the table to get a photo of dots she and her fellow students created for Dot Day. She then posted the photo with the caption, "My friends making dots today. We are 2nd." It was a beautiful but simple photo and statement, but it was an incredible way for her to demonstrate how she felt empowered on that day. She not only created dots, she took responsibility for sharing their creations, story, and voice with the world.   

As you celebrate School Library Month as a Future Ready Librarian, remember what this year's logo states: Because school libraries empower schools.

By embracing these five tools, you will give students the experiences and tools they need to build critical thinking and collaboration skills by engaging them in authentic, real-world situations. You will also empower them as creators and give them a chance to be heard. And finally, you will empower them to make a difference in the world.  

Connect with Shannon and Heather on Twitter.  

Images: 
- School Library Month image courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians
- Buncee image courtesy of the author.
- Padlet image courtesy of the author.

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