I often talk about how I love introducing new paths to information in my school library. Any time I can demonstrate that libraries are dynamic environments that flow and change along with the world of information, I pull out my soap box. This year I was able to make my point in a few big ways by adding more databases, a TV with Chromecast, and a Google Expeditions kit. Each of these tools have allowed me to build connection between my students and the information world and it’s great… but… Yes there is a but. There’s this hurdle that comes with those tools. An “elephant in the room” so to speak. And the elephant is well, the technology itself.
I noticed it the most when I was starting to dread setting up for a Google Expedition. I love taking them on Expeditions, and getting the equipment out isn’t so bad. The elephant hurdle I had to clear was those first few minutes when they walk in. That window of time when the students are entering the library and see the viewers out on the table. They get so excited to see the viewers and they get all carried away. At which point I start getting antsy because I’m more excited about using the tools. I’m over the mere presence of them in the room and I want to get on to the really cool part- what they can do.
One thing I’ve learned in teaching is that when I find myself frustrated that the same thing keeps happening over and over, I’m the one that has something to learn and not the students. I realized that if I want my students more excited about what we are going to see than about the tools we will use to see it, I need to make sure the technology is the second- or third or fourth- coolest thing in the room.
I decided to take some suggestions from David Burgess in Teach Like A Pirate. I needed to create an atmosphere that leads students to the goal of the learning each day. If they come in and just see the ViewMaster viewers, of course they will focus on those. If I want their attention elsewhere, I need to earn it.
Is there a song about our topic? Play it while they are entering the library.
Is there an image that will get them exited about the research? Have it be the first thing they see.
Are there research questions they should be thinking about? Post them along their entry path to get them in the right mindset.
Is there an appropriate costume or outfit one would wear to visit our virtual trip site in real life? Suit up.
By staging the learning space you can make that super cool technology tool on the table the side dish and make the learning experience the clear main course.
There are of course times when I’m teaching my students the value of a particular technology and then it should be the focus. But most times, when my students go home, I want them to say “I learned so much about Mexico or Everest or the digestive tract today. Oh, yeah and we used these cool viewers to do it.”