Chromebooks allow students to access the internet, explore databases and download eBooks, audiobooks and more. Our school has recently switched to a one-to-one program where every student has a Chromebook to use at school. This has been a wonderful step to teach all students technology skills and provide access to the internet for all of our students. Students can now access numerous learning tools for the classroom and resources without even stepping into the library. You now see my problem, right?
Our students grew up with technology, but that does not mean they use it responsibly or appropriately. Skills on using online tools, web searches and databases are key skills that need to be honed, but with Chromebooks being ever present, it is easy to assume that students already know these skills. Chromebooks can be a wonderful addition in the classroom, but teachers have to remember that this digital generation still needs to teach lessons on technology and research skills.
Chromebooks also allow students to remain in the classroom instead of coming to the library for library and information instruction. Where teachers once brought their classes down to the library to use computers for research or online tools, they now can stay in the classroom and access the online tools. The use of the physical library diminishes since the teachers are “saving time” by staying in the classroom. Unfortunately, they are missing the opportunity to teach other information skills by not collaborating with the librarian and coming into the library space.
After finding this situation in a couple classrooms, I decided to reach out to the teachers and offer quick lessons to their classes on how to use a variety of online tools; some teachers said it wasn’t necessary, while others took me up on my offer. My arguments for having these mini lessons focused on why certain sites or tools worked for different projects or assessments and by explaining how to use the sites or digital tools, the students will grasp a better understanding of expectations. I even had teachers who were on the fence about collaborating in these mini lessons and I offered to come to their class (not visit the library for instruction) to help out.
The Chromebooks allowed the students to actively participate in the mini lesson instruction and the students caught on quick (they are digital natives after all). The most successful lessons were on using the online tools, Canva (an online graphic design tool for brochures, social networking sites, posters and more) and Piktochart (an online graphic organizer for infographics). These tools allowed the students to understand why we chose this tool, how to use it, and the expectations of the finished product. The students were able to practice during the instruction on how to manipulate the online tools. These practice runs were beneficial since students were given prompts and walked around the room to see what their peers had done. Each prompt and walk around allowed the students improve on using the site and to see how their peers had manipulated the online tool. The mini lessons reigned from 10-20 minutes depending on how much time the teacher allowed for instruction. The students had the lay of the land within ten minutes and could start working on their project, but the work drastically improved with the ten extra minutes of practicing with prompts. Teachers were impressed with the final results since they looked like proficient graphic designer work.
The downside to the mini lessons were that the teachers stopped coming to the library. Teachers now had access to computers in their room and students can quickly access the tool. Classes that came into the library for research projects, no longer came, due to the databases and online resources being so accessible. Granted, my goal for student access to quality materials had been achieved, but at what cost? I had wanted them to have easy access, but now have to convince the teachers to come to the library for research instruction.
Teachers are once again assuming that our students know what a reliable and accurate sources is as well as know how to cite materials used. What I’m finding is that our students don’t know the basics. They struggle with keyword searches, analyzing sources and finding books on the shelves. These key basic skills still need to be taught. The foundation needs to be built.
Advocacy for the library and its resources has been a struggle of mine. My plan is to come up with mini lessons that are tailored to class research projects. Luckily, I have the administration’s support in establishing a research curriculum so we can tackle this issue one class and grade at a time. I have teachers who support me and see these gaps in our curriculum. Chromebooks are a huge help in establishing equal access to technology, but we have to remember to assess the foundational skills and build them up so that our students have a better grasp on critically thinking about the resources and information we use today.