Looking forward: School libraries in the new year

The inclusion of school libraries in the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) of 1965 authorization as ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) in late 2015 was a victory, especially for districts reliant on federal funding, but it is technology that is altering what is going on in so many schools.

1:1 technology push
States switching to the computer-based standardized testing required by Common Core State Standards — independent of the CCSS backlash, major assessments are still and will likely remain CCSS aligned — will require supplying hardware accommodating increasingly resource-intensive testing with interactive charts and graphs and locked-down browsers. In many schools, the librarian will be the point-person for maintaining that technology.

1:1 technologies require new metrics
At the AASL conference in November, Michelle Luhtala shared a picture of charging blocks and cables. That’s what she “circulates” at 1:1 New Canaan High School, and it’s a brilliant idea for quantifying student use. Door count had potential as well to show the vibrant, active aspects of our school library spaces independent of checking out books.

More ebooks, but with a difference
With all those student devices in play, it seems inevitable that school libraries will increase their expenditures for electronic texts, but there has been a sea-change in the types of text vendors are marketing to school libraries. At AASL, Overdrive emphasized dedicated K12 purchasing strategies geared towards nonfiction, even at a chapter level, and class sets, with little emphasis on the provision of trade books for pleasure reading in an electronic format that punctuated the first ebooks in schools.

Wearable devices at school
The ubiquity of the Apple watch could be the personal technology that forces educators to confront what has long been held to be the bugaboo of student device use, affording opportunities to cheat. It is easy to imagine the sorts of processes students could devise using wearable technology and platform-agnostic automation process app likes IFTTT and Workflows. This is the year that test proctors will have to be on the lookout for wearables that make calculator watches look quite passe.

Making grows up
One way to counter the spectre of cheating is instituting more inquiry-based projects, the sorts which make every school librarian cheer. There are some real opportunities to harness the energy around makerspaces for application to real-world problems. Combining the hands-on manipulation of electronics and hardware with longer-term, inquiry-based research projects will get beyond the novelty of the tools and allow educators to sponsor and showcase the purposeful students work.

Obfuscation
I don’t think CIPA-compliant school libraries will be running their own Tor nodes anytime soon, but after reading Brunton & Nissenbaum’s Obfuscation, I’m convinced we must help student become aware of the data mining that underwrites so much open web usage and help train them to confuse, if not resist, those mechanisms.

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