On Monday, March 24, 2014, I visited school library media specialist, Angie Stitzel at Butler Tech. Butler Tech, I discovered, is the largest career technical school in Ohio with over 27,000 high school and adult students. In addition, Butler Tech has multiple campuses in Butler County including the D. Russel Lee Career Center (main campus with heavy labs, cosmetology, IT, early childhood ed, culinary, commercial arts, digital media, fire, criminal justice, dental, and health tech); the Arts (dance, fine arts, music and theatre); the Natural Science Center (equine and veterinary); the Public Safety Education campus with all adult programs; and coming soon, the Bioscience building (health tech, dental and exercise science) that will open in 2015. Butler Tech offers a reciprocal program with Sinclair Community College that enables some students to pursue college credit. Students come from nine surrounding school districts.
As I enter Butler Tech’s Media Center, I am greeted by Angie. The Media Center is filled to capacity with students – some are sitting at the tables; others are working on their laptops by the windows. It’s lunch period so many of Butler Tech’s students wander down to the Media Center after eating. Although the Media Center looks very traditional at first glance with its bookshelves, tables and circulation desk, Angie in the three years she has been at Butler Tech, has integrated technology into the setting. The visitor can’t help but notice the electronic game table that sits in the middle of the Media Center. As Angie explains, the electronic game table was designed and made by one of the computer techs at Butler Tech with help from the construction students. It’s made from a flat-screen TV with a touchscreen overlay mounted on a cabinet that houses the computer that’s been uploaded with electronic games that appeal to high school-age students. Another electronic touch is the flat screen TV mounted on the wall. Angie demonstrates how to use the touchscreen features to access the online library catalog. The charging station, near the circulation desk, provides a means for students to charge their Androids and IPhones (at their own risk).
The Media Center is about to undergo some substantive changes in the next year. Butler Tech is a one-to-one school and the Media Center, says Stitzel, needs to reflect the changing dynamics that come with being one-to-one. For example, bookshelves not only surround the space but also run down the middle of the Media Center thus interrupting the workflow. While Angie has weeded much of the collection and moved some of the bookshelves to make room for the increase in laptop computers, it’s not sufficient workspace to meet the growing demand from students. As we walk around the perimeter of the Media Center, Stitzel guides me to two rooms off the library – both are computer rooms with interactive white boards located on one wall. One of the rooms used to be a computer lab with desktop computers but now is used for a meeting room; the other is a computer lab with desktop computers still intact. In the Media Center of the near future, Angie would like to see one of the computer labs transformed into a videoconferencing center that would enable students as well as faculty to communicate with other Butler campuses, area high schools and colleges as well as experts in the field.
With a nod to the “ tech” in Butler Tech, Stitzel found a tall glass-encased cabinet that houses technology of the past such as records, cassettes and cameras. Next to the glass-encased cabinet is the tried and true library card catalog whose drawers were filled with nuts, bolts and other paraphernalia before she rescued it and brought it to the Media Center.
Butler Tech offers a program in child development. Part of the program involves high school students selecting and reading picture books to the young children who are enrolled in the center. The Media Center print collection includes hundreds of picture books. Although Stitzel has weeded much of the Media Center’s collection, the picture books remain a job for the summer. Angie has assembled a substantial array of new fiction for the students. In fact, as Angie and I talk, a student asks for Divergent. With all the copies checked out because of the recent release of the movie, the student says she will check out Allegiant. Magazines are also housed in the shelves behind the circulation desk. Car and fashion magazines are prominent.
In a small room off the Media Center, Stitzel shows me the collection of electronic equipment she has purchased. With the school’s transition next year to a project-based learning schedule with hour-and-a-half classes, students will be responsible for producing their own media to demonstrate what they have learned. In anticipation of this move to student-created online learning modules, Stitzel has purchased cameras and other equipment that will facilitate content creation. Angie guides me to what is often referred to in “library land” as the workroom. You know, the room where librarians prepare books and other media for circulation; store VHS tapes, filmstrips and cassettes; laminate, etc. Angie explains how much “stuff” used to be on the shelves that she has discarded in the last three years.
With the implementation of one-to-one, Angie explains that some of her responsibilities have shifted. With that a young man walks up to her and explains that his laptop isn’t working. After a few questions to which the student responds, she concludes that he laptop’s hard drive has come unplugged and proceeds to remove the back of the laptop with her screwdriver and plug it back in– good as new!
Angie and I discuss the impact of one-to-one. Among the most obvious impacts she says is the time one-to-one takes away from the traditional “librarian responsibilities” such as cataloging and selection. She spends much more time troubleshooting technology. At the beginning of the school year she met with students and presented a laptop orientation. The benefit to doing the orientation, Stitzel explains, is that the students “saw my face and got to know who I am.” Next year, she would like to run the orientation before school starts for students and their parents. “Parents,” she explains, “often don’t understand the responsibilities that come with student use of a laptop such as always keeping the laptop in the case.” “Kids,” she says, “don’t know how to update computers to avoid viruses.” With the shift to student-created content next year, Stitzel hopes to integrate more media and visual literacy into her teaching. She also plans to offer sessions on Web 2.0 tools such as Glogster and Prezi that focus on knowledge presentation. One-to-one also offers more opportunities for school librarians to create content in the form of online modules that can be integrated into the school’s course management system – modules that center on citing, plagiarism, searching strategies, etc. Stitzel also wrestles with the print collection – Dewey or the bookstore model? “If we want kids to use the resources”, she says, “what’s the best way to
organize the collection?”
I guess we’ll find out this and more during the upcoming year as Angie documents online the changes in her Media Center. What will remain? What will disappear? I hope you are as excited as I am to see how Angie transforms the Media Center into a 21st century learning environment. Stay tuned.
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