How School Libraries Can Help Personalize Learning
With personalization becoming a growing initiative in schools, the library is a valuable asset for personalizing instruction around student needs. Michelle Luhtala, Library Department Chair, New Canaan High School, CT, with guest Jackie Whiting, Librarian at New Canaan High School, CT, presented in the webinar, “Personalizing Instruction Through the Library,” hosted by edWeb.net and sponsored by Mackin Educational Resources. Michelle and Jackie discussed how the library can personalize instruction through assessing, reading, learning, and making.
Assessment of students can be done to discover any areas that may require more instruction. The New Canaan High School Library uses a database to keep track of the work done with students, enabling them to keep tabs on any students in need of extra help. They also have a “text the library” service, which allows students to anonymously text questions to the library. This provides insight on any instructional gaps within the classroom, which the library can later give a lesson on. By encouraging the use of technology, the students can take charge of what they want to be the focus of their learning.
To personalize reading to the students, Jackie uses some of the library’s empty shelf space to create book displays based off themes of interest, like movies, sports, and history. She also asked New Canaan’s teachers to take pictures with their favorite books, and hung the pictures around the library. That way, students could get book recommendations from their favorite teachers. New Canaan High School Library also participates in monthly virtual book clubs in which students discuss books over a Google Hangout, and different libraries take turns hosting the chat and leading the conversation each month.
Libraries can personalize learning for students through the use of online tools. Using the free resource, Mackin Classroom, students can choose resources, highlight sections, take notes, rate resources, and more. New Canaan High School also has a search feature on the library’s home page where students can search for resources from a number of databases and get alerts for new sources. Although not an online tool, Michelle and Jackie have provided different spaces of the library for different kinds of learning. “We really want them to be thoughtful about how they’re going to use their time in the space and choose a space that suits their learning needs at that moment,” said Michelle.
Last, personalized learning can be done through making. In the library’s makerspace students have the ability to choose what they want to create using a variety of resources. The students’ work is then showcased on the library’s’ Instagram as a way to demonstrate the effort that comes out of the makerspace. Ultimately, personalizing instruction through the library is a “PR thing,” said Michelle. School libraries must emphasize with faculty and administrators the crucial role that the library plays in this growing initiative.
This article was modified and published by eSchool News.
About the Presenter
Michelle Luhtala is the Library Department Chair at New Canaan High School in Connecticut and was one of five school librarians named as a “Mover and Shaker” by Library Journal in 2015. She is the winner of the 2011 “I Love My Librarian” Award and the Library Association’s 2010 Outstanding Librarian Award. The New Canaan High School Library won AASL’s National School Library Program of the year in 2010. Follow her on Twitter @mluhtala.
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