(Graphic courtesy of Wesley Fryer, under Creative Commons)
As a librarian, few things excite me more than getting up to my elbows in a good research project (second only to getting lost in a good book!) And this one’s really special. In small teams, the 8th grade will be creating social justice websites as part of their year-long Humanities curriculum, “Choosing to Participate.” The ten teams will be covering topics ranging from Schools & Education and War to Women & Girl’s Issues and Refugees. We have done this project before, but not quite in this way. Each team member has a specific role, as set out by our Core (English & History) teachers, SMR and RB and our amazing tech-wizard (and middle school technology teacher) CJ:
- Responsible for creating website design and overseeing the display of all site content
- Coordinates all photo and video content for site
- Primary editor of video content
- Provides Webmaster with fully captioned content for site
- Oversees the creation of all written content for site
- Establishes editorial tone and norms for all written content
- Proofreading for grammar/punctuation errors
Research and Content Producer
- Primary researcher for project
- Coordinates interviews
- Fact checks written copy, photo and video content
Each group has a folder in iDisk (we’re a Mac school) that is accessible to the group members and all the teachers working on the project. My job is to help coordinate the work of the Research and Content Producers, while CJ will be working with the Webmasters, SMR and RB with the Copy Editors and our middle art teacher, CC with the Photo & Video editors.
In our first RCP meeting, we discussed the four media the students would be collecting information from: websites, databases, personal interviews and books. In their iDisk folders, there is a sub-folder labeled “Resources” that contains an Excel document with a page for each media type. Team members will log each piece of information they use to create their website, and viola! Creating their website’s Documentation page will be a snap. Of course, nothing is ever that easy when working with 8th graders, but providing them with the structure to make it happen is half the battle.
I’m so excited about this assignment because it totally embodies the spirit of what librarian extraordinaire Buffy Hamilton defines as “the embedded librarian.” This kind of collaborative venture involving a team of students and teachers working together on a project that teaches a number of different skill sets, both digital and analog, is an education model that we have always utilized here at LREI, and will hopefully see happening more and more in the greater education world. Here’s the quote from Buffy’s longer blog post that inspires me on a daily basis to keep trying to create these kinds of learning environments for my students:
“I dream of a model of school librarianship that embeds us in the classroom whether it be the classroom of a teacher, our library space, or a learning space outside the traditional school building (such as virtual). Until we are integrated into our school’s department or interdisciplinary teams, I feel we cannot realize our full potential as sponsors of transliteracy and information specialists who can facilitate and support powerful learning experiences with teachers and students. What if we envisioned the school library as an academic department that partnered and co-taught with other departments rather than as “support” personnel? How much more could I do for my school if I was embedded directly into the heart of instruction either with another academic department, or even better, an interdisciplinary team?”–Buffy J. Hamilton, “It’s Broken; Let’s Fix It: The Traditional Model of School Librarianship” The Unquiet Librarian
I can’t wait to share more details with you as the project unfolds, so watch this blog as we document our hits and misses, and both teach and learn from our student activists!
(and since this is the first time we’re structuring the project this way, if you’ve done a similar project and have some suggestions or advice for me, please leave them in the comments)
I’ll see you in the library (and the classroom! and online!),
Jennifer Hubert Swan, Middle School librarian