Laura Gardner

Laura Gardner, NBCT
School librarian
Dartmouth Middle School

What is the one thing you are really passionate about?

School libraries have the potential to be innovative hubs of their schools — places where students can explore, find their passion and discover new ideas. Unfortunately not every school has a school librarian to direct that innovation, purchase the books and resources that students and teachers need and collaborate with teachers. I am passionate about getting the word out that libraries are no longer only quiet, hushed places of research; they can be that, but so much more, as well. My library is often noisy and crazy with as many as four classes at a time. The library is also never closed and as student-centered as possible with 65 student library volunteers, two lunch book clubs and a new Maker Club. I am passionate about equity and believe strongly that all schools should have an active, well-funded, staffed library like mine.

What are you 2/3 favorite apps or tools?

My absolute favorite app is Touchcast and this year I’m honored to be a 2016 Touchcast Ambassador. You can watch all our Touchcasts on our library channel here. Touchcast is a free, iPad app for creating incredible video projects that look really professional. It includes green screen capabilities, a teleprompter, sound effects, extensive editing options and the option to insert vApps in your video like polls, questions, pictures, videos and more. We’ve made over a hundred videos using Touchcast in the last year and I love seeing students get creative with the app.

Another favorite tool of mine is Screencast-o-matic. My library is a busy, crazy place and I can’t visit every classroom that I want to when projects are starting. Screencasts make it possible to flip my library and instruct multiple classes at once. I’ve made screencasts on how to cite sources, how to use the databases, how to use all the advanced options in Google Slides and more. All my screencasts are featured on my library website for easy access by teachers and students.

I am also a huge fan of using social media to promote my library program. My library Instagram page (@dmslibrary366) is mostly followed by students and my library Facebook page is mostly followed by parents and teachers. Both are a great way to announce new programs, contests, books, promote the MakerSpace and the eBooks and celebrate great work students are doing in the library.

What is your current project?

My current project is expanding my MakerSpace and starting a Maker Club. Our MakerSpace started in the fall of 2014 with four green screens (for use with Touchcast) and since then it has taken off! We have circuit kits like Little Bits and Snap Circuits, a Lego wall, robots like Sphero and Ozobot and a 3D printer and Sprout by HP computer we won thanks to a grant sponsored by HUB Technical at the fall 2015 MassCUE conference. Students can come use the MakerSpace before or after school or during academic support or free time. I am especially excited about starting up a once-a-week Maker Club this February, however, because I’ll have dedicated time with students to pursue fun projects like maker challenges with the Little Bits and Legos, coding with the Ozobot and Sphero, and learning Tinkercad 3D design through ProjectIgnite.

Who do you admire most? Why?

Maker librarians like Diana Rendina, Colleen Graves and Laura Fleming are at the top of my list right now. They are doing really innovative, exciting things in their libraries and students are benefiting in a big way. Our MakerSpace SIG actually virtually interviewed Diana last spring and we have a chat set up with Laura Fleming for early February. I follow all three on Twitter and Instagram and get tons of ideas and inspiration for my MakerSpace. If only there were more hours in the day! I love seeing all the fun they are having in their libraries with students; I aspire to make my library as active and exciting a place as theirs.

How do you stay current on trends and new technology?

My professional memberships help me stay on top of new trends and technology. I always look forward to the fall MassCUE conference and as a school librarian and board member of Massachusetts School Library Association, I can’t say enough about the awesome PD offered by MSLA. We hold statewide workshops along with local workshops by region. This year I also started a new SIG with fellow school librarian and MassCUE board member Cathy Collins; our MakerSpace SIG has over 50 members and we have done some really cool stuff this year including two field trips and three guest speakers to our monthly virtual chats. (Please email me if you’re interested in joining the group!

Finally, I find Twitter to be an endless source of inspiration; I can pop on at any moment and find two or three new ideas to try in my school. I would love to attend more conferences (ISTE! ALA! AASL!), but as a mom to two young kids (ages 2 and 4) I can’t justify out of state travel for conferences right now. Virtual meetings like those held monthly for our MakerSpace SIG or weekly Twitter chats are a good option for me right now.

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