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My Turn: Galvin Middle PDF Print E-mail

Galvin Middle School Library Enters the 21st CenturyMy Turn
by Nancy Stockwell-Alpert

I am the Library Teacher at the William Galvin Middle School in Canton, Massachusetts which was built in the 1980s and still has a 1980s look and feel. In this time of budget cuts, zero percent raises and layoffs it is increasingly difficult to find funding for technology. I am lucky to have computers in the library, albeit old and cranky ones. It is difficult enough to support 21st century learning with computers that take “forever” to logon, frequently break down, and are nursed along with “bubblegum and rubber bands” by our brilliant technology staff. It is even more difficult to justify technology expenses in a climate when teachers are losing their jobs, families are tightening their belts and people are going homeless.

Nancy Stockwell-Alpert with a painting of Galvin Middle in the backgroundAgainst this backdrop, I recently made a proposal to get our toe in the water of the 21st Century. I am fortunate to work in a community that takes education seriously. We have a strong nonprofit organization, the Canton Alliance for Public Education (CAPE), which teachers can petition for funding of innovative projects for education. I first proposed a classroom set of e-readers to be shared across the school. I received feedback from the Director of Curriculum and Instruction that CAPE wanted to support a more innovative use of technology. She encouraged me to revise my request to iPads, which of course could be used as e-readers, but would also support the use of apps and the Internet. I collaborated with the Technology Integration Administrator, the Network Administrator, and the building Technology Specialist to fine tune my proposal. As a result of this collaboration, and a little advocacy by my Principal, my grant was accepted, and I was able to introduce three iPads to my middle school this fall.

The purpose of the grant was to explore new technology and see what innovative uses would support learning in the classroom. So far, I have loaned the iPads to a Social Studies class where they were researching African countries. The copyright dates on nonfiction texts for the project were embarrassingly old, so I looked into geography apps and liked the CIA Factbook for quick look ups of up to the minute, factual information. Students were also able to use the Safari app to access the Internet. This project was featured in Students doing country research using an iPad and conventional books.the local newspaper and I have displayed both the article and related pictures in the entry to the library. The display is creating quite a buzz with the students, who are eager to share their knowledge about what free to almost free apps I should install. A few of them are so ignited about this that they have spent their free periods advising me about apps for math, science, ELA … and NO GAMES!

As always, collaboration is the key to success in a school. One of the hardest things for any Library Teacher is breaking into a new school and getting the teachers on board with the program. When I started at Galvin I knew I was stepping into some pretty big shoes of a very well-liked long-term librarian and needed to make changes slowly. I worked hard on my relationships with faculty, staff and administration, and looked for opportunities to support them and provide them with information supporting their curriculum, so that when I approached them to co-teach using the Gale databases, to booktalk Massachusetts Children’s Book Award nominees or to judge MSLA bookmark entries we already had a well established relationship. I was fortunate to land in a school with a strong reading program where all 6th graders have a daily reading class. My strongest alliance is with the English Language Arts Department, whose meetings I make an effort to attend regularly. I also make it a practice to attend Nancy Stockwell-Alpert reads Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book"Department Head Meetings, team meetings, social functions, fundraisers, and performances, all in the effort to foster strong relationships within the school and within the community.

While I am far from my goal of running a Learning Commons at the heart of the school with the go-to technology that brings all the classes in, I am lucky to have the support of a community that is helping me move in the right direction with funding for innovative and creative solutions to our technology needs.

Read the article that appeared in the Canton Citizen in December. Reprinted with permission.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 07 January 2012 )

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