Since March, like many other people, I have been removed from my regular work environment and made to come to grips with some of the changes that some people thought would be temporary. Aside from looking after the welfare of my immediate and extended family, I worked quickly and efficiently to make sure that as a Library Media Specialist in a vocational high school I am able to continue providing both staff and students access to the resources they are accustomed to accessing on a regular basis.
As the information specialist at my school, always having the pulse on what is happening in multiple media channels, I was already informing our science teachers of the available resources that were available at the end of January as Covid19 started spreading. Here is part of the email from January 27: “Here is the article/slideshow I thought would be great to share with your students if you want to talk about it from the Scientific side of his story. I think this article is short, very visual and really helps as a fast teaching tool. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/amp-stories/mapping-coronavirus/ As you know, Newsela already has some other great stories that are covering this: https://newsela.com/search?needle=coronavirus of course the CDC also has excellent information that you might find interesting to share with the students: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html”
At that point in time none of thought that we would find ourselves only a short time later in an entire new teaching environment. I feel very fortunate to work in a school that allows me to design a web portal that is regularly access by both staff and students and I was able to add, without any hangups from other departments, resources that would meet the social emotion needs of our students. I reached out to one of our administrators as we had already developed in school resources to help students address their social emotional needs. We called this resource section “Healthy You” https://tcrvtsdlmc.weebly.com/healthy-you.html Description: Healthy You is your source for finding links to various information focused on numerous topics such as: Mindfulness, Coping Skills, Vaping and Substance Use/Abuse, Mental Health, Gender Identity. In each section you will find links to various lists, books, videos, websites, podcasts and other credible multi media resources to help you get more information about a specific topic. Since I developed this resource and it has been in place for the past couple of years, I thought we would be able to augment this and develop an additional layer to help the students find some sense in order of their daily routine. This is especially important in a school like our where the students spend every other week in their shop program and often shop work away from the machines/tools can be a challenge. I knew my goals was helping our students scheduling their routine when they were removed from the normal routine of school. I named it: Gen Z-Scheduling your daily routine
As I always do, I reached out to my trusted alliance of school librarians through the Massachusetts Schools Library Association and tried to gain insights and ideas from what they were working on implementing in their school library media centers. At one of our zoom sessions I was informed of another initiative that was being led by Renee Hobbs and the Media Education Lab at University of Rhode Island. From my past experiences learning from Renee Hobbs I knew already that what I would discover at the Virtually Viral Hangout would help me embrace the “new normal“. What I thought would just be a one time zoom session turned to be for me and many other incredible media professionals from around the world a place that we can come together to know that we are not alone facing the unknown and working collaboratively to figure out how to be the thought leaders that we are and figure out the ” best practices” for this uncharted territory. Each day for nearly 13 weeks we met in a fast pace environment that was relaxed, supported, collegiate, professional, creative, thoughtful, critical, and inspiring us to reach further within ourselves. I, along with many other media professionals presented in one of the sessions. In my session I used online tools that I discovered during the presentation of others and challenged myself to incorporate them in my own session about the importance of Gameplay. What I was able to take way from the VVH sessions I hope will enable me to reassure my colleagues at Tri County RVTHS that without a doubt we can have meaningful, impactful and engaging online learning experiences for our students in the upcoming school year.
In June I was invited to be on a panel during the Media Ecology Association convention with the theme of: Communication Choices and challenges. The Saturday session we had presented for us an opportunity to reflect and talk about this community that was formed with people who we mostly did not know prior and over time became close friends. As we work through the summer to prepare for the upcoming school year it is my hope that school administrators realize that school library media specialists are equipped with the resources and the know how to help and collaborate with staff to develop and design engaging learning opportunities in what seems to be a new normal that will be here for some time.
In closing, I have been thinking about my own personal impact on the world outside my school and classroom. I am starting to take the first steps to apply my educational lessons to game design ( and more about that in the future) and to try and change the old ways in regards to consumption of products that are in the long run not helpful to our sustainability in our world. I believe that incremental changes are possible if we embrace the world of Hillel and understand that we must not only care about ourselves and the time for action is today. I have already significantly reduced my household use of plastics. I leave you with a link to inspire you to reduce your own impact in your household. https://blog.blueland.com/our-favorite-plastic-free-swaps/. And as a media specialist I will encourage you to seek out credible information and be active in the change you would like to see in the circles of trust that you create.