iCenter 2020 ~ What it Looks Like
by Janice Gilmore-See, CSLA Southern Section Past-President/2012 Conference Chair
In October 2011, I attended Treasure Mountain and the AASL Conference in Minneapolis. When I got back, I reviewed my notes and the book The New Learning Commons: Where Learners Win!: Reinventing School Libraries and Computer Labs, 2nd ed. By David V. Loertscher, Carol Koechlin, and Sandi Zwaan. We heard presentations from a variety of experts, too, including Joyce Valenza and Ross Todd. Then I sat down and thought about my vision for school and specifically from the lens of school libraries in California.
Libraries are the verbs in the content standards: examine, read, research, analyze, explore, investigate, discover ...
School libraries will morph into iCenters. They will not stop delivering typical library services (circulating materials, story times, information literacy lessons, research assistance and instruction), but the name will change because of the strong association the word “library” has in most people’s mind with print materials. The term iCenter will make more sense in a learner centered model that reflects that it serves also as the information laboratory, learning commons, learning work space, and the learning resource center. It is accessible to everyone at the school and the mission of the iCenter is to meet the needs of each individual that walks through the door or connects virtually. This name change also reflects the change in focus from providing mostly print materials to an ever decreasing amount of print and increasing amount of electronic resources. In all aspects, the mission of the iCenter will have a client focus; its holdings and services will be determined what the “customers” (meaning students, teachers, parents, and administrators) need and want.
2. Help Desk
The iCenter will serve as the technology Help Desk of the school to troubleshoot minor problems and to generally facilitate minimal loss of instructional time due to technological issues. While major repairs will continue to be in the domain of the IT Dept., students and teachers need a customer-service oriented person devoted to solving problems – issuing replacement devices, resolving password errors/lockouts, demonstrating and training others, and following up with technical support from a variety of vendors.
3. Flexible space/hours
The iCenter differs greatly from the current set up in libraries and computer labs. The wall and floor space devoted to shelving and permanent fixed computers will shrink (there will still be significant numbers of computers and books), but the furniture/shelving is designed to move to allow it to function in other ways (as dividers, as noise barriers). The iCenter is equipped with robust, reliable wireless access, and depending on the activities in progress, the room could transform from one configuration to another. The iCenter is bustling with students and adults flowing in and out; working independently or in groups, consulting with library staff or visiting teachers, and collaborating. There will be banks of computers to accommodate work on major projects and for completion of electronic assessments. There must be space for group work (tables, chairs, and places to plug in), individual study and reading areas, spaces for classes to come for instruction, and a place for silent study. These activities must be able to happen concurrently. Additionally, it must be designed to be comfortable for sustained work, and this space must be open and staffed all day long – because closing for lunch or before and after instructional sessions defeats the purpose of the iCenter.
The traditional temporal boundaries between home and school will become blurred as teachers and students build learning environments that function 24/7. We don’t need kids to sit in classrooms more; we need them to engage in learning activities more. This will be done increasingly outside the classroom; at home, from other locations in community, or in the iCenter. Some classes will flip the lecture portion of class to an online on-demand video or audio enhanced presentation, and face-to-face time may actually be devoted to what is typically sent as homework today. Blended learning environments (of many different shapes and structures) will become the norm.
5. The Tests
Standardized tests will be taken electronically, but they will be smarter and shorter, adjusting as the student progresses through it. These assessments will be graded immediately, with feedback sent to the teacher, student, and family. Testing will not be a tedious, school-wide requirement happening on the same day in the same place with the same rules for every student. The data will actually be useful because assessments will create a baseline for proper student placement in key subjects, periodic benchmark tests will occur that will allow students to receive intervention, stay on course, or accelerate (or even advance to a higher level) based on just-in-time assessment data. In addition, we will see digital portfolios replace test scores as the way many students establish competency because it is a better snapshot of student development over time. Critical thinking, creativity, and passion-based learning will be valued over standards based content memorization and results on multiple-choice tests. This will be demanded by the public in reaction to the over-testing that happens in the next decade.
6. Students move at their own pace
There is no reason why every student needs to stay in the same grade for the same number of days in the same courses of study as every other student. Students will progress through classes based on ability and time necessary to master content rather than by their chronological age. Teachers will be able to increasingly handle classes where students are at many different points in the curriculum rather than all moving at the same pace by having content delivered digitally and having help available during face to face time. The iCenter will be central to this idea.
The iCenter will need to have a dedicated staff of at least two (for a very small school) and many more for larger ones ~ but as a minimum there must be one fully credentialed Teacher Librarian (TL) and one Technician in order to serve the needs of the school. This said, the iCenter is an extension of the various classrooms of the school and thus is a place everyone owns. Specialists and classroom teachers would come and go as they consult with individuals, small groups, and whole classes.
7. Instructional materials & curation
Textbooks and teacher materials, as well as library books, will be available electronically 24/7. The textbook will not drive instruction, but will be one tool within a larger arsenal of electronic resources provided by both publishers and database vendors. Evaluating and picking the best ones will become the important process. Teachers will be able to tailor their own curriculum by publishing their own creations digitally, which will integrate features such as video, audio, and social media. The Teacher Librarians in iCenters will build curated collections of resources to make sure the content is vetted and of the best quality, and this will be the clearinghouse for what can and can’t be used in many schools.
8. Differentiation – every child with an IEP?
Education in 2020 will be more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will move forward when they are ready and they will be given the gift of time when they need longer than their peers to master skills. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered. Teachers will have figured out how to use technology to personalize learning since students will be moving at their own pace through much of the curriculum. Face-to-face instruction will provide experiences that can’t be duplicated well electronically; group discussions, live presentations, team building, socialization with peers, language acquisition for EL, experimentation (science, math, using manipulatives, etc.) understanding learning goals and monitoring progress, monitored assessment, and character education. Differentiation is one reason the TL(s) working in the iCenter will be important, as this is just a natural part of the skill set – the TL is trained to be a generalist that covers all the grades instead of just focusing on one and that maintains a baseline knowledge in all disciplines rather than departmental specialization.
9. BYOD – Device Management
Our concept of what is a computer has already changed, but will continue to evolve as everything goes mobile and cloud-based, and by 2020 we’re going to see every individual computing via handhelds. Books will still be used (especially by teachers that have taught primarily with print), but by 2020, over half the reading will be via digital means. Students will be allowed and encouraged to bring their own devices just as we would allow students to bring a book to school from home today. Whether the student is using their own or a school issued device, small technical glitches will bring progress to a halt. The iCenter staff will be the mechanism to ensure that learning does not stop due to BYOD.
No, this isn’t about IT bandwidth. Teachers will have a larger number of students then they have now, but must be able to connect on a personal level to develop relationships. It is this connection to the teacher that is motivating to students. Teachers will become mentors or life coaches to students where they see potential, and will often maintain relationships even after the student has moved on to other instructors. The job of the teacher will be to help students discover their talents, passions, and dreams, and connect them to experiences. This could be internships in the community, field trips, or recommendation to extracurricular activities. Teachers will be able to meet with flexible groupings of students based on need. Since all students are not present at once, teachers can manage a much larger class size while still providing support and guidance to those students that need more. Instead of having 35 students all day long, smaller groups can come for focused and directed instruction. The iCenter will play an important role as it will be a safe space on campus for students to work while waiting for their class or group to meet. Additionally, the students will develop relationships with the iCenter staff that will last for all the years they attend the school.
11. Bringing the community in ...
The resources in the community that can be brought to the school plant are immense; intergenerational, business, and healthy recreation. The iCenter is the place where these interactions can occur safely and with supervision. The iCenter will, at times, look more like a public library with a variety of speakers and activities and events scheduled outside of the “academic” time.
12. Electives, choice and enrichment
What will attract and retain students in our schools? Sure, we need solid programs to help students master reading and mathematics, but also history and science, and what really attracts and excites parents (and engages students) are enrichment programs; technology, engineering, drama, art, cooking, music, dance, sports, shop, etc.
13. Progressive seat-time (slow release model)
School buildings are going to become ‘home-bases’ of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Schools will be able to be smaller and greener, and student and teacher schedules will change because there will be less people on campus at any one time. Rather than each teacher having a dedicated space that is used only by one class, teachers will share common spaces. With this said, the early grades will need the most face-to-face instruction and progressively as students develop in ability and maturity they can be released to do more and more on their own (either in their home or in the iCenter or in a proper ESS-type setting, predicated on what will work for the family). Beginning in grade two, students will be released to do 10% of their instruction virtually. This percentage of time will increase each year until grade 8 where up to 60% of instructional would happen outside the classroom. High school students then could end up taking courses in a hybrid environment or completely online.
14. Students as active participants in their learning
Students and parents will have a greater voice in school and teacher choice and evaluation. This will empower students and parents, and teachers will be rewarded according to their responsiveness to their needs (not to the results on a high-stakes test). Students will not only have goals set by the state and/or national government, but will set targets to achieve their own learning goals. Teachers will consult and coach the students in these personalized goals, but the iCenter will be actively involved in obtaining resources and offer assistance so that these goals can be met.
15. Where the staff keeps learning, too
No one knows a school as well as someone that works there and interacts with all the groups on campus; students, parents, teachers, and administrators. The TL will often be the most logical person to attend train-the-trainer meetings and bring information back to provide onsite professional development and follow up. The TL will serve as an “on-call” member of all site PLCs, and that way teachers can request training they need at any time during the year.
16. Parents as educational partners
Parent-teacher interactions in virtual reality (teleconferencing, email, and digital access to learning resources) will encourage relationship building; changing from a few annual encounters at events like curriculum night, conferencing, and open house to an enduring partnership for creating the best instructional plan for students. Parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.
17. Batch mentality will be minimized
Master schedules will become more flexible by necessity. While Kindergarten and first grade may still look and feel like it does today, with structured start and end times, recess periods, and meal breaks, beginning in second grade students may come to school based on the times that prove manageable for teachers, students, and parents. Students will have access to the cafeteria when they are hungry, access to the Health Office if they get sick, hurt or need medication, access to the iCenter when they need somewhere to work independently or need additional support, and access to a variety of other activities based on their interests and abilities. These ancillary services will be seen as central to the reason students need to be on campus at all, and will be a marketing point that sells one school over another. The more rigid the program, the less attractive it will be to the parents and students, so the regimented system in place now would seem impossibly inappropriate.