Our small school is blessed to have an unusually large library space….nearly 3000 square feet. Over the last eight years, there has been much refurbishment in our library-- repainting and new carpet, furnishings, ceiling, lights and window shades. Our library has become an attractive, much-used space by all ages, with an average of 600-700 materials circulating monthly.
In a perfect world, this physical library space would be in the center of our school, not on a lower level two floors away from the middle school classrooms. But with the integration of 1:1 tablet devices for all our middle school students, the distance between the physical library and these students has shortened considerably. Now the middle school students can access the library on their own tablet thanks to Follett’s Destiny Quest App, introduced in Mrs. Finn’s Digital Learning class. Not only does the Quest app give students quick digital access to the library’s catalog holdings, including newly cataloged additions and popular check-outs, it also enables students to take responsibility for their own library accounts. Overdue slips are no longer sent upstairs to middle school students. The app allows them to renew and put holds on books digitally, make lists of books they want to read, and rate and review books they have read.
Key to the success of helping students take charge of their own virtual library browsing and housekeeping has been the collaboration of Mrs. Richards, middle school Language Arts teacher. At least monthly, and sometimes more often, Mrs. Richards gives her students class time to check on their accounts and renew any overdues that they are still reading. This opportunity also jogs students’ memories as to what materials are hiding in their lockers and need to be returned. Learning how to look after one’s own middle school library account builds a highly transferable skill set for navigating future high school, college and public library catalogs and accounts.
Here’s what some 8th grade students had to say early this school year about the utility of the Destiny Quest app:
“It is helpful because you can renew books and see if the book you want is in.”
“It is an easy way to request and renew books...instead of going down to the library during Quiet Time [a short interlude between lunch and afternoon classes] or a free read class, we can go on our tablets and renew or request the book we want.”
“I like it because we don’t have to worry about getting a late slip.”
“I like being able to renew a book whenever I want. It’s so convenient and easy; I love it!”
“I find being able to use the Destiny Quest app very helpful because you can go find books you didn’t know were in the library.”
This year, Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Finn are collaborating to allow students to go further with the app than just library account housekeeping. After an in-depth unit by Mrs. Richards in Language Arts class on how to write a constructive page-long book review, Mrs. Finn assigns students to craft a short book review for the Quest catalog. Mrs. Finn either approves students’ reviews for posting or returns the review to the student for further editing. Student voice is becoming more and more evident in our library catalog, and students are encouraged to submit additional reviews independently.
With the use of students’ 1:1 tablets, Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Finn’s collaborative work with the Destiny Quest app truly falls into the “Redefined” category of the SAMR model of computer technology use in learning and teaching. It allows for new tasks to demonstrate learning that were previously inconceivable, resulting in a high level of student engagement. Happily, reports Mrs. Finn, middle school students spend no less and maybe even more time perusing the shelves in the library and checking out books. Perhaps the integration of the Quest app into their daily school lives has made them feel more at home in the library than ever.
(This article adapted from the original post on the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education's blog for educators.)