The Panther Creation Lab: A Place for Joy

Introduction

One of the most daunting questions facing teenagers as they progress through high school is deciding what career to pursue. Options advocated for by adults are often are at odds with what students enjoy, and many feel that there is not a way to find the intersection of employment and joy or purpose—what has been traditionally referred to as a calling or a vocation. With our current educational system, there is little room for exploring personal interests while completing graduation requirements. School libraries are in a unique position to provide both the resources and the space for students to explore these interests—for their own personal enjoyment and as a means for finding work that feeds their souls and pays the bills, as advocated for by Ken Robinson (2010)—because it can serve as a neutral space that is neither school nor home (Loertscher & Koechlin, 2014, p. E4).  At McKinleyville High School, the Mack High Library Commons seeks to meet this challenge head on by opening the Panther Creation Lab, a space where students have the freedom to learn about what inspires them, create content based on that inspiration, and share it with the world.

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

The goals and objectives of this plan center on promoting student exploration of their passions through content creation and publication. Through the Panther Creation Lab, and its sister programs Panther Productions and Panther Press, students will be given the opportunity to learn and create content about topics of personal interest to them. Like other successful programs in school libraries across the country, this content could then be featured as part of the Mack High Library Commons collection (Snelling, 2019, p. 32). In addition to providing authentic opportunities for students to learn the technological skills needed to create the content, it will also provide them with a means for exploring the possibility for those passions to become their future career.

Description of Community you wish to engage:

With a small population of around five hundred students, the Mack High Library Commons has a vibrant and increasingly diverse community of learners. Spanning grades 9-12, the students matriculate from a large and rural geographic area, and have a broad range of experiences and interests. With a high population of low-income students and some geographical barriers to reliable internet service, providing equal access to and experience working with technology at the MHLC is paramount to eliminating potential obstacles to success. The larger learning community is comprised of the teachers, classified staff, administrators and district staff, school board members, feeder schools, and families of our students, and the library works actively to craft programming, services, and outreach to all of our patrons. 

Action Brief Statement:

For Students

Convince MHS students that by exploring their passions and sharing them with each other through content creation they will learn about themselves, which will allow them to determine what they love to do because one’s time should be spent doing things that bring us joy.

For District and Administration Stakeholders

Convince MHLC stakeholders that by providing the learning community with a content creation lab they will support students in discovering and developing their passions, which will encourage exploration of future career options because a vocation centered in joy is essential to a happy life.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

A selection of academic and professional articles about content creation in the library:

Hunt, J. (2018). Advocate This, Not That: Four bold strategies to elevate your school library. School Library Journal, 64(1), 20.

 Loertscher, D., & Marcoux, E. (2015). Learning commons progress report. Teacher Librarian, 42(3), 8.

Waugh, A., Taylor, N., Subramaniam, M., Ahn, J., Drain, A., & Fleischmann, K. (2013). Young people’s engagement in content creation an analysis of outliers. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 50(1), 1-12.

Examples and Resources:

A video about a successful library club program that worked to create a solution to a community problem:

A documentary created by middle school students from Schoenbar Middle School in Ketchikan, Alaska:

A course from PBS Learning on video production

A list of apps for use in content creation

 Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

As part of the larger MHLC Mission Statement to “provide space for students to be engaged in their passions and the magic of the world around them by nurturing a love of learning, reading, and personal development” (Hill, 2019), and the existing MHLC policies that govern patron use, many of the guidelines and policies necessary for successful implementation of the Panther Creation Lab are already in place. The school already has a robust technology use policy in effect that could be expanded to include work in the lab. Additional considerations could be addressed through the district technology committee, including vetting possible platforms to ensure student privacy requirements are met. Students would also be consulted about lab policy, what community standards they feel should be adhered to as users of the space, and what types of content creation will be supported. Centering students in the planning and implementation of this program does what Aaron Schmidt suggests libraries do: ask patrons about their lives and create services accordingly (2016). Publication of content through Panther Press and Panther Productions could be contingent upon honoring those community standards.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

There would be some expenditures related to the development of the Panther Creation Lab. As explained by Peta Hopkins, Jo Hare, Jessie Donaghey and Wendy Abbott in “Geo, Audio, Video, Photo: How Digital Convergence in Mobile Devices Facilitates Participatory Culture in Libraries” (2015), there is a saturation of mobile devices in the student population already, and there are many free apps that have already been created that are designed for the types of content students would be making, which “support participatory culture […] through: [l]ow barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, [s]trong support for creating and sharing, [s]ome form of mentorship, [m]embers who believe their contributions matter, [and] [m]embers who have some degree of social connection” (p. 15). For our students who are without those devices, use of already purchased school technology would help to bridge those gaps. Additional purchase of equipment—like a green screen, music mixing equipment, cell phone tripods, and the like—could be done in phases, based on a survey of what students most desire to use in their content creation. A mixture of library funds, donations, grants, and fund-raising could be combined to cover the cost of procurement for necessary equipment, depending on each fiscal year’s budget.

Action Steps & Timeline: 

  • Phase 1: survey students and larger learning community to determine the types of content they would most enjoy making and the hours they would like the lab to be open—two weeks
  • Phase 2: inventory existing technology for use in the lab—two weeks
  • Phase 3: cross-reference list of existing technology with list of technology needed to operate the lab—one week
  • Phase 4: create budget memo to obtain needed equipment—one week
  • Phase 5: re-designate classroom attached to library for use as the Content Creation Lab and prepare space for use—two weeks
    • This classroom is already part of the library space, and would not require approval to change its use.
  • Phase 6: create lab schedule in consultation with administration, content teachers, and students—one week
  • Phase 7: roll out first types of content creation based on available technology and funds, and student choice—one semester
  • Phase 8: assess effectiveness of program based on data of student use, enjoyment, and amount of content created following a semester of use—two weeks
  • Phase 9: conduct qualitative survey of lab users to identify areas of success and improvement, which will be used to request additional funding for needed technology, update schedule of hours, and redirect resources not being used to other areas of content creation—one month

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

No new staff would be required, although expansion of the library clerk’s hours from part-time to full-time would be desirable as part of a larger effort to increase library services and hours. In the event that an increase of hours is not possible, a change in the library clerk schedule could be considered to expand hours after school. Additionally, current library technology students could choose to facilitate lab time as part of their existing classes. By encouraging students with existing skills to participate and providing those who are interested with necessary training, the MHLC could make this a more student-run operation, with supervision provided by the teacher librarian and library clerk.

Training for this Technology or Service:  

One of the most exciting aspects of the Panther Creation Lab is that library staff and students could learn aspects of content creation together—whether that be eBooks, graphic novels, videos and tutorials, podcasts, or music. It is this aspect that makes this venture truly participatory: instead of the normal hierarchy of teacher/student, the playing field is leveled with all learning together how to edit videos, record audio, create digital art, and use publication software to write texts (Stephens, 2016, p. 2). As an additional benefit, it could also create more opportunities for collaboration with content teachers and the diversification of assessment deliverables that students could submit to demonstrate learning.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: 

Promotion and marketing for the Panther Creation Lab would be multi-pronged. In addition to featuring it on the MHLC website, marketing for the program and of student content could also be done via MHLC Instragram, YouTube, and Soundcloud accounts—mediums in high use by our student population already. Students would also have the option of posting it to their own social media accounts and tagging the MHLC accounts for maximum outreach. This would allow content to be seen by not just our students, but our community at large. Additionally, hashtags would allow for marketing with content creators outside of our local community, and would help students build connections with others around the world who have the same interests.

Evaluation:

The most important benchmark for the Panther Creation Lab is whether students are using it and enjoying their experience. In order to ensure a vibrant school library, students must first want to spend time there; the best way to do that is to redefine the library as a social organization with social programming (Agosto, Magee, Dickard, & Forte, 2016, p. 263). By providing a space that they can use for their own enjoyment, to explore their own interests, the MHLC will create a community of engaged learners who pursue knowledge of importance to them—the marker of a life-long learner. This skill is perhaps one of the most important that we can instill in our children, as its development goes hand in hand with success in both professional and personal life. What I want most is for the students to talk about their experiences, to share the content they create, and to use it as the basis for future learning and joy. And in the future as new technologies are developed, I would like to see relevant ones nominated for integration into the lab by students, with teachers and students learning about them together.

References

Agosto, D., Magee, R., Dickard, M., & Forte, A. (2016). Teens, Technology, and Libraries: An Uncertain Relationship. The Library Quarterly, 86(3), 248-269.

Hill, N. (2019). Environmental scan and mission statement. Retrieved from: https://docs.google.com/document/d/14IYVJyAz6C7oxNHN6LgQ_FmzBn3cT5no7OE5CBuaVWI/edit?usp=sharing

Hopkins, P., Hare, J., Donaghey, J., & Abbott, W. (2015). Geo, audio, video, photo: How digital convergence in mobile devices facilitates participatory culture in libraries. The Australian Library Journal, 64(1), 11-22.

Loertscher, D. & Koechlin, C. (2014). Climbing excellence: Defining characteristics of successful learning commons. Knowledge Quest. Retrieved from: https://www.dropbox.com/s/g3cxlopfg05fexo/KQ_MarApr14_ClimbingtoExcellence.pdf?dl=0.

Robinson, K. (2010). Bring on the learning revolution!. TedTalks. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_learning_revolution

Schmidt, A. (2016). Asking the right questions: The user experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=asking-the-right-questions-the-user-experience

Snelling, J. (2019). Fully charged. School Library Journal, 65(9), 30.

Stephens, M. T. (2016). The heart of librarianship: attentive, positive, and purposeful change. Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association.

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