child happily reading

Embracing the “New Normal”

Library Media Endorsement Program Teachers and Students Use Technology to Help Learning Thrive, Despite Covid-19

With all of the benefits of bringing more technology into their virtual libraries and classrooms, students and teachers from Antioch University Seattle’s Library Media Endorsement program may never go back to “normal” again. Instead, they’ve embraced a “new normal.”

In the last Zoom online class of the winter quarter, teacher-librarians from the Seattle campus shared how they are staying connected, and rising to the challenge of envisioning a new way of teaching, delivering information, and giving back to support their communities. These are some of their stories:

Embracing the power of video

Carinna Tarvin

Carinna Tarvin, who completed her first quarter of the library certificate program, teaches world history at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. In this time of Covid-19, she’s turned her three AP sections of about 30 students each into virtual classrooms using the power of YouTube — even though she had never recorded herself on video three weeks earlier. Tarvin used online education tools and apps from her ‘Librarians as Curriculum and Assessment Leaders’ class at Antioch to guide her as she began researching remote teaching.

So far, she’s created three videos, one to explain the Cold War, and two others outlining changes to the AP exam and how to work with collaborative tools. Tarvin says a few students said watching her on video was like being back in the physical classroom.

The benefits of going digital will continue after Covid-19

First-year Antioch adjunct professor, Erin Bethel had a leg up on teaching virtually when Covid-19 hit. Bethel drew on her more than seven years as a teacher librarian media specialist, role as a teacher librarian, and last three years with the Tacoma public school district, to deliver curriculum to students in a more virtually-focused format.

Before the lockdown, she taught hybrid classes, which consisted of four in-person and six online modules, meeting once per week for 10 weeks, and then online using Zoom. She says she is now busier than ever as Antioch’s program has shifted to solely online learning. That means meeting more often, with shorter class sessions, to keep everyone engaged in her ‘Teacher Librarians and Instruction in the Digital World’ course. She says she has also adjusted her pacing, talking points, and assignments, to reflect what it means to teach virtually in this Covid-19 situation.

“I believe our students will become vastly more capable and confident with their technology skills,” says Bethel. “Perhaps this will shift the thinking about the expectations that we have for meetings, classes, instruction, and much more. One phrase I continue to think is: ‘Let’s work smarter, not harder,’ especially during this current state of emergency. It is to be expected that we as students and learners will be asked to evolve through ever-changing information, to show flexibility and patience as we maintain a “fluid” attitude.

Creating a virtual library

Erin Burleigh

While finishing up her coursework at Antioch, Erin Burleigh is spearheading, along with three other librarians in her district, the creation of a virtual library at North Lake Middle School in Lake Stevens where she is a first-year library media specialist. Burleigh is drawing on her 15 years of elementary teaching experience, and the leadership skills and knowledge of copyright, fair use, and research models that she learned while studying at Antioch, to make as much content available to students as possible, including supplemental learning activities. She is also helping teachers to integrate technology into their courses, supporting English language arts and social studies teachers with online lesson planning. She says while the experience may be challenging for everyone, the benefit is that they are learning how to use technology in new and exciting ways, and this will continue when everyone is physically in classrooms again.

Says Burleigh: “My library will continue to support students for all of their learning needs, and more students will have the tools to make learning much more integrated with all of the technology.”

Giving back in times of uncertainty

Antioch students and faculty are also showing their increased commitment to the values of social justice and community support.

Christine Link

Librarian Christine Link, of Elks Plain Elementary in Parkland opened up the school’s collection on the last day before it closed, telling students, parents, and faculty, to check out as many books as they wanted. Her assistant principal even checked out eight books, she says.

Another librarian sent a message to teachers with instructions for using databases for researching less-biased and more accurate information, using Covid-19 as a teaching moment, urging teachers to share the message with their students and families.

Carmen Hart Jensen

The connection with her school community has never been greater for Carmen Hart Jensen of Issaquah, who says she’d never had so much one-on-one time with her students — now that everyone is meeting virtually. She says she contacted families after evaluating individual student’s needs and is working online with them for extra support.

Emi Jensen

Support at this time isn’t only educational, as Emi Jensen, a school library candidate in the Kent School District has learned through the many different hats she has worn during this crisis. Jensen, in tandem with her PTA, is now working with her school, Soos Creek Elementary, to deliver free lunches Monday through Friday to students in need.

Madeleine Mikos started an online Book Club with the students in her student teaching classroom.  She has cobbled together multiple sources for gaining access to the books for her students, from mailing physical copies of the books to their homes, to sharing how to obtain KCLS*’s online ebooks, to locating title from the local independent bookstore.

With their resilience, skills, and quick thinking to get learners the resources they need both academic and beyond, these Antioch faculty and students are making the best of and excelling among this “new normal.”