About Michelle Boule

Michelle Boule is a geek librarian living in Houston, Texas. She went to Texas A&M University and received her MLS from Texas Woman’s University. In 2008, she was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker. Michelle has created online learning environments, taught in-person classes, presented on a wide variety of technology and training subjects, shelved books, read books, written articles, organized unconferences, and participated in subversive activities in an effort to save the world. Michelle can be found online at A Wandering Eyre (wanderingeyre.com).

Author Archive | Michelle Boule

Technology Without the Tech

School has started just about everywhere. My Twitter feed was awash the past few days with school supply shopping, teachers gearing up, librarians preparing, and parents rejoicing. It is a time of educational renewal, when all things are still possible and we still have hope that this year will be The Year of Something Wonderful.

Unfortunately, many of our students will come the first day, admittedly tired, but hopeful to a classroom that neither reflects learning or the real world outside of the classroom. One of my friends, a young teacher, sent this tweet from a technology training last week:

Now I know not every classroom or school has access to computers. Not every student has a computer in their home or a public library nearby. While the lack of technology in the classroom and in the school is an issue (a big lumbering issue), this is not an issue that most teachers can address. An understanding of that technology, how the technology affects students, and how technology is shaping our culture is something teachers should be well versed in and addressing in their teaching.

Sadly, many of them are not. There are a myriad of reasons for this, training, time, desire, but the reasons matter less than the lack. Something is missing from our educational system. That link is challenging, but keep some of those ideas in mind.

For teachers who want to address these issues, but do not have the technology resources to do so, there are still ways to use the ideals behind the technology in your classroom to engage your students. You can use ideas, like crowdsourcing, which stems from the connectivity of dispersed individuals, and use them in a non-wired environment.

Here is an example of how to apply crowdsourcing to a project in a History class:

Have the students brainstorm, as a class, current events and things they have seen and heard anywhere (online, tv, radio, Facebook, Twitter, WOM).

Then, instruct the students to rank the list, by multivoting. The top winners are the ones the class will focus on for the week, month, or year.

Depending on the number of topics and students in the class, break the class into groups and assign each topic to a group.

Each group then takes that topic and:

● researches the history of that event. For example, a story about civil rights might lead the students to research the Civil Rights Movement in this country.
● come up with possible solutions to the problem, conflict, event. What are the pros and cons of each choice. Which outcome do they think is the best? Which outcome do they think is the most likely?
● In some way, allow the students to evaluate each other’s work. You could end the projects by having the students vote on their favorite solutions/project/presentation. You could have them present to other classes or teachers and have the entire school vote on the best solutions.

This project would be greatly enhanced with technology and being able to use the internet, but if that kind of access is not available to you or your students, a good reference section at your library will meet all the requirements of this project.

The key in the above example is that the students, not the teacher, chose what they believe are important events in their world, they chose what part of history to focus on, they chose the solutions, and they chose which project was outstanding. Choice matters to our students.

Think outside the classroom and put some faith in the abilities of your students. Crowdsourcing, even in small ways, can engage students of any age in the learning process.


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All You Have to Do Is Ask

Budgets continue to be a major issue for most libraries. Lack of funding for programs, books, and staff has caused many libraries to make major cuts. As librarians, we know that the worse the economic times, the more people need the resources we offer. How do we bridge the funding gap?

There are two crowdsource movements online that are changing the way people raise money for, well, everything. Indiegogo and Kickstarter are websites where you can raise money for anything from a new business idea to funding for a homeless shelter. If it costs money, there are people online asking for it and there are plenty of people giving them money.

There have been a few high profile successes recently:

Just last week, Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal fame, launched the Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum campaign at Indiegogo. As I write this, the goal for the Tesla fundraiser was $850,000 and the actual amount raised is currently $921,483. Inman is the same guy who famously raised $220,024.00 for charity after being embroiled in a huge online argument with a lawyer, the lawyer’s wife, and a website that was stealing Inman’s content. In both instances, Inman’s stated goals were met in a matter of days for the Tesla fundraiser and in a matter of hours for the charity campaign.

Musicians are starting to break from the need to have big labels by raising money on kickstarter. Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra raised over a million dollars to fund their new album, and tour, a travel visual art display, and a beautiful art book. You read that right. A million dollars. Neil Gaiman, writer extraordinaire and Palmer’s husband, collaborated on the book/art side of the project.

One of my favorite indie musicians, Marc Gunn, used IgnitionDeck, a crowdfunding WordPress plugin, to fund his next album. Compared to the examples above, his $4,000 might seem small, but the success of the campaign means he will keep making great celtic music for his fans and he can continue to do what he loves.

Santa Cruz Public Library ran a kickstarter campaign to raise money for an art installation of black and white photos that were taken at the library. They needed $5,000 for the materials and labor. Sixty-five people gave SCPL $5,150 to fund their community art project. The Heritage Public Library and the Montreal Children’s Library were the only two other libraries I could find on kickstarter or indiegogo. Both still need money to reach their goal.

Even with financial times being tough, people still want to give money to others. I think kickstarter and indiegogo have been successful because people like giving on a micro level. They appreciate knowing that their money is going to something local, a cause they deeply care about, or to a person whose story matters to them.

Libraries have stories that matter to people. We are part of the community. We are local. People care about their library. There are funding needs in libraries, big and small, that could be funded by a well publicized crowdfunding campaign. You’ll never know the answer, unless you ask.

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