Teen Tech Week Grant Winner: Katie Llera, Bound Brook High School Library

Name & Name of Library: Katie Llera Bound Brook High School Library

Project Name: The Studios

Project Description: At Bound Brook High School we are aiming at creating a maker’s space throughout our building by utilizing our staff, tools, and creativity. Our school’s already successful after school programs allow our students to be creative through various mediums and our maker’s space, The Studios, will be an extension of those activities. The Studios are for our students to work on personal projects and challenge their talents.

1.)   Why did you choose this particular project?

Maker spaces are very popular but schools have been doing them forever. While my school, and many others, has been doing maker spaces activities it has not been done on a personal level. The Studios aims to give students access to tools and experts, staff members, to create and execute their personal projects in robotics, engineering, art, music, and other skills. Our students have shown an interest in these subjects but our clubs are geared towards collective work and not personal. The art club has worked with charities in gathering and giving art supplies to children with cancer in hospitals as an art therapy project, but not for personal work. Our robotics club and engineering program work on group projects aimed at creating one product, not on exploring students’ own creations. The Studios would help students take their work to the next level, to aim at not only personal goals but to better themselves through my direct concentration of a program.

2.)   Why do you think it will be a success with your patrons?

Our after school clubs have been very successful in membership and in the caliber of work produced by students. Our staff and administration have always supported our clubs and through their continued support and expertise our students have taken an invested interest in many of our clubs. Students fund raise for their clubs, go to competitions, and develop their talent. These clubs are time consuming and many of our students participate in sports in addition to non-athletic sports. By creating The Studios we hope to continue our students’ dedication and talent through personal projects. The Studios will give our students a chance to work on personal projects that not only expand their creativity and unique voice but also their knowledge of tools. We hope that these maker spaces are not only just a hobby but something that becomes a part of our students’ lives and possibly career.

3.)   How will this money help make your program an even bigger success?

After school programs in my district need to be active for three years before funding can be issued. Even our older clubs and activities such as robotics and drama have been around for years but still need to fundraise to gather funds for large projects or competitions. This grant will allow students the ability to utilize new technologies on personal projects that wouldn't be granted to them before. By allowing students to record demo tapes by using our music software, microphones, and vocal coaching from our expert staff students can fulfill goals and expand their knowledge of these tools. Many of my students come from high poverty, are transient, and are the first in their family to complete high school in the United States. These factors have participated in my students’ knowledge of resources and technologies vastly. If our school did not have the advance implementation of iPads, iMacs, apps, software programs, and our excellent staff they would be digitally left behind.

4.)   What elements, in your opinion, make a successful Teen Tech Week program?

Gorilla style advertising! Get creative, find out how your students hear about information from their friends or family and use those venues. I email my students every week highlighting five books or resources available through the library. Make signs that use memes or funny sayings to grab their attention. Our students are interested in using various programs/apps for their future helps them realize what tools are available is half the battle. There is also a misconception that all students are digital natives. My students are of a high poverty level; many are transient students, even more are first generation Americans and come from third world countries. Our students need us to show how to not just use technology but how to apply it, how to access it and use it towards their personal and educational goals.

5.)   What successes are you having with digital tools in your library? Challenges?

The Bound Brook school district is very progressive in their use of technology. We are a one-to-one school, using iPads, in our high school and middle school. There are additional computer labs in each building and our younger students utilize laptops during school hours. In addition to our one-to-one program we are a Google school and utilize email and other services through Google. We have an engineering program, robotics club, digital photography course, and more. My school is very interested in new and emerging technologies and their thoughtful implementation in our school. The library has recently gone through some digital upgrades as well with a new circulation system, Follett Destiny, and eBooks vendor, OverDrive. Our administrators and sports teams even have twitter accounts. We hope to increase our digital presence in our students’ lives.

6.)   Overall, how important is Teen Tech Week to your patrons and your library?

Teen Tech Week is very important to my students as it acknowledges the digital portion of the library. Many people still see the library as one dimensional, just books, and they do not realize the amount of digital resources and technology assistance we offer. Our technician, Scott Armstrong, resides in the library, as it is a space that students and staff frequent. Even though our students have iPads they still visit the library for computer usage, we have a lab of thirty iMacs, technical assistance, and of course help in navigating our digital resources. Librarians are seen as information specialists but I am also helpful in finding emerging technologies, apps, and the utilization of said products. Whether students are creating a trailer for Beowulf through iMovie or researching famous biologists the library is home to many resources that transcend our walls and into our students lives.

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