Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Neverending Search
Inside Neverending Search

Librarians wanted for smashing, blending, toolkit building.

Tell me if you’ve seen this happen.

A classroom teacher or a teacher librarian friend attends a workshop or a webinar about a certain app, masters it and tries to use it, a lot.  There are likely better tools for the various tasks at hand, but they aren’t easily discoverable.

Pre-service training does not prepare most educators to create personal toolkits, palettes or catalogs from which they might easily find the apps or sites needed to creatively blend or smash apps and sites.  And frankly, few of them have the time to focus on this type of curation.

Recently, I wrote about the growing importance of app smashing, or creating a palette for blending–the power of combining multiple tools to achieve an instructional or creative goal.  But you can’t smash apps until you learn about the available options, the emerging genres, the affordances of the tools, and how they might play happily together.

I’ve been thinking that a new, and critical element of our mission as librarians is the curating of apps to meet the needs of specific grades, projects, classes, teachers and administrators.

For years, our pathfinders and guides blended instruction, content and basic web tools for research.  These skills translate well to an educational landscape that is continually bombarded by hundreds of potentially worthy apps for learning and communicating what we’ve learned.

  • Our engagement in this activity ensures our schools ROI for tablets and maximizes parents’ investments in personal devices.
  • Our engagement in this activity ensures that devices our students carry both their libraries and their librarians in their pockets.
  • Our engagement in this type of curatorial activity models for our stakeholders emerging skill sets that all professionals need to conduct business or learning in digital environments.
  • Our engagement in this activity helps prepare folks to efficiently and authentically manage workflow and personal knowledge management.

Our students (and our teachers) will need to create:

  • Dashboards/launchpads: resources that gather the content, tools and applications they need to organize their own personal information landscapes.
  • Playlists: tools that sequence learning resources across media types and makes them available on one handy, embeddable, sharable platform.
  • PLEs (personal learning environments): learner-centered systems that help users access the content and tools they need to manage their knowledge building, their communication, their productivity, and their work flow.

All of these systems support learner agency.

In this 2009 video, that continues to resonate with me, Wendy Drexler’s 7th grade student confidently discusses the value of her own PLE.

In a recent interview with Rod Berger, Richard Byrne of FreeTechnology4Teachers validated the role app smashing is playing in educational practice and suggested strategies for keeping up.

The more I think about it, the more the metaphors trap and confuse me.   One thing I am not confused about: whether we smash, or blend, or build a toolkit, the need exists for a librarian to organize and curate tools.  It is a skill that showcases our digital leadership and stewardship.

Here are two curated list of dashboard/playlist/PLE-building options that you may find useful.  I am particularly fond of edshelf, for its rich reviews, flexibility and visual qualities and of Symbaloo for its visual simplicity and the way it mimics app icons.  (Note: If you are a fan of edshelf too, consider supporting its Kickstarter campaign.  See my recent post of the unique features of the edshelf platform.)

Where do librarians, teachers and students go to discover new sites and apps?  We can curate that as well.

I am currently creating dashboards to use with my own grad students and embed on our course LibGuides. (Note: They are works in progress at this point.)

Here’s another example, a group of Pinterest palettes created by TeachersWithApps.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Shannon Walters says

    Edshelf is a great ed tech curation tool, but endangered… There’s a kickstarter campaign happening now to keep this valuable tool running

    • Joyce Valenza Joyce Valenza says

      Yes, Shannon! I know. Thank you for bringing this up. I am hoping to profile Mike Lee and his efforts in an upcoming post. 🙂


  1. […] Librarians wanted for smashing, blending, toolkit building. — @joycevalenza NeverEndingSearch:  Using EdShelf and Symballoo to curate and organize tools for sharing   tags:education edtech tools linklove curation […]

  2. […] J. (2014). Librarians wanted for smashing, blending, toolkit building. In Neverending Search (blog, July 26, 2014). School Library […]

Speak Your Mind