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My top 10 tech trends (expanded with infographic)

Here’s an expanded version of my annual Top 10 Tech Trends, along with my infographic summary.

Announced in July, the American Association of School Libraries (AASL)’s new mission statement says it clearly:. The American Association of School Librarians empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.

And the trends we see this year emphasize significant opportunities and the critical importance of transformative library leadership as we rethink our platforms, collection, space, and new opportunities for instruction. Leadership from the center is not new, but perhaps it is a new school essential in a transitional time.

At her Connected Librarian session on October 7, 2014, Judy O’Connell (aka heyjudeonline), Course Director for the School of Information Studies at Charles Sturt University, reminded us that 2015 is the 25th anniversary of the Web.  The book did not take its own form until 50 years after it was invented.  In terms of understanding where we are in the digital age, Judy referenced the Gutenberg parenthesis.

We are smack in the middle of a paradigm shift. Leadership during our own particular parenthesis, or transitional stage, is essential.  Judy suggests the call to action is to develop a blueprint of successful leadership in order to leverage the opportunities this digital shift presents.

I asked a number of friends to help describe what the parenthesis, and its opportunities, look like on the ground.

1. First, social media IS the new media. Get over it. Social media is about learning, connecting, creating. It’s about relationships. It is our landscape, and it’s thorny, but it’s here—and we need to leverage it and teach in it. Our students deserve agency and the ability to engage and share their voices creatively and academically.  If social media is blocked in your district or school, get it unblocked. In 2015, this is an urgent equity issue. It’s an intellectual freedom issue. Lead the teaching in leveraging social media to model authentic ways to communicate, and collaborate, to build community, and to let our children participate!

2. Transparency is the new platform (for student work and student reading)

Platforms like Google Classroom and Subtext allow us to enter students’ work formatively, to intervene in the writing and research processes, to observe products and growth. We should take advantage of opportunities to guide, comment, and analyze, and reflect on student work. Michelle Luhtala, department chair at New Canaan (CT) High School, who is watching Google Classroom evolve into a real learning management system, believes that both Hangouts and Classroom increase co-teaching opportunities. We can be in more places at once. We model the use of new tools and increase our own time with students without taking away from their teachers’ (highly prized) instructional time. “There’s no time” is less of an excuse when the constraints of physical space and time are lifted.

3. Global is the new literacy (the new author visit, the new field trip, the new textbook)

Educational leader Heidi Hayes Jacobs, describes global literacy as the ability to be a fluent investigator of the world, to be able to examine different perspectives, to be able to report on and share ideas, and to take action on those ideas.. (See this post.)

Connection/conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts and Skype, with its new translation service, make it is easier than ever to engage and contribute, well beyond our zip codes, with little or no cost. We’ve already recognized our capability to spend time with authors, experts, and other classrooms and libraries with little or no cost. Activities like Mystery SkypesInternational Dot Day, and The Global Read Aloud are just the beginning.

We should be transitioning to a period where we fluidly and regularly partner with other classrooms and libraries for authentic inquiry and learning projects, both synchronously or asynchronously.  Some visiting authors not only visit, they work with creative writers and critique student work. Science fairs are not tethered to local brick and mortar gyms and cafeterias. Young scientists and inventors can engage in global collaboratories and competitions. Librarians can hit the start button on connections for curricular and meaningful project-oriented purpose. We know the whole curriculum; we know which teachers are most likely to be ready or game; we know the technology; and many of us have are already been building and leveraging global communities of practice on a global scale.  This year, teacher librarians launched the GlobalTL: Librarians Without Borders Google+ Community Community as well as  and the #globaltl hashtag, with the hope that we can demonstrate the role librarians might play in making meaningful curricular connections.

4. Crowdsourcing/crowdfunding is the new bake sale/book sale: for advocacy and for making stuff happen

Judi Moreillon, assistant professor at, of Texas Woman’s University, notes school librarians can benefit from pooling testimonials from their advocates to increase their influence on larger, and perhaps untapped audiences.  A powerful example of this collective amplification of voice was this year’s viral video  “What Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School,” with more than 7,000 views since its April posting. The library and education community also rose up and worked with developer Mike Lee on his Kickstarter campaign to ensure that the worthy curation platform, edshelf  did not vaporize. (See my related  In my July 28 post.) As connected educators, we now have ways to encourage and support the developers and the start-ups who are in this with us. They are part of the team.

Jennifer LaGarde, librarian a New Hanover (NC) High School, was one of many librarians who chose to leveraged social media in a campaign to get her learners the stuff they needed. Our little tribe supported and get the word out about her campaign to kickstart a 3-D pPrinter for her new makerspace.

In addition to DonorsChoose, librarians have also embraced the crowdfunding platforms IncitEd, CauseVox and AdoptAClassroom for crowdfunded projects. Matthew Winner recently interviewed the founders of IncitEd for one of his Let’s Get Busy podcasts.

5. 1:1/mobile is the new computer lab

Carolyn Foote, SLJ Project Advocacy columnist and librarian at Westlake (TX) High School in Austin, TX, believes 1:1 will evolve librarians’ roles. More embedded librarianship may lead to new suggests staffing needs when librarians are out in classrooms. Carolyn’s shared, Our computer lab will morph into a multi-functional planning/creating lab so it becomes multi-functional. It may be that we will all rethink library spaces previously we allotted to labs.

Demonstrating the movement toward a device-agnostic ecosystem is this year’s emergence of an exciting new array of  education apps just as robust as their web-based older sisters. Example include the releases of the Glogster, Wordle, and Instagrok. The Library of Congress’s launch of six Discovery Sets recognizes that apps can inspire up-close and personal inquiry and historical thinking.

6. App smashing/app curation is the new collection building

While our pre-service training taught us about traditional collection development, it did not anticipate the urgent and emerging need to help teachers and students gather and model the creation of useful collections, or palettes, of high-quality apps into learning dashboards. Librarians must curate for mobile, as well as desktop devices, and scout out the best of the emerging mobile tools. These new types of collections will allow students and teachers to easily find apps and/or sites they needed to creatively blend or smash them. (See my July post on smashing apps.)

7. Online communities of practice are the new faculty rooms/professional development

You really have to try hard to feel alone. Our #tlchat hashtag and the TLChat community continue to thrive. Connected Librarian Day was but one example of the power of free and freely available professional learning. Each year, exciting new voices join the ranks of our colleagues who graciously reflect and share their discoveries and their practice through their slide decks, videos, blogs, and tweets. We can support our own learning and we can connect our teacher partners and students with high quality, informal learning opportunities.

8. Making is the new learning

Situated in the contexts of deeper learning and theory, learning by doing, and challenge-based, project-based, and self-directed learning, is the maker movement.  This year we saw many libraries make room for making. It’s a return to experiential doing to learn, rather than learning and learning and waiting to do.

Sonya Smith, at Central Columbia ES in Bloomsburg, PA shared:

I’m at the K-4 level and the thing on my mind is maker spaces for young creators. I’ve long had jigsaw puzzles & word games & such for students visiting the library, but this would bring a whole new aspect of hands-on learning fun. This ties in with the fact that our community is also sponsoring a pop-up playground which will appear for just one day on the local college campus. I like the idea of having kids come to school to create and solve problems, not just to sit and absorb information all day. Their activities could certainly include, or lead to, hi-tech creations and opportunities.

Lynn Gagnon, of the Keystone (OH) Local School District shared,

Currently, my 5th grade meets in the Media Center before school, like mad scientists, to dissect the cast off technologies others would label as trash. They want to know how a computer works, and what they can make from the pieces. It’s great fun and fosters a sense of the maker mentality.

Carolyn Foote shared that even if we can’t make room for makerspaces, we will create Makerspace events to allow students time/place to tinker, create, and play.

But no one said that makerspace is a one-size-fits-all kind of experience. The shift may simply be a continuing celebration of students as producers and sharers of content, ideas, objects and media.  In addition to 3-D printing, we are seeing the emergence of media production labs and writing centers and recording studios in our school libraries.

My conversation with MIT Media Lab project manager’s Amos Blanton on Rethinking Makerspaces explored the notion that school libraries are exactly the right space for emerging maker culture. There are all kinds of idiosyncratic ways to have a Makerspace and that we should watch out for imposing an external agenda. 

In creating a new Makerspace, people should ask: What tools are already being used in the community?  What are teachers already doing?  What is already there, and how can we add to and augment it?  Making is more powerful when driven by the interest of the learner.  Makerspaces in schools should connect to student’s authentic interests, or the experiences children have had.

Makerspaces do not require a huge investment in library floor real estate.  I am currently writing a post on Shannon Miller’s notion of makerspace in a bag (or a red wagon) and the possibility of addressing making as a rotating series of station options based on learner interests.

9. Augmented reality (AR) is the new reality

AR is a technology that enhances the user’s real-time view with a computer generated perspective. Elissa Malespina of the Troy Hills (NJ) School District, shared, AR is becoming hugely popular in the business and marketing world. We are starting to see it take hold in the education field, as well, with examples like the DAQRI//Anatomy 4D app, and the Zooburst, and ChromVille apps,.  A growing number of publishers embed AR into books, including–for example: Wonderbook of Spells from J.K. Rowling.

Shannon McNeice, from Sedgwick (CT) Middle School, said,

On Dot Day, we used the colAR app and coloring pages to show students how augmented reality works. It is catching student attention and should be leveraged in the classroom to impact learning. I purchased a book called Haunted Happenings at the AASL conference and it completely fascinated my students. The new Guinness Book of World Records 2015 has augmented reality pages. I can’t wait to share it.

Elissa believes that new programs built for the education community, like Blippar, may be game changers, allowing teachers and students to build free AR elements for free and have their augmentations last indefinitely.

10. Life-wide is the new life-long learning (well, we like them both)

In her Connected Librarian talk, Judy O’Connell mentioned the term lifewide as a central paradigm for future learning and I can’t stop thinking about its importance. Wikipedia describes a lifewide approach as is a teaching strategy that involves real contexts and authentic settings. The goal is to address different kinds of learning not covered in a traditional classroom and to better equip students to attain whole personal development and to… develop the lifelong learning skills.

Though we should care deeply about what we traditionally call achievement, learning in our spaces should not be restricted to the outcomes of high stakes assessment.   We are the very spaces where it is safe for learners to connect with their unmeasured, and perhaps unmeasurable interests and talents.

We are the very spaces where it is safe to celebrate the freedom to geek out, often impossible in more formal academic settings.

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. Tom Pettitt says:

    — greetings, and a remark to avoid misunderstanding: the Gutenberg Parenthesis idea uses “parenthesis” in the original sense, still current in England, to mean the words that come between the brackets — i.e.the Gutenberg Parenthesis is the period between the broad impact of print ca 1600 (the opening of the parenthesis) and the “death of print” (the closing of the parenthesis) coming soon. American usage (as above) confuses the matter by calling each of the brackets a “parenthesis”.


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