Announcing the Upcoming Teachers Lab at Brooklyn Public Library
An upcoming workshop aimed at New York City teachers of grades 4-12 will focus on teaching and learning resources available through the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and is targeted towards sparking innovative lesson plan design. Taught by experienced librarians and special guests, the “Teachers Lab” is a free two-week course running from August 11-22 that will introduce classroom instructors to a wide range of library materials available for classroom use. During the course, teachers will produce a unit outline and at least one lesson plan for that unit which will explore and make use of library materials that include primary source collections, digital archives, web resources, and a variety of online learning tools.
According to workshop organizer Amy Mikel, “the Lab will focus on BPL resources in Week One and broaden out to general online resources in Week Two. We’ll start by talking about what is in BPL’s collection and the basics of how to find things, both in the physical library space and navigating our online catalog and digital archives. We’ll demo some of our wonderful subscription databases, free to anyone with a library card. We’ll introduce some of the lesser known print resources in our collection: graphic novels, some great and engaging non-fiction titles for students, specialized encyclopedias – just exposing teachers to a lot of alternate texts that are out there and talking together about applying those to teaching a particular subject or skill linked to the Common Core.”
The lab’s focus will be on introducing teachers to practical research strategies that they can apply to their lesson planning needs. Instructors will make use of BPL’s Brooklyn Collection to review approaches for finding and evaluating primary source materials such as photos, maps, articles, and audio clips; cover practical issues focused on downloading eBooks and audiobooks; tricks for using Google and Wikipedia in more targeted ways; introduce reliable online resources for streaming video and audio; and explore new ideas introduced on the New York Times Learning Network blog, the Digital Public Library of America, TED talks, and more. Specialized library services for children and teens with disabilities will also be covered.
The free course, which is limited to 25 participants, aims to foster dialog and build personal connections among the teachers who attend. “The idea is to put these things in front of everyone and then brainstorm together about course/lesson planning,” says Mikel. “How might a newspaper archive like the Brooklyn Daily Eagle online be used in the classroom? What about a website like Census.gov or a tool like Google Earth? What skills can be drawn out and matched to the new curriculum standards? There is so much to explore together while still being flexible and adapting to teachers’ personal interests and specialties.”
According to Mikel, the lab grew out of discussions centered on the library’s community-centered service model. “One of the Library’s strategic goals is to grow our role as a learning center within our community. We took that literally we realized that designing something like the Teacher Lab would be a great way to introduce teachers to all the great resources and services the Library provides, plus give some guided instruction about some of the other free, engaging, reliable teaching and learning tools all over the web. We want teachers to walk away from the Lab with better overall knowledge about all the great resources out there, with a handful of ideas about using and applying those tools in the classroom, and with something tangible (a unit outline and lesson plan) they can immediately use in the coming school year.”