This month, Emily Bailin of the NAMLE’s Student Leadership Council, interviewed Ethan Delavan, the new Director of Technology at The Bush School in Seattle, Washington. Delavan oversees not only technical infrastructure, support and training, but also the library and technology-related curriculum development. Part of Ethan’s job at Bush is to analyze existing media, information and technology literacy curricula and help the faculty develop offerings in these areas, both as destination classes and as integrated threads in content-focused units.
Since Bush is dedicated to the power of personal relationships, any changes in the use of technology require careful and collaborative consideration. Integral to this consideration is a close study of media literacy, especially as it extends traditional notions of literacy. For example, at the youngest ages, K-2nd, the library staff are assisting classroom teachers in bringing tablets into the classrooms to replace older audiovisual reading resources. It is important that these resources are accessible and engaging to young children and that students learn to read expressively in using them. Also under consideration at this age are technologies that deepen student cognition in the areas of logical problem solving, preparing them for later computing work, and at the same time maintaining the interpersonal culture of the classroom.
Grades 3-5 are delving into inquiry learning methods and investigating multimedia production technologies that can help them express their original ideas in rigorous and accessible ways. An understanding of how to access and analyze existing media is critical to this process, and here again the library plays an essential role in the unfolding of the curriculum. The library/technology department is working with teachers of these grades to extend the technology available for these units and to teach the skills required to leverage these technologies for inquiry and communication.
In the middle school, media forms a strong component of the learning. Teachers are quickly moving toward paperless methods of collaboration and editing. This has spurred a great deal of discussion about how to offer media-rich investigations to this age group. Design thinking, media tools and information literacies figure strongly in this discussion. Bush’s middle school offers elective courses that change each term and meet three times per week for a double period. This represents a strong commitment to nurture student interests and provide programs that they find immediately relevant to their digitally infused culture. These electives have featured media-literacy oriented subjects from political film study to digital filmmaking to creative technology. The middle school division also hosts the Middle School Media Festival, inviting schools from all over the region.
The upper school has offered computer art, electronic music, and digital publishing for many years. And Bush is now quickly branching into computer science, media production, and multi-disciplinary engineering. Besides these curricular offerings, the upper school also offers short-notice electives called Action Module Projects where teachers structure a hands-on investigation in a subject that often falls outside a traditional high school scope. For example, some students this term are producing their own radio show, while others are investigating the power of story through video production. Upper school students make frequent use of the MakerSpace offered in the library, where they have worked on such projects such as a “quad-copter” with camera and payload, a computer-controlled wood router, and a prosthetic hand.