May 24, 2017

Shannon Miller: Integrating Technology into Curriculum through Banding Together

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ShannonMillerWeb1“Putting a 3-D printer into the library gives the kids a voice in their own education,” says Shannon Miller, a 2014 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and former district-teacher librarian and technology specialist for the Van Meter (IA) Community School District for the past seven years. Miller writes about her work integrating technology into school libraries on the award-winning blog the Van Meter “Library Voice.” In March 2014, she wrote an entry about her project Banding Together (BT) where her students from Van Meter Elementary (K-5) joined forces with students from around the world to send colorful Rainbow Loom handmade bracelets—with red, heart-shaped charms created by 3-D printers—to students in Mangalore, India, according to “Library Voice.”

Watch a YouTube video of two Van Meter third graders as they print out a heart charm using the 3-D printer:

BT began as a simple research project with her third grade students. Miller saw how much the kids loved “creating and sharing” through using the Rainbow Loom, and she turned their enthusiasm into a research project. The activity included having them research information about the loom and create presentations while using EasyBib, an online citation tool.

Miller tells SLJ she’d blogged about her students’ work on “Library Voice,” and it caught the attention of two women: Saira Rao, head of marketing, and Carey Albertine, head of concept and creative development, from the children’s book publisher In This Together Media. Eventually, Miller used Google Hangouts to connect the two women and her students.

Googlehangout

Miller’s students connect with the women of In This Together through Google Hangouts. Photos courtesy of The Van Meter “Library Voice” blog.

It was during the Google Hangouts that Rao informed Miller and her students about her aunt Baj Viegas who “lives and teaches in a convent in Mangalore, India,” according to the online flyer (on Smore). After learning about the students’ project around the Rainbow Loom bracelets, Viegas had informed Rao, ‘“There are so many very poor children here. However many bracelets you send… I will get them to the kids, and they will love it.”’

The project “Banding Together” was born, and soon other grades joined in. “We were going to send these bracelets where kids needed some hope and love and a message,” says Miller. The bracelets became an opportunity for the children at Van Meter Elementary to become pen pals with youths in Mangalore. In addition, Miller’s friend and SLJ School Librarian of the Year finalist, Andy Plemmons, who teaches in Athens, GA, created a heart-shaped charm with his students using a 3-D modeling program, Tinkercad, and shared the file.

Miller set up a Banding Together Facebook page, an online flyer, a Tumblr blog, and an Edmodo page—outlets which got the word out—and as a result, Miller related that “tens of thousands of bracelets [and printed heart charms arrived] from all over the world.” They sent the bracelets to Mangalore this past summer.

Baj

From left to right: Baj Viejas, Shannon Miller, and Saira Rao. Photo by Shannon Miller

The Mover & Shaker, who has a background in art, had acquired the 3-D printer for the elementary school library back in January 2014 through a MakerBot 3-D printer grant and the education crowdfunding platform, DonorsChoose. The printer has yielded rich opportunities for kids of various ages to have a voice, says Miller. Her second graders printed their own game pieces from fairy-tale characters they’d researched online.

Even though she is no longer working full-time in the school district and began as an independent library and technology integration specialist full-time this fall, she’s still part of the Banding Together team. “We’re doing it again this year… and now [we are]  going to start sending them [to] other places, too, in India, Africa…”

In spite of changes, Miller’s mission still remains constant: to make a difference in education by “using technology and social media, project based learning… and to [help kids] think for themselves.”

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Carolyn Sun About Carolyn Sun

Carolyn Sun (csun@mediasourceinc.com) is a news editor at School Library Journal. Find her on Twitter @CarolynSun.