The Art of Working Within Constraints

step one

This summer students in two sections of our course Production of Instructional Materials, used a free IPad App, Videolicious to create quick video commercials on topics that ranged from how to use interlibrary loan to an introduction to the horror genre.  We were excited to see this app on the AASL Best Apps For Teaching and Learning list just released at ALA but we also knew first hand the limitations of the free app that we learned took lots of trial and error to realize a plan for combining video, still images, text, voice over and music.  Students collaborated ahead of time with a partner to create a storyboard for their video and then only had  a few hours on campus to pull it all together.  And wow! they did pull it together? Their videos were amazing and so much fun to view.  We talked about showing families how to use this free app on their devices or cell phones: think about the creative possibilities for students to share their learning!

The app clearly had its constraints and we had to remind students that this is a lot of what you deal with in the school library: learning to create something despite the constraints of time, money, and other resources.  This is what all artists have to work through: realizing an artistic vision despite the limitations of the materials or media chosen for the work.  As I think about this related to collaboration, I realize that we are also working with an idealistic vision of everyone working together to create learning opportunities for students.  We are also constrained by limited time and resources.  We have trouble finding enough time to plan together, or finding time in busy classroom schedules to provide adequate time for true student inquiry and creativity.  We find ourselves teaching students to use free apps on shared devices with filtered internet access.  And yet we believe in the vision and we persevere and some amazing things happen.

Finding a way to use the materials at hand to realize a vision doesn’t just apply to a two minute video assigned as coursework.  It’s a necessary frame of mind needed by those of us who hope to create a collaborative school culture.  The students who came to campus that afternoon with a plan knew where they wanted to go with their video.  They persisted through multiple trial and error attempts.  They worked together to find solutions that leveraged the materials they found around them. They learned from each other.  As school librarians, we hope they will have a vision, create plans in collaboration with others, persevere despite setbacks and limited resources, and continue to learn from their peers.

School librarians can create a culture of support, collaboration, and creativity with the teachers and students in their schools.  We are artists with access to a pretty cool palette of resources including those recently highlighted by the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2013 and Best Apps for Teaching and Learning lists.  Give some of these resources a quick spin and be prepared to share them with your school communities.

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