Hilltop Elementary School Library, Rice Lake

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Instilling technology skills at a young age is central to instruction in the Hilltop Elementary School library media center in Rice Lake, Wis.

Wendy Halverson, one of four library media specialists who work as a cohesive team, continuously planning and coordinating activities and sharing information, ideas, and resources in the Rice Lake Area School District, has spent 12 years teaching more than 300 students annually in the K-5 school. Even though she is a librarian, “teaching” most appropriately describes her role, since Halverson estimates she spends 85 percent of her time on teaching and learning activities.

One can easily see how the library’s emphasis on technology synchs with the overall priority the school places on teaching students to be technologically proficient. In first grade, students develop basic word processing abilities and use Kidspiration software, and in second grade, Halverson shows them how to use the online catalog to look for books. In third grade, she teaches students basic Internet and research skills, and in fourth grade they use PowerPoint and create brochures.

A Department of Public Instruction study of Hilltop’s library media program found that students are excited to work with Halverson on learning new technologies. “When using computer software, you are having fun and don’t even realize you are learning,” one student reported. Teachers, meanwhile said without Halverson, they would not be able to incorporate technology into their units nearly as well, if at all. In fact, the study reported, they stressed that Halverson’s important contributions serve as an example of the need for more library media specialists, “so that all schools can benefit from a full-time LMS.”

In addition to making learning technology an enjoyable experience for students, Hilltop is also successful in fostering excitement in reading. Halverson and the school’s gifted and talented student coordinator have developed a new book club program where each student reads five books a year. Halverson also promotes reading through author visits, booktalks, displays, contests, and awards. Students recognize the usefulness of the reading skills they are developing: “You can’t survive without reading,” one student says.

From basic reading to more advanced technology skills, Hilltop Elementary’s library media center is doing well in preparing its students as they continue their education journey. As one student interviewed in the study summed it up, “The library media center rocks!”

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