Leveraging Virtual Reality in a School Library
The module asks students to think beyond their current experiences in school libraries. We will look at content that is not specific to school, yet it will be the basis for discussions about how it might apply in future school library environments. You will ask your students to "think out of the box" for the moment then consider those futurist ideas when planning a space for today while knowing the space should be flexible enough to accommodate futuristic possibilities.
Leveraging Virtual Reality in a School Library
This module explores libraries and virtual reality. Recently our focus has been on how we can make the physical school library a “cool place” for students to gather, collaborate and create. It is now time to consider a cool virtual place with the same goal of students coming together, collaborating and creating. Our thoughts and insights into new concepts for libraries are limited by our experiences. If we are to envision unique, future school library spaces we must move away from the realm of our experience and comfort. We should start to consider possibilities that will align with the world the current generation will experience.
Can Virtual Reality be Integrated in School Libraries?
In her fascinating TED talk Helen Shenton walks us through a series of possible options to answer the question: What is a library? Shenton concludes that libraries should be a “sophisticated mix of virtual and physical”. Begin this unit by viewing her 16 minute talk.
Shenton gives a provocative presentation and it should begin a dialogue on how a virtual school library could provide students more than just databases of information and internet access. Digital literacy skills are rapidly becoming more than merely accessing information online.
Online access is not new or novel nor will it generate innovative ideas on what a digital library might be for K-12 students. But we must begin someplace in our K-12 worlds. What are the other resources beyond databases and dashboards? Can students create their own digital information and share it globally? Capture the ideas and begin building an expanded concept of alternative digital resources that would enrich K-12 student learning.
The next piece of this section will consider gaming. It is another dialogue that has been taking place as a way to engage student learning in an interactive fashion. Many millenniums are experts in gaming. The hours they spend interacting with digital devices, computers, and gaming can be greater than the time they spend in classrooms. Malcolm Gladwell suggests that 10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert in your chosen field. Millenniums are rapidly becoming experts in the digital gaming world. Should libraries be providing resources to them in the format of their expertise?
View Jane McGonigal’s Ted talk on Gaming Can Make a Better World. Now discuss how gaming could change the virtual library experience. Students who create games to demonstrate knowledge need expanded tools, software and different types of spaces to work, storyboard and create. Help them document the types of resources needed to provide an educational gaming environment. Take the discussion a step further by deciding what kind of library is needed for the Quest to Learn Public School in New York, NY. In the next unit we will come back to McGonigal concept of a “superstructure” and use it to diagram new library concepts.
Most participants will think in terms of the virtual library as a 2D environment or analogy world where students interact with a screen. But what if students could walk through the landscape of a book while reading? What if they were able to sit down and work with students in distant locations as if they were all in the same space? And what if that space became a hologram of rich sensory experiences and was your library? Watch Alex Kipman’s talk on The Dawn of the Age of Hologram and begin the discussion of what a virtual library might be in 5 to 10 years.
Are you waiting for the correct new model of a library to appear? We assume once it is revealed then it will be our job to implement it, full it with resources, and carry on with our work. But what if your work is to actually invent the future? What if student learning was game based for example how would you create an environment to support that pedagogy? Or what does the library become if your school is the academic version of the movie Avatar? Well, these are certainly an “out-of-this-world concept”; aren’t they? What if it isn’t, what if it was just around the corner or already being planned for a private charter school? Would shifting to a Learning Commons concept seem too little, too late? Maybe and maybe your traditional concerns for physical space would suddenly seem ludicrous. We are going to explore creating a library based on the experiences of our students not on your past experiences.
This unit is about the future, the types of resources students will want and need to work with, and in what type of environment you will be asked to interact with them. It should trigger a whole new range of base knowledge building issues yet we cannot question the need for reading proficiently as a ongoing cornerstone.
Begin by watching Helen Shenton’s talk on Collaboration and Bubbles of Silence. Your follow up conversation will be on the types of resources, levels of access and growing digital literacy skills our students require. In this unit no idea should be overlooked, no option too farfetched, and hopefully at the conclusion you will have new ideas not based on your experiences for what a school library could be.
Our second resource is Jane McGonigal’s talk on Gaming Can Make a Better World. McGonigal is the Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future. Her thoughts on gaming and this generation of students are insightful such as gamers being used to leveraging a collective intelligence in solving problems. Read about Quest to Learn, a chapter school in New York focused on student engagement through gaming. Her writings’ on “superstruct” are an alternative way to think about building future libraries.
“Superstructing isn’t about just making something bigger. It’s about working with an existing foundation and taking it in new directions, to reach beyond present limits. It means creating flexible connections to other structures, to mutually reinforce each. And superstructing means growing in strategic and inventive ways so that you can create new and more powerful structures that would have been previously unimaginable.” P318 Reality is Broken
And finally we will look at holograms. This will challenge you to truly think out of the box. What could this emerging technology do to student engagement and learning? Alex Kipman’s presents what to most adults might look like science fiction but for today’s students with a pair of hologram glasses is the next “cool step” into a virtual world. How can you make it a learning world?
After viewing all three videos and documenting school library opportunities, write about or illustrate what a 2026 school library might include, how it might look, and what resources might be needed.