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Meet our Featured Teacher: Justin Ashworth


"The students must own the learning. The tools and partnerships that are available today can help empower students to control their own education." 

Justin Ashworth
Library Media Specialist
McNamara Elementary School
Baldwinsville Central School District

Congratulations to Justin Ashworth, our April 2017 Featured Teacher! Justin Ashworth is the Library Media Specialist at McNamara Elementary School in the Baldwinsville Central School District. This is his 12th year teaching as a school librarian. Being a school librarian provides Justin a unique opportunity to work with every student and staff member at McNamara. Justin credits collaboration and strong relationships as the keys to his success. 

What are some of the innovative ways that Justin integrates technology into his leadership?

Justin is most proud of two recent collaborations involving his students at McNamara using technology. The first is a two-year partnership that involved his 5th-grade students working with Mandarin Library Automation, a library automation software company, to develop a more student-friendly interface for their Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC). Students worked with the President of Mandarin, Carlos Cagin, utilizing a variety of technology along the way to help conceptualize and test a prototype OPAC. Students video conferenced multiple times to interact with the Mandarin team using Google Hangouts. Students were challenged with the task of redesigning and improving features within the catalog in order to make it more interactive and friendly for an elementary audience. Students used the app Explain Everything to share their feedback with Mandarin and to contribute to the agile software development process.

The second collaboration involves a partnership formed with McNamara Social Worker, Jeffrey Seltzer, to teach students about the impact and permanence of their digital footprint. Fifth-grade students are on the precipice of a lifetime with digital and social media. With this in mind, Justin and Jeff developed a 12-lesson unit that helps students examine the infrastructure in forming a positive digital identity. The thinking of 5th graders is relatively concrete. Lessons 1-5 give students the concrete background of their digital footprint in real time. Lessons 6-8 allow them to judge the digital footprint of others. Lessons 9 and 10 give them pause to stop and consider what they want to share through their own profiles and social media. Lesson 11 asks students to make decisions about uncomfortable online situations.

In teaching this curriculum for the past three years, Jeff and Justin’s pre-assessment activity has revealed that nearly every 5th grader is an uninformed, device-connected consumer of internet-based media. Their sequence is designed to be a proactive approach to increase awareness and help students make safer, healthier choices when faced with digital dilemmas in their life.

How have students and staff benefited from Justin's technology integration initiatives?

Students benefit from Justin’s unique teaching style because he designs learning experiences that are grounded in the real world, and emphasize student inquiry and engagement. The collaboration with Mandarin Library Automation, for example, provided students with an opportunity to actively engage in product development with a real-world software company and communicate their ideas directly to the company's president. Similarly, the digital footprint project encouraged students to reflect critically on real-world implications of their online behaviors.  

One of the benefits of working in the Baldwinsville Central School District is flexibility to innovate within the Library Standards and Benchmarks. Such autonomy allows librarians in the district the freedom to emphasize in-depth student thinking and learning while leveraging 21st century technology. Throughout the duration of any project, Justin is steadfast in his belief that the students must own the learning. The tools and partnerships that are available today can help empower students to control their own education.

Is This You?
Are you the type of teacher who thinks about technology integration and new ways to enhance instruction, engage students, and make learning fun?  Know someone who fits the profile?  Recommend a "Featured Teacher" so we can recognize and celebrate great work in the area of instructional technology!
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