Mooresville Middle School library changes to meet the times
Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Mooresville Middle School library changes to meet the times

While sitting in a casual area in the Mooresville Middle School Media Center, eighth-grader Jamari Caldwell discusses work with Allison Long, media specialist. Long instructs students to authenticate sources as they conduct research.

The Mooresville Middle School Media Center is a welcoming hub of activity, a place where students read, work or sometimes hang out. Inside the double doors, digital numbers flash the number of days until an award-winning author visits.

Like the Mooresville Graded School District, Allison Long, media specialist, embraces technology. In March, Long was presented the 2014 Media Specialist Technology Innovation Award.

The North Carolina Technology in Education Society recognizes individuals who support curriculum and instructional needs through collaborative and innovative technology.

As shifts occurred with the switch to laptops for Mooresville students, some teachers were overwhelmed with the influx of innovation. Long has struck a balance between books and technology. The media center is a lively, interactive place.

After surveying students, Long made some changes. She bought bean-bag chairs and a coffee bar table with stools, then arranged school sofas and chairs in a casual setting.

Students like this atmosphere for reading or working on their laptops. One pointed to her favorite bean bag, a comfortable spot to read the latest middle school novel.

Like a home renovation project, improvements escalated. Teachers requested areas conducive to interacting with small groups. Long created learning stations.

Media assistant Elizabeth Stapleton and Long may teach math, science or social studies at a station, while other students work with teachers or in independent groups. “If I’m sitting around a table with eight kids, I get to know them a lot better,” Long said.

She does whatever is necessary to help teachers accomplish their objectives. “The tools may change, but the end goal is the same,” Long said.

A PolyVision Interactive Board provides an efficient way for students to present their findings as they actively read an article or work a math problem. President Obama participated in a PolyVision session when he visited Mooresville Middle last June.

The dual purpose surface connects to an iPad. As a child uses a finger to write on the iPad, another student can write on the board with a pen. Both images appear on screen.

While a class rotates through learning stations, other students visit the media center to check out books and work on special projects.

A section in the back contains the green screen, a painted wall similar to the screens television weather forecasters use. Students can record in front of the screen and place a picture behind their image so they appear to be speaking from an exotic locale.

“It can be crazy in here,” Long said.

But everything’s under control. Kids respect each other and modulate their voices.

While Long discussed the role of the librarian in a technological society, groups came in to record videos. They waited, received instructions and got to work.

A student returned a book and checked out another. When Long made the switch to include more technology, she bought e-books. Students didn’t check them out. As kids become more tech-savvy, their resistance is changing.

“Most of the kids who read fiction want the book in their hands. Kids do research on laptops and will use nonfiction e-books for research,” Long said.

She foresees a different look for libraries of the future. Long wants students to become lifelong readers who use public libraries as adults. “For kids at this age, it’s important to find that magic book for them,” she said.

Long and Stapleton will do whatever is necessary to meet the challenge. Sometimes they read a book with a child. Usually, the student becomes a regular patron.

As an educator for 23 years, Long has noticed changes in children’s learning styles. They’re more engaged and involved. With the advent of technology, students feel more empowered.

Long compared today’s teachers to backseat drivers who steer kids toward specific outcomes. “When I collaborate with teachers, we have to know what we want to accomplish,” she said.

Along with the Technology Innovation Award, Long received $1,000 for the media center from the North Carolina Technology in Education Society. She’s tweaking questions for another student survey. “Sometimes kids give me the best ideas,” she said.

Sandra Phillips is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Sandra? Email her at

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