Meet the Recipient of our November EdTech Grant: Victoria Blackmer

We're excited to formally announce the recipient of our $500 EdTech grant for the month of November! After careful consideration, we believed the most deserving applicant from this past month is Victoria Blackmer from the Robert R. Jones Public Library in Coal Valley, Ill. Victoria is a librarian at this library in Coal Valley, which is almost on the border of Iowa, and she has also begun to work closely with the nearby Bicentennial Elementary School. Overall, she works with students from Pre-K through high school and is really excited about the opportunities she's helping to create for her students through this unique partnership. With the new technology she'll be receiving from us as part of our grant program, she's ready to take that partnership to the next level!

Victoria's project is made up of three parts: The enhancement of classroom learning tools, the development of a lending partnership between the library and the school, and the creation of a science-based circulating collection. In Victoria's vision, all three of these elements combined will create greater STEM experiences for her students and encourage the implementation of new programming options in both the classroom and at this public library.

"The enhancement of the classroom learning tools will allow students the opportunity to touch, hold, and interact with what they are learning," she said. She hopes to get these science kits into circulation at the library as soon as possible to give students access to prepared experiments and science materials they most likely would never get to experience in their traditional classrooms. "We want to provide hands-on, self-directed educational opportunities in math and science that can be borrowed from the library and brought home just like a book," she added.

To create her circulating science kits, Victoria will be receiving the following STEM tools from us: MaKey MaKey Classic, MaKey MaKey GO, Squishy Circuits, LightUp Edison, Let's Start Coding Code Car, Teknikio Sparking Sense Kit, Monk Makes kits, E-Blox kits, Snap Circuits kits, and more.

"We are looking forward to being able to share resources more freely between the school and the library," Victoria said, adding that she is excited to start cross-promoting programs and events.

Since her library does not receive a lot of funding towards creating STEM programs for kids in the community, Victoria is determined to work with Bicentennial Elementary to help the whole community see the library as a transformational force rather than just an informational source. With the addition of the new technology in her arsenal, Victoria believes that both the library and the school will become more engaging learning spaces for kids.

"Through growing collaboration, both institutions will become better equipped for the future and better able to provide the resources necessary to connect students with different devices and enhancing skills in a performance-based way rather than on paper," said Victoria.

She does not simply want to just throw the new technology into the library and see happens, however. She has a plan – a plan to implement the tools strategically and, more importantly, monitor the effectiveness of each one, specifically when it comes to engaging students. She wants the educators who are working with kids to be well-informed and make any changes or adaptations they need to in order to continue providing meaningful, hands-on learning experiences.

These new tech tools awarded to Victoria as part of our grant program won't be the first technology her students have access to. She and her students have worked with technologies like Ozobot and 3D printers in the past, but will now create 19 circulating science kits.

"At the end of the day, we want children using these kits and ending up with more confidence as they experience personal growth and achieve success. I can't wait to see how these new technologies enhance their critical thinking skills, improve how they deal with life experiences, and stimulate community interest," said Victoria.

Victoria should be receiving her new technologies in the next month or so and she expects to have her plan in place and fully operational by February. If you would like to apply for our Educational Technology Grant, the application for the December award is now open! To learn more about the program and to apply, click here!

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