Meet a Community Rep: Lavanda Wagenheim

By DPLA, April 25, 2014.
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Lavanda Wagenheim, DPLA Community Rep and IB Middle Years Programme Coordinator at the Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools- Middle in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Earlier in April, I introduced DPLA’s history and website to a professional learning group (PLG) of 36 public elementary and secondary school librarians/media specialists representing approximately 6 school districts in West Central Alabama.  No one had ever heard of DPLA; therefore, it was relatively easy to spark the interest of those in attendance.  What I have learned about librarians is that they are brilliant, inquisitive, and eager to try new technologies and resources.  What really worked in my favor was that this PLG was conducted by our Technology in Motion liaison from the University of Alabama, Dr. Robert Mayben, who provided a state-of-the-art facility for the workshop.  Our classroom was a newly constructed computer lab, complete with a mammoth projection screen and surround sound.  My Prezi (“What is the DPLA? A Very Brief History”) was easy to read from a distance of a few blocks, and the DPLA site sparkled in its oversized glory. It wasn’t long after I finished my Prezi and switched tabs to throw the DPLA site up on the screen that the crowd began to tap away at their desktops, laptops, and tablets.  They couldn’t wait to cruise around on the site and test out the features themselves!  I had to reel my audience back in so that I could demonstrate the site’s features for them.

I began my features demonstration by telling them about one of my fascinations since childhood – the dark history of the Holocaust.  I told them about my initial search on the DPLA as a newbie.  I had decided to search the place name, Dachau, since as a child I remember viewing newsreels of the victims of the death camp.  I told them that what I had unearthed from that initial search was nothing short of profound.  I showed the audience how to use that same search word for the timeline, map, and bookshelf features on the site as well as the features that allow them to search by format, language, location, date, and subject.  I also showed them some of the documents and objects I found on my searches, including a letter written by an American soldier to his parents (Letter to Mr. and Mrs. D.H. Porter, from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) when he assisted in the operations to liberate the Dachau prison camp before World War II officially ended.  Instead of reading the whole letter to the workshop participants, I zoomed in to a snippet that expressed enough of the gravity and horror the soldier felt as he recounted the gruesome scene to his parents back home.

I encouraged the participants to “play” with DPLA’s features and to “stumble” upon documents to their heart’s content for the last twenty minutes of my session.  Like engaged and curious middle school students, the group took off on a quest to find items and resources associated with their “pet” interests.  For example, one librarian called me over to show me documents surrounding the Titanic disaster.  She reported that she and another teacher at her school taught a 5th grade unit on the Titanic, and there, right in front of her, were more materials to supplement her primary resource list to share with the teacher and her students.  At the end of our session, I left my participants with a small assignment to complete for me:

  1. Think of how you will share this site with your faculty
  2. Think of a mini-lesson or task to engage students in searching the DPLA
  3. Send me an email with ideas for 1 and 2 -or- share your ideas via Google Docs on your district Google Drive.

I intend to follow up with these teachers so that I may use their ideas to develop lessons for DPLA.  Although I am not a librarian, media specialist, or academic, I feel that my career as a secondary teacher, and now as a curriculum specialist, developer, and coordinator qualifies me as the kind of DPLA Rep who could contribute appropriate and useful educational materials for the K-12 audience.

Getting involved with the DPLA reps program has allowed me to communicate my enthusiasm for this incredible public resource with other educators, whose excitement about the service is certain to be far-reaching as they, in turn, introduce other educators and students to the wealth of digital information in DPLA.  My main purpose as a rep is to share the unique features and functionalities of the site with others.  I also feel that the feedback I receive from educators about the site will serve to improve and enrich its offerings for visitors in the future.

Are you interested in becoming a Community Rep? Apply today! The deadline to apply for our second class of Reps is Wednesday, April 30.

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