Bluffton, SC - The library at Red Cedar Elementary School is a hive of activity. But you won’t find a librarian or teacher shushing students as they excitedly share ideas with each other. Red Cedar is participating in a Beaufort County School District program called Media Center 2.0 that has transformed the library into a high tech makerspace. “Three years ago we moved all of the physical books out of the library to other areas around the school,” shares Instructional Coach Cynthia Laizer.“We were left with a big empty space that we filled with Promethean tables, electronic whiteboards, and other tools students can use to explore and create. The library is always full of students and energy.” Even though there are no longer bookshelves in the library, students and teachers still have plenty of access to books thanks to the Big Universe eBook library.
The transition to Media Center 2.0 at Red Cedar coincided with the rollout of a 1:1 initiative that provides every student with an iPad. “The first year we took the books out of the library we decided to subscribe to several digital libraries,” says Ms. Laizer. “Big Universe was one of the programs we chose and it ended up being the one that teachers liked best.” Teachers and students alike found Big Universe incredibly easy to use right from the start. According to Ms. Laizer, “I did a one-hour group training with teachers on Big Universe and that was all it took. They didn’t need more than that.”
Red Cedar uses the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ program and teachers quickly found how easy it is to search the Big Universe library for specific subject matter for specific Fountas & Pinnell reading levels. Ms. Laizer comments, “Big Universe was very popular right from the start.” So popular in fact that after the first year Big Universe became the school’s primary digital library. “At the beginning of the school year teachers are begging to get their login information for Big Universe. They can’t wait to start using it.”
Word spread about Big Universe throughout Beaufort County School District. Now, Big Universe is available to every school in the district. “The district saw how well Big Universe was working for us at Red Cedar as well as several other schools and was impressed by the number of books available so decided it was a good tool for other schools,” says Ms. Laizer.
Having the Big Universe digital library has motivated students to read more — both at school and at home. Each week teachers receive reports of how many books they’ve assigned and how many books their students have read. Ms. Laizer laughs, “Teachers want to be top of the list. They’re competitive so are encouraging their students to read more and that is exactly what we want.”