Intro to the Institution

The first of the three labs I’d like to talk about is Senator John Pinto Library. I may have written a blog or two about this location, so bear with me as I write just this one more. In case you haven’t read yet, or just want to hear it again Senator John Pinto Library is the campus library for Dine’ College located in Shiprock New Mexico. The community it serves is primarily Navajo and it is located within the Eastern Agency of the Navajo Nation in Northwestern New Mexico.

For this pilot project I have visited SJP library more than any other location, and have began to rely on it as a solid location to launch further programming. My (Explora and NDIA’s) continued presence there has opened doors for us that would not have been possible otherwise. It’s clear now at the tail end of this pilot something that I heard time and again at the beginning: the best way to work in rural communities is to build trust. The best way I have found to build trust is to simply be there, as often and as fully as possible.

Discovery Lab Size and Location and Rollout

The Library agreed to take on our largest Discovery Lab, containing 10 Chromebooks, and two mobile hotspots.The lab is housed at the Library itself, and component kits can be checked out to students and community members alike. I made contact with this location at the beginning of the pilot through Natives in STEM. Through this contact I was able to meet Samanthi Hewakapuge, the head librarian, who eventually agreed to take on a Discovery Lab as a partner with this pilot. It is in part because of our consistent programming and the dedication of Samanthi as a librarian that we are in such a close partnership with Dine’ College Library Shiprock.

After some time discussing how best to roll out this lab we decided to announce it in stages: first to staff, including a comprehensive training for library personnel and Q&A for the rest of the staff. This did quite a bit to drum up interest, as right away I had two staff members approach me to talk about borrowing kits. After the staff had a chance to speak for a few devices we decided to do a Q&A with students during their orientation at the beginning of the semester.

What Makes this Lab Unique?

This lab being located at a college library makes it unique in that we have several points of contact for a student to be able to borrow or come into contact with a lab kit. The first point is obviously to borrow a kit from the library. Students, however, are also likely to come by these devices in class as a professor can also make use of the computers for a class, or during tutoring as currently two of the kits are being borrowed by student services for a Math Tutoring Lab. Non-Traditional students seeking their GED’s as well are likely to come into contact with these kits because an Adult Education Staff member took the and asked if she too could use these devices for her students. Of course, Sonja! I’m delighted that you did, and I can’t wait to see pictures from your event today.

Essentially what makes this lab unique is that we have a group of intelligent, and dedicated college staff members who have taken ownership of these devices in short time, and put them to uses we had not even realized were needed. There are obvious detractors to this: sometimes college staff plays fast and loose with weather or not they report that they are using the devices. I’ll forgive this, especially as it comes with the perspective of on the ground individuals willing to use these tools with us to bridge the gap in ways we couldn’t predict.

Continued Presence and Troubleshooting

I have been conducting semi-weekly lab check in’s, and have scheduled to continue to do so for the remainder of the pilot. I have quite a bit to do each visit, but the work is becoming less and less troubleshooting and more micro-targeting individuals that may need just a nudge to really take off and use these devices. In a typical visit I will check the kits against my records (no surprises so far), go over any technical problems the college has had with the kits (there have been relatively few and all are dead simple to fix), and then talk with individuals who have borrowed the kits, or have expressed interest in borrowing the kits in the past. Checking in with these individuals is how we were able to address the concerns of the Math Tutor, and teach him in a more one-on-one environment how these kits work, and how he sees them helping in his endeavors. I highly recommend this approach.

For my next blog post I’ll continue this Roll Call series and be talking about Girl Scout Troop #2009, and Nia Allen, Troop Leader and Discovery Lab Administrator.