How Free Cloud Tools Enhance Public Access Computers at My Library

Children enjoying using a computer at a library

Sometimes what you yearn and work for happens of its own accord. At my public library job at a small public library in the Washington, D.C., area, I've been yearning for students to use our public computers more for educational uses and less for recreational uses. Admittedly, some of the recreational uses of our computers do fortify the mind. But it sure would be nice for at least some students to be doing their homework on library computers.

In the past two years, as Chromebooks and Google Docs became widely adopted in the local school systems, my dream has come true. Now many more students are using public access computers to do their homework at our library after school. This article in Ars Technica (that I wrote) chronicles this positive development.

Open Badges and Moodle

Using Google Docs is a step in the right direction, but many more steps need to be taken for youth to be making best use of public access computers at libraries. Youth need goals, perhaps set up using Open Badges, to help them advance themselves. I'd love our community and other communities to be designing and running courses using Moodle, the very popular free, open-source course-management system.

To get started using Moodle, check out and read the poignant and powerful story behind this website. If you'd like to involve youth in designing Moodle courses, get them involved in creating quizzes using the fabulous quiz module. Watch the screencast by Ravi Makhija about creating Moodle quizzes. There are lots of other screencasts on YouTube about creating Moodle quizzes, too.

Offering a More Complete Experience

Youth also need friendly skills contests and creativity contests, operated at local, state, national, and international levels. We also need new ways for youth to be eating healthy snacks and exercising their muscles in after-school settings. I believe that any new libraries being designed need to have a space where youth can generate electricity on stationary bicycles. Naturally, this space needs to be separate from the library study space — perhaps located in a covered outdoor space adjacent to the library.

Isn't it interesting when you move forward in one direction, the next steps for moving forward appear of their own accord? I'm grateful for what cloud computing has brought to my public library. It has brought us one step closer to full fruition as a library and community.

About the Author

Phil ShapiroPhil Shapiro is a library assistant, educator, and technology access activist in the Washington, D.C., area. He has found inspiration in the learning that goes on at after-school programs, adult literacy organizations, public libraries, and organizations bringing music instruction and the arts to children. He is a true believer in public libraries as the central social, educational, and creative institutions in our communities.

Image: StartupStockPhotos / CC0