This week, my company will be holding our semiannual team retreat. During this time, we will continue to discuss the use of our platform, Beanstack, by Florida public school districts. We’re proud that our offering continues to motivate their students to read through proven gamification principles as it has for more than four years.
Recently, many of these same districts came to us urgently asking for help in leveraging Beanstack to comply with a new, controversial Florida state law known as HB 1467. Included in this regulation is the requirement that each school district adopt procedures for the regular approval, removal, or discontinuance of books from media centers and classroom libraries based on a review by a district employee with a valid educational media specialist certificate.
Our work with Florida schools to meet the requirements of HB 1467 has tested our company’s culture like nothing before. Having deeply considered the impact of our work, and as we continue to dialogue as a team, I wanted to now provide more context to others who may be interested. We value our partnership with educators in Florida and are honored that they came to us at a time when this law has placed immense pressure on them and their fellow educators.
Through many conversations, we learned about the real-world impacts and challenges of compliance—teachers removing books from their classrooms, educators de-emphasizing independent reading, and media specialists with little time for any work beyond compliance. At issue was the enormous amount of time administrators, media specialists, and teachers would need to expend to manually sort through books from each classroom in accordance with this new law. Managing this statewide mandate without technology assistance would take away from the school districts’ ability to provide more independent reading opportunities for students – a core element of our mission and values – and put educators at risk of having action taken against them under the law.
From these discussions, we believed our tool would allow for greater transparency, making it clearly visible to multiple constituencies which books have been approved or rejected for each grade level at each school district. In response, we developed a feature set in our Beanstack platform, the Classroom Library Connector, to help teachers and media specialists efficiently and transparently catalog classroom libraries. This new feature enables educators to leverage our digital ISBN scanner to quickly create an organized digital catalog. They can then create reading competitions and utilize other features in Beanstack to motivate students to read.
The Classroom Library Connector is a useful tool for school districts beyond compliance purposes, with far-reaching applications that align with our company’s mission to help teachers motivate students to read. This new feature empowers teachers and media specialists with scanning, cataloging, and classroom library-specific reading motivation capabilities to efficiently and collaboratively ensure all students have access to a high-quality collection of books in every classroom. As of today, 7,219 classroom libraries in Florida have been scanned into Beanstack. The impact we expect to have on helping each school build a culture of reading is immeasurable.
I know that this new service to educators may unwillingly bring us into political conversations. I want to be clear about what I believe personally and as our company’s co-founder and CEO. Readers of all ages should have access to books that provide windows to the experiences of others and mirrors to their own experience, including the stories of members of the LGBQT+ community, indigenous people, and people of color like me. I believe that librarians and educators are our most dedicated defenders of the freedom to read and benefit from transparency in their work. While it is possible that our software may be used by some to remove books from shelves, I believe that it is already doing far more to keep books on shelves. And I’m grateful that my company and I have the opportunity to be at the table and part of the solution.
Going forward, my team and I continue to feel compelled to meet the needs of our valued education partners in Florida. Media specialists, librarians, and teachers are the unsung heroes of literacy, access, and opportunity. In these recent times especially, they need all of our support, trust, and goodwill. We’re proud to be their partner in a constantly changing world.
Felix Brandon Lloyd
Co-founder and CEO
Article reposted with permission from District Administration.