Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Action Steps for Reform

Blog for Reform the Sequel is upon us. I did not contribute to the first call to action, but I remember reading about it on Twitter. After reading the post I felt that this would be a good way for me to set a few professional goals for myself in 2011. These are the instructions:
By January 1, each of us commits to blogging a contribution to our collective ACTION PLAN for re-tooling, re-inventing, and re-imagining what we're going to do to turn the corner on 21st century learning
I read a few of the entries and almost decided not to participate. Not because I did not agree, but because I felt like my contribution would be so small that it would not have an impact on some of the complex education issues mentioned. Then I thought of my students. Would I ever discourage their efforts, no matter how small? No.
My action steps may not have a huge impact but I hope that it will be a start and possibly impact my students, my school, and maybe my district.
1. Help increase and integrate technology into my school.
Part of this goal requires finding funds to buy technology such as more Ipod touches for a pilot program and Kindles for our "We eRead" program, but mostly it means teaching staff and administrators about using technology and getting access to blocked tools. I am meeting with all the librarians in our district next month and will expose them to gadgets like Flip cameras, Kindles, iPods, webcams and more. I hope this will be a jumping off point for impacting our entire district's use of these tools in the classroom. I also have more staff development ideas for our faculty regarding web 2.0 tools for next semester. One of my major obstacles is convincing administrators of the value of these tools and having them unblocked from our internet filters. I have been collecting information to prove the value of Wikipedia and other wikis so that we can use these tools. I have our district's first Skype session scheduled in January. It was difficult to get permission for this and I hope it all goes well so that we may use it again in the future.
2. Help our staff to create a PLN
My PLN has had a huge impact on me professionally and I want all of the faculty at my school to learn about the possibilities and create their own PLN. I hope to have a session with them to help them learn about blogging, RSS feeds, Twitter and online networks like Classroom 2.0. A proposal I made on this topic was accepted for our state library association conference and I will present in March.
3. Keep learning and sharing a priority.
Sometimes it is easy to retreat into our own classroom or library, but I want to continue learning about technology, teaching methods, educational theories, and the needs of this generation of students. I pledge to share the things I learn with my school and use this knowledge to be the best educator and librarian that I can.

These action steps will not make headlines or solve any major education issue our country faces, but I hope to make a contribution to improving myself and those around me and hope that my impact on others is a positive one.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Librarian's Role in Promoting Educational Technologies

In our state's library association's magazine, Media Messenger, there was an article by Cathy Nelson about a document titled "The Role of School Librarians in Promoting the Use of Educational Technologies." This document was created by the ISTE SIGMS group. This is a useful document for librarians trying to define their place in the modern education system. The document outlines how librarians can and should be technology advocates and guides.

A few things stood out for me.

The document states that school librarians:

  • frequently provide professional development to their colleagues in areas related to instructional and technology resources

  • often serve as primary technology integration specialists in their buildings.

These two points are accurate descriptions of what I try to do at my middle school. I comb through websites, tweets, and blog posts for ideas that teachers at school may use. I email them and bookmark them in our school's Diigo group. I show one web tool at the beginning of each faculty meeting. I call the series the "Eliterate Minute". So far I have shared Diigo, Big Huge Labs, Zamzar, Wordle, and Poll Everywhere. I organized an Electronic Gadget Petting Zoo for the staff. I blogged about it if you want more information. It was a big hit. The district administration asked if I would organize an encore of the petting zoo for all of the librarians in the district. It is scheduled for January and I am very excited about it. I believe my efforts have helped the administration, both school and district, and teachers to see me as someone that can help them troubleshoot technology issues and brainstorm ideas for integrating technology into the classroom. I try to model the use of technology in the library for the students as well as the teachers when they bring their classes. I have used Flip cameras, digital cameras, clickers, text notifications, iPadio, Voki, Poll Everywhere, book trailers from Youtube, Glogster, Google Earth, Prezi, Skype, Weblist, Jog the Web, iPods, Kindles and created a Facebook page for library news. I have a long way to go to convince some of the value of technology, but I feel that I am making progress.

I encourage all of you to read the document. Use it to advocate for the profession by sharing with teachers and administrators. As you read it evaluate yourself. Are you meeting these needs? How can you step it up to better meet the needs of your faculty?

Go Mobile

cell phonephoto © 2008 samantha celera more info (via: Wylio)

I have been making a conscious effort to be more mobile or at least make my online presence more mobile friendly. Check out this post by Richard Byrne on his Free Technology for Teachers blog. Using his instructions I connected my phone to my blog so that I can blog on the go. I think this will come in handy when I want to document an activity in the library or when I attend our state library conference in March.
I also connected my phone to my iPadio account and Twitter account. Now I can instantly podcast from my cell phone or send a tweet. Any phone with texting capability can do it. Check out this post from Lisa Nielsen's Innovative Educator blog for instructions on iPadio. If you want to use Twitter on your phone follow these simple instructions from the Twitter Support page. There are plenty of options when you set up. I chose to only receive notifications of mentions or direct messages and only within the hours of 8 am and 8 pm.

I hope that you will give it a try.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reflecting on Student Learning in Library, 2010

School Bus Reflectionphoto © 2009 Ingrid Taylar more info (via: Wylio)

It is natural to use the end of the year as a time to reflect. This has been true for me as an educator in past years, but now that I am using this blog as a reflection tool I felt obligated to write a post on this reflection. Several ideas have been swirling around in my brain, but when I read Buffy Hamilton's recent post a bell went off for me. She recommends that we reflect on what our students have learned, not just what we learned. I think this is a wonderful idea. Our impact on learning is what we are judged on and should be what we examine when judging ourselves. I will use her questions as a guide for my reflection and highly recommend that you read the entire post and see what she has been teaching in 2010. Her work is a wonderful model to try to emulate.

1. What did they (your patrons or those you serve) learn through your library program and the conversations for learning you facilitated? What do you hope they will learn in 2011?

For my most frequent library visitors, sixth grade, I have had the opportunity to introduce literacy skills using stations (Dewey matching game, web evaluation activity, book trailer viewing, citation, and Your Next Read reading lists). I created a web quest on figurative language using Jog the Web. We participated in the SLJ Trailee awards with Poll Everywhere voting. They have been avid readers as part of the summer reading program, Teen Read Week and the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge. I taught a lesson on propaganda using Christmas commercials.
Seventh grade science students have come for disease research when I taught them citation for their Glogster projects. I assisted in research on topics related to the novel "Tears of a Tiger". I introduced the teachers to Photostory, Glogster and Google Earth which allowed these tools to be used to create digital Chrstmas stories and Glogs with Google Earth links on Imperialism.
Sadly my impact on eight grade is not where I want it to be. I have to do something to make sure these teachers know that I want to help and I can help meet their goals in the classroom. So far I have only seen them for orientation and the book fair. Two teachers brought classes in for literacy stations, but then only wanted the students to watch a few book trailers. I'm going to keep trying.
All grades have participated on our gaming in the library lunch program called Horseplay where they used information literacy skills to learn and play board and video games.
I have taught the teachers how to use technology in their lessons including Flip cameras, Hue webcams, iPods, Kindles, Senteo clickers, and even cell phones. At faculty meetings I introduce one Web 2.0 tool. So far I have taught staff about Diigo, Big Huge Labs, Zamzar, Poll Everywhere and Wordle. The special education students have benefited from our growing collection of Playaways. The teachers have seen a major improvement in their enthusiasm to read and participate in silent sustained reading. They beg for more reading time!
I do not know how to measure this but I believe my enthusiasm and welcoming atmosphere has improved our schools attitude about reading and the benefits of the library.

2. How do we know what they learned? What tools did you use for assessment? Did the patrons engage in metacognition and self-reflection on what they learned?

This year our sixth graders took the TRAILS assessment. They will take it again in late Spring to assess information literacy skills. This is my formal evaluation goal for the year and it has been a great way for me to target the weak areas and focus my lessons. The weakest area was ethical use of information. I have a unit planned for the Spring semester to correspond with a large research project. So far I have been modeling ethical use by pointing out citations in my own work and introducing the topic in a literacy station lesson in September.
During a Christmas commercial lesson on propaganda techniques I used Poll Everywhere to assess the knowledge of the techniques. The students were actually excited to answer the questions because they text in their answers. This was a fun and useful way to achieve informal assessment.
At the end of a figurative language web quest students answered a few questions on a Google Form about which types of figurative language they understood and which they wanted more help on. The teachers had never used Google Forms before and they loved the ease of collecting the data.
During our reading promotions our students have recorded using different measures including minutes read, pages read and number of books read.
As part of our Kindle program "We eRead" our students will be measured using MAP (Measuring Academic Progress) scores in language arts and Lexile scores. I will also monitor their state standardized test (PASS) scores in addition to their grade in the regular language arts classroom. We hope that using the Kindles will have a positive impact on their scores. Each student took a survey on reading motivation that will give me more data about the Kindles' impact on reading attitudes with these students.
Incorporating self assessment is something I need to improve on. Usually the final product is completely up to the teacher. I have made suggestions but am not usually included in the process even though I would be happy to help. I will try to make sure they know I am willing to help. If not included in the grading process I can still use questions in my mini lessons that have self reflection components.

3. How are you privileging and honoring what they learned? Where are their stories of learning shared in your physical and virtual library spaces?

There is a part of me that doesn't even want to answer this question because I feel like I have not done a very good job of this. But the point of evaluation is to celebrate success and continue to improve so here goes.
I have highlighted our reading program participants and winners by putting their pictures on bulletin boards and their names in the school's morning news program, weekly updates, school webpages, and even the library Facebook page. Student projects are on display in the library and I put the top patron's names on our Top Ten Books bulletin board display.
I have requested that the teachers send me examples of impressive final products including glogs, Photostories, and mock Facebook pages. So far I have only received a few Facebook pages about diseases. I saved them and highlighted the teachers in our principal's Shout Out section of his weekly email to staff, but did not go further. I really wanted to send a few of the best Christmas digital stories to our elementary librarians so that they could show them to their students, but I still haven't received any from the teacher. Even if I get them later I plan to post them on my library Youtube channel with the student's approval (no names are included).
Since this area is a weakness I need to find more ways to celebrate student learning and share with a broader audience. Maybe I need to start carrying a flash drive with me when I check on these classes in the lab so that I can save the projects myself and will not be at the mercy of the teacher's remembering to send me a copy. Maybe I should do more to brag on the teachers that share with me so they will have incentive to remember to include me.

Any suggestions on how you highlight your student work would be appreciated. How would you answer these three questions from Buffy Hamilton?

Christmas Wish List

Amazon Kindle eBook Readerphoto © 2009 goXunuReviews | more info (via: Wylio)
Before school let out for the holiday Mrs. Haley compiled a list of books that our reading resource students wanted on the Kindles. She also provided me with their Lexile reading levels to help in these decisions. They requested scary books and world record books for the boys and teen romance for the girls. I noticed that many of the specific titles they requested were novels read in the English classroom. I wonder if the reason they requested these is because it is the only book they have read lately or if they genuinely liked it. Either way I think it is a good idea to have those titles so that these students can reinforce classroom reading with the Kindles. Especially considering that they can use text to speech for them if they need to review, reread or catch up with the class. The large range of reading levels presents quite a challenge. The lowest was on a third grade level. When I searched for scary books within this range on the Lexile website it listed Berenstein Bears and Amelia Bedelia. I do not think that would appeal to this student. This presents a challenge but with text to speech I am hoping that I can crank up the difficulty and find books that are within his comprehension level but also age appropriate.
I created a wish list on Amazon using their requests and reading level considerations. I will buy a few titles to appeal to the boys and girls to get them started and plan to review the list with Mrs. Haley when school resumes before purchasing more.
I am excited to show the kids the titles we add to the Kindles and continue this journey.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Swap Success

Our book swap ends tomorrow. I believe it was a huge success. We had around 250 books brought in by our students and I put in several hundred discarded library books and cast off books in closets and storage rooms from all over the school. I gave tickets to the students that brought in books and I gave each teacher ten tickets to give away to the students. The students were so appreciative. They thanked me and the teachers that gave them tickets. I hope that any librarian would be excited when they see students thrilled about getting a book. I know I was pumped. I invited a select group of students to pick out a few freebies. Many of them chose books to give to siblings, cousins, friends, and even parents. I look foward to having another book swap before summer break. The students are already asking when our next book swap will be.

"We eRead" Kindle Program Update

We now have a total of six Kindles in our collection. We have two of the first version of Kindle, one Kindle 2, and 3 of the latest version. My wonderful colleague on this venture, Mrs. Haley, introduced her students to the Kindles today and showed them how to use the features of highlight, note taking, text to speech and font size adjustment. I was able to sit in on one of her classes and it was so much fun to see the excitement in the students about the devices. There are still a few students that are hesitant to use them. I am hoping that as we add titles that they request their minds will change. I also hope that after learning more about the Kindles today that they will be more open to using them. I think some of their resistance comes from a fear that they are too complicated to use. We will continue to help them learn all of the features the Kindle offers and create a list of titles to order.

Library Sign In Upgrade

When I cleaned out the closets of the library this summer I found hundreds of sign in sheets that the previous librarian had printed and saved. My priorities were elsewhere so I continued to use them, but I am proud to say as the stack of sheets dwindled I decided to upgrade to a new method. I found a disgarded laptop in an old storage closet. It was deemed "too old to reimage", but it does get online. I created a Google Form that included name and grade level. I put the computer near the entrance and waited to see what would happen as the students came in. Students said things like "cool", "woh, a laptop", and "This is so much better." Now the student sign in records are automatically date and time stamped, I can use the columns to sort by grade level, months, etc, and I do not have to track down my stolen pens and pencils. The only complaint so far has been a few students that wanted a mouse instead of a touch pad. I'm sure I can search more closets to find a mouse.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Three Cool Tools

photo © 2006 Esther Gibbons more info (via: Wylio)

I spent some time catching up on reading blogs and tweets and found three tools that I wanted to play with (with the cooperation of my two year old who took a nap). I saw Wylio first on Free Tech 4 Teachers blog and several times on Twitter. Decided to use it on this post first. Very easy to use. Curious to see if it is blocked at school tomorrow. If it isn't (fingers crossed) I will definitely share this with my students. Usually their idea of citing an image from the web is "Thanks to Google Images". I keep fighting that battle when I am able to spend time with them on citation before projects. I will continue to fight and hope that this site is another weapon to combat the problem.
The next two tools are Voki and ipadio. I have been on Voki before, according to the site 2007. I know that I didn't pursue using it further because it is blocked at school. Now that I have a blog I am able to use it here. I used it to create a short welcome message, especially considering that I might get a few more visits from the Edublog nomination. That would be cool, anyway. My interest in Voki was rekindled with a recent post on The Innovative Educator blog. I plan to petition that the site be unblocked at school. I know our students would love using it for projects and I think it is an awesome idea to use for sub plans. Ipadio is the second tool from the Innovative Educator post that I played with today. It was really easy to set up. My only issue was that I was unsure about using a country code so I put my number in once with and once without. Apparently you do not need the country code before your US number. I set up the phlogs to automatically post to my school Facebook fan page and my Twitter account. I created a reminder for students about our Book Swap this week on ipadio. It worked wonderfully. Can't wait to use this with my students. After this great experience using it I decided to add the Ipadio app to the iPods we just purchased.
I have also added a few more apps since my post yesterday: iChoose, Doodle Buddy, Comic Lite, Storyrobe, Idea Sketch, Flip Book Lite and Easy Chart. Excited to present the iPods to the teachers tomorrow and begin using them.
Thanks to the Innovative Educator, Lisa Nielsen, for more excellent, easy to use tools for educators.

Edublog Award Voting is Open

I was excited to discover that I made the shortlist for Best New Blog on the Edublog Award Nominations. Thanks Fran Bullington and anyone that may have nominated me. I can not emphasize enough how much this encouragement means. This is my first year as a librarian and my first year blogging, tweeting, joining Nings, reading lots of blogs, and creating a PLN. I wish that I had known about these powerful tools when I was in the classroom. The positive impact my PLN has had on me is what drives me to share these tools with the other teachers at my middle school. Congratulations to everyone that was nominated. I can't wait to explore all of the new blogs and follow the Twitter nominees. A special shout out to all of the librarians on the list for promoting the work in our profession, Gwyneth Jones, Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, Fran Bullington, Cathy Nelson, and others that I may have missed.

You can cast your vote here. Good luck everyone.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

In Good Company

I was so excited to be asked to contribute to The Innovative Educator blog and share how I use cell phones in the library. If you missed it, the article can be found here. I am honored to be included in the same company as some of my library heroes like Joyce Valenza, Gwyneth Jones and education leader, Lisa Nielsen. My principal was so proud. He forwarded the link to our district office. I received several "way to go" emails and an invitation to speak to all of the elementary librarians in our district. One of my principals forwarded a link to my blog to all of the other principals in our district. I hope that I have contributed, in my own small way, to the image of librarians as leaders, technology advocates and innovative change agents.

Beginnings of iPod Touch Integration

With the blessings of my administrators and a willing team of sixth grade teachers I ordered six iPod Touch devices. I have been compiling information on using the devices in the classroom and I am excited to begin using them. My plan right now is to use these first six devices to get the teachers accustomed to using the technology and brainstorming ways that they can be used in their classes. There are three reasons why I began with just six.

1. That was all I could afford at this moment.

2. I want the teachers to have time to learn the technology and adjust their lessons before the devices are thrown at them.

3. Six is enough to use them in class with group activities or as a station.

The funds for this purchase came from a combination of a Student Council fundraiser that was donated to the library and book fair profits. We ordered them from Office Depot because they are an approved school vendor and we received a small discount. I also ordered a six pack of cases from Amazon seller, BargainCell.

Choosing a team of teachers to involve in this project was a difficult choice. I wanted to choose one team. Our school is grouped in teams with one math, science, ELA, and social studies teacher working together teaching the same students. Some of our teams are groups of three and they each have one block of social studies. I did not want a three person team because I wanted each teacher to be able to focus on integrating the iPod touch into their main subject. I did not want to burden a first year teacher with this additional work so that eliminated some teams. And let's face it, there are some teachers that you know will be more open to trying new things and approaching change with a positive attitude. After serious thought and discussion with administrators we decided on a team to include. I met with these teachers and explained the idea. All but one of them had an iPod of their own, but they were only familiar with its use as a MP3 player.

I made a list of links for them to explore that includes webinars on iPods, blog posts, websites, and app reviews. Today I spent a few hours creating an iTunes account for the school, finding a few apps to start with in each subject, syncing all of the iPods, enabling restrictions, and creating and loading a Gmail account for each device. See the Learning in Hand site and the Apple iPod Touch in Education"Getting Started" document for tips on how to complete these set up procedures.
The apps I added for now are:
Goodreads, Evernote, Google Earth, Google, History Tools, Read It Later, Animoto, AudioBoo, Multiply Free, CivilizationRevolution Lite, NASA, QRReader, The Settlers Free, Space Images, The Weather Channel, TimesTablesFree, StoryKit, Find iPhone, Dictionary, FreeGrammar, GreekGods, Gods Trivia, HistoryMaps, Ruler, StudyFlash, WxGenius, 3D Cell, Science Glossary, Blanks, jIdioms, Mad Libs, iThesaurus, Lexify Lite, WordLite, Fraction Factory and PearlDiver.
All of these are free apps. Some of them have paid versions that we may purchase if the teacher feels they will be used. I thought this would be a great start.
There are a few unknowns that I am concerned about. The iTunes Store is blocked at school so I have to sync them at home right now. That is fine with just six, but if we are able to purchase more it will not be a reasonable option. The second major concern is that the newly installed WiFi at our school is not open to us yet. I do not know if they will allow the iPods to get online at school. My hope is that when they see the positive impact of these devices on student learning they will allow us to get on the network. I also hope to earn more funds to buy a classroom set and work our way to one for each student.
I will update on our progress as the teachers begin to play with the devices and use them with their students.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gadgets and Gizmos

I recently received an email from librarian, Pat Maxwell, of the College of Brockport, State University of New York, regarding the Electronic Gadget Petting Zoo. I hosted our event in October and it was a huge success. I even plan to have an encore session with the induction teachers in our district. I was very pleased to hear from Pat about their upcoming event, Electronic Gadget Expo. Check out the site advertising the event. I love the graphics! Pat mentioned that they used QR codes posted around campus to advertise the event details. What a wonderful idea.
I shared the signs I used with Pat and I can't wait to hear how the event goes. She plans to add QR codes to the expo. I think I will add this to my next event as well. Many of my teachers do not know about this cool tool.
If you plan to have a similar event I will be happy to share what I have and would love to hear from you.
Good luck Pat and the entire staff of Drake Memorial Library! And thank you for organizing an event that will help your students learn about technology!

Self Check Out

I know for some librarians the thought of student self check out is horrifying, but I have found it to be liberating. I implemented self check out at the beginning of the year. I have two computers stationed at the circulation desk. One is turned around to face the front and the other is to the side. The computer that faces the back of the desk has a separate number pad device so that students may type in their Destiny patron number and reach the scanner even if no one is behind the desk. During the orientation visits for each class I gave a short lesson to the students as they checked out their first book. Yes, I still find myself teaching students even though we are nearing the end of the first semester, but this is happening less and less. Usually the other students in line will teach someone that is struggling. I have also taught students how to put books on hold, renew books and even check in their own books.

I do not have a library aide, but I do have two student helpers during most of the school day. Often I am busy teaching a class, helping students locate books or some other administrative task. It is to my benefit for students to know how to do this for themselves. It is also important for students to learn these skills. I rarely have to stop and show a student how to search for a book because they know that they are welcome to use the circulation desk computers. They have learned the operations of the library and by helping, the library becomes "theirs" not "mine".

I have heard the argument that middle school students can not be trusted wth this responsibility because they may intentionally check out a book to another student or some other malicious act. To my knowledge I have not had anyone do anything intentionally. I have limited the tasks for these computers to check in, check out, place hold, delete hold, and renew. Students must still come to me for paying for a lost book, reactivating a restricted status, report features, etc.

If you are willing, give self check out a try. You will not regret it.