Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Apple Invasion at Palmetto

There has been a mini Apple invasion at school. We now have 18 iPods that are getting regular circulation. There are two teachers with iPods in their classroom, one teacher with 6 and another with 12. We are using the library iPods in a variety of classrooms and subjects. One of the special education classes has used them for math lessons including coins, telling time, multiplication, addition and subtraction. We used Coins Free, Coin Math, TellTime Lite, Pop Math Lite, Math Drills Lite and Times Table Free. I used them for a 7th grade library lesson on Poetry. I introduced poetry with examples first then the students used the Verses app to create their own poem. Verses is a magnetic poetry app. I heard lots of "This is cool" and "I love this!". It is hard to get this response from teens when it comes to poetry. In 6th grade social studies the students used the app Greek Gods Lite to research mythology and create posters. In science class students used flashcards to study for a test, the Kindle app for reading during SSR and the camera feature for taking photos of biotic and abiotic environments around our school. Several teachers have also used them to record tests for students that need oral testing.
Next week one of the 7th grade English teachers will be using the new app 3:15 that features teasers, short stories and a video ending for works by Patrick Carman. We are currently developing a lesson around the app. I will post an update after the lesson.
Another exciting addition to our tech collection is 10 iPads. Six of the iPads will be housed in a resource classroom for math lessons and reading on the Kindle app. I'm hoping the other four will remain in the library for lessons and teacher check out. Purchasing iPads for all of the district administrators is currently in discussions. I volunteered to train them if the purchase is made. Apple training was quoted at $2,000 so I'm hoping that I will get this opportunity. I saw this as another way to advocate for librarians in our district.
Our chorus teacher just received a Mac. She is very excited because she wants to use Garage Band with her students performances.
A non-Apple purchase is a set of Dell Latitude netbooks for teachers to check out. This is our first netbook cart and I've been working on them the last few days. They should be ready to use tomorrow and I already have lots of teachers waiting in line to use them.
It is great to see all of this technology coming to our school and being integrated into our student learning. I am also excited that I've played a role in making requests, orders and preparation for the use of the new technology.

QR Codes: What are those things anyway?

I have used QR codes in the library this year and plan on expanding their use next year. I posted a QR code on a bulletin board of our state junior book award nominees that linked to my Youtube channel full of book trailers about the books. I have one on the circulation desk that takes students to my online business card at Retaggr with links to my blog, Twitter handle and other social media information. I used QR codes at our state conference. I created a sign with a QR code that linked to my presentation materials for those that could not attend the session. Kristen Hearne and I created QR codes for each junior book award nominee and shared with our state organization.
My order of next year's nominees arrived this week and I added the QR codes to the book covers that link to either the author site or a site that relates to the topic of the book.
I have plans to create a QR code scavenger hunt for orientation and assist a few interested teachers in creating them for their subject areas. Now that we have 18 iPods in the library I have enough for students to work in pairs to complete the scavenger hunt.
Thanks to Cathy Jo Nelson I read about a QR code reader that can be used on a desktop computer in combination with a webcam. This is a great alternative for libraries without iPods or days when my iPods are checked out to a classroom.
I recently spoke with 6th and 7th graders about the future of using cell phones in learning. I am presenting on this topic this summer at the Upstate Technology Conference and I wanted to get student input. As part of the lesson I shared QR codes. Several students and the teachers from those classes have come to me since then and mentioned seeing them on clothing tags and other packaging. This is a fun and growing tech trend.
How are you using them? How do you plan to use them?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SCASL 2011: Lessons Learned

My first SCASL conference was wonderful. There were many highlights but the #1 was meeting some of the awesome librarians in our state. My library heroes Cathy Jo Nelson, Fran Bullington and Heather Loy were so welcoming and invited me and my co-presenter, Carla Nash, to dinner. It was great to chat and get to know them in person. They introduced me to SCASL Treasurer Steven Reed and Kevin Merritt from the Upstate Technology Conference. I laughed so much that night.
There were several interesting sessions to choose from. I left with lots of ideas. I loved the sessions "Are Your Students Cyber Literate?", "AASLs Top 25 Sites", "Words 2.0h" and learning about the new SCASL website. I am currently working on a series of staff development events in my district so I learned about more tools that we can show our teachers. The cyber literacy resources shared were timely for me because we have been focusing on this issue during our mentoring program at school. The new website is exciting because it makes it easier to connect and communicate with other members and it is all in one place. I left feeling very impressed. We have a large pool of talented, creative librarians in South Carolina.
Not only did I learn about the session topics, but I also learned from watching others present their sessions and evaluating my own presentation skills. When teaching my students I get them involved as much as possible and make the lesson active and engaging. I think I left out some of those guidelines when I was putting together my presentations for the conference. I need to use those little tricks though because adults like to be entertained just as much as my students. Even though we can make ourselves appear interested doesn't mean we are. I did make a conscious effort to keep text short in the slides. I used Poll Everywhere to get the audience to participate, but I want to build on that participation. In Cathy Jo Nelson's AASL Top 25 Site presentation she did a great job of getting the audience involved and contributing. I want to make my presentations more active. I wanted to use a few short video clips, but after seeing others struggle with sound I decided to leave them out. Next time I will bring my own speakers so that I can use videos and songs.
I will be presenting at the Upstate Technology Conference on June 14-15 so I hope to continue to improve on my presentations and put some of these lesson learned into practice. I am looking forward to seeing some familiar faces at UTC and invite you to my sessions. I will be presenting with one of my special education teachers on Kindles and another session on using cell phones in the classroom.
After going to the SCASL conference I am even more excited about the future of the organization and I'm happy to be a part of the great things to come.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SCASL, Here I Come

I am very excited to be attending my first SCASL (SC Association of School Librarians) Conference this week. I will be presenting "Out of the Gates Running: Reflections on the First Year" with my colleague Carla Nash on Thursday at 8:30 and "R U N a PLN?" on Friday during the last session. I also have a poster session called "Horseplay: Gaming in the Library". Unfortunately I will not be able to be at the opening night of the poster sessions, but a colleague of mine is taking my presentation trifold and handouts to the conference for me.
I'm looking forward to presenting, attending lots of interesting sessions and meeting some of the members of my PLN that I have only interacted with online so far.
If you will be there I hope to see you there and maybe even in one of my sessions. Remember to watch the #scasl11 hashtag on Twitter.

Loading our Technology Toolbelt

Tool Beltphoto © 2009 George Martin | more info (via: Wylio)
Today we had our first (mostly) librarian led technology professional development training. This idea was discussed at our district librarian meeting and two of us volunteered to assist in teaching a district-wide class on web 2.0 tools. Our goal was to expose our teachers to several different web tools that were free and not blocked by internet filters. A few of us met to choose which tools we would feature for this first event. We wanted something that would appeal to many grade levels and tech ability levels. We decided on four sessions: Glogster, Prezi, cameras and quiz and polling tools. We had almost seventy teachers sign up and attend. I am very pleased with the turn out.
I taught the session on quiz and polling tools. I showed the teachers how to create a quiz on Google Forms and the sites Proprofs, That Quiz and Survey Monkey. I featured two mobile study tools on the presentation, Quizlet and Study Boost. I shared a few apps with them and blog/website polling sites as well. The Glogster and Prezi sessions showed the basics for the sites and allowed them time to sign up for an account and begin exploring how to use each tool. During the camera session the teachers were shown the Hue HD webcam and Flip camera. The presenters gave them ideas on how to use each tool in the classroom and then saved time for the teachers to play with each device.
Several teachers thanked us for the information and were excited to learn so much and try the tools out at school. I overheard a few comments that they felt overwhelmed with so much information. We knew this might be an issue but we wanted to make the two hours worthwhile and give the teachers many tools to choose from. We hope to have another similar session in the future. I am still thinking about what tools we should share next time.
What tools do you feel would be the best when you are trying to appeal to K-12 teachers?

Ipod Integration Update

We have had a little over two months with our iPods and there are several updates. The teachers are still learning, some faster and more eager than others, but we're getting there. We have used the iPods with the students several times now. One teacher has used the Memo app to record herself reading tests aloud. Several of our students have this accommodation in their IEP (Individual Education Plan). Our resource teachers will read the Math and English tests to those students, but do not have time for the other subjects. Recording the tests allows the teachers to provide the students with what they need in an efficient way. The teacher only has to take time to record the test one time and it can be reused with all of the students that need it. The students benefit because they can stay in class and take it discreetly with the iPod and earbuds. They are no longer singled out because of their learning needs. The student can also rewind and listen to a question as many times as needed.
That same teacher used the Greek Gods app for a research project. Students used the app to choose a god or goddess and then created a small poster describing their god or goddess. We were hoping to use the Juxio app to create the final product, but we are not able to get the iPods on our Wifi network to access pictures for the project. Beyond the Wifi limitation we did have one student choose Dionysus and one of the descriptions was more mature than we would have preferred for sixth grade. Luckily the student did not even know what it meant, but unfortunately this is a reality when the app is not created specific to a certain age group.
One of the special education teachers used the multiplication app with her students for their math lesson. I popped in for that lesson and they absolutely loved using them to quiz each other on their times tables. She told me later that I gained rock star status for bringing them to her classroom.
Last week we used the iPods to allow students to research. This was a great motivator because they had to complete several other steps in order to get permission to use the device.
Since my last post on iPods we have purchased 12 additional iPods for a total of 18. This was at the request of the teachers because they wanted enough for three classes to use six at a time. Our school co plans, which means teachers within the same grade and subject level teach the same lesson at the same time as much as possible. Having 18 iPods will let all three teachers use six at a time with group activities or as a station. There are other teachers that are working on getting more to keep in their classroom next year.
Not everything has been a positive. Some of the challenges include:
1. No Wifi access: Some apps will not work without being online and it limits the ways that the iPods can used with our students. I am hoping that as our bandwidth increases we will be allowed to get on Wifi with our iPods.
2. Charging and syncing: iTunes is blocked at my school so right now I have to bring the iPods home to sync them which is not ideal. Charging has also been troublesome because I do not have a charging cart due to cost. I have a fishbone USB hub that allows me to charge four at a time. It usually takes me most of the school day to charge all 18 with constant checking and changing.
3. Teacher opinions: There have definitely been some that are open to using the iPods and excited, but others do not show any interest. Of course, I can't force it on them, nor would I want to, but I feel that I need to do a better job of showing them the possibilities and supporting them in using the devices.
I would love to hear from other teachers using iPods.

Jammin' at the Jamboread

Last Saturday a few teachers and I braved the rain to take a bus load of our students to the Jamboread event at the Spartanburg County Public Library. Our students had so much fun. Our first stop was the book signing with R.L. Stine, Bruce Coville, Karma Wilson and Janet Stevens. There were Jamboread tattoos, a scavenger hunt, K9 Dogs in Flight show, illustration class with Janet Stevens, crafts, African storytelling, characters, paintball murals and an awesome teen room. My students loved coloring white rubber ducks and dog tags. I saw lots of new Manga series that I would like to purchase for my library and I'm jealous of their funky furniture. We had a great time. Thanks so much to all of the staff and volunteers for planning a wonderful event.