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.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mustang Book Swap

Most of my recent posts have been technology oriented, but this is a low tech event. The library is hosting a book swap for our teachers and students. Students can bring unwanted books to the library and they will receive tickets that they can exchange for new-to-you books in December. We have advertised with flyers, morning announcements and word of mouth with my book club members. I am contributing some of our duplicate copies, older paperbacks and a few other donated (but not good enough to catalog) books. I weeded the collection HEAVILY this summer when I took this position. I don't want to admit how many in a public forum like this, but lets just say we have a great start for our book swap. I have already had around twenty students bring in books, averaging around 7 books each and up to 30! I am having the swap over three days. I have a feeling that when students see others getting bags of books to take home that they will come with their own the next day. If students do not have any to swap they can purchase them for 25 cents starting on the second day. I also plan to give teachers some tickets to give to deserving students so they can shop.

I wanted to have this before the holiday so that students would have plenty to read over the break. Research shows that having reading material in the home improves reading. Amazing, right? Our student population includes over 50% receiving free or reduced lunch so money to buy books is often an issue. I hope that by having this book swap now and again before summer break I can make a small dent in combating this problem.

We are also offering a similar swap for the teachers. I have not had a big response, but I am hoping that interest will ignite after returning from this break.

If you have your own book swap I would love to hear about how you organize it or if you plan to have one I would love to hear how it goes. I will update after our book swap is complete.
Image: Book Color Histogram by Patrick Gage, Attribution NonCommercial Share Alike

iDream of iPods

I have found myself daydreaming about iPod Touches now. I've gotten my Kindle program started. I am by no means finished, but I feel that I am making progress with six Kindles and a plan to start using them in class after the Thanksgiving break. This will definitely require more attention, planning, implementation and funds, but I have also found myself thinking of iPods.

From the outside I probably appear noncommittal and flighty, but when I see, hear, and read about the wonderful things librarians and teachers are doing all over the world I want to get in on the action and bring it to my students. I don't want to wait. I feel that my PLN would understand, but not so sure about some of the administrators around me. Luckily everything I am trying to implement has been tried, tested and proven effective by education trailblazers. And even better, those educators share their experiences on Twitter, and in blogs and online conferences.

I have been watching recorded webinars on using iPods from the Global Education Conference and reading tweets and blogs about iPod use. Gwyneth Jones, the Daring Librarian, mentions using them in her library and I Education Apps Review blog shares some excellent educational apps. They have inspired me. I will only be able to purchase four or five to start, but I have a team of teachers in mind to be my co-conspirators. My thoughts are to use this Spring semester as a brainstorm and preparation time with those teachers, me and our iPods. We can explore apps and use the first five for a few lessons in groups and see how it goes. Using them in class will take a big shift in attitude and planning for the teachers. I know this will require time and a positive attitude. If I can get this one team to give it a try with me I think it will catch on for the others. If it goes well (which I am confident that it will) then we can write grants, beg, borrow and steal to get more for next year. Just enough for a full class would be a fabulous start. If it doesn't work out I can use them in the library for lessons, podcasts, research, and more. This is our school's first year with Wifi so I want to use it! I think that utilizing iPods in class would really make a positive impact on interest, engagement, motivation and achievement for our students. I will update as I go and I would love any recommendations on where I can find out even more information on iPod programs in schools or your own experiences using them.

Image: Ipod Touch- My PDA by MJTR (´・ω・)

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My Black Friday Lightning Deal

I snagged a Kindle 2nd Generation this Black Friday for $89. I recently started reading the blog, Books on the Knob, thanks to Heather Loy's email to our state association listserv (yes, we still have a listserv, see Cathy Jo Nelson's thoughts on that here). A few days ago there was a post alerting readers to a Black Friday Lightning Deal on for the 2nd Generation Kindles. They would be offered for $89 when they are usually $189. As you may know, I recently purchased Kindles to be used with our resource classes. I was excited about this deal. Instead of standing in line like many of my friends, I poised myself at 10 minutes to noon with one hand on the iPad and one on the netbook. I was determined to snag one. As soon as it opened I clicked as fast as I could. I was able to use the speed of the iPad to purchase one. I went back to the blog to post a thank you comment and saw that this deal sold out in ten seconds! Thank you Steven Jobs for your part in helping me get one. Check out Books on the Knob for up to date news on ebook deals.
I want to shout out to my principal, Barry Knight, for donating his personal Kindle to our program. After having it for a year or so he determined that he preferred books and did not use it much. I am happy to have it. This brings my count up to six. Considering the size of our resource classes this is a great start.
I have remaining money from the generous donation from the Student Council fundraiser. Now that I was able double the number from donations and a great Amazon deal I am thinking iPod Touches with the remaining money. More on that thought later...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Power of the PLN

If I ever had any doubts about why I spend time building an online PLN, those doubts were shattered today. This morning I received an email from, none other than, Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator, and Willyn Web inviting me to contribute to her blog in regards to my recent post on texting in the libray. I created a Google Doc and jotted down my ideas and Lisa turned it into something great. I opened it up to the public and we tweeted invitations to contribute on #tlchat. Within minutes nine visitors had viewed the document. That amazes me. I look forward to the end result with contributions from other forward-thinking librarians. This is a wonderful opportunity to advocate for our profession and destroy the myth that librarians are old fashioned and resistant to technology. The post may be included in Lisa and Willyn's book "Teaching Generation Text" due out in the Fall of 2011.

If you have a story, idea, or thought that you would like to contribute about using phones in the library, please visit the document and get involved.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Go Tell It on the Mountain

We need to be shouting from the rooftops to let everyone; parents, students, teachers, administrators, and lawmakers, know how important librarians are for the success and learning of our students. I joined the advocacy committee of SCASL and I have learned so much. Thanks to the examples shared on our listserv and the excellent blog posts by Fran Bullington on her blog, Informania, I have vastly improved my monthly reports to my administators. Ater an email shared by Cathy Nelson on our listserv I have started posting research about libraries and librarians on my school media center page and in our school's Weekly Update. The committe has other plans and I am happy to be a part of spreading the word.

Getting Acquainted with the new Kindles

The first three Kindles arrived. I must say they are quiet sleek and pretty. I immediately ran to the classroom of my co-conspirator on this program, Mrs. Haley. We both did a little dance of joy. They have been added to the catalog and loaded with lots of free books. I'm planning to meet with all of the Content Mastery teachers, review the surveys the students are currently taking and make some decisions about what books to load on the first three. Fifteen students have already completed the reading motivation survey with some interesting results. Forty seven percent of the students felt that they did not read as well as their friends and "boring" was most mentioned when asked what they disliked about reading. All but two of the students indicated that they were interested in using an ereader like a Kindle. I will report more of the results when all of the students have completed the survey. I will also report any effect using Kindles have on their opinions by the end of the school year.

Is Wordle a verb?

Google has become a verb and I think Wordle is heading that way. Have you wordled your blog or website?

When I wordled my blog this is the result. I am very happy that student was most mentioned because I want that to stay my focus.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Your Order Has Shipped

After serious thought, teacher discussion and hours of research and preparation I have decided to order six Kindles for our library. We currently have one Kindle that I check out to teachers. When I took over the library this summer I found it in the box in the back of a filing cabinet. What a wonderful surprise. I took it home and loaded it down with free books. I put it on display at the electronic gadget petting zoo and generated my first customer for the Kindle.
One of our superb resource teachers came to me after checking out the Kindle and said that her students have asked her, "What do I have to do to be able to read on the Kindle?" She said that one particular reluctant/resistant reader borrowed the Kindle during class and sat still for an extended time reading "Call of the Wild." Hearing this prompted me into action. The seed for this idea was planted a while ago when I read this article about Kathy Parker's Kindle program in School Library Journal. My thought further took hold of me after reading Buffy Hamilton's posts about her Kindle purchases and the related post by Joyce Valenza and her plan to use Kindles for research on reading motivation. I attended the webinar hosted by Kathy Parker called "How to Start an eReader Program at Your School". Unfortunately this webinar was not recorded but she gave some excellent, practical tips. I have found Edukindle to be another excellent resource for those considering or currently including Kindles in the library.

With these wonderful ladies paving the way I felt it was a good time to jump in and give it a try. How can I say no to students that "will do anything to read on the Kindle"?

I funded these purchases with a generous donation from our student council Penny Wars fundraiser. Our student council raised over $1,000. I feel like this is an excellent investment. I created a short survey for the reading resource students to take on reading motivation and interests. I plan to compare these survey results and MAP, Lexile and PASS scores from the beginning of the year with the end of the year scores and survey answers. If we see a positive impact then we can justify further Kindle purchases.
I will post updates as the program progresses. Our first three should arrive this Thursday. I am excited to begin this adventure.

Book Fair Bonanza

My very first book fair is underway. I was tentative about the book fair. Usually the conversations I hear about book fairs are not positive ones. Maybe I am missing something, but so far it hasn't been a big deal. I scheduled a day for each of my ELA teachers to bring their students and they come with them and help me supervise. In the mornings, during lunch and afterschool I limit the number of visitors so I can monitor by myself. I have a few spectacular, trustworthy student helpers getting me through. The students have been really excited. This is the first fair we have had in a few years. I'm looking forward to seeing how much we make this week.

Veteran's Day Library Luncheon

We celebrated Veteran's Day on 11/10/10 and invited our visiting veterans to attend a luncheon in the library after our school program. We had around 60 veterans and their families. Our students served them a delicous, southern lunch and we gave away prizes donated by the library and PTSO. It was a pleasure hosting such a great group of Americans.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

txtN bout d library Upd8

I luv bn abL 2 TLK 2 my students by txt & dey luv it t%.

I have written a short post about this in September but I felt that I should elaborate and update on this.
This is my sixth year teaching and even in this short time I have seen cell phone use skyrocket, in particular the use of texting. This is a national phenomenon. The Project Tomorrow reports that 98% of high school students have cell phones and 83% of middle school students. As texting has gotten cheaper the amount of texting has increased. Nielsen research found that amongst teenagers and young adults (18 to 24) the monthly average of text messages went from 600 messages a month in 2008 to over 1,400 in 2010. The chart shows how quickly this method of communication has grown in school age children.

If this is the preferred method of communication for our students, why are we still printing overdue or hold notices? Why are we stuffing our students’ notebooks with flyers and handouts? Why do we only give out a school phone number or email to parents?

I knew that I wanted to be able to text my students a few years ago, but I wasn’t willing to use my own phone and share my number with so many. I looked at a few SMS (short message service) sites, but they all charged a monthly fee or did not give enough free accounts. Some of the options out there are Send GM, Google SMS or Text 4 Free. You can create a free account on and receive text messages if this tool works better for your purposes. This site allows you to create a link that you could post on a school webpage, blog or wiki so that students or parents can send you a text without using your actual phone number. The solution that worked out the best for me was the TextPlus app on iPad. I was moving to my new position as librarian and I wanted to use texting right away.

Now that I had chosen the tool I had to organize how I would implement the program. I created sign-up sheets for each homeroom. When the students came in for orientation I told them about the program and many students signed up right away. The students seemed very excited about the possibility of the library texting them. I suggested to them that if they did not have unlimited text they might now want to sign up. I didn’t want anyone upset that they were charged by my texts even though they wouldn’t be very frequent. I also told them if they do not have their own phone they could use their parents’ number if they preferred. I have already used TextPlus to let my students know that books they requested were on hold for them in the library. Many of them text back big “Thank you”s with exclamation marks and smiley faces. I have overheard students bragging to others that I texted them last night. Students that didn’t sign up right away have added their names to the list after hearing other students talk about it. I hope to increase using text for overdue notices and reminders for my book club.
My experience has been positive thus far and I have received tons of positive feedback from the students. This could be applied to many positions in the school. Classroom teachers could text homework reminders, field trip reminders, test dates, links for homework help, short quizzes, polling questions, and any classroom news you would like to share. Administrators could send mass texts to parents of school news, closings, holidays or special events. The possibilities are endless. I urge any educator considering texting to give it a try. The tools are out there, easy to use and free or inexpensive.

Classroom 2.0 just hosted a webinar on the use of cell phones called "Teaching Generation Text" with Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb. I encourage you to watch this wonderful session. You can access this and other archived sessions here.

Tchaz cn TLK 2 thR students by txt
try it

TLK 2 U l8r

Friday, November 12, 2010

Edublog Award Nominations

This will be my first year being able to nominate a few excellent blogs for the Edublog Awards. I have voted in the past, but now that I have my own blog I am able to nominate.
My nominations are:

Best individual blog: The Innovative Educator
Best individual tweeter: @buffyjhamilton
Best group blog: Simple K12 Blogs
Best resource sharing blog: Free Technology for Teachers
Most influential blog post: Changed but Still Critical on Blue Skunk Blog
Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion: #tlchat
Best teacher blog: A Geeky Momma's Blog
Best librarian / library blog: Informania
Best educational tech support blog: iLearn Technology
Best educational wiki: TL Virtual Cafe
Best educational webinar series: K12 Online Conference 2010
Best educational use of a virtual world: FETC Virtual Conference and Expo
Best use of a PLN: Reform Symposium 2010
Lifetime achievement: Doug Johnson of the Blue Skunk Blog

This list was really difficult because there were others I wanted to recognize like Cathy Nelson's Techno Tuesday blog and Gwyneth Jones at The Daring Librarian. I am looking forward to seeing who the other nominees will be and, of course, the winners.

Good luck to everyone.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Meet My Nemesis

Nemesis- one that inflicts retribution or vengeance, a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent (

In every good story there is a villain. Newman, Lex Luthor, Green Goblin, Victoria, Valdemort, Sue Sylvester. The villain in this story is my laminator.

My laminator and I have a love-hate relationship. This laminator is possibly as old as me. I can not find any distinguishing markings to determine age. Maybe it was delivered by pony express. Yet, it refuses to die and justify the cost of purchasing another. For some teachers the only reason they come into the library is to ask for laminating service. I allow anyone to use it, but usually my helpers enjoy doing it so I let them. I take this as a positive public image generator. It promotes the library as a place where we help the teachers. When teachers come in for that I take that opportunity to build relationships and show some of the other things we offer. So, in that way I love the laminator.


Last year I received a 30 second lesson on using, maintaining and changing the roll for the laminator. After my first roll change in August it refused to come back on. I tried every outlet, every knob, button, and lever I could find. Finally I gave up and requested a work order. Unfortunately the beginning of the year is when teachers have lots of laminating requests. So with a few of my wonderful student volunteers we went across the street to use the machine at the high school in exchange for laminating film and a lesson on changing the roll (the recently laid off clerk used to change it). We spent several hours there and made several trips until the maintenance man arrived to repair mine. Much to my embarassment the tray needed to be jiggled to reset the safety switch. Voila. Back in working order. I felt like a moron. I am sure this is only the first of many more humbling experiences. So you see why I also hate this machine.

This machine is like Sue Sylvester on Glee. Just when I think I am really rocking as a librarian it is there to bring me back down to earth.

What/who is your nemesis?

Perceptions of the Library

Yesterday a teacher came into the library to ask a question. One of my classes had just left and I was checking email before the next class arrived. Before she left she made the comment, "I wish I could stay in here where it is quiet."

Maybe she didn't mean anything by it, but it made me think about the perceptions teachers and other staff members have of the library and the work we do. It is possible that I am overly defensive because I know what some teachers think about our work. She happened to catch me at a quiet moment, but she had not seen all of the other work I had done that day. I sat down and figured out what that day consisted of and this is what I discovered.

That day I had entered 137 new books into Destiny, read/answered 57 emails, printed book club invitations for our next meeting, added two sources to our faculty Diigo group, texted 40 students about the book club meeting, had over 120 student visitors, taught 4 mini lessons on citation and helped 4 science classes research organs, laminated items for three teachers, and served over 50 cups of hot chocolate and cappuccino from our library cafe. Then I left straight from school, picked up my two year old son and went to Sams to buy more hot chocolate, breakfast pastries for book fair teacher sneak peek breakfast, read 17 blog posts on my reader, wrote two blog posts on my blog, checked twitter, and bought three gifts for Veteran’s Day door prizes. Of course this list doesn't include normal activities like eating and a quick run to the restroom. I accomplished these things without a library aide, but with the assistance of my student helpers. My library is definitely not "where it is quiet."

It upsets me that many teachers still see the library as quieter, slower and, in some way, less than and easier than the classroom. I taught five years before moving to the position of librarian and I know the classroom teachers work hard, but so do we.

I try everyday to prove my value to my students, teachers, parents, and administrators. How do you fight these misconceptions?

Buyer, Elizabeth. mirror.jpg. May 2005. Pics4Learning. 4 Nov 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Truly Honorable Mention

One of my library role models, Fran Bullington, recognized me on her blog, Informania. I am honored to be on her list of new "media mavens" in South Carolina.

In her post Fran asks her readers to think of their "inspirational finds".

Some of my other SC librarian gurus are Cathy Nelson, Heather Loy, Kelly Knight, Valerie Byrd-Fort and my two district colleagues Monique German and Kristen Hearne. Another name you should remember is Sharon Matney. Sharon was my classmate in the MLIS program at USC. She is finishing up soon and she is phenomenal. You can find her on Twitter @sharonmatney and on Facebook, where she posts some of her work.

Wrestlemania Reading Challenge Update

Our first month of the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge has come to an end and now I have to gather the total books read from each ELA teacher and post the results on the board. For every 100 books a colored piece of the championship belt will be added to the board. When all ten pieces are on the belt that grade has accomplished the goal of 1,000 books and the principals will dress as wrestlers and come to their lunch period. I picked out the wrestling costumes today. I decided on Sgt. Slaughter for our head principal, the Sheik for one assistant principal and the Hulk for the other assistant principal. I will post pictures after their first appearance.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Petting Zoo Visitors

Yesterday was the Electronic Gadget Petting Zoo in the library for the teachers. Overall I feel that it was a success. Eighteen out of thirty teachers came, all three administrators and even the janitor! Everyone had a blast playing with the gadgets. The teachers were amazed that I had so many in the library available for check out. We spent time talking about how they could use the gadgets and how I could help them. I hope that some collaborations will be born from the day. One of the teachers even went back to her room and sent an email to the faculty encouraging them to attend and raving about the event. The exit slips were used to give door prizes like a gas card, USB hubs in the shape of fish bones and a pocket digital photo frame. My administrators were impressed and said things like "amazing", "I didn't know this existed", and I want one of these.

I will definitely do this again and continue to update the gadgets and add to our collection. I encourage others to try it as well.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hyped about Skype!

I am thrilled to announce that our book club will be Skyping with two wonderful authors in January. After reading about the list of authors who Skype I began my research. I was so excited to see two authors on the list who have a book on the SC Junior Book Award nominee list this year, Julie Berry and Sarah Prineas.

Julie Berry is the author of The Amaranth Enchantment, Secondhand Charm, and Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series.

Sarah Prineas is the author of The Magic Thief series.
My book club members will be choosing one of their books to read and preparing questions for our Skype session. Our book fair is coming up soon so I requested copies of their books to presell to the book club. They arrived today and I will talk to the book club next week about our plans.
When I contacted the authors I received a response within hours that they would love to plan our meeting. I was surprised at how quickly they responded. Considering these lean budget times I am over the moon because both of these authors will Skype 20 minute sessions for free. Ms. Prineas even mentioned in her email that she would talk longer if we wanted. I am so impressed with their enthusiasm and kindness.
This event will be great for my students and the other teachers are excited about it as well.
The only stumbling block I have encountered is the filter at school. Skype (and many other tools) are blocked by the internet filter. I submitted a request that it be open for these days and my request was denied. The explanation was that we did not have the bandwidth to support Skype. I find it hard to believe that one teacher on Skype for less than half an hour would effect our network. I approached my adminstration for help in overcoming this problem. One of the assistant principals offered her school laptop because it has a WiFi card and Skype installed. I appreciate her helping make this happen.
I will post after our event and let you all know how it went. If anyone out there has any tips, suggestions, or encouragement I would love to hear about it.

Read-A-Latte Cafe

The librarian before me used to sell hot chocolate to the sudents. After surveying the students at the end of last year this was one of the most requested library events that the students wanted to see continued. I also read about other similar programs here, here , and here on the Blue Skunk Blog.
I have continued but with my own spin. We have expanded our menu options to include hot chocolate, French Vanilla Cappuccino and hot cider. I wasn't sure that middle schoolers would choose cider over chocolate, but there were students that actually did a little dance of joy when they saw it on the menu. All of the drinks are 50 cents. We have marshmallows and cinnamon as free toppings. I have created a cafe style seating area with four round tables near the circulation desk. I am lucky/unlucky to be in a very old building so there is a sink in the library office for some reason. I'm glad it is there. I keep the materials in the office and I have student helpers and book club members making and serving the drinks. I ask that students sit at the tables to be waited on to avoid spills from walking around. I have new carpet so I'm trying to preserve it as long as I can. They actually like being waited on so I have had no complaints. So far I have only had one spill and we were abe to clean it quickly with minimal damage.
This has been a great way to bring lots of kids into the library, create a place where the students feel welcome and comfortable and it raises a little money for us. My experience has been a good one and I would recommend others give it a try. Just FYI I do not have an aide/assistant, but I am able to pull this off because of some very hard-working, motivated students.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Electronic Gadget Petting Zoo

After seeing this posting, I couldn't get this out of my mind. I knew this would be a great event to have at my own school to familiarize the teachers with the gadgets we have at school. I decided to plan an electronic gadget petting zoo in the library. Teachers would have an opportunity to come anytime that day to play with the tech gadgets, learn how to use them, get ideas on how to use them in the classroom, and build collaboration.
This is a copy of the email invitation that I mailed out to the faculty and staff:

Hands on is the only way to learn a new tool. Come to the library during your first or second related planning and "pet" some of the gadgets that you might want to use in your classroom. The zoo features gadgets like the Kindle, Flip cameras, Hue webcams, digital camera, Senteo clickers, Wii, Mouse Mischief and more. Play with the gadgets, learn how to operate them and see ways that you could use these tools in your class. On your way out complete an exit slip to be entered in a raffle for a cool gadget.

*If you have a gadget of your own that you would like to bring to the zoo please let me know. I would love to have more.

**If you want this automatically added to your calendar so it will remind you, please accept the invitation.

I created a Top Ten Reasons to Visit the Petting Zoo and will be sending those out in the days leading up to the event. Teachers are busy so I know they need multiple reminders. The emails include tidbits about technology so even if they do not attend maybe they will learn something from the list.

The Top Ten Reasons are:

#10 There are 5 myths of technology use: young teachers use it more, only high achieving students benefit from technology, students are already tech savvy, administrators and teachers share the same view of technology, teacher education programs prepare teachers to teach with technology (From

#9 Internet adoption over the past 10 years: 93% of teens ages 12-17 go online, as do 95% of young adults ages 18-29. Seventy-nine percent of all adults ages 18 and older go online.

#8 Of teen content creators (those who have a blog, website or have created or remixed content online) 45% are age 12-14.

#7 Marc Prensky warned us, "Our students have changed radically. Today's students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach."

#6 …"technology is technology only for people who were born before it was invented." Alan Kay
Technology and the world of digital media are "like air" to our students
Learning characteristics for this generation:
1. Multitasking: no problem with reading and listening to music while texting
2. Multimedia literacy: beyond just text
3. Discovery based learning: learning merged with play
4. Bias toward action: learning is as much social as it is cognitive (From

#5 Marc Prensky: Students “are more engaged in learning when using the latest technological gadgets, because it is what they are most used to interacting with.”

#4 Amazon announced that in the last quarter it had sold more Kindle e-books than it had hardcover books. In fact, it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, and this number is still rising. Can you imagine a world where students can carry around all their textbooks in one easy-to-read, lightweight device? I can.

#3"When the world inside schools looks so different from the world outside of schools, what are we really preparing students for?" she asks. "When we ban, rather than embrace, real-world technologies, we leave students (1) ill-equipped to know how to harness the power of technology for learning, (2) unprepared to develop a respectable digital footprint and, (3), without adequate knowledge to safely navigate the social web." For Lisa Nielsen, the author of The Innovative Educator blog

#2 What kind of tech use are you? Take this quiz.

#1 reason: It’s fun.

Each station at the petting zoo will have a description of the item, any instructions necessary for the device and ideas on how to use the tool in the classroom. The items that we will have available include Kindles, iPod, iPad, digital camera, Flip cameras, Playaways, Hue webcams, Mouse Mischief, Senteo clickers, Smart slate/Airliner, cell phones, Wii, and a web 2.0 too on each computer. If you would like a copy of the signs please email me.

I will be using exit slips to gather feedback and draw names for a few techie door prizes. The exit slip has three questions:

1. Which gadgets did you “pet”?

2. Which gadget (s) do you think you might use in your classroom?

3. What gadgets would you like to see at a future event?

I created a Weblist of the sources I used to share with faculty after the event. I will post an update after our event.

SLJ Trailee Awards

This week all of the classes that came in to the library viewed some of the nominees in the School Library Journal Trailee Awards. I downloaded the nominees in the "Adult created for Secondary" category. After watching the four nominees students voted using Poll Everywhere and their cell phones. We also watched a few more just for fun and then texted in the books they would like to see made into a book trailer. The students really enjoyed the trailers and I have lots of requests for those titles. The title Unwind by Neal Shusterman was the winner for our classes. I hope to collaborate with a few teachers and have the students create their own trailers using Flips and Moviemaker. We have lots of creative students that might create one that we could send in to the SLJ competition next year.

Voting ends October 22nd so visit the site soon.

Eliterate Minute @ faculty meetings

In my attempt to contribute to the professional development of our school staff I present an "Eliterate Minute" before each faculty meeting. I know time is valuable, especially when it is after school so I only take one or two minutes. So far this year I have presented at each of our three meetings. The presentations I used can be found here, here, and here. The tools have been Diigo, Big Huge Labs, and Zamzar. I hope to continue this through the year. It has helped me to become someone that teachers turn to with technology questions and it has encouraged teachers to consider collaboration. Ask your principal if you could have a minute or two to try something similar.