Monday, April 25, 2011

Green With Envy: Using Chroma Key

Last year at the Upstate Technology Conference I had the pleasure of hearing the keynote from Hall Davidson of Discovery Education. One of the tools he mentioned was the chroma key feature found in video editing software. Most people are probably familiar with the "green screen" effect during the weather reports on news broadcasts and special effects for high budget films. Well, it doesn't take much money or technical ability to create this effect with your students. I knew that our students would love doing this and it was definitely something new to them, but I didn't try this until today.
A big thanks to the Mighty Little Librarian and her post "I'm A Green Screen Machine" because she reminded me of this tool and prompted me to give it a try. I was pleased to find that the software I wanted to use was free and not blocked. I used Jaycut, although there are other options out there. I purchased a bright green curtain from Walmart and pulled out one of our Flip cameras. With a little nudge my library helpers agreed to star in the video. I downloaded a few video clips from Discovery Education's United Streaming and wrote a very short script explaining the tool and how I could help teachers implement it in class. While I manned the book fair my student helpers recorded the video then I did the editing. I was pleased to find it very easy to do.
In Jaycut you need to upload the video clips first. Drag the green screen video to the Video A row and the other clips to the Video B row. I trimmed the Discovery Education videos to correspond with the script and moved them around where I wanted them. If you are familiar with MovieMaker you will find this software to be easy. To enable the Chroma Key effect, double click the green screen video clip, choose the Effects Tab, click Yes for Chroma Key, ensure the color selected matches your screen (green in my case, but it can be other colors), and adjust the sensitivity. I set the sensitivity to 40%. I really wanted to increase it to hide a wrinkle in the green curtain, but when I did it erased my student's white shirt and blond hair. Just play with this until you get it where you want it. I learned to make sure there are no major wrinkles in the curtain before you record. I also suggest having lots of green in the shot so that viewers can see the clips. In my case the only way they agreed to do the talking was together so you can't see much of the background.
I used video clips as a background and I did not want the audio. To remove the audio, double click the clips in Video B, select the Audio tab, reduce volume to 0%. You could use the audio if you wanted to mesh the clips with the audio from your students by trimming the clips and adjusting audio for each clip. You can also use an image as a background and then audio would not be a concern.
Please don't judge my video too harshly. It was a learning experience, but I had fun creating this little video and can't wait to try this with our students. Two teachers have already expressed interest in using this for a project. One of our science teachers plans to try this soon and one of our English teachers wants to use it to create book trailers.
Have you tried chroma key? What ideas do you have for using this in the classroom or library?

Green Screen Demo

Friday, April 22, 2011

Two New Advocacy Opportunities

There are two new advocacy opportunities in my future.
1. ALA National Library Legislative Day: I am lucky enough to be attending this event in Washington, D.C. with the president of our state library association. I am excited, but also a little nervous because I take this responsibility very seriously. Now, more than ever, advocating for libraries is essential. I have been preparing by reading up on library research and the background of our state congressmen.
2. Education Administration Graduate classes: After corresponding with a university professor, there are plans for our advocacy committee to visit some of the graduate classes. Having an audience with these future principals will be a great way for us to build connections and illustrate the importance of a strong library program.

What would you like to tell our government representatives? school administrators?

Principal's Officephoto © 2008 Eric E Castro | more info (via: Wylio)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Welcoming 5th Graders

This week we have been having school tours for 5th grade students from our feeder elementary schools. I met briefly with the guidance counselor planning the event and asked her if I could speak with the groups for a few minutes during the tour. She said that no one else has ever offered to do anything for the tour and she would love it if I wanted time with them. I decided to create a video in Moviemaker that highlighted some of the programs and activities that we have done this year. I thought this would be the best option because if I had a class and couldn't take the time to stop and talk with each group they could still watch the video to get an idea about what we do and get excited about the library. I plan to visit the schools before we leave for the summer to tell them about our summer reading program. All of our schools are pretty close so I don't think this will be a problem and I believe that I will get a better response if I deliver the information personally. I created a parent scavenger hunt for our rising 6th grade students to complete with their families at an Open House event. Thanks to Google Translate and a quick check from our translator I also have a Spanish version. Of course, the library is on the tour and I'll pull out all the stops that night to make sure they all feel welcome and enthusiastic about our library program.
The students enjoyed the video and left with big smiles and lots of "This is cool!" comments.
How do you welcome new students?

South Carolina's Library Snapshot Day

SCASL's Library Snapshot Day Information

South Carolina school librarians impact the lives of their students daily. Whether working with entire classes or individuals, we enhance our students’ education. Study after study has proven the worth of effective school library programs led by certified school librarians. As of yet, South Carolina school libraries have not been featured in one of these studies. Let’s provide our administrators, district personnel, school board members, and state legislators with data that demonstrates the need to support school library programs in South Carolina!

The South Carolina Association of School Librarians is sponsoring a snapshot day of data for our school libraries. We ask that each school librarian choose a day in the month of April, National School Library Month, to collect data, anecdotes, testimonials, and photographs to submit to the SCASL Advocacy Committee. The committee will compile the data and other requested information and provide each South Carolina school librarian with a report that he/she will want to share with their school communities and state legislators. Together, we can provide a powerful picture of the impact our programs have.

How can I participate?

Please collect the following data to submit: A) General

1. Type of schedule: fixed, flexible, or combination

2. Number of students attending your school

3. Number of teachers on your staff

4. Number of school librarians on your staff

5. Number of full or part time library assistants on your staff

6. Number of computers in your school library and on mobile laptop labs

7. Number of items in your library’s collection

B) Data from one day in April (choose one of your busiest days!)

8. Number of individual students visiting the library (not with a class)

9. Number of classes visiting the library and the total number of students in those classes

10. Number of teachers visiting the library (with and without classes)

11. Number of classes the school librarian taught

12. Number of items circulated

13. Number of individual student computer uses

C) Anecdotes and Testimonials from one day in April

D) Photographs from one day in April

Where will I submit the data, anecdotes/testimonials, and photographs collected?

The data you collect for #1-13 above should be entered in this survey:

All photographs can either be uploaded to the SCASL Flickr Account or attached to an email sent to

When is the deadline for data and photo submittal?

Thursday, May 5th

Questions? Have questions about this initiative? Email


My Snapshot Day

I held my Library Snapshot Day this week on a very busy day. I have a book fair going on, 5th grade tours and 6th grade classes all day. Collecting the information for the day was very easy. Many of the questions I could answer right away. I kept a record of visitors by making tally marks all day. I have a laptop at the door for sign in, but I knew there were visitors each day that "forget" to sign in so recording the numbers myself would be more accurate. Having the book fair actually reduced my numbers because I didn't have my usual lunchtime readers and computer gamers, but hopefully my shoppers made up for it a little. Recording circulation was simple because I pulled a report in Destiny. I did have to go back and add the A/V items because I wasn't sure if I should could the laptops and iPods as one check out for the day or one for each of the four classes that used them. I asked for a second opinion and decided to count them four times. I put out the SCASL surveys and had my student helpers ask others to complete the short questionnaire. I put a copy in each teacher's box as well, but only had two teachers complete them. It was affirming to read the nice quotes from my students.

In addition to answering the survey for SCASL my district is collecting the data so that we can create a Day in the Life video to share with our district office administrators, school board, community, parents, teachers, students and principals. We plan to use Animoto to create the video and spread the news about our impact on students.

Have you collected your data yet? I hope to see high levels of participation, especially in this critical time for education. What are you waiting for?

To read more about Snapshot Day check out Cathy Nelson's reflections on her day.

QR Code Easter Egg Hunt Update

The past few days my sixth graders have been coming in for the QR Code Easter Egg Hunt. My previous post on this activity can be found here. I'm happy to report that is was a hit with the students and teachers. All of the students were engaged and had fun while they learned. The teachers were impressed with the content of the questions and the novelty of the activity. My principal even stopped by for a visit and enjoyed seeing technology in action. Everyone can rest easy now that my sixth graders have saved the Easter Bunny and released him from captivity. Enjoy a few pictures from the fun times we had in the library.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Technology, Book Browsing, and the Interactive Library

Southbank Booksphoto © 2010 Thomas Abbs | more info (via: Wylio)
Two articles in the American Libraries March/April 2011 issue have my wheels turning: Jason Griffey's "CES: The Librarian's Takeaway" and Meredith Farkas's "Let's Not Borrow Trouble" .
I am in the middle of reorganizing my collection and I am seriously considering a few major shakeups like shelving fiction by genre and nonfiction by subject instead of Dewey. I want to make the library easily accessible to my students. No matter how many lessons I give on Dewey and browsing they are still confused which tells me that instead of spending time trying to change them maybe I need to change how I organize the library. I don't know what the consensus is in the library community, but I have to make decisions about this with my students in mind.
These two articles spoke to me in regards to these decisions. Griffey's article describes some of the gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show and how they relate to libraries. The gadgets mentioned made me think about how I can make my library more interactive and accessible. Griffey says "Experiences become expectations." Our students are accustomed to technology, gadgets and personalization and expect this type of experience in the library. I have made small steps in this direction by having a digital frame that shows slides of book covers and videos of book trailers as well as posting QR codes and having QR code lessons, but I have a long way to go.
Farkas discusses the issues that need to be considered as our e-book collections grow. One issue that really stood out to me was the issue of browsing an e-book collection. Let's face it, we judge books by their covers, but ebooks are difficult to browse in this way. We have Kindles, iPods and iPads that we use with our students. My low tech solution to browsing e-books has been using Power Point to create visuals of the book covers and summaries of the books that are on display. I recently created a visual poster using Glogster for our state junior book award nominees that included book covers, podcasts and links to author web pages. This is more interactive, but still not the easiest solution for our students' browsing habits.
After reading these articles the question in my mind is: How can I use technology to make browsing easier for my students?
Here are a few ideas that I have considered:
  • QR Codes: Using a smartphone or iPod students can scan the QR codes on books to listen to book talk podcasts or visit author or book web pages. I did this with our state book award nominees and posted about it here. I could post QR codes at Dewey sections or genre sections to help students learn about the collection's organization.
  • Smart Pens: Book talks can be built into the book with a Livescribe pen. Read the post describing how to do this on The Daring Librarian's spectacular blog.
  • KINECT technology: After seeing KINECT used to create interactive window displays in stores I really want to try this in the library. It would be awesome to have an interactive display that allowed students to explore genres, holiday or event displays like Banned Books, or programs and promotions like reading contests.
  • Augmented reality: This technology is growing rapidly and I see loads of potential for libraries. Most people thing this is really complicated, but one common use of this is the yellow first down line when you watch football on TV. Apps could be created that allow students to flag their favorite books, recommend books to their friends through the app and librarians could put markers and guides throughout the collection. The student would look at the shelf through the smart phone or iPod device and see the notes and markers created in the app. These apps could translate signs into other languages like the Word Lens app. This would allow easier browsing for our non English speaking students. You can even use them to create virtual objects. To promote that new fantasy book you could have a dragon perched on the shelf where the book is housed. There is already an app that could help in shelving books.
What ideas do you have for using technology to make browsing easier for your students?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stuck Between a Bookend and a Hard Place

La caverne aux livresphoto © 2007 Alexandre Duret-Lutz | more info (via: Wylio)
The past two days I've been making some changes regarding how I shelve my collection. After more serious weeding I moved all of my Reference to Nonfiction. The only books that remain as Reference are the sets of encyclopedias and a small set of dictionaries. This year I allowed Reference to be checked out, but just a few days instead of two weeks. Now that they are all in Nonfiction they will be checked out the same as the other books. This year has really been a year of observation in regards to Nonfiction. I weeded this summer, but not as much as I wanted because I was not sure what projects or requests I would get from the teachers. Now that the year is winding down I have a better idea of what I can weed further and where I need to order more. I have read about shelving them by subject instead of using Dewey and I'm thinking about this. I would have to work on this during the summer though.
Our small collection of graphic novels and Manga were cataloged as Nonfiction (741.5), but I'm moving them to Fiction and purchasing several more series. Not sure what the "correct" way is, but this will work best for my students. I have put genre labels on every fiction book and I am seriously considering shelving my fiction by genre. It might be next year though because I feel like I have moved these books around so much this year that I want to rest for a little while. I also want to label all of my series books. Some series are kind enough to put the number of the book on the spine, but others do not and it is difficult for me to remember them all.
I moved the professional books into an attached book closet at the beginning of the year, but I have to weed with a heavy hand. I have only had ONE teacher come in and check out something from these books. I do not plan on spending any money in this area anytime soon, but I obviously need to advertise this collection to my teachers.
I began my inventory yesterday while I had a little break between classes. At the advice of one of my district mentors I'm attacking one shelf at a time with my laptop and weeding, dusting and putting books in order as I go. I'm about one third of the way through Nonfiction. I have never had an assistant, but I can definitely see where an assistant would be really nice for this task. Thank goodness for my wonderful student helpers.
My library is a work in progress. I have made major changes and improvements this year, but there are still more things I would like to do.
Anyone have any inventory advice? How do you have your collection organized? How do you push the traditional methods of organization?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

QR Code Easter Egg Hunt

Easter Egg Hunt?photo © 2008 Mallory Odam | more info (via: Wylio)
This week I created a QR code Easter Egg Hunt for my sixth grade students. I wanted to share this early enough for others to have time to do something similar if they wanted even though the students will not come in for a few more days. This activity could be adapted for any subject but we are doing the activity in English/Language Arts. The specific concepts that the teachers wanted included were hyperbole, idioms, main idea, denotation, connotation and some of the prefixes and roots that were recently covered. With state testing coming up I'm sure you could convince at least one teacher to do something like this for a review activity.
Once I had the concepts I set to work creating the activity. I decided that I would kidnap the Easter Bunny. I used a ransom note generator site to give the students before we begin explaining their challenge. Students have to solve the clues on the scavenger hunt to discover my hiding place. Letters from the correct answers tell where the bunny is hidden. I have a small end table in the library that looks like a stack of books. Most students do not know this, but it has a lid so this is where he will be stashed away. The answer they are filling in is "table made of books" which is sixteen letters so I created sixteen questions using the concepts provided by the teachers. I found websites that I could use for the student research and created questions.
I would be happy to share the entire document but for the sake of space I'll give a few examples here.
Scan the code and complete the hyperboles found on the page: My teacher is so old she _ _ _ _ _ _ cavemen to start a fire. (1st letter)
Students with then find the egg with that question # on it and scan the QR code with the school iPods I preloaded with a free QR code reader. On the site they will find the missing word and get the first letter of the hiding place.
Another example:
Scan the code and look under question #3. What word has the same denotation as chef but a less favorable connotation? _ _ _ _ (2nd letter)
This QR code links to a webpage explaining these concepts.
The questions continue until they have all 16 letters to solve the mystery. The first pair from each class with all the correct answers and the bunny wins Easter candy.
I created the eggs by pasting the QR codes on clip art of eggs and printing them out for display around the library. I used this site to generate the QR codes, but there are many options.
Some of the questions are just from memory and some of the QR codes will answer two of the questions. You could just use a few QR codes or one for each question depending on how much time you have.
If you would like to try this and I didn't answer your question about the activity here please email me and I'll be happy to help. For more great ideas on using QR codes visit The Daring Librarian's blog and her QR Codes At a Glance Tutorial.
I'll post a reflection on the activity next week after the students come in.
Happy Hunting!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Never Far From My Mind

My husband, son and I took a trip to Disney for Spring Break. I'm sad to report that I did not get any of my reading completed, but we had a great time. Libraries were never far from my mind, however. This is me shelving books before entering the Haunted Mansion, which had quite a creepy library inside, and the library on the Swiss Family Robinson tree house.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A New Tool for Reaching Reluctant Readers

If you are a librarian and this picture doesn't make you smile then you are in the wrong profession. This is a group of 6th grade boys reading the first of the 3:15 short stories by Patrick Carman. I loaded the app on our iPods and told all of the English teachers about it. I also plan to advertise the app in my "App of the Week" series in our weekly newsletter.
Check out the app here.
Many of my students tell me that they do not like to read and I usually respond that they haven't found the right book yet. I ask them questions about their favorite books (if they have any), favorite movies, and hobbies to try to recommend a good book. I know that if I strike out right away it is difficult to gain their trust again. This is why I was pretty excited about the 3:15 stories. I knew it would appeal to some of those reluctant readers. After I let the teachers know about the app one of the teachers approached me about using it as part of a lesson. I wasn't able to visit her classroom during the lesson so I hope I am explaining it correctly, but this is how she used it. The teacher preselected pairs (weak/strong reader) and each pair was given an iPod with the app loaded. They watched the teaser trailer together to start the lesson. The stronger reader (without student knowledge) was chosen to read the story aloud first. A passage at a time the stronger reader would read aloud and then the struggling reader would repeat. When the story was complete they watched the video ending together. She said student response was excellent and she observed the struggling readers correcting themselves as they read because they listened to the story aloud first.
Patrick Carman also has two series of books that use a journal style of writing coupled with video journal clips online with clues thrown in. One of the books from the Skeleton Creek series is on our state junior book award nominee list for next year and we have chosen it for the book clubs at all three middle schools in the district.
For an explanation of the Skeleton Creek series read this post. The second series that uses a similar format is the Trackers series.
I really enjoy the combination of print and video media and so do my students.
Has anyone else used the 3:15 app? Or introduced the Skeleton Creek or Trackers series to your students?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Advocacy: One Step at a Time

Ann Arbor Library - Pittsfield Branchphoto © 2006 Jim Howe | more info (via: Wylio)
One aspect of my job as a librarian that I did not anticipate when I was working on my degree was advocacy. Yet, this has been a major focus of my first year.
I attempt to advocate for the library, my students, the profession as a whole and my own job. Even though there are many layers of advocacy they fit in a few categories for me.

-Be positive- I try to be as friendly and helpful as I can to students, teachers, administrators, parents and other librarians. I don't feel that I have the luxury of saying no very often because I'm trying to demonstrate my contribution to our entire school. This doesn't mean I meet every request, but I have pushed myself to do as much as possible.

-Be proactive- If I see a need for something I try to take care of it without being asked. I don't want to wait on someone to ask me to do something. Being proactive can be small or large. One example of a small action I took this year involves a lab near the library. We have a computer lab connected to the library with glass doors. Officially the lab is not my responsibility, but I do check on it and make sure there are markers and erasers for the whiteboard and I have my helpers straighten up in the room when we have a spare moment. An example of a larger-scale action is my technology training efforts. I volunteered to share one tech tool before each faculty meeting, I emailed the district office administrators and offered to teach a professional development class, which became an entire series of training classes several of us are organizing for the entire district, and when I heard the principals were getting iPads I offered to train them. I see all of these tasks as advocating to every principal and teacher in our district. I don't wait on others to notice how hard I work. I share the news. Each month I create monthly reports that I send to my administrators and post on my webpage. My principal loved these so much that he asked me to find examples for administrators and guidance counselors so that he would receive a similar report about their activities. I include a Library News section in our school's weekly update to parents and I post advocacy tips on the library home page. I have spoken with our administrators so much about social media that they finally agreed to allow me to create a Facebook page for our school. You better believe that library news will be posted there!

-Build Alliances- Librarians are often singletons so we have to reach out to build alliances. I have tackled this in several ways. I created a PLN that reaches around the globe. My PLN offers me ideas, advice, inspiration and sometimes friendship. I joined my state organization, SCASL, and then joined a committee. I am on the Advocacy committee (of course), but there is a committee for every interest. Being on a committee has made me feel more involved in the organization and I have been able to connect with other librarians virtually and face to face, including some of my library heroes. On the district level I meet with the other two middle school librarians once a month to share ideas, plan activities and just talk with someone who understands our unique position. We have also had the teen librarian from our public library meet with us. Even though I do not have an assistant I try to step out of the library often to meet with the teachers especially when they are planning big projects. I met with each grade's English teachers mid year to share library circulation statistics and come up with ideas for addressing some of the weak areas. After reading this post from the Shelf Consumed blog, I have started calling one parent each day to brag on their child's reading. I have had such a positive response that I plan to continue doing this.

What advocacy actions do you take? Or want to start?