Monday, June 27, 2011

How Do Others See You? Evaluating My Personal Brand

Mirrorsphoto © 2010 Ross Tucknott | more info (via: Wylio)

Our third task in the 23 Things program is to consider our personal brand. My brand is mainly compromised of my blog, Twitter account, LinkedIn account and memberships in groups such as the Teacher Librarian Ning and Classroom 2.0. When I googled myself I was not surprised by the results. If I google just my name I have two results on the first page that are mine, my LinkedIn profile and my blog. I make an appearance on the second page of images. When I add SC to my name the entire first page of results is me. If I google Eliterate Librarian it is all me on the first page. I'm satisfied with that.
When I first started my blog I wanted to chose a name that combined my love of reading and technology. I remembered hearing the term "e-literate" during my graduate studies and liked the way it sounded with librarian. I wish I could remember where I heard the term so that I could give credit, but I don't. I never even wrote it down. It just got in my brain and stuck there at some point. This is the urban dictionary definition of "eliterate".
One weakness of my personal brand is that I do not use the same name identifier on every site. I try but sometimes it is taken. On most sites I am coxtl.
After reading some of the recommended posts and articles I feel like I have a decent understanding of my brand and how to monitor it; however, I do probably need to update my pictures to a close up shot. I have different pictures on Twitter, my blog, and several other sites. I should chose one nice picture to use in all of those places for uniformity.

One of the optional tasks was to ask others to post their thoughts on our blog. What do you think my blog says about my personal brand?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mr. Dewey, I Bid you Adieu

In the past I have written posts regarding arrangement of my collection and my constant attempt to make the library as user friendly and accessible as possible. This is a goal that I believe all librarians can understand. For months I looked into various ways to organize a library's collection. After much consideration I decided to take the plunge and arrange non fiction by subject rather than Dewey. I have read several articles both for and against this arrangement. I have talked to my library friends both locally and members of my PLN in other states. Most expressed no interest in doing this in their library, but encouraged me to do what I thought was best for the students I serve. We know our students or patrons better than anyone else. Reading the experiences of others helped me to decide if this was something I wanted to do. I knew it would be a big project so I wanted to take my time in making this decision.

Here are my main motivations:
1. My middle school students don't understand Dewey.
Maybe this is my fault because I don't spend much time teaching Dewey. Maybe they don't completely understand decimals at all. Either way I do not have time to shelf and find every non fiction book that circulates. I do not have an assistant and even some of my student helpers never grasped Dewey even after I attempted to train them.
2. Pulling out fiction and biography was good for circulation.
Some people are surprised to hear that Dewey includes fiction. I think so many people are accustomed to fiction being a separate section that they think that Dewey did not originally include it. Having a separate section for fiction and biography increased circulation for these sections so it seems that arranging by subject may do the same for the rest of my non fiction.
3. I believe it will make the library more user friendly.
After polling my students, even my helpers and frequent library posse, they all were excited about the possibility of the change. I have had teachers and administrators (educated professionals) come in during the switch to see what I was up to and when they heard about it they were excited.
4. I want to appeal to the groups that check out non fiction the most.
My special education and reluctant readers are the groups I find browsing non fiction the most. I believe this change will make browsing easier for them (and everyone else).

As soon as I made up my mind I began the switch. The first step for me was getting the collection organized, weeded and inventoried. Looking back I would not have spent much time getting my Dewey in perfect order, but at the time I wasn't 100% committed yet. Then I ran a collection analysis. Using the collection analysis I looked at what subjects I had the most books in so that I could choose categories. Dewey is basically subject grouped anyway so I used these categories to determine what type of labels I would need. The report that helped me the most was the Collection Analysis (by 10s). Many of the groups were easy to group by subject. For example, all the 200s became Religion and the 700s became Art. I grouped some things together and wrote lots of little notes down. After reviewing the report and looking at the Book Industry Standards (BISAC) categories these are the categories I decided on: Animals, Arts & Crafts, Biography, Cars, Cooking, Crime, Family, Folktales, Health, History, Literature, Math, Multicultural, Music, Mythology, Nature, Poetry, Religion, Science, Space, Sports, Supernatural, and War.
I ordered genre labels for each of these categories. A few categories I had to rename so that it would fit with the labels available. There were no labels for Geography so I decided to group though with customs and holidays and create a Multicultural group. At this time I do not have subcategories because the size of my collection doesn't warrant this additional step; however, this is something I will consider for the future. History is my largest section and if I feel the need to further divide them I may do that. I may also subdivide Science if the need arises.

This decision did have its challenges. Deciding the category for some books was difficult. Should a dinosaur book be in science, history or animals? I looked at the Dewey number for guidance, asked my student helpers, and sometimes just made an executive decision.
I created an area in the library for each category and started sorting books into groups. I took one section at a time and changed the record in the computer, added the genre label and typed and added the new spine label. The spine labels changed from 940.53 WIL to NON WIL and then the History label. Then they were ready to be alphabetized and put back on the shelf. It sounds so simple when I write it but it took lots of time and several student helpers. In addition, I changed my label preferences with Follett so that I will only have to add the genre label for my new books. Another challenge will be collection analysis. Without Dewey it will be more time consuming to create a report; however, I can walk around the library and look at the shelves and see weaknesses much easier than before.

While I was making all of these changes I also decided to create a section for the anime/manga series, make new spine labels for the professional books (remove Dewey and replace with PROF SUBJECT Authors first 3 letters, EX. PROF SCIENCE WIL), move any remaining Story Collection to Fiction, remove the PB (Paperback) and E (Easy) labels from the collection by changing the record and replacing the spine label. My Cars, Cooking and Supernatural books are very popular and it wasn't until this change that I realized just how small these groups were. I will definitely order more for these areas.

I'm looking forward to seeing student reaction and looking at circulation for differences in non fiction numbers. I still need to finish up a small stack of War and put up the signs for each area. I have shelf markers from Demco that I plan to use, but I'm also looking at other options for making each category easy to find and see. I ordered lots of book stands so that I can display as many books face out as possible. I will post an update after the school year begins to share any positive reactions and any difficulties that may arise.

A few resources for your consideration:
Dewey Free Project Presentation: One public libraries journey as they converted their collection. Lots of great links inside the presentation.
An article about the library mentioned in the previous presentation from a catalogers view.
"It's Not About Dewey" from the Library Journal
"To Dewey or Not to Dewey" peer reviewed article
"It's Fine to Drop Dewey" from Library Journal
"The Dewey Dilemma" from Library Journal

We eRead: Impact On Our Students

Kindle 3photo © 2010 Zhao ! | more info (via: Wylio)

I've written previous posts on buying, setting up, and using Kindles with our students. Now I can report some of the data regarding using these devices.

Overview of the Program

This year we used six Kindles in a reading resource classroom. We have two 1st generation Kindles, one purchased by the previous librarian and one donated by our principal, one 2nd generation that I acquired through a Black Friday Lightning Deal on Amazon and three 3rd generation Kindles that we purchased using student council fundraiser proceeds. We loaded them with loads of free books and 15 purchased titles. These titles were chosen based on student requests and Lexile levels. Mini lessons on using the Kindles were given on an as needed basis by the reading resource teacher. Features such as the text to speech, dictionary and note/highlight option were the most used features of the device. Students read after completing their lessons in the resource classroom and every Wednesday in class. Reading logs were maintained by the students and a survey on reading motivation was administered before and after using the Kindles. The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test was administered before and after using the Kindles. This test also provides Lexile ranges.

Summary of the Results
  • Students read an average of 22 books (both print and Kindle books)
  • 50% of the students rated their reading ability as not as well as their friends before using Kindles and after using the Kindles 83% rated themselves as about the same or better than their friends.
  • Prior to using Kindles, 31% stated that they understand almost everything they read. This percentage jumped to 58% after using Kindles in class.
  • Prior to using Kindles, 25% of the students rated themselves as a good reader, but after 58% rated themselves as good or very good readers.
  • Students had an average increase of 12.6 points on the MAP test in English/Language Arts. One student had an increase of 27 points!
  • Every student showed an increase in Lexile range after using the Kindles

We were very excited about the positive changes we saw in these students, both in standardized testing scores and in their perception of themselves as readers. Of course, not all of this can be attributed to the Kindles, because they did receive special education assistance in the reading resource classroom, but we do feel that some of these gains can be attributed to the introduction of the Kindle. We did not see these same gains in the other reading resource classrooms without Kindles nor did we see these changes in the small number of students from this class that chose not to use the device. Larger scientific studies would yield more reliable results, but for our own purposes this is enough to encourage us to continue using the devices and exploring the ways that they can help our students succeed.
Next year we hope to build on the program by using Kindles with the other reading resource classrooms and offering Kindles for check out to the regular education students through the library.
Does anyone else have data or anecdotal evidence to share about using ereaders with their students? I would love to hear about it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Creating My Own PD This Summer

This summer I am participating in two self directed professional development series:
1. CPD 23 Things
2. Teacher Challenge
First I'll share a little about 23 Things for Professional Development. A team, including heavy hitters like Bobbi Newman, created "a self-directed course aimed at introducing you to a range of tools that could help your personal and professional development as a librarian, information professional or something else." To look at the entire list of 23 Things go here. If you would like to participate go here. I am familiar with many of the tools, but I hope to make more librarian connections, build my PLN, and get reenergized over the summer.
I have been visiting several of the other school librarians participating in the challenge. You can see the list of school librarians here and the entire list here. There are several creative blog names that caught my eye including Bookletting and Info Glut.
The Teacher Challenge is a free 30 day professional development challenge broken up into weekly challenges. I follow this blog throughout the year and they have great ideas and clear instructions for getting started. Even if you are a tech expert this site is a resource for sharing tools with other teachers that might be less experienced. On the left tool bar you will see a long list of previous posts that include tools like, Wallwisher, Photofilter and Toondoo. I am particularly interested in the Student Blogging challenge because a few of our teachers have expressed interest in creating student blogs next year.
Anyone else participating in these two PD courses? What summer PD will you be participating in this year?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Upstate Technology Conference Rewind and Review

The last two days I have been having a wonderful tech-filled time at the Upstate Technology Conference. This annual conference is completely free and full of wonderful presentations. This year I presented two sessions:
I had a great time presenting and continue to learn and improve. Unfortunately the session on improving presentations was at the same time as mine, but I will definitely be watching for those materials on the conference page.
I had the pleasure of seeing my librarian buddies strut their stuff. Fran Bullington led a session on using technology to "Ramp Up Reading". Lots of fun ideas like using digital frames to show off books, book apps, and Livescribe pencasts of book reviews. Kelly Knight, the Knight Reader, shared her strategies and successes on using blogs with her students. Check out her YA book blog and her school blog. She has really inspired me to do more with my school blog such as sharing reading lists for holidays and school events. This would especially be good for promoting non fiction titles. Cathy Jo Nelson had a packed house for her tech tip session. She really draws a crowd with her long list of ideas and suggestions. Heather Loy shared her expertise in Evernote and a session called "Web 2.0 Speed Dating". What a great way to share lots of tools in a fun, unexpected way.
I was very excited to see so many librarians presenting and many, many more in attendance.
I enjoy the time at conferences to catch up with my friends that I normally only see virtually. It was also fun to meet some of my PLN in person and continue to build those connections.
A few things that really stood out for me:
  • the popularity of QR codes, both in sessions and on materials
  • focus on mobile devices like phones, iPods and tablets
  • lots of buzz about favorite apps
I had a good time and learned a few more tricks. I am a conference and webinar junkie so I am looking forward to a few virtual conferences this summer like the Reform Symposium. Maybe I will "see" some of you there.

Summer Reading on the Road

Onboard of MSC SINFONIA. My second cruise. February © 2009 Jorge Andrade | more info (via: Wylio)

I promise that I'm not writing this post to brag and it will involve reading; however, I must share our summer plans. My son and I are meeting my husband in Europe for a 12 night Mediterranean cruise. (My husband has been in Afghanistan since October.) We'll be visiting cities that I have only dreamed of. In preparation for our trip I've been reading and watching movies set in these cities. I found this wonderful website that lists books by country, region and city. As the homepage explains "travel is enriched by reading great novels set in the places you are visiting." On my reading list are:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zaton (Barcelona, Spain)
Monsieur Monde Vanishes by Georges Simenon (Nice France)
The Birth of Venus: A Novel by Sarah Dunant (Florence, Italy)
The Food of Love by Anthony Capella (Rome)
City of the Soul: A Walk in Rome by William Murray (Rome)
The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella (Naples)
Black Lamb and Grey Falcom: A Journey through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West (Dubrovnik, Croatia)
The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Florato (Venice)
Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull (just because it sounded fun)
I could not find one for Kotor, Montenegro.
I know reading these novels will get me in the spirit for the trip and make my travels more meaningful. Even though my students may not be traveling to exotic locations like this I think it would still be fun to recommend books to them set at the beach or mountains in our state. A few that come to mind include The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks set in North Carolina, Virals by Kathy Reichs set in Charleston, SC and The Secret Life of Bess by Sue Monk Kidd, also in South Carolina.
I am having my own European film festival to put me in the traveling mood. On my list are The Tourist, The Italian Job, La Dolce Vita, Three Coins in a Fountain, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Roman Holiday, Eurotrip, National Lampoon's European Vacation, The American, French Kiss, When In Rome, Letters to Juliet, Under the Tuscan Sun, and any others that I stumble upon.

Do you have any recommendations for me? Books or movies? Am I missing something obvious from my lists?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Annual Report: Looking Back, Moving Forward

She looked backphoto © 2008 Max Khokhlov | more info (via: Wylio)

I completed my annual report today and distributed it to my principal and assistant principal for curriculum and instruction. There are many reasons for creating an annual report. Personal reflection, library program evaluation and advocacy are my primary motivations. Personally this was an excellent way for me to reflect on the year and set goals for next year. I knew I was busy all year, but the numbers really show it. I can probably be declared a webinar junkie. I had a total of 90 hours of training and professional development, 16 presentations not including my tech tips at faculty meetings, and 18 mentions in the press or online. A few highlights that I am particularly proud of are the Skype author visits with my book club, successful reading programs, using Kindles, and being voted Teacher of the Year. Not everything was ideal, I see several areas that I can improve upon next year. There are subjects that I need to better serve and grades that I did not collaborate with as often. The survey I asked students and faculty to complete gave me several suggestions for next year including more soft chairs, scary books, and faster computers.
The annual report was a valuable tool for evaluating the library program. I was able to view statistics on visits, circulations, collaborations, standards addressed, TRAILS data, etc. Although I did not include a detailed collection analysis in the report, I did complete one using Follett Titlewise. I won't bore you with those details, but it was a great way for me to evaluate the collection and set a few target areas for ordering new books next year. I used our most recent state document for library evaluation "Achieving Exemplary School Libraries" as a standard for evaluating our strengths and weaknesses. Some of the weak areas for our program are staffing and advisory committees. The recommended staffing is one media specialists and two paraprofessionals. That is almost laughable in the current budget climate. Our district eliminated all library aides last year and the budget for next year left no room for them to be added. I don't know when they will return. I never had one so I have adapted, but I can definitely see the advantages and look forward to that possibility in the future. We currently do not have a library advisory committee at the school or district level. I am still researching and reading about the possibility of creating one.
I plan to use the annual report as an advocacy tool. Sharing with my school administration is the first step. I posted the report on my website and may share with some of the district administration when the last few days of school pass. I considered creating a video version, but we just shared our Library Snapshot Day with the board so I don't want to overload them with videos. I feel that this is a great tool for me to keep handy should the need arise to defend my job and show student impact. The recent interrogations of librarians in California made me take a cold, hard look at myself. Could I answer the questions they were asked? This report definitely shows collaborations, standards I addressed, classes I taught, student visits, and student achievement. Research skills are tested in our state assessment, PASS. Standard six covers research skills in English/Language Arts for grades 6-8. Our school tests ELA standards using Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) twice as year in addition to our state testing. I used results from both tests to evaluate our Kindle program. I will be sharing these results at the Upstate Technology Conference and I will post our presentation here soon. When our PASS results come in this summer I plan to compare scores on ELA with class library visits and find out if they are connected. I also plan to use these scores to target a group of struggling readers for a special book club. Another tool I utilized this year with our 6th grade is TRAILS. The results of this test allowed me to target the weakest areas in information literacy. I was pleased to see growth in all areas by the end of the school year.
I learned a few lessons when putting together the report. I looked at annual reports from many different places to determine what I would like to include in my own. I wish I could give credit to all of the reports I viewed, but I didn't make a note of all of the reports I viewed and borrowed ideas from. Several great examples can be found here. I created a template for both monthly and annual reports and added to them all year. I wish I had included a section for Grants from the beginning. I decided to add it at the last minute and had to rely on my memory to fill it in. I know there were other grants I applied for, but I just couldn't remember them all. Another change I will make next year is listing the state and AASL standard for collaborations as I go. I did not do it originally and spent quiet a while going back to fill it in. Again, I feel that I left out many, but simply grew tired of looking at the lists. I believe I will change my faculty survey next year. I will probably make it shorter and take out the questions about their personal beliefs regarding information literacy. What I want to focus on is asking if library services met their needs as educators and their students' needs. Judging from some of the suggestions I suspect that some of the teachers had not ventured into the library often. A few of the changes they requested have already been implemented. Nevertheless, there was value in reading their thoughts.
Please share a link to your annual report. I am always eager to continue improving and learning.