Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thing 21: Productivity Tools

Hip hip hooray!!  I'm VERY excited to be starting my third year of Cool Tools For Schools with Polly :-)  I'm not exaggerating when I say how valuable these lessons are to me both personally and professionally.  This is such a wonderful way to stay informed about what is available, and there is always something I can put to use immediately.

Speaking of which - this week I explored Evernote, Clearly, and LastPass - three super cool tools.  First, it was really easy to sign up for Evernote.  I liked the embedded tutorials that made it a cinch to start using right away.  My first note contained my lesson plan schedule for this week at school.  It was very easy to create.  Tomorrow I will try to access Evernote from school to see if I can retrieve my note.  Who knows if it will be blocked by our filtering system, though?  I'll just hope it's not.

Next I tried Clearly because it was related to Evernote and sounded interesting.  I installed it and tried it out on my electronic Book Club Blog called Book Buzz.  I then used WebClipper to send the cleaned up page to Evernote.  So easy!!

Finally I installed LastPass on my computer, but I panicked at the last minute when it detected all of my "insecure" passwords stored on the computer and said if I clicked "import" it would save them securely on LastPass and would delete them from my computer.  I probably should have gone for it right then and there, but having SO many passwords for everything from Shutterfly to EdModo to PayPal, I just didn't feel comfortable making that decision without more thought.

So I definitely feel "productive" as I begin this third track of Cool Tools!  If I have time, I'll try to add to this post after tomorrow to let you know if Evernote works at school.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Thing 20: Tools for creating websites, pathfinders, portfolios and more

Well, I am feeling rather pleased with myself, because I do rather like my library web presence.  It is something that I do have control over and that I do update myself.  I created it based upon my predecessor's template in 2009, and it has become a veritable clearinghouse of useful information, links, and communication. 

That said, I will simply include a link to my classroom page if anyone wants to see it.  It's through ToolBox Pro, so it's not perhaps as glitzy as others, but I think I've done a pretty decent job organizing it and making it a useful source of information for administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
Ms. Fecura's Library Web Page

Now to talk about the project I did for this assignment.  It just so happens that 5th grade is working on a large 4th quarter research project during our fixed-scheduled Library time.  The essential question is what makes America a "melting pot", and how does this create the unique culture we have today?

For this project, I designed a project overview that gave the students background information as well as a description of their task and my expectations.  Additionally, in the overview I mapped out our research goals for our final 6 classes of the year, and I provided them with a rubric so they could work towards the grade they want.  All of this I posted on my classroom page and embedded in NoodleTools, the online research organizer I use for all projects in grades 5 and up.  What I did not have, however, was a pathfinder of resources for the students.  Part of me would still rather have the students locate their own resources, especially after we spent nearly half the year learning about the library collection, databases, and the internet, but with such limited time for the actual research, I can also see the value of providing this extra support and guidance.  The students will still need to locate some sources independently as well as evaluate the sources I suggest in the pathfinder, and extrapolate the relevant information necessary to answer their own "wonder" questions about their topic.

So here's a link to the first (and definitely not the last!) pathfinder I have ever made.  I used the template available through OPALS, my automated Library system. 
5th Grade Melting Pot Research Pathfinder

And finally I'd like to thank you for providing these learning opportunities for me to explore all year long.  It has definitely enhanced my teaching and has helped me to grow professionally (and in some cases - personally!).

By the way, I just ordered a Samsung Galaxy tablet.  Now I can go back and re-explore apps :-)

Have a great summer!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thing 19: Online Learning & DIY PD

It just so happens that I am a HUGE fan of online learning, and I have participated in a number of online opportunities.

It all started back in 2003 when I took my first online course for credit towards my K-12 Library certification.  I absolutely loved the format of the course and the fact that I could work on it at my own pace without having to leave my home.  At the time, my son was one and I found I could complete the assignments during his naps and in the quiet moments after he went to bed.  What a great way to keep my adult mind invigorated at a time when my days were usually filled with an unending stream of diapers and toys.  As an aside, it's amazing how much I miss those days when my children were infants!!

Since then, I have participated in a variety of webinars through several of the various local BOCES programs.  It's a format that really works well for me - even if the technology sometimes leaves things to be desired :-)  I recall last summer participating in a WSWHE BOCES webinar titled, "Creative Assessment Tools", where the poor presenter's sound kept randomly turning off.   All the same, I like the flexibility of the format, and I love that we can come together to discuss issues in a relatively informal environment.  Working in a school district of one K-8 building, and being the only librarian on site - and 0.6 at that! - I crave interaction with fellow professionals in the field, and I rely on online learning to provide opportunities that will fit in my busy schedule without requiring me to spend hours waiting between when my part-time day typically ends, and when after-school onsite meetings typically begin.

As far as the issue of whether these online workshops count towards my PD - I don't really worry too much about that.  I take these classes and workshops for myself, not for my administrators.  It's simply a bonus that they provide me credit during my Daniellson Domain IV meetings as part of the APPR process.  I may not go to many (if any) of the BIG library conferences each year, but I feel I seek out what I need when I need it, and I am all the happier if I can find the content electronically. 

I am grateful for the links Polly included in this assignment, because it gives me plenty of inspiration to continue my quest for personal and professional growth.  We have SO much to learn from each other.  The OCLC WebJunction & OEBD seem like my best bets for live events, and EdReach is chock full of great podcasts that I can tune into any time - and I plan to!  Perhaps now I can finally figure out tips on how I can make edmodo actually work for my 6th grade class!  We tried it for a few weeks, but too many of the kids found it too overwhelming (it requires a level of independence that paper and pencil assignments do not) for me to continue.  So much for the theory that our students are tech savvy!  But I'll get them there.... eventually :-)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Thing 18: Digital Tattoo & Digital Citizenship

This is a topic I think about quite a bit - both in terms of my personal life as well as it relates to my professional life and my role as librarian.

I am proud to say that I have as tiny a digital tattoo as I think is possible in this day and age.  I searched for myself on Google, Spokeo, and 123People, and I'm delighted to say little more turned up than what can be found in public census records. 

The biggest reason for this, I believe, is that I have made a conscious effort to steer clear of the myriad of social networking tools so widely available.  This blog is about as digitally social as I am comfortable participating in, unless you count Edmodo.  Of course I participate in the Questar SLS listserv and a few groups, like GoodReads, but I am very deliberate in what I join and how I participate.

I liked the Common Sense Media video, and was already familiar with the Digital Citizenship curriculum they post on their site.  I heard about it last Fall at a Questar liaison meeting, and spent several hours wading through it and printing those aspects I hope to incorporate into my own lessons starting next year.  I had originally hoped to work parts of it in this year, but I was already tied to the content I identified in my SLO's, and feel I would rather not just insert a few lessons between units, but would prefer to take time this summer to develop and adapt the lessons to best match my learning objectives.

I read several of the articles, and saw that many of them reinforced what I learned at the Common Sense Media site - especially the article about the English teacher replicating blogging with paper and pencil before having the students participate online. 

There's a powerful message we need to instill in today's youth: that prudence is essential in the digital age.  That what you say/do today can and will effect you for potentially the rest of your life.

And I would argue that we need to help today's youth to frankly get over themselves.  I find it embarrassing that we live in a culture where people think it relevant to post updates about every aspect of their ordinary lives.  I understand that developmentally children and young adults do not have the gift of perspective, and that it takes time to live outside of their egocentric view, but is it not our role as educators to help teach them about cause & effect and consequences?

This is a topic that goes far beyond the classroom walls, though.  Cyber bullying, government monitoring, internet tracking - there's no end to the connections.  What an understatement to say we live in a very different world than our parents did!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thing 17: Coding

Coding, eh?  It's funny - when I was in 7th grade back in 1984, I was in an advanced track of courses, and was somehow put in a beginning coding class with several of my other nerdy-smart classmates.  What I remember most was being given graph paper and instructed to sketch out my program in zeroes and ones.  In the end, I designed a weird little pirate pistol that shot a lead ball and maybe said "BANG".  Hey - in 1984 that was pretty impressive for a 12 year old!!

Given this impressive background (ha ha), when I read "Coding" for this assignment, I figured, why not?  Besides, my husband happens to be a coding guru, so I figured if I was too overwhelmed by this assignment, I could always count on him to talk me through it.  That said, after some preliminary exploration, I realized that I was underestimating how easy some websites make this!  No need for graph paper :-)

Unfortunately, though, I must sadly admit that I failed in my original goal for this assignment.  

I scanned through several of the resources listed in this assignment, and when I saw the movie poster option, I thought: Eureeka!  Of course I assumed I would be clever enough to transform it into what I actually wanted - a poster for an upcoming author visit I have scheduled for the end of the month. 

After reading through Mozilla Thimble's easy instructions, I realized all I had to do was cut portions of "code" out of the set template and enter my new text and graphic.  Honestly, I had expected more flexibility with the program.  But I had already started, so I went ahead and finished it.  I pulled in a gorgeous photo a friend had emailed me a few weeks ago and had fun dreaming up my cast and crew.  However, the hardest part was finding a way to insert the image in this blog!  I played with the web link Mozilla gave me, but it would only insert a text link.  Then I Googled how to create a thumbnail, and spent probably twice as much time finding a program to successfully do that than I spent "coding" the actual project!  I ended up using ScreenGrab, which I think is also a Mozilla appplication.

Anyway, here's my poster.  It may not be animated like my nifty pirate gun of yore, but it sure looks a lot better!!  In all seriousness, though, I'm hoping to wade through more of this assignment at a later date to see if there is something I could use to generate cool graphics in the future.  But for now, this will have to suffice for my second foray into the mysterious world of coding...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thing 16: Photo Editing Tools


It just so happens that we run our Parents As Reading Partners (PARP) program at Gardner Dickinson during the month of March, and one of my goals was to make READ posters of our faculty using the ALA Graphics software.  What a perfect time to learn about photo editing!!

This project was time consuming and a lot of work, but the results have been worth it.  After familiarizing myself with the software, I created a plan for action.  My first goal was to photograph each of our K-5 faculty holding their favorite books.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this part of the project went!  I had teachers come to the Library for a few minutes during their prep period, and was delighted when many showed up not only with their favorite book, but with an assortment of fun props to boot!

Once the photos were taken, they needed to be edited using PhotoShop.  Having never used PhotoShop, this was the big challenge for me.

Once the backgrounds were erased from the photos, it was just a matter of matching up backgrounds from the READ software to particular pictures.  The results were beyond my expectations!!  I saved all the poster images on a disk and took it to Staples where they made 11X18 prints for just $0.98 each - a bargain at twice the price :-)

Yesterday I had the posters laminated and hung outside each teacher's door - and the fun began!  I saw classes actually being walked through the hallways with the sole purpose of checking out everyone's poster.  What a great way to motivate our budding readers and to show them that we're all readers together!