Monday, May 18, 2015

Thing 30: Final Reflections & What’s Next?

I definitely learned a lot again this year in my third track of this workshop.  In reflecting on the nine posts I published this year, though, I would have to say that some lessons were more pertinent to me than others.  I especially think Thing 26 was the "biggie".  We all need to keep a finger on the pulse of our population so we can adapt to what is needed or wanted from us.  I think I had the most fun with Thing 27, though, where I stumbled upon and played with Creaza.  Likewise, Thing 24: Infographics, definitely inspired me with my 6th graders.  I built an entire project around infographics where the students each picked an ancient Egyptian ruler to research and document in a custom infographic.  They organized their research in NoodleTools and found graphics that were relevant to their topics.  They presented both their infographic and bibliography during class, and I was impressed at how responsive they were towards each other's work. 

I would like to echo what I said in my last post, though: each assignment definitely required more than 1 hour to explore and reflect upon.  I think 20 hours PD credit would have been far more fair for the time and effort required.

I already somewhat addressed an example of how I used my new knowledge by describing my Ancient Egyptian Ruler Infographic project.  I also employed my new knowledge of Resource Guides (Thing 22) in January when I was compiling materials for Black History Month.  Another outcome from this year's workshop was the creation of a brand new Library Advisory Committee in my school.  Right now I'm focusing the efforts of this group on getting to know our stakeholders and assessing our programs and services (Thing 26).  Obviously this will be an on-going process, so that's one thing definitely on my personal horizon.

Finally, let me conclude by saying once again how much I like these online, at-your-own-pace workshops.  I know some people really miss live interaction, but this format works incredibly well in my busy schedule.  I'm sure I would learn even more if I made the time to read more of my colleagues' posts, but that may have to wait until summer. 

I'm thinking this third track will be my last track of Cool Tools.  I'm ready to explore something different.  Last Fall, I tried an on-line post-graduate class from SUNY Buffalo, which was interesting.  I'm not sure what I'll find to keep me busy next year, but I have no doubt, Jen Cannell at Questar will provide lots of options :-) 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thing 29: Student Response Tools

I have to say that I am amazed that we are only given 10 hours of PD credit for completing all 10 assignments, because I have yet to undertake one that took under 2-3 hours!!  But credit or no credit, it is invaluable to be given the opportunity to explore these really wonderful web tools that in most cases I otherwise would probably never know about!

I explored FlipGrid, Padlet, Primary Wall, Today's Meet, SeeSaw, Answer Garden, and Google Forms.  I played in each that had a cool tools account, or just browsed the examples when they did not.  That said, I have to admit that I was most impressed with Google Forms.  I really should spend more time exploring Google in general, because every time I turn around, I am delighted with what I can do with it!

I've already put Google Forms to use to generate a custom library survey for my faculty to be administered before the end of the school year.  I have recently formed a Library Advisory Committee to help steer the Library in the direction it needs to be going, and more importantly, to help me build communication and visibility for our library program and services (Thing 26 really has me thinking.....).  That said, we decided from day one that we need to survey everyone - faculty, students, administrators, parents - to determine current perceptions (and misconceptions) and to guide us in our goal setting.  We each came to the table at our last committee meeting with sample surveys we could use or tweak, but having discovered how easy it is to generate and share a Google Forms survey which tabulates results automatically, I'm totally converted!  I'd already been using Google Docs to share my policies and other materials that I want committee feeedback on, and now I'm finding Google Forms is just as wonderful!  Yay, Google - even if it is an evil empire :-)

Let me just spend a moment talking about my experience with some of the other tools, though.  FlipGrid was interesting to look at, but I'd have to see if our school tablets and laptops have video capability before I could entertain using it in any meaningful way.  Primary Wall didn't work (I see you updated that in the assignment). Today's Meet seemed easy to use and I really liked that it required no log in for the students/participants.  See Saw was interesting, but maybe a bit more involved than I want to be right now.  I only have PCs in the library.  All the laptops and tablets are in the classrooms.  Finally, I didn't see much point to Answer Garden, although I entered a response (Inquiry Driven Questions). 

I can't believe we have only one more assignment to go.....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Thing 28: Tech Trends and Scanning the Horizon

As referenced in your introduction to this assignment, the idea of what comes next does sort of fill me with a bit of dread.  On the one hand, I do find some of these tools and trends very exciting and helpful, but to be perfectly honest, I don't feel that I can keep up with everything that seems to be churning out at a break-neck pace, and that makes me feel inferior to some of my more trendy colleagues.

We had a similar assignment in Track 1 called "Future Trends" which I completed in 2011.  I just re-read my post for that assignment and I think I was correct about a lot of my predictions thus far. 

As for how technology is changing Libraries today (and tomorrow), well, it looks like the clear trend is to continue to move away from print resources and traditional research and move towards electronic resources, exploration and discovery, and student engagement and interaction both locally and globally.  I can certainly see the benefits of this move, but I also mourn for the loss of the archetypal Library, too.  I thought it was almost sad to read in Luba Vangelova's article how Joan Ackroyd created this celebrated "Learning Commons" in her Library, but that she still included a small room where students could come and read quietly a few periods each day.

Joyce Valenza concurs with this move in her article where she identifies crucial trends in Libraries as including unblocking social media, using Google and Skype to connect students, educators, and the global community, and turning Libraries into "Maker Spaces" where patrons can move beyond information retrieval to contextual problem solving and creation.

The one article that gave me pause, though, was the 2015 State of America's Library report.  This report claims that by college, students are not prepared for research; they have difficulty "coming up with keywords", "sorting through irrelevant search results", "identifying and selecting sources", and "integrating writing styles from different sources".  My, my... aren't those all skills traditionally taught through traditional research?

So how does all of this tie together to what I personally see on the horizon?  Well, having steeped myself in all of the Common Core shifts and frameworks, it seems obvious that the task of teaching basic research skills is now falling to the classroom teachers themselves, and I am not all together sure they are up for the challenge.  The Common Core implies that teachers should collaborate with the LMS to teach these skills in context, but in reality, that depends entirely upon the school's collegial climate, the availability of common planning and teaching time, and the staffing of the Library (or Media Center, or Learning Commons, or whatever you want to call that amorphous space these days).  And hasn't that been the quandary all along - with or without all the glitzy bells and whistles of technology?

So colleges want students who have developed critical thinking skills who are comfortable using a variety of information sources that they can not only analyze and synthesize, but that they can also evaluate and  distinguish between, and at the same time, we're supposed to be turning our Libraries into interactive learning centers where students can fully engage in their own learning through problem solving and collaboration.  Hey, wait?  Isn't that Inquiry???  And aren't Librarians supposed to be the leaders in Inquiry learning??

Okay, so here's my final prediction for what's on the horizon.  So forget the traditional Library, but hire the Librarian.  It doesn't matter if you place the Librarian in a tiny office of if you give them some tricked out glorified "Learning Common" to preside over.  The key is to schedule this Librarian to work 1-1 with the teachers to develop, design, implement, and assess student work that aligns with the Common Core and that follows the Inquiry process.  Do not make collaboration optional; make it a requirement and make the time necessary for it to happen.  Get rid of "Library" as a "special" where it is release time for teachers - or if you want to keep it - hire an aide or clerk to handle story reading and book exchange.  That boat has sailed, and according to current data, we have to let go of that notion of a "Library".  If it's not dead, it's dying.  And how sad is that?  Am I the only one saddened at the thought of bombarding our children with unappealing leveled readers and not sharing author studies?  But who cares?  Apparently you don't need an advanced degree to do those arcane things.   The only viable future for Librarians seems to be through the harnessing of technology and in the role of collaborator. So keep your eyes on that horizon, friends, or you may find yourselves out of a job.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thing 27: Creaza

What a fun day I've had exploring a web tool new to me called, Creaza .  This tool is designed for educators to share with students to host multimedia projects and assignments.  I created an assignment where students would have to make a book talk that they wrote and recorded using a simple 8 layer sound mixer.  Creaza supplies a wealth of audio files you can use including music snippets and sound effects.  You can also upload or record your own files, too.

It was pretty neat learning how to build the layers and then adjust the sound volume for each layer to enhance the recording.  I did a demo of this project for the book, A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck (one of my favorites!!).  Below is a transcript of the book talk I recorded:

"Our story begins in the summer of 1929 – just before the great stock market crash – and the even greater depression that rocked the United States for a decade.  The world was terrorized by the likes of Al Capone and other notorious gangsters and life was pretty exciting in a big city like Chicago.  That’s the summer that Joey and Mary Alice were sent off to their Grandma Dowdle’s for the month of August – the first of 7 such memorable summer visits.  Coming from the bedlam and excitement of Chicago to this tiny, rural Illinois town where one can’t even find indoor plumbing, Joey and Mary Alice are faced with the task of surviving what they suspect will be boredom, but what in reality are the adventures of a lifetime!  With each August visit, Joey & Mary Alice begin to discover the remarkable woman that is their grandmother.  They help her take on the Cowgill boys, feed hungry hobos desperate for work, save her friend from foreclosure, and win the day at the county fair.  Far from a sleepy town, they find themselves transported each August to a world filled with its own unique characters and troubles that in actuality, is not so different from their own home.  Common threads like the Depression weave together to create an unforgettable image of 1930’s America.  So grab a copy of Richard Peck’s, “A Long way From Chicago” and discover for yourself what it was like growing up in this tumultuous period of American history.

And here is a link to my project:A Long Way From Chicago

Pretty fun, eh?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thing 26: Taking the Lead: Connecting with your Stakeholders

This assignment certainly required significant time to watch and read the supporting materials, but I think I've taken away a lot of useful ideas. 

Heidi Neltner's presentation was interesting, and certainly provides a model to aspire to in regard to library advocacy.  I liked her idea about surveying your stakeholders to tailor your message both in terms of content and format.  I was especially glad I recognized some of the tools she uses thanks to earlier Cool Tools assignments!  That said, there were other tools like Canva, Screencastomatic, Picasa, and Powtoon that were new to me.  However, knowing that our next assignment is a pick-your-own topic, perhaps exploring one or more of those could be an option.

Anyway, my real take-away from her presentation was that advocating is a lot of work - but that the results make it worth it.  My administrator encourages me to advocate for our Library, in large part because she is already blown away by what I do and she wants the rest of our community to know about it, too.  That said, Heidi didn't really talk about advocating to the community; her focus was on students, teachers, and administrators.  She included parents in her list, but I didn't really see very much geared towards that group - just MS publisher documents embedded in email.

I also watched the video, "School Libraries Matter" and read through "10 Things..." and "4 Ways to Advocate for School Libraries".  Both of these articles hinge on the collaborative role of the LMS, which at my school, is a tough sell given my status as a part-time, fixed scheduled "prep" period for K-6 teachers.  When I say I do not have common planning time, I mean I don't even have a prep or lunch in my own schedule so there literally is no built in planning time for myself or for collaboration.  And although I've made it clear that I am more than willing to stay beyond my schedule to meet after school or whenever is convenient for faculty,  it rarely happens.  They don't even collaborate much with each other let alone with the librarian as sad as that is.  So there's one hurdle I need to continue to work on.

Next, I read "Survive and Thrive" and the looked through the Marketing SlideDeck of ideas.  The 34th slide in the SlideDeck really struck home in light of the battle going on as I type between Governor Cuomo and educators.  How right that is that if we don't tell our story, someone else will - and that story certainly is negative and ignores all the positive things going on.  I know I need to tell my story - but I have to admit, I just don't know how.  Like in many of the slides, I do have a strong web presence, I do have a variety of tools available 24/7, I do make displays and participate in important programs like Parents As Reading Partners - but how do I let my stakeholders know that?  I suppose one way would be to make my own SlideDeck of the amazing things that happen in my Library each and every day.  Of course that would require me to photo document things, which will take some time, but it's do-able.  The problem is, once I put together this fabulous digital documentary, how do I get my stakeholders to look at it?  I suppose I could email a link to it to administrators and teachers (who already have an idea of how amazing my library program is), and post it on my website, but if the parents and community are not looking at my web site now, how can I know they'll look at it then?

I guess my main form of advocacy is just getting myself out there.  For example, just yesterday I hosted author and illustrator, Suzanne Bloom, at our school.  She did a program for K-1 in the morning, and then came back for an evening Parents As Reading Partners event.  I invited families to come to the morning program, so was able to do direct out-reach to them via fliers and  personal communication, which was good.  Then at the evening event, Suzanne and I tag teamed an improvised presentation to over 200 guests about the importance of reading and the benefits of both libraries and shared reading at home.  We were like a comedy duo bouncing off one another and encouraging audience participation.  I think that was the most direct communication I have ever had with our families, and it was a huge success.  I was able to have students talk about what they're learning in library class and why libraries matter.

Now if only Andrew Cuomo were in the audience.....    

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Thing 25: Power Up Your Browsing

What a fun and useful activity!  You are absolutely right in assuming that I blindly use my browser 365 days of the year and usually don't think twice about it in terms of functionality or features.  It was a treat to actually make time to tidy up my menu bar to make it much more relevant for my needs and to take an opportunity to explore the Mozilla FireFox menu!

To respond to part one of the assignment - I explored all the settings and made some really useful changes.  I moved things I rarely use like Clearly to the Menu instead of the ToolBar, and deleted "Start a Conversation" all together from my browser because I frankly didn't see the need for it.  Conversely, I moved the "Print" icon from Menu to the ToolBar because I use that all the time.

Next, I explored every tab under "Options" and made a few helpful modifications.  First, under "General", I created a new "Downloads" folder in my Documents because I had a hard time finding things I downloaded when using FireFox.  Now, I'll know just where to look!  Finally, under "Search", I streamlined the search engines used during my searching.  Who knew I had control over that?!

When it came time to explore extensions, started by watching the video introduction.  Of course, after that, I could not resist choosing a theme.  I did have a theme back in the days when I used Explorer, but I never made the time to do so when I switched to FireFox.  Now I have a lovely new theme called, "Floral Birds" by daaanibby to make my web searching that much more enjoyable.  I considered trying one of the "Complete Themes", but I think I'm happy with just the top margin change for now.

Next, I browsed all the available add-ons and was surprised to see an EPub reader listed.  I'm wondering if that'll work with OverDrive for ebooks cutting out the annoying Adobe Digital Editions step?  That I plan to explore further.

And how cool is WOT (Web Of Trust)?!  This I installed because I was dying to see if it really and truly did accurately evaluate web sites' authority (validity).  Imagine how great that would be on our school computers when I'm teaching web site evaluation?!  But alas - I thought I installed it - I know I clicked install - but I am not seeing the traffic light warnings in my web searches, so I don't know what I didn't do to complete the process.  I looked in my ToolBar and under Menu, but I just don't see it anywhere.

Finally, I had to try Price Blink which is supposed to price compare, find coupons, and link to reviews when you're shopping - and that one does work!!  How cool is that?!  I just shopped for the Lego Friends Lighthouse set and used all three features.  Yippee!!

I truly enjoyed this assignment, and I certainly plan to continue exploring and customizing within FireFox :-)  Thank you, Polly!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Thing 24: Infographics

Perfect timing!  Every March my school participates in a Parents As Reading Partners program to encourage literacy skill building at home as well as in school.  I used this assignment as an opportunity to design an infographic that we can use as a physical poster as well as a digital image on our website.

To complete this assignment, I first watched two of the videos and read 3-4 of the articles.  I found Kathy Shrock's materials to be the most helpful.  It took me about a week to sketch out my draft for what information I wanted to share.  At first I wanted to go with a statistical theme - visually showing the minutes read at home by grade level from last year's classes.  Unfortunately, I was unable to acquire that data, so I moved on to plan B: a simpler visual explanation of the program and its purpose.
Then I went to Piktochart and viewed their quick tutorial.  I know my infographic does not contain a whole lot of bells and whistles, but I do think it is visually appealing and it will certainly serve an authentic purpose. 

Here it is:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thing 23: Makerspaces

Wow!  I am so glad this was posted as an assignment.  This is a topic that I've heard about, but really had no idea what is was.  Even at meetings of library liaisons at Questar where they were talking about the shared 3-D printer, it was never very clear to me what they were doing with it or what it had to do ultimately with libraries.

Now, after reading several of the articles and resources posted within this assignment, I think I'm finally starting to "get it".  Makerspaces in the School Library Learning Commons and the uTEC Maker Model by David v. Loertscher, Leslie Preddy, and Bill Derry gave me a good overview of what all the buzz is about and how a variety of libraries are adapting this concept to fit the needs of their patron base.   Parker Thomas' 6 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Makerspace really helped me understand the feasibility of this sort of program in my own school community.  The Tinkerspace: Library Learning Commons interview piece really helped me to visualize what a truly exemplary makerspace program could look like, while Deb Collin's awesome Cool Tools blog post sort of showed me that it can truly exist and be successful on an elementary level without crazy gadgets and tons of supervision/prep.

So all of that said, here're my major take-a-ways:

First of all, I can definitely see the value of makerspaces in general, and now I more fully understand how they are being adapted into libraries.  I love the concept of moving to the next step of "expression" as the outcome of information analysis.  The Tinkerspace interview struck me as effectively pairing information resources, such as the origami books, with appropriate materials bins - while still allowing the kids to approach the experience any way that they liked - either the "follow the instruction" route, or the go it on your own avenue - or even something that might fall in between.  I can see where a makerspace would be very appealing to students because it's almost "free play" of sorts.  Also, one of the articles/resources talked about having the participants fill out exit tickets about their experience which helps justify it academically in a school setting, which is where I'm coming from.

Where I think I'm still not quite solid, though, is how this can be transformed into an academic program that relies on constant assessment to drive instruction.  As I said, I totally see the value of giving students time to explore and giving them access to interesting materials - but if everyone is allowed to approach the project independently and they are not given an end-goal per sae, and, most importantly, if not everyone is required to participate, then this can only be approached as an enrichment activity, not an actual "class" held to academic standards, right?  Or am I missing the point?  I understand that it has the potential to align with many Common Core Standards, but how do you turn an unstructured activity into something that can be definitively associated with a rubric or other form of assessment?  And who can determine growth when a student may chose to take risks and fail - which is a good thing as far as a makerspace goes, but not such a good thing when giving evidence of student growth. 

This leads me to my next point of discussion: How could a makerspace fit into my school library?  Well, first of all, let me remind the reader that I am only a 0.6 part-time librarian running a K-8 library program with fixed-scheduled classes as release time (prep periods) for K-6 teachers.  Therefore, I have no planning period, no lunch, and very few free blocks randomly spaced in a 6-day rotation, so right now, it could not happen.  BUT this is not to say that I could not approach the administration with this intriguing concept and see what they think.  Or maybe this is the type of program that might better fit in to the "Technology" class our middle school students participate in?

I'm still digesting all that I've read and learned this week, so I cannot say for sure whether I will pursue this with my administration now or not.  I would like to talk to Jen Cannell at Questar about what others are doing, say, with the digital printer.  From what was shared at liaison meetings, it sounds like it's mostly kids making bookmarks and other novelties from pre-existing templates.  Where's the tinkering or creativity there - besides choosing colors?  As you suggest in the activity, I think I need to see some more models of makerspaces in action to fully appreciate its implications for my own library program.  So let me end here, but just know that this exploration is by no means over for me.  This introduction may just be the beginning of something new for me and for my school.    

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Thing 22: Create A Resource Guide

This was a fun assignment to end my winter break with!  That said, I fear I may have missed part of the point here.  The assignment overview alluded to the fact that we all in the Library trade tend to make lots of resource guides for our patrons - and I am certainly no exception to that assumption.  However, I am an exception, I guess, in my adamant unwillingness to make curating resource lists a full-time side job.  I absolutely refuse to upload apps to my tablet to add more material and update existing material "on the go" because I frankly already do enough gratis work from home just to stay caught up with the nuts and bolts of my supposedly "part-time" library job.  I hope you don't think this makes me a bad person.  I just have to draw the line somewhere - and here it is.

That said, let me first talk about some of the resource lists I already create.  I maintain an up-to-date web site for my library and all of my classes, with pages designed for students, teachers, administrators, and parents.  Embedded on various pages of my site are a variety of resource lists - including updated class syllabi, resource guides for specific library research projects, general reference resource links for use at home and in school, Common Core resources, etc. Here's my web site if you're interested.  I also rely heavily on NoodleTools in my teaching, and likewise, I always embed resource lists in the projects my students are working on, so they can have easy access to the materials they need right there with no further tabs than are necessary.  Finally, I love making pathfinders in OPALS, my online catalog, that I can populate with links, resources, and documents.  And lastly, I always keep my web links in OPALS updated, too, so students can get to our databases and other resources from one centralized location.  Check Out My Catalog. 

And that right there is the key to my stubborn refusal to subject my poor overloaded students, faculty, and administrators to any more Resource Guides than are absolutely necessary.  As the professional literature indicates, we librarians make all kinds of FABULOUS resource lists and guides, but the plain truth is that hardly anyone ever really uses them outside of structured assignments and lessons (Barbara Stripling, "Inquiry Through the Eyes of Classroom Teachers").  And I have personally found that students, teachers, administrators, and parents alike all appreciate having information streamlined for them - meaning less is more - WAY more.  It is much better to put your information in one location whenever possible.  It makes things less confusing and easier both for the user and administrator - in my opinion anyway.

So for the sake of this assignment, I did follow the steps and I did go ahead and create one more resource guide.  My administrator had asked me to put something together for February's Black History Celebration.  Ordinarily, I would have posted my resource list in one of the locations described above - either my webpage or OPALS, but instead, I went ahead and joined Diigo and compiled my sources there, and just linked the page to my usual locations.  I like Diigo a lot and thought it was very easy to use, and I like how participants in the group can all share ideas and post information as a collective.  I can see that is a drawback to my existing resource guides on my web site and in OPALS.  Despite that, though, I still would prefer to compile my resources in fewer locations to make access easier for my audience.

But here it is - Ms. Fecura's Guide to Resources for Black History Month ~ enjoy!

My Resource Guide.