What Was Your Best Take-away?

I was privileged to once again attend the Upstate Technology Conference sponsored by Greenville County  School District in upstate South Carolina.  Over 1300 educators registered to attend the free two day conference.  Besides two keynote speakers (Hall Davidson and Brad Fountain of Discovery Education), the conference also boasted a wide variety of (mostly) hour long sessions.  You could choose to attend up to eight of these sessions over the course of the conference.

Cathy Nelson, Heather Loy, Fran Bulington, Chris Craft

Visiting with friends and meeting new people is one of the greatest pleasures I get from attending conferences.  We always compare notes about what sessions we plan to attend and then meet later to discuss what we learned.  It may surprise some of you reading this to learn that I met most of my conference friends online before I ever met them in person.  We may come from different areas of the “palmetto state,” but we share a love of learning and teaching.

Dr. Chris Craft, one of these friends, always asks us, “What was your best take-away from today?”  This causes each of us to reflect on the sessions we attended and conversations we had in order to answer.  I love hearing everyone’s answer to this question.

I am still reflecting on my “best take-aways,” but they definitely included:

  • Tamara Cox (media specialist) and Monica Haley (reading resource teacher) of Anderson District One presented “We eRead: Using Kindles with Reading Resource Students.”  Tamara’s enthusiasm never ceases to amaze me.  Adding Kindles to Monica’s classroom helped pave the way to a huge jump in MAP scores: the average increase per student was 12.6 points.  Wow.  Instructional technology at its best!
  • Kelly Knight (media specialist) of Greenville’s Fork Shoals Elementary School presented “Using Blogs to Promote Reading.”  Kelly has been blogging as Knight Reader for three years now (one of UTC’s many success stories!).  She incorporated her love of blogging into the curriculum and introduced her 4th graders to blogging.  Their enthusiasm for sharing ideas on books has just blown Kelly away.  Students are even coming to school this summer to bring Kelly book reviews to be posted on the blog!
  • Alice London (Family and Consumer Sciences teacher) of Boiling Springs High School presented “Revitalize Reviewing.” She demonstrated how easy it is to use PowerPoint templates found on the Internet to actively involve students in test review.

Didn’t get to attend, or were unable to attend all of the sessions that piqued your interest?  Visit the UTC website and look for the link to “2011 Session Handouts” at the bottom of the page.

Photo attribution:

Loonyhiker’s Flikr photostream  http://www.flickr.com/photos/23240330@N03/

SCASL 2011 Conference Day One

Last week was an exciting time for school librarians who attended the SCASL conference in Columbia, SC.  Those who were unable to attend were greatly missed and several of us have tried to capture the experience through tweets, photos, videos, and blog posts.

March 9:  Pre-Conference, Exhibit Hall Grand Opening, and SCASL Board Meeting

This was my first conference as a board member of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians.  Hearing some of the planning details of the conference for several months in board meetings added to my excitement as March 9th approached!

I arrived in Columbia in plenty of time to register and set up the Advocacy Committee Display (pictured above) in the Exhibit Hall before heading to my first conference session.

Leadership Strategies for Building Communities @ Your Library

Several intriguing pre-conference sessions were offered on the afternoon of March 9th, but as usual, I signed up to attend a session with the conference’s keynote speaker. This year our keynote speaker was none other than David Loertscher, currently a professor at the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University.

Dr. Loertscher directed us to a website he had created for the session:  Leadership Strategies for Building Community: Leadership by Demonstration and Doing.   He encouraged us to become experts on the Common Core State Standards and directed us to the English Language Arts Standards (pdf is found on the Common Core State Standards site).  He asked us to skim through this document and share any wording that would directly relate to what we as school librarians do.

We quickly discovered much that related to (and shared common wording with) the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st Century Learner.

Which tool?

Next Dr. Loertscher directed us back to the session’s website.  He asked if any of us had attended any “smackdown” sessions at conferences where the audience is introduced to a large variety of Web 2.0 tools in a very short amount of time.  Many of us (including me) had.  “What if,” he asked, “we focus on the learning experience first and then choose the tool?”

He pointed us toward the list “Types of Learning Boosts from Technology” on the session’s website.  Looking over the categorized  lists of 54 learning boosts, he encouraged us to choose a type of learning and then a tool that would address it. We then used that information to complete a survey (a Google Docs form) and analyze the results of the survey.

Knowledge Building Centers

Finally Dr. Loertscher introduced Knowledge Building Centers(KBC): his vision for creating learning communities of the future.  He was planning another session on this topic the next day so did not go into much detail during this session.  But it was definitely enough to arouse my curiousity!  He has provided templates for creating a KBC if you wish to further explore it.

Exhibit Hall Grand Opening

During the Exhibit Hall Grand Opening, Heather Loy and I “manned” the Advocacy Committee Showcase Display so that we could answer any questions posed by those who stopped by to examine our booth.  Because we were using the conference to announce our Snapshot: A Day in the Life of South Carolina School Libraries initiative, I had hoped for a large turnout.  However, the location of our booth was not conducive to tempting school librarians to “come hither.”  We did have several people stop in and show interest.

Board Meeting Dinner

Heather and I left the Columbia Convention Center in hopes of locating our dinner destination before the skies let loose the torrents of rain that seemed to be threatening.  Luckily, we found the Garden Bistro in time to avoid the downpour.  The food was delicious and the board got down to business as we readied ourselves for the two busiest days of conference.

A long, eventful day!  And only the first of three of the conference.

Advocacy: Free Professional Development

In honor of School Library Month, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) will be offering free professional development in  March.

“How to Create Strategic Stories to Gain Support for Your Library”

Sign up for three sessions with Nancy Dowd:

    “Session One, March 15, 6:00 pm Eastern
    Experience how strategic stories can help you gain the support you need. Learn the three easy steps that will guarantee your story hits the mark with your listeners.
    Register External Link Icon 

    Session Two, March 22, 6:00 pm Eastern
    Messaging is everything. What kind of messages resonate with parents or teachers or administrators? This session will review participants’ messages and answer questions to ensure the story you share will matter to your listener.
    Register External Link Icon

    Session Three, March 29, 6:00 pm Eastern
    This session will help participants put their stories together. We will review submitted stories and tweak them to perfection!
    Register External Link Icon

    ~from the American Association of School Librarians’ website http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/aaslissues/slm/schoollibrary.cfm#dowd

    Image attribution:  “School Library Month Create Your Own Story”  logo

    http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/aaslissues/slm/schoollibrary.cfm

Tech ‘n Treat

Addressing Burnout

We are nearly through the first quarter of the 2010-2011 school year in my school district.  As the end of the grading period nears, deadlines loom:  grades to be entered, reports to be filed, parent-teacher conferences to prepare for, yet more paperwork to be completed.  Teachers are stressed.

How cans school librarians help alleviate the stress classroom teachers are feeling as well as provide ways to ease some of it in the future?

Schedule Time Out

Why not plan an end-of-the-quarter event in your library?  Invite your staff to drop by during their planning periods or after school one day for a “Tech ‘n Treat.”  Play soothing music, provide refreshments, offer door prizes, and let teachers go “trick or treating.”

Set up stations throughout your library where your teachers will not only find a container filled with goodies, but also discover terrific ideas to incorporate technology into their lessons.  At one station, teachers can discover Flip Video cameras and examples of how they can be used to enhance student learning.  At another station, they’ll find an interactive Jeopardy game that could be used for unit reviews.  At still another, they can watch video “how-to” tutorials – choose a tool that would be helpful to your faculty and either create a tutorial or find one online.

And at another station, play an inspiring video.  One of my favorites is Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make.”  Here is an edited version which is more faculty friendly than the original.

Remind your teachers that they shape the future, one child at a time.  Remind your teachers that you value them. Remind your teachers that you are there to assist them.

If you were creating a Tech ‘n Treat for your faculty, what stations would you include?

Credit: The title of this blog post was borrowed from an upcoming meeting of the Media Specialists of Spartanburg County.

Photo Attribution:

Burning the Candle at Both Ends by Julianne Villaflor

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ennailuj/3611354390/

Gearing Up for the New Year: Preplanning

Pencils and Moleskines 04 by Paul Worthington.

In June, I posted our library’s annual report.  In it, I included four goals for the 2010-2011 school year:

  • Increase collaboration with classroom teachers.
  • Continue to improve both the content and currency of our collection.
  • Increase participation in READissance.
  • Master Destiny software and complete inventory.

Our first day for the 2010-2011 school year will be August 9th.  I plan to hit the ground running on that day and thought I would do as my friend Heather Loy did earlier this week – share some of my plans with you.

Increase Collaboration with Classroom Teachers

After reviewing our 2009 HSAP scores, I shared my concerns about the low scores on the research portion of the ELA test with colleagues.  I had been following Buffy Hamilton’s effort with the Media 21 project and was impressed with the scope and sequence of the program.  I knew that I needed to take a proactive approach to collaborate with an English II teacher on research but would not be able to accomplish anything as comprehensive as Buffy’s project just starting out.

I scheduled a meeting with my principal after the 2009-2010 school year ended and shared my proposal with him. After he had time to review it, he gave it two thunbs up.  Once teachers’ schedules had been finalized for the upcoming year, I approached an English II teacher with my proposal and she enthusiastically agreed to work with me.

We have our work cut out for us as we plan and implement our research unit, but we have been exchanging ideas and look forward to sitting down for a more formal planning session.  We agree that teaching students how to conduct research is vital.  Plans now include a pretest using the TRAILS 9th grade standards and incorporating a research model such as the Big6.

I’ll share more as the plans come together and we begin to pilot the program.

Continue to Improve Both the Content and Currency of Our Collection

As we prepared to move into our new facilities, we aggressively weeded our collection based on age and condition.  This year we will begin to use a five year plan to systematically analyze and improve our collection. (Dewey Decimal classifications are given below.  All items in the collection identified with these classifications will be inventoried in the designated year.)

2010-2011: 500-799 and equipment

2011-2012: 900’s

2012-2013: 000-499 and Professional Library

2013-2014: 800’s and Biography

2014-2015: Fiction and Story Collection

Increase Participation in READissance

When our READissance founder, Sally Hursey, moved to the Boiling Springs Ninth Grade Campus, our READissance planning committee disbanded.  I have already asked one teacher to serve on the committee this year and need to recruit at least one other teacher and a couple of students to review the program and make needed adjustments.

We will survey the faculty and students and use the data to guide us as we begin to make changes.  I don’t want to be making what Buffy Hamilton referred to in her post “Milkshake Mistakes.”

We are a High Schools That Work (HSTW) school and, in an attempt to address their standard of having students read 25 books a year, we have raised the  number of books we require students to read in the READissance program.  Comparing participation data before and after the adjustments uncovers the negative effect of our changes. (We have increased the number of books required by two for two years, raising the number from 7 to 11 required books per semester.) By our current requirements, if a student reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (759 pages), he/she will get credit for reading one book.  However, HSTW defines “books” as a set number of pages.  If HSTW considers 200 pages the equivalent of a “book,” then the same  Harry Potter book would qualify as three (nearly four) books by that standard.  How do we address this to encourage, rather than discourage, participation?

Several other aspects of the program need to be reconsidered as we seek to increase both student and teacher participation in the program.

Master Destiny Software and Complete Inventory

Of the four goals, this one will take top priority as the year begins, but it should be accomplished quickly, allowing us to focus on our other goals as well as the day-to-day administration of our library program.

Destiny will be used for the first time this school year as our records were converted at the end of last school year.  The district has scheduled a two hour webinar and a full day of training to prepare us to begin using the program.  Inventory will need to be completed to activate the program so we had to wait until the beginning of the new school year to inventory our collection.

Other Plans

1) Reading promotion – using technology to promote books

2) Revamp our library website

3) Continue to work on branding our library – we will be known as “The MC”

4) Create a community of educators who want to explore using Web 2.0 tools in instruction

And, of course, there will be more.  I have never been one who is happy to sit on the sidelines.

What are you planning this year to improve your services?

Photo Attribution:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulworthington/82648702/

Gearing Up for the New Year: Terrific Finds to Share with Teachers

Mining for Gold

Summer time….time to mine for those golden curriculum resources!  But, where to begin?

Of course, you can enter your own search terms and visit sites hoping to find a gem.

But why not use the collective brain of your PLN?  Each week, I get an email digest from several Diigo groups.  Members of these groups share links to resources  they found “bookmark worthy.”  To determine which resources will fit my needs and the needs of my school, I check many of these links.  The following  are a few I will share with our faculty:

Authentic Assessment Toolbox Jan Mueller shares the hows and whys of authentic assessment.  Follow the step-by-step process to ensure success in creating assessments based on standards.

The Learning Network The N.Y. Times‘ collection of links on often taught subjects.

DocsTeach Resources from The National Archives to bring history to life for students.  Create your own interactive learning activity.

EduHound Provides collections of topic- based links for education.  Some topics included in their sets:  Global Warming, Cyberbullying, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Research paper strategies, Measurement, Visual Arts, Oceanography, and Forsenic Science.

Villainy, Inc. Great interactive game for teaching middle school mathematics.  Dr. Eugene Wick and his sidekick Platypus have plans for taking over the world – but the plans just don’t add up.  Your students become Dr. Wick’s advisor in an effort to stop his evil plans.

Viper This free plagiarism checker is designed to assist students find possible problems in their papers.

Ready to Pick Up Your Mining Pan?

You, too, can be a miner of information resources!  Use the collective work of your fellow educators to uncover those information and curriculum treasures.

Two social bookmarking sites to try are Diigo and Delicious.  Not only is your life simplified by keeping your bookmarks in the cloud, but enriched if you join groups at these sites to help you uncover fantastic resources you may not have found on your own.

You’ll discover a plethora of groups on these sites to assist you.  I am a member of the following (among others):

http://groups.diigo.com/group/teacher_librarians (312 members as of this post’s writing)

http://groups.diigo.com/group/classroom20 (1340 members as of this post’s writing)

http://groups.diigo.com/group/diigoineducation (4668 members as of this post’s writing)

Taking It One Step Further

After you have created your own social bookmarking account, why not create one for your classroom or library?  Visit Creekview High School’s Delicious site to see how their media specialist, Buffy Hamilton harnesses the power of social bookmarking.

Readers, how do you use social bookmarking in your personal and/or professional lives?

Image Attribution:  This image is a work of the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Conferencing Vicariously

This week I am attending the Education Business Summit in Greenville, South Carolina.  Although the program includes many interesting, informative sessions and motivational keynote speakers, I continue to check Twitter to see what is happening in DC and Denver.  Many members of my PLN have traveled to these cities to attend conferences I’ve only dreamed about:  ALA and ISTE.

Twitter allows me to experience some of the excitement and innovation occurring at other conferences by following hashtags.  For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines a hashtag as “a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching.”

Tweetdeck

To simplify my Twitter use, I have installed Tweetdeck on my laptop and iPhone.  Tweetdeck is the equivalent of a social dashboard allowing the user to customize to suit her needs. The hashtags I have been and/or will be  following are #iste10, #ebc10, #sigms10, and #ala10.  Check here for a list of other ALA hashtags for various interest groups.


The above screenshot displays several of the columns in my Tweetdeck dashboard.  If you’ll look closely at the last two columns, you will see that they are labeled “search #iste10″ and “search #ebc10.”  All tweets tagged with those hashtags are displayed, allowing me a glimpse into what is happening concerning those two events.

@AuntyTech (Donna Baumbach) has begun an archive of the #sigsms10 tweets here.  This hashtag will really pick up tomorrow as the SIGMS forum (with the now legendary “Learning Tools Smackdown” lead by Joyce Valenza and Gwyneth Jones) gets underway in the morning.

Jewels

In case you haven’t been following these hashtags, I thought I’d share just a few of the jewels that I have found through them.  Perhaps seeing these will whet your appetite for more!

  • List of smackdown tools shared at Edublogger Con – and a blog post discussing them
  • Free download of book Teaching with Netbooks by Brad Flickinger
  • Blog post on Edublogger Con session on student blogging  – includes great links to guidelines, Web 2.0 Code of Conduct, and a pdf on setting up blogs as electronic portfolios
  • Readability, a tool that removes the clutter from web pages, making reading more enjoyable
  • HP Teacher Experience Exchange - teachers sharing lesson plans
  • DEN Summer School 2010 – great professional development on digital storytelling, professional learning networks, and project based learning

What exciting, innovative ideas have you come across either through attending the conferences, or following the tweets of those who have attended?

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