Snapshot: A Day in the Life of South Carolina School Libraries

The South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) held their 2011 Conference March 9 – 11.  During the conference, the SCASL Advocacy Committee announced their initiative “Snapshot: A Day in the Life of South Carolina School Libraries.”  The purpose of the initiative is to gather information from school libraries across South Carolina to share with administrators, school board members, and legislators.

If you are a South Carolina school librarian, you are urged to participate.  Let’s gather data that proves the vital role we play in the education of our students.  Please click on the link for more information about this initiative.

SnapshotADayintheLifeofSouthCarolinaSchoolLibraries

Common Sense is No Longer Common: An Open Letter from April Hays

In the Classroom4

I came across this on Facebook today and received permission from April Hays to share here.  Thank you, April, for your wit and wisdom!

April Hays

Anderson 5 [South Carolina school district]

Common Sense Is No Longer Common

I have just taught all day long in a third grade classroom. The kids were fine. The day went smooth. But I have come to two conclusions. I either:

a. Have a brilliantly blessed cranium, or

b. Am missing a few vital neuron connections in that cranium.

Now assuming I have been brilliantly blessed, I’d like to propose legislation that would dramatically change life for the better here in SC. Read on.

1. I would like to see all branches of law enforcement held accountable for the crime on our streets. If there is crime, surely that means they aren’t doing their jobs. We, as tax payers, deserve to live in safe neighborhoods. Regardless of whether the police serve retirement villages or drug infested prostitute hang outs, they will all be held accountable. If a policeman patrols a community with no crime, he will be paid. If a policeman has a community with crime, he will not be paid. Additionally, police may only use positive measures to enforce the law. They may no longer use any type of weapon or rude words. This may scar the self esteem of us citizens. We would then need counseling services, and the police would be responsible if one of us snaps and blows up a public establishment. If we are following the law, they must pull us over and tell us “Good Job” and perhaps give us a piece of candy. Note: personally I wouldn’t care if they congratulated me or not. If I knew I wasn’t going to get a ticket and my insurance go sky high, I’d drive at least 70 on my way home from school every single day.

2. I would like to see accountability on all dentists. If there are cavities in our mouths, obviously the dentists aren’t doing their jobs. We go to the dentist for a reason – to prevent our pearly whites from rotting out. Why can’t these highly paid professionals do their job? There should not be a cavity in any mouth in all of SC. If there are, then the dentists are falling short, and they should have their licenses revoked. They should not be allowed to practice dentistry in our state.

3. Doctors, also, should be held accountable on the job. If a doctor has a patient that has cancer, that doctor is not doing their job. Why do doctors become doctors? To heal people. Thus, if they aren’t healing people, they aren’t doing their job and should not be paid. Doctors are highly paid individuals, and we citizens deserve to be healthy. If we get these incompetent doctors out of practice, that would reduce our medical costs. Then this hoopla over health insurance would no longer be an issue (told you I had a blessed cranium).

4. Owners of gyms, health clubs, and all registered dieticians should be held accountable on their jobs. If there is obesity in their cities, obviously they aren’t doing their jobs. If health clubs and gyms have any member that weighs over 130 pounds, their establishments should be shut down. Obviously they are incompetent, and thus, should not be allowed to perform these services to the people of our state. If these individuals were held accountable on their jobs, we’d all be thin. There would be no diabetes or heart disease.

Sound ridiculous? We teachers think so, too. Yet, there are legislators, the Superintendent of Education, and our newly elected governor that want these mandates placed on teachers. They have this mentality that if a teacher performs the right combination, the human mind will click into place and our entire population will be educated. Thus, underperforming teachers will not be paid. One of these so called professionals said on tv the other night, “if our show ratings went down, we wouldn’t get paid either”. Ding, ding, ding – they choose their cast. We teachers and doctors and dentists deal with anyone that walks into our places of employment. We can not pick and choose the “best”.

Classrooms are microcosms of society. Each year, I have kids with privileged backgrounds and kids with adverse living conditions. I have kids that live on the lake, and I have had kids that live in their car. I have kids that have loving, supportive parents, and I have kids with parents that simply should not be parents. I have kids that were born with high IQ’s (this is why they are labeled as GIFTED), and I have children that are like the rest of us – normal. I have children that have been through tragedies – deaths of parents, a handicapped sibling, a terminally ill loved one, and living arrangements that make me shudder. I have children that have been taken into custody of the department of social services, and I’ve had children that have never traveled out of Anderson County. I have had children born to mothers on drugs, and I have students with no mother at all. Yet, all of these kids are expected to perform proficiently, without exception. Something is clearly not right with this picture. These students with challenges, with hardships, and who were not born “gifted” deserve an education, too. They are the reason I went to college to become a teacher – to touch lives. When this passion is being trampled on by ignorant individuals, I take that as a personal offense. SC school children deserve teachers that love them for who they are, not for the scores they achieve.

Not only is this just outright ridiculous, it is also discriminatory. Many, many people are born with handicaps. These are documented, medical conditions. They are clearly outlined. These individuals have IEPs for a reason – they have challenges. These legislators do not have the qualifications, nor do they have the authority, to lay expectations on these students. IEP’s are legally binding documents that are taken seriously.

Furthermore, teachers do not decide the content of what they teach, how they teach it, or how it is assessed. When students take the PASS test in the spring, it is illegal for us to discuss it in anyway. We are not allowed to discuss ways we can make it better, how we can improve, or how we could be better able to meet it’s demands. We are silenced. Yet, we are held accountable for the results. Always.

Anyone, regardless of position, who can not see why paying teachers based on student performance would not work, clearly has mental challenges themselves, and an obvious inability to think above a third grade level. I challenge them to take the third grade PASS test to prove my point.

As I stated earlier, I am either brilliantly blessed or missing a few screws. This seems like a total no brainer to me. I have no idea what could possibly be going through the minds of the people out there that think teachers should be held to those ridiculous expectations that no other occupations have to answer for.

Teachers/Educators/Administrators – we’ve got to stand up for our rights and demand integrity in the schools.

Parents – your child’s future is important. Take a stand. If your children have developmental delays/learning disabilities, these new mandates are discriminatory. Make your voices heard.

As for me, I’m instilling in my students self worth. They are important. They are special to me, and I believe in each one of them. They will make their marks on this world. I guarantee. And if my salary is docked because one of my students has a bad day and doesn’t do his absolute best on the PASS test, I’m going to be floating on a yacht in the Caribbean.

Ignorance is, indeed, total bliss.

Image attribution:  “In the Classroom4″ by best librarian

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lbryfun/5166911211/

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.

Let the Games Begin: Online Science Games

CSI:  Web Adventures Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, this site teaches forensic skills and then lets you test your knowledge.

The Educators’ Guide provides several activities including matching handwriting samples, reconstructing document evidence from an embezzlement scandal, and  using bone length to determine a person’s height and identify crime scene victims.

One click of a button, and the entire site will be translated to Spanish, making it not only a great game for science, but also Spanish classes.

The History Channel’s Life After People Timeline Puzzle is based on the series. You must arrange a series of images on a timeline based on when they would occur once mankind no longer inhabits the planet. Clicking each image opens an informative video that should help you sort the images.

If you have not yet watched the series, this excerpt from the website might help:

“The Series begins in the moments after people disappear. As each day, month, and year passes, the fate of a particular environment, city or theme is disclosed. Special effects, combined with interviews from top experts in the fields of engineering, botany, biology, geology, and archeology provide an unforgettable visual journey through the ultimately hypothetical.” Life After People: The Series   (http://www.history.com/content/life_after_people/about-the-series)

Any other online science games you’d recommend for high school students?

Going Gaa-Gaa for Google

It is no secret to those who know me:  I am a Google fan.  Google offers great (FREE) tools that have simplified my life and allowed me to accomplish more  – efficiently and effectively.  Some Google services I use:

Google’s Educational Uses

For those educators who are still not sold on Google, here are some links that either offer more information for educators, or give examples of educators’ use of Google for their students.

General

Google Search Options

Google Docs

Other

AASL Reflections: Opening Keynote

Earlier this month, I was among one of over 2800 school librarians attending the AASL Conference in Charlotte, NC. From the moment I picked up my nametag and conference information until the moment I left the closing celebration, I was totally captivated by the experience. It has taken weeks to try and sort out all that I learned and all the goodies I picked up from the vendors. I will try to share some of what I learned here through a series of posts.

Opening Keynote

danah boyd delivered the opening keynote address at AASL’s Rev Up Learning national conference.  According to Boyd, social networking sites play a strong role in teen culture.  Teens use social networking much differently than do adults.  Teens use sites such as MySpace and Facebook to share their creations as well as keep track of their favorite celebrities.

When we go online, we are by default just an IP address. Teens want to share themselves with their intended audience so they write themselves into being through the  profiles, comments, and creations they share.  Teens do lie about themselves online, but they have been told to do so by adults in order to protect themselves.

Adults often wonder about the inane comments teens (and others) make online.  Why would anyone share what they had for breakfast with the world?  Boyd says this is a form of social grooming.  Through status updates, teens can see the patterns of life in their world.  What is important to those important to them?  Just as adults of my generation would get together to hang out and “shoot the breeze,” today’s teens  do so but often do not have the mobility they would like to hang out face-to-face.  Social networks have become a place to hang out with friends.

Boyd describes three categories of teens using social networking sites based on the number of “friends” they had:

1.  Teens with 40-50 identified friends are using social networking sites to stay in touch with face-to-face friends

2.  Teens with 400-500 identified friends are using the sites to keep up with school classmates

3.  Teens with more than 500 friends are considered “Collectors”

Teens actually use social networking sites as a form of social hierarchy.  Many social networking sites allow you to identify your top friends.  Because your online popularity can depend upon how many others identify you as a top friend, teens might say or do things to ensure their staying power as a top friend.

Teens need an online space to be with their friends, but because they don’t often understand how online information is organized nor the repercussions of their online actions, media specialists need to assist teens in learning the skills they need to operate in their online worlds.

Boyd’s keynote address was riveting and included so much information that it was impossible to take notes on it all.  You can read more about her research in her dissertation.  Boyd’s keynote underscored the importance of media specialists taking responsibility for their professional development in the area of technology (as Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson discussed in “Things That Keep Us Up at Night.”)

Want to read others’ thoughts on Danah Boyd’s keynote?  Check out:

Buffy Hamilton’s Cover It Live Blogging

Joyce Valenza’s Danah Boyd on the Importance of Being Present in Kids’ Lives Online

Another Free Digital Storytelling Tool for Teachers

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Garden
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Smilebox offers free Club Smilebox accounts for educators (normally costing $39.99 annually).  This tool is perfect for educators who want to create and post a scrapbook slideshow in just moments.

Club Smilebox also allows you to create animated photobooks, email cards,  and postcards to share with others.  You’ll find over 850 design templates from which to choose.  Creating one is as simple as choosing a design, importing photos from your computer, and then arranging the photos by simply clicking and dragging them onto slides.  Want to share your creation online?  It’s as simple as clicking on “share” and either copying and pasting embedding code or signing into an account like Facebook and letting Smilebox post your slideshow.

Sign up for your free account here.

(I first wrote about this tool here.  After playing with it again this morning, I felt that it was worth a repost due to its ease of use.)

Plagiarism

Muchilottu+Bhagavathy+Theyyam

My friend Cathy Nelson recently wrote a post entitled “If An Assignment Can Be Plagairized.” We attended the same pre-conference session at the recent South Carolina Association of School Librarians Conference in Greenville, South Carolina. Doug Johnson‘s session was entitled “Designing Research Projects that Kids (and Teachers) Love!”

Doug shared how to try to plagiarize-proof assignments:

     One way to prevent plagiarism is to require students to use primary sources such as interviews, surveys, and experiments.

     Another way to prevent plagiarism is to allow students choice and creativity. The use of technology allows creativity.  Even      if the teacher has assigned a PowerPoint project and specified the number and content of the slides, the students still gets to choose the color, font, clip art, etc.

That last line was a “light-bulb” moment for me.  Students are given (not allowed to choose) an assignment.  Their final product is the beat-to-a pulp-dead-horse PowerPoint slideshow.  Students are told they have to have X number of slides.  So, they come to the media center, head for the computers, and ….what….begin to research? Not quite. 

No…they open PowerPoint and start a slideshow before they have any research to put in it! They design the first slide with a title, their names, and the date due….and then play with design and look for pictures, and try different font. 

I tell them, “You need to research first.  Don’t worry what it will look like yet – that comes at the end.”

Do they listen? Uh…no.  And why?  Because this (the design, colors, font, pictures) is the ONLY thing they have control over.  It’s the only choice they are given in the whole assignment.

When they finally do get around to “reseaching,” they end up copying and pasting (and putting way too much text on a slide – but that’s another post).

Instead, we need to plagiarize-proof the assignments as Doug and others have suggested.

Now, my brain is fried after doing true research and working on a paper for a grad class today, so forgive the departure here from anything remotely relating to plagiarize-proofing assignments.

Instead, I offer for your viewing pleasure a video that was shared by Holly Foster, a fellow grad student in my Master’s of Library and Information Science program at the University of South Carolina. 

Genius!

 

Image attribution:

Quality Garanteed    http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124413076@N01/1680927
 

The Wally Principle

Wal-Mart+Supercenter%2C+Miles+City

Wally World

I have a love-hate relationship with Walmart Supercenters.  I will complain about the crowded parking lots, the long lines, and the people who live in another brain zone, but I always go back.  Why?  They have the lowest prices on groceries, so I get the most bang for my buck there. I hate to make a quick stop at another grocery store because it’s so convenient, pick up a box of cereal that is priced at $4.59, and realize the same thing would cost me $3.29 at Wally World. I am willing to be inconvenienced to save money, because although time is a resource in short supply in my world, money pays the bills and will make my retirement much more enjoyable.

Education Nation

Those of us in public education are working in the Walmarts of academia:  we are overcrowded, we welcome everyone, and we give people the most bang for their buck. Yes, people love and hate us, but we are the most convenient and least expensive education for their children.

In our Supercenters, students can learn how to speak a foreign language, discover the microscopic life of cells, and get hands on experience in wellding. They can increase their vocabularies, learn how to think critically, and explore new literary worlds.

Pleasing the Customer

Walmart has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in pleasing the masses.  By providing a multitude of goods, they give people choice.  By rolling back those prices, they provide value.  By being open twenty-four hours a day, they cater to the people’s lifestyles.  In short, Walmart has spoiled  us.

How do public educators please the masses?  By providing a wide range of electives, they give students learning choices.  By offering a “free” education, they offer every child an opportunity.  By extending their hours, converting to year-round school,  and offering virtual courses, they are trying to cater to people’s lifestyles.

 Evaluating Success

Walmart is in competition with other retailers.  How do they know if they are successful?  Quarterly reports.  What data do they use?  Profit gain or loss. Numbers. 

Schools are in competition with each other.  How do they know if they are successful? Annual yearly progress reports. What data do they use?  Test scores. Are they up or are they down? Numbers.

Loss of Focus

But schools are not businesses, making profit more important than product.  We are all about product.  Quality.  We know that it is not instant nor easy, but it is worth it.   

However, the “powers that be” require numerical proof that we are producing quality.  Do they want to study a child’s portfolio of his best work to show growth over a year?  Do they want to see a child immersed in a project on a subject that fascinates them? Do they want to ask a child what he has learned during a unit?  No.  Why?  The answers are probably numerous, but I’m sure they are rooted in money, time, and uniformity.

In my state (South Carolina), second year teachers must go through an evaluation process.  Do they take a test to measure their effectiveness as a teacher or what they learned in their first year teaching experience?  No. They are observed in action on four different occasions spaced throughout the school year. They must provide Long Range Lesson plans and reflection on the unit of study completed before each observation.  This sounds like a much more effective method of determining what someone has learned than taking a test one time during a school year.

So why do we as educators provide fairer evaluations of our teachers than we do of our students? What is wrong with this picture? 

Image attribution:

Image: ‘Wal-Mart Supercenter, Miles City
http://www.flickr.com/photos/30512529@N00/282000649

 

 

 

Posted in education. Tags: . 4 Comments »

Multimedia Web 2.0 Tools with Educator Accounts

Many Web 2.0 sites offer services designed with educators in mind. They provide secure, private sites for students and teachers to share their work.

What’s even better is that these sites are free or very inexpensive. Here are four exceptional digital storytelling tools to add to your toolbox. Encourage your teachers and students to use these to incorporate multimedia in the classroom.

Animoto for Education

    Create music videos to enliven your lessons or have students create them as the final product in a unit. 

     “Animoto Shorts are 30-seconds in length and free for everyone. You can produce, remix, and share as many as you’d like. Full-length videos, in contrast, are extended in length. A video’s length is determined by the number of images and the music it uses.” ~ from Animoto’s Since You Asked section

     Educators receive a free All-Access pass (a $30.00 value) which allows both them and their students to create full length videos. Click here to learn more including how to create multiple email addresses that allow you to monitor each student’s account.   The Animoto site also has several examples of how educators have used it in their classrooms.

VoiceThread for Education 

Twilight Book Review (VoiceThread)

    

more about “Twilight Book Review (VoiceThread)“, posted with vodpod

 
“Ed.VoiceThread is a secure K-12 network for students and teachers to collaborate and share ideas with classrooms anywhere in the world.”~ Ed.VoiceThread homepage

This is the only service discussed in this post that costs – but the cost is low and well worth it! See the K-12 pricing brochure for more information.

A great resource:  VoiceThread 4 Education wiki

Glogster for Education

itzak-glogster-poster

     Glogster, a poster creation site, “gives support and help with creating school accounts and keeping Glogs PRIVATE.” Use the posters to liven up a wiki page or have students create projects.” ~ from Glogster’s Teachers, try education 2.0 page

     Technology and Education Box of Tricks  Read this blog post to get an excellent overview of Glogster.

Smilebox for Education

Click to play BSH 9th Grade Campus LMC
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox scrapbook

“Smilebox is an easy and creative way to safely send photos, videos and personalized information to your students and parents in a secure way. It’s perfect for newsletters, overviews of teaching units, performance and field trip recaps, classroom activities and more. ” ~from Smilebox’s Welcome to the Teacher Toolbox page

Educators can sign up for a free premium Club Smilebox account (a $39.99 value).

What other multimedia Web 2.0 tools out there have upgraded educator accounts?  Please help me add to the list!

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