SCASL Conference Reflections: Day Three

The third day of conference is a half day.  There are three morning sessions and the grand finale of our conference is always the Author Celebration Luncheon.

“Meet the Author”  Chris Crutcher

I have long been a fan of Chris Crutcher and looked forward to his session.   His characters ring true with compelling, heartbreaking stories.  Chris shared some of his life experiences that have inspired his fictional characters and situations.  He had us alternately laughing and crying, but always wanting to read (or reread) the stories inspired by the children who had touched his heart.

“Unwritten Research Paper:  Projects for Busy Teachers and Bored Students”  Cathy Nelson

Cathy Nelson lives and breathes instructional technology!  Never one to be satisfied with the status quo, she is always in search of ways to enrich her students’ educational experiences – often with technology.

One of her pet peeves is the “KMN” PowerPoint presentation.  We have all suffered through them:  slides with too much text that the presenter just reads to his/her audience.  You know, those presentations where you think “Kill Me Now!” (KMN) rather than see another slide with several bullet points.

Her session offered suggestions on improving those PowerPoint presentations – information that MUST be shared with our teachers and students.  Then she shared her recent collaborative experiences where students were allowed to choose a means to share what they learned through their research (no three page papers here).

Cathy has shared both her PowerPoint on improving PowerPoints (!) and her ideas for the unwritten research paper on her wiki.

Side note:  This is NOT how Cathy appeared when she was presenting at the 2012 SCASL Conference.  But it is a favorite picture of mine that captures Cathy’s spontaneity and willingness to try new experiences.

“eEk and eCstacy:  Incorporating eReaders and eBooks into Your Curriculum”  Jen Chesney

This was the second session I attended focusing on eReaders.  Jen Chesney, media specialist at Powdersville High School, shared her experiences with eBooks and eReaders  as she opened a new library last year.

Her nonfiction eBooks haven’t been as successful as she would like.  Students want instant access;  having to visit different sites to reach the library’s Infobase and Marshall Cavendish eBooks is off-putting for them.  Publishers are still exploring the new frontier of eBooks.  Until there is a “one size fits all” solution,  nonfiction eBooks are not going to be our students’ first choice for information.

Jen chose to go with Nooks for her fiction eBook collection.  She purchased enough Nooks to take advantage of the Barnes and Noble management program and devised a way to keep track of titles on each device.  Because students check out the devices rather than the books, she has no way of tracking which titles are being read on each device other than to ask students when they return the Nook.

The Nooks have been extremely popular.  One of the “eCstasies” that Jen has discovered:  no more having to wait days or weeks after publication of the newest book in a series!  If you purchase these on eReaders, the books will be there the day they are released.

Although earlier in the school year I had decided to wait a bit longer until the dust settled (and prices on devices are bound to drop), Jen’s success has me wondering whether I should purchase a few Nooks and see how successful they would be in my library program.

Final Thoughts

In this and my past two posts, I have attempted to share some of what I learned at the 2012 SCASL Conference.  Our keynote speakers were topnotch this year and the talent of my fellow South Carolina school librarians never ceases to amaze me.

I am never able to attend all of the sessions I would like to; two or three will be going on simultaneously and I must make a choice.  However, thanks to the generosity of this year’s presenters, I can at least get a taste for sessions I was unable to experience in person.  Their presentations/handouts/materials can be found on the Conference page of scasl.net.

 

SCASL Conference Reflections: Day Two

“Ereader Duel:  Nook vs. Kindle”  Tamara Cox and Carla Nash

Tamara and Carla sponsored a showdown between Nooks (both Simple Touch and Nook Color) and Kindles (both Kindle and Kindle Fire).  It was a lighthearted “duel” that ended in a tie.  Both Tamara and Carla have had great success with their eReaders and admit that the choice boils down to preference based on our community’s needs.

After their presentation, they passed out both Nooks and Kindles to give attendees an opportunity to get a feel for each.

Their presentation provides a clear overview of both the pros and cons of each device.

How to prevent students from purchasing ebooks on your devices:

Carla inherited Nooks when she took over the program at West Pelzer Elementary.  Although Barnes and Noble offers a management service if you have a minimum number of Nooks (now 25), Carla manages her own eReaders.  She uses gift cards to purchase eBooks for the readers and pointed out that a zero balance does NOT mean that you can’t purchase any more titles on a device.  Because you must register the device and your account with a credit card number, if purchases are made once the gift card zeroes out, purchases are then put on the credit card associated with the device.  Yikes!

To prevent students from purchasing any more books, Carla sets the Nooks on “demo mode.”  Students are still able to make some changes to the content on a Nook, but none that will be charged to the credit card.

I personally own (and love) a Kindle with keyboard but left from the conference on Friday and stopped by my local Barnes and Noble to begin a discussion on purchasing and using Nook Simple Touches for my library program.

Image attribution:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/scasl/6989720469/in/set-72157629585399085

“Change or Start Looking for a New Job”  Bob Berkowitz (keynote)

What would really happen if your library program were cut?  Berkowitz challenged us to consider the possibilities and then to realize the importance of showing our library program’s impact on student achievement.

What does it take to have a vibrant school library program?

Berkowitz suggested strong programs

  • have high expectations of their students
  • have a rigorous content
  • engage students in learning
  • use assessment to evaluate the success of instructional strategies
  • ensure students see a connection between what they learn in the library and their lives
  • have environments that support learning
  • are super strategic

He gave us several questions to use as we consider our current programs:

  • Whose program is it?
  • Whose library is it?
  • Whose virtual space is it?

What can we do to improve upon our programs and change with the times?

Berkowitz suggested:

  • form an advisory team
  • rethink sacred cows
  • be recognized as someone who solves problems
  • develop a district-wide plan
  • marketing
  • branding

We are the CIOs (Chief Information Officer) of our schools.  As such, we need to develop a curriculum and put the world in our students’ hands.

Image attribution:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/scasl/6982689629/in/set-72157629604521493/

SCASL Learning Commons

My afternoon was divided between the Learning Commons and my own presentation “Ramp Up Reading with Technology.”

Cathy Nelson kicked off the Learning Commons by sharing how she teaches “Web Evaluation” to her students at Dorman High School. She has a knack for relating well to teens and keeps her lessons interesting.

I love the informality of the Learning Commons!  Even though only a handful of folks listened to my presentation on “Jazzing Up Monthly Reports,” the smallness of the group lead to open discussions that might not have occurred in a larger session.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tamara Cox‘s session on “Nontraditional Shelving” as it challenged my thinking about nonfiction arrangement in my library.  I’m not ready to give up Dewey, but I think that signage to indicate special sections of high interest would help my nonfiction circulation.

Julianne Kaye shared how her elementary students used Blabberize to demonstrate what they had learned through research about famous South Carolinians.

Susan Myers shared several strategies she uses to keep her community informed about what’s happening in her library in her “How to Be Loquacious: Constant Talk about Your Library Impact.”

And Susan Dicey shared “Injecting Life (and 21st Century Skills) into Book Reports with Book Trailers.”  She uploads these student created trailers into her library catalog for all students to enjoy.

Because I was presenting from 3:15-4:15, I missed some excellent sessions in the Learning Commons, but thankfully, most of those presenters have been gracious enough to share their materials through the conference handouts link on scasl.net.

SCASL Conference Reflections: Day One

Who doesn’t love learning?  Certainly not anyone reading this post!  Conferences offer opportunities to expand your knowledge, connect with friends rarely seen, and make new friends.

The 37th annual South Carolina Association of School Librarians’ Conference was held March 14-16th at the T.D. Convention Center in Greenville, SC.  The theme this year was “Advocacy Starts with You @your library.”  Approximately 500 professionals gathered to learn from, and network with, each other.

Our organization is always seeking ways to improve our conference, and this year was no exception.  Hats off to Heather Loy, SCASL Pres Elect, and Patty Bynum, Local Arrangements Chair, for one of the best conferences ever!  Many others helped make the conference the success it was, and I appreciate all the hard work and efforts of each person involved.

Two additions to our conference this year were located in the Exhibit Hall: the SCASL Committee Showcase and the Learning Commons.  SCASL committees created inviting displays to inform our members of the work we are doing and to encourage them to volunteer to serve on a committee next year.

The Learning Commons was sponsored by the SCASL IT Committee.  Members were encouraged to sign up and share a lesson, idea, program, etc. I loved the informal nature of the Learning Commons and look forward to it again next year.

I’ll share some snippets of information I gleaned from each of the sessions I attended.  Many presenters have provided links to their presentations/handouts which can be found on http://scasl.net.

“Big 6 by the Month:  Comprehensive and Essential Information Programs Now!” Bob Berkowitz (pre-conference session)

Bob encouraged us to use the Big 6 not only as a research/problem-solving model, but also as an instructional model.  He stressed that problem solving is not linear, and although there are 6 components of the Big 6, they do not have to be followed in any particular order.

Because our ultimate purpose in teaching is to prepare students for success in the world after high school (whether secondary training or the world of work), we need to focus on problem solving.  To illustrate how the Big 6 works in everyday life tasks, he asked one attendee to share her recent experience with buying a car.

Planning Your Year

“Information literacy is too important to be partial or arbitrary.”  (Berkowitz)

Just as other teachers must create long range plans, we need to create a yearly plan with a focus for each month.  We need a comprehensive plan that can be defined, is predictable, can be measured, and the results can be reported.

You might begin the school year with an overview of the Big 6.  Then in September, you might focus on Task Definition.  Continue to plan your year in this manner.

Our plan needs to be predictable, meaning we will follow certain planning procedures.  What role will the teacher-librarian play?  What role will the classroom teacher play?  How is the plan related to our district and school schedule? How will our plan address the standards?  Create an annual grade level or subject plan.

As we plan our program, we must include the evidence we will use to determine our students’ success.  Will we use portfolios?  Worksheets? Tests? Observations? Self-assessments?  Then we need to determine the criteria we will use to determine how well students met each objective.

“Track It!  Documenting Instructional Impact”  Donna Shannon, Gerry Solomon, Elizabeth Miller

I was anticipating this session from the moment I first read about it.  If I had to name just one area in which my library program needs to improve, it would have to be documenting the learning that takes place as a result of our instruction and resources.

The presenters created a wiki that provides both background information on why documenting student learning in our library programs is essential and links to resources to assist us as we incorporate documentation into our programs.

The presenters shared a variety of documents and ideas (all on their wiki) including collaborative planning logs, learning logs, rubrics, project based learning checklists (I really like these!), and more.

Please take some time to explore the resources they have gathered.

Exhibit Hall Grand Opening

As always, the first day of conference ended with the opening of the Exhibit Hall.  Attendees were treated to refreshments as they browsed vendor booths, checked out the SCASL Store, and visited SCASL Committee displays.  Attendees left with their appetite whetted for the sessions planned for the second day of conference.

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