Please Say You Have More Books Like This!!!

I frequently add to a running book order list I keep on Follett’s Titlewave.  Today as I was checking into a title that Pamela Hill recommended on her awesome blog, I discovered a new (at least to me) feature Follett has added.

Is this awesome, or what?  For those of us who are often too busy to read review journals or blogs to discover great books to add to our collections (that wouldn’t describe you, would it?), Follett has added a scrolling list of Read-Alikes above the reviews.  And taking it one step further, this feature tells me I may already own some of the recommended titles (in the screenshot above, my collection already includes 4 of the 5 titles).

Now when students run breathlessly up to the Circulation Desk and frantically say, “Please say you have more books like this!” not only can we check the title’s Destiny catalog record for recommendations, I can check the title record in Titlewave.  It offers more Read-Alike titles than Destiny and lets me discover titles I might want to add to our collection.

I am going to earn my Collection Development Black Belt much sooner than I expected!

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.

iSchool Initiative

Last month, I contacted our our district Instructional Technology supervisor with a question about connecting Ipod Touches to our network.  She responded and cc’ed my principal who immediately contacted me wanting to know more.  Am I excited?  YES!  And this video is perfect for sharing the educational power of Touches.

Please take a moment to watch this video, created by a 17 year old high school student.  Awesome young man!

How are you using mobile technology to enhance instruction in your school?

 

ALA and ISTE: Attending Conferences Vicariously

Cold Light

Ever feel like you’re on the outside, looking in?  It’s not a bad thing!  If, like me, you are not attending either of the “biggie conferences” this weekend, you can still keep connected to those who are and learn vicariously though them.

Getting Live Feeds

First, you need a Twitter account.  (If you have never used Twitter, now is the PERFECT time to see this powerful learning tool in action – promise!)

Have no idea how to get started?  Visit David Wees’ “Eight Videos to Help Teachers Getting Started Using Twitter.”  He includes information on not only how to sign up for and customize your Twitter account, but also videos on how to use Tweetdeck, an application that simplifies and organizes your Twitter experience.

The Twitter client I use is HootSuite which is an online application (you don’t have to install anything on your computer).  There are many YouTube tutorials to help you get started with HootSuite, but I’ve embedded one below you might want to watch.

HootSuite

Using Hashtags

Once you have chosen your Twitter client, you want to set up columns, or threads, based on hashtags.  Then either Tweetdeck or HootSuite will do all the work of finding the conference tweets for you and you can sit back and let all the conference updates come to you!

American Library Association Conference – #ALA11, #ala11

International Society for Technology in Education – #ISTE11, #iste11

HootSuite Conference Columns

Let the Learning Begin!

Some of the best professional development of the year is about to begin.  Are you ready?

Image used through a Creative Commons license

“Cold Light” by Scott Ripton (Quasic) http://www.flickr.com/photos/ripton/3108800277/

Maximum Marketing

While researching for my “Ramp up Reading with Technology” sessions at the 2011 Upstate Technology Conference (Greenville, South Carolina), I stumbled across two free iPhone apps for YA lit:  the Maximum Ride Fang and the Maximum Ride Angel apps.

I excitedly installed the Fang app on my phone (I am such a geek!), considering the marketing possibilities that mobile devices offer for publishing companies and authors.  With the Fang app, you can quiz yourself:  “Who’s Your Flock Mate?” and take a photo of yourself with Max and Fang.  (Tried the photo with Fang – not very good quality unfortunately.)

With the Angel app, you can quiz yourself:  “How Max Are You?” and read the first 21 chapters of the book.  You also get a sneak preview of the audiobook.

With the rise in popularity of mobile devices, I’m surprised that publishers haven’t put more focus into developing free apps for YA series.  Seems this would be a promising playground for book promotion.    

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/

Organizing Booktalks

Reader’s Advisory can take many forms, but my favorite is booktalking.  The beginning of a new semester is the perfect opportunity to reach out to teachers and offer to do booktalks for their classes.

Last week, I gave booktalks for twelve classes.  Each booktalking session averaged three to seven books which can become a management nightmare.  I use the following method to organize booktalks so that if teachers wish for me to booktalk more than once to their classes, I can be assured I am not repeating myself.

Organizing Booktalks

1. First, I created a spreadsheet of the books from which to choose (and keep adding to it).

The spreadsheet includes the author, title, and up to three genres.

2. Next, I gathered the booktalks I have created (or found) on each title.  These are all titles I have read; one of the primary rules I learned in my YA Lit course was to only booktalk books you have read.  Creating booktalks is often time consuming, so when I don’t have the time, I use Nancy Keane’s Booktalks — Quick and Simple.  I file these alphabetically by title.

3. Finally, I created a simple booktalk chart template that I use for each teacher.

I keep all of this information in my Booktalk Notebook that I keep for reference at the Circulation Desk.

Giving the Booktalks

Once a teacher requests a booktalking session, I confer with him/her to determine a few factors I need to consider as I plan:

1.  length of time teacher wants to stay

2.  class composition (equal numbers of males and females?)

3.  student interests (At the beginning of the semester, teachers often can’t provide a great deal of information, but if they have done interest surveys they might be able to share if any students are in band, chorus, orchestra, student council, or participate in any sports.)

Then I pull together from three to seven books based on teacher information.  I use the template to record the titles I plan to do for each class. If this changes (sometimes I can tell from a class’s attitude as they enter the library that I need to change a title or two), I note the changes after the booktalks.

I set up a display of the books I plan to booktalk in front of the Promethean board, and as students enter and are settling in at the tables, I play an Animoto video I created on the current year’s South Carolina Young Adult Book Award nominees. Brochures on each table provide more information about each of these titles. I end the booktalks with a book trailer and tell the students that they are free to check out the titles I used on the table.  It is always SO rewarding when students run to get a copy of the books on the table!

Analyzing the Booktalking Session’s Effectiveness

Often I can tell if a title is going to get checked out as I am doing the booktalk.  High school students don’t fake interest in books; their body language speaks volumes.  And, bless their hearts, some students are not ashamed to say, “I’m getting THAT book.”

Other ways I use student feedback to help me improve my booktalks:

  • A quick look over at the table a bit later as students are checking out books lets me know if a title (or titles) didn’t get checked out.  I make a note of this on the template.
  • If a title did not get checked out, I discuss the booktalk and title with my service learners and the other media specialist to see if I can pinpoint the reason for lack of interest.  If possible, I revise the booktalk before giving it again the next block.  Sometimes this works, sometimes not.
  • If students ask me if I have more copies of one of the titles I booktalked, I put the title on hold for them and make a note of it on booktalk template.

I would love to read about your booktalking methods and sessions.  How do you organize your booktalks and what techniques have you found to be successful?


 

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/

They Need Their Teachers to Learn

‘Nuff said.