Thing 30: Reflection Time

What did I learn?

  • I learned that there is always more to learn and that no matter how in touch I think I am, there is so much more that I don’t know.
  • Although I still resist using social networking tools, I have made a conscious effort to connect with more people on Twitter and I actually read the emails that are sent and decide if I want to start following one of the newest suggestions. I learned that I can tweet even while being uncomfortable doing it.
  • I am excited to provide my students with a Makerspace next year. My idea of makerspaces has probably evolved the most over the past few months and I can’t wait to share what I have learned with my students.
  • I also look forward to introducing my students to response tools even at my youngest grades. This is something I wanted to do earlier in the year but it got lost in the end due to lack of preplanning on my part. I will work on creating some quizzes this summer so that I have no excuses in the fall.

What’s Next?

  • I will use my summer to better prepare for the next school year and develop projects and lessons that are more engaging and rigorous.
  • I will try to write at least one new blog post a month about something new that I have learned. This is something I always hope to do but for one reason or other, I don’t. I really enjoy writing this blog so I hope this time it sticks.
  • As I learned new things throughout the last 6 months, I shared often with my teachers the different websites, apps, and tools that I have learned.
  • Up next is pulling out my 3-D printer, plugging it in, downloading a design and printing it. I can’t wait to see the looks on the kids’ faces when they see this technology come to life.

Did I like learning this way?

  • Yes and No. I won’t lie — I do my best learning when there is someone leading me in person. I don’t know if it is because I crave adult connections or if this is just my learning style but I prefer learning in a classroom. On the other hand, I realize how expensive it would be to take a class of this scope so I am glad that it is available in this form. Polly did a great job pulling resources and providing challenges especially to those of us who have taken the class before. I will definitely sign up to take it again if offered.
  • The only negative (and it’s really not a negative) was the overwhelming number of resources listed in each assignment. At times, I just put off doing the lesson because a video was “too long” or I just couldn’t see myself sitting down and reading everything in one sitting.

Thank you Polly for doing such a great job! I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future.

Thing 29: Student Response Tools

My district’s policy is no personal devices are to be used by students in school and although I understand the reasoning from their point of view, I think we are missing the mark and aiming at the wrong thing this time. Yes, students can get distracted by these devices but why should districts invests millions of dollars in tools that will be outdated in a year or two when many students already have a device that we could have them use as part of their studies?

Isn’t it part of our job to teach students how to use technology responsibly?

I have a perfect example for this that just happened last week. I have several “bad” boys who eat lunch in the library every opportunity they can get. Why? Because I let them get on their phones, ipods, or YouTube and as long as it’s not inappropriate, I let them do what they want. Am I letting them break school rules? Yes. Are they hurting anything? No. Is this stopping them from learning? No, it is lunch and a perfect time for them to socialize or watch a video or play a game. But during their library class last week, one of these same students pulled out his phone and was playing games. I took his phone away and told him he could have it back at the end of class. I explained that it was class time and he needed to be working on classwork and not playing on his phone. I also explained that it is fine to do that during lunch or recess but not during a class. He grudgingly understood, handed me his phone, and got to work on his project. This was a lesson that will stick with him and he hasn’t repeated the error since.

So what does all of that have to do with today’s topic?

If a student already has a phone, ipod, or tablet, teachers could have them download a free student response app like Socrative or connect to a website like Kahoot and get instant feedback from the students. Instead of purchasing more ipads for students that already have devices, we could save the taxpayers money or we could use the money saved to purchase teacher accounts on excellent websites like Educreations.

I have a set of Smart Response Clickers but have never used them because of the difficulty getting all of the students on them at the same time and it also takes a long time to replace all the batteries in a class set. But I have used Kahoot with students and it is really easy for students to get on and it is also really easy to create a quiz or survey.

Kahoot is free to join and has an option for students to create their own account so they can join in all of the fun. Although I have never used Kahoot with my class, I have seen it being used in a “flipped” classroom. The teacher had student work in groups since there weren’t enough ipads for each student to have their own. The students quickly entered the code and raced to see who could answer the questions correctly the fastest. This was an inclusion class and all students were engaged and excited about the quiz. I haven’t used it yet but when I do, I would like to use it for understanding checks during a lesson. Today due to a shortage in substitutes, I had to teach a 3rd grade class. Kahoot would have been the perfect way to do a vocab lesson or even a math lesson on basic math facts.

I have used Google Forms many times but the most useful to me was a survey for parents to take at the end of my annual Dr. Seuss birthday celebration. I have been hosting the celebration for six years and have often wondered if the parents appreciate all that is provided but I didn’t want to ask in a way that they would feel they had to lie. So, I created a survey that asked the parents about the favorite activities, any changes they would like to see, and most importantly if they would still come if prizes were given out. Thankfully, parents graciously took the survey and only one parent answered that they wouldn’t attend if prizes weren’t given. My faith in humanity (at least my student’s parents) was renewed and I look forward to hosting the event again next year.

The future is fast approaching and if we don’t embrace the technology available to us, we run the risk of being left behind both figuratively and literally if we’re not careful.

Thing 28: Emerging Tech

As I was scanning the various articles, I noticed a pattern of student-centered learning processes: authentic learning, project based learning, and deeper thinking; all of these processes require changing how we teach students and our expectations for their learning outcomes. For too long, at least in my mind, teaching has been all about the teacher standing in front of the classroom lecturing while students sat passively at desks taking notes. What we really want is for the students to start thinking and using their learning in ways that shows they understand the importance of what is being taught. But changing my teaching takes more than my own willingness. I need support from the teachers and administrators as far as the schedule goes and providing a more flexible schedule.

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Emerging tech like augmented reality (AR), makerspaces, and apps to showcase learning can be used to move toward more student-based learning. As I was reading the various articles, at first I didn’t understand what everyone meant by AR. According to Mashable, augmented reality “is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data”. Huh? I think this means taking a real-life object and linking it to something on the computer. Aurasma is an AR app that is easy to use. I have seen it used by a teacher to link a worksheet to a video providing instruction on how to complete the worksheet. I have also seen it used to link an out of date book to a website with current/accurate information. AR would be an easy way to include more visual information for students to use.

I addressed makerspaces in Thing 23 so I won’t go into too much detail at this point. I do think it is important to say that makerspaces, although a trend, provide a way for authentic learning, problem solving, and creative thinking by students. Why? Because an integral part of makerspaces is that the students decide what they are going to make, how they are going to do it, and what they will need to do to make it. Throughout the process of making something, students will need to overcome any problems that arise which often mimics what it will be like for them when they are out working in the real world.

Lastly, Joyce Valenza is encouraging librarians to rethink their collections by curating apps for different uses. I am always looking for new apps that I can use with my students but it didn’t really occur to me to put my knowledge in a place that will be useful to others in my school. Although I often share an app with my teachers that I am excited to use (like Write About This), I didn’t think to place it on my blog, or website, or even in a quick email out to all teachers. Now that I am thinking about it, I could include a quick blurb in the school newsletter about an app that parents might find useful.

Emerging tech and keeping up with trends can be overwhelming and scary but also exciting and enriching all at the same time. I can’t wait to see what the next few years hold especially when you realize that the iPad is only 5 years old. Think about it. Can you actually remember, really remember, a world without cell phones, tablets, and computers? I can but I don’t want to go back there anytime soon!

Thing 27: DIY — FlipSnack Edu

I decided to learn how to use FlipSnack Edu for my DIY because I just discovered it was free for a year with my renewal to AASL. FlipSnack can be used by students to showcase their new learning or it can be used by a teacher to provide a more interactive and motivational way for students to engage with new content.

FlipSnack Edu has many features that make it desirable to use in a classroom setting. First and most importantly, it is compatible with all devices without needing to download an app which is especially important for those of us that do not have control over what is added to the iPads. A second feature that is extremely helpful is the evaluation system to use with student created projects. In an educational system that is pushing rubrics for everything, it is nice to have a way to quickly create a rubric for a technology project that is relevant and easy for students to interpret. Another plus is that FlipSnack is relatively easy to use with a low learning curve. It was pretty intuitive on how to make changes and add in different objects. Lastly, with a premium account, you can download your FlipSnack to have permanently in another location along with the ability to share on social media websites or embed on a website.

There are some negatives however with the first being the relatively high cost for a classroom account. I would have a difficult time justifying the cost given that there are apps that provide a similar product for the fraction of the cost. Secondly, although it is easy to use, I found that it was extremely basic without a lot of extras to make it look good. Now this may just be user error, but I couldn’t figure out how to change the background of the page so that it wasn’t just plain white. The tutorials were extremely basic and not really helpful. Is this a deal breaker? No, but for the price, I would expect more frills.

Since I have a free classroom account for the next year, I will take advantage of using it with a class next school year but I’m not sure I will renew it when my account expires.

Below is a very basic FlipSnack I created in about an hour showcasing my son’s recent competition at the Science Olympiad National Tournament in Lincoln, Nebraska. For some reason, it is not embedding correctly but the link does take you to the FlipSnack I created.

http://files.snacktools.com/iframes/files.edu.flipsnack.com/iframe/embed.html?hash=funiqnpz&wmode=opaque&forceWidget=1&t=1431911742

Thing 26: Connecting with Stakeholders

I am going to start this off with a bit of a rant. Some people might consider me “difficult” because I fight for my library program. My feeling on this is that it is part of my job to fight for my library program and if this makes me difficult, then so be it because I’m not going to stop. I hate when administrators tell me how important the library is to a school but then they do not back it up with funding or even a visit to see how things are going. But just as important — what about the librarian?!!

Now that I got that off my chest, I realize that when talking with my administrator I need to focus on the positives that are happening in the library and stop complaining. By doing this, maybe my administrator would be more interested in visiting the library and me.

Moving on — thankfully, I am a little behind in my posts because a recent workshop, Tag — You’re It, at the SSL Annual Conference in Tarrytown last week addressed many parts of this topic and got me thinking about branding and getting my community to feel an emotional attachment to the library and what it adds to the lives of the students. Keynote speakers also noted that we need to get away from “library statistics” and move toward how our program is impacting students. This has given me a lot to ponder. During the workshop while working in small groups, we came up with the following slogans:

  • exploring the universe together
  • the “buc” starts here (our mascot is the buccaneer)
  • the book is only the beginning
  • digging deeper together
  • questioning the world together or finding the answers together
  • opening the door to new knowledge
  • your future starts @ your library
  • far more than you expect
  • building strong students or building student with inquiring minds

I like the idea of the slogan eliciting collaboration or working together since that is often what I try to do with my students. I don’t think any of these are just right but I will keep working until it is what I want.

Right now I market my library primarily through the school newsletter and my website. I often lose sight of marketing to my teachers and I really like the idea of a short weekly tip for the teachers and plan to implement it in the fall. As far as the students go, I think I have done a good job of promoting the resources and arranging materials in a way that it is easy for students to locate them. My circulation is down this year but I think that is a product of the schedule and classes starting earlier than they have in the past. I will add interactive displays in the fall and more student work on the walls to help students feel like the library belongs to them and that they are the most important part.

After looking at several end of the year reports, I hope to create one that includes data pertaining to student’s STAR test scores and how often they checked out a book. I also want to include information on the number of projects that were collaborated on with teachers and the numbers of students that completed a research project with me in the library. I will include information on the standards that were taught and examples of student work.

But before I do anything too radical, I need to start creating a positive relationship with my administrator.