Thing 33: Taking the Lead

I really like Jennifer LaGarde‘s idea to schedule time devoted to data collection. As someone who uses the app Tody to keep her house clean, it should have been obvious to me that I need to schedule specific tasks into my calendar so that they will get done. This tip couldn’t be more timely since it was announced this week that all district library clerks are being laid off. My library clerk is so much more than someone who sits at the desk and checks out books. Not only does she act as a TA and disciplinarian but she also makes it possible for me to focus on teaching and not the administrative aspects of running a library. Taking the time to create a schedule for the tasks that she currently does will ensure that at least the most important tasks are completed.

Losing my clerk has also given me the incentive to create a club for library helpers so that they can do basic tasks and free me of more mundane, boring work. I currently have a student who runs the circulation desk during morning check out but every year, I have many students asking if they can help but because of my clerk’s competence (and OCD tendencies), I don’t really have anything for them to do. Come September, I will have more work on my hands and will relish providing students with a skill and maybe someday when they are looking for their first “real” job, they will remember helping in the library and look for a job there.

When I first heard that I was losing my clerk, my thoughts went to what I would no longer be able to do — Battle of the Books, the Spelling Bee, open library. But after looking at the various readings, I think this would be the wrong tact to take not only with my principal but also with my fellow teachers and students. The loss of the clerk will no doubt make my job that much harder and I struggle with the thought of letting things lapse to prove how important the clerks are to the every day smooth running of the library. But at the same time, I don’t want my students (or teachers) to suffer any more than they already will so with that in mind, I know that I need to look at how to better structure and organize myself so that I can continue to provide library instruction and services at the highest possible level. A Library Helpers Club and scheduling time for everyday tasks will help me achieve this goal.I will continue to advocate for a clerk but until my efforts are reward, I will do my best to be the best librarian and teacher that I can be.

My “Elevator Speech”

When you enter the library, please don’t expect silence. The school library is place for active learning, collaboration, positive socialization, and creative exploration. Depending upon when you visit, you will see students completing research, playing with robots, looking for that just right book, or creating something using all of the manipulatives in the library makerspace. These activities support the district goal of providing students with the skills they will need to be college and career ready.

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Students creating monsters using salt dough, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners.

 

What do you think of my elevator speech? I struggle with being pithy while also providing the information needed and I’m not sure I got it right.

Advocacy and Marketing

Another idea from the readings was about providing professional development to my teachers. This year, I have provided a little bit of instruction to my teachers on vocabulary and some of the library databases but I know that I haven’t done enough. At the district level, I am not comfortable teaching a class to people I don’t know but I also know again, that I need to step out of my comfort zone and offer to teach a class. I attend a lot of great professional development and I need to be better about sharing what I have learned with my fellow teachers.

So how can I do this? In the readings, I liked the idea of a schedule of offerings to teachers with a short description of what will be taught. There are so many resources paid for by the district that aren’t being used probably because either the teachers don’t know about them or they don’t understand how they can be used in a classroom. I can begin with these resources and provide my teachers with a  quick introduction on how to use the resource but also with links, lesson plans, etc… to show how these technologies can be used by them and/or their students.

Currently I try to put notes about the library in the school newsletter at least 3 times a year. I know this isn’t enough and will work on increasing this to every issue but this is something that I struggle with every year. I also liked the idea of providing parents with an app or website that they may find helpful. With the prevalence of smart phones and tablets even in the poorest of homes, I think my parents would find this helpful and I know that I could easily find one app or website a month.

As a department, we put out a newsletter twice a year and I am the one who puts it all together. I like the idea of using Smore to keep track of how many people actually look at the newsletter but the newsletter as it currently stands has almost too much information and lends itself to not being read completely. Over the past year or so, I have encouraged my fellow librarians to include quotes from students and to make everything more students centered because that is where we have the greatest impact and what the administrators care about the most. This is relatively easy for my fellow elementary librarians because of our scheduled classes but is difficult for the middle and high school librarians who have a flexible schedule. I will continue to encourage newsletters that are student centered.

I have never done a year end report because I haven’t quite grasped how to collect the statistics necessary to include in the report. I am really bad about writing I don’t write down quick notes to remind myself about the different conversations, collaborations, technology troubleshooting, and other activities that I do that aren’t directly related to instruction. I also don’t keep track of how the library is being used by other people within the building. I can, however, gather evidence to show the direct impact my teaching has had on my students. I teach every grade level at least one research project every year and the research projects get more difficult with each grade level. Upper elementary classes conduct research that requires them to complete different tasks and culminate with some kind of overarching, synthesis question. With a little bit lot of hard work on my part, I will find the evidence to back my belief that I truly do make a difference in my students’ lives. Now I just need to share this definitive proof with the right people.

Thing 32: EBP – Collecting Data

Exit Tickets


Exit tickets are something that I used last year for about 3 months until all classes began to work on their research projects.Why did I stop using them? Because I thought I wasn’t getting any meaningful feedback from the students. My exit ticket asked students to reflect on something that they had learned in class that day. Inevitably with my younger classes, many of the responses said, “We read a book,” even when I hadn’t read a book. I was so frustrated by these responses, that I stopped doing the exit tickets.

But after reviewing all the reading materials, I realized that I stopped using a powerful tool to show my students’ learning. Although there were a few students in every class writing the same thing every week, more than half of the students were writing down something they did learn in class. I have to ask myself now why didn’t I see this positive side and only the negative?

This goes back to my organization and time management with classes. One of the marks that I consistently have difficulty with on my performance reviews is closure meaning I do not provide meaningful closure to a lesson. I struggle with this for several reasons:

  1. Although most of my classes are scheduled for 40 minutes, in reality most of my students only receive at most 30 minutes of instruction. Quite often I plan too much into a lesson and we don’t finish at a good closing point so I skip the closure.
  2. Many of my lessons are done over more than one class so finding a place to provide closure can be difficult or seem disconnected.
  3. My library clerk used to complain about the wasted paper and thought it was stupid. Yeah, I know — that isn’t part of her job but this is a frequent subject of discourse between us.

But in reality, these are just excuses. As a school librarian who was not a teacher first, this is an area of teaching that wasn’t really taught in graduate school. Even after years of observations, no one has sat down and explained to me why this step is critical. But intellectually I understand that closure is a way for students to grasp that the teaching part of the lesson is over and the time for independent practice has now begun. Closure is also a good way to quickly summarize the lesson and reinforce with students what they were learning in class that day.

I will begin using exit tickets but this time I think I will provide students with some options to choose from like some of the ones suggested by Joyce Valenza in “Evolving with Evidence: Leveraging New Tools for EBP“:

  • What is one thing you still don’t understand?
  • What would you like to learn more about?
  • What did you accomplish today?

I especially like the question asking students what they accomplished that day because it makes them reflect back on not only their learning but also their own behavior which may have impacted how much (or little) they accomplished that class period. I also think this will negate some student’s inclination to say the same thing every week.

Portfolios


As a graduate student, I was required to create a online portfolio and I chose to use Google Sites. Since I graduated there are so many other, better choices but I never considered the need for me to have one, especially since I already have a job. But just because I have a job today, doesn’t mean that I will have a job next year or the year after that. Having a portfolio completed and up-to-date just in case seems like a pretty good idea right about now. If I was a consistent blogger, that would be the perfect avenue for me to showcase my work and my thoughts. Maybe someday.

I have often thought it would be nice for high school seniors to have a portfolio of work from their entire school experience that they could look back and see how much they have truly learned. Actually, I think this would be powerful for all students to look at their work from the beginning of the year to their work six months later. I think all of them would be astonished to see how much they really have learned in such a short period of time.

One of the best/easiest tools I have found for student portfolios is Seesaw. It is very easy for students to join and it is available on multiple formats including iPads, Google Apps, and Android. Once students have an account, they are able to take pictures of their work, add videos, or add digital content and Seesaw is designed with the student doing all of this independently. What a powerful way to empower their students in their own education. Seesaw has also added a blog component which makes this tool even more powerful. All content can be viewed by classmates, the teacher, and their parents after being moderated by the teacher. All of this is for free. They do offer a school account which allows work to stay with the student throughout their time at the school but at this time, I don’t have any idea on cost. If affordable, I would definitely consider upgrading to a school account.

Another more practical and cost effective portfolio that I could use is Google Drive because I am lucky enough to work in a school district that has provided a Gmail address for all students. Once students have learned to navigate through Google Drive, it is quite easy for them to add different types of media to store work that they have been completed. This can also be done on multiple platforms using the Drive app. At the end of each year, students could create a folder for all of the work they completed that year and it would be available to them as long as they had this Google account. This is definitely a low frills portfolio but in the long run may be the most practical one for my students.

Online student portfolios would provide a way to document evidence on student progress and skills learned throughout a school year. With my aging memory, they would also refresh my memory of all the lessons taught throughout the year and provide a way to assess what can/should be changed for the following year.

NoodleTools


NoodleTools flew under my radar until about a week ago when I saw a post on Facebook where my fellow librarians were raving about it and how useful it was for creating citations. With further investigation, I discovered that NoodleTools is so much more than that. NoodleTools helps keep track of a student’s progress through the research process and a place for students to keep their notes, outlines, citations, and their written document. Another positive is that NoodleTools is available for free but also provide a school account for a minimal cost. I have placed it on my wish list for databases that I would like to have and hope to be able to purchase it next school year.

With the prevalence of plagiarism due to the ease of copying and pasting directly from the Internet, NoodleTools could provide a way to teach students good habits that they will be able to use in high school and/or college. Although I teach students the importance of citing their sources and require them to write down the link that they used, they find it exceedingly difficult to create a citation and don’t grasp the implications of not properly attributing information from online resources.

One of the readings suggested using the student’s bibliography to assess the resources they used and I think this is a fabulous idea. I personally struggle with allowing students to select their own resources because invariably they end up at Ask.com or another website like it instead of seeking out reliable sources as they have been taught. To combat this problem, I usually pre-select sources for my students but I know realize that I really am not doing them any favors as they don’t get to practice evaluating resources which is something they desperately need.

Exit Interview


I really like the idea of an exit interview with my sixth grade students mostly because this is the first group of students that only had me as their librarian. The only downside with this is that there are only a handful of students that have been in my school since Kindergarten and I don’t think it would be fair to only include these students in the exit interview.

It would be interesting to discover what skills and/or projects the students enjoyed the most. My practice has changed a lot over the years and although I have adjusted lessons based on my perceptions, its would be interesting to see the students side of the same project.

 

In my mind, an exit interview is a good starting point to establishing a library advisory council which is considered a best practice for school libraries. How are the two related? One looks at what has been done over the past 7 years and the other looks at what will be done in the next 9 months. Once I have feedback at the end of this year, I can take this information to the advisory council and get their input on how to improve based on the feedback.

An exit interview is also one of the EBP that would be difficult to “fudge” the results. Children can be brutally honest and in this case, that is what I am looking for them to do. As much as I would like to only hear from the students who have been in the school since Kindergarten, I also think it would be valuable to get feedback from students that have had a different librarian. Even within my school district, the librarians all have different styles and methods and although I believe I provide the instruction my students need, it would be interesting to hear how someone else did it better and adapt it to my situation.

Plans for EBP in the near future


The school year is almost over so I will be hard pressed to find all the evidence that I wished I had been gathering since September. But over the next few months, I will use exit tickets with my upper elementary students to gauge their perceptions of their learning. I will also be contacting the 6th grade teachers to set up a focus group for the exit interview as I am totally intrigued by what my students might say. I will be using Seesaw with my first grade students and provide parents with information on how they can access the work their child completed in the library.

My district is looking ahead at tough financial times and I think it is necessary for me to start gathering evidence to show how much impact the library has on my students’ ability to answer questions. As this is a skill that I work had on with all of my students, I think the evidence is there. I just need to gather it all into one place and share it with all of my stakeholders.

 

Thing 31: EBP – Getting Started

Evidence Based Practice and how to measure my program’s effectiveness has eluded me up to now.

I was excited to see Evidence Based Practice (EBP) as one of the topics for this year’s class because I have been looking for ways to show that the skills I teach during my library classes are skills that will help my students succeed not only in school but later on in their life when they are in college or working at their first job. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out a way to prove this using data. After filling out the SLMPE Rubric this year and my principal’s question, “How are you going to improve your score?”, I realized that I needed to create a long term plan for the library and in this long term plan, I needed to address student achievement.

After attending several sessions on EBP at AASL this year, I still didn’t really have a clear idea of how exactly to measure the impact of my classes on my students’ achievement. With further reflection, I began to realize that one of my weaknesses is in getting closure with my students because I don’t give out grades and therefore don’t always follow through on assessing their projects. This is something I need to work on in the future and EBP gives me the incentive to figure it out. But where do I start?

Since I attended Ross Todd’s AASL workshop, The 4th E = Evidence!, I decided to look again at the EBP Action Plan Template and use it as a starting point. One of the areas that I think I am strongest is in formulating a question that requires students to use what they have learned into a synthesized answer. But how do I measure this? Looking over the workshop’s slides, I found on slide 38, “Students’ final products showed improved ability to analyze and synthesize information.” This is what I would like to measure but how do I measure that they have improved? Is this from the beginning of the year to the end of the year? Is it from one project to the next project? Is it from the beginning of one project to the end of the project? I still have so many more questions than answers at this point.

And then after discussing my mental block with another teacher, I had an aha! moment where I realized that I am overthinking it all. If I am looking for evidence to prove that my students have improved their ability to synthesize information, then I just need to look at the answers that the students have provided to my deeper thinking question. If students successfully answered the question using information they have learned through their research project, then they have improved their ability to synthesize information. So if 18 out of 20 students complete this task successfully, then I have evidence that 90% of students have improved their ability to synthesize information. With this in mind, now all I need to do is go collect that evidence and continue to create questions that make my students think harder.

The past few years my school has struggled on standardized tests. In an attempt to increase scores, my building is focusing on increasing the complexity of our questions and also working on the student’s writing process. For the past several years, I have helped teachers move their projects away from just regurgitating facts to having the students create something new with their learning. I have used deeper thinking questions as well as other strategies to help increase my students’ achievement related to question complexity.

This year I have focused more of my efforts on the writing process with my students in grades 1 through 6. I have required more writing in general just by having them write down what they have learned but I have also started to work on the review and edit process as well which I have never done in the past. I have even introduced some of my young students to Google Docs which gives me the power to look at the different stages of their writing and how it specifically changed from a rough draft into a final, mostly perfect copy.

I really liked Joyce Valenza’s idea of an end of the year focus group and learning from students what they feel they learned and what could be improved. This is something I will be doing this year and hopefully many years to come.

With the clearer vision of where to look for data, I will pursue additional ways to gather including reintroducing an exit ticket that I used for part of the year last year but stopped when the research projects began. I now realize that I should have continued to ask students to reflect on what they accomplished that class. If nothing else, this would have been a good way for the students to reflect on how well (or not) they worked that day.

I am a long way from feeling confident with EBP but also feel that I am on the right path and just need to remember to find it when I get distracted by the proverbial squirrel.

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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 25: Power up your browser

Digging deeper into Google Chrome and how to make it even better.

To be honest, I am very familiar with the settings in Google Chrome which is my choice for browsing the Internet. About the only setting that I didn’t remember reviewing was the content settings under privacy. After looking at everything, I left the settings where they were which was on the recommended setting. Recently, Chrome added a user profile tab to the top of the browser page. I did not realize that there was a setting that would allow anyone using my computer to create their own profile so I have disabled this function although really no one else uses my computers so the point is moot.

It’s a whole different story when it comes to apps and extensions for Chrome. Who knew there were so many useful extensions to add. Up to this point, I had 4 bookmarklets: Pinterest, Evernote Web Clipper, AdBlock Plus, and Japanese Word of the Day. I use the Pinterest one frequently and it is definitely the easiest way to add something to Pinterest when I am on my computer. I would highly recommend everyone add something like the AdBlock, especially if you like to click on ad heavy links posted by friends and celebrities on Facebook.

After checking out a few, I added Readability and Buffer to my bookmarklets. I chose Readability because this is a function that I love using on the iPad and I didn’t realize that there was anything available for a PC that would provide this same service. AdBlock is great at stopping ads but it does not make crowded websites look less cluttered. I also like the ability to save articles to go back and read later. I think I found my new favorite extension.

As a cautious user of Social Media, I like that Buffer provides a seamless way to share on multiple platforms. Even as I add new followers on Twitter despite my sparse tweets, I find it hard to believe that people are interested in what I have to say. Buffer provides me a way to share things that I find interesting and I only have to share it once. Now I just need to find something to share and take the plunge over the social media cliff.

For those of you who are not using Chrome as your browser, check out this video on why you should be using it (or at least consider switching to it).

Thing 24: Infographics

I love infographics — both visually and how succinctly they can represent the information they are presenting.  I struggle with them only when it comes to how can students use them to represent their work. My students have used Glogster in the past but not really as an infographic but more as a way to present their work. I would love to use an infographic to have students compare similar objects or countries but again I struggle with how to do this. My second grade students are currently doing research on U.S. symbols. It might be interesting to have the highest level students create an infographic called “U.S. Symbols by Numbers”. For example, students could represent the number of star & stripes on the U.S. flag; the number of faces on Mt. Rushmore; and the number of bathrooms, elevators, and rooms in the White House.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, my school is a Focus school and in May the school will have a site visit to determine the effectiveness of the school. As part of this process, I will be meeting with these representatives presenting information related to the Tenet that I was assigned as part of a team. This year the focus of my team has been determining the impact of the various programs we have in place to meet our students’ social and emotional health needs. Proving that something is working is a lot harder than saying it is working! We developed a short survey to see how well one of the programs was working. Below is an infographic I created showing the results of the survey. The infographic is pretty self-explanatory and shows the results of the survey with a few select quotes thrown in about the program. Although the data speaks for itself, I chose quotes that matched the message that I wanted to present and not a quote that might have been perceived as negative.

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To create my infographic, I used easel.ly. The first thing I did was create a free account and then clear out a new board. I didn’t want to use a template already created because I wanted to start from scratch. I chose a simple background and gave it a title. It took me a few seconds to figure out that you needed to drag the object onto the main board but from there it was really very easy to find and change whatever I needed. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was if it was possible to show numbers within the graph as this would have helped clarify the information a little bit better. Overall, I would use easel.ly again for my own personal use but I am not sure I would use it for my students.

Before I used any online program, I know that it would be vital for my students to have a written representation of what they would like their infographic to look like before I even considered letting them get onto the computer. Why? Because many of them would spend time looking at all the objects, stickers, and other distractions instead of choosing objects that they need. My students have a difficult time understanding that work they do for school has different expectations from something they would create for pleasure.

The bottom line for me is am I having students do this to increase their knowledge or just to increase their use of technology? If the latter, then I am not sure it is worth their time.