Thing 6: Curation Tools (Learning Playlists)

While I love the idea of content curation to teach information evaluation skills, I think my PK-4 kids are not quite there yet.  So, I decided to try a learning playlist.  I have been interested in the learning playlist as a way to organize resources for a while.  I can see using these playlists as a way to reinforce what we are teaching in mini-lessons, review for students who have gaps, or get students who missed the lessons caught up (from home?).

I decided to do a short playlist with images and videos about the elements of poetry.  There are lots of fun videos and images out there for young poets, and most students genuinely enjoy writing poetry.  I am interested in adding “writing for enjoyment” to my mission, complementary to “reading for enjoyment”, and I think that poetry is a good place to start!

From the three tools linked to the cool tools post, I close Blendspace because it was the most visually appealing.  The program was very easy to use, with search features embedded and drag and drop.  I’m interested to see how the playlists will look on the iPads.  The most challenging part was finding resources (especially video) that are appropriate for the grade level that I teach.  Still, I think that I will start building up a catalogue of these lesson playlists to accompany our writing units.

Elements of Poetry:

https://www.blendspace.com/lessons/RKic8sdr-vxWuQ/?feature=embed

Thing 5: Digital Storytelling (Storybird)

I have been meaning for years to figure out what Storybird is all about, so now is the time!  I started by signing up and found that I can sign up for an educator account to manage a classroom of up to 30 kids.  I started with 24, so that we can have each ipad signed into a corresponding account.  This means that 15 kids will be sharing each account.

Storybird is a digital book creator that supplies the creator with sets of pictures that they can use to illustrate their stories. Gabe and I picked some art and made a quick little “try-it” story:

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I thought this was lots of fun.  To create a story, students select a set of related pictures and build the story around the images.  I love the idea of using pictures to inspire a story.  Kids are such visual thinkers, and I think these sets of charming pictures will get their gears moving.  I also love that it is a sandbox project, but they have something to build on instead of starting from scratch.  I think it would be really fun for a Kinder or first-grade class, working in small groups with an adult helping each group.  I think my older classes could do this independently with a tutorial.

Logistically, it is pretty simple to use.  The website says that you can use it on any device, and I’m interested to explore it more on an iPad, since that’s what my students will be using.  The creation process is pretty straightforward: drag and drop the pictures, tap and type the text.  There are very few options (fonts, colors) which is a plus with my age group.  I didn’t see sharing options, other than linking.  After a little investigation it seems that there is the option of embedding, after the story is moderated (which takes a week or so).  Student work can be embedded by the teacher on the review page.

I like this a lot.  I have a group of 4th-graders every 6 days for unstructured library time and I am going to try to do this with them the next time we meet!

Thing 4: RSS

Lavery Maiss Auras.jpg
Lavery Maiss Auras” by John Lavery

Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I have enough on my to-read pile to last at least a decade, and I read enough to keep current by following some cool library cats on Facebook and Twitter.  I do not need to add another online space to my personal daily routine, so I decided to create an RSS for my library page.  I want to have a corner where I can keep the kids up on all things literary: author blogs, events at the public library, and book recommendations.  So, I need to create an RSS that can be embedded in the beautiful library website that will be my greatest triumph this summer.

The first thing I discovered is that it doesn’t matter which reader I choose because I will be using a separate tool to embed.  So, which RSS reader is the most attractive and user-friendly? Digg was the winner, with a streamlined interface and simple management process.  Time to load it up with links!  I went searching to find out which popular authors maintain blogs.  Next, time to add the public library and a few scholastic sites.  Last, some book review blogs and youtube channels from children’s book publishers.  I have 12 sites to start with an there is plenty of good content in my feed.  I think this will be an effective tool to share literary news with my students!

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I want my library page to be dynamic and interactive, and RSS will be a great tool for the former, with a minimum amount of time investment to keep the content fresh.

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Thing 3: Online Communities and PLNs

I am pretty immersed in social media.  I use Facebook (too much) as a way to keep in touch with friends, but I also follow many education and library related pages.  I have a Facebook page for my school library.  I have a twitter account, but I am less involved.  I use it with hashtags occasionally to get involved with a conversation or to participate in conferences.  I am not a fan of the lack of depth that is a symptom of the strict limit on characters; often tweets get taken out of context, sometimes disastrously so.  I do like how hashtags allow for truly democratic conversations, and how can follow illustrious strangers and receive the latest on their meals, outings, and creations.  I follow a lot of hot-shot librarians and educators, so I chose to try paper.li.

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As soon as I created my “paper” I realized that my problem was with my twitter feed.  Since I spend much more time on Facebook, I have spent more time managing my feed: seeking out interesting pages and people, hiding or unfollowing the things that I find boring or disturbing, and learning about how the feed actually works.  In order for twitter to work for me, I have to put in that same time organizing my feed.  I googled “librarians to follow” and added some new people to me feed.  I joined hootsuite so that I can add hashtags to my feed as well.  OK, so now my feed is improved.  My last action item is to put in 20 minutes a day to actually click on twitter, scroll until I find a good article, click on it, and read it.

Hashtags I am following:  #gafesummit, #tlchat, #edchat

Much maligned, but the humble hashtag can do much more than tic-tac-toe!

Thing 2: Photo Fun

This topic is a big one, so I decided to set a clear goal: find two ways to use photography in the library.  I wanted one where I show pictures to students, and one where they take pictures and share them with me.  So I chose option 2, Join and Explore, and explored tools I knew by using them in a new way.

For the first, I used Pinterest. I have used Pinterest since its inception as a curation tool, and it is not always the most functional for that purpose (some pages I want to save just don’t have photos). But I love the interface, and enjoy using it as an internet junk drawer, craft tutorial list, and recipe box. For this topic, I shifted and used it simply for photo display.

Sharing pictures with Students

In anticipation of NYS testing (no comment), the 4th grade team wanted to plan something fun and quick using the iPad cart for their classes during the six afternoons following testing. I thought since spring has finally sprung it would be nice to do something for Earth Day, and since persuasive writing is around the corner, we decided to do some Earth Day PSAs. Pinterest turned out to be the perfect tool to showcase some examples that I collected for a launching discussion.

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Pinterest was the perfect tool because these PSAs are not free to use and share, so I would not be able to take them and make a slide show. Pinterest allows me to show just the photos without removing them from their home. It ended up having an added benefit of flexibility: I pinned many more PSAs than we needed and let the class steer the discussion by choosing which ones they wanted to talk about. Then, when the kids started working on their own PSAs, they were free to check back in through the pinterest link on the iPads to get some ideas flowing.

Photo Creation

I wanted to have the students use the iPads to take photos as well. One K teacher was interested in letting his students use the ipads just for fun, so we had an all about me day where students tried to take pictures that showed who they were. It was lots of fun .

This went so well that we have decided to do a photo scavenger hunt for Kindergarteners in the school courtyard. We will have them look in teams of 3 for open-ended items (something red, a triangle shape, a Kindergartener making a silly face). Then we can have each team write their names and post all of their pictures to a Padlet wall and project them to see what they have found. This is a fun way to introduce the students to several digital tools, and introduce them to digital photography.

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I’m like a kid in a candy store when I think of all the options for students in the camera app!

Photos to use in media texts

We have used the app PicCollage many times this year in grades 2-4. The students have created infographics, diagrams, fun fact pages, book covers, and other non-fiction text features. For their photos, we have used Creative Commons search.  We have been shifting from using the feature in Google search to search by license for two reasons: first, it doesn’t filter for inappropriate content, which has been a problem for many projects (iroquois women, animal projects where the animal name is a slang term for women’s anatomical parts).  Second, it is not effective in filtering for licence either.  One of our grade schools lost its vimeo account for using a copyrighted image that was found using the Google search “free to use and share” option.

So, CC it is.  I created a link on each of the ipads to the CC site, with Flickr set up as the automatic selection. Students have not had trouble finding appropriate images using this tool. The only exception is once in a while when a student needs a picture of a specific famous person (for example J.K. Rowling). We have to look farther afield in Wikimedia for these pictures, and students had a harder time remembering all of the steps.  Training them all to use flickr allows me to work one on one with the students who need pictures that are trickier to find.

Failing Failers and Their Failey Fails

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My letter to the Times Union sticking up for my son’s wonderful “failing school”.  It’s full of faily failers, that’s why I chose it for my beloved only child:

Regarding the March 15th editorial “Can We Fix Failing Schools”: I am appalled to see that Andrew Cuomo’s smear tactics have been accepted as fact.  In this editorial the writer used the words “fail” or “failing” 11 times.  Do Albany High students perform lower on standardized tests than students at Bethlehem High?  Yes, they do.  But the reasons surely have more to do with failures of society, like structural poverty and unequal funding, than poor teachers or failing schools.

If a doctor worked at a hospital in a poor neighborhood with deteriorating facilities, understaffing, violence, drugs, and high rates of smoking and obesity, would her patient outcomes, on the average, be poor when compared with a suburban counterpart?  If they were, would she and her hospital be called failing?  Would her job depend on factors that are out of her control, such as patients who miss appointments?  I would guess, if she worked in conditions like this, with less money and support than are offered at other hospitals, she would be lauded.

Why are teachers not offered the same professional consideration? To teach in New York State one must earn a post-graduate degree, pass four licensing exams, submit a portfolio, and undertake hundreds of hours of field experience.  Is this not rigorous enough?  More likely this dissonance is a symptom of the dramatic de-professionalization of the field.

The editorial presents a false equivalence: in the battle between teachers unions and Governor Cuomo, both sides are similarly meritorious and should lay down their swords to compromise. Think of the children!  However, if you look at the battle lines, it is clear who is thinking of the children.  Governor Cuomo asks us to accept a future where a democratic institution, the unpaid and locally elected school board, is dismantled by State Education.  He proposes a school year where third-graders spend more time taking tests than candidates taking the bar exam.  He sees nothing wrong with a teaching force that is constantly in flux, since teachers move on or get removed before they gain experience.  In contrast, teachers and their unions want to get back to the business of fractions, shoelaces, spelling, and inspiring willing minds.

Thing 1: Blogging

Hi everyone!  I am Lucy, a PK-4 school librarian at Saddlewood Elementary in the South Colonie Central School District.  I graduated from library school in May and found my position in August, so it has been a wild year and I am still finding my footing.  I took a course that was similar to this at Syracuse and I remember thinking the whole time “hmmmm, I wish I could take this again when I have a job”.  Grad school is wasted on the unemployed since you have no idea where you will end up;  as an example, I never focused too closely on iPads in instruction because I assumed I would end up in a school with a computer lab.  When I was hired I found out that Saddlewood was the happy recipient of a shiny new mobile iPad lab.  So, baptism by fire ;-)  I am excited to take this course to refresh some of my skills and be part of a community of librarians who have much more experience with the practical side of ed tech than I do!

Rob-Busy-Writing

As with many things, I think the biggest obstacle to blogging (with students, as part of a professional community, and as a reader) is time!  There are so many things that must be done every day, and it is hard to get to the things you want to do.  But with that said, I love blogs.  The internet has shepherded in a democratic information revolution and blogs are a big part of that: giving a voice to anyone with an internet connection, turning long-standing media models on their head, and providing us all with hundreds of nutella recipes with the click of a button.

I have decided, this year, to focus on blogging with students.  I have been interested in getting kids blogging since way before I was employed.  I see the library (both physical and digital) as an social learning space where kids can explore inquiry, reading, and writing through the lens of their own individual interests and passions.   Blogging supports this mission in several ways: writing for themselves and their peers, being part of an informal learning community, seeing themselves as publishers.  One of the third-grade teachers at Saddlewood has a class blog, and reading it is a delight.  She places no limitations of their topics and they have discussed a wide range, from what their dad is cooking to what book they are reading.  The polite, genteel, and invisibly moderated discussion that I see on this blog does so much more for student “character education” than 1000 Stop Bullying! posters.  At a time where kids’ lives are more scheduled and structured than ever before, this informal space to share thoughts functions as neighborhood play used to in past decades.  It is also a low-stakes (ungraded) way to practice putting thoughts into written word, with a built-in motivator: the social aspect.  My plan is to start small, with a book review blog divided by genre, and a separate “junk drawer” for interesting ideas or fun facts.

My next blogging priority will be blogging about my programs.  I LOVE what the Daring Librarian has to say about this, particularly about scheduling it in.  My library is on a completely flex schedule and I sometimes end up scheduling out a week’s worth of preps and lunch.  This is not sustainable.  I need to schedule in time (even if it is at home) for reflecting about programs, sharing successes, and advocating for things that my library needs.  Blogging can help me with all three and I need to spend the time to make it work.

As an aside, I also love what she says about not starting off by apologizing for not writing.  How presumptuous to assume that anyone cares/notices :-)  But it does point to some anxieties that I imagine are common among bloggers.  You spend your time writing, and most likely you will be one of five people to ever read it.  But it IS accessible to anyone, and if it gains a wider audience, let the nitpicking begin!  I had one thing that I wrote go a little viral (a thousand views) and it was hard to not take criticism from strangers personally.  But is it even worse if nobody reads it to begin with?  Blogging, by nature (unless you blog for HuffPo or have a ton of followers) is a strange combination of private thought in a public space.  Of course, social sharing is part of the audience equation and should garner more readers.  So here I am!  I am looking forward to learning more about cool tools (hopefully RSS to learn how to become a more efficient blog reader) with any of the five who happen to be reading this!