Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Flashback (2)

Each Friday through May, I'll be posting some of our most popular posts from the year (judging by hit counts and comments).
*Originally posted on 10.18.11.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Flashback

Each Friday through May, I'll be posting some of our most popular posts from the year (judging by hit counts and comments).
*Originally posted 12.15.11.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Boy Books and Girl Books

I am a firm believer that all literature provides equal opportunity for any individual, regardless of gender. There are many who disagree. Some folks say girls don't like Hatchet, and some say boys would never be interested Little House on the Prairie. To them I would ask why a girl shouldn't enjoy a good survival book (Hunger Games demographics have very recently proven that), and also why a boy wouldn't enjoy a vividly descriptive work about pioneer life.

We can't put readers in our preconceived boxes. 

But just because it's true that some girls really don't like Hatchet, here is a great list of books recommended for the little ladies from ages 1-9.

Likewise, just as the young gentlemen can be a bit choosy sometimes when being proffered literature, here's another good list for them as well, appropriate for various ages through middle school.

These might be a neat idea for a display for the last two weeks in April. What would you title it? Boy Books and Chick Lit?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Disaster Preparedness

Unfortunately, our area has had more than our share of natural disasters in the past year. In one of the recent webinars from the state department, LeeAnna Mills (librarian at Northside Middle whose school experienced a fire in 2011) offered tips for disaster preparedness that she learned the hard way. Here are a few:

  • Catalog EVERYTHING. The stack of donated books, the extra professional resources brought in by administrators, books you bought at the book fair, items purchased with grant money, big books, puppets, supplemental materials, resource kits, realia, equipment, new stuff, old stuff worthy of keeping...everything. If you have to go through a disaster, you won't remember what you had or didn't have. This is your best method of ensuring your collection will be replaced. LeeAnna said even if you don't have time to catalog an item, scan ISBN numbers into a Excel file at the very least (saved to the server) so that you have some sort of record of these resources. 
  • Keep an electronic copy of your personal items (certificates, awards, etc. in list or PDF form). 
  • Make sure when cataloging equipment to include Title, Make/Brand, Model Number, Serial Number, Date of Purchase, and Funds Used. (All of these are part of our district's standard record-keeping procedures for equipment.)
  • Always have a wish list. After you experience a disaster, many times you will receive offers for help. Keep a digital list with a vendor (or Amazon) for generous people to purchase exactly what you need.
  • Keep an electronic copy of your library's floor plan. Pictures are very valuable, too. 

The American Association of School Librarians also offers a huge grant for libraries who have experienced disaster. You do not have to be an ASLA member to apply. Details can be found here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Philosophies of Teaching Keyboarding in the 21st Century

I've long since stopped believing that students should be taught keyboarding.

I can literally hear people gasping right now.

Don't throw your lunch at me or call me a techno-heretic just yet! Hear me out, people, hear me out...

My reasons are four-fold:

1. Keyboarding skill-and-drill practice takes time that could be spent on more valuable experiences with technology. (Example: Instead of practicing home keys or finding capital and lowercase letters, let students-even 5 year olds!-type a list of words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Have older students type reports, blog posts, comments on other blog posts, etc.) I'm not saying never give them a few minutes here and there on some sort of open-source software, but for the love of Pete don't take your 45-minute lab class to make students practice finding j-j-j, then h-h-h, and so forth. Oy vey.

2. My own personal experiences with technology has proven that it just takes time and consistent connections to real-world tasks to acquire ease on a keyboard. I am a digital immigrant who was never taught keyboarding, and I have survived just fine.I believe that it is much more meaningful to give students more opportunities to type in context of their course content.

3. New technologies don't even utilize the classic QWERTY-style keyboard. If we're keeping our kids up to date with tech tools, then we're putting iPods and iPads in their hands.  

4. There really is no one "right" way to type. Whatever makes the user most comfortable and gets the job done most efficiently IS the right way for that person.

But you know what, don't take my word for it. Check out what these experts have to say on the subject!

And if you hate this philosophy of keyboarding (or rather, philosophy of NON-keyboarding), you don't even want to hear what I have to say about cursive handwriting (Which, from what I gather, was left completely out of the Common Core Standards)! ;)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Common Core Standards - 5 Things...

Rebecca Harris has written a wonderful article in SLJ's April issue: "All Aboard! Implementing Common Core offers school librarians an opportunity to take the lead". The article offers some background on Common Core Standards as well as lots of advice. Within the article there is a list highlighting how to get started.

According to Christopher Harris in his article "How to Get Started" in School Library Journal's latest issue, there are "five things you can do to get started with Common Core" (SLJ, April 2012).

To paraphrase, here they are:

1. Be the expert you've always been with curriculum issues, etc. Be sure to attend training sessions - online, face-to-face and read everything you can on the subject

2. Collection development - "focus on literary nonfiction resources"

3. What is already there on your shelves that can be used? What is online? Which databases do you subscribe to that will be useful? How will you use the Alabama Virtual Library more?

4. Harris says your library is the textbook - How will you spend the funds that you have? (however meager)

5. Harris says to work at the district level to secure new online resources. Money will go further that way.

Even though this process will work at different paces at different schools, it is something that we can all be working toward and thinking about. The whole emphasis is on reading and understanding texts better. There is a huge emphasis on students being more prepared for high school and college. That means the textbooks that they have been reading with small "excerpts" of whole texts will no longer really be adequate. So, our job will be to find whole texts for students to examine and read. Also, they will need to see multiple points of view and come up with their own opinions according to Barbara Stripling, Syracuse University (haven't we been talking about critical thinking for years?).

I believe we will be ready and it is an exciting time for libraries! But there is too much to discuss in a single blog entry, so click here to read the full article online.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My National Board Process

*This post was written by Jennifer Anders, school librarian at West Jefferson Elementary School. 

Over the past two years, the feeder pattern that my school is part of has been participating in a three year research study conducted by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Southeastern Regional Education Board. The researchers are trying to find out if marketing Take One! as a school transformation model is viable. Take One! is a process where a candidate can elect to do one National Board entry and bank the score, but also get a feel for the process before completing the full boards. This has been an intense, often frustrating, but for the most part, worthwhile project for me and my colleagues.

The first year of Take One! ( 2010-2011), I'll admit that I was not on board with the project. I was frustrated and because I'm the school librarian, became responsible for helping everyone edit and burn their videos. We were walking around confused and I was resentful that I was being "forced" to participate although I had an underlying belief that at some point I would want to become certified. I turned in a poor entry that I completed in about a week's time, and was rewarded with a score of 1.75. Compare that to a 1.75 on the ARMT. Red box! Year two would be different.

Over the summer of 2011, the researchers, organizers and school administrators met to re-organize and better meet the needs of the teachers for year two. They offered more support that was specific to certification field, bought us all kinds of cool DVD burning equipment and video cameras, but most importantly organized us into PLC's according to certification and gave us four, four-hour sessions to collaborate during school hours. I was named the teacher facilitator for the librarians. ( Yes, me, with the 1.75.) They also offered to pay for any candidate who wanted to pursue full certification. I talked with my husband, and we agreed that there may not be a better offer for me to certify, so I decided to complete the full National Board process.

I know several librarians who have certified with National Boards, and I have heard them talk about how difficult it was. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but no one could have explained to me what the process would be like. One friend compared it to having a baby, and that may be the closest description for it. There were times during the process when I was glowing because I was creating great lessons, working with teachers and librarians and my students were engaged and learning. There were times when I had terrible nausea and headaches. They type of writing required was so alien and difficult. The page lengths, standards, and questions swirled around in my brain like the tornado scene in the Wizard of Oz and the time, time, time! Towards the end, I felt bloated and fat and tired, but not able to sleep. (This may have been a direct result of the stress M&M's.)

And then I was finished, and I knew I had completed something that would transform my teaching practice.

Although I have not been scored yet, or taken the assessments, I know this process was worth the trouble. There is one main idea I have really taken to heart from this, and that is to stop and ask myself, as it relates to my job, "Why am I doing this?" and "What will my students learn?"

 If you are considering National Board Certification, I would recommend that you not travel this path alone. I didn't. I had support from the Candidate Support Person provided by the research group, great friends, and most importantly from the ASLA National Board Mentoring group administered by Tywanna Burton.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Podcasting is not LAME

I would love for my basic skills class to do a pod cast.  We are practicing open-ended ARMT items, and I think it would be beneficial if they could read their answers aloud and hear it back (so they can hear the flow or lack thereof).  I’m embarrassed to say that I have no idea how to do a pod cast.  Would you have time anytime this week during 1st period to teach my students?  I will be in there to learn as well.  I figured it may take one day of learning and one day to say it here and have them listen back to what they read.  I thought I’d let them fill out a little evaluation on how their answers sounded.

What do you think?



...And here is where collaboration begins! E-mails such as the one above are music to my ears. For the last few years, I have been inviting teachers to podcast with me. It can take a while. Sometimes teachers are not ready to use the technology or they don't see a need for it...yet. Offering short workshops or demonstrations will resonate with teachers, though, and soon the e-mail will come!

Thanks to school librarian Valissa Burnham, Hueytown Middle, and The Alabama Educational Technology workshop on podcasting that I attended five years ago, I have the tools to podcast. I should also add Lisa Boyd, Jefferson County (retired) technology guru, to that list. I must admit - it took a village.

Here is what is needed to get started:

A download called Audacity and an MP3 Encoder called LAME. These files should be saved on your computer and you should know where they are (you can always search for them, if you forget).

This 7th grader is on her way to podcasting!
Many tutorials on podcasting can be found with a quick Google search, but I have my favorites for ease of use.

Podcasting can be used for numerous projects, but this particular one was used to record open-ended questions that students had written in preparation for ARMT testing.

So, podcasting is not lame. It's a great way to support teachers in preparing their students for testing and lends a bit of levity to the days ahead. Tomorrow we will add music to their words.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Interesting Thoughts about Technology and School Librarians

Doug Johnson is one of the Great Thinkers in the field of librarianship and technology. The Alabama School Library Association (then AIMA) hosted him as our keynote speaker at our 2009 summer conference. He was phenomenal!

Check out his recent post regarding school librarians, technology, and ethics HERE. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

EdCamp Birmingham

There's an interesting movement among educators today called the "Unconference." Teachers come together just like a regular conference, but the details of who is presenting what isn't decided until everyone comes together. I love this idea because it emphasizes that EVERYONE has something, some expertise, to bring to the table. Edcamps bring that out.

Like what you're hearing? Go here to register!

If you're interested in learning more about Edcamps, see this page. 

Date: May 5, 2012
Times: 8:00-4:00
Location: Trace Crossings Elementary School

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Moon over Manifest (by Clare Vanderpool)

It is 1936 and Abilene is 12 years old when her daddy sends her to Manifest (supposedly just for a little while, though a little while soon turns into a long while). She has spent her whole life drifting from one town and job to another with Gideon (her father). Abilene knows all about being the new kid. She copes with this by determining that there are "universals" everywhere a person goes. Rich snobs, tricksters, odd balls, etc. are some of the labels she hastily applies to the people of Manifest.

It is only after discovering a box of trinkets and, along with the help of a few friends she quickly learns she has misjudged, Abilene uncovers the pieces to the mystery of Manifest...and her father as well.

*Moon over Manifest is the 2011 Newbery Award winner. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Alabama Educational Technology Conference

AETC is a technology conference that takes place every year in June. Educators from all over Alabama and beyond travel in to present at and attend this conference! This year the conference will take place at Hewitt-Trussville High School. For more info about AETC, click here.

Dates: June 13-15
Location: Hewitt-Trussville High School in Trussville, Alabama

Don't forget that the Alabama School Library Association Conference is Tuesday, June 12 at Mountain Brook High School. If you'd like to volunteer at the registration table, let me know!

Register today!