Friday, March 29, 2013

More about our Genre Based library

Y'all are probably tired of my discussion about the genre based library and I promise, I am about done.  I just wanted to show everyone what we decided to do with our History books.   If everyone elses' library is like mine, the History section takes up most of your non fiction.  Most of the teachers and kids who come in to use bound resources want history books. We decided to make the search easier.

Aside from adding categories to our books, as many of you are hearing me talk about a lot, we decided to also include a time stamp.   We made color coded labels for different eras.  Our era decision was based on the number of books we had.  For example, We have a lot of books that cover the decades in the 1900s but a lot less that cover the era before Christ, so, we mixed a lot of years.  We are labeling each book with the color coded labels (we just used an address label template, filled each label with a lot of text and printed it on colored paper).   When kids come in looking for a specific era, we can share the color coded label with them and say... look for this label.   If they come in looking for a specific situation (like the Revolutionary War) we can guide them to that specific area.

Yes, it took a lot of time.  Yes, it took a lot of energy and brainstorming.  Yes, I have gotten some slack from veteran teachers and librarians who think Dewey is God.  Yes, I have people questioning what I have done.  I don't care. Because it my eyes, I am doing this for kids and for that, it is worth it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Attending a Conference, without Attending a Conference

I adore conferences.  I live for them, but often, I can't find the time or the money to attend.  Sometimes, it's hard to leave my kids.  Sometimes it's hard to do the sub plans for two days.  (Face it, as teachers we know it's easier to come to work sick than to do the planning and followup-  the same thing goes with a planned day or two off.)   Still, conferences are my passion.  I love to attend, I love to learn, I love finding new things and bringing them back.  I may have solved some of my conference woes via twitter.

Last week, the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) hosted their annual conference in Detroit.   I'll be honest, I didn't know about it, but, the timing wouldn't lend for me to attend, either.  I came across the hashtag on several PLN tweets on twitter and started following it.  I had a blast following the conference.  I learned so many things interactively.   I saved about twenty sites (I didn't know before) to my pocket site, I retweeted some, I favorited a little and I even joined in some of the conversation.  It was fabulous.

The best approach to following a conference on twitter is use an app such as tweetdeck or hootsuite.  I prefer tweetdeck, myself.   It can be downloaded directly to your device or you can use it in a browser.  Chrome even has an app.   Pop it open, add a column for the hashtag and voilà, you are in business.   I also suggest you create an account at pocket. This is the new and improved version of read it later which was an innovative way to save links to refer to at a later time.   I do just that, I follow along, read the tweets, add the links of interest to my pocket.  I go back later and read them over, learn the site, check out the tool.

One of the gentlemen I follow on twitter named Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) reminded me that one of the advantages of being a connected educator is virtual attendance at all the conferences.  Who said it has to be physical attendance?   I have attended conferences before the same way.  Sometimes I learn a lot, sometimes I learn very little.  It's defintely worth a shot, regardless.

What conferences are coming up that could be showing up on twitter?  There are a ton more if you visit the conference calendar website.


Friday, March 22, 2013

PBWorks for class collaboration

For one of our PDs last year, I asked our trainer to share with us a site called PBWorks.  He did and now, I am in the process of using it for the media center to establish a collaborative site where we could do something with book clubs.   I have been too busy to do a lot with it, but the time has come to start looking at it again.
The site is set up almost like a moodle but not needing a host server to use.  It's a free site as well. You create a workspace in your account and from there you can add a lot of different tools:  syllabi, files, pages, etc.   The site has a lot of potential for the classroom as well as for the media center.   I can see it being used as a group wiki space for PBL projects.  

Since my focus next year is going to be more PBL based, I am thinking I will rely on PBWorks a lot next year to get my students communicating with each other and doing more useful tasks.  

I am also going to set up a workspace for the Media Center. I would love to start doing some online book chats, some informative tip sheets and maybe even a place for recommendations.   I can't wait to get started.  I think this will be a very useful tool for my students. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What I am doing about Library Layout: Part Two

So my story of change continues. The summer before last, I decided the 1970s orange countertop that was waist high, made of laminate and particle board. It certainly wasn't a patron friendly space.  I wanted to be eye level and seated as I worked with kids.  I found some furniture in an old lab we no longer used and brought it in.  It was a beautiful color of blue, looked very professional.  I decided to paint the library to match.  So we went from drab brown walls to a lovely cornflower shade.  All of my orange was gone.  Next step, more shelving movements.

I am not a fan of tall shelving.  High School kids are more than willing to do what they aren't supposed to do if they have nooks and crannies to hide in.  I did everything in my power to do even more shelving relocation to open up spaces and make it hard for kids to be naughty.  My aid and I spent a few days with the drill taking apart the shelves and sliding them all over the library.  I am happy to say I now have a huge space where a class could meet and do lessons and I can see the entire thing happen.  I like to see it all. (That is why I added mirrors.

Last year, I got rid of the bean bags (they were dingy and well loved) and I got adirondack chairs. ($20, washable, and they are easier to maintain than the bean bags.) I kept the rugs and tables but relocated them to a quaint open space that is very visible from the circ desk.  There is a small chess area and a television (Which I got with an LSTA grant) right where kids can use it.  I moved my large magazine rack to the space so kids could come and go and read magazines as they relaxed.  We added a coffee shop so kids could come in, have a coffee and visit.  The library has become the school social ground and I love it.

My next plan?   Make my office into the coffee shop, move the circ desk to a more centralized location so I can work with kids and teachers but also be able to maintain a better social space. Hopefully I can find and win a $40K grant to get new, shorter metal shelves so I can open the space up and make it more of a "teen friendly area."  Maybe I can find money for new tables (since I have had to pitch four this year because they broke) and money for a coffee shop sitting area.  Guess I am dreaming now!

Friday, March 15, 2013

What I am doing about library layout: Part One

As many of my readers know, I have been in the process of genrefying the library and doing away with Dewey as an order of organizing.  One other thing I have been working toward is a layout of the library that accomodates the kids and also invites them to the media center.   When I took over the library in 2010, it was dark and unwelcoming.  Shelving was blocking views and there was nowhere for kids to sit and relax.  We had a very tight shelving space and a lot of outdated books.   I took charge immediately and decided I needed to make the library a welcoming place.  We had a huge card cataloging system from the 80s that had to go.  I had a little help, grabbed a sawzall and cut it apart.  (It wasn't very fantastic for those of you gasping at the thought of using a sawzall on a cabinent. It was particle board and laminate... ugly laminate.  It matched my shelving... which is not very desireable.) This left me with a large amount of space.

I started by finding some left over money to buy bean bags, end tables and a couple of rugs.  My thought, put a little effort in to make it comfortable. I made a small sitting area near the circ desk that was a hit immedaitely.  I decided getting a small area started and then progress to more demo later was key to success.

After the year started, I went on a rampage with shelving.  I brought the husband's drill (sorry, I broke some bits, dear) and took apart my particle board shelving and relocated it to a more uniform location.  No more hidden corners in my library.   I redid the layout of the fiction section, weeded a lot and mingled reference books into non fiction. (I had some thousand dollar sets of books that had never been cracked because they couldn't be checked out.

I spent the first year moving shelves, weeding books and formatting the layout to where I was a little happier. (I still dream of short shelves that I can see over and not the floor to ceiling shelving of years past.) I have moved a lot of things around.  This was just the beginning.   Wait til you see what I did next....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Some more places to visit for Web 2.0 tools

A few weeks back, I posted a few sites to refer to for web 2.0 tools.  I realized I forgot one that is well evaluated and organized.  It's from the American Association of School Librarians or AASL.  For the last four years, the AASL has selected the top 25 sites and published their findings.  I learned about this site last year while I was at a conference, and I refer to it annually ever since.  It takes nominations from the public and evaluates the sites to determine which are the best.

The site is easy to follow and it is well organized.  It divides the sites into six categories: Media Sharing, Digital Storytelling, Manage and Organizing, Social Networking and Communication, Content resources and curriculum collaboration.  For those of you who have specific needs this is the place to go.

A lot of the sites I have referenced in my posts are located on the AASL site.  I have found several beneficial tools to use in my classroom. I recommend looking here or the archives for some great tools to use in your classroom. 

Keep in mind, librarians evaluate these sites.  Librarians are trained to find good tools for students, staff and colleagues.  Check it out, I think you will find some fantastic links to sites that can benefit everything in your classroom. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Free Webinars and where to do them

As an LMS, I feel it is my duty to provide my students and staff with as much information as possible, and in order to do that, I realize that I am going to have to give a little time to learn as much as I can about a topic. I am finding the best way to explore things and learn more is via webinars.  There are a lot of organizations offering free webinars these days and I have come across a few where I get a lot of good information.  Some of them even provide archives for free where I can go anytime and refresh, or catch up if I miss out.

First of all,   Not sure if many are familiar with this site, but edweb was established through support from Follett for librarians.  It has grown into a much more intense site.  You can see live webinars and access the archives for free.  The content isn't just for librarians either.  I have seen everything from teaching with games to mobile devices and iPads.  There is a slew of information and it's all free.  I have seen some excellent webinars and I have learned a lot of valuable information.

Secondly, simplek12.   Simplek12 can be joined for free, but to access archives, you often have to have a membership.   I spent about five days last summer watching some of their live webinars.  The organization offers special programs, for example: there was a google day where the entire day focused on webinars about google, google docs, google chrome, google apps, etc.   I have seen days about web 2.0 tools and days about iPads for the classroom.  There are so many wonderful things on their site.  It's loaded with ideas and content.  The annual subscription payment allows you to access webinars in the archives.  Some of them even have eBooks that relate.   It's worth looking into the site, do some of the webinars, browse what is available and you will probably find justification for the site's fee.

These two sites are my go to places for webinars, but I have come across some other freebies as well:  School Library Journal and Library Journal do free ones from time to time.  Demco, the library supplier has a webinar series now. Even many DOE websites offer beneficial webinars that focus on our common core standards.