Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I'm on a Blogging Vacation

Because of the Holiday week and needing a little time to de-escalate and relax, I have decided to take a week off of my blog.   I am planning to post again December 3.  I am really unsure of the topic at this point, maybe more on 1:1 or maybe something about online classes and my current search to find a program that is best for kids.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, enjoy time with family and be safe at the mall on Friday.

See you next week!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Our themes so far this year

My assistant and I have been constantly trying to create new and innovative ideas to get kids to the media center and to get them motivated to read.  We were fortunate enough to be able to get some buy in from the kids for a few of the programs we thought about doing.   We have started hitting this goal hard this year because we were finding a lot of great titles but not a lot of kids enjoying the books like we felt they should.  We spent some time collaborating and talking to a few kids and searching our Pinterest account and got some fantastic ideas.

First off, we started doing monthly themes with displays. We had done boards and posted covers and ideas but never created a specific display to go with it.  We also didn't have a blog or a site that we updated often with things.  Secondly, we have had some release themes.  (Some of our Seniors even welcomed House of Hades by Rick Riordan by wearing togas.)

In August and September, we had a ReadBox with books that have hit the screen (both big and televisions) and saw several titles, young and old fly off the shelves.    We put together the display and a bulletin board to match.  It was neat to see kids coming in and gravitating to a display that had some new titles.

The second full month of school was October so we hit the Zombie theme head on.  We made a cryptic bulletin board loaded with visuals of titles and creepy things.  Our school had a special zombie program where kids tried to turn others into zombies.  It fit perfectly with our theme and we even saw a few students go die hard and dress in Zombie clothes and makeup for Halloween. (Only those who had been turned wore the clothes, however.)

We rolled into November with a theme for males- we thought of No Shave November and decided to pull titles that boys would enjoy and place them on the shelves.  We made a catchy theme and added a selection of titles to the spindle.  We decided to shorten November because my assistant and I have a love for Dr. Who.

With that in mind, we decided to end November and roll into December with a Time Traveling Theme. We have found a large amount of Historical Fiction and Time Travel genre that don't circulate, so we pulled several from those genres and are building our own Tardis with some Daleks and Weeping Angels for display.  We decided the theme would be a tribute to the debut of the next season of Dr. Who which starts tomorrow. (Photos to come, as we have designed and built our Tardis, but it is unfair to display it before the actual date.)

We have some great ideas for things to come. Keep checking back as we will be adding more of our ideas soon.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Keeping a Fresh Collection

One of the things I absolutely pride myself in is collection development.  I have told my readers time and again how much time and effort I spend researching and organizing my ordering, my wish lists and my collection to make it fresh and new.  I decided it was time to share my tricks of the trade.   Be aware, I only have a small budget.  I get about $1700 a year for new materials plus a small amount of high ability money to use for additional items.   I also host two book fairs a year and get a lot of titles from Scholastic.   I have some other potential leads as well, but I haven't yet developed them.

Because of the limited budget, it is often hard to get a lot of new books.  But it never fails, the kids come in and look around and often focus on one spot, my new release area.  I have two spindles with new releases.  We keep them out for three weeks and do a cycle with the way we do them.

Each week, my assistant or I select twelve to fourteen books that are from different genre from our back storage shelf.  (We buy en masse at the beginning of the budget cycle and continuously add titles to the storage shelf. The storage shelf is sorted by genre and author. Titles that are hot commodities and in demand never make it back there. (Allegiant for example got delivered and put out the day it arrived, the same with House of Hades and Hard Luck.)  We know the kids enough to know what they are going to want now.  The books all appear as ON ORDER in our Destiny system and when we place them on the spindles, we merely check them in.  If a student asks for a specific title, we pull it for them from the back and require them to hand it back to us personally when they are done so it makes the new release shelf.

We seldom put out non-fiction unless we come across a title that people would read for pleasure.  (We talk to kids and get ideas from them about whether or not it would be read just to read or if they need it for a paper.)  We rotate spindles every Tuesday and make a short Animoto video with the newest titles. Those are added to the library learning commons blog and shared on Twitter (which posts it on the library Facebook page too).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blendspace for class flipping

My edshelf connection is turning into a goldmine for new tools to use in the classroom.  One such tool I came across was Blendspace.

Blendspace is a board per se, that allows users to add video, text, quizzes, and more to make the flipped class experience even more in depth.   It is very well organized and easy to use.  Some may remember edcanvas, this is now blendspace.

I sent a copy of a canvas/board to my French 2 class and I loved how the page worked, looked and assessed.  I was able to embed several videos to the site and then add a quiz at the end.  Even if the quiz is treated more as an exit slip, I am still going to see how much information the students have obtained and maintained.

The blendspace platform allows users to connect to many different web based tools, including dropbox, vimeo, google drive and educreations.   I can see, with the educreations component being an add-in that a teacher who uses that program for flipping a class will find a great deal of ease and success pulling tools for student use.

I am really impressed by how easy and quick this is to use. It takes very little time to establish a space, add documents and information.  I am excited to see how it works for my classes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A new way to flip a class

A few months back I joined edshelf, a site that builds collections of apps and tools for different needs.  Being a member of the site, I get a weekly (sometimes more often) email with a list of tools that have recently been added to the site.  I happened to read the latest email I received and noticed there was a new app/ site called edpuzzle.  I thought perhaps it was a site to make games but I checked it out and saw something that appealed to me a great deal:  a site that allows videos to be clipped and modified and add voice overs and questions.   I immediately thought about my French classes and how I could use it with them.

As I have mentioned before, I am working on flipping my French class.  I was searching for something I could use to show the kids videos but also assess them to see what they have learned.  I think this site would really help me do that.

After an account is created, classes can be made and so can assignments.   You can pull videos from Khan Academy, YouTube or LearnZillion and build assignments with them.  What a great tool to assess and teach together.

If you are doing a flipped class model or trying to differentiate your instruction, this may be the way to do it. Take a look at this site, it's free, seems easy and probably will do a lot of good for classes.

Friday, November 8, 2013


One of my daughter's teachers showed us an assignment she was working on but the entire assignment was started with a QR code.  The kids were scanning the code with their iPods and it was opening a PDF file that had their task. I was really intrigued by the whole process so I asked her teacher to share with me how it was being done.

She told me they were using a program called Tagmydoc.  It generates a QR code and a PDF for the file and opens it on the device you are using. It is designed to save paper.  One can create a free account and have up to 50 tags open at once.  There is also a way to earn 10 more free tags by completing a few tasks. It's a very simple program to use, merely create an account and upload documents. After it's uploaded, you can download the document or just the tag.  The document can come from the computer or from your google drive.

As a school librarian, I am highly considering using this program for a marketing tool.  I made a google presentation about the state award books.   I am thinking I could make a tag for the presentation and post it near the books so kids can see about them.  I am also thinking that when I have monthly themes, I will get a few reviews for some of the titles and make a tag kids can access to learn more about the book.

I uploaded our student broken computer report form and made a tag for it.  It was simple and fast.  I can stick it on the wall and kids can scan it and have their form filled out before they come to me. Easy.

I think a classroom teacher who is attempting to go paperless will find a lot of use with this.  Fifty tags that can regenerate when a file is removed can make things work well for anyone.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Marketing my Library

Part of the responsibility of being an effective school librarian is making a library a place that is welcoming and accommodating. It is also important to spend a little time marketing the library to everyone who should be using it.

Since my French classes are dwindling and fading out, I have had a little more time to focus on that very thing:  Marketing the library.  I spent my summer developing some ideas and ways to make the library more visible to everyone, including students, teachers, community and beyond.  I decided early on that I was going to start a blog or a website to promote what we are doing. I also decided I needed to promote our new releases and our current programs.  I spent a lot of time organizing Aminoto videos and making google presentations that can be embedded into numerous platforms.

I decided to use Blogger to create my website.  I started with Google Sites, but I didn't like the idea of the page just growing and not making a nice archive on the sidebar.  Blogger allowed for an archive so people could only see a limited amount of information and be able to look to the side for more.  I wanted information to remain and not be deleted.  I looked at other sites as well, but since I use Blogger for my main blog, I found it easier to build it all there.

I made a fancy movie about getting to know the library.  It is merely photos of different places.  I have done several screencasts as well.  All of them are posted on my library YouTube channel. My goal is to market as well as teach everyone.  I started doing Tech Tuesdays this year, inviting teachers to come to the library to learn tools. I have been sending the students emails with little tips and tricks.  I even started making little surveys to get kids to check their emails.  We give away little prizes here and there for answering the surveys.

Aside from making videos, I make a lot of signage and do a lot of advertising on social media.  In fact, I am a little bit of a social media guru.  Everything is mingled. I post on one, then all the others post the info. I have placed QR codes around the library and other parts of the school.  Hopefully my students are accessing the information and looking at what we have.

It takes a lot to make the school library a place for everyone and hopefully, these little efforts of mine will make mine an even better place.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Marketing my State's Award books

This school year, I have made a dedicated point to spend more time marketing the library.  I have been very focused on doing whatever it takes to increase student library usage.  I have spent a lot of time checking out things other people do, talking to other media specialists, googling ideas, attending webinars, twitter chats and conferences; whatever it takes. I am finding that my efforts are not only fun, but starting to pay off.

It started when a colleague sent a message on the Indiana Librarians listserv asking for ways schools were promoting the state award books.   I had been doing a few things in the library and getting them interested, but her challenge drove me to find some other outlets. I decided to start making videos.

I spent a little time walking about the media center looking for pictures of the books, the signage, the prizes (I give away prizes via drawing for voting on the books.) and where to find the materials.  I used my trusty Animoto account and voilà, a quick, fun video that identified all of the things we had to offer. I shared it with my YouTube account and emailed it to all of the students.  They saw what I had to offer and what we were doing for the students who participated.

When the second nine weeks started, I posted a new video, featuring the winners from round one, the prizes we had and how they could win. I posted the video on YouTube and sent it to the kids.  I am seeing a lot of positive changes in circulation. Last year only 8 of the state award books were checked out and voted upon.  This year, I have already had 30.  *I know this sounds like a very low number but in a school of 200, it is a good percentage.

I am not sure how much impact my newly found marketing strategies will work, but I am sure with time, persistence and a little patience, the students in my school will have a part in voting for the Indiana nominated books.