Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Link things with Thing Link

I came across this awesome Web 2.0 tool that I have to share - Thinglink is what I would call a visual learners dream come true.

Thinglink allows you to take an image and link other information to it. You can use the search box inside of Thinglink to find YouTube or Vimeo clips, SoundCloud or Spotify audio clips, Amazon books, items for sale on Etsy or Ebay, public photos on Flickr or Instagram and Social media like Facebook or Twitter and much more. Click here to see a Slide Share to explain more.  If you know of a great website you can click anywhere on the picture and link it. You can even just include some interesting information in a text box to share.

I can see endless possibilities of how to use this with students. The first thing that came to mind was when I used to collaborate with the art teacher and the students created a report to share information about their environmental issue they airbrushed or artist the interpreted on a birdhouse. With this resource we could take a digital picture of the artwork and students could link information they found on the Internet and even to a Google Doc version of their typed report and tada it is an all digital report to share!

Another idea I had would be for students doing a biography report as we did in 6th grade Language Arts. The students could find a picture of their famous person then link videos of the person giving a speech, an online encyclopedia or magazine article with more information about the person, books about the person, a recipe they like to eat, or even a song they sing or like and a Google Doc of their written report. Another tada for a digital sharing piece!

If you do a million dollar scrapbook in Math you could use a picture collage site like Smilebox,  Photovisi , Fotor, or PiZap to create a collage of all your items then load to Thinglink and create links to online catalogs and websites with prices and descriptions of the items.

I could also see students using it for ecosystem presentations by finding a picture layout of their assigned ecosystem and labeling the different parts with information about why they are important to the life cycle in the system. Or adding videos of animals that live in the ecosystem and websites for environmental websites to protect the area.

Students studying different cultures around the world could find a picture of a celebration in that culture and link to videos or other photos of the celebration, items purchased to celebrate, websites about customs that happen during the celebration, and social media posts from people during the celebration.

Students studying advertising could pick a picture of a product and link to commercials, the products website, information on the history of the product, customer reviews of the product, and stock or price information about the product.

Students reading a book could draw or pose for a picture of the characters in a scene from the book and link to video clips of book trailers (or make their own to link to), other photos that depict happenings in the book, sounds or songs that go with the mood of the book, merchandise the characters might have, or reviews of the book.

Here is an example of the first one I created for a teaching tool to use with the Dewey Decimal System mural in the library.

Before you close the page - share some of your ideas for using Thinglink with your students....

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Have The Shelf Elf help with library classroom management

As I was spending too much time on Pinterest the other day, doing some research for creating our own version of the Elf on the Shelf at our house I was reminded of The Shelf Elf from Upstart. Click on The Shelf Elf to see the book and you can search other items like bookmarks, books with lessons and posters. I also found a link to this PDF with ideas for using him to teach library etiquette and skills. The Shelf Elf is suggested for K-2 students, but I think you could use with older students as review too.

I started thinking this might be a good way to handle classroom management in the library as well. So I wanted to share some ideas on how this might work.

I would start by purchasing or seeing if a volunteer could make a Shelf Elf doll to keep in the library. There are many ideas on Etsy. Here are a couple I liked -

I would read The Shelf Elf by Jackie Mims Hopkins and discuss what Skoob does to be a good library student and take care of the books.

I would introduce the students to our shelf elf and explain that he would be making appearances throughout the year to check in on us. He will be watching to make sure we are being

  • Respectful - following instructions - listening to teacher and other students when teaching or sharing
  • Responsible - returning books back on time and materials to class - getting assignments done well and on time -being on time for class
  • Have good Relationships - helping classmates - listening to other opinions
  • Being Safe - using library materials properly (including electronics) - online safety 
(These are the words we drill into our students as part of PBIS so I wanted to keep the terms, but they could be adjusted to fit your school.)

Throughout the year the shelf elf would show up and give coins to students who are 'caught' following these expectations.

Students could turn the coins in for prizes at different times of the year. Prizes could be almost anything, here are some I thought of -\

  • Bookmarks
  • Homework pass
  • Books
  • Trinkets
  • Lunch in the library (with friends or for a personal pan pizza)
  • Guest appearance on morning announcements
  • Extra Credit or Add 10 points to an assignment score
  • Extra technology time

You could even have The Shelf Elf come out to help promote new books, award homerooms with having no overdues, contests for reading minutes, and like the Elf on the Shelf at Christmas time he could show up and do some silly things throughout the year like -

  • Rearrange some books on the shelf (kids could help put them back for practice)
  • Take selfies with the kids and favorite books to post on library website
  • Spell out messages in books (or chalk, scrabble tiles, candy, shaving cream)
  • Set up a scavenger hunt for books 
  • Leave a note in books at random for prizes
  • Change screen saver on computer to a picture of him
  • Get stuck in display case, between books, magazine boxes, computer monitor, kleenex box, ect
The ideas are endless and could be a lot of fun depending on time you have to spend, which we all know can be sparse depending on how many fixed classes you teach or libraries you cover in your district. 

I even found a tutorial on how to make an elf coat from recycled sweaters on Etsy. Which could be fun to wear if you are helping the elf.

I sometimes like to take an idea and make it my own, so instead of the Shelf Elf you could find any stuffed animal to live on the shelves in your library and watch the students. For example my former school's mascot was a hawk so maybe he could use his keen hawk vision to keep an eye on the students in the library. I think he could even be used in the classroom if needed.

Before you close the page - What are your ideas for classroom management in the library?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

May the Odds Ever be in your Favor - Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games

Unless you were unlucky enough to be reaped into The Hunger Games, I am sure you are aware of the trilogy by Suzanne Collins about a society that places two children from each of the 12 districts in an arena to fight to the death on live television in order to keep the citizens from rebelling against the all powerful Capitol.

For the second time we have decided to bring this book to life for students and the second Hunger Games Competition was held as a joint event with the middle and high school students who chose to take the challenge.

I went to a competition about four years ago at the college I attended and had a blast helping with the first aid station, so I came back and told my fellow high school librarian that we needed to have one too.
After we did one a few years ago when the first movie came out the kids told us as they left we needed another one when the next movie came out, so here we were happy to get them engaged again!

For the first competition we went to work searching the book and many websites to come up with the activities for the games. The announcement and posters hit the hallways and teams were formed. As part of the competition the teams were asked to bring school supplies to donate to our Back to School Fair for an entry fee. We had seven teams sign up and participate in the Cornucopia Challenge followed by these stations -

  • Trivia
  • Face Painting (Camouflage)
  • Poison Berries
  • Scholastic Online Hunger Games
  • Dark Room
  • Obstacle Course 

As we tallied scores to see who won the students decorated cupcakes in honor of Peeta. The winners left with some movie tickets and posters and door prizes were drawn for more posters or books. It was great to hear them talk about all their adventures as they left.

This time we again went to work searching the book and websites to come up with activities. Teams were formed and as part of the competition were asked to bring canned food to donate to the local food pantry as an entry fee. We had fourteen teams sign up and participate in the Cornucopia Challenge followed by these stations -

  • On Fire Trivia
  • Duct Tape Doll Dresses
  • The Human Knot
  • Water Drop
  • Dark Room Pool
  • Paper Airplanes 

The students were treated to a survival mix as points were tallied and winners left with their choice of  movie tickets or a book about the movie and door prizes were drawn for t-shirts, bookmarks, or posters.

Here are some pictures of the students who came through my trivia station and the prizes at the end of the competition -

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Of course this competition could not have happened without the students interest, the teachers and volunteers who came to help run the stations, and the students who participated as design team leaders to help lead the teams around to the correct station. So we thank all of them for taking the time to help. It is wonderful to see a community of readers excited by their love of the story. We already heard some comments about next time...

If you would like any information about the stations or how they worked feel free to contact me, I am happy to share!

Before your close the page - Does your school have any competitions to help bring books to life? What are they? I would love to hear all the ideas! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” (Greg Anderson)

For as long as I can remember, I have always been curious. My dad used to get frustrated watching TV with me because I would ask questions he could not possibly answer as we were both watching the show unfold together.

Technology has hooked me since I struggled my way across The Plains on an Apple II E computer during a game of The Oregon Trail. I can still remember my sense of accomplishment when I made it to the end with all my appendages still in tact and only one family member swept away in the river current as we crossed in our covered wagon.

I have been an organizer of people and events since I was eight and married my brother (he was five) off to the neighbor girl. They were all dressed up, with a faux pastor and wagon ride to the reception down the street. There are still pictures (and even video I think) that surface every now and then long enough to make my brother blush.

I also have a real love of words. I have read more books then I could possibly count. Starting with my early childhood as part of a bedtime routine and even now a good book will help me settle in for the night. Finding information of all kinds excites me.

So you know I am excited as every day brings a change to the world of technology and I have fully embraced the use of Web 2.0 technology. I will try almost any new technology out there once and it sure beats the original HTML code I tried to decipher as I built a webpage in college.

But as I worked with a group of students this week I started to wonder what all this information at our fingertips is doing to our students? I watched the students rush to be done with very little effort or quality time spent with the information they were supposed to be finding.

Please don't think  I am planning to surrender my iPad and wireless Internet. Online is still my go to if I need a quick answer, (Even though I have been known to challenge a student to see where the information can be found faster - print vs online) but I get engrossed in the process and search of finding what I need. I spend time and will often have 10  tabs open on my browser before I am finally finished because I have come across so many other new things as well.

Before you close the page - what is your favorite Web 2.0 tool to use but how do we get students to slow down and find the joy in the journey in this fast paced society? 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them. -Lemony Snicket

It is Teen Read Week and in celebration I collaborated with an 8th grade Language Arts teacher to introduce students to Shelfari.  This is not not, but if you have not checked out this Web 2.0 tool (powered by Amazon) for book lovers I hope you will enjoy using it as much as me.

  Good Reads is another popular source out there that has similar features. I have accounts in both because I enjoy to compare what is out there. Good Reads has an app that is connected to my eReader app that lets me instantly share what I just read.  

Thanks to a library list serve I am on I learned about a very awesome site for younger readers to share their reading as well called Bilbliobasium and if you didn't know about it, check it out. I am using it with my daughter and she is loving the challenges I set up for her.

I wish this tool would have been around when I was getting my masters degree and making binders and filling in spreadsheets to keep track of all the books I read.

The students created accounts and put the book they were reading on their virtual shelf. (And of course those tech savvy ones had their picture uploaded and changed before we could get around to all of them.) They also followed me and we sent them an invitation to a group we created to share our books on.

Our plan is as the students finish their books they will add them to their shelf and the group shelf for a virtual one stop shop to book recommendations when they need them.

There is also a feature to create discussions about books so this will be a place to ask questions and explore more about what others are reading. With just a few clicks a book spin on social networking has started!

A BIG shout out to Mrs. Wood and her classes for taking the time to have me in to do this. I cannot wait to see what happens when the pages come to an end and our group shelf fills up! Click back on the same 'book' channel in May to see what we learned.

Before you close the page what are some ways you keep track of what you have read or promote reading with teens?


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ask a librarian?

As  I have mentioned I am currently taking a class on the last leg of finishing up my reading endorsement and part of the class was to pick a research topic (related to reading) and look at ten articles about the topic. As a former teacher-librarian I am aware of many studies on the positive impact of libraries and librarians on reading scores, yet (as I am a casualty of budget cuts) it is one of the first positions done without when schools have declining enrollment and can't keep up with increasing budget cuts. So I decided to do my research on the impact of school libraries and also reading incentives (as this is something the librarian is often involved in) on reading scores in schools.

Twenty-one states, including Iowa where I live, have done studies on library impact and reading score. Every study showed a positive impact on reading scores and a quality library program with a certified librarian. So why is this a position that is often shared between buildings or in some cases done without? It made me wonder even more about all the things that can not be done in my former building because one person is now doing the job two used to do. So I created a Prezi (if you haven't tried out this online presentation site, I highly recommend it to any visual learners!) to show what my school was possibly missing with only someone in the library part time. You can click here to check out the presentation by clicking here.

I was not surprised of the information out there about the negative effects of just using Accelerated Reader (AR) or Reading Counts as reading programs. I, myself believe that these programs are not the best way to track reading progress and felt very frustrated when I was student teaching and spent time book talking books with students and having them turn it down because it was not AR or not at their color dot. I am also a horrible test taker, so would probably (and have) done poorly on a multiple choice test over something I just read, but could write, create, or talk endlessly about it.

I was more surprised about the research out there about the negative effect of rewarding reading, as it is suppose to be a pleasant experience for us. I have to respectfully disagree as even though I loved my job as a teacher-librarian I could not make it in society without a paycheck, which in a way was my reward for working. I have also seen reading incentives work with reluctant readers. Not everyone loves to read like I do, but like it or not everyone does read. Even my husband who would never read a book 'just for fun', takes time in the barn each week to read his farm newspapers and pours over manuals to fix equipment almost daily. It is ALL about finding what interests each student. Reading is like any other skill, you are only going to get better at it if you practice and if I can provide a little something extra (be it a bookmark or a small celebration to celebrate reading or even some food) to get a student to take a little extra time to read, I am going to do it.

Before you close the page do you have a full time school librarian at your school and what do they do to promote reading with your students?