Back to School with GooseChase

We are back at school and I’m having a blast kicking off visits to the library with my middle school classes using the GooseChase App for library orientation.

GooseChase allows you to organize and run scavenger hunts in which teams must document the completion of a series of tasks, or missions. You can require submissions that are text, photo, or video. They have a Game Library where you can find some initial inspiration and think about how to best structure your game.

I’m starting my time with the students running through a brief overview of our library with this presentation:

Since nearly all of my 7th and 8th graders are returning students, I can get through this pretty quickly. Of course I will take a little more time with my new 6th graders.

With the free educator version of GooseChase, you can have one live game with up to five teams participating at once. Once you build out the game with a variety of missions, it’s very simple to duplicate it to use with multiple classes. Here are some of the missions I used for my game:

You can check out my entire game and even make a copy of it here.

I absolutely love that during the game, I can check out the leaderboard and activity feed to see how the different teams are doing. And maybe best of all, you can see all of the submissions, either grouped by mission or by team, giving you a great collection of photos and videos submitted by your students:

I created way more “missions” than I knew my students would be able to complete during the given time. I also instructed them to NOT complete them in order, so we wouldn’t have too many traffic pile-ups. I’m looking forward to using this with the rest of my classes this week as my middle school students are welcomed back into our library.

 

Back to School Bookmarks

It’s hard to believe that summer has slipped away and it’s time to get back to school. It’s always exciting, hectic, and a little overwhelming this time of year, but it’s also a great time to reflect on summer learning and make plans to try something new.

I’ve been Bitmoji obsessed for a while now. My awesome library assistant and I communicate almost exclusively via Bitmoji communication on SnapChat. Seriously, we’ve kept our Snap Streak alive all summer!

This summer has provided me with some great professional development opportunities, including my first ALA Annual Conference, a training at school on Social Emotional Learning, and EdCamp Watson today. After chatting with my friend and new librarian Laura Foy at EdCamp, I was reminded of a fun book mark design contest I did several years ago. This inspired me to come home and design some back to school bookmarks for our library. Shannon Miller blogged recently about using friendmojis in the library, and I was inspired to add bitmoji Ms. Kramm and Mrs. Whitehead to our bookmarks.

I created these bookmarks in Canva, using this great background photo I found on Pixabay. I wanted to include important info about our library, like our hours and website. Since our middle school students are 1:1 iPad, I made sure to include a QR code that will bring them to our website with our library catalog and databases. They’re being printed by OvernightPrints, so I made sure to follow the dimensions and instructions they provide for design. I can’t wait to get these in person so I can share them with students and families at orientation next week.

Looking forward to a great 2018-2019 school year!

News Literacy: Videos to Spark Conversation

News literacy is a hot topic these days, as it should be with the “fake news” buzzword flying around at every turn. I’ve been digging in on news literacy resources this year, as know that this is another avenue for librarians to step up and become experts in our schools in a topic that isn’t necessarily embedded in the curriculum just yet. It’s very much in the vein of digital citizenship — we have to help prepare our students for the world they live in now and the unknown future where they will be adults.

Research shows that this is a growing issue facing society, and it’s something we as school librarians can step up and address. We know that our students struggle to evaluate sources they find online for credibility, and this research by the Stanford History Education Group confirms what we already know. This article by The Atlantic shares the findings of an MIT study on the spread of fake news on Twitter, and the battle that we are fighting is up a very steep hill.

I’ve presented on the topic of news literacy several times this year, and I have collected several videos that are great points of introduction and discussion on the topic. I think that news literacy is one of those concepts that should be grounded in discussion with students — it’s not as cut and dry as other topics may be and complex issues like this require awareness, thought, reflection, and some solid strategies.

I have a few videos that make great discussion starters when introducing the topic of news literacy with students.

This video describes how a town in Macedonia has become a hub for publishing fake news articles. Hearing the anonymous poster talk about how and why he is publishing these articles is sure to stir up discussion with your students.

 

This short minute and a half video describes how filter bubbles work and how social media algorithms tailor what you see based on your history. I think it’s important to note that as adults, we remember a time before social media. When our Facebook accounts show ads for things we’ve searched for on Google, it freaks us out. For our students, though, this is all they’ve ever known.

 

This video by Teaching Tolerance outlines how a “fake” news story can go viral. It specifically tells the story of a Tweet during the 2016 presidential election that took on a life of its own — and that even once the guy who posted it realized what he shared wasn’t true, he couldn’t pull it back.

 

This TED Ed video describes how news is spread, the history of how news was shared to how we access news today, and the phenomenon of circular reporting. TED Ed has a number of videos that can be used to facilitate discussions with students on news literacy.

The road ahead for tackling the issue of news literacy isn’t going to get easier, but as educators we must give serious consideration to what we can do to equip our students with the tools they need to be news and social media savvy.

Twitter Bingo

I’ve been evangelizing about Twitter for years. Every chance I get, I tell people how Twitter changed my life and how building my PLN is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself professionally. Several years ago at CMS, I hosted a Twitter Boot Camp for my teachers. Over the past three semesters, I’ve worked with my technology department at Episcopal to use Twitter Bingo as a tool to introduce Twitter to our faculty and get them using it to build a professional network.

What I like about using this format for Twitter Bingo is that the teachers were able to work at their own pace. This also introduced them to a wide range of Twitter activities — from simple things like following and re-tweeting to participating in a full on Twitter chat. Instructions were linked to each square, but teachers really had to get in there and figure it out for themselves. Don’t we tell our students all the time that this is the best way to really learn something?

On the technical/creation side of things, I made the grid using Canva and imported the image into ThingLink to add the tutorials for each square. Since I ran this separately for each division (lower, middle, and upper school), I changed some of the who-to-follow squares in order to help tailor their network to their area.

Of course we used prizes to entice participation. Teachers filled out a Google Form to let me know they completed all the squares, giving a very short blurb on what they learned from their experience on Twitter. Here’s what a few of them said:

“I thought I would immediately want to unfollow the people I was told to follow because I didn’t really want to be following so many people. I have had actual interaction with these folks, so now they are real people to me, and I will continue to follow them because they have great ideas.”

“I had no idea what these chat hashtags were all about and then realized it was a way to interact more efficiently on a topic with the Q and A style. I like it!”

“I am still working on building my community so that my feed is always showing something helpful but I have enjoyed seeing what other teachers are doing. I found Responsive Classroom to have the most helpful ideas quickly.”

“This is great! I should have started a long time ago!”

As I said before, we learn best by doing. This was a great way to get some of my teachers really digging in to Twitter. Did everyone participate? Not even close! But many of those who did continue to use Twitter and are finding it to be such a valuable resource in their professional lives. That’s more than good enough for me!

FETC Recap

Last week I was lucky enough to attend FETC for the first time. As a long-time ISTE attendee/presenter, I’m definitely comfortable with the large ed tech conference scene. I especially enjoyed FETC because it’s just the right size for me. I loved this conference because for the first time in quite some time, I was able to go as an attendee, without the pressure of presenting. I accompanied two other folks from my school’s technology team, which made the experience even more fun.

Anytime I’m attending a conference, I think about my learning goals and plan my sessions accordingly. For this conference, I focused on gathering resources to support teachers in Project-Based Learning, ideas for design for collaborative learning spaces, and new tech tools to take back to share with my teachers. They keynote by Sir Ken Robinson and TechShare LIVE with Adam Bellow, Hall Davidson, Kathy Schrock, and Leslie Fisher were definitely highlights of the conference.

I’m still working on digesting the things I learned and new resources I’ve brought back, but I wanted to share some of the most intriguing tools and apps I was introduced to at FETC:

Goose Chase – App to organize and run a scavenger hunt.

Mentimeter – An interactive presentation tool.

YellKey – Temporary, simple URL shortener that uses REAL words, not crazy letter/number combos.

Incredibox – This one is SO FUN! It’s a free music creator (web and app) that’s as simple as drag and drop.

StoryFab – App that is basically an AR movie studio. AR and VR were big topics, and this is one of the many resources I saw that has tons of potential to use with students.

 

Do you have any new (or new to you) tech tools that you’re obsessed with right now?

Library Confessions: I’m a terrible book talker

I’ve been feeling a bit ‘meh’ about some things lately, and perhaps putting some library confessions out there might at least make me feel more honest about where I feel I am professionally and what I’m doing to improve myself. With blogging, it’s easy to post only the good things and make it look like you’re a library rock star, but the honest truth is that we all have things that we struggle with professionally. It’s what we do about them that really defines us.

I’ve always felt that one of my shortcomings as a librarian is book talking. I know some teachers and other librarians who are book talking geniuses. I am not one of those people. Back in my elementary days, I could throw down a mean story time. And I feel like I’m great at connecting students with books on a one on one basis. That may be one of the roots of my book talking failures — I prefer to get to know students and their preferences, then recommend books I know they will enjoy. I usually establish those relationships so well that I don’t really have to ‘sell’ the books, I just hand them over and ask students to report back. So over the years, “Here — you’ll like this one,” is kind of the direction where my book talking skills have gone. There’s definitely not much of an art to that — so I’m working on it.

As with most things that I do, I require thought time and preparation to be anywhere decent in my execution of book talks. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those amazing-on-the-spot-book-talk-givers. With all of my middle school and freshmen library orientation/book check-out visits this year, I did a hand full of book talks as well. I went through and pulled a selection of books that I know and love, then I wrote little blurbs on sticky notes to put on the back to use as a guide when I book talked. Of course, I kept all of the stickies, because that was a lot of work!

After two weeks of this, I realized handwritten sticky notes probably weren’t the best long term solution for keeping track of my book talk notes. I’ve since made a Google Form where I’m inputting my notes so I can reprint them on sticky notes and reuse them in the future.

And just for fun, here are some of the books I find myself recommending most often to students:

Do you have any advice to improve book talking skills? Or favorite books that are checked out every time you share them with students?

Banned Books Week Display

One of the things I love about working with 6-12 grades is that I have such a large range of books to highlight during Banned Books Week!

Look here for resources from ALA on Banned Books Week.

Last year, I made these really cute banners for Banned Books Week, which I reused this year, along with excessive amounts of caution tape.

I followed this tutorial to print on sticky notes. I printed the blurbs from ALA’s annual bibliographies on Frequently Challenged or Banned Books on the stickies to give students more information. For a few of them, I wrote some of the key phrases describing their challenge/ban on a paper bag to make the display more interactive.

Students are always interested to learn more about books that have been banned or challenged. This is one of my favorite displays of the year!

Expectations with a bit of humor…

It’s hard to believe that many of my friends are just starting their school year this week, as we have been back in the swing of things for a month now. It’s also hard to believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted here, but after what was a year full of challenges and changes for me professionally and personally (move to a new school and a total home remodel, anyone?), I’m ready to kick it back into high gear for an awesome 2017-2018 school year.

Our schedule throughout the day gives our students a lot of flexibility (and “free” time), which means the library is often PACKED. Even though expectations for common spaces were discussed with the student body when we returned from summer, we were already noticing tons of trash and food left behind in the library after breaks. My fabulous library assistant and I are on the same page — we want students to feel welcome, we don’t want to fuss at them all the time, but we also need them to respect the library space.

After yesterday’s morning tutorial (a 45 minute block where we average about 150 students in the library), the library was pretty trashed from Goldfish and cereal. We had talked about making a humorous video to get our point across about this last year, but we never got around to it.

With my schedule open yesterday, it was the perfect opportunity to throw together a quick video to show to the entire upper school student body during afternoon announcements. I prefaced the video with the fact that we love that they feel so welcome and comfortable in the library…we just need them to keep this expectation in mind:

The students were definitely amused, and the faculty even more so. It’s often hard to balance enforcing library expectations while still maintaining positive relationships and open rapport with students. That balance is definitely something I struggle with, but as educators we know how important consistency is for our students. Hopefully, this fun reminder will do the trick (at least for a little while).

Down the High School Research Rabbit Hole

This school year has been full of new beginnings for me as I’ve experienced the high school setting for the first time as a librarian and settled into my new position at my amazing new school. I’ve been a blogging slacker, which I’m not going to apologize for (although I will admit that I’ve been battling with the guilt) because I’ve needed time to acclimate.

The area where I was most nervous about the transition to high school was teaching research skills. I came from a middle school setting with very little funding for digital resources to a school that highly values research and has fantastic database offerings for student use. It took me quite some time just to figure out what resources we had available here and to familiarize myself with them. Building out our new library website allowed me the time to do just that. In the first month of school (immediately following the flood when several world language teachers were stationed in the library for several weeks), I had some time to work on the structure of our new library website. We all know how important it is for our library resources to be easily accessible and user friendly. It’s hard enough to convince students to use databases over Google. We don’t need to let our clunky websites add tot he challenge! I used Weebly to build our library website, and I’m so happy with the results.

Since all of our databases are authenticated on campus with our IP address, it was important that I find a way to securely share off campus login credentials with students. I found the simplest way to do this was to create a Google Doc shared within our school’s Google Apps domain. As long as students are logged in to their school Google account, they can access this doc and access the necessary passwords.

Just like my summer weeding and fiction genrefying allowed me to get to know my print collection well, the process of developing this website helped me to become familiar with our digital resources. As I started to share this website with students and teachers through orientation type lessons on library resources, I knew that this was going to work out as the best way to get students using them more frequently.

In the past few months, I’ve had the privileged of attending and presenting at two fabulous conferences — the California School Library Association and Association of Independent School Librarians conferences. Both of these conferences allowed me to attend some great sessions on research by school librarians that I truly admire.

At the CSLA Conference, Tasha Bergson-Michelson, Connie Williams, and Castilleja School student and Library Research TA Sara Zoroufy shared a session on Source Literacy. I was absolutely amazed at the insights that Sara was able to articulate in the way that students think about and evaluate sources.  Sara has written a great post on the AISL blog on this topic, Distinguising evidence from analysis: A student’s perspective on the first step in source evaluation.

Then this week at the AISL Conference, Courtney Lewis shared a fabulous session called “Solid Research or Stuck in a Rut?” where she shared research she has collected in trying to assess the college readiness of her students and their research skills. I highly recommend you check out her slides and post on this subject on her blog, The Sassy Librarian. She also shared a great activity that she does with students called The Source Deck, created by the University of Virginia Library. I can’t wait to do this activity with a group of students, and I’m sure I’ll blog about it when I do.

So with the great ideas and resources that have been shared, I will continue to go deeper into the rabbit hole of research so that I can keep finding more ways to support my students and teachers in the research process.

Do you have any ideas or resources that have changed the way you approach research with your students?

New School Reflection

I’m not quite sure how it’s February 21st. This school year has been a whirlwind so far. The flood that devastated the Baton Rouge area still has us reeling a bit, but we are definitely on the road to recovery. On top of that, I moved to a new school this year — from a public middle school where I served 1000+ students in the library on my own to an independent school where I serve about 650 students in grades 6-12 with a fabulous assistant. The move has been incredibly rewarding and continues to push me to better myself as an educator and librarian.

Back in September, I wrote a post for the school blog reflecting on my experiences at the school so far. Looking back and seeing that what I wrote several months ago feels even more true and validated, I want to share it here:

Community + Opportunity = Success

As a newcomer to Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, there are two things that set this school apart from others: community and opportunity. That is not to say that other schools are devoid of these things, but that Episcopal embodies them at a level that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Episcopal is thoughtful and intentional in building and deepening a sense of community. From students of all ages, faculty and staff, parents and alumni, it is apparent that the bonds of the Episcopal community run deep. This type of community is not something that happens by accident; it is developed purposefully through shared experiences in teams, clubs, chapel, advisory groups, and other regularly occurring group meetings and events. Having time to come together with a shared focus and purpose built into the schedule each week may be taken for granted when it has been the norm for many years.

I have heard so many people comment on how impressed they have been while witnessing the ways that the Episcopal community, especially the students, came together during and after the flood to help and support each other. I have had a unique perspective in these events as I observed the post-flood volunteerism and generosity first, then came to see the school community in action after the school year officially began. Upon seeing these regularly scheduled community events taking place and becoming part of them myself, I was then able to understand how this community bond is formed and maintained.  As a new member of the Episcopal community, I am amazed at the impact these common gatherings and events have on strengthening relationships across campus and beyond.

The concept of opportunity ties in very closely with community at Episcopal. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines opportunity as “a favorable juncture of circumstances.” This is exactly what I see when I look around at Episcopal. In striving towards the mission to nurture and develop the whole child, students are afforded a variety of opportunities to grow spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically.

Through service learning opportunities, students are developing character and an understanding of civic responsibility. The robust curriculum and course offerings provide students with opportunities to work closely with faculty members who are well respected and passionate about their fields of study. A variety of athletic opportunities push students to develop physical and mental strength while understanding the value of being part of a team. Opportunities for students to express themselves creatively are abundant through the visual and performing arts programs.

To be in a place where there is excellence in every facet of the school is invigorating for me as an educator. Seeing students embrace opportunities to learn and grow while being an essential part of such a vibrant community is powerful. This is what makes Episcopal School of Baton Rouge uniquely different.