Monday, December 5, 2011

Edublog Awards

I am so honored to make the list of nominations for this year's Edublog Awards in the Best New Blog category.

When I returned to blogging around this time last year, I could have never imagined where it would lead. I appreciate all the support and votes. Please take the time to explore all the great bloggers and tweeters out there that are nominated in the various categories this year. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Whew! What a "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" day!

Last Wednesday as I perused Twitter I came across the SLJ Jeff Kinney webcast for the release of Cabin Fever. I immediately registered and then emailed my staff to see if anyone was interested in participating. One of my enthusiastic 6th grade Language Arts teachers responded and an idea was born. We decided to make a whole day of it with the entire team of 100+ students.

My day started at 6:30 am as I went to Wal-Mart to buy 10 copies of the book. I spent the morning getting ready for the day which started with the 10 am webcast. What a great job Kinney did getting the students excited about the new book. It was also a treat that the actors from the movie were also present. Now, we had planned everything around an hour long webcast, so when it ended at 10:40 we had to do some rearranging.

Immediately following the webcast we did a bullying activity that our counselor helped me develop. Students were able to draw or write about a time they were bullied. After students had time to respond, we allowed them to share their experiences and talk about ways they could handle these situations. Originally we had planned to have them role-play these and the solution, but with so many students in our media center with limited space it just was not practical.

A majority of students had read at least one of the books in the series, so we were able to ask questions related to the book. Prior to lunch we played a game of True or False with questions from event kits associated with the release of the various books.

After lunch we came back and did a trivia game with DOWK aficionados on a panel. The winner of each of the three rounds received candy. I took some time to introduce the book and encouraged students to make some predictions. We then did a lottery for the opportunity to be one of the first 10 to checkout the book. Needless to say there were some very excited students. The best part is that two of my most avid DOWK fans won the lottery. The dancing that ensued brought tears to my eyes.


**Thank you card from the students.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Feeling Like a Celebrity!

My time since I returned from AASL11 has been crazy, amazing and overwhelming. Placing third place in the Follett Challenge has brought a lot of attention to my media program. While this is amazing, I must admit that it is also intimidating and overwhelming. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone, but as time progresses I am finding that I am adjusting. It is nice to have recognition for my school and media program, but now I am analyzing all the places where my program is lacking. I have not done this, I have not done that and I really should focus on.... The list goes on and on. Well, I am letting that go for a few minutes. All the great things....

1. $15,000 for our media center -- AWESOME!
2. My school's name has been mentioned in multiple places

3. Manicure/Pedicure gift card from my husband (isn't he the sweetest?)
4. A day of gifts

Ok, you are probably wondering what I mean by a day of gifts. To be honest this is the primary reason that I am writing this blog entry. I need to give special thanks to my exploratory community at school. Last Monday when I returned from Minnesota, I had a day that was so special. It began around 8 am with the delivery of roses and the comment "one of us will be thinking of you every hour." Odd comment? Yes. Slow to catch on? Yes. It was 10 am before I caught on that they were bringing me gifts every hour. That's right! Every hour! Chocolate, flowers, and a multitude of other goodies. It was too much, but it is also something that I will remember forever.

Aren't those bags beautiful?! I am so fortunate to work with such a supportive group of people. They make my job easy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

AASL11 Reflections

While the Follett Challenge was an exciting component of my recent attendance at AASL11, the influence of the conference extends far beyond that. First, it was so amazing to get to meet some of those I only know virtually.

Brandi Heinz Brown and Melissa Fuentes were the first of the virtual crew I had the honor to meet. Love these two ladies from Follett and their excitement. Shortly after the Follett Challenge announcement, the AASL attendees filtered into the Exhibit Hall. Gwyneth Jones, aka Daring Librarian, came up to congratulate me. Love Gwyneth ever since she came to NC. She fits in great with us Southerners, especially those named Jennifer, which she may believe is one of the most common names in the South after her trip. With Gwyneth was Tiffany Whitehead, who I was just excited to meet as she was to meet me (thanks for including me with such a great group in your blog post, Tiff).

Friday and Saturday were filled with great sessions, ideas and meeting more fabulous people. I ran into Diane Cordell in the Learning Commons. It was great to talk with her. I wish I could have spent more time talking photography with her, but I had to jet off to Kareem Abdul Jabbar's book signing. The things I will do for my husband. Yes, he was with me in MN, and yes, he could have stood in line himself as a conference attendee but he was off visiting the University of Minnesota (btw he claims the campus is even more beautiful than Virginia Tech). In case you did not know, visiting colleges and universities is our geeky thing to do together. Hate that I missed that one.

Other authors that I had the opportunity to stalk while in MN included Maggie Stiefvater and Joan Bauer. I did not stalk Origami Yoda author Tom Angleberger at AASL having already met him at my state conference but did get the opportunity to speak to him prior to boarding our plane to Charlotte.

A few ideas that I am looking forward to implementing into my library include a student book swap and video or audio book talks for teachers. A session on Big6 with Bob Berkowitz has inspired me to do a training for parents on the Big6 and how they can use the steps to help students complete basic tasks such as homework. While I did not attend the 23 Things session, I have been toying with this idea. A librarian in my county started doing this a couple of years ago, and I just have not taken the time to develop this. Tiffany Whitehead came away from that session really excited and inspired me with her enthusiasm.

Probably the highlight of the entire trip was lunch on Saturday. Tiffany orchestrated a lunch outing on Saturday for a few librarians and the group continued to grow while we sat there. Could not believe the number of library rockstars at one table. This is where I met so many of those who I knew virtually but had never had the experience to meet in person. Totally amazed by the energy of all of these ladies, and I look forward to learning more from them in the future.

Another great experience from AASL was the shock of my principal at this school library world. On the plane he said to me "So, you have a blog." Turns out he was doing his research about AASL before we arrived in MN and came across my blog. Kudos to him for wanting to learn more. I believe this experience was eye-opening for him. He already supports school libraries, but I have no doubt that being among all you fabulous school librarians out there really helped him learn more about what libraries have to offer our schools.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Follett Challenge: A Journey

Who knew that one phone call in the middle of September would totally change the outlook for my library this year? The day I received the news that my school was a finalist in the Follett Challenge is one that I will never forget. The six finalists had no idea of their final placement and results would be revealed at AASL11. So not only would we be receiving a budget boost, but I would get to attend the conference. I truly thought that AASL in Charlotte would be my first and last, but fortunately that was not the case.

Now I have to admit, flying is a little intimidating to me, but the trip to Minneapolis was overall pleasant. We did arrive on Thursday and as soon as we were able to get into our rooms, we had to get ready to meet the great people from Follett at the Convention Center. In addition to my husband and my principal, I had made arrangements for some truly great friends and colleagues to meet me for the Big Reveal. Kelly Brannock, Jenny Umbarger and Kate Fisher were all there to share this experience with me. It was fantastic to have familiar faces in the crowd.

As we entered the Exhibit Hall, everyone from Follett was lined up to greet us with applause. Soon the announcements began and I got more nervous by the minute. Best Video was announced, then fifth place, then fourth place....Then we were announced as third place for the History Our Way project that I featured in our video. Take a few minutes and see all the great things that are happening in the libraries recognized by Follett in the Follett Challenge. I am honored to be a part of this innovative group of school librarians.

Soon after all winners had been announced the Exhibit Hall opened and there were many who dropped by to convey their congratulations. Many of these were those who I had only met virtually. It is amazing the bonds that can come from online communication.

Part of what emerged at Follett from the challenge was a desire to advocate for school libraries. I have been truly impressed by the plans they have to help others see what we have to offer. Part of being a Follett Challenge winner included a video interview on Friday. I have to admit this is one of my weakest areas and I can only hope that what I had to say is valuable to promoting school libraries. My anxiety during my interview was such that I cannot even tell you what questions were asked. Some of you who know me are probably surprised that I struggle talking to the media. I am very secure in most areas, but sadly this is not one of them.

Friday evening we had an awards dinner at a local restaurant. We were fortunate enough to sit with Todd Litzsinger from Follett. The company and the food were superb. Clips from our videos were shown and we were all again honored. This time we did have to say a few words. I was able to thank my students, my principal, my collaborating teacher, and my amazing husband. All of these contribute to my program in varied ways but without them I would not be able to have the program that exists today.

Thanks to Brandi Heinz Brown for the picture.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my reflections on AASL.....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

NCSLMA Conference 2011

Hello, My Name is ......was the conference theme for NCSLMA 2011. Yes, I returned from NCSLMA last weekend, and I am just now getting around to blogging about it. That might be because My Name is Totally Exhausted (but in a good way). This year's conference kicked off early for me on Thursday as I left with two other Jennifers on the road to Winston-Salem. We had to arrive relatively early for my pre-conference presentation, with yes, another Jennifer.

I had the honor of presenting with the super amazing Jennifer LaGarde. She has already blogged about our pre-conference session, so be sure to read all about it. I have to admit, this was a great experience for me. I was totally inspired by watching Jennifer in action, and I look forward to what our future adventures may bring. Watch out NCSLMA 2012!

This year's conference was full of great fun, new friends, fabulous authors, amazing ideas, and entertainment. I had the pleasure of finally meeting the most famous redhead in school library land, Gwyneth Jones. In addition, I presented with not one but two Jennifers during the conference. On Friday, I had the honor of presenting with first year Media Coordinator, Jennifer Abel. We gave our attendees a brief overview of what we are doing to provide interactive Media Centers. Friday night's reception was the best yet. Lots of authors, including the uber-fabulous Frances O'Roark Dowell. There was unexpected entertainment with the sounds of Melvil Dewey and just an all-around good time.

Three Jennifers and a Gwyneth

Saturday was a busy day with sessions, author breakfast and lunch. Had a great dinner that evening with some fabulous ladies, but I must admit that I was definitely wearing down. Sunday ended with an Executive Board meeting, and my first day as Secretary. The ride home was with Sarah Justice, current NCSLMA President, and the genius behind this year's conference. Well done is all I can say!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Be There or Be Square

Did you know that this year's NCSLMA conference is fast approaching? Actually, it is a month earlier this year and it would be terrible if you missed out on this great experience, so be sure to visit the website and register. There are only 18 more days until this year's conference kicks off. I look forward to this conference every year because of the great opportunities it provides for me to discuss my profession and what others in NC are doing to promote and advocate their programs. This year, however, I am extra excited for a number of reasons. First, it was planned by my friend (and college roommate) Sarah Justice. Second, I am presenting a preconference session with Jennifer LaGarde (I am so not worthy). Third, I am presenting a concurrent session with my friend and former partner in crime, Jennifer Abel (now on Twitter, so be sure to follow @abellibrarian). Fourth, there are some great authors to stalk!

Those are my personal reasons for being super-excited about this year's conference, but there are many professional reasons to be excited as well. Reasons that I hope make you find a way to attend this year's conference some way, some how. You have likely noticed that this year's conference dates are a little bit different. What is great about this is that you can use this to help convince your administrator to let you attend. You will only need a sub for Friday since concurrent sessions take place Friday and Saturday. If you have not checked out the conference sessions, these are all available on the website as well. Check out all the great sessions from which you can steal ideas to implement into your own Media Center.

One of the biggest draws for this conference is Gwyneth Jones, the Daring Librarian. If you are not familiar with Gwyneth, who is also our conference keynote speaker, you are in for a real treat. I attended one of her sessions at AASL 2009 and have been a devoted follower ever since. I read her blogs and follow her on Twitter. To be perfectly honest I wonder when she sleeps. In addition to being the keynote speaker, she will also be the presenter for not one, not two, but three concurrent sessions. So I ask you, what are you waiting for? Sign up today!

Ok, as if Gwyneth Jones was not enough of a reason to attend this year's NCSLMA conference, there are also some amazing authors attending this year's conference. Friday's Luncheon Author is Jennifer Pharr Davis, local Hendersonville girl, who recently accomplished the amazing feat of being the overall speed record holder on the Appalachian Trail. Sarah and I saw Jennifer speak at a local bookstore last year and were overwhelmed with her stories about the AT. I was so amazed by what she endured on her first hike of the AT and cannot believe she has taken on this journey more than once. The author luncheon on Saturday features Frances O'Roark Dowell. I absolutely adore Frances. She was the first author I ever had visit my school and she was awesome. After that I was hooked on author visits. The Toast and Tales author, Allan Wolf, has also been a visitor to my school. I have never been more entertained throughout one day. His energy is contagious.   Alan Gratz, another featured author at my school, will also be in attendance at this year's conference. Be sure to visit him during his concurrent session. One author who I have not had the pleasure of meeting, Tom Angleberger (yes, he did write Origami Yoda), will also be in attendance. Looking forward to meeting him as well as several of the other authors that will be involved with the Author Autograph Session.

Look forward to seeing you in Winston-Salem, so sign-up today.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jennifer LaGarde, this is for you....

So, recently on Facebook Jennifer LaGarde mentioned how she was considering rearranging her Media Center by genre. In turn, I encouraged her to do so as it was one of the best things I have ever done, that is after I recovered from the shock that I had actually done something before her. She then responded that I should write a blog entry about it, so here it is.

It actually all started on a car ride to Charlotte for the 2009 AASL Conference. My friend Sarah and I were discussing the concept of genre arrangement, and I indicated I just could not bring myself to actually do it until I knew someone who had done it. Well, I was surprised to learn that Sarah had rearranged her fiction by genre. After an extended amount of brain picking, I knew I was ready to undertake this challenge. Sarah's guidance was definitely very helpful, but I ended up tackling it in a little bit different way than she had done. I think anyone who undertakes this project really needs to find their own method.

I started by determining which sections I would have. The sections I determined would best fit our school were Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Fiction (this is the catch-all for everything else), Classics, Mystery, Sports, Science Fiction. Romance is really chick lit, but I just did not think I could call a section by that title. Books in this section deal with romance and friendships. Most of these sections really seem to meet our needs, but if I could go back I might add a section dedicated to humor.

After doing this, I ordered genre label stickers. The goal was to get all fiction books labeled with a genre sticker on the front cover for quick identification. As books were turned in, we placed genre labels on them to make dividing them up easier and it helps with reshelving now. During this time, I also started going through the fiction section starting with the As and placing these labels on the front. At the same time I was weeding and pulling fantasy books. Weeding during this time was massive. I got rid of a large number of books that were unused, hideous, etc. It was not safe to walk in the Media Center as I had big piles of books in the floor as I went. Wish I had taken pictures. I was throwing books into stacks as fast as I was pulling Fantasy. By pulling Fantasy first, I was clearing out our largest genre of books from the existing Fiction section, making everything else much more manageable.

Now I have to be honest, moving everything was time-consuming and some sections had to be relocated as I misjudged how large or small a group might be. However, this was the easy part. I changed all the spine labels on the books in each section and in the catalog and that process took an eternity. I had definitely lost the mojo and just had to fight through to finish that part of the project. Some of the schools in my county made this change after I did, but they elected not to change spine labels. Lesson that I learned during this part of the process--be sure to just add the prefix for the genre, do not delete the F for fiction. For analysis in programs like Titlewise having that F was critical. You can strip the genre prefix in Titlewise. I am so thankful I had a conversation with my Follett rep before I got too far into this part of the process. Changing the spine label was important to me to make sure items were reshelved appropriately. It is the most tedious part of the process, but well worth it to me.

Now that I have rearranged I can easily answer those students who ask "Where are the mysteries?". This also gave me a better idea of what students were reading and where I needed to add to my collection. My Romance section was small and I was able to build it up somewhat last year to provide more options for my girls. This collection still needs to be added to as most of the books stay checked out. At the start of this year I did experience something new with that section. One class of sixth graders had several boys that asked me for romance books. Believe it or not all those who asked actually checked out a book. I think they may have discovered they needed a little guidance in the love department. Fantasy also has a high volume of usage. Adventure does not get the attention it deserves, but at least I know what my students want. This has impacted what I purchase and feedback from students was very positive.

For those of you who have been thinking about this, I encourage you to take the plunge. For me this was incredibly worthwhile and beneficial for my students.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Book Blast

Well, like so many others I am having to learn to do more with less. First, teacher assistants were cut on all but two workdays prior to the start of school. My assistant was actually only with me one day during this time because of her mandatory attendance at a day long training for EC bus riders. That's right, she is being expected to ride the EC bus on a daily basis. This is a three hour ride that begins at 5:30 in the morning and is considered part of her 8 hour day. Of course, this means she is only in the library for 5 hours on a daily basis. This has really changed how we operate, but we are adapting. At my school, I operate as not only Media Coordinator, but Technology Facilitator and technician as well. While I cannot fix everything, I am the first stop for all technology troubleshooting. The most important concern for me in the midst of all of this change is making sure to maintain the instructional part of my program. Needless to say, the beginning of the year has already been incredibly tiring. So far this blog entry sounds like I just want to complain, but actually it is the exact opposite. I just felt you needed a picture of "a day in the life" especially since my Book Blast took priority over many of those other daily tasks. It is about reshaping priorities.

I recently read a blog entry on Shelf Consumed called It's a blast. It really made me think about how we could get books into the hands of our students faster. We had our own Book Blast which I think was a real success. All but one of our Language Arts teachers signed up, so we saw 35 classes this past week for 10 minute increments. Almost all of our classes were able to finish in 10 minutes, and I was able to connect with a large number of students by helping them find a book, making reading suggestions, etc. It was great. Not surprisingly, the classes that were not in and out within 10 minutes were the classes that my assistant was not available for. Those classes proved very difficult for me to help students and check them out in 10 minutes. I built on the idea from Shelf Consumed and made the event a lot of fun. We played party dance music during each class session. It was interesting to see kids bee-bopping (is that how you spell that?) to the music while browsing the stacks. I also gave away prizes. After students had checked out everyone was instructed to turn to p. 21 and if they had a pink or purple sticky note, they won a prize. I have some pens with our school name and a quote about reading. Teacher feedback was very positive and I am filing away this idea for the future.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thoughts on Training

Due to my recent role as a presenter in several trainings, I have been forced to look at my own attitudes about staff development. Generally speaking, I would say that I like some staff development. As a whole, I see most training as valuable, but it is easy to let those other things get in the way. For example, the attitude that you have something else you could be doing. We often let those overwhelming parts of our job get in the way of our ability or desire to be lifelong learners. I love to learn and would say that most people know this about me. I do get frustrated when I have to sit through training that I already know how to do or that is extraordinarily boring. So what has being a presenter taught me?

First, keep in mind that often the presenter is generally not the one requiring you to attend the professional development activity. Being rude to this person only reflects badly on you. I would say that overall I have not found this to be an issue, but there is always at least one in a group. Here's a hint: Try to avoid sitting with those individuals. Sometimes that is impossible, but it can really help your outlook on a day long training.

In the past I have been very frustrated about sitting through professional development that was on a topic I already had a great deal of knowledge about. This has always seemed redundant and a waste of my time. However, being a trainer has changed my mind on this topic. Many of those who claim to have knowledge on the topic sometimes overestimate their skills or do not implement the practices into the classroom. This is a great opportunity to help these teachers to refine their skills and hopefully integrate the skill or strategy into their own classrooms. Additionally, as a participant I plan to be more positive about training regardless of my experience level. There are always new pieces of information that can be added to my knowledge base, but more importantly I can be an asset to the trainer. By being positive about the topic and helping those around us understand the professional development, we can all influence the attitudes of those within our school.

Looking forward to a positive, engaging year. Hope you are too.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Noise

Friday night I went to a Chinese restaurant and had dinner by myself. My mother always tells me how strange it is that I like to eat out or go to the movies by myself. As I sat there eating and reading on Friday, I thought about why I like to do these things by myself. I also happen to be reading "The Knife of Never Letting Go" at this time and I recognized a parallel between myself and the concept of "Noise" in the book. All the men in the book have Noise. What this essentially means is that their thoughts are open to everyone all the time, therefore no one ever experiences peace and quiet from the Noise of men. Yes, this has the potential to be sexist, but that is definitely not the focus.

On a daily basis I am surrounded by Noise. Some good and some bad, but Noise nonetheless. Within my job the day is a constant interruption, jumping from one task to the next. Sometimes my schedule for the day is totally defunct, and my goals for the day are constantly changing. Those are the days that I feel like I have worked all day and accomplished nothing, but I guess I really need to change my perspective and ask myself if I helped someone else with their goals of the day. This time of year it is easy to fall into that abyss of negativity, especially with all those tasks that this time of year brings and that I dread so much: AMTR, fixed assets inventory, book inventory, getting all students to turn in their books (if anyone has the perfect solution to this problem, I would love to hear it), and so much more.

You are probably reading this and asking yourself how this all ties together. Well, those times when I go to dinner or a movie by myself is a time that I can totally revel in the peace and quiet. It lets me escape the Noise and do something just for me. So many of us are consumed with work that we forget to take time for ourselves. Well, I say you will only be better at your job by taking time just for you. Try it, I promise all the Noise will be there when you come back to reality.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

History Our Way

I am so excited about the project I am starting with some 8th grade social studies classes. The classroom teacher and I have been planning this awhile, and it is hard to believe it is finally time to begin. The goal is to have students complete a research project on an important person, event or invention related to American history. The teacher came to me with a plan to do a menu-related project and it has evolved from that point. I have to admit some portions of this project are intimidating, because neither of us have implemented some of the elements into our instruction before. I have even created my first LiveBinder for this project as a resource for students. Check it out -- I will be providing students the link to the LiveBinder in URL format and QR code. This will be the first time I have formally introduced QR Codes, so I will be interested to see how it goes. While we will not be paperless, we are going to try and use as little paper as possible.

Looking forward to a busy and fun day tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pre-Service Teacher Visit

Today our school hosted a group of 20 pre-service teachers from colleges and universities in our state. These students are currently juniors, and we had one hour to share with them how technology is being used in our school. That is a great deal of information to impart in such a short amount of time. Our instructional coach and I partnered together to organize this presentation. We began with a Prezi that introduced our school and various technology tools that we are utilizing with our students. The group was then divided up and sent to three different locations. One group went to a math classroom using CPS, one classroom where students highlighted projects they have completed, and one group stayed in the Media Center. These sessions were approximately thirteen minutes and during the session in the Media Center another teacher highlighed our use of Gaggle while I shared student work samples including Photostory, Flip videos, and podcasts. I also discussed the importance of utilizing your school's Media Coordinator and/or Tech Facilitator.

Student reflections and questions really made me ask some serious questions about pre-service education. While I believe these students have a great deal of technology knowledge that they use on a daily basis, I am not certain that they have been taught how to apply those to the classroom. I was surprised by how many were not familiar with tools like Prezi or Photostory. They wanted to know more about how to access this technology, how to advocate for the technology in their classrooms, and the logistics of planning technology lessons related to these tools.

All of the discussions of the day really made me wonder if pre-service teacher education is neglecting to prepare students for the role of technology in the classroom. Is it fair to say that we have to hope that these students have a cooperating teacher that utilizes technology in the classroom or that they will be forced to learn it on their own in the end? I just hope that there is a Media Coordinator or Technology Facilitator at their future schools to help them traverse technology integration.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

NCTIES and Twitter: A Conference Evolution

My first time attending NCTIES was great. I was able to gain so many new ideas and tools to utilize with students and teachers. Before I say anything else about my conference experience, I have to tell you a little bit about my conference habits.

First, I am a session hopper. This does not mean that the session I am attending is bad, it is just something I do. There are always multiple sessions I would like to attend, so I try to attend several during each hour. In fact, during this conference there was only one session that I stayed for in its entirety--QR Codes and why they matter to education. I have so many ideas for QR codes and was able to add to those by attending this session. Ok, back to the topic, session hopping. I have done this at conferences for as long as I remember. To further feed my session hopping problem, I have thrown Twitter into the mix!

This was the first conference where I used Twitter actively throughout. Wow! I will never again be without Twitter at a conference. It let me keep up with so much more than I could have ever done before with my session hopping. I was able to "see" what was going on at many different locations at the convention center. Twitter also saved me from a less than exciting session. I was not particularly enjoying one session and with prompting from Twitter I relocated.

I still have a lot to learn about the language of Twitter, but I truly see the added benefits of using Twitter to improve personal learning. I am sure I will have more posts in the days to come about my NCTIES experience, but nothing can surpass the role of Twitter for this conference.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Excited Over Gaggle

Our school just recently implemented Gaggle. We used it on a trial basis last year and it truly had a very positive response. There were about five classes involved with the trial. Expanding this to the entire student body has been a task. One of our CTE teachers spearheaded this whole process, and I am so pleased with where her efforts have led and will continue to lead us. In case you don't know, Gaggle provides student email accounts.

Last week I had a student come in before school and ask for help using his Gaggle account. As I began working with him, many other students decided to login and get help. There was such a need for assistance that I decided to offer an impromptu training the following morning before school. The students who participated in this training were so excited that when the bell rang for homeroom there was some definite dissappointment. I offered to continue the training on Monday morning. I anticipate that I will see many of the same students back for Part 2.

Gaggle has also provided us with access to GaggleTube for teachers. We were worried we were not going to keep this feature which allows access to YouTube videos, but it is currently enabled. Now every time a teacher comes to me with a need for specific content that we don't have in our library or on Discover Streaming, I will direct him or her to GaggleTube. Any videos with questionable content can be flagged by a teacher and those videos will be restricted from GaggleTube. I cannot express how excited teachers are to now have access to these resources.

There are so many Gaggle features yet unexplored and I cannot wait to see how we will continue to use it to benefit student learning.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

QR Code Update

Well, my QR bookmark contest is in full swing and boy, has it been entertaining. I started with teachers, because I did work on this project during a snow workday. I placed it in their boxes and the result has been interesting. I have seen some in the trash, while others have attempted to solve it by examining the picture like one of those Magic Eye pictures we all used to be obsessed with. Every time I see that I have to giggle to myself. Good luck with that... Only three of our teachers have turned in a response. The first was a first year teacher who was able to determine the answer after using a Google Image search. Another teacher (Go Angie!) sent me this:

Yes, that is the secret phrase in a QR code. Awesome!

Students have also started getting in on the game. I have had about 10 responses so far. None of them knew what a QR code was initially, and all tried different tactics to determine the answer. It has been interesting to hear their search strategies. The contest ends Feb. 11. Let's hope it continues to be as fruitful.

I also decided to write a grant for NCTIES using QR codes. I have spent a couple of days working on all the ins and outs. I am hopeful that it will end positively. Although, I do not feel like my grant writing skills are the strongest, I feel fairly confident in this one thus far. Here's hoping....

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Media Center Welcome

I recently read a post by the Mighty Little Librarian who had started an electronic sign-in for the media center at her school. This is something I have considered for a long time and just had not taken the time to do. The post inspired me to get started. Using Google Docs I created my own electronic sign-in. This went live on Thursday.

So far, I love it. I cannot believe I waited this long to actually start this. Students are getting the hang of it and all of them think it is so cool. Who knew?? The only time we don't sign-in is during homeroom. Of course, this impacts my stats, but I just cannot find a way to quickly get that many students signed-in. Maybe once they grow accustomed to it, we can try again. I love having the information on a spreadsheet. I know that over 90 students came into the media center without a class both Thursday and Friday. We have been signing in on paper all year, and I could not have told you the number who visited each day. I never used that information before, now it is all at my fingertips.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

QR Codes...The Beginning

So I have been excited about QR codes for quite awhile now. I have wanted to start integrating them into our Media Center, but everytime I sat down to start making plans I found it to be too overwhelming. There are just so many great ways to use these, so today I took a new approach. I decided to just start with one idea and to keep building.

First, I want to say I created a survey (Google Docs, of course) on Monday that inquires about student knowledge of QR codes and whether or not they have the devices to access them. I have already had 3 responses and we have not even had school this week. Good to know some of them are visiting the school webpage.

Today, I created a QR code that reveals text.


I made bookmarks with this QR code. I did not reveal that it was a QR code on the bookmark but encouraged discovery instead. I did hint that an app was required. The code reveals a message and directions for a contest. I am going to draw a prize winner from all those who successfully complete the task. I even distributed the bookmarks to staff members. There will be a separate prize for the staff drawing. I haven't decided what it will be, but I am thinking about purchasing Comic Life (love that program).

Now, step 2......

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Finally, ebooks....

I write daily tips for the staff at my school that I distribute via email. Ok, they are daily in theory. I don't know that I published one the entire month of December. Between Book Fair and a yearbook deadline, finding time was a challenge.

For my daily tips I have a theme based on the day of the week. The topics are listed below:

Media Monday - book related
Techno Tuesday - technology tips and tricks
Web Wednesday - a useful website
Tired Thursday - an inspirational or humorous site
Feature Friday - feature what teachers are doing in their classrooms, usually related to technology

Depending on the topic, I may choose to share my daily tips here. Below is Media Monday for January 3.

I am so excited about my first ebook checkout from the public library. When I first got my iPod Touch in October, I tried to figure out a way to checkout ebooks from the public library via the NC Digital Library. I certainly was disappointed to learn that it could not be done. Since that time things have changed. A new app, Overdrive Media Console v2.0, now supports ebooks ( Previously the Overdrive Media Console only supported audio books. Now I am a big supporter of audio books with our students, but I personally cannot stand audio books. While ebooks could be checked out and read on my computer using Adobe Digital Editions, I was not interested in this avenue. Finally, this new version of Overdrive has made a world of difference in my life.

If you have an iPad, an iPod Touch or a smartphone, you can check out books from the NC Digital Library by downloading the app. Make sure to have your library card number handy. Need help getting started? Let me know. I will be glad to help out. To be honest I had a hard time getting it to work properly at first.

Happy Reading!