Sunday, January 22, 2012

Empowering Students with Choices

I have always been encouraged to give students choices for class projects and grading opportunities. Whenever I get the chance, I try to encourage others to give their students choices. In my opinion one or two of those choices should always be a technology related choice such as create an Animoto or a Prezi. Lots of students come to the library to work on Power Points for their assignments, however. This is something I think we need to get away from.

When I say that we should allow students to use technologies such as Web 2.0 programs for assignments and projects it is easy to imagine having to drag classes to the library or check out the laptops spending an entire day teaching students how to use the websites or programs. That is not how it has to be. These days teachers are far too pressured to show testing gains and have little class time to devote to a new venue of expression.

Giving students the choice of creating a Prezi, Storybird, a wiki or any number of Web 2.0 options or even just a video does not mean you have to be an expert on using any of them. It does not mean teachers must give instruction on how to use them either. As a matter of fact, your assignment description can have a statement saying students may choose one of these options for their project, but the teacher will not be giving any instruction on using them. Interested students will teach themselves and their friends how to use a tool.

By providing our students with a variety of choices for their school projects and assignments teachers are casting wider nets. We will engage more students and get better results by giving them more choices.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gifts from Auntie Librarian

What do the nieces and nephews of a librarian often get as gifts? Books! I have long been gifting my nieces books they ask for and books I think they will enjoy. Not long ago I gave my niece a copy of The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger She loved it and of course I was thrilled since I selected it for her. She loved it so much that she even made each of her friends an origami Yoda and asked for a light saber for Christmas. Of course I have already given her the next book, Darth Paper Strikes Back. If you are looking for an entertaining read for a young person, check out these books. The author's website is worth a visit.

The Mini Research Project

Teaching middle school students research skills can be like pulling teeth.  I worked with our Language Arts Teachers on note taking lessons recently. The lessons went well, thankfully.  The next step is the research project. I suggested different approach to the research project this time. Baby steps: before doing a big intense research project, try a "mini" research project. This will enable students to practice gathering and recording source information, taking notes and writing to inform. The finished product will be notes, one citation, and one paragraph of information. Once these are graded and returned and the teacher is ready for another research project, students can be required to submit more notes, more sources and more paragraphs. Taking a baby steps approach like this may lead to less frustration and more success for students and teachers and possibly a better view of research projects in general.

Check out this link to an idea page from the IRA/NCTE.
More ideas can be found here.

No E-Readers? Librarians Should Still Be Savvy

After reading some of my colleagues' responses to Travis Jonker's  SLJ article "Fine. I Got an Ereader. Now What?: A newbie to digital reading gets his first Kindle" and Doug Johnson's blogged response:  "Reactionary librarians aren't cute" I feel the need to confess: my school library does not own any e-readers yet. Buying e-books and e-readers is not absent from my list of things to do and I feel that e-readers and books are important.

It is incredibly important for school librarians to have a working knowlege of e-readers even if they do not make personal use of these devices and even if their library does not own any.  I personally own an iPad. I can show you how to use the Kindle app, use ibooks and I have purposely familiarized myself with other e-readers. In partnership with our State Library, I hosted a "Technology Petting Zoo" for my faculty. The "Petting Zoo" featured e-readers, iPads and cameras.

A few students proudly brought their new e-readers to school with them after winter break to ask me questions about their devices. Of course, their librarian would be able to help them with their new e-reader! A couple of my students were upset. "I got an e-reader for Christmas, but my family doesn't  have a credit card. How can I get books?" Another student got a Dell tablet, "How do I get books onto this thing?" she asked. Who else would a student ask? The librarian! We are now planning our first e-reader club. Students will bring their own devices and we will share tips and tricks with eachother. I regularly share free e-book titles with my students and faculty.

Budget and staffing challenges currently make purchasing e-readers and e-books something I am just getting ready to do. I am depending on the trailblazers to help me make the best choices in the near future. However, I know it would be a disservice to my students and faculty if I chose to remain uninformed about e-readers.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Auntie Librarian and the Case of the Missing Mojo

Each month I present my principal and assistant principals with a library data spreadsheet which provides comparative data on book check out, class use of the library, individual student use of the library, days of direct instruction and days of testing. I also provide a list of the month's highlights which includes book club meetings, promotions and other things I am doing.

In October, November and December book circulation has been abysmal. December's circulation was down 900 compared to last December. What is going on here? Is three months of low numbers a trend? What am I doing wrong? One major difference between this December and last is that we had Winter MAP testing in December this school year as opposed to January. This probably impacted circulation, but not by 900. Another variable is that we stopped date stamping books at check out. Is stamping the due date in the back of the book related to the decline in circulation? Who knows. We are now date stamping again! Just in case!

Thanks to my library gurus, I realize that book circulation is not what makes or breaks my program. However, last year, I was extremely proud to turn in an annual report that showed a 30 some percent increase in circulation. A decrease in book circulation is certainly not going to help me get a full-time library assistant either. I can only hope to "break even" by the end of this school year. I have been book talking like crazy on the morning news program.

As if the circulation decline were not enough, participation for my Winter Reading Program was awful compared to last year. I am beginning to think I have lost my Mojo.

"Oh dear." Winnie the Pooh would say.