Monday, February 27, 2012

I bought two iPads for the library

A few weeks ago I purchased two refurbished iPads for the library. The iPads are now available to students for in-library use and are soon to be available for teachers to check out. I purchased Otter Box protective cases, screen protectors and an App Store gift card to load the iPads with a few apps. I called Apple with my questions about setting the iPads up and creating a library account. They were very helpful. My School Librarian guru Cathy Jo Nelson was even more helpful with a few tips. I am especially thankful to know that the Apple login remains "open" for window of about 15 minutes after each session. I must be careful not to lend out the iPads immediately after I have been logged on with our account, especially if there is money left in the account.

We will be having the first iPad workshop for teachers after school on Wednesday. Teachers who are interested in checking out the iPads will be required to attend one of the workshops that will be offered and sign a copy of the iPad policy. Teachers who are not interested in checking out the iPads are also encouraged to attend. The iPads will be checked out to teachers in a neoprene zipper case with the charger, an iPad to VGA cable and a 6ft VGA cable to act as an extension enabling teachers to connect the iPad to their Smart Board for display purposes.

 Students have been checking out and "playing" with the iPads during their lunch periods. The students with iPads must sit and stay at a designated table while they are using the iPad. Once I have checked out the iPads to students during any given lunch period, it is not long before there is a small crowd surrounding the two students. I have loaded strictly educational apps onto them. I enjoy watching the students use the iPads, thinking they are just playing. It also makes me smile when I see the students show each other how to use the iPads. Hearing the astonishment in students voices as they say, "We can use those iPads? You bought them for US to use?" (translate: Really? You trust us? They are not just for teachers?) has made me feel rich (and daring) like a king presiding over a feast.

I remember reading somewhere that one thing that shaped Bill Gates was access to a networked computer at school, where the thirteen-year-old Gates learned to program. Two iPads may not have a tremendous impact on my entire school, but the possibility that it might impact one or two students is the reason I made this leap. Some of my students have their own iPads and iPhones. Most of them do not. There are schools where every student has their own iPad - right now. My school is not one of them, but my students will have to compete for the same jobs and opportunities as the students who come from these schools.

I have been partnering with Pam Fowler, a technology teacher at my school in setting up the iPads, planning the training and learning about the educational possibilities these iPads could inspire. It is our hope that teachers will check out the iPads, recommend apps for downloading, and offer students the option of using an iPad in a future project or assignment. I think it has been a good move to start off with just two iPads while we learn the ropes. If all goes well, we will apply for grants and look into purchasing more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Family Night: Inspiration, It's a Beautiful Thing

My sister and I were out shopping a few weeks ago when we stumbled upon a store that specializes in paper goods, invitations, scrap booking, wrapping paper, stationery and other paper crafts. Their window display featured some of the most adorable valentines I had ever seen. Not only were they adorable, they were hip. They were cool. They were perfect for my middle school students.  As soon as I saw these  were part of a make your own valentines kit, I knew I had to have them for my upcoming family library night.

My mother used to let herself be inspired by things she saw on TV, in magazines or on display at a shop. After preparing the most delicious dish for dinner, or creating a gorgeous centerpiece for her dining room table I remember her saying, "I saw it, and I said to myself, I can do that!" and she did.  I felt just like her as I delighted in making valentines with the parents and students who attended family night at my library.

It was a true family night indeed. Parents brought their children, along with their younger siblings and we all had a grand time making valentines together. The parents made valentines, the little brothers and sisters made valentines, the students made valentines, we all talked and enjoyed refreshments. About 20 people came in all, which was perfect. If there were any more people, I don't know if the event would have felt as intimate.


The more I reflect on the event, the better it gets. The simplicity of it is what makes it great. Here is a school event that does not require team or club membership; it is open to everyone. There is no practice or competition, and no grades. Students participate alongside their siblings and parents and teachers. What a great way to build a sense of community.

As I cleaned up after the event, rather than feeling tired and worn out, I felt energized by how well the event went. There is something therapeutic about sitting around a table with other people, cutting and gluing together, and making something for someone else. When my mother was inspired by cooking shows and magazine covers, my whole family enjoyed the results. It is a great feeling to allow myself to be inspired, silencing the negative, nay saying voice in my head , and watch others enjoy the results of my inspiration.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Duke Ellington and Data

Today I worked with a special needs class studying biographies. Every time this class comes I do a read aloud and we have so much fun talking about books and laughing together. Working with these students is always the highlight of my day, and I look forward to it. Since the students were working on biographies I selected some biographies about Duke Ellington along with a poetic picture book featuring Duke Ellington titled Ellington Was Not A Street to use with my mini-lesson.  When the students walked into the library I had a video playing of Duke Ellington performing "Take the A Train" and "It Don't Mean A Thing." The sound was turned up nice and loud. We danced over to the biography section and watched a video and danced some more. Then, we looked at biographies. I told the students about Duke Ellington and showed them the books about him, and then read Ellington Was Not A Street. We danced again as we watched another video. Then the students checked out biographies, and left me . . . better than they found me.

Being the first of the month, it was data day! I sang to myself, "It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing" as I tallied and compiled the monthly numbers for my principal and was relieved to find the circulation numbers for January 2012 were the same as last January. I am happy not to be seeing lower numbers as I did with December's depressing circulation data. I added a "professional development" category this month to document the number of workshops or presentations I make to our faculty. This month, in addition to e-mailing my report off to my principal I decided to take some advice given by Jennifer LaGarde aka Library Girl and actually post my data. While, my data posting is on a much smaller scale, it is a start. I plan on adding more data that students will find interesting such as most popular books.