Monday, July 23, 2012

Upstate Technology Conference Wow!

In June I  attended the amazing and free Upstate Technology Conference in Greenville, SC. Of course, I learned about the conference through my invaluable SCASL network. Silly me, I neglected to register for the conference. I heard rumors of a limited amount of first-come-first-serve onsite registrations. So, I decided to get up at the crack o' dawn and head on over to Greenville to see if I could snag one of those onsite tickets. Lo and behold, I was one of the first people there, which means I also got an awesome parking place. I enjoyed the oatmeal and coffee I brought while I waited for the conference folks to get the tickets. I later learned that they turned away over 100 people after the onsite tickets were gone.
I got a golden ticket!
Now, would this conference be worth the early morning rise? I had never been to one, so I was was eager to find out. It was most definitely worth getting up early for. The conference is extremely well organized, and the variety of sessions offered are unbelievable. Below are some session notes.

The first session I attended was presented by Lisa Fisher and Jared Johnson  of Orangeburg 5 and  Lexington 2 School Districts. Their session focused on using iPods and iPads in the classroom. Our school just got an iPad lab, and this session was very helpful to me. What I learned will help me create an iPad policy for the use of our new lab. Here are some of my favorite take aways:
  • screen shots - capture research, pictures using a screen shot on the iPad by pressing power and the "home" circle button on the bottom of the iPad, also a good tool for classroom management use to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing. Have students stop and take screen shots to document that they were on task. 
  • reset - resetting the iPad will not erase the content or apps on the iPad. Teachers may find this useful when students have made changes to the iPad that they cannot undo.
  • Teachers using the iPad lab will have to teach their students the basics of the iPad before any real instruction can begin. 
  • Use EdModo with iPads to help organize instructional content such as websites, videos and documents.
  • Socratic is a great app to try that makes your iPads into student response systems
  • Use Interactive White board apps such as screen chomp, educreations and show me to have students record what they are doing. For example, while recording, have students work a math problem and explain the steps on their iPads using one of these programs. 
I also attended a session on Google Sketch up which is now called Trimble Sketch up. Presenter Josh Loso who teaches math at Hillcrest Middle taught participants how to use Sketch up and modeled an excellent math lesson. I am now confident that I can help my faculty learn to harness the power of Sketch up in their classrooms. I need to find out if the program is still going to be free for our schools after Trimble purchased it.

Cathy Jo Nelson presented a session on the 2011 AASL's Best Websites for teaching and learning. She showed us the sites and gave us tips on how to incorporate them into lessons. Cathy also gave us tips on how to use Twitter to find out about good websites and apps. 

The most influential, sticky aspect of UTC was Lodge McCammon and his keynote and session on Flipping the classroom. My next post will be dedicated to this concept and its possibilities.

Many thanks to UTC and its organizers for presenting a great conference for FREE!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reasons why I am opening the library and checking out books over the summer

This year I decided to check out books to students over the summer. "You'll never get 'em back!" says the wicked witch in my head. It reminds me of the "You'll shoot your eye out! You'll shoot your eye out!" sass from Ralphie's teacher in A Christmas Story. I thought it was a revolutionary idea, because all I ever heard was, "You'll never get the books back." Well, it's NOT a revolutionary idea and lots of great librarians do it. I posted a query to the SCASL list-serv asking, "Do you check out books over the summer?" and one person replied "as many as they want. . " that's when I knew I had to do it. Here are some other reasons:

1. The only students who are going to check out books are the ones who love to read, those are my regular customers and they are pretty reliable about returning their books to the library. We need to make more students who love to read. But for me right now, the number of students interested in summer book check out is not overwhelming.

2. Which is more important? Getting all the books back or kids reading over the summer? Students reading over the summer is much more important than the potential loss of a few library books.

3. I used it as an incentive for students to clear their library account and return all of their books on or before the last week of school. Students could not check out books for the summer unless they had no check outs or overdue books or fines on their library account.

4. Checking out books over the summer helps build a culture of reading.

5. I decided to allow only the 6th and 7th graders to check out books because they will be returning to the school next year. I did check out a few books to 8th graders who asked about checking out books and told them to return the books to the High School library or our public library.

All in all this has been a positive experience that I will almost certainly repeat next year. I started a summer book club with four books to choose from and scheduled meetings on the two dates I opened the library.
Even if we don't get many people, this is a start. I will be able to kick the year off by continuing the summer book club into the first two weeks of school.

Check out the SMS Library Blog to see what we read and some of the activities we tried.