Sometimes it's good to remember you don't have to be a superstar. There are so many library role models out there, inspiring me with what they're doing, how they're teaching and how they're innovating. And while I draw plenty of inspiration from them, it's sometimes hard not to feel guilty about what you're not doing. My list runs to everything from not having all my signage in place, not fostering genuine collaboration with teachers, not having genre-fied my fiction collection, not implementing library centers, not teaching digital safety and citizenship, not stressing citation skills.
I feel a tremendous amount of anxiety and guilt over what I'm not doing, and it can sometimes make it hard to celebrate the amazing things that *are* happening. And that's not healthy or productive.
I got a great reminder about the importance of not pressuring ourselves to do everything 1000% from a fellow librarian, who shared a wonderful post by Joyce Valenza on the topic. Reading Joyce's words and taking her focus survey really helped to put things in perspective. Yeah, I'm not doing all that I could be in terms of digital citizenship, or citation skills, or reading the best new middle grade novels for reader's advisory.
I am focusing on transforming my space into a flexible, collaborative learning environment. I am exploring new things to do with technology. I am scoping out excellent digital tools to foster research and digital learning skills. I am coming up with exciting new interdisciplinary projects. Most importantly, kids are having fun and learning. I'm not giving 100, or even 1000% in all areas, and that's OK.
I have my focus. I am doing enough.
Well, it turns out I'm terrible at keeping this blog up to date. This year was one of discovery and adventure - apparently being a second year teacher working with the same (generally) group of kids gives you a lot more potential and confidence to begin experimenting. It's also been interesting to start to get a sense of units and projects I want to teach again and those I want to change. I'm glad I have the freedom to do that, and it's definitely not something I take for granted. Not having a team is challenging in some ways, but it also brings with it an incredible amount of freedom.
Dot Day: So much fun, and such a great way to kick off the year! We used Skype to connect with students in Iowa, Texas, Maine and New Jersey, and it left an impact on those classes throughout the year. I also love what Dot Day stands for, in terms of embracing creativity and connections, and I can't wait to do it bigger and better next year.
Acceptable Use Policy Project: I wanted to teach my 4th graders about our AUP but to do so in a way that didn't involve me talking at them. I discovered PowToon and told the kids they were going to read the policy, pick the ones they thought were the most important, storyboard them, and then move on to using PowToon. They LOVED it. I got funny, creative, informative presentations from every single group.
Animoto Book Trailers: I did this with my entire third grade during library, and later in the year did it with one fourth grade section and half the fifth grade as an end of the year project. The kids have so much fun creating their videos and they love sharing and seeing their classmates' work as well. Definitely doing this again and maybe even making it an ongoing activity if I can figure out logistics.
Alexandria Tutorials: Again, I wanted a creative way to teach my 4th graders how to use Alexandria (our catalog), and especially how to begin using the advanced features. We started with a worksheet that had them explore the advanced search features (boring), and while it made some headway in getting them comfortable with the system, it really wasn't sinking in. So I decided to give them some guidelines about features they had to explain and then gave them total freedom on how to present the information. Some students wrote scripts and filmed game shows. Others used Scratch, Animoto and PowToon. And most are now (from an observational standpoint) much, much more comfortable with using advanced search skills. Win win!
Skype with Denali Park Rangers: We used Skype to talk with park rangers in Denali, which was an awesome way to cap off the 2nd graders study of Alaska.
So, better late than never?
The IdeaLab has always been my favorite part of AASL because it gives you the chance to see projects in bite-sized, manageable pieces, and it's where I get my best, immediately implementable ideas. The conference sessions are also amazing, but I look to them for long-term, big picture stuff. I didn't love the new electronic format of this year's IdeaLab because it felt more sterile, but there were still some great presentations.
My main takeaways:
Investigating the Holocaust
This is an online museum created by teachers at Sierra Middle School in Parker, CO. The "museum" was meant to help students contextualize the Holocaust as they read the Diary of Anne Frank. Each "exhibit" was a different webpage linked from a master site, and included sites like the Anne Frank House website, the Holocaust Museum, and others. The project is a blended learning initiative, and the website is free and open to anyone to use. You can check out the exhibit here.
Bee-Bots are a great, fun way to introduce coding to young students in the growing realm of toys that infuse robotics and coding together. The nice thing about the devices is that they do not require any computer/smartphone/iPad to operate - kids program the bot directly and set it to go. I loved the creative ways in which this school is integrating these robots into teaching and learning - asking students to program the bots to identify sight words, count by 10s, or work with image recognition. Click here for the librarian's Symbaloo of resources for Bee-Bots.
The Link Ladies
I never quite got what this presentation was about (see complaints about digitizing everything), but the presentation turns out to have a lot of useful apps to support teaching and learning, some of which are old favorites, and some of which are new. The basic idea is that apps can help the library integrate with subjects across the curriculum. Presentation can be found here.
Mixed Media Poetry
This was perhaps my favorite station of the whole room, the one where I immediately envisioned myself coming home and getting this project going ASAP. The library teacher in question took the book "Stardines" by Jack Prelutsky, read the poems with her class, then had the kids write their own poems and illustrate them using clipart and the ActivBoard. The results were hilarious and wonderful. I cannot wait to do this project.
Montgomery County School Library in the Virtual and Physical Realm
Montgomery Country Schools in Maryland is an enormous district that has developed some great resources for districts looking to bring their libraries into the 21st century. To do so, they looked at their libraries' physical and digital presences. In the physical realm, they created a handy checklist to guide libraries transitioning from more traditional to more flexible spaces, and they did the same for their virtual presence. What I really liked is that they allowed for differences in website platforms, but settled on requiring certain standard information to be listed on each website for user-friendliness. They've done a wonderful job.
Legos in the Library
This was a decidedly simple, yet fun idea - a librarian has begun a wildly popular Lego club for kids after-school in her library space. Each session, the kids have a theme or challenge they must complete so that there is some structure and a purpose to guide their building. I would love to try and adapt this into an ongoing challenge in my library - the only question is logistics...
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also review children's, middle grade, and young adult books on Instagram.
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