Thursday, January 30, 2014

January Bulletin Boards & Book Displays

I thought I'd share our January displays and bulletin board before the month is officially over. Luckily, this month's themes are pretty universal, so they'd work just as well any other time of the year.

In the library we went with a black and white color scheme and a "Get Inspired" theme. We hung white puff balls (snow?) leftover from a bridal shower and made large, over-sized silhouettes to define the book types at each display. This meant a jumbo chef's hat by the food books, a sled by the sports books, and a pair of scissors by the craft books.

Our bulletin board was inspired by this pin. I thought it was a great January idea as the board's title is "Happy New Beginnings." The board displays the first line from 12 different books. When students lift the flap, they see a photo of the book cover that corresponds to that quote. I tried to pick titles that had really great first lines -- it was harder than you'd think!

I'm especially drawn to boards like this with an interactive, game style component.

From left to right, starting with the top row, the books are:
  • Farhenheit 451- "It was a pleasure to burn."
  • Holes - "There is no lake at Camp Green Lake"
  • 1984 - "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
  • Pride and Prejudice - "It is a truth universally acknowledge that a single man in possession of a good fortune must in want of a wife."
  • Chains - "The best time to talk to ghosts is just before the sun comes up."
  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - "Once upon a time there was a pair of pants."
  • Uglies - "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck."
  • Feed - "The early morning sky was the color of cat vomit."
  • The Fault in Our Stars - "Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.”
  • Harry Potter - "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal."
  • Stormbreaker - "When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it's never good news."
  • Delirium - "It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease and forty-three since scientists perfected a cure."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nearpod love in the library

My new favorite app of the moment is Nearpod. In a nutshell, the app deploys interactive presentations and collects student assessment data.

Here's how it works (or at least how I've implemented it):
  1. I create a basic PowerPoint show for my topic. The slides only contain text and images (no animations or multimedia). The PowerPoint lays out the basic flow or structure of the lesson.
  2. I upload the basic PowerPoint to Nearpod.
  3. Using Nearpod on the web, I start adding interactive features to my basic presentations. These interactive features are slides that can be inserted in between my original PowerPoint slides. Interactive options include the following:
    • Slide shows
    • A blank drawing canvas (with a background of your choice)
    • Videos
    • Web browser displaying a site of your choice
    • Polls
    • Multiple choice quizzes
    • Short answer quizzes
4. I then "publish" the presentation on Nearpod.

Now you have two options for deploying the presentation. You can do one of the following:
  1. Start a "Live" session, generating a pin number. In this mode, every student needs a device (laptop, iOS device, desktop, etc.) in front of them during class (I guess you could also do one device per small group). Students open the Nearpod app and enter the PIN number provided. Once students have all entered the presentation, you begin presenting, advancing the slides on the teacher's view. As you advance the slides, the students' iPads screen automatically advance. On the interactive slides, students submit their answer, and it automatically collates and displays the data on the teacher's screen. If a teacher receives an especially good answer, they can then deploy it to students' screens.
  2. Deploy the presentation in homework mode, generating a pin number. Students can then access the presentation at their leisure. In this mode, the presentation is self-paced, so students are in charge of advancing each slide as they work through the lesson. This set-up is ideal for a flipped classroom environment or independent classroom work. 
A few notes:
  • Each time you launch a new presentation (not a new session), the presentation has to be downloaded to the device. If there's lots of network traffic on your wifi, this can be painfully slow (we've had it take 30+ minutes on especially bad days). In anticipation of this, we usually preload the presentations on all the devices the night before we're using them in class. 
  • Institutional subscriptions are ridiculously expensive (I think we were quoted something like $60K for our district). I've just purchased one Gold level personal subscription, and that's done everything I've needed it to do.
  • Inserting videos into presentations eats up a lot of storage space. So either compress the video as much as possible, or host it on a Web site and insert it as a browser page instead. 
In addition to seeing results in real-time, you can also generate reports after the lesson has finished.

Class summary for a quiz. I can tell which questions they struggled the most with and instantly know what concepts I need to re-teach.

A student's answer for a drawing question. I provided the background bridge image and they added the colored arrows.

So far we've covered the following topics with Nearpod:
  • Bridge design (the unit worked soooo well with this -- it's really an awesome presentation).  
  • Different kinds of irony
  • Website evaluation (using RADCAB)
I'd be happy to share my presentations -- just comment with your Nearpod user name and I'll send them your way. 

How are you using Nearpod?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Selfies & Self-esteem

In honor of the OED's word of the year, this month's library bulletin board is devoted to selfies.

To be totally honest, the word of the year was just a lucky coincidence. The board was actually inspired by this Teen Vogue article, "The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected Consequences of Selfie Obsession." I know my kids are selfie obsessed, especially as they leave Facebook and flock to Instagram.

From everything I've read, selfies are a useful tool in developing adolescents' personal identity, so I didn't want a board with a strict "selfies are bad" message, but I do think there are potential consequences my kids need to consider when sharing selfies. Hence our bulletin board theme - "Don't let selfies dictate your self-esteem."

I think the Teen Vogue article does a great job explaining the issue, so it was easy to translate it into a bulletin board. The iPhone frames on the board address the following topics with excerpts from the article:
  • What is a selfie?
  • Why take selfies?
  • Sharing selfies
  • How do "likes" make you feel?
  • The bad side of selfies
  • Selfie alternatives
To catch students' attention, I included celebrity selfies (side note: it's REALLY DIFFICULT to find school appropriate selfies -- put some clothes on, people!).

Has your library done anything to address selfies (and the word of the year)?

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Instagram Carrot

As librarians, we're always encouraged to ensure student work is shared in the Real World. Recently, I started an Instagram feed for our library (follow us at DurgeeLibrary if you're curious). Students either directly share their work via the Library's Instagram account (the account information is saved to my carts of library iPads), or I photograph their work and share it myself. Sharing their work on Instagram helps accomplish our mission of Real World projects, but I didn't realize how it would positively impact student pride.

Our junior high kids, like yours, are slowly leaving Facebook and finding a new home on Instagram. I noticed this trend during orientation, so at beginning of the year I created our library's Instagram account, but I've been slow to utilize it. Side note: creating an school Instagram account is so much easier and less fraught with potential complications than a Facebook page.

I finally put it to work a few weeks ago so students could share posters they created using the PicCollage app. We were able to apply class period hashtags (search #Rolfe1 for examples) and topic hash tags to every poster, so it made it super easy to sort them for presentations and grading. I thought that'd be the end of it, but I was pumped when students started going home and using their personal Instagram accounts to like their work and their friends' work. 

Now, as a little added extra motivation, I'm using the Instagram account as a dangling carrot. Students LOVE the idea of seeing their work featured on the school's Instagram account, so I'm picking and choosing the best products to photograph and share. It's proven a free and easy way to increase engagement and motivation.

Do you use Instagram at school?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Attracting Parents to the Library During Open House - Locker Notes!

Most school libraries aren't overrun with visitors during Open House. In my school, parents follow their child's class schedule, and then spend any study halls or lunch periods munching on cookies and punch provided by the PTSA in the cafeteria. A few devotees usually stop by and say hello, but the traffic flow through our space has always been limited, even with my best efforts to engage visitors.

This year, our principal came up with a FANTASTIC idea. She asked us to host a "Locker Love Note" station in the library. During her opening speech and via announcements in between periods, she invited parents to stop by the library to write a note for their child's locker.

 A parents slips a note into their child's locker.

We set-up a little sign in the library explaining the process, and provided parents with index cards and markers. Once they wrote a note, parents were invited to stick it through the slot of their child's locker for them to find the next morning. Our parents were able to easily locate their child's locker because lockers numbers were pre-printed on their child's schedule (our student management system automatically includes this info), which they were given on arrival.

It was such a little thing and a very easy activity to set-up, but the number of parents in the library far surpassed any previous records. I got to introduce myself to many new faces, and even if we didn't have a conversation, they at least saw our set-up and hopefully got an idea of the things we valued.

If you want more bodies in your space, set-up and publicize a locker notes station!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Huggmee Chair Review

Fire codes required us to ditch our comfy lounge seating this spring, so we had to find new furniture that met regulations.

We searched high and low for an affordable option, and stumbled across the Huggmee Chair. They're produced in Arizona by a teeny tiny mom and pop company. Online, the chairs list for $887, but when we purchased 3, we paid significantly less. Fabric options varied - we ended up choosing a faux leather/heavy-duty vinyl that met fire code regulations.

The chairs are unique because they're designed to allow users to sit in the "sling-a-leg" position - reclining backwards and throwing their legs over the chair's arm. The chairs are quite comfortable this way, though the low back makes them slightly less comfortable if you sit in a more traditional position.

Three weeks into the school year, the chairs have gotten a super warm reception from both staff and students -- I haven't heard a single complaint. Multiple kids have asked how much the chairs cost and where they can buy one. :)

Because the chairs are vinyl, they are susceptible to punctures and rips, but the company claims the vinyl is heavy-duty and repairs easily. I'll keep you posted and let you know what we think of them in June after a full year of wear and tear.

Friday, September 13, 2013

QR Codes and Orientation

There really isn't anything better than hearing a thirteen-year-old whisper to his friend, "This is the coolest library ever!" I can't help but grin when students get excited about lessons.

Happily, it's almost a guarantee that they'll dig anything involving the iPads -- library orientation is no exception. I've talked before about creating videos about each section of the library for my orientation lesson. In the past, I've asked students to choose the appropriate video from a list on their iPad's camera roll that corresponds to the stop number. Inevitably, some kids select the wrong video, or get horribly lost.

This year, to combat that problem, and also up our cool quotient, I've added QR codes. I'm using the free app "Scan," which worked perfectly on our iPads to display both text and open URLs.

In class, I explained QR codes, and then students practiced using the app by scanning a handout at their table. Each table featured a different (lame) library joke. To get the punch line, they had to scan the QR code.

Above: QR practice codes feature lame jokes.

Once students had the hang of it, we set them loose to complete the library orientation. I set-up signs at each location featuring a QR code. When students scanned the code, it opened a URL containing the appropirate video.

Above: Boys scanning a QR code at stop #4. 

The new QR codes worked so well - students always watched the appropriate video and got a kick of out of scanning the codes. A win-win for all!