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!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

SSL-NYLA 2013 Presentation: App-ealing Instructional Practices

Once again I'm presenting at the New York State School Library Conference, held this year in Rochester, NY. Below are the apps I'm covering in my workshop. Leslie's elementary app reccomendations can be found on her library page.

1:1 Apps

* Timeline 3D ($4.99)
* Timeline Eons ($6.99)
* EBSCO Host (Free)
* Access My Library (Free)
* Solve the Outbreak (Free)
* Pass the Past (Free)

1:25 Apps
* Haiku Deck (Free)
* Ask3 (Free)
* Voice Dream Reader ($9.99)
* Apps Gone Free (Free)
* iPoe Vol. 2 ($3.99)
* Postagram (Free)
* SparkVue ($9.99)
* AirMicro Pad (Free)

Studyhall Utilities
* Amount ($.99)
* MyScript Calculator (Free)
* FitBrain Trainer (Free)
* Audible (Free)
* Kindle (Free)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Inquiry Projects Part I: A refreher and alignment

This is a two part series: Part I is a refresher on inquiry based learning models and their alignment to the Common Core. Part II discusses an inquiry driven 8th grade ELA research unit aligned to the Common Core.

So I've spent some serious time hating on the Common Core, but over the past year I've come to appreciate many aspects of the new standards (though I continue to abhor any additional testing it's generated).

One fantastic aspect of the Common Core is its emphasis on inquiry. Librarians are inquiry experts - it's what we do 24/7. Having the Common Core around helps justify our existence; I'm finding that most classroom teachers are uncomfortable with inquiry based learning, so we're needed now more than ever!

Need a little refresher yourself? In this learning model, instead of expecting students to find the “right answer,” students are asked to find appropriate solutions to problems (typically, the problems - aka "questions" - are generated by students themselves). It puts more emphasis on teaching students HOW to learn rather than simply memorizing content. Another characteristic of this model is the role of the teacher; instead of the teacher serving as a “sage on the stage,” teachers are a “guide by the side,” facilitating the problem solving process rather than simply providing the right answer. This type of lesson design parallels real world problem solving, mirroring the Common Core’s emphasis on preparing students for the workforce.

There are multiple inquiry models out there - the Big6 is one most of you are probably familiar with. Janet Murray has complied a cross-walk aligning the Big6 to a variety of Common Core indicators.

Aligning the Big6 to the Common Core. Visit Janet Murray's Web site for the full chart.

Another example of an inquiry model is WISER, which was developed by Madison-Oneida BOCES School Library System. The WISER model has a nifty graphic cross-walking inquiry with skills Common Core ideas.

The WISER model as prepared by the Madison-Oneida BOCES School Library System.
Regardless of the model you choose, Common Core standards make a strong case for adopting some kind of inquiry framework. As you collaborate with teachers, an inquiry learning model will help ensure you're approaching projects from a Common Core aligned perspective.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hosting a Successful Author Visit in a Junior High

This week we hosted author Susan Campbell Bartoletti. It was my first time working with a big-name author, and between three months of maternity leave and teachers prepping for upcoming state testing, I felt a little frazzled pulling off the event.

Happily, some advance made the day a success, even though I'd never done this kind of event before. Here are my top tips for planning a successful author visit at the junior high level.

Susan eats lunch with our students.

Ask your classroom teachers what authors they're interested in (or give them a short list to choose from). It's so much easier to pull off an author visit if you have teacher buy-in. They're under tons of pressure to perform on state exams and adjust to new curriculum standards, so they are going to be reluctant to give up class time for an activity they don't value. When they have a stake in the event everyone is much happier.

Select authors that match your curriculum. When I prepared my short-list for the teachers, I gave them two options. Both authors wrote non-fiction, so their books aligned well with the Common Core. The content of their recent works also aligned to the 8th grade Social Studies and ELA curriculum. By choosing authors that are a good academic fit, it's easier for teachers to give up class time.

Check reviews. It's much less nerve racking to  host an author you've met in advance. I put Susan on my short list because I saw her speak at a school library conference. Not all authors are equally good speakers, and it's not easy to handle an audience of 250 8th graders. Choose those with experience presenting to your age level. Susan was an easy choice because she taught 8th grade English for almost 20 years. I've found that former teachers usually make great speakers.

Get the kids to actually read the book. This isn't an easy feat at the junior high level. When you're working with picture book authors, it takes thirty minutes to read through a book -- in contrast, Susan's Hitler Youth is over 150 pages. Because I had teacher buy-in (see first bullet), I was able to ask my social studies teachers to work with the text in their classroom. I bought 30 copies of the book, and each teacher got the set for one week. If I hadn't been on maternity leave, I would have collaborated with the teachers to develop engaging activities based on the book. Since teachers were left to their own devices, the students had different levels of exposure, but they all had at least SOME level of familiarity.

Get the kids excited about the author. I struggled with this step. It's so much easier to think of elementary activities for author visits. We did bulletin boards and a library display, but I wanted MORE. I talked to a wise colleague who's sooo smart about this stuff, and she had great ideas. One suggestion was to hold daily trivia contests. Students who correctly answered the questions got entered into a drawing. They could either win lunch with the author or the opportunity to sit in the "VIP section" (a front row of comfy chairs we dragged down from the library) during the assembly. Both options were really popular and got kids excited.

Plan different settings for kids to interact with the author. During Susan's visit, she did two large group assemblies (250 kids each), ate lunch with about 15 students, and then held a writing workshop with about 40 kids.These different settings allowed them to interact with her in both formal and informal ways.

Take care of the author. Presenting all day takes so much energy. Keeping the author well fed and happy helps ensure a high quality program. Ask your author what they like to eat and drink and if they have any dietary restrictions. Schedule breaks between events. Give the author time to use the bathroom, have a snack, check their e-mail and relax.

Our day with Susan Campbell Bartoletti was awesome! I can't stop raving about her!

What are your tips for a successful author visit?