More on Dewey

I have been slugging my way through the Allison Kaplan’s Catalog It! (2016) for the last week and a half. This is in no way an ‘easy read’ — further, I finding myself feeling equal parts frustrated and defeated at times because I am not used to feeling overwhelmed by information nor am I accustomed to frustration that comes from constantly referring back to previous chapters to understand the numbers, symbols, and acronyms.

Aaaagh!

One thing I do know is that I am happy technology has advanced as such that so many school libraries are moving toward automation. In between my frustrating moments, I’m thinking to myself, “My goodness, I wish there was an app so I could practice using this…” Who even am I these days?!

One thing remains constant in my mind — if I’m having difficulty piecing this all together, how can I expect students I work with to use it in an intuitive fashion? Now, I get that when I was growing up, society didn’t really indulge anyone on how intuitive something was or wasn’t; however, technology has moved our society in the direction of iOS and Google and thus it makes the most sense to try and figure out what is the most intuitive way to organize materials for students.

Incidentally, I look forward to discussing my library friend’s OPAC and her school’s overall organization of the library — she works in a secondary school, and thus works with students in both middle and high school. I am really looking forward to picking her brain about genre-fictation in the coming weeks because more than Dewey explains, this seems to make more sense to me. I’m also curious to learn if there are more ‘cutting edge’ technologies employed by school libraries.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to slog through the last remaining exercises in the text and see to it that I frame my thoughts about how my knowledge of Dewey can help shape the experiences of my future students.

Note: I did Google DDS apps and found LibraryTools

The Card Catalog

This week’s (and next’s) topic is about cataloging — the mere topic takes me back to when I was a girl and used to enjoy sifting through the card catalog at the local public library. Looking back on my childhood habits, there were no surprises when I wanted to major in English and honestly, I don’t know how it took me this long in life to come around to library media — I’ve always been a lover of books and organization so honestly, this makes total sense.

Anyway…

I’ve been really stressed about the readings this week. Typically, I start my reading on Sunday and finish on Monday or Tuesday but because I was traveling with 4 over the weekend, I only had the chance to read an article via phone once he’d gone to bed (the tone really put me off and I told myself I’d finish the rest of my work at home). Here we are: It’s Wednesday — and I’m just now diving into the text.

As I started reading Allison Kaplan’s Catalog It! (2016), I instantly connected the idea of cataloging books to how I organize my closet. (I would share a picture but shamelessly, I’ve asked my husband to move his clothes to the spare room so that I can completely overtake the walk-in…) I organize all of my clothing by style1 (type of item), style2 (length of item), and color of item; colors dictate the order of style and my shoes are organized in their original shoe boxes by style and color. By all means, my love of organizing (which also spreads to our pantry, refrigerator, linen closets, etc) seems to align perfectly with how I can understand the concept of organization for the library classroom.

In an effort to pivot, I tried to reconcile in my mind the organization of books via index cards into the searchable databases found online. I use the online library catalog from my local public library with great frequency (and also the one at university). What really stood out to me in this week’s reading was differentiating between keyword searches and Lexile-level searches (P49-50).

Much like Google, a keyword search can yield an abundance of results which can be both good and bad — learning to sift and understand the patience around this are keys to learning for our students. So often, we are all used to instant gratification and thus when we don’t find exactly what we are looking for in an instant, we give up and move onto something else. Working with students to maximize keyword searches seems like a great way to plan an entire library lesson (HELLO, databases!) and thus show how to access the online catalog with keywords AND the database subscriptions to ensure that students are able to maximize their time and energies in the library classroom. (As an aside: Being a college professor for the last nine years, I’m constantly in shock [and awe] with how many students do NOT know how to access online databases especially considering how many local high schools have subscriptions. Louder for the people in the back: Wikipedia is not a reliable source! I digress…)

In addition to keyword and subject-based searches, the book mentions the ability to search based on Lexile level. I plan to ask my librarian friend about this for her school’s network because I think anything that levels reading as such is great. I am going to not get too excited though until I talk to my friend to see if this is even at all a realistic thought (I also posted for classmates’ thoughts/experiences on this). I also look forward to asking about curriculum objectives being linked to the school library catalog (P75) because this was something that really struck me.

In my mind, I’m picturing this very accessible and engaging catalog that allows all members of the school community a place to search and find resources, so I’m trying to keep my calm in setting realistic expectations (at least until I talk to my friend about her school’s/district’s OPAC. In the meantime, I’ll continue reading through Catalog It! and see what else jumps out at me.

 

PD for Teachers

This week’s content for my Emerging Tech class is about professional development. I’m really excited to get started on this because all semester, I’ve been chomping at the bit to do something cross-curricular. I figured this is the assignment to really jump on that ship.

Now, to start, I want to mention that I’ve sat through MANY a professional development seminar and most of them lacked literally everything we tell teachers to do when creating a dynamic lesson. I wanted to ensure that I didn’t fall into that trap and that I’d be able to harness my intensity so not to scare off any colleagues before they had the pleasure of actually conversing with me. I also didn’t want to annoy people to the point that drove them leave the PD and grab drinks at the bar down the street…

My main focus and idea centers on doing a PD session with teachers for integrating the library classroom into their content areas through using a presentation tool and offering each of the main content areas a specific suggestion as to an additional application/site to use. It may not be fully integrated co-curricular but it touches on it in a way that I am comfortable and would feel competent enough to run.

Largely, for me, all of this is basically playing pretend because as you’ve likely gathered, I’ve worked with significantly under-funded schools. My strengths are around literacy and learning development which I think can make me a great resource to school staff. For this reason, I wanted to be deliberate around such a task. (I feel like making this known will depend on the school and reading the situation; I certainly wouldn’t want teachers feeling like I was trying to overtake their classrooms but also want them to know that I’m a valuable resource for them, so I’ll have to play the scene that is handed to me in my future school here…)

When I start to plan anything, I think about my end goals and then have about 46 simultaneous ideas surging through my mind (which is great when you’re trying to focus and/or tell a story). Over the years, I’ve learned to go with it — sometimes I process in rapid speed and other times, not so much. For this assignment, I took an entire day to just let my brain sit with my thoughts as I sorted out my vision.

Then, I read the assigned texts. One, in particular, resonated with me: The Many Faces of School Library Leadership by Sharon Coatney (2010). This article focused on school library media specialists serving the school community as ‘experts’ and ‘leaders’ — from this course, I’ve definitely gathered that we are the experts in the school and should really be viewed as an asset but I never made the connection between school leadership and the library.

In the last several years, my consulting has taken me all over the world, delivering American education, training, and curriculum each step of the way. I recognized that I was hired for my leadership skills but for some reason, the thought hadn’t yet transferred to my (theoretical) role in the school library. This adds a lot of pressure to the library media position but also, for me, helps to build confidence in that someone will hire me recognizing that I’m capable and competent enough to lead school staff in educational technology and other facets housed in the library media center.

I used this idea to develop my PD plan for teachers by offering a full agenda and breakout sessions that all culminate to a shared presentation at the end of the of the session. To me, this is something that I could pilot in either a before-the school year begins capacity or at an early professional development meeting whereby I introduce the library media center and then demonstrate some of my tech competencies to fellow staff and administrators.

This assignment was interesting to put together because I think it served to prepare me for how overwhelming and intense my immediate responses to things that excite me. In order to be an effective leader of the library media center, I’ll need to reign things in so that colleagues find me approachable (and relatively sane). I think that utilizing technology helps me maintain organization and structure for things like this and I like that I can use technology to serve dual purposes like teaching teachers and then giving them examples of how to teach students. I am really looking forward to putting these mock tasks into action in a library classroom.

Programs I used for this assignment are listed below:

Screencast-O-Matic — I used this to create a ‘mock’ lesson/demonstration of Prezi

Sutori & MathTalk — These were used for the Maths breakout

Prezi & Peergrade — These were used for the ELA breakout

LiveBinders & iCell — These were used for the Science breakout

Padlet & iCivics — These were used for the Social Studies breakout

Plus, Musilla Music School, HeadSpace, iDraw, Quizlet, and VidCode, which are used for specials/electives and their correlating breakouts.

 

 

Unit Plans

Oh, boy. This week we were assigned a unit plan. Of course, curriculum planning is MY JAM. Before becoming a mostly stay at home mom (and of course, a full-time SAHM), I wrote curriculum full-time. I designed standards mapping and full-on curriculum for the American education that was taken and implemented in China — I also got to travel all through China where I met with stakeholders in programs, ran training sessions for teachers/administrators, and of course, ate lots of delicious food. (Oh, how I miss the dandan noodles in Wuhan — even Myers&Chang’s aren’t as delicious…)

I was overly excited about this assignment because developing lessons and course materials is something I’ve always enjoyed. Taking a step back from devoting so much of my time and travel to be at home more was the best decision for my family but it was a major adjustment. I still do some curriculum development in a consulting capacity but not nearly as much as I once did. A lot has changed in the last few years (including the addition of our little man) but being back in school has me excited.

Going back to school is a change for everyone in my house. As I worked on this unit plan and was thinking of ways to create ‘student work’ I figured I’d involve the two older kiddos. Each of them made a short FlipGrid on a book they’ve read. I didn’t realize how exciting it would be for them to ‘help’ me with my assignments but my goodness, they wrote out their little descriptions and were so excited to practice; then we watched them six times each afterwards.

As I worked to find an additional nine tech sources for my unit plan, I came across Sutori — this is a really neat presentation tool and I enjoyed playing around with it a bit. I created a couple of presentations on it, one for a lecture and another for ‘student work’. Other technologies I decided to include were Prezi for a piece on student book selection and Animoto for another lecture segment on genre. I also created a Padlet to showcase all of the ‘student work’ — THIS piece was so fun!

Of all the technology I used, the Padlet was my favorite. I was able to showcase the Google Docs, Sutori, and FlipGrids to it and I love the idea of using this on a SMARTBoard for an interactive learning experience. To be honest, this assignment really has me excited to start my journey as a school librarian. It feels like a really fun position to have and is like a content-area teacher but with all of the fun pieces — what could be better?!

Even if I decide to return to the classroom as a content-area teacher, I feel like I’ll have so many more resources to share with students that will help to make learning exciting. This week, 13 had a paper for SOC where she had to design a screen saver for Thomas Jefferson’s phone along with a few phone contacts, Tweets, and text messages. It was similar to an assignment I did with students years ago as we read Romeo & Juliet. I love school tasks that have a sense of humor and really appreciate teachers trying to relate to students. For me, this is something I need to work on more — as discussed in basically every post, technology is not the center focus in my personal life so the adjustment for me is very real. That being said, I’ve been learning that there is some really neat technology out there and I’m excited to try and offer a fresh approach to learning with the students I end up working alongside.

 

Assistive & Adaptive Tech

This week for class, we had a number of readings (and discussion); because I am traveling on Wednesday, I started the readings at the end of last week so that I could get my work done and enjoy my long weekend away. The topic is one of interest to me, assistive and adaptive technology. While I’ve never been a certified special education teacher, I have worked with students with exceptionalities the duration of my career. When I started teaching in DC, I was assigned two learning clusters for mainstream: ED and MR. I was told this was because my class was calm and I was patient; honestly, it seemed like a reward for hiding my anxiety and how overwhelmed I was by being a shy person by nature. Hoorah.

In all seriousness, it was a great learning experience and as a result, I worked with the head of the ED cluster who’d push into my class to work with some of our more challenging students. It was a win-win for all of us and I really appreciated being pushed to better my practice day in and day out. (I have such fond memories of some of these students and their successes.) If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll remember that I didn’t have books and for a time, I didn’t have a classroom. I did have four desktop computers along the back wall; only one worked and the only person who ever got it to work was not a student of mine but just one who would wander in, fire it up, and look at pornography: A real treat of an experience those redirections were for a green, 25 year old teacher (we actually had a plan where a student would go and get his case manager and we’d continue on — this seemed to cause the least amount of stress for all parties).

One of my assigned readings this week was the article: When the Classroom Feels Hostile: I found this article interesting because ninth grade most definitely is a sweet spot for holding onto or losing students to their learning struggles. In my years in DCPS, I taught ninth and tenth grade English. I worked with students who read typically on a fourth grade reading level and spent countless hours scaffolding my lessons to meet the needs of a very diversely-skilled student body. I caught some students and built upon their skills while others verbalized their ‘waiting it out’ plan (this plan was to quit school when they reached 18; I had several ninth grade students on the cusp of becoming legal adults). This disparity is all too common for students whose educational needs go unmet. After years of teaching in DCPS, I accepted a department chair position in a neighboring district.

When I left DCPS, I worked in an alternative school; we had a robotics program but little technology otherwise. Our school was really small; there was no formal library or computer lab. I had a computer for work and a SmartBoard that wasn’t connected to anything. Our principal held meetings where we passed a talking stick around so I think that tech just wasn’t a priority of his, honestly. His method worked for building relationships with students, but it definitely lacked in preparing them for future tech advancements. After two years teaching in NoVA, I moved to Boston and that’s where things really opened up for me: I worked in a special education school where access to all sorts of technology was atop my administrator’s priority list.

Dragon Speak and Kurzweil were what I utilized most as an English teacher. I feel strongly that students who struggle with reading and writing, learning disability or otherwise, deserve the opportunity to succeed and these programs really offer students a chance to process information in their own ways and output thoughts with ease. In one of the links provided by my professor, I read that only 5% of middle school students with learning disabilities are proficient in writing and only 33% of teachers feel prepared to teach writing (Cast 2019). As educators, we HAVE to do better than this.

In thinking of how I will be able to better utilize technology to meet my future students’ needs in the library classroom, I read the article Assistive Technology: 10 Things to Know by Janet Hopkins (2006) and found it helpful. It is a lot less intimidating to chunk technology into three sections: Low Tech (highlighter tape, graphic organizers, large print), Mid-Tech (tape recorders, headphones), and High Tech (computer-based, text-to-speech, concept mapping). Because low and mid-level tech are most easily available, it’s easy enough to figure out ways to implement and offer supports to both students and colleagues on how best to utilize across the board. The higher tech AT require a bit more planning, as they are more costly and likely require licensing and training. Thus, I feel it’s important to devise a plan on how to properly choose and implement these technologies for the benefits of all students.

Janet Hopkins published another article I read this weekend, School Library Accessibility: The Role of Assistive Technology (2004). In it, she suggested forming a focus group to devise a plan for AT and also using PD time to explore ways to improve upon the library. This has me thinking of PLCs to try and be a part of within the school community to forge connections and better understand the barriers to learning within the classrooms so that I could adequately compare them with those in the library. Hopkins also suggested publicizing AT initiatives and having a plan to speak to administrative staff; to me, these go hand-in-hand and allow for some concrete plans to move forward. Because I recognize that I can be intense at times, I feel like this is something I’d need to really plan and implement slowly to ensure my enthusiasm doesn’t come across in an overly assertive way and that I’m able to move the conversation positively to secure funding and adequate resources.

In her 2006 article, Hopkins addresses ways to secure funding for AT by reaching out to Parent Advisory Committees (PAC) or even writing grants to finance the more expensive educational technology. Otherwise, she suggests using low- or no-cost alternatives. Through looking into all of the shared articles and links for my course, I came across these social narrative apps through the QIAT site: I love the idea of using the app My Story e-Book Maker to allow students a chance to share their stories without an intimidation factor around getting their story out. Project Enable is another option for librarian to look into — they offer training and resources that you can handily select specific learning disabilities/impairments to find books, articles, databases, and websites specifically designed to meet the learning needs of those students. The Cast UDL Studio was another resource I appreciated; here, you are able to design resources specifically to meet the needs of your students.

Personally, I like the idea of the library classroom offering access to assistive and adaptive technologies for students. It seems like one of the more reasonable places within the confines of a school to house accessible technologies and would somewhat force the hand of collaboration between the librarian, special education staff, and content area teachers. As I gear up to work in a school library, this is one area of interest I need to keep in mind for discussions with future school leaders and potential employers.

 

Gaming & Social Networking

This week, for my Emerging Tech class, we are discussing gaming/social networking and how they can enhance education. It’s kind of funny; 13, 11, and I were talking about games they played in school last week and I was telling them that the only games we ever played in school were SEVEN UP (everyone had their head down except for seven people; if you were tapped, you raised your hand and then tried to guess which of the seven tapped you); MISSISSPPI (where you try to misspell it to trick the other team and rush the opposing side); and if we were lucky, we got to play Oregon Trail on the lone computer at the back of the classroom.

Oregon Trail was a fun video game — you got to simulate what it would be like to have dysentery and watch your family die off as you ventured across the US. I was fortunate enough to have a Tandy1000 (thank you, Radio Shack) at home, where my brother and I would play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. Theoretically, both of these games had learning potential or at least didn’t have ill intentions.

Today, when I think of games, I think of Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto — both of which (to me) are horribly violent. I know that 13 likes to play Sims with her friends but when I looked into it, characters can fornicate and honestly, talking about sex alongside a video game isn’t really the life I’m trying to create. My brother and I used to play an older version where we’d build houses and then catastrophically burn them to the ground. Alas, I was a bit reluctant to think about gaming as an educational tool.

A similar game that my professor shared with the class is called Second Life — I had no idea this was a real website and honestly thought it was just a name used in a bit on The Office. Thus, I tried to keep an open mind that a learning value exists and spent the last few days reading. A LOT. We had two optional books to read: Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal and It’s Complicated by Danah Boyd; I checked both out of my school library through their inter-library loan program.

In the Boyd text, there is a clear and consistent point of youth using social networking to extend their social conversations and engagements. To me, this makes a good bit of sense. Boyd mentioned early networking sites like Friendster — now here is something I could relate to: I remember Friendster. (It’s a site I haven’t thought about in maybe a decade+ but when I read its name, I instantly recall having an account). My boyfriend and his friends were very into networking and I got sucked into their bubble. I also managed to convince my best friend to join too: I remember one of her selections being ‘not that I know of’ for the ‘Children?’ question and a poll about what everyone was contributing to our Gold Cup tent. Aside from that, I don’t really remember utilizing the tool.

This ‘social extension’ bit that Boyd focused on throughout really gave me pause. This is exactly what I use my phone for. My best friend now lives in Florida and most of my remaining close friends are either in PA or DC; the handful of friends I have in MA are still an hour or so away, so texting is really the only option for keeping in touch with quick updates or just casual conversation. It makes sense that teens would utilize technology for the same purpose, especially given how busy teens can be.

I think back to my high school days; I was president of student council, involved in school musicals, worked as a cashier at Giant Eagle, and then I had the lesser involved activities like chorus, saxophone lessons, track, French club, SADD, and probably others. I was involved in A LOT and thus had a bustling social life. I saw friends after school at all of the club meetings and then usually on weekends too. When I was 16, my parents forced me to get a license and bought me a car so that they’d have a break from toting me here, there, and everywhere else. Having my own car definitely allowed for ease of socializing (even though I was the last of the group to turn 16 and only ended up with my license when my parents told me I’d have to walk everywhere if I continued my refusal with driving)… alas, I try to think of what life would have been if I wasn’t afforded those social opportunities but had access to Internet and social networking options. I could see how the virtual world could fill that hole.

I continue trying to keep an open mind. I know that 13 uses tools in Google Classroom to conduct group work (occasionally with the use of a phone call) and this seems to serve a similar purpose of a group meeting at the library after school but offers all students the learning opportunity. I think that there are definitely areas where integrating social networking can help improve upon social-emotional needs students may have.

I’m not yet sold on the gaming piece — the prude in me still needs a little time to adjust. I do recall, in reading the introduction to Reality is Broken that games allow users to create feelings of success through various channels and offer opportunities to “take an active role in changing our lives and enabling the future… [and] build up your ability to enjoy life more, to solve tougher problems, and to lead others in world-changing efforts” (P 14). I will see if through reading this book, my mind is changed at all on the gaming piece.

Until then, I have two additional blog posts I may write from connections I made to passages in Boyd’s book. I am really enjoying reading this as it is challenging my typical line of thinking but in a very productive way. I recommend this text for anyone who has teens or works with teens and is trying to figure out how to properly establish technology-based boundaries.

 

Social Media & The Library

If you can’t tell, this week’s Emerging Tech assignment was to research social media and the library. Honestly, I’ve been really excited for this unit! I actually do use social media and mostly to find interesting articles (also, pictures of sweaters and food and dogs). I have always been one who can’t read enough — always with a book in hand, a magazine on the table, and an article pulled up on my phone. (Admittedly, I hate reading on a screen but I tend to search for articles when I’m waiting on something/someone, and thus, enter the iPhone.)

Our assignment for the week was to figure out a social media plan and also to annotate a handful of social media sources. I did this while watching baseball (why is playoff baseball so entertaining?!) and was so excited that I basically attacked my husband and toddler with everything I’d found when they returned from their weekly trip to our public library.

First and foremost, I’d never looked on WordPress for blogs related to the library. I think it’s because I started this blog to talk about my family and myself. I found several sources here including a blog post that I re-blogged: The Death of the Library is Easily Reversed. This blog post gave me some pause to think about what before/after school options I could offer in the library classroom to meet the needs of students.

After my foray in with the WP search bar, I moseyed on over to Twitter. If you’re on Twitter and want to give me a follow, my handle is: @themumoirs — spoiler alert, it’s mostly about sports, food, and toddler tantrums. Ah, the good life. I have been following some academic-facing feeds for a while though (not everything can revolve around Pittsburgh sports’ teams). Some of my favorites for the library classroom are: MassBook, Digital Commonwealth, and NELA (which is a general site for libraries for all of NE — I like that there are resources posted frequently for how to improve upon the library experience and I think that a number of public library ideals can be used in the school library).

I also did some researching on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Let me just say, I LOVE Insta — I find it so much more refreshing and less to deal with than Facebook. I also can appreciate the privacy features on this site. Whereas my WP and Twitter feeds are public, I keep my Insta and FB private. I like the ability to have as much or as little a digital footprint as I please.

Now, to the social media plan. I put a decent amount of thought into this and wrote mine up accordingly. One thing that I can’t stop thinking about is how to use the BitMoji app to create cartoon versions of students to use in intranet-based chats and forums. Obviously, this would be contingent on the school’s policies and tech-based options but I really like the idea of having a level of anonymity while still being tracked (student log-in/IP) so that bullying doesn’t become an issue. This is something I will have to table for later but it’s definitely something I want to explore more.

I am really enjoying everything that I’m learning in this class. I want to also play around with the different apps, digital media forms, and websites I’ve reviewed in recent weeks and see how I can embed elements into library classroom social media page. I also understand what my limitations are — as a non-youngster, I’m accustomed to using Facebook and Twitter but I’m concerned that it won’t reach young people with my enthusiasm, so I think I’ll need to reach out to the school VSCO girls and learn about the cutting technologies that the teens are utilizing.

I’m excited to continue in my tech search and can’t wait to work in a school library, where I’m able to fully (or even partially) implement my plans.