Fairy Tales, Cookies, Makerspace and Beyond…..

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The Gingerbread Man……IMG_3656IMG_3664…..and Beyond……

We all know the story of this runaway cookie…but using technology, collaboration, and any curriculum, a whole new adventure can be discovered and embraced. This year, I am working with Jr. K students to create an exciting adventure they will never forget. In December, I read one of the many versions of this favorite fairytale to the class and showed them the 3D gingerbread man that I had made last year. Jan Brett’s extraordinary illustrations in Gingerbread Baby are one of my favorites and of course, my audience loved the surprise ending with the mystery flap.
In the classroom, the children experienced the steps needed to measure the ingredients and follow the recipe for this all time favorite sweet. Both teachers and all the students baked their own individual gingerbread cookies and of course, they all ran away. When the children discovered their cookies were gone, they followed the well planned clues and went around the campus in search of their snacks. At the end of the day, they had indeed discovered all of the missing runaways, except both of the teachers’ cookies.
The next plan, in the collaboration process was to come to the maker space and discuss their problem. They listed ideas and solutions to try to solve the problem of the two missing cookies. Students wrote their ideas on the white board table and shared. They voted for the top 3 best choices and we listed them on the table, too. The first choice was to build a trap to catch the missing sweets.  So each child designed their idea of a trap and explained just how it would operate.
In the meantime, the two missing cookies were safely tucked in the library refrigerator with a note, “Please do not eat us…we are part of a project.”
After our winter break, the students returned to the maker space and were divided into two teams. Each team was assigned to design a trap using materials in the maker space as well as other tools they could find in their classrooms.
Once the traps were designed, students needed to plan where to set them and then the waiting began. Miraculously, one of the traps successfully captured one of the teacher’s runaways. The students were thrilled and you can imagine the glee on their faces to see that cookie inside. However, one trap remained empty and another journey began for that cookie.
Since the curriculum for these students would involve learning about the waterways of Florida, the missing gingerbread cookie sent the class an e-mail or a letter. He told them that he had gone on a trip around Florida and his first stop was a waterway. Using a green screen, the technology teacher and maker media specialist sent pictures of this traveling cookie on all the waterways, lakes, and rivers the teacher wanted to cover in her lessons. The children were given clues and maps to  guess where the cookie was visiting. Suggestions as to where they think he would go next were also listed for further reference.

This can be a fantastic segway to learning all the information about that particular topic in any curriculum.These lessons could continue the rest of the year. Depending on the teacher’s input, the gingerbread man could continue forever on his travels or could return to the classroom at the end of the year.
This lesson can be adapted to cover many different disciplines and curriculum subjects. Letter writing, story telling, and creative writing can also be embedded as well as punctuation, parts of speech, math (to measure how far he travels in between e-mails), measuring (in cooking the recipe), geography, map skills, transportation, weather, clothing that he would need to wear in certain climates, rocks & minerals, animals, and insects, to mention just a few. Mishaps along the way could explain a broken foot or missing eye of the cookie. Using your imagination, the list can gone on indefinitely. So next time you think a fairy tale is just for the younger students you teach…remember you can always go beyond…just like this “cookie”.

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Hear here…

While I don’t think our setup is unique, there have been a number of questions about audiobook collections recently, so I thought we’d share our experience: I’d love to hear about any suggestions you have in the comments below.

Here are the ways in which we provide audiobooks to our users:


I know that the cost doesn’t make this a feasible option for everyone, but the functionality of OD fits our needs perfectly, so we view it as a digital subscription rather than an investment in the collection. Many of our students and staff members have the app: some download books for class use (eg. English or history lit circles), others pick something fun for a long commute. Increasingly, students come to us from schools where they have used OD, and they’re thrilled that we have it as well. The OD Marketplace makes it easy to browse and purchase items, although it can take a few hours for the title to appear in our collection. I love the ease of cataloguing: the free MARC records are easy to upload into Destiny (although I need to put in a Destiny enhancement request to update the CD icon to something more current!)


We have many students who require audio versions of assigned books (mostly for English) because of an IEP. Not all of them are available through Overdrive unfortunately, so we use Audible when need be. Audible allows users to connect up to 3 devices to each account (we have 2 accounts so that we can have 6 devices available): I’m very upfront with their customer service about being a library and have never had an issue. We chose to use inexpensive mp3 players intentionally: they don’t cost much to replace, and their decidedly un-cool design encourages students to return them to us rather than keep them. It requires us to purchase, download and transfer the files to the mp3 players, but it’s more ‘just in time’ than Overdrive.

CNIB Digital Library

I’m not sure if this is rare case of ‘only available in Canada’, so I’m curious to know if there’s an American equivalent. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind has an excellent digital library which is open to anyone with text disabilities: our students with learning challenges meet their criteria. It used to be a time-consuming process (memberships had to go through public libraries, involving layers of applications), but I was thrilled to discover this year that they offer an educator license which allows me, as a public library card holder, to access the files directly and share them with students entitled to access – seriously awesome. I do have to be very clear with the students about the terms of use: files are for their personal use only, and must be deleted when they’re finished with them.

What’s your preferred method of providing audiobooks to your users?

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Embracing Fanfiction

When talking books with a group of seniors before winter break, one of the girls said, “My friends don’t think that I’m a reader, but I actually read all the time! It’s Fanfiction. They don’t think that counts, but it totally does! I read hundreds of pages a week, actually.”

Apparently, I have been living under a rock.

O.k. so maybe not completely under a rock. I have heard tale of certain infamous Twilight Fanfiction that came in various shades of…poorly written mega-bestselling material. But the Fanfic this student was referring to, and that of which her group of friends began passionately extolling on, was not about that  business. It’s an entire world…a world made of fandoms. Have you seen sites like this?


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They LOVE IT. In our five minute conversation, I heard about story lines inspired by characters from books, television series, and video games. I heard that some of it is poorly written, some is gratuitous R rated material that they deem me too young and innocent to read :), but according to these girls, some of it is really, really good (and addictive). They’re reading. A lot.  And some of them are contributing their writing. I want to know more. Quite honestly, I want to know about what they’re reading, from comics to the Classics.  If I try their suggestions, I feel like they will be more open to trying mine.

So, what to do?

Acknowledge it.

Discuss it as a community. If this group of five is this into it, who else can contribute to the conversation?

Encourage them to create some of their own?

After reading this School Library Journal  Guest Post by Christopher Shamburg… When the Lit Hits the Fan in Teacher Education, I’ve decided to add a unit on Fanfiction this week in my senior English elective (I blogged about this class last year). However,  I think it’s something that we could all do as librarians. Perhaps an all school program, a collaboration with your English department, a fun activity for your book club, or an after school activity?

Per Shamburg’s recommendation, I’ve done a bit of research into the history of Fanfiction. I can’t wait to talk to my students about Shakespeare in particular. And then there’s Fanfiction of biblical proportions. “Paradise Lost” anyone? This could (and is) an entire course at universities. Lacking a degree in literature, I know that will touch on the proverbial tip of the iceberg, but I think that it will be a fun way to engage with texts in a new way.

I’m looking forward to hearing what influences my students have noticed in works that they have read. I read March by Geraldine Brooks years ago and liked it, yet I didn’t know the word “Fanfiction” then. I just thought, “Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, Little Women style”.


Think about these Fanfic writing prompts (offered again by Shamburg):

·      Alternate Perspective—the story is told from the point of view of another character. For example, what would the Cinderella story be like if the stepmother told it? (Or maybe the father from Little Women?)

·      Missing Scenes—scenes that are not in the original story, but would make sense in it.

·      Alternate Universe—a major character or event in a story is changed, and a “What If…” scenario ensues.

·      Alternate Realities—characters from one story enter the world of another story.

·      Sequels—the story that happens after the original story.

·      Prequels—the story before the original story.

·      Self Insert—the story is rewritten with an avatar (representation of the author). For example, what would a Harry Potter adventure be like if you were in the story?

(Shamburg, 2008, 2009)

I’m going to ask them to choose one of the above scenarios, to adopt their author’s tone and writing style as much as possible, and to add a Fanfic chapter to their story. I might even ask them to weave together all four books that they read throughout the semester for a final creative writing exercise. How fun would that be ?!

Are any of you members of a Fandom that you’d care to share?

Is anyone doing anything with Fanfiction at school? If so, I would love to hear about it. Please use the comment section to share your ideas with us all!

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Reanimating Frankenstein (through Art): An Ekphrastic Writing Workshop

To write a poem is to explore the unknown capacities of the mind and the heart; it is emotive, empathetic exercise and, like being struck by lightning, it will probably leave you stunned, singed, but also a bit brighter. (Young 1)

The Ancient of Days 19th C. William Blake (1757-1827/British) British Museum, London

The Ancient of Days 19th C. William  Blake (1757-1827/British) British Museum, London         (Britannica Image Quest)

Dean Young’s quote from The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction suggests a poet has the ability to bring vitality to life experiences by startling the mind and senses into a deeper reflection. How appropriate then to take the classic tale of animating life, Frankenstein, and try to reanimate it, breathe new life into it, through a poetry-writing workshop.  And, with a flourish that Romantic poets would appreciate, spark this poetic process by viewing artwork and describing sensory and emotional reactions to the art, thereby enhancing comprehension of themes and the emotive and psychological drama of Frankenstein.

Combining art viewing with writing, an ekphrastic process, is a “vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the ‘action’ of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning” (Poetry Foundation).  An example of Romantic ekphrastic poetry would be “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” in which describing the figures on the urn becomes a jumping off point for John Keats to ruminate that the scene of pipes and timbrels, maidens and gods, is a “cold Pastoral” that will outlast man (Keats).   This joining of reading, viewing artwork, and writing becomes a triple strength: 

  1. Slowing down to look closely at both text and artworks
  2. Identifying imagery that has special meaning
  3. Describing that meaning through figurative language

Incorporating writing as a pre-reading strategy to deepen analysis is supported by research of Tierney and Shanahan, who conclude that  “writing, together with reading, prompted more thoughtful consideration of ideas than writing alone,” and the combination of writing and reading is “more likely to induce learners to be more engaged” (cited in Smith 24-25).

Taking up the challenge to ignite high school students’ poetic muse with encounters of art, I collaborated with two high school English teachers, Patrick Connolly and Jennifer Smith, and a poet and creative writing teacher, Kyle Martindale, to create an Ekphrasis Writing Workshop.  The process included the following:

  1. Gathering art images (sources included Web Gallery of Art, Britannica Image Quest, Artstor, and National Institute of Health—view Bibliography of Images)
  2. Preparing students with a Mary Shelly webquest
  3. Modeling the ekphrastic approach during the writing workshop led by Kyle Martindale 

These samples of student poems, paired with artworks that inspired them, illustrate how students gave a voice to Frankenstein, the “mad creator,”  and the Monster, his tortured creation.

Andreas Vesalius

(Hamman, Edouard. Andreas Vesalius. 1848. National Library of Medicine. Bethseda. Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature. NIH. 9 July 2015. Web. 6 Sept. 2015.)

Poem by Jeffrey

In one hand, I felt the warmness
Of the yellow skin.
But in the other, I felt the coldness
Of the skull.
My left hand was filled with hope,
And my right hand was filled with death.
I am great and full of Knowledge.
It is shown in my book of Creation.
I stare upon the Crucifix and laugh.
He was said to be so great
And the Son of God.
But I hold his brother in my left arm.
I created him.
Therefore, I am God.

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(Beatrizet, Nicholas. Progressive Dissection of a Standing Man. 1560. Anitomia del Corpo Humano. National Library of Medicine. Bethseda. Historical Anatomies on the Web. NIH. 5 June 2012. Web. 6 Sept. 2015.)

Poem by Julie

Enclosed by another’s misery,
I dangle loosely by a thread,
Left to wonder how much
I would give to be dead,
Escaping my own despair.
My disfigurement only makes my pain
Grow stronger.
Stronger am I because of how I was structured?
Leaving me nothing but a brain to wonder.
Is my imagination even my own
Or the man before me
Perhaps the man who laid the foundation
Of my being?
My thoughts aren’t my thoughts,
My words aren’t my words,
My everything is another man’s nothing.
I am bound by a wild desire to cure
My illness inflicted by another.
It is as though I am captive to
His own predetermined mutations,
That is why I am disfigured and dangling—
Enclosed by another’s misery.

As a librarian who has a passion for words and a background in Fine Arts, I encountered powerful connections between words and images in assembling artwork for the workshop: artists’ deliberate choices of design elements (color, shape, texture, space, etc.) have parallels in writing.  One student in the workshop described poetry as “compressed language,” and artworks have similar multiple layers to communicate meaning.  One way to expand the ekphrastic writing experience would be a class trip to an art gallery to view the artworks and create poetic reflections.  Also, exhibiting student writing alongside the artworks that inspired them would be a thought-provoking way to show the interaction of word and image.  In February, at our library-sponsored Writers Café, students will read a selection of these poems accompanied by slides of the artworks.

This workshop was an opportunity for students to enliven their senses and stir up thoughts as they connected to an artwork and dramatized the experience, while also deepening insights into the emotive and psychological dimensions of Frankenstein. Through a deliberate choice of words and imagery, both the original artwork and the newly created poem became supercharged in the experience as students created an expanded dialogue of images and ideas.  Poet and scientist Jacob Bronowski said, “There is no picture and no poem unless you yourself enter it and fill it out” (cited in Moorman 46).  Students took the challenge to enter into the dialogue with art, and they filled the conversation with memorable ekphrastic poetry.  

Works Cited

Keats, John. “Ode to a Grecian Urn.” 1820. The Poetry Foundation. Web. 6 Sept. 2015.

Moorman, Honor. “Backing into Ekphrasis: Reading and Writing Poetry about Visual Art.” English Journal 96.1 (2006): 46-53. PDF file.

Smith, Jennifer. Creative Writing for Empowered Reading. Nashville: Aquinas College, 2015. Print.

Young, Dean. The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction. Minneapolis: Grey Wolf, 2010. Print.


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Goodbye Shelfari. Hello Goodreads.

Last weekend when I logged onto the computer, I saw my world crashing down. Hours of labor gone. The blackboard erased.

Here’s what I saw.


Shelfari’s New Temporary Homepage (Yes, I read a lot. And quickly.)

Goodbye, Shelfari and thanks for the last eight years.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t care about the social network component. Occasionally people have reached out to recommend books or authors have asked for feedback on their work. Well, this was back four or five years ago when people actually used the site. I’m guessing that some people thought that Shelfari went the way of MySpace years ago. Yet it hung on, the ugly stepsister to Goodreads.


A glimpse into my “favorites.” Seems I love young adult romance and poetry, and American authors. Yeah, I’d be pretty much thrilled for people to read any of these.

If it’s not for social networking, and it’s not for the technology, per se, why will I miss Shelfari?

-For three years before I joined Shelfari, I kept a word document where I wrote a list of all titles I read. In parentheses, I’d put a one word description of the type of book, but there was no real summary. It was unwieldy and long. Shelfari loads the book and helpfully includes all publication information and a summary.

-I am an oddly (some have said freakishly) visual learner. While I may not remember the names of characters in a book I’ve read, I can describe the cover and shape in detail. This is a skill that is hugely helpful working as a school librarian, but Shelfari gives me a quick reminder when I can picture a book but can’t immediately draw up the title in my mind.

-It’s fun to examine the stats and make sure that I’m reading across a range of genres. It’s also easy to see if there are certain “types” of books that I rate higher than others. Basically it provides me the data to metacognitively examine my reading patterns.

-But really it all boils down to my comfort with the site. I wasn’t going to leave until I was forced out.

general stats

I think about this frequently with kids and the “must have” messaging apps. To communicate with my best friend in Germany, I was happy with the Viber app until she stopped using it. I followed her to Telegraph. If she finds something new, I’ll diligently follow along. The important part is the function of the technology, not the name brand.

What bothered me most as I opened my screen and the pink bar jumped forth was not the demise of Shelfari, but the immediate realization of the tenuous connection that I have in maintaining access to all sorts of my data online.

What’s next?

My YahooMail account with emails from the last 15 years? Backup photos on Shutterfly? Google Drive files from presentations I’ve given? Podcast recommendations on Wunderlist? I already lost access to all the library’s Delicious links I so diligently marked and labeled years ago because I got locked out my account when I got a new computer. The cloud giveth, and the cloud can taketh away. I reminded that the best protection for preservation of data, physical or virtual, is having it located in more than one place. And it’s good to have that as a reminder rather than as a cautionary tale.

In good news, I did click on the link in the pink bar.


I downloaded my data to a csv file and imported it. This is easier than work I do with technology on a daily basis. Also, they actually do it for you, linking your account through Amazon. It’s just button pushing step by step. Plus, now you’ll be able to find me, and maybe I can get into the social side of reading recommendations. Welcome to Goodreads, and remember to back up your data.

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This post is about books

This post is about books. Sort of. It’s about The Book. Yes, That Book. It’s not about religion per se (at least not in the way one might be thinking.)

I am having my second Bat Mitzvah on the 23rd. It’s a quadruple adult Bat Mitzvah – to be truly grammatically correct, it’s a B’Not Mitzvah. What’s a second Bat Mitzvah and why am I having one? Didn’t the first one take?

It did. I had a very usual Bat Mitzvah the first go-around. I’m going to go ahead and assume my library peeps are worldly enough about cultures that I can forego an explanation of what it is, if that’s all right. When I was 12, I had been through five years of Hebrew school twice a week, learned all the prayers, gotten a new dress, had a cake and a party and gleefully cashed in my numerous gift certificates to Camelot Records (pretty sure you can all figure my current age out now!) and bemoaned the number of trees that had been planted in Israel in my name by my less-cool aunts and uncles. And it stuck: I continued going to synagogue on the days of obligation, had my wedding performed by a rabbi and now I have two little boys who are on the same path. Which leads me to why I’m having this second Bat Mitzvah.

When I was young, Hebrew instruction was notoriously terrible: it was disorganized, torturous and ill-suited to the task. I am very good at languages, but still needed an expensive and unpleasant round of tutoring just to get me to limp through my passage of the Torah. My mother wondered aloud to the rabbi what the deal was, and even he didn’t have an answer. I made, it, but even seeing printed Hebrew in a prayer book in the intervening years gave me a slight frisson of terror at the memory.

Fast forward 30 years. My older son is nine, and one of these days he’ll be getting ready for his turn. Hoping to spare him the agony and me the expense of the same journey my mother and I took, I signed up for a basic adult Hebrew class and decided I would be his tutor and eat the grief myself.

My older son is doing just great, because the quality of Hebrew instruction offered now is from some other planet than what I experienced. I also did just great. The women in my class, denied the opportunity for their own celebrations at the traditional age, elected to celebrate collectively. I anticipated only waving from the audience and wishing them well, but they insisted I stand up too, so here I am, nervously practicing at odd moments to prepare for next week.

And now, The Book. It’s customary to ask the Bar or Bat Mitzvah to consider his or her portion of the Torah seriously and write a short speech relating the passage to a current event, to an episode in his or her life, or in some way make a very ancient text relevant to modern existence. (That’s a tall order for a 12-year-old.)

Approaching this as a scholar, I wanted to consult multiple sources, and wanted to start with foundational texts. The canonical place to start is the Midrash, which is a collection of commentaries written by learned rabbis over centuries on the chapters of the Torah. Perfect!

Except I couldn’t find one. Surely this is a thing that would be online. You can get the entire Torah online in Hebrew and English in multiple iterations, and I found many variations of certain portions of Midrashic texts, but I was looking for the entire definitive one, to no avail. I looked in my online databases and in collections of ebooks. I looked in the collections of college libraries. Nope. Maybe it’s me, I thought. Or maybe it’s how I’m approaching the subject.

“Is it like the Egyptian Book of the Dead?” I asked the cantor at one of my rehearsal appointments. “That was varied to fit each person, so there’s no single text that’s considered the ‘right’ one to read. Is there a different Midrash for different purposes, or from different schools of thought, and I should be looking in some other way?” I was perplexed, to be sure.

“You want the Midrash?” he said. “I have one right here.” He did. It was a large hardbound book with a decorative dust jacket. Being who and what I am, I immediately opened to the second page and copied down the bibliographic information before consulting the necessary passage. (Just in case someone asks me for a Works Cited page after the service, I guess?)

It actually didn’t solve my real problem – the passage I read shed no real light on the subject I was mulling over – but it did highlight this salient fact: when in doubt, I reach for books, and moreover I aim for the most authoritative and fundamental sources on a subject. I’m not a very spiritual person, actually, but I would call that a kind of faith.

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on pruning (and weeding) the print collection…


My resolution for 2016 is to be a better gardener and caretaker of my print collection. Over the years I’ve seen weeding of print collections written about and discussed, but I have come to realize that in addition to some good weeding, my print collection needs some skilled pruning…

We are a 1:1 iPad school moving rather ambitiously toward embracing our increasingly digital future. Given the size of our student population and the wide range of grades that our library services, we have a very tiny print collection–I’m fine with this. Because of the kind of school that we are and the kind of school we aspire to be, a previous library director and various administrators made the decision a while ago to move fairly aggressively into use of databases and ebooks, but continuing to maintain and support a more modestly-sized print collection.

The issue…

While our students are remarkably comfortable researching with digital sources, I have come to realize the need to improve their ability to locate, access, and use print content.

The Garden…

I spent my first year and a half in my new position coming to grips with our library’s online presence, database access, and eBook collection. While all of that continues to be  a work in progress, I have finally gotten around to doing more of a deep dive into addressing care of our print collection.

A reconfiguration of the library’s physical space in 2013-2014, the year before I started here, precipitated a reduction of the print collection from about 23,000 volumes to the approximately 17,000 volumes that we currently house. When your print collection is as small as that, the reality is that there’s no way to have a print collection deep enough everywhere to be able to be all things to all subjects (remembering that we’ve been building more heavily in the digital realm) so I’ve chosen to build deeply in print biographies and in the 900s.

Given that our social studies teachers from middle through high school like working with us and often build projects around historic/significant figures that exemplify broader concepts or serve as jumping off points for student-driven exploration, continuing to collect deeply in print biographies and in the 900s allows us to have areas of the print collection deep enough to allow students to engage in some robust research in print sources.

The Process…

There’s no way to put this delicately so I’m just going to say it. Currently, our biography section is is pretty decent shape. We have a nice selection of figures represented, works appropriate to a variety of age groups, and the cataloging is consistent. Our 900 section, on the other hand, has the potential to be great, but is going to need some pruning and weeding.

Pruning (aka recon)…

Our 900 section can use some good weeding (Whose 900 section doesn’t?), but I don’t feel like I can weed thoughtfully or well until we re-catalog SIGNIFICANT swaths of our 900s in order to resolve cataloging inconsistencies that came about because of changes in versions of Dewey or inconsistencies in the way books were cataloged by different librarians.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a cataloger and re-con has never been on the list of my 25 favorite librarian tasks, but at some point you’ve just got to bite the bullet and get the job done. The holocaust books need to be near the holocaust books; the internment of Japanese-Americans books need to be near the internment of Japanese-Americans books; and the country books that someone put in the 917s should be with the appropriate other country books living on the shelves where I want them, ultimately, to be…


Only after everything has been reconned and moved to where it will, ultimately, live in the stacks close to the other books on the same topics can we then get out our machetes and weed.


Honestly, if I think about the enormity of the task I get overwhelmed so the only way I make it to Friday is to take tasks one at a time. Recon (prune), re-shelve, then weed.


If you’re looking for me I’m probably in the stacks. Please don’t ask me about my garden until a year from now…


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Cohort 21: A year-long PD experience


This year, I’m taking part in a year-long, embedded PD experience called Cohort 21. Run by two EdTech gurus, and an incredible group of facilitators and coaches, Cohort 21 gives educators in Ontario the chance to examine their practice, discuss pedagogy, learn about new and innovative technology tools, and to make connections across schools.

As well as learning about new ways to use EdTech, and think about how we teach and assess students, as part of my Cohort 21 participation I’m required to develop and research an action plan. It can be on anything related to my practice, from student assessment and feedback, to a new technology tool I’d like to try with my classes to designing an online course. I have decided to focus on our library schedule and booking system, and how I can make it more efficient and accessible to faculty. I’ve written about my library schedule before; I am a paper schedule user. We run a fixed and flexible schedule concurrently in the Lassonde Library, and I’ve found that on the whole, a paper schedule works well for us. We like the opportunity to have conversations with teachers about their classes and assignments when they call in to book time with us, but we know this can be inconvenient for teachers who are used to booking services online. In particular, this year we seem to be trying to keep track of too much; we have two librarians, four potential ‘bookable spaces’ in the library, iPads, and Chromebooks, often all in different places at the same time. This is a week in our booking schedule from November. It’s becoming a little unwieldy.

library_schedule Nov15

My initial thoughts about a new solution for a library schedule can be seen here, on my Cohort 21 blog. During our second Face to Face session, we used the Design Thinking method to think deeply about our action plan topics; you can read how I’m starting to research what solution might be best for us. You can also read a detailed walk-through of the Design Thinking process and my thoughts about a re-designed library schedule here; you’ll see I’m still seeking the ‘answer’ – if, indeed, there is an answer!

(Aside: If you’re interested in Design Thinking, and how you can use it in your library, check out the AISL 2016 Summer Institute.)

One of my favourite things about Cohort 21 is the people! Collaboration is key in being a successful librarian, and Cohort 21 has allowed me to network and collaborate with teachers outside my school – the members this year teach across all grades and disciplines. There are two librarians taking part this year (me and Jen Weening from Country Day School). A number of librarians have participated in Cohort 21 since it began in 2012 – click on their name to see their action plan and final reflections: Tim Hutton from RSGC, Sara Spencer from The York School and Laura Mustard from St. Clement’s.

When I first joined Cohort 21, I thought it was all about using technology in the classroom; something I’m comfortable with, and love to experiment with. But Cohort 21 is so much more. It’s about being a better teacher, being more responsive to my students and their needs, learning about what is happening in the classroom across the province and being the best teacher I can be. Our third Face to Face session is coming up at the end of January; we’ll be working further on our action plans, and talking about where to go from here.

You may find the following resources useful:

Cohort 21 twitter feed, hashtag: #cohort21
Cohort 21 website, action plans, member blogs

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New Year’s Resolutions

In Tony Schwartz’s opinion piece for the New York Times titled Addicted to Distraction, the executive and author laments his inability to sit down and read a print book. Citing numerous reasons for his lack of focus and several bad habits that had also gotten out of control, Mr. Schwartz “created an irrationally ambitious plan” to right these behaviors and in essence, went cold-turkey for 30 days. Over the time period he aimed to reduce the amount of time he spent on the internet to re-establish his attention span, start eating better, and get more exercise.

He admitted that he had some success over the 30 day period of abstinence, noting that he stopped drinking diet soda and gave up sugar and carbohydrates. But he failed completely in his quest to modify and cut-back on the time he spent on the Internet. As we start off the year with new resolutions, I was humbled by his efforts and results. And he honestly characterized his use of technology and the internet as a need to be constantly stimulated or a way to get a “fix.” His struggle was a portrait I could identify with in relation to my own technology use and reading habits, and that of the students I teach.

Mr. Schwartz’s experience kept resurfacing in my mind as I read Sherry Tunkle’s new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. In her book, Tunkle explores the idea of distraction in the classroom and the “hyper-attention” behavior we see in some of our students. In her chapter on Education she writes, “There is a way to respond to students who complain that they need more stimulation than class conversation provides. It is to tell them that a moment of boredom can be an opportunity to go inward to your imagination, an opportunity for new thinking.”

Ms. Tunkle’s book is based on the idea that with technology we have greatly limited our face-to-face communication. The inability to connect through discussion has occurred virtually everywhere from the dinner table, the workplace and in the classroom. And she readily admits that “we want technology put in service of our educational purposes.” But she argues that we have to be intentional about the outcomes we want from utilizing the technology otherwise it may be distracting the teachers and students from focusing on one another.

Over the winter break, like many of us, I tackled a growing pile of print items to-be-read and took a brief hiatus from my daily technology habits of searching, sending emails, and collecting data. The winter break also provided many opportunities for socializing and I found that having such a rich variety of opportunities to converse with friends, neighbors, and family was extremely fulfilling. The combination of these two factors – conversing more and using technology less – led me to create two New Year’s resolutions that I think will have lasting results. First, to engage in more discussions from the simple water-cooler chat to more deliberate and proactive conversations about new resources to enrich lessons. I know that I learn a lot from those I meet and share with, and in 2016 I want to continue to foster and nurture that growth. And second, to create a mindful plan for using technology in my life. This week was a victorious balance and I look forward to 50 more weeks where I am productive and still have the ability and time to engage in deep reading and conversation.

What are your technology and classroom related New Year’s resolutions?

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Mr. Wiggle and No-No-Never-Never

Hello, AISLers!  Welcome to 2016.  Welcome back to school.

Welcome back to Independent Ideas.

Earlier this school year I asked you, the experts in the field, for ideas on how to augment my first grade unit on book care.  That unit ended just before the holiday break and I am excited to report back to you with the results of the newly designed lesson.

In November, I shared Mr. Wiggle’s Book by Paula M. Craig with the three first grade classes.  They loved Mr. Wiggle (“Is he a worm or a caterpillar?” was a topic of debate) and it gave us a lot to talk about.  Then I showed them the No-No-Never-Never box suggested to me by an AISL librarian.  The idea is described here at Elementary Library Routines.  The box is filled with pets (stuffies), scissors, hole punchers, snack food, bottled water, tape, and a number of other things that we want to keep away from library books.  The first graders loved the No-No-Never-Never box so much that they ask to see it every time they enter the library!

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In the following weeks we read more stories about taking care of our books.  Read it, Don’t Eat It! by Ian Shoenherr is a popular title in this genre.  In addition the students love The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers, especially when the incredible boy throws up!  I also threw in a favorite, Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson.  A joy of this unit is that every single book in the library with a torn page, water damage, slight discoloration, or a peeling barcode, is brought to our attention for immediate fixing.  The first graders want all books to get treated nicely!

In mid-December, we did a quick reread of Mr. Wiggle’s Book.  The students recapped all the things we need to remember about taking care of our library books.  The next step was to educate others with a hallway display.  First graders made posters advertising ways to care for library books.

Enjoy the photos of first grade posters.  They make me smile!

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Thanks for all of your excellent suggestions.  They provided some first grade fun!

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