Exploring Our National Treasures

To me, history ought to be a source of pleasure. It isn’t just part of our civic responsibility. To me, it’s an enlargement of the experience of being alive, just the way literature or art or music is.”

David McCullough, author, NEH 2003 Jefferson Lecturer interview
 

This past July I joined 34 educators in Washington, D,C. for a week-long teaching seminar sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Denver Brunsman, associate professor of history, George Washington University, led the seminar, The Making of America: From the Founding Era through the Civil War. Mary Huffman, 5th grade teacher and Master Teacher for Gilder Lehrman, assisted in afternoon sessions that demonstrated how to engage students in explorations of primary sources. The seminar lectures and activities were informative and eye-opening, and attendees enriched the experience with spirited discussions of the topics and shared experiences of teaching history in their K-8 classrooms. In the afternoons, the educators and instructors set off on field trips to museum and archives, and exploring these national treasures was a highlight of the seminar.

Librarians know how crucial primary sources are to the research process: these sources can spur student curiosity, build empathy, foster essential questions, provide evidence to support claims, and grow an understanding of historical persons and events. During the seminar field trips, attendees viewed firsthand an exciting array of primary sources: a 1692 petition for bail from those accused as witches; Alexander Hamilton’s final letter to his wife, Eiliza, before his famous 1804 duel with Aaron Burr; Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 letter to Charles Sumner advocating for fair and equal treatment of black soldiers’ dependents; an 1881 illustration of the Battle of Little Bighorn by Red Horse, Lakota Indian; Orville Wright’s 1903 telegram announcing the first successful powered flight; a 1940s women’s baseball uniform; Susan B. Anthony’s inscription in a book telling the life of Sojourner Truth.

However, learning how to access these resources for our students was even more exhilarating. Each seminar attendee received a resource book from Gilder Lehrman that contained primary sources and suggested activities, and the good news is that Gilder Lehrman, as well as the museums and archives we visited in D.C., provide digital access and lesson plans for many of their items. Following are a few examples of the riches to be explored in our national treasures, the museums and archives of Washington, D.C.

As you explore these sites, you will discover your own favorite treasures.

Gilder Lehrman: History Now
Educators and students can set up free accounts to access curated documents, articles, videos, and essays by scholars.
Examples: Essay: “George Washington on the Constitution
Lesson Plan: “George Washington’s Rules of Civility

*Read more about Gilder Lehrman Teaching Seminars.

Shall Not be Denied: Women’s Fight for the Vote
The Library of Congress July/August magazine features articles and primary sources from this special exhibit, including “Women of Suffrage” info cards that can be reproduced.

Docs Teach (The National Archives) provides online documents and tools for educators to create interactive digital lessons for students.
Here is an example lesson I created with National Archives resources:
Women’s Suffrage
(*You will need to create a free account to view lessons and create your own.)

Yes, that is George Washington in a toga and sandals! This sculpture is on display at the National Museum of American History.

One of the featured exhibits at the National Museum of American History highlighted Inventive Minds. Here are a few videos that showcase design thinking:

Patricia Bath (laser cataract surgery)
Ralph Baer (Toy and Video Games)
Ingenious Women (article/podcasts)

Perhaps one of the most visually stunning and sensory-rich museums, the National Museum of the American Indian has several featured exhibits. A current exhibit is on treaties: Nation to Nation.

Primary source treaty documents

Indian Treaties blog

The National Portrait Gallery displayed this portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.
Students might contrast symbols in this portrait (stormy skies in one window and hopeful rainbow in another window) with background floral symbols in the portrait of Barack Obama.

Image Citation: Stuart, Gilbert. George Washington. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. quest.eb.com/search/140_1642842/1/140_1642842/cite. Accessed 10 Jul 2019.


National Museum of African American History and Culture.
I was fascinated by how the design of this museum becomes a stirring experience as you move from floor to floor to view the history. Read more on the building design in this Smithsonian article. The architect David Adjaye describes the feeling as “praise”:
“When I say praise, I envision it as a human posture. It’s the idea that you come from the ground up, rather than crouching down or leaning. The form of the building suggests a very upward mobility. It’s a ziggurat that moves upward into the sky, rather than downward into the ground. And it hovers above the ground.”

The final historic site and museum that our seminar group toured was George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In addition to lesson plans for educators, Mount Vernon hosts several Professional Development Opportunities. You may be interested in applying for a program.

So many museums, not enough time. Though I did not visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during this trip, I did see the museum when it first opened, and the online photos, articles, and oral histories continue to serve as valuable resources for the classroom. Examine also education pages from The Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum.

Our nation has a rich history and a strong desire to tell the story of history. Continue to support your local and national museums that supply invaluable resources for our schools.

The Good, the Bad, and the Unexpected: Adding the Tech Department to the Library (Part 1)

At the beginning of last year, the Director of the Tech Department and I decided that we could enhance the student experience by bringing the Tech Help Desk into the library. I mean, what could be better? It would be a one-stop shop to provide tech and information help to our students. Everyone was on board. Almost one year later we have realized this change. (Yes, you read that right. It’s taken almost a year.) I wanted to share our experience with you in case you were considering a change in your library.

The Good:

  1. We created a streamlined experience for the students to cut down on time away from class and the separation of resources.
  2. It has been very helpful to join two departments. The influx of knowledge and expertise has been invaluable to us.
  3. The Circulation Desk/Support Spot is now the place for checking out books, helping with research queries, checking out loaner laptops, and getting tech questions answered.
  4. There are more printing opportunities for the students with shorter lines for each resource.
  5. We do not have to reroute questions from one department to another since we are both located in the same space.

The Bad:

  1. Space was a bigger issue than we originally anticipated. Before the move, we took many measurements and made detailed plans, but we were still taken by surprise. Needless to say, we feel like we are playing Tetris.
  2. We do not have a silent library. The tech department is used to a more quiet space. Work flow and ease of communication are being impacted during the library’s busiest times.

The Unexpected:

  1. We are still trying to figure out how the collaboration between the two departments will be the most effective. It has been challenging at times to determine who should take the lead on certain decisions and procedures.
  2. Rebranding the Circulation Desk as a multifunctional resource is ongoing. The entire community needs to adjust to the change, which includes addressing the way “it’s always been done” and the way that it needs to be done now to best serve our users. Breaking tradition and changing routines is always hard.
  3. We expected the need to mesh several diverse personalities and work styles, but the transition of the work space along with culture shift has made the contrast more apparent.

All told, we count this move as a success. The students are being served more efficiently, which was the main purpose behind the transition. Part 2 will follow next month, when we’ve had a chance to settle in to the new year. Wish us luck!

#Goals

Image result for image goals
Retrieved from http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/wooden-tile/g/goals.html

As we all return from our various summer activities [reading, resting, eating and playing in my case], we open our libraries and consider all the thought clouds bursting with ideas. We make lists. We make calls. We pause to consider our Goals.

How do you winnow this year’s Goals from the long list of Things I Want to Accomplish?

No small potatoes. Every year, I create a list of the Things I Want To Accomplish. Part of this year’s reads like this:

Opening 2019-2020

  • Review Goals from last year
  • Place initial book order
  • Meet with teachers
  • Assess FLISL Network business
  • Review inventory notes
  • Test LibGuide links
  • Continued expansion of research skills and share with colleagues
  • Check mailbox
  • Clean
  • Moon Landing anniversary?
  • Collaborate!

Et cetera…

Most of this is the easy stuff that I can “check off” and feel like I have total control over. Cleaning? Done. LibGuide links? Done. Continued expansion of research skills? Wait. That one…is a constant in my world. Among a few others on my list. Could this be the germination of a Goal for this year?

How do I winnow the Goals from all of my Things I Want To Accomplish? I decide to start with a review of my goals from last year: (And I notice a pattern.)

Taken from my notebook. Not pictured is page 2 which states “Collaborate” with a few jots.

I first listed my areas of growth for inspiration (these usually are similar year over year, because, really, when do I expect to ever truly perfect “communication” or “reading enthusiasm”?). Then, in prepping my goals I looked at the year ahead of me: I recalled we had a Global Studies initiative that I wanted to support with new literature and nonfiction. Goal #1! I won a grant last year that allowed me to attend PD at Stanford for designing an plan for implementing a makerspace at our school. This was a pretty simple goal to state as I had done a great deal of the work in my application. Goal #2! Collaborating with teachers is really always on my list, but more specifically it related to my work with makerspace implementation. Goal #3! Upon reviewing my goals from last year, I feel met these. (Measuring “met” is another post.)

So what does this year look like?

Where is my inspiration coming from today?

I did a lot of reading last year and this summer around empathy and building compassion via stories. Lower School is rich ground for this type of work. Our students deserve action from us constantly around ways to develop identity, understand the world, and appreciate all the people in it. One of my Goals will likely stem from this.

I also want to expand on the research skills of my Lower School students from collaborative and foundational work I did last year. But narrowing it to language that can fit into a Goal? This is something I will continue to consider until my Head’s deadline next month.

Goals are an expression of our interest in growth, excellence, and trying new ideas. Mine seem to come from a thread of last year and a dream of the coming one — with a dash of clear language to help me meet them.

How do you winnow your Goals from your Things You Want to Accomplish?

on savoring summer like you’re 10 again…

Happy summer, all!

This post comes to you a few days late because, honestly, I was in serious need of a month to not think about school, the library, or librarianship and my blog post date came and went without me realizing it.

I think I might have shared this in this space before so apologies if it’s a repeat, but as a kid school was really hard for me. I struggled to learn to read and I was a very late reader. Much to my elementary teachers’ (and my mom’s) credit I always loved school and liked learning. Still, the “work” of school was hard and I was a 10-year old boy. Back in the day when we had, like, 3 over-the-air TV stations through our rabbit ear antennas, the local TV station that my family usually watched for news played this jingle before the news broadcast aired.

On Sunday nights, this jingle always gave me a stomach ache because, invariably, I had lied to my parents and told them that I’d finished all of my homework and calcuations in my head inicated that there was no way I was going to finish all of that homework before the 8:15 start of school on Monday morning. Anyway, 44 years later, all that’s old is new again and that’s my way of saying, “My homework is late because I was too busy having summer vacation fun…” I initially got really stressed about it, but I got a Coke Zero, sat down on the sofa, and watched a great Peruvian movie on Netflix until the feeling went away. Hahaha!!!

Anyway, now that I have started diving into our Academic Chairs’ read, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, and I finally find myself coming to grips with the end of the gloriousness that is summer vacation, I find myself slowly but surely starting to think about ways to move our students along on the information literacy continuum that don’t make them sigh and role their eyes in my presence

Tip for new HS librarians: I always fail. My high school kids always sigh and role their eyes at me, but I just laugh and tell them, “Hey, do that behind my back! It’s called manners!” and they laugh and play along with the rest of the lesson we’re doing…

While not thinking about school, the library, or librarianship, I seem to spend a lot of time following viral social media mysteries like how a perfectly preserved In-n-Out burger ended up on the streets of NYC; browsing Buzzfeed listicles for 21 items that will change my life for under $15; following the adventures of Barley the golden retriever on his adventures with his parents in Amsterdam; and discovering that people recutting movie trailers depiciting Elf as a horror movie or Harry Potter as a teen comedy is an actual thing!

I found these trailers fascinating! Sometimes the weirdest things bring inspiration, but I have a number of teachers working with students on understanding and employing ethos, logos, and pathos in media and in students’ own work and I’m thinking that it’ll be really interesting have students compare and contrast the original and recut versions of the trailers, then have them deconstruct ads or news segments of their choosing.

That’s, literally, as far as I’ve gotten with this. What would you do with these? Are you teaching ethos, logos, and pathos as part of information literacy instruction? If yes, what are you doing?

Savor the remaining wonderful days of summer, all!

Why I Became a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert by Alpha S. DeLap

As school library jobs continue to evaporate, I consider myself extremely fortunate. Like most, if not all, of the readers of this post, I work for an independent school which has the funding and ongoing investment in my position, my programs, and my collections. I spend my time building new initiatives, maintaining important traditions, refining my teaching practices, and expanding my professional reach through collaboration and cross-disciplinary pedagogy. I am privileged to think broadly and deeply simultaneously without fear. However, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t ask myself,

“Am I living up to my professional potential? Am I taking advantage of all that I have been given, in terms of budget, administrative encouragement, and professional development?”

Last summer, one way I answered that question was to apply to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (“MIEE”). I wanted to continue to explore those ways in which software applications and hardware innovations would allow me to be a better teacher-librarian. If you know me, you know two things and technology: 1) I love to try new applications and computer tools and 2) I will never continue to use them if they aren’t in the best interest of the students and their learning goals. My application was successful and I was afforded a number of wonderful opportunities.

Over the year that I have been an MIEE, I have been able to use Microsoft technologies to extend the classroom using Skype in order to discuss primary and secondary resources with a food historian at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I was able to create another channel for expression using FlipGrid– recording individual vlogs related to favorite books and authors to share with students in Scotland. I used Microsoft Teams to help my students and I communicate and manage project deadlines for a print newspaper as well as my school’s Debate team. Finally, I collaborated on layout and photographic design using OneNote for a yearbook elective.

My job as a teacher-librarian is to straddle the line between print and digital, between information and entertainment, in order to encourage engaged reading, innovative research, creative expression, intentional consumption, and critical thinking across a range of real and imagined spaces.

My participation in various MIEE forums, including in-person and online, have allowed me to explore new technologies while at the same underscoring the need for our expertise as librarians especially in the realm of digital curation. One of the applications that the MIEE world is most excited about is Wakelet, I describe it as if Pinterest and Vimeo had a child and its cousin is Scoop It. Trialing Wakelet made me realize that there is a great opportunity for teacher-librarians to take a lead role as information guides and research experts within MIEE conversations. I hope that many of you will read this post and put in an application, if not this year, then next. Our librarian voices are critical in the ongoing conversation related to educational technology integration and refinement and I want us all to participate in as many discussions as possible. I look forward to hearing from other MIEE independent school librarians and develop ways to collaborate in the future!

Relationships and Book Clubs

One of the new things I tried this past year was a book club for faculty and staff. Like many of the successful programs in my library, it was suggested by a coworker, and I only had to be brave enough to say “let’s do it!” However, I had two caveats for this undertaking: we would only use YA materials and each meeting would have a theme. At my school most teachers were familiar with professional development books, but not as many were comfortable with YA materials. I felt that faculty and staff who read books popular with our kids would have one more tool in their arsenal to forge positive and helpful relationships with their students. (It turns out this was 100% true.) I wanted to have a theme to make it easier for the readers to connect…and easier for me to choose book options.

I started with a “Book Tasting” based around the theme of Empathy. With the help of Canva and more creative colleagues, I sent an invitation to every adult on campus to come and sample books during their lunchtimes. I provided cookies as a bribe, because who doesn’t love free food? Afterwards, I followed up with a Google survey for participants to vote on the title for our first meeting, and they chose The Hate You Give. (This was the only time I held a book tasting. Subsequent book titles were chosen by survey with book descriptions revolving around various themes such as diversity, mental health, etc.)

With the support of the Director of Learning and Instruction (and her budget), I was able to provide the title to everyone who wanted to join the book club. I sent out periodic timelines, and we met after the deadline to finish the book. Our discussions were thought provoking, eye opening, and meaningful. I could see the participants making connections with society, each other, and perhaps most importantly, with our students. Largely being a predominately white prep school, The Hate You Give gave an understanding of possible experiences and sentiments of our minority students that many had not considered before. However, the most exciting thing to me, especially if this was one of the first or few times a person had read YA, was the dawning that they could learn something from a “kids book!” They saw value in Young Adult fiction. Not only for the kids who read it, but also for them. They could see the importance and positivity for our students to be able to see themselves in a book or learn about people different from them.

There was one thing that got me, however, above all the other positive outcomes of our Faculty and Staff book club. This one thing has ensured that I will keep the book club in my ever-increasing, hectic, sometimes overwhelming, schedule. That one thing began with a conversation. A faculty member told me that a rather quiet, somewhat withdrawn student approached their desk where The Hate You Give was sitting. The girl initiated a conversation that, admittedly, began with surprise that their teacher had read this book, a book that was one of her very favorites. She was impressed and felt that her teacher was clearly taking an interest in the students by reading “their” books. This sparked a year-long discussion of books, shared book recommendations, and made it easier for the teacher and student to connect. (Not surprisingly, that student did much better in class after making this connection!) I am grateful the teacher chose to share this with me, and so happy that I was able to make a difference with her relationships with her students.

Don’t get me wrong, not every book we read last year had such a heart warming result. I learned quite a bit about scheduling, location, cookies vs brownies, frequency of emails, and how many books is too many book options. As I sit here with my summer brain and contemplate the upcoming year with the false sense of always having enough time (ha!), I realize that changing the relationships for even only one person is worth it.

Let me know if you want more information about the Book Tasting or book club procedures. If you’d like to follow our fun in the library on Twitter, check out the hashtags #TPSlibrary and #TPSreads.

Don’t Forget the Market(ing)!

Recently, I’ve discovered I’ve made a rookie mistake. When I moved from public school to private school, I was astounded by my budget! It was easily fifteen times what I had as the sole librarian to a PreK-3 70% poverty school.  Lured by the thought that “budget” means “worth”, the habit of always advocating, always marketing rusted to a complete stop. Why spend time advocating to an administration that obviously ‘valued’ the library. Why market to a faculty that were in and out of the library space every day? Look at the money! Like I said, Rookie Mistake.

Due to a diverse set of reasons, in my area (and possibly yours) there is now more competition for students and parents than may have existed before. In my state, Massachusetts, our public schools overall are considered to have excellent public schools. Charter schools can drain off pupils not only from public schools but private ones as well. The area may be experiencing a shortage of appropriate aged children as a communities’ character changes and evolves. In the end, the private school is a business, albeit an educational non-profit. If you as the librarian (either single or department) are not consistently showing your department’s worth, the river of riches may start slowing to a trickle.

To help counteract my lack of advocacy and marketing, I recently read two excellent books on marketing for librarians:

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Building a Buzz : Libraries & Word of Mouth Marketing by Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace (ISBN  978-0-8389-1011-5, 2010); and Bite-Sized Marketing : Realistic Solutions for the Overworked Librarian by Nancy Dowd, Mary Evangeliste and Jonathan Silberman (ISBN 978-0-8389-1000-9, 2010). While both books focus on public libraries, most

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of what they say can be adapted for private school libraries.  “Wait! Shouldn’t I really be focusing on advocacy?” When I was in library school (2007!), I created a wiki pointing out the benefits of marketing over advocacy Libraries in the digital age : Ridding ourselves of advocacy – Laying Claim to marketing. While I have mellowed some and agree that there is a place for advocacy, it is marketing that keeps our presence in front of the administration, faculty, students and parents – all very important stakeholders.

Both books give excellent suggestions on getting a marketing program started for your library.  Good marketing is about organization, focus and consistency. Researching your community as well as performing a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) for your library forms the bedrock of information to build an effective marketing approach. Your marketing program doesn’t need to be complex. In fact, simple and memorable is much better!  Everyone loves a story – can you make a compelling story for your library? Make that story memorable – and don’t forget to include a call for action. Start out with your big picture communication goals and break it down into several doable, measurable objectives.

I started small.  I was bothered that I spent a lot of time trying to get the great books that I bought for the library into the hands of students.  Looking at our school day, how could I get the message that the library had a stream of new books coming in during the school year? Using the information from the above books, I realized that I had a captive audience right before our morning meetings. I was able to create an auto-advancing slideshow by using Google slides that played on the screen before the morning meeting commenced.

  I would run these slide shows for several mornings before changing them and occasionally point the slide show out during morning announcements. While I wish I could say that new books started to fly off the shelf, I can’t. But my new books did start moving, which is more than I could say before the slide shows started. While that may have been my primary intent, a secondary benefit occurred.  My head of school commented on how nice the slide show was and thought it was a great idea. That was a two birds with one stone moment. 

This summer I’m working on more marketing moves. No, not media buys or a banner in the sky. Rather, I’ll be working on bathroom posters, basic fact-sheets, copy for weekly “Did You Know” emails to the faculty and scripts for Literacy Tips shorts . By the end of next school year, I want the faculty to understand that collaborating with their librarian adds depth to their teaching.  The library’s message is “The Library and You : Partners in Teaching”. For the students I want the message to be “Find what you need at the Library”. Ultimately these messages hopefully will create a message for my administration, “Fully Fund the Library!”

By the way, I have often found some of the best ideas from my fellow librarians. Please feel free to join the conversation by replying to this post with some of your best marketing and advocacy ideas!


We See You #aislsi2019

What a great pleasure it was to attend my first summer institute, put together by the phenomemal team at John Burroughs School in fabulous St Louis!

Our two days together were founded on the importance of acknowledging who we are so that we can participate in conversations about who others are. Having a diverse library collection allows for a wide variety of representation reflecting a range of human identifiers – reflecting diversity of content not equality of numbers.

So much important content was covered, I can’t do it justice here, so I simply offer some nuggets from the valuable presentations, engaging activities, phenomenal panels and all the wonderful ensuing conversations. (Thanks and credits below)

Deep Dive into diversity in the library

Defining diversity

I appreciated learning about “The Big 8” identifiers (most common but not exclusive and can be adapted as relevant), which offer such a useful framework:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Mental & physical ability
  • Socioeconomic status 
  • Race (skin colour)
  • Ethnicity (cultural/geographic background)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion

There was good discussion around the importance of recognizing which identifiers are more visible than others, and how that visibility affects our decision-making.

Representation matters

“That teenage feeling of being social awkward, the strangeness of finding love for the first time, the importance of discovering lifelong passions, and being supported by loving famiies – none of these things are exclusive to white, straight cis people and so should not be relegated to white, straight, cis characters.” – Sadie Trombetta Bustle Jan 31/18

Cue mike drop.

Booth’s work on mirrors, windows, and doors is more relevant than ever. What are my readers looking for? What will they find in our collection, and what won’t they find? 

Student Voices

One of the most amazing parts of #aislsi2019 was a panel of 12 teen readers who spoke with us about why they value representation in our collections. They were honest, articulate, and appreciative of how their librarians support them, as well as being well-read in such a wonderful variety of genres. Everyone listening left with some serious insights and solid recommendations.

It was interesting to hear that their defaults for finding good books are Google searches and asking their librarians for suggestions; they really reinforced my goal to better train my students on meaningful use of our catalogue (and how it differs from our databases). It was also great to hear how much these students appreciated curated lists for different types of representation.

Diversity Audits

I truly appreciated the time to wrestle with the logistics of preparing and performing a diversity audit. It is critical to set a goal that is uniquely relevant to our library, and achievable (it was immediately clear that there are many rabbit holes to be avoided if I want to complete an audit in the foreseeable future). Don’t be afraid to set narrow parameters to keep the audit manageable, and carefully consider the timing of the audit in your school year.

A variety of models were offered:

  • using a print checklist vs using a Google form to populate Google sheets or your own version of one or the other
  • auditing print books by hand vs auditing online (looking at a catalogue records) vs doing an audit of recent book orders

I’m excited by how local and creative I can make this process – loved the suggestion about doing an audit of a book display. I also appreciated the encouragement to start with the end in mind; think about how you’ll want to manipulate your data so that you get the data you want in a format you can use.

Diversity Audit IRL

On Day 2, we had a good chunk of time to test an audit out. We reviewed a great variety of possible goals, and with encouragement to choose a couple specific to us, we set out to independently audit a small group of books (from an available selection of print, or accessing our own through our catalogues).

I chose to audit the first 20 audiobooks in my library’s Overdrive fiction collection. Keeping in mind that this is a VERY subjective process, I chose a very small sample size, and this is my very first time doing this, I share the results in the spirit of collegiality (with a red face and gigantic face palm):

50% feature white male protagonists
30% feature white female protagonists
15% feature female protagonists of colour
15% feature indigenous protagonists
15% feature protagonists with a disability
75% written by white authors (male/female equally represented)
10% written by authors of colour
10% written by indigenous authors
40% offer own voice

I have some work to do, people.

Everyone present was very encouraging, reminding each other to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Engaging in this process will be of benefit to those we serve through our libraries, however imperfect our first kick at the can may be. I truly appreciated doing this in such a judgement-free zone (although found it hard to silence my inner critic).

Thank you to hosts, organizers and presenters Linda Mercer, Jennifer Gosnell, Jennifer Jones, Jennifer Kinney, Jennifer Millikan, Marybeth Huff, Kate Grantham and everyone else who made this happen – it was truly meaningful time together. John Burroughs is a beautiful school and St Louis is an amazing city! #gocardinals

PS: I highly recommend attending SI in the future – it was lovely having post-school time to delve into some amazing PD without being distracted by what was happening back at school 🙂

Gamification In the Library- Level One

I have wanted to delve more deeply into gamification in the library. Over the years all of us have incorporating games throughout our programming whether it was staging a scavenger hunt, creating a Kahoot! for a lesson, or even the classic Jeopardy Powerpoint. Several years ago I looked into digital badging as one entry point into adding game features in my library program, but it never came to fruition. At the tail end of this school year I started my gamification research again as a way to recharge and level up the Battle of the Books program that has been going strong at my school, Berkeley Preparatory School. In a way, any schools that have had a Battle of the Books program demonstrated an early form of gamification in the format of a game show. So that is why I thought I could bring in the digital tools readily available to the classic Battle of the Books model to capture the interests of our students today. Students have loved books like Ender’s Game,The Hunger Games, Ready Player One, and more recently Nyxia that have video game elements in the narrative. So I thought I would immerse myself into gamification in education to see how I can merge these elements all together. I have named this iteration of gaming- Ready Reader One: a Battle of the Books Reboot. In this post I will share my research resources and the initial elements I want to incorporate. Disclaimer: I have not built my platform yet, but I hope to use the Google suite of apps to have a leaderboard, digital badges, and boss battles. I plan to write follow up posts on the process and outcomes from this endeavor.

Video Promotion of Ready Reader One

Some Basic Game Elements to Consider

Avatars/Player Stats– Students create their gaming identity and have their own statistics page.

Leaderboard– The central level-up board that pays tribute to video arcade games. This gives students feedback on their status

Quests/Missions-Narrative-based challenges like the webquest of yesteryear or the days of Dungeons and Dragons

Battles/Boss Battles-Setting up a challenge in which students collaborate to defeat a common enemy/beast.

Powers/Tokens– If students achieve a mastery or level they receive a special power or token that helps them get further in the game.

Badges– As students move through tasks that can receive a badge for each level or skill they achieve.

Pre-Existing Game Platforms

The following links are gamification platforms that have built the ecosystem for gaming elements for the classroom. 

Classcraft- https://www.classcraft.com/

Grade Craft-https://www.gradecraft.com/

Rezzly-https://www.rezzly.com/

Classcraft is the industry standard for a full package gamification for a classroom. They have demos and lots of support. Classcraft is robust and full-featured at the onset, but can be modified by the instructor. Rezzly has the basic features you would want to get started in gamification in education; it is simpler than Classcraft. I recently stumbled upon Grade Craft and it also has all the games elements available in a structured, easy to use set-up.

Gamifying Educators-Websites

The following educators are using google sheets to gamify their classrooms. I have decided to follow in their footsteps and build my own platform with Google apps so that I can tailor it specifically to my program. Many of the pre-existing platforms listed above are built for traditional classrooms and are a bit too robust for what I am trying for my program. So I am going to use many of the tips and tricks from the following educators to use more features of the Google apps. I am learning how to make a master sheet and link Google sheets to each other to automate scores on the leaderboard.

https://classroompowerups.com/

http://www.teachingabovethetest.com/p/gamification.html

https://www.mrmatera.com/explore-like-a-pirate/category/Gamification

https://alicekeeler.com/2014/11/05/gamification-creating-a-level-up-for-your-students/

Board Games

 I am always thinking about the balance between powering up and powering down. I want my students to be able to excel in the digital realm, but also develop inter/intra personal and introspective skills through off screen activities as well. The act of reading and getting lost in a book and playing a physical board games with classmates will also be integrated in this program. I am going to reuse some classic board games, but create new question cards based on the reading list for the Battle of the Books: Jenga, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, and Battleship are just a few of game reincarnations to go with the book list.

Game On

I am excited to get started on the underlying structure to gamify the Battle of the Books for next year. I am going to start with creating questions in a Google form for each book on the list that will link to the leaderboard. I am also going to create a quest in which students will share about elements of each book to gain additional points. I’ll keep notes on my process to share for my next post. 

Swimming in “Literary Water”

In August, a colleague with whom I’ve worked closely in the Middle School is moving up to the Upper School. I’m thrilled. It’s already been a model of how collaboration should work, from getting feedback on the design of the projects through sharing completed work, with mutual professional respect demonstrated consistently in between. We have been brainstorming books and poems and research for the coming year, and several weeks ago, he sent me this message:

Christina,

I have a random request.  I need help finding some literary water to swim in.

Lately, I’ve very much been into new music.  Each day I check out Pitchfork, Paste Magazine, Rolling Stone, etc.  I listen to those suggestions on Spotify, form my own connections and tastes, and discover other music as I go along.  What is the literary equivalent for you?

Are there Podcasts, blogs, websites, thinkers, that are having good literary conversations on which I might eavesdrop?  Any suggestions would be more than wonderful. Thanks!

(I’m halfway through They Say/I Say.  It’s great and can’t wait to use it.)

Immediate responses? Awesome ideas? Crickets? Here was my initial response, and after responding, I reached out to a few librarians for their thoughts as well. It’s a great question, and one I’m now honestly surprised I hadn’t been asked before now.

Great question! I’ve been thinking about it all day. The first thought I had upon reading this email is, “oh no, I don’t do that! I’m an imposter.” Then I started thinking that I used to do a lot more intentionally but patterns have seeped into my life as a librarian. Let me know if this answer makes sense. With songs, there are so many options. Each one is a 3-5 minute blip on your life and they can approach you as you are doing other things. With playlists created by Spotify after I select a song, much is just background. Seldom do I actually check the artist or title, hence the cliché, background music. Reading is much more engaging, and with novels, engaging for a much longer period of time. I need to choose materials with which I want to interact and with which I want to spend hours. I believe it was Cory Doctorow writing about writing and giving his books away for free. He m—get a sense into my brain—this is me pausing to see if I could actually find what he wrote and if what I remembered matched that—-and one search led to my answer. Or, this answer: “For me — for pretty much every writer — the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity (thanks to Tim O’Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy.”

I do read widely, but I don’t need to read as widely to be knowledgeable as you would to be truly knowledgeable in music. I read approximately 100 books per year. I likely listen to that many songs in a week. My book club, made of teacher readers, sometimes don’t finish the one book assigned within our monthly time limit. So while I think the categories are related, I don’t think that they are as similar as they seem on the surface. My biggest advice is to listen widely—to others, to reviews, to bestseller lists. What people are talking about is what gets read. Perhaps I’ve gotten more cynical as I’ve gotten older, but I think that being published only means you have been published. … The sellers are defining the market. With that in mind, I listen to what others are reading, and I’m lucky that my librarian listserv encourages librarians to have a tagline at the bottom of their email with what they are reading. I also look at the reviews each month in Library Media Connection and School Library Journal. I browse through the New York Times Book Review, and I check out what The Week and People magazine (surprise!) are recommending. I also peruse several library webpages for their recommendations and reading lists, and I keep a list on my phone of items that are recommended to me. It’s often quantity of references to a title or a personal recommendation from someone who knows my taste that moves a title to the top of the list. I do keep track of everything I read on Goodreads (you can find me there through my school email), which is a way that I can look for preferences in my own rating system.

Give thanks to the rain for giving me the time to write this before biking home…let me know if you want me to clarify my thoughts or if you want to continue the conversation.

So for the last month, each time I’ve picked up a book I’ve thought about why I’m reading it. It turns out I had more of an answer than I originally thought, but I’d be curious for others’ takes on the same question. Please share any suggestions below.

As to the three books I’ve most enjoyed this summer, I’d have to say Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Notice and Note, and It’s Trevor Noah. But in the words of my Reading Rainbow childhood, “You don’t have to take my word for it…”