Category Archives: Best practice

Power Searching with Google

Dan Russell has a very cool title: Senior Research Scientist, Google Inc.

He’s also a clear-spoken and affable guide to the ins and outs of really searching with Google.

If you want to sharpen your Google-searching skills there’s a short, free course going on right now over here: http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/course.

I admit, I use Google enough that I didn’t learn too much from the first two classes.  But I did learn a few tings and found the course design well done (which has given me some ideas for future online learning I may do with students and teachers).

The third class gets into more advanced stuff and I did learn more there.  I happily got an A on my midtem this morning.

Apparently if you take the midterm and final you will get a certificate emailed to you so you can show off your new found skills.

Here’s a news article from Mashable on the course: http://mashable.com/2012/07/09/google-search-classes/

Go for it!  And share the course with other students and educators you think may benefit.

Thanks,

Jim Randolph

Partee Elementary

Snellville, GA

A Quick Weeding Tip Using Destiny

Does your school system use Destiny? If not, you can skip my post this month, but if you do then here’s a little trick I’ve figured out to help with weeding.

I’ve learned that weeding is one of those tasks that is best done little and often. If you wait for a big shining quiet spot on the calendar to get a whole bunch of it finished at once, you will be waiting forever. So I prefer to pull only a few books at a time and delete them whenever I get a chance. Once I’ve filled a number of boxes, I ship them out and start over. It’s a continual process but makes me happy to be getting rid of the massive amounts of dead wood my library has accumulated over the past sixteen or so years.

The normal way I believe people weed is to print out a collection management report from either Follett or someone else. You pick a section and it lists all the books that are past the fifteen year copyright date. Some of those books will be good to weed. Some of them are okay to keep. It takes a while to figure all of this out.

But one thing you can do before you start with this report is to go into Destiny first. One of your report options is “Top/Bottom Titles.” This will show you the top or bottom circulating titles in any given Dewey range you’d like. It’s an interesting thing to play with anyway, but for our purposes today you want to select the bottom titles in whatever section and give it a nice long time period. I put something crazy in like, “past 30 years” to make sure I’m getting all the information I can.

The thing that knocked me out was that as old as my collection is, in pretty much every section I ran this on I found books that had been checked out exactly ZERO times. Now to be fair, it really only means they’ve been checked out zero times since we got Destiny in 2004. The books might have checked out a couple of times before that. But that’s still eight long years seeing no action. This is the easiest weeding you’ll ever do!

It’s freaky too, when you go over to a shelf stuffed with old books, find the title and pull it off the shelf. It’s usually a very bland, monochromatic Bound-to-Stay-Bound book that creaks when you open it. It really never has circulated! It’s usually not surprising when you see it, either. It’ll be some thing like All About Wood with a copyright date of 1984 or something. Weed it!

And don’t stop with the zeroes, either. I figure those books that circulate less than once a year (seven times or less for me) are just not paying their rent, if you get my meaning. Seek them out and weed them! You’ll be glad you did.

Jim Randolph
Partee Elementary
Snellville, GA

Writing a Vision, Mission, and Beliefs for the Library: My Thoughts

For the past 3 years, I have told myself over and over that I need to rewrite the mission statement of the Barrow Media Center to be more representative of the kinds of learning that are taking place within and beyond our walls, but every time I sit down to work on it I get stuck.  One of the reasons I get stuck is that I keep re-reading the mission statement that is already in place and thinking that it sounds pretty good.  This year, I tried something different.  First, I gave myself permission to mess up.  Instead of sitting and worrying over getting the words just right the first time, I just gave it a go.  Second, I pushed the current mission statement aside so that it didn’t cloud my thinking.  Third, I set a goal to write a vision for the future, a mission of how to get there, and a set of beliefs that represented what our program is grounded in.  I also wanted to create a vision, mission, and beliefs that is grounded in the AASL standards for 21st century learning and the ISTE National Technology Standards…..and that is concise, exciting, and understandable. The last piece, understandable, was what proved to be a challenge.  I spent a lot of time reading the AASL standards and the ISTE NETS standards.  Then, I began to create a list of words and phrases that stood out.  Then, I grouped the phrases and words together by similarity.  It looked something like this:
Words to consider:
  • creativity; generate new ideas; create original works; innovation; publish; creative and artistic formats
  • interact, collaborate with peers, experts, or others; teamwork; personal or group expression
  • variety of media and formats
  • global awareness; consider diverse and global perspectives
  • solve problems; critical thinking; critical stance
  • inquire; display curiosity; plan and conduct research; locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information; multiple resources and formats; social networks and information tools to gather and share information
  • personal responsibility for lifelong learning; personal learning
  • leadership
  • digital citizenship; safe and ethical behaviors
  • demonstrate flexibility; adaptability; openness to new ideas; persisting in information searching despite challenges
  • reflect on learning
  • participate and collaborate in societal and intellectual networks
  • use information and technology ethically
  • demonstrate leadership and confidence
  • present formally and informally; multiple audiences; share new understandings
  • social responsibility
  • read, view, and listen for pleasure and growth; read widely and fluently
  • make connections to self, world, and other texts; respond to literature
  • participatory
  • transliteracy, transmedia

It wasn’t so much that I wanted to use every word and phrase that I wrote down as I wanted to make sure that what I wrote was grounded in the language of the standards.  Finally, I started writing.  This is what came out.

Vision:

The vision of the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center is to be a learning commons flowing with innovation, collaboration, curiosity, adaptability, critical inquiry, and transliteracy.

Mission:

The mission of the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center is to offer cutting-edge instruction and programming that develops innovative leaders who create content that reaches a global audience.

Beliefs:

The David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center is grounded in the beliefs that:

  • Reading is a window to the world which can be experienced in a variety of formats for pleasure or growth.
  • Creating information and story is just as important as consuming information and story.
  • Access to information and story across multiple platforms is essential to learning.
  • Technology is a pathway to a global audience.
  • A collaborative of expertise is present in every environment.
  • Flexibility and adaptability are important both in physical space and learning opportunities.
  • Locating, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing, and ethically using information is a crucial piece of being a responsible, digital citizen.
  • Persisting through challenges strengthens understanding and confidence.
  • Reflection and self assessment promote excellence.

On January 12-14, 2012, I attended the School Reform Initiative Winter Meeting in Atlanta.  Educators from across the country attended and spent time together in professional learning communities using protocols to have important discussions and offer feedback around dilemmas, student work, and adult work in education.  I took my vision, mission, and beliefs (in progress) to that meeting.  My group consisted of educators from around Atlanta as well as an educator from Texas.  They were teachers, principals, instructional coaches, and data support specialists.  Using a Tuning Protocol, they looked at my draft and tried to tune the draft to my goal.  The biggest piece of feedback that I received was about the vision, mission, and beliefs being understandable.  It was suggested to change the language so that words such as “transliteracy” weren’t there.  I pushed back on this because I felt that even though some of the words are hard to define and might not be understood by every person reading the mission, they are crucial.  The question that prompted the most thought for me was, “Then, how are people going to understand this vision and mission?”  A suggestion was to have multiple ways of representing the vision, mission, and beliefs.  Maybe part would be text, part would be video, and part would be student work.  My wheels began to turn as I thought about how a vision, mission, and beliefs could really show transliteracy or transmedia in action.

That’s where I’m at right now.  I have this draft, which I’m still working on and getting feedback on from as many people as possible, and I’m thinking about how I can show our library and program’s vision, mission, and beliefs in action.

I’m going to continue to give myself permission to not worry about it being perfect, but instead to constantly morph and adapt to the kind of learning that is taking place and the kind of learning that we want to take place in our program.  I think having a vision, mission, and beliefs that truly represents the learning that takes place in libraries is important.  My hope is that it will also guide the design process as my school undergoes a major renovation next year.

I welcome your feedback and invite you to also think about your own vision, mission, and beliefs.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons

September 11th: A Transliterate Experience

As I’m preparing to present at the School Library Journal  Leadership Summit 2011, I’m thinking a lot about transliteracy and how I can create experiences and opportunities for students to “read, write, and interact across a range of platforms.”

Fifth grade approached me a few weeks ago about collaborating on a day of September 11th activities.  Because they are departmentalized this year, they wanted to bring connections to September 11th in each of their classes:  reading, social studies, and math.  The more we planned the more the day came together as a day to experience the events and stories of September 11th in multiple ways in order to create a complete story about the day’s events.

The day started with each student getting a September 11th ribbon to wear throughout the day.  In homerooms, students wrote and illustrated what a hero was to them.

When students rotated to their reading class, they read the bookFireboat by Maira Kalman.  They watched videos of the actual fireboat and had a class discussion about how heroes were found in unexpected places during the events of September 11th.

In the media center, we started our time by watching a 2-minute video that overviewed the day’s events.  We read a 3rd grade student reflection from the book Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001 collected by Shelley Harwayne.  Then, students went to the computer lab and used a pathfinder of websites to experience September 11th through videos, interactive timelines, personal accounts, news reports, and more.  Along the way, student wrote down information that they learned about the day.  To close our media center time, students used Wallwisher  to create their own memory wall for September 11th.  Students wrote thank –you’s, prayers, emotions, and other thoughts on our collaborative wall.

At the end of the day, students returned to their writing and illustrations of heroes to see if their thinking had changed in any way after experiencing the day’s lessons.  They also revisited the 5th grade wall to see how it had developed throughout the day.  Reading each 5th grader’s thoughts is a powerful experience and to see all of their thoughts published in one location was a dynamic closing of today’s lessons.

These students were less than one-year-old when September 11th happened.  Their lives are very disconnected with the events of that day.  We wanted today’s experiences to immerse the students in the stories and tragedies of this historic event through multiple kinds of media.  By the end of the day, students had:

  • Viewed recaps of the events of the day
  • Listened to accounts of the day through multiple viewpoints
  • Interacted with timelines and maps
  • Read and viewed news reports
  • Viewed personal videos & eyewitness accounts
  • Read and listened to stories & children’s books inspired by the tragedy
  • Wrote personal thoughts, views, and facts
  • Collaboratively documented their thoughts as a grade level with web 2.0 tools

As usual, I was amazed at the level of engagement and collaboration as students worked with technology.  At the beginning of the day, we had a big issue with Wallwisher not allowing students to post their messages.  I was frantically trying to figure out the problem, but at the same time students were trying out different things to fix the problem.  It was a student who figured out that the page had to be refreshed before typing a new note because we were all logged in under our school’s generic account.  Because of their willingness to try things out, the rest of the day went very smoothly to capture all students’ reflections on the wall.

The sheer amout of resources for September 11th can be overwhelming, but I can only imagine how the number of resources might grow if this tragedy happened today.  Today, we would have tweets, facebook posts, huge amounts of personal videos, blogs, and more.  We would be able to live this story in a much more diverse way through multiple platforms.  I was impressed at the close of the day by how many platforms students had used to experience this tragic story, and I feel like our students leave us today and head into the weekend with a better understanding of September 11th as they see the memorials and television specials on Sunday.  I invite you to take a moment to visit our 5th grade wall and read students thoughts from today.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons

 

 

 

 

Using Poll Everywhere to Craft Poetry

Until September 28th, I am hosting the Ashley Bryan Traveling Exhibit of Illustrated Africana Children’s Literature featuring the artwork of Shadra Strickland.   This exhibit showcases 8 works of art from the books White Water, Bird, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, Our Children Can Soar, and Eliza’s Freedom Road.  There is also a curriculum guide that incorporates the art and books into lessons about making text to text and text to self connections, response to literature, and more.  I took these lessons and wondered how I might adapt them to various kinds of learning that I try to support in my media center.

One of lessons invites students to write “Where I’m From” poems from the perspective of a character in the story or artwork.  I wondered how I might support students in writing a collaborative “where I’m from” poem rather than individual poems, so I turned to Poll Everywhere

 

Poll everywhere allows you to create an open ended or multiple choice questions that students can respond to in a variety of ways:  poll everywhere website, texting, tweeting.  With a free educator account, you can receive up to 40 responses per poll and the responses feed into a real-time screen.  The responses can be downloaded into an Excel file, used in a word cloud, or scrolled through on the poll everywhere site.

For my lesson, I shared George Ella Lyon’s original “Where I’m From” poem as well as a template that pointed out pieces of the poem such as phrases, everyday items, foods, etc.  Then, students thought of lines that might be in their own poems and shared them with partners or with the whole group.  We moved into reading White Water by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein; illustrated by Shadra Strickland.  This book details an African American boy’s curiosity with what it might be like to drink water from the “whites only” fountain during segregation.  All along the way, we paused and thought about possible lines that the main character in the story might write in his own “Where I’m From” poem.

Students then moved to computers where I had the Poll Everywhere site pulled up with the question “My line in our where I’m from poem is…”.  Each student thought of one line for the poem.  The teacher and I conferenced with students about their lines to look for spelling and repetition, and then each student submitted their response.  We reconvened in front of the smart board to read our poem, which was already waiting for us on the screen.  Finally, we took the words of our poem and pasted them into Tagxedo to make another version of our collaborative poem as well as to look for the words that we used the most and least.

There are numerous uses for Poll Everywhere, but I loved the fact that it could support a collaborative writing effort with a class.  The whole process took us less than 45 minutes to complete.

Here is a final poem from a 2nd grade class:

Where I’m From:  A Response Poem to the book White Water by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein; illustrated by Shadra Strickland

Mrs. Brink’s Class

I am from I know everything
from tricking my grandma.
from White Water at a water fountain in town.
from 6 blocks away from the bus stop.
I’m from drinking out of a colored water fountain.
from telling a lie to the bus driver.
from I can do anything
from drinking lots of water because fresh water is good.
I AM FROM
I’m from not being able to drink the white water
from pretending to be sick.
from that good ol’ time of riding the bus to town, waiting to drink water.
from boy you better not do that
I’m from white people sitting in the front seat
from going to town with my grandma
from trying to get white water because I thought it was fresh and cool.
from nasty muddy gritty yuck!
from I can do anything
I’m from
I’m from a water fountain
I’m from I can do anything

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons