Lunch Fun

My current school operates on a schedule that includes SMART lunch. When I was in high school, we called it tutorial, and they got rid of it shortly after I graduated, and I’ve never worked at a school that has had anything like it since.

I think it’s genius. Ours is an hour long lunch period in the middle of the day. Students can get lunch at any point during that hour, and teachers have a designated 30 minutes for lunch. For the other 30 minutes, teachers have duty, tutoring, club meetings, etc. depending on the day of the week.

The library is open for all of SMART lunch, every day, for the most part. There are always things that cause us to close (testing), but we are usually open. So I’ve decided to use that time to try to bring our program into the makerspace movement and 21st century learning.

We’ve designated areas in the library for certain things. We have quiet study, mostly-quiet whatever, computers reserved for school work, the gaming computers, the games area, and the lounge. There are several tables that don’t fall under any of those specifications, which I think is fine.

We are also adding activities on certain days. Every other Friday will be Artsy Fartsy Friday, with art projects in the area designated mostly quiet whatever. Unfortunately, that area is next to the quiet study area, which I want to keep open all the time, so I’m not sure how that’s going to work. Right now, since we are starting in the middle of the school year with this, these things will end up being mostly a test for next year and we will be able to make adjustments, so there’s that.

On alternating Tuesdays, we will do Reading Hour and Book Club. Students will only be welcome in the library on Reading Hour days if they are reading a print resource (or for quiet study). There will be no computer access on those days and no games. Book Club days will still be open to everyone, with book club being held in the lounge as long as there is room for everyone there. Since we are a school and have limited access to numerous copies of the same book, I tweaked the Book Club format so that we just choose a subject or genre or author or whatever I can think of and participants get to choose the book they read and share with everyone else.

All three programs are drop-in; no one is required to show up every time or even at a specific time. The latter may have to change with Book Club but like I said, we’re trying it out.

I’m really excited about each of these things and I will definitely post about what happens with each of them.

Summer/Fall Teachers’ Booklist

See this post (article about the importance of reading for pleasure for teachers) and this post (Teachers’ Booklist for Spring 2014) for more information on what this whole thing is, how I came up with the idea, etc.

This article is about the booklist I created for Summer and Fall 2014.

Let’s start with the rationale I mentioned in that second post, when I created my first teacher booklist. Updates are in bold.

  • Only 5 titles; I felt like any more than that would just overwhelm already overworked teachers. –> I did this, without even thinking about it. 5 is a good number.
  • Automatically include titles with major film versions coming this Spring. –>I also kept this without even thinking about, especially because these are movie versions of already popular books.
  • My favorite YA book that I read this year should be on there, as long as it has one other qualifier, i.e. if it’s a recent title, one that will be made into a movie, a major award winner from this year, etc. –>I meant favorite book of the previous year here. How can I have a fave 2014 book yet? So this piece of the puzzle only works for Spring booklists.
  • Varying genres or formats as much as possible.–>I tried to do this. More on that in a second.
  • At least one lower level/middle grades title.–>I did this, but on accident; I completely forgot about this 
  • Common Core aligned, i.e. could be used in classes–>Personally, I think any book could be used for Common Core, so I might be personally biased here.

This was a harder booklist to develop. The first three, The Maze Runner, The Giver, and If I Stay, were easy because of the film versions. They’re all already fairly popular books (except in the case of The Giver, a 20 year old title that was wildly popular for many years) and I truly believe the film versions will really boost them. But once I established those, it was harder for me to pick which others to include. I went back and forth between a large number of choices, including Out of the Easy, Eleanor & Park, All the Truth That’s In Me, and Charm & Strange. I ended up choosing Panic and The Madman’s Daughter. I chose Panic because it is a very recent publication, by a very popular author, that has already been optioned for a film. I’m certain it’s going to be huge. In the case of The Madman’s Daughter, I am less certain. It was just named the NCYABA winner and was optioned for film, but mostly I chose it because it was such a different genre than what I had already (although it is sort of sci fi).

I still had a few issues overall, but honestly, except for choosing the books, this booklist went a bit more smoothly.

  • We do have all of these books in my library except for Panic (too new) because I was given some more money with which to buy books, but books can’t be checked out over the summer. Sorry!
  • I’ve also mentioned before that I’ve been told not to email the entire staff at my school. How do I get this list out to teachers without emailing everyone? –> I kept the original problem on here because I liked my solution; I just emailed each department as a group rather than the whole school.
  • I used Smore to create a flyer because I had just discovered that website, and I like trying out new creation tools. I think it worked, generally, but it isn’t the best format to present this type of information. At least now I know how to use it, right? –>I also wanted to keep this original issue on here. I ended up liking Smore way more than I thought I would, so I decided to use it again and find a new one for the next one.

Anyway, here’s the link to the booklist!

21st Century

I had an epiphany the other day. You may have seen my tweet, but I’ve been kind of obsessed with this thought over the last few days, and I wanted to work it out a little bit. So my apologies in advance for the stream-of-conscious style of writing for this post. I’m thinking it through.

We talk so much in education about 21st Century Learning and 21st Century Skills. The American Association of School Libraries even has the “Standards for the 21st Century Learner.”

My question is: when do we stop saying 21st century and start saying 22nd century?

I feel like we were a little behind on bringing “21st century” into the lexicon. When I was in undergrad, from 2001-2005, we weren’t using those words in our education classes. It wasn’t until several years into when I was an English teacher that I started hearing those buzzwords. That would have been 2007, at the earliest. I don’t think I’m wrong when I say we were a little late with that. So can we just bite the bullet and start planning ahead? Or is that just repetitive because when we say 21st century, we at least partially mean being prepared for pretty much anything in the future?

Maybe it’s the wording that bothers me. Should we be teaching 21st century skills? Or at this point in the game, should we be teaching 22nd century skills? I think I’m okay with saying 21st century learner, like the AASL standards. Our students are learners in the 21st century, so that makes sense. I guess in the same way, I’m okay with 21st century learning then.

So if it’s the “skills” that are bothering me, then I guess I just want a better way to say that we are teaching our students to be adaptable. I definitely think that’s the best summative word for what I think “21st century skills” are. Adaptable can be applied to everything I would like my students to be able to do when they leave my school.

“21st century skills” feels like it applies too much to today and not enough to tomorrow. We are teaching 21st century learners 22nd century skills. We are teaching them to be able to do anything they can imagine, right? We have no idea what the 22nd century will look like, so it’s representative. 1914 is to 2014 as 2014 is to 2114.

I don’t know what the right answer is.

Hour of Code

NPR aired a really interesting story from All Tech Considered this morning while I was driving to school, and it reminded me that I had a post about Hour of Code that I had been putting off writing about because I feel like I failed so miserably at the whole thing. You can find the NPR story here.

The NPR story is about the lack of computer science classes in our public schools and the seeming lack of connection between the drive for STEM and the overlooking of computer science. Here’s a really interesting infographic pushing for the inclusion of computer science. Until fairly recently, I would not have been the type of educator to say that our students are missing something when it comes to computer education. But when I went to grad school, I realized how woefully little I knew about computers and what I can do with them, and I’m pretty much a tech native, with a lot of the basic know-how I need, and all of the ability to find help I might need. As I thought about my own ignorance, I realized how shockingly little my students really did know. I mean, I had a student tell me once they didn’t know what the back button on the browser window was. I have students now who don’t understand what Chrome vs Firefox vs Explorer means.

No, these examples are not computer science. (That misconception is addressed in the article, too. A principal is dreadfully wrong about what computer science actually is.) But imagine how much less I would have to be concerned about things like that if we start addressing understanding the “behind the scenes” of computers at younger ages.

Anyway, all of this reminded me about Hour of Code and my lame attempt to get something started with it at my school. I really can’t think of a nice way to say that I failed. Nothing happened and no teachers wanted to partake. I got started late and didn’t have enough to give them to make it seem awesome.

I am sure they thought things to themselves like “I can’t possibly fit this in,” “I don’t see how this is aligned to CCSS,” and “That’s not my area.” I can’t blame them. I didn’t do what I should have done.

But at a school/system where computer science isn’t even offered (I don’t think it is anyway… I know it’s not required), how do I begin to get entry-level support for something? What could I have done differently than to just announce that it’s a thing I’d like to do and does anyone want to work with me?

I think I probably could have gone ahead and made lesson plans for an Hour of Code activity in a classroom and gone to a specific teacher to show them and ask if they want to be involved or give it a go. I probably could also have had a brief presentation ready to give at a staff meeting or in department meetings ahead of time. I will admit that I waited until the last minute to get started on trying to make Hour of Code happen in my school.

One thing I’m definitely not sure how I could have done differently is dealing with teachers thinking they can’t fit things like this in. My school serves mostly low-performing, low-level students in a Title I setting. And our test scores reflect that. I can’t blame teachers for thinking that if only 8% of their students passed the Common Core Math 1 exam last semester, then they’ve really got to focus on basics. Coding doesn’t really fall under basics. There’s no proof that a couple of lessons on coding will help them figure out how to find the slope.

Doing a school wide coding activity is something I would want to do as my Media Center becomes a Learning Commons. I need ideas for how to embed that into our school culture.

Teachers’ Booklist Spring 2014

In an earlier post, I read an article about the importance of reading for pleasure for teachers and thought of creating something like a once-per-semester booklist for teachers to help them keep up with some of the popular reading for teenage students.

After spending the fall semester getting settled into my position and feeling out the school and my users, I’ve gone ahead and created one for Spring 2014.

Here are some of the major pieces of my rationale:

  • Only 5 titles; I felt like any more than that would just overwhelm already overworked teachers.
  • Automatically include titles with major film versions coming this Spring.
  • My favorite YA book that I read this year should be on there, as long as it has one other qualifier, i.e. if it’s a recent title, one that will be made into a movie, a major award winner from this year, etc.
  • Varying genres or formats as much as possible.
  • At least one lower level/middle grades title.
  • Common Core aligned, i.e. could be used in classes

It didn’t take me long to come up with this list. Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, both huge books from the last couple of years, have film versions coming out before the end of the school year. Seraphina is my favorite book of the year and won a bunch of awards, not to mention it will be a fantasy trilogy, so it will probably blow up at some point; it just hasn’t happened quite yet. Code Name Verity has been wildly popular already, was #1 on the Teens’ Top Ten for 2013, and is historical fiction, which doesn’t happen often. And The False Prince is arguably middle grades, but was #2 on the Teens’ Top Ten for 2013 and has been optioned for a film.

Honestly, it wasn’t hard to make these choices. Obviously, I might end up being wrong about something being a popular book, but even if that happens, I think this is a good list for teachers to be familiar with at the very least. Films will cause a buzz, and there is a lot of buzz around both Verity and Prince thanks to the Teens’ Top Ten.

I did end up thinking about some issues I had:

  • My library here at school does not have all of these titles. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, but it would be a definite bonus to say that I have them. I’ve already been asked by a couple of teachers if we have all of them. I hate saying no. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, my budget doesn’t really allow for much wiggle room.
  • I’ve also mentioned before that I’ve been told not to email the entire staff at my school. How do I get this list out to teachers without emailing everyone?
  • I used Smore to create a flyer because I had just discovered that website, and I like trying out new creation tools. I think it worked, generally, but it isn’t the best format to present this type of information. At least now I know how to use it, right?
  • The Smore flyer is embeddable, but it changes the dimensions of the pictures and doesn’t look right. Also, Smore and WordPress don’t like each other so it won’t embed here.
  • I was concerned that teachers would immediately think that this was a required thing, so I went out of my way to explain that it was just an FYI thing; they could read if they wanted or completely ignore.

I think that about covers my feelings about this. I think this is a really good thing to do, and I’ve already received positive feedback from several teachers. I even had one ask if we could do a discussion group for anyone who reads any of the books. I think that’s a fantastic idea, in small doses. Again, I don’t like the idea of adding on to what is expected of this group of teachers already, which I think is a whole lot, so I’d want to keep it to just one 30 minute session where we can just share our thoughts about the books.

Anyway, here’s the link to the booklist!

Learning Commons

The information, professional development, and movement coming from the Department of (Virtual Learning) and Media Services in my school system is all about the transition from Media Centers to Learning Commons.

I am in a really unique position because my school is also in the middle of a transition, so I get to combine the two things; my Media Center will be the first official Learning Commons in the school system at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. Our school building will be renovated and redesigned during the 2014-2015 school year with the new model in mind. I don’t have to do much, though I do get some say in furniture and design, but I will come in to an entirely new Learning Commons in 2015.

Buffy Hamilton, a former school librarian, recently posted about this transformation of spaces, on her blog. The VLMS department in my school system has been watching the Hunt Library at NC State closely to see what they’re doing and how it’s going.

Basically, this is a huge movement for the school library world, and I’m very excited to be a part of it. I’ve seen the plans for the new Learning Commons and can’t wait to be its leader.

But it is a big change, so I’ve been working on some things to help teachers prepare. Unfortunately, doing anything with my physical space is pretty silly given that I will be out of here at the end of this school year and everything will be totally different upon our return. I’ve been focusing on mental changes. Here are a few things I have done.

  • Got rid of the reference section and let students check out anything and everything for up to two weeks.
  • No late fees.
  • Push for using free electronic resources (like NCWiseOwl, Britannica.com, Google Scholar, etc. depending on topics).
  • Host events (World Cup Draw party, Hour of Code).
  • Push for using iPads instead of desktop computers or laptops.
  • Opened the Media Center to individual students rather than just whole classes.
  • Push for using the Media Center as a work area, even if you don’t need internet access or computers for the work.

It’s gone fairly well, but I have encountered one major issue. I was told not to send the entire staff emails, so much of my communication occurs via the Media Center website, which I’m sure no one checks regularly for anything. I’m stuck at a point where, within what I feel I can do (it’s too early in the process to have a Twitter or Facebook account for the Learning Commons), I can’t communicate things to the staff in the most effective and efficient way.