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.

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.

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.