The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Feelin' Like the HANG IN THERE Kitten

To say that I have felt frazzled this week would be a gross understatement.  If social media is any indicator I am not the only educator who is hanging on by a thin, tattered thread.  I have been guilty of being absorbed in my own "must be done" tasks to stop, look up, and connect in a meaningful way with students.    

We (I) need to remember that our students are frazzled too.  May is the most volatile month in schools as the stress from the school year comes to a head.  The number of fights, arrests, suspensions, and expulsions increase drastically during this time of the school year.  It is because of this that we, as educators, despite our own stress, need to be extra vigilant in slowing down, looking up, and truly seeing the students we serve.

In my district, Seniors have only 3 days left and there are only seven days left for the rest of us.  The pressure of final exams, final projects, the uncertainty of life after high school for our Seniors, combined with the everyday teenage angst, has the stress level among students at a breaking point.  

In the past two weeks I have had students talk to me about personal struggles that have them on the the verge of full blown emotional breakdowns.

One student feels his entire life has fallen apart.  The dream he has had for his future since he was 3 years old is no longer a possibility and he is at a loss as to what he is to do with his life now.

Another student lost their best friend, the dog that has been their constant companion since they were a toddler.  My dog died this week too. We sat in the back of the library and cried together. 

Another student got less than stellar results back from her college entrance exams AND her parents are kicking her out after graduation.

These are just a few of the stories I know. Not all kids will be so obvious and confide in a trusted adult as to the stresses they are under.

It's because of this that we need to make a concerted effort to be more aware these last few days- look up, stop grading papers, paste a smile on our faces, and share a smile with our students. 

Together we will end the year doing a "happy dance"!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How To Finish The Year STRONG in Your School Library: #TLChat Monday, May 9, 2016

The last #TLChat LIVE! of the 2015-2016 season was moderated by the incredible Richard Snyder and Sherry Gick and it was STELLAR!  Even though the night was a very sad night for me (we had to send our 15 year old dog to heaven) the creativity of this duo had me laughing despite my tears.

If you missed the live chat on Twitter it isn't too late to reflect on the questions presented during the chat below.

Thank you Richard & Sherry for stepping up to the plate and moderating a GREAT #TLChat!

Putt Putt, Engineering, and Connecting Schools

Mr. Dave Frederick, James Clemens High School Science & Engineering teacher, connected his engineering students with Laura Rotondo's students at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School in 
Sudbury, Massachusetts for a collaborative project; creating Putt Putt Golf courses using the engineering software, Inventor.

Design teams were formed to include students from both schools.  Students used email, Google Drive, and other methods to communicate with their team members to create a final presentation regarding their final Putt Putt Golf design.  

The project finale took place Monday, May 9th and Tuesday, May 10th as teams presented their projects via Google Hangouts on Air (GHOA).

As with any project such as this there were technology snafus but in the end all teams did a great job.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway mentioned by each team was the importance of communication and time management, job essential skills.

Below are the the two GHOA recording; just be forewarned that you will see "warts" and all.
Additionally, there is a slideshow of pictures taken during the presentation phase of this project.


Frederick-Engineering Collaboration W/Massachusetts



Saturday, May 7, 2016

BreakoutEDU Faculty Edition!

Professional Development offered at my school (James Clemens High School) is something that, believe it or not, I actually look forward to.  Our in house PD is lead by our Instructional Partner, Ms. Kristi Combs.  Because our school is the "Jets" our professional development sessions have related names.  The two main PDs offered are Flight School and Pilot's Lounge.  Flight School happens during each planning block usually once a month.  Flight school has really opened my eyes about all the new brain research that is out there and the connection to how we learn.  Pilot's Lounge highlights teacher leaders and is offered during Refuel Hour on a monthly basis.  Unfortunately Refuel Hour is the busiest time in the JCHS Library MakerSpace so I have missed out on some amazing learning opportunities; but not this past week!

This past week Ms. Alicia Mendez, JCHS English Teacher, was the teacher leader for the Pilot's Lounge PD in May.  Ms. Mendez wanted to do a BreakoutEDU with our staff to help introduce this cool learning tool to those who might not know about it or who have wondered about using it but had questions.  Ms. Mendez teamed with me and Kristi Combs and together we formulated a plan.  The BreakoutEDU we choose was Time Warp.  We got all the locks set, resources printed out and/or created, and game parts hidden around the room per game directions.  The day before the Pilot's Lounge the three of us "played" the game.  It was a good thing we did this because it helped us to be more prepared to nudge and hint if needed when the real game was played.  It also double checked us making sure we had all of our ducks in a row before the big day!

The big day came and we decided it would be fun to have the Glee version of Time Warp playing on a loop (thanks to the Magic Action Chrome extension)  to greet Pilot's Lounge participants.  We started the BreakoutEDU with a few directions and the Time Warp backstory and then set the group loose to "breakout"!

It was fun watching our awesome JCHS teachers as they worked together to solve the clues and break the locks! Our staff is super smart so it was no surprise when they "broke out" in under 20 minutes (we forgot to set the timer..LOL!) 

Watch the fun below in our Flickr SlideShow!

BreakoutEDU: Pilot's Lounge 5/6/16

Sunday, May 1, 2016

They Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Recently I read two social media posts and decided these would be great together; kind of like chocolate and peanut butter! Also, they merge perfectly with Teacher Appreciation Week!

Ginger Lewman posted about the hashtag, #eduhero. This is a hashtag you can use to celebrate the #eduheros in your life.

Matthew Winner, Andy Plemmons, John Schu, and and Jennifer LaGarde all posted about Mo Wiilems’ new book that has the hashtag #ThankORama attached to it. #ThankORama gives you the opportunity to thank people, cats, dogs, pizza for being AWESOME! I used the activities included on Mo Willems’ site with our special education self contained students last Wednesday and we will be doing #ThankORama activities all month long in the JCHS Library. I think it is the perfect end of the school year activity!

The JCHS Library has set up the green screen so student can make the subject of their #ThankORama the background with speech bubble added later. We also have space for student to fill out Post It Notes with their #ThankORama pick! I can't wait to see the wall grow!

Jennifer jazzed up her #ThakORama posts with her great Library Girl avatar! If you don't yet have an avatar challenge yourself to create one with one of these avatar maker sites (courtesy of the amazing Gwyneth Jones) and then create your own #ThankORama/#EduHero message!

Who will be YOUR #eduhero/#ThankORama?!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Breakout EDU & the JCHS Library!

Thanks to Olivia Karr's courage and willingness to try something different in learning, we broke open the JCHS Breakout EDU Kit today and it was so much FUN!

A few weeks ago after reading the Tech Tips of the Week S'more that talked about capturing the excitement of the new Huntsville Escape Room our students were flocking to, Ms. Karr consulted with the JCHS Library about trying the Unlocking Shakespeare Breakout EDU game.  

We plotted and planned for two weeks, printing out and laminating clues, preparing the boxes and locks and found some medieval music for ambiance.  

The big day came today and Ms. Karr brought seven students to the Harvard Room where their Unlocking Shakespeare challenge began.  We read through the "setting the story" introduction, got the Google Form that went with the game pulled up on laptops for the students and set the game timer.  Ms. Kristi Combs, JCHS Instructional Partner and former AP English Teacher, joined in the adventure as well.

It was fun watching the students naturally merge into the various roles needed to solve the clues.  Ms. Karr, Ms. Combs, & I gave a few hints to help keep the momentum going, but really, we didn't need to provide much encouragement as the thrill of the challenge took over and the kids were off!

Even with one student being checked out before the game was over (she did not want to leave) the team still finished the 45 minute challenge with 6 minutes and 45 seconds to go!  The next "team" from Ms. Karr's class will come to the Harvard Room on Thursday to compete against the time set by today's students.

The great thing about Breakout EDU is that EVERYTHING is laid out in a very easy to follow and understand form, including a Flow WORRIES!

If you are still looking for reasons to try Breakout EDU take a look at Sylvia Duckworth's 10 Great Reasons To Play Breakout EDU

Here are a few pictures and videos from our first Breakout EDU!

Breakou EDU 4/26/16 Karr

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Essays & Research Papers Made Bearable N. p., 2016. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Co-teaching with the talented teachers at James Clemens High School this year has been a big highlight of my 24 year career as an educator.  Yesterday I spent the day with Ms. McLaughlin's classes helping them out with their big research paper by showing them a few tips and tricks to making the research/essay writing process a little less tedious.  This co-teaching experience also gave me an opportunity to show Ms. McLaughlin a cool tool to make the grading processes less daunting.

Ms. McLaughlin's students are lucky to have her as their teacher. She is very organized and has really embraced using Google Classroom.  We started the lesson by having students access their Google Classroom and open the pre formatted MLA document provide by their teacher.  Google has a dizzying array of templates to make student and teacher lives a little easier.  Below are just a few templates that are available in Google Documents.

Although Ms. McLaughlin had already provided students with a pre-formatted MLA template I took time to show the students how to find the template on their own so they could use for other classes.

The next tidbit I shared was the relatively new Voice Typing feature in Google.  This is more of a "fun" feature that I like to show students but it actually really helped one student who had had quite a gruesome encounter with a chainsaw.  

Next, we moved on to the nitty gritty....research!  Google has a built in research feature right inside of Google Docs.  You can choose to search all of Google, Google, Scholar, Images, and more. Once you have put in your search term and websites have been pulled up you have three options: preview, insert, & cite.  Preview allows you to see a thumbnail of the website. Insert will insert the website link into your document wherever your cursor is located. Cite will add all related footnote features. The video below walks you through this great tool.

The one thing I wish this tool would do is add the Work Cited information. We circumvented this minor flaw with the Google Add On, EasyBib.  

From there we moved on to reviewing the best databases available through the Alabama Virtual Library (AVL).  Students and teachers are fortunate that our legislature has seen fit to fund the Alabama Virtual Library which is filled will a large number of databases for all age levels, including college and the general pubic.  Most of the databases inside the AVL also connect to Google Classroom, making the task of note taking, highlighting and accessing previously viewed resources later so easy!  Below is an AVL Tour Video. It is a bit dated so it does not show some of the awesome Google Classroom integration features.  AVL databases now also all have a "listening" button which is extremely helpful for students with dyslexia or other reading challenges.

The final tech tool, JoeZoo Express, will help make the grading process easier and more streamlined for Ms. McLaughlin.  JoeZoo Express analyses the student's paper and looks for the following errors: formatting, grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and structure.  Feedback included tips and hints that teach students how to correct their own mistakes. All of this is automated and teacher created. JoeZoo also contains a feature for seamless interactivity with Google Classroom.