The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian

The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian

Monday, December 19, 2016

Hour of Code: It Just Keeps Getting Better and Better!




Four years ago, December 2013, I learned about Hour of Code while laminating posters about the event for our computer science teachers.  At the time I had no idea what Hour of Code was, thinking it was just something for the vocational tech computer science teachers and their students.  The next year, after learning more about Hour of Code and our role as school librarians, I tackled Hour of Code spanning grades PreK through High School.  

Each year I have been impressed with the changes and improvements to the Hour of Code resources and inspired by seeing different approaches to Hour of Code shared by members of my PLN (Professional Learning Network), especially among my fellow school librarians.

This year my school set out for an Hour of Code record by having all 1800+ students participate in an Hour of Code unplugged activity .... AT THE SAME TIME!  We were able to accomplish this feat by using Advisory Time to our advantage.  Kristi Combs (Instructional Partner) and Allison Miller (Assistant Principal) lead a Flight School (our school's version of in school monthly PD) to prepare teachers for the big day.






In addition, teachers signed up to bring their classes to the JCHS Library Harvard Room to participate in more Hour of Code activities.  It was during these times that I stepped out on to that professional ledge of being willing to learn TOGETHER with the students as the impressive array of activities this year rivaled that of years past.

One of my favorite features this year was the ability to filter differently than in past years.  Instead of defaulting to the new block coding activity for the year I went out on a ledge and walked through the filtering process with students so that they could see what we were doing was age and subject appropriate.  Then we tackled these more complex coding activities together, emphasizing the need to collaborate and trouble shoot together.  

For our social studies classes that signed up we used the programming language Python and instruct a turtle to draw flags from around the world.  By far the favorite coding activity was when we coded our very own pixel character! We used HTML to build our characters, CSS to style them, and JavaScript to animate our cute pixel people.

Personally, my favorite activity was with our Special Education Self Contained students.  We created a graph on the floor of the Harvard Room using painter's tape and printed out START, END, TREATS, and MONSTER cards.  Ms. Jefferson was our robot.  DD students had to program Robot Jefferson using BeeBot direction cards to "write the code" that would get her from START to END, collect all the TREATS, and avoid all the MONSTERS.




So what are my tips and tricks for a successful Hour of Code at your school?

First, overcome your fear of not knowing how to code.  I had no idea what CSS and JavaScript were and had failed miserably in college trying to using Python to get the turtle to move!  The best part of Hour of Code is letting the kids work through the thinking process with you! This is actually one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our students on a daily basis, the thought process for working through a new problem and seeing that there are mistakes along the way.

Second, have a backup plan.  The first year I attempted to do Hour of Code was also the year many others got aboard and started doing Hour of Code as well.  This overloaded the Hour of Code website and caused many to be left stranded without access to the websites block coding activities.  This is when having an unplugged activity ready is key.  I'll admit that I was flying by the seat of my pants that first year and had no unplugged activity planned.  Sitting in a classroom filled with sixth graders when I realized the online activity planned was not going to work, I asked the kids for a dance they knew.  They had just learned Cotton Eyed Joe in PE so we decided to write out code a robot could follow to successfully complete the dance.  Several students volunteered to be our robots so we could catch the "bugs" in our code and correct them.  In the end, our robots were having an awesome time dancing!  We did a similar thing with PreK but used the Hokey Pokey as our dance.

Third, share your experience with others.  Sharing our experiences through social media, blogs, etc help us all learn and grow together through our collective experiences, PLUS it gives us an opportunity to celebrate the amazing learning going on in our schools and libraries.  Sharing isn't bragging; it's giving.

To see more from our Hour of Code 2016 click HERE to access our Google Photos Album.

I am also thrilled beyond belief to be headlining with the founder of Hour of Code, Hadi Partovi, at the Texas Library Association's Tech Camp in April 2017!




Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fast Forward: An MCS Initiative



The Fast Forward blog is the brain child of Daniel Whitt, Madison City Schools Coordinator of Instructional Technology, and is composed of a large collaborative group of elementary and secondary educators from across the Madison City School District.  The goal of Fast Forward is to unite innovative educators across the district and give them a space and place to share how they are working to "move education forward and to challenge long-held, foundational beliefs about the nature of education."

The December 1, 2016 Fast Forward post is near and dear to my heart, combining both my love for libraries and for connecting through Google Hangouts.  Even my dear friend, Andy Plemmons, gets a shout out from Bonnie Howard, librarian at Madison Elementary School.

Check out the Building Readers Beyond The Building video below then click HERE to see more of the amazing, pioneering, innovating, and inspiring work happening in Madison City Schools.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

JCHS Poised to Set Hour of Code Record!


Cdn4.dogonews.com. N. p., 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.



On Wednesday, December 7, 2016, James Clemens High School is poised to set an Hour of Code record with its planned school-wide Hour of Code “unplugged” event to expose over 1800 students, teachers, and administrators to computer science. This event is part of a week long series of Hour of Code events showcasing why computer science matters in the lives of our students.

Hour of Code activities start November 29, 2016 with a special Pilot's Lounge to train advisory teachers how to present the "unplugged" Hour of Code lesson to their students.



In addition to the school wide "unplugged" Hour of Code event, other activities will take place throughout the week of December 5-9, 2016, including whole class coding activities customized to subject area content and an extra special teacher Reindeer Games celebration that will include Hour of Code and MakerSpace activities.

Computers are everywhere, but fewer schools teach computer science than 10 years ago. Girls and students of color are severely underrepresented. The good news is James Clemens High School is changing this for the better.

There are over 500,000 computing jobs open nationwide. Only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce in the U.S.  The Hour of Code is gateway toward providing all students with access to high-quality computer science education.

Over 100 million students worldwide have already tried an Hour of Code in the past three years. Thanks to the Hour of Code, computer science can be found on the homepages of Google, MSN, Yahoo! and Disney. President Obama, Shakira and Ashton Kutcher have joined with over 100 partners to all kicked off the Hour of Code with videos to support this movement.

“We need to encourage and embrace our students’ interest in computer science,” said school librarian, Nikki D Robertson. “Every student deserves the chance to learn computer science to access the best careers of the 21st century.”

For more information about how James Clemens High School will participate in Hour of Code events this school year, visit snap.vu/s1eq or contact Nikki D Robertson.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Changes Ahead For #TLChat (Cross Post)




Seven years ago, our amazing tribe of Teacher Librarians embarked on a journey to deliver much needed professional development on library and technology topics. At the time, there were no such free opportunities to be found to meet this need, so the TL Virtual Cafe Webinar Series was born. School library leaders Joyce Valenza and Gwyneth Jones, along with numerous others, started offering monthly webinars to teacher librarians and other interested educators. Not only did this webinar series provide valuable free professional development opportunities, but it also helped to build and strengthen our tribe.

In the past several years, we’ve expanded our offerings to include monthly Twitter chats and News Night broadcasts to further engage our community. Our #TLChat tribe includes so many inspiring educators who generously share their knowledge and experiences with others. It has been an incredible honor to be part of such an inspiring group of people.

Over time, we have found a decline in participation in our professional development offerings. This is no doubt due in part to the wealth of learning opportunities now available online. We are glad to have been able to provide great opportunities to learn three times a month for the past few years. We have reached the point, though, where we feel that it is time to reevaluate our offerings in order to best serve our community and learn together.

For the months of November and December, we are putting a pause on our professional development offerings to make plans to revamp our offerings starting in January. Although we are still working out the details of what that will look like, we will return on the first Monday of each month at 8PM Eastern Time, starting on January 2, 2017.

We are looking for new voices to get involved with our professional development offerings, in whatever form it may take. If you are interested in getting involved, please fill out the form below to let us know your interest and contact information.

Thank you so much for supporting our #TLChat community. We look forward to what the future holds for our tribe!



Sunday, October 16, 2016

We Got the Beat! Yeah! We Got the Beat!





This week in the JCHS Library was a real treat as the JCHS Library and Special Education classes collaborated with Mr. Stuart Tankesley, Assistant Band Director and Choir Director at James Clemens High School, to bring the book, “Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music” to life.


Mr. Tankesley arranged for percussionist and newly crowned Homecoming Queen, Elisia Alampi, brought an array of percussion instruments for student to learn about and have an opportunity to experiment with the different sounds each instrument makes.


Each Thursday JCHS Special Education Self Contained classes come to the JCHS Library for story time and time of their own in the JCHS MakerSpace. This week students were welcomed with the sounds of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, for whom the book was inspired.

We read the book and then Elisia demonstrated the instruments she brought.  We then had students take turn creating beats to be played.  

This collaboration has been one of my favorites so far this school year!


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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Camp Out with a Good Book in the JCHS Library



Teen Read Week will be observed for the whole month of October in the JCHS Library....with S'mores!

During the month of October students, teachers and administrators are encouraged to observe Teen Read Week and celebrate their love of reading by creating a book review.

Participants get to continue the celebration by making gooey, chocolatey, s'mores in the JCHS Library "campsite".

Stay tuned to the @JCHS_Library social media feeds for updates all month long!









Made with Padlet

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The New JCHS Library Media Team: Ready to Connect, Share, Learn & Grow with YOU!






It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to introduce the new JCHS Library Media Team: Ms. Laura Smith, Ms. Holly O'Neal, and myself.

James Clemens High School has a rapidly growing school population.  With our current student numbers, James Clemens High School has received Foundation Funding from the state department specifically earmarked to provide students with a certified school librarian, a second certified librarian and/or a "tech" related person, and a school library media aide.  I am grateful to Dr. Fowler and Dr. Clayton for recognizing and facilitating the changes needed to accommodate this student growth.

To best serve the needs of students and teachers we have split up our main responsibilities.

Ms. Smith will:
  • Spearhead the JCHS Library MakerSpace 
  • Maintain/run the MediaCast system
  • Troubleshoot & assist with technical operations in the Harvard Room
  • Facilitate ACCESS students
  • and so. much. more.

Ms. O'Neal will:
  • Supervise students coming & going from the JCHS Library
  • Assist students with printing & copying needs
  • and so. much. more.

Ms. Robertson will:
  • Spearhead the overarching JCHS Library program
  • Offer technology related professional development in one on one, small group, and/or co teaching opportunities
  • and so. much. more.


We look forward to serving the needs of JCHS students, teachers, and administration this school year.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

We're BACK! The TL FREE PD Season Is BACK!


File3.guildlaunch.net. N. p., 2016. Web. 6 Sept. 2016.



Back to school time brings football games, pumpkin spice everything, and the TL (Teacher-Librarian) FREE Professional Development Season BACK! 

Did you miss us?!

Each year school librarians from across the country come together to bring relevant, timely, professional development to their peers.  We'd love for you to take the opportunity this year to step forward and let your talents shine together with us. 

1st Monday of each month


TL Virtual Cafe: Monthly, FREE, LIVE, Webinars
8 pm ET

The TL Virtual Cafe is committed to creating conversations about teacher-librarians,
educational technology, and collaborative connections to facilitate meaningful
and lifelong learning skills.

No need to register for our events - just show up! 

We are always looking for new presenters and topics.  If you would like to present a topic or get a group together to present a webinar please contact Tiffany Whitehead.


2nd Monday of each month


#TLChat LIVE!: Twitter Chat Session
8 pm ET

#TLChat takes place the 2nd Monday of each month at 8 pm ET (unless there is a holiday or natural disaster).

#TLChat LIVE! Twitter chat session will follow a Q1/A1 format. Leading questions will be asked using Q1, Q2, etc. Please provide input/answers/links/etc to each question using the corresponding A1, A2, etc. so that the conversation can be followed easier.

A poll for voting on the topic to be discussed is posted on Twitter at least one week prior to the chat and is also posted during the preceding TL Virtual Cafe webinar.

#TLChat LIVE! moderators are needed.  Please step forward, shrug off your comfort zone and volunteer!

Click HERE to volunteer as a moderator.  Volunteer a friend too!


3rd Monday of each month


TL News Night: YouTube Live Event

TL News Night is a LIVE show presented in news show format featuring a Wrap up of “This Month in School Libraries”and deeper discussion of topical school library issues with special guest experts from state library associations and the general education community.

Official hashtag for asking questions during a TL News Night Broadcast is: #tlchat

When YOUR state school library association is ready to be our special guests please contact Nikki D Robertson.




None of these three monthly events could happen without YOU!  We need your ideas, your voice, your participation, and your willingness to volunteer as a presenter of moderator.  Together we can provide the professional development so many of us just don't get from our local schools or districts. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Making the Move: Google Hangouts On Air Is Now YouTube Live



The change from Google Hangouts On Air to YouTube Live (officially starts September 12, 2016) didn't concern me until I tried to actually set up a live event and became confounded and bogged down by the whole "encoding" nightmare.

Forget about encoding unless you are an advanced videographer.

The issue that threw me off was how to set up a YouTube Live Event for a future date without the use of encoding (custom vs. quick).  Perplexed and frustrated after hours of researching, playing around with YouTube Live, and reaching out to my PLN for assistance, I finally figured out a solution! YAY!

Below is the Google Slide presentation with step by step picture directions.  If you have any questions or see a step I have missed please contact me.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Stand Up 4 Intellectual Freedom



September is the month when libraries all across the country celebrate Banned Books Week and Banned Website Awareness Day.  I decided to merge the two events and celebrate all month long in the JCHS Library.

Part of our job as school librarians under both Every Student Succeeds Act (*ESSA), as a Future Ready Librarian, and as a member of the American Librarian Association (ALA) is to  "promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all ."

Teaching students how to be involved, knowledgable, active citizens and learning about their 1st Amendments rights as well as their right to intellectual freedom and how excessive Internet filtering in K-12 schools undermines 21st century learning, is a skill we should be teaching and encouraging, not squelching.  

I created an interactive display where students can write what websites and/or apps are currently blocked by our school district that they need or feel they should have access to at school. Additionally, I created a form letter students can use to email Dr. Fowler, our school district superintendent, to voice their concerns about banned/blocking in our district.  Below is the email I sent out to teachers at my school to get the word out about this month long activity:

Let students have a voice (#stuvoice) about access to websites and apps that are currently blocked by our school district.  
Banned Website Awareness Day (September 28th) will be observed all month in the JCHS Library.  Students are encouraged to email Dr. Fowler regarding websites/apps that are currently blocked by MCS and why they would like these restrictions removed. A form letter can be found here: snap.vu/14bq 
I have witnessed students trying to research breast cancer and MCS blocks the search because of the word BREAST.  Also, students researching To Kill a Mockingbird have been similarly blocked due to the work KILL.  SnapChat is also blocked but is an important app I use to connect and communicate with students. These are just a few examples of the unnecessary and overly restrictive blocks currently in place in our school district.
This is a great persuasive writing activity and teaches students their role as an active, involved citizen and an advocate for intellectual freedom.












*ESSA: 
AASL supports the position that an effective school library program plays a crucial role in preparing students for informed living in an information-rich society. 

*Future Ready Schools & Future Ready Librarians:
“Future Ready Librarians can and should help students develop into responsible digital citizens. Librarians can empower students to constructively share their words and use their voices to advocate for positive change in our schools and communities.”

Sunday, August 21, 2016

This Week in the JCHS Library: August 15-19, 2016



9th Grade Orientation...continues!


One of my favorite things about the beginning of the school year is getting to meet, interact, and get to know our incoming 9th graders.  

Years ago I created a scavenger hunt activity so that students could learn about the library through active engagement with the parts of the library they would most likely use throughout the school year.

This year I updated the scavenger hunt by creating it on Google Classroom.  The reason for doing this this two fold.  First, our school district just went GAFE (Google Apps for Education) last year and is pushing even more for our teachers to use Google Classroom this year.  Thus, I like to do lessons like our 9th grade orientation as a way to model use of Google Classroom for those teachers that might not yet be familiar with all that Google Classroom can do.  Second, I like to know that students know how to sign into their GAFE accounts, how to access their Google Classes, and how to open, respond and submit assignments within the Google Classroom environment.

In addition to learning how to use Google Classroom students also learn how to use our electronic book search (Atriuum), how to print from the library, discover our genrified library collection through the building of Book Spine Poems, explore & discover our MakerSpace, and so much more!



Embedded PD


Assisting teachers in learning and embracing the new technology our school district is now using is so much FUN!  Yes, PD can and should be fun.  What makes it so fun for me is that I get time to know the teachers, learn about their curricular needs, and find the best technology tools to support the curriculum as well as students. 

This week I worked with teachers on the best ways to get students blogging, showed the awesomeness of Power My Learning to Special Education, and helped empower teachers to begin using Google Classroom.


Reading Promotions: 


Our Personal Shopper program  has really caught on after Ms. Friedlein's classes participated.  Every day we have new Personal Shopper orders coming in.  Ms. Johnson and I love the challenge of finding just the right books for students to enjoy.


Story Time:


Each week the Special Education Self Contained classes come to the library for story time and for time to explore, discover, create, and tinker in the JCHS Library MakerSpace.  Thanks to Mandy at the Huntsville-Madison Public Library we found a great book about manners to read, Do Unto Otters. After reading the story we made special Thank You notes for people we hadn't taken the time out to stop and thank for all they do.  One student made a thank you note for me for reading books to them each week! YAY!




JCHS Library MakerSpace:


This week we continued to make adjustments to the JCHS Library MakerSpace.  This year we have certain days dedicated to certain activities.  This allows time for deeper exploration of that particular area.

I was really excited to unveil the Google CS First passport program on Computer Science Day this week!  We are signed up for Storytelling, Music & Sound, and Fashion Design passport programs.  
Fashion Design was the big hit this week!



Interactive Library Displays:


Prompted by a Facebook post from Shannon Humphrey our first interactive display in the JCHS Library is: What Is Your HOPE?








Weekly Tech Tips Newsletter:


Each week the JCHS Library sends out timely tech news via the JCHS Library Tech Tips of the Week Newsletter made using S'more.

Check out this week's issue below:


Follow all of our adventures on social media!




Watch our August 2016 Flickr Album GROW!

(New pictures added daily!)

JCHS LIBRARY AUGUST 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

This Week in the JCHS Library: August 8-12, 2016

Library Orientation Scavenger Hunt WINNERS!


9th Grade Library Orientation:


This week our new Jets (9th graders) had the opportunity to get familiar with the JCHS Library and all that it has to offer.  Using Google Classroom, students explored various aspects of the JCHS Library.  One activity had students create original memes about our library "rules" (I hate rules so there aren't many).  Another activity had students explore the various genre sections in the JCHS Library and build Book Spine Poems. Another activity had students explore the MakerSpace.  In all, students came away from the experience knowing how to use Google Classroom to access assignment and turn assignments in and learned about all the cool stuff the JCHS Library has to offer.



Googling with Spanish 1 & 3:


I made a return visit to Ms. Crouch's Spanish 1 & 3 classes this week to check on their progress with building their Digital Portfolios.  This week we added a blog component to their Digital Portfolios and began writing our first blog post.  Additionally, we explored various aspects of Google Drive and Google Mail so that students would feel comfortable working within the MCS GAFE environment.


Googling with Health Science:


Ms. Collins & Ms. Jemison's classes came the the JCHS Library's Harvard Room this week to get a "tour" of our MCS GAFE tools.  We started with accessing Google classroom, moved on the learning about the Google app menu (I call it a waffle),  explored Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.  We played around with Voice Typing and explored research helpers including the Research tool, EasyBib add on, and the MLA Report template. We also explore Google Mail and learned how to set up a signature for our gmail account.


Story Time with Ms. Humphrey, Ms. Jefferson, and Mr. Watters' Classes:


Last week when Ms. Humphrey, Ms. Jefferson, and Mr. Watters' classes came to visit each student wrote about their favorite thing and then drew a picture of that thing.  I took their work and created an ebook using FlipSnackEDU.





This week we focused on similes!  We started by watching a video about similes and metaphors.



Then we read, My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil And Other Funny Classroom Portraits
by Hanoch Piven.  We followed this up by making simile self portraits!


Personal Shopping with Ms. Friedlein's Class:


Personal Shopping is one of my most favorite things to do in the JCHS Library.  Ms. Friedlein had her students fill out our Personal Shopper Google Form.  This enabled Ms. Kimberly Johnson and I to know a little bit about each student; their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and other interests.  Using this information we "matched" each student with five books.  We wrapped the books with ribbon and attached a personalized name tag.

When Ms. Friedlein brought her students into the library we presented each student with their personalized packet of books.  They were asked to look through the books to see if there were any books that peaked their interest.  If we made a "match" students checked those books out and left the others behind for someone else to explore.  If we failed to make a match we worked one on one with the student to find that perfect match.  By the end of our time together every student had at least one book that was perfect for them!

The BONUS from doing this activity with Ms. Friedlein's students is that other students noticed and we know have an ever growing list of students wanting Personal Shopping as well!



MakerSpace Cha Cha Changes Continue:


The JCHS Library premiered its MakerSpace last school year.  This year, based on observations from last year, big changes were put in place (full detail blog post coming soon). This week in the MakerSpace included:
  • Monday: Arts & Crafts
  • Tuesday: Learn How to Build Your Own SnapChat GeoFilter
  • Wednesday: Build & Tinker
  • Thursday: Game Day (BINGO)
  • Friday: Explore, Discover, SIGN UP
The JCHS Library MakerSpace Graffiti window is also starting to look happy and colorful again!




JCHS Library Tech Tips of the Week:


Follow all of our adventures on social media!




Watch our August 2016 Flickr Album GROW!

(New pictures added daily!)