Sunday, February 28, 2016

World Read Aloud Week 2016

Last week (February 22-25) I participated in my first World Read Aloud Week thanks to the leadership of Shannon Miller and Andy Plemmons.  Shannon and Andy started what was a one page Google Document encouraging educators from across the world to use to make connections for World Read Aloud Week.  By the time World Read Aloud Week arrived the Google Document had blossomed to 106 pages, countries spanning the globe, and incredible educational connections made from PreK to high school seniors and beyond!  I finally created my own Google Document so that I could better keep up with the connections made just with my school.

While Skype was touted by LitWorld as the suggested medium of connection, the James Clemens High School Library choose to use Google Hangouts on Air for three reasons. First, Google Hangouts on Air allows up to ten classes/schools to connect at one time for free.  I thought not only would this be fun to help connect other classes but to also accommodate more space to make more connections.  Second, Google Hangouts on Air allows you to record the session, automatically uploading the recording to YouTube.  Third, Google Hangouts gives participants the ability to share their screen. This allowed me to share on the screen to participants the pages of the story I was reading.  

In all, the James Clemens High School Library connected with 70+ classes/schools across the nation. For many of the sessions students choose to have me read a story from the collection I have built this year for our special education self contained classes.  Each Wednesday our special education self contained classes come to the JCHS Library for story time, occasional arts & crafts and to spend time exploring, discovering, tinkering, and creating in the MakerSpace.  Because several of our students have sight deficiencies, I take pictures of the book pages and then transfer theses images to Google Slides.  Then during story time we use the Harvard Room as it has three large projection screens on which to display the book pages.

National English Honor Society reading to Special Education classes in the 
Harvard Room and across the country

Even better than me reading were the opportunities our high school students had to read and connect with classes in grades PreK-5th.  JCHS students involved included student library aides, the Not Your Average Book Club members, Ms. Mendez's 9th grade English students, the National English Honor Society students, and Ms. Courtney's Teacher 1 & 2 students (a class for students who want to be teachers).  

The best part of each connection made wasn't the reading of the stories, but getting to talk with the students, teachers and librarians we connected with.  I even got to see my new best friend, Melissa Ray, that I met while at METC at the beginning of the month! One of the funniest moments was when Ms. Mendez's 9th grade class read The Big Wide Mouthed Frog to a Kindergarten class in Wisconsin.  After the story we took turns being the "big wide mouthed frog" and asked each other, "Who are you and what do you like to eat."  Brandon, a tall baritone voiced 9th grader asked a cute little curly haired girl the question.  In turn, she asked Brandon the same question.  His response was, "My name is Brandon and I like to eat little children".  Both classes erupted with laughter!  Not missing a beat these clever Kindergarteners responded that they liked to eat BIG KIDS! 

I was so absorbed in the moment while connecting with classes that often I completely forgot to press the record button in the Google Hangouts, but you can see what session were captured on my World Read Aloud Day Youtube playlist.  You can also view images and video uploaded to my Flickr account below.

If you missed out on the opportunity to connect this year for World Read Aloud Week go ahead and set up a reminder for yourself next January to be on the look out for World Read Aloud Week information to start circulating!

World Read Aloud 2016

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Professional Development Made FUN & Meaningful

Kristi Combs, Instructional Partner at James Clemens High School

I have been fortunate in the last few years to work with some of the most talented, innovative, caring and genuine administrators.  Jennifer Hogan and Holly Sutherland helped me see the how and why of a school hashtag as well as how to leverage social media for good, rather than blocking these sites. They beautifully handled the awful YikYak app by flooding it with positive messages about students, teachers and our school.  

This quote from George Couros' METC16 opening Keynote immediately brought these two administrators to mind.  

This year the administrative trio of Kristi Combs (Instructional Partner), Allison Miller and Jennifer Flanagan WOWed me at the JCHS Retreat before school started and continue to model innovation and excellence in professional development in our school.

In particular, Kristi Combs, Instructional Partner at JCHS, is an invaluable resource for our teachers especially educators like myself who have been teaching over 20 years.  Kristi's main job is to provide professional development on sound yet innovative, research based teaching strategies.  Kristi doesn't just talk the talk but models the teaching strategies during the professional development sessions.  I also love that none of Kristi's sessions are "sit and get".  Teachers are actively engaged, talking, brainstorming and sharing throughout.  Additionally, for those of us who were actually taught in college the "lecture method",  Kristi will plan with and co-teach with teachers using best practice strategies learned in her PD sessions so that we can better understand how to implement what we have learned from her with our students.

What I love about this is that experienced educators like me don't feel as if our teaching methods are "wrong" but that there are better ways to not only engage but empower students in a classroom environment that has undergone dramatic changes since the days when I was a student teacher.  

Kristi, Allison, and Jennifer also empower teachers to be leaders during professional development sessions.  By doing this the sense of responsibility for professional learning falls on all of us and doesn't feel like a chore or forced time.  It leaves you feeling excited, refreshed, ready to go and more than anything it leaves you with a sense of being a part of a family within our school.

You know you are in a good place when you look forward to professional learning days!

Reflections from #METC16: It's All About the Kids!

This past week I had the great honor of being a part of the MidWest Education Technology Community at METC16.  

The overall message from all of the keynote speakers was about the kids. Specifically, how are we EMPOWERING not just engaging kids.  

METC16 didn't give this lip service but put it into practice by having students conduct interviews (not adults who get paid), run technology help desks, check on & work with presenters to ensure their technology worked properly, and so much more! STUDENTS were not only talked about they were SEEN, HEARD, and VALUED.  

You can see interviews conducted by students at Pattonville High School HERE and Ritenour High School HERE.  They did an amazing job!

Besides the kids, the other big highlight for me was getting to meet so many people that I am friends with on Twitter, getting selfies with people I have been fangirling from afar, and meeting and making new friends.  

Wednesday's Opening Keynote Speaker, Rafranz Davis, can be seen HERE starting at the 1:27 mark. Perhaps one of the things that stuck with me the most from her Keynote was that Youtube can teach our kids ANYTHING so what are we doing as educators to make coming to school invaluable to kids who can learn not only without us but IN SPITE of us.

Rafranz Davis: Keynote Speaker & Disruptor of Ridiculousness

I also had a surreal experience Tuesday evening at the BrightBytes reception of literally sitting at the feet of Rafranz Davis along with Laura Gilchrist, Kristen Swanson, Linda Dougherty, & more! I had to keep pinching myself to be sure I wasn't just dreaming this incredible organic conversation.

I can also never do enough to thank Linda Dougherty for helping me out with my presentations and driving us to the METC MeetUp.  I have always loved Linda just because she is so awesome and shares her great ideas so that we can learn from her.  Linda helped me figure out just how I wanted to approach genrefiying the nonfiction portion of our library....with a focus on careers! I never would have thought of that on my own! Thank you, Linda, from the bottom of my heart! I really would not have made it at METC without you.