Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Technology: Friend or Foe?

The title of this posting expresses what my thoughts were one week ago today. I wasn't really sure if I liked technology (at least Blogger). Today, I think that I have decided whether blogger is a friend or a foe. Please read on. :-)

I was very excited about beginning a new adventure in my 6th grade classroom. My students would be composing writing in the form of blog posts instead of the traditional "writer's workshop notebook". I had planned it out to the tinnest of details. My Keynote presentations were ready to go, with plenty of screenshot images to guide my students through the process of setting up their Blogger accounts. I had even created a preplanning graphic organizer so that students could think about a blog title and brainstorm topics for their first post. I was so prepared! Nothing could go wrong, right?

Day 1: It takes 20 minutes to get all 26 of my students logged-in to their email accounts for the first time. A few minor issues, but all the students are now gmail users! Yippy! Next, I begin my beautiful and well organized presentation. The class is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing: click here, now scroll down, click here, etc. We get to the final step before creating the student blogs. This is going well! I instruct my students, "Click the button that says 'create blog'." Immediately, hands fly into the air as every student gets the same message: Please enter a valid cell phone number to validate your google account. WHAT?? That did not happen to me. It also did not happen when I set up a student blog earlier in the day. I knew that it was supposed to work! Is this really happening to me??
All students log-out, I take a deep breath, and tell them that I will figure it out before tomorrow. After school, I 'google' the issue in search of answers.
To be continued...

Friday, August 12, 2011

What do you know about school librarians?

I saw this great "interactive" image on the "Your Teacher Librarian" Wiki. The times really are changing! Did you know that teacher librarians did all of this? I especially love the last line, "School librarians are ready for this collaborative challenge? Are you?" I know that I am ready for the challenge......So BRING IT ON!

(Roll your mouse over the 'info dots' for links and examples!)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's a Reading Ranch at Johnston Elementary

Welcome to the Reading Ranch!

I'm really excited about the Johnston Elementary library theme "Reading Ranch".  The back wall says "Wrangle Up A Good Book" and has WANTED READER posters.  I also have a stand-up cowboy display that students can put their face into!  The first week of school, I want to take a picture of each student as a "cowboy reader" and create a WANTED READER poster for each student.

The 'log' ranch sign has a big impact factor, and it was easy to make!  My mom got three long boxes from her work, a nice lady at Ace helped me pick out paint, my husband constructed the supports, and I had fun using my Cricut to make the sign.  It was a team effort and turned-out nicely.  I can't wait for the students to visit the Reading Ranch!

Photos from my other libraries will be coming in future posts.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Summer of Learning in Review

As I look back at my learning this summer, I cannot believe the new knowledge that I have gained!  Every teacher should have to take a class just like this one!  Although the tasks sometimes seemed daunting, I always managed to learn what I needed to complete the task.

Week #1 introduced me to blogging.  I feel that this has been my greatest "take-away" from this class.  I not only enjoyed blogging myself, but I learned so much from my peers' blog posts and the blogs that I began following.  I also started using Google Reader to organize the RSS feeds from the blogs that I follow.  Google Reader is a tool that I plan to inservice teachers on this fall.  It is an extremely useful service for building your Personal Learning Network (PLN).

Week #2 gave me the opportunity to teach my peers about something that I know about and use in my library.  I created my Focus On Presentation about using WikiSpaces for book discussions.  Through watching the presentations of others I learned about Twitter, Shelfari, Animoto, and Evernote, among others.  Since then, I have started using Twitter and Shelfari.

Week #3 was a very valuable week of learning.  I loved browsing the free resources that my peers posted.  This week also introduced me to Diigo, which has quickly become a favorite for me!  I look forward to utilizing the resources I learned about when school starts in the fall.

Week #4 utilized Edmodo to facilitate class discussions.  I enjoyed this format and appreciated the opportunity to be immersed in Edmodo as a student.  I felt that I really got a feel for how Edmodo works and how it can be best utilized in the classroom or library setting.  This week also opened me up to the possibility of creating a Facebook fan page for my library.  I plan to discuss this with my administrators when school begins in the fall.

Week #5 introduced me to Prezi.  Prior to this class, I had not seen or used Prezi.  I felt that creating two presentations, a Prezi and a PowerPoint, using the same information, images, links, etc was a very hands-on way to compare the two programs.  That project choice by our professor was a great idea.  Since then, I have merged PowerPoint slides with Prezi to get the best of both worlds.  These are tools I will continue to use.

Week #6 was the video project.  This was probably the easiest project for me because I was so familiar with movie-making programs.  I shared my video "An Introduction to PBS Learning Media" with the teachers in my district and received very positive feedback.  I can see many benefits of sharing information and resources with teachers through videos (especially because I work in four libraries).  Teachers can view them at their convenience and the videos can be archived for future reference.

Week #7 gave me the opportunity to do some much needed revamping of our library website.  I took advantage of this project to make the site more user friendly, more visually appealing to younger students, and provide high quality links for students and teachers.  I am extremely happy with the results and look forward to continuing my website updates!

This final week was a wrap-up.  I began work on my SLS eportfolio and am writing my reflection post on this blog.  I enjoyed this class a great deal and feel that my learning curve was great!

You may have noticed that I have changed the name of my blog to "Smiles from the MV Library".  I chose that name for two reasons.  First, I wanted the name to reflect the libraries that I work in, rather than this class's course number. :-)  The second reason I chose that name was because I often hear people tell me that I am always smiling.  So my future posts will come from the "smiling librarian"!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A New Look for the Library Website

I am so excited to unveil the "new and improved" Maquoketa Valley library website!  Although the bare bones were in place (I created the site two years ago when I took over the library position.), it was in much need of improvement.
The first thing I did was create a "logo" using Picnik Online photo editing.  I was very pleased with the outcome.

The second project was to make the student links pages more user friendly and visually appealing.  The previous pages were boring---all text, no images.  (For those of you who loved that page, it has not disappeared.  It is now a quick link called "Just for Fun".)  My goal was to provide students with the links they used most often right at the top.

Also, on the elementary page,  I wanted to create an environment for reading extensions.  Many popular series books have fantastic websites that provide fun activities and enrichment to the reading experience.  I also felt that it was important to include images, rather than text for these links.  The images are more visually appealing!
I learned how to adjust the size of each image using Picnik, so that each icon was the same height.  This gave them a uniform look.  Each image is linked to the page where I got the image, so I didn't feel that onscreen credits were necessary.

The third change I made was to add a Library News and Photos page.  This page will have information about upcoming events, announcements, and photos of library activities.

Each library in the district has a separate page for it's library.  This page has hours, checkout information, and a photo of the library.  I hope in the future to add to these pages with a Picasa photo slide show specific to that center.  I think it would be neat to create a slide show with new books that could be displayed on the site!

At the bottom of the home page, I have created a link for students and teachers to "leave me a message".  On this page, I embedded a WallWisher wall.  This will provide a place for students to communicate with me.  I would like to explore other tools that could also serve this purpose.  I'm not sure if WallWisher is the right tool for this, but I'm going to give it a try.

On thing I had difficulty with was embedding my Diigo tag cloud on the webpage.  I searched the internet for information on how to embed it, but didn't have much luck.  So, I just placed a link at the top of the professional resources pages.  This will serve the purpose for now.

My next goal is to create a page with YouTube book trailers for the Iowa Children's Choice books and the Iowa Teen Award books.  I think that this would be a neat way to "advertise" these books.  I'll let you know when that page is up and running.

I'm very excited about the "revamped" library site.  I hope that the students and teachers will appreciate it as well!  If you have suggestions for the site or comments about it's layout, please let me know.  I am always looking for ways to make it better and more use friendly!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

PBS LearningMedia Video Project

This week our task was to create a video that could be used in our library by students or teachers. I had no idea what I was going to create a video on until I got an email from "Keystone TechTalk" a list serve that I subscribe to. A BRAND NEW web resource was introduced to me. PBS LearningMedia has thousands of videos, interactives, and resources for teachers on almost every topic in our curriculum. I knew immediately that I wanted to share this with the teachers in my district. So, I felt that a video introduction was the way to go!

I have used several different video creation tools in the past including iMovie, MovieMaker, and Animoto. I feel comfortable using all of them and choose iMovie for this particular project because I felt that it offered more options and was a bit more user friendly. I found storyboarding to be very beneficial! I have to admit that I don't normally write out a 'formal' storyboard, it is normally just in my head. However, I might start. This allowed me a way to look at transitions and the flow before I started compiling the pieces. I felt that the storyboard made the actual movie making process go very fast. I didn't have to think, just assemble.

The only snag that I had when making this video was that my screen cast kept skipping on the audio. So, after several screen casts with the same issue, I decided to just do a voiceover in iMovie. This worked perfectly.

I hope that this video will entice a few teachers to check out this new resource from PBS. My goal with the video was to inspire teachers to want to take a look at the site. I wanted to include a short "how-to" that would demonstrate just how easy it was to navigate and search for resources. Hopefully, those not comfortable with technology will see that it really is very simple. Check-out the video for yourself! I would love to hear your comments.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

PowerPoint + Prezi = AMAZING Presentation

I love the sequential and easy use of PowerPoint.  I also love the zooming capabilities of Prezi.  How about combining the two for one GREAT presentation??  That is exactly what I did in preparation for a presentation I am giving later this week.  I created the basic framework for my presentation using PowerPoint (actually, I used Keynote). Then, I exported the slides as a pdf and uploaded the file to Prezi.  It was easy to arrange the predesigned slides on the Prezi canvas and zoom in to highlight important details.  I also added some additional images and embedded a YouTube video directly into the Prezi.
It was so easy!  I love the results!!

Check out my Prezi (embedded below) that combines PowerPoint slides and the "zooming Prezi"!

Want to make your own?  Here is a YouTube video tutorial.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Facebook for Education? That is the controversy...

After a week of looking at social networking's place in education, I found a blog post from the Innovative Educator very relevant.  A quote from Nancy Willard reads...

  • Trying to prepare students for their future without interactive Web 2.0 technologies in school would be like trying to teach a child to swim without a swimming pool.  However, it is exceptionally important for schools to carefully consider what technologies they will embrace.
This quote is followed by a list of 7 reasons why Facebook should NOT be used for classroom instruction.  Each reason is then followed by a response from Lisa Velmer Nielsen (The Innovative Educator) explaining why Facebook SHOULD be used in education.  It is a very interesting post that gives both the positive and negative. 

I am still not sure about Facebook in education.  I feel comfortable setting up a library or classroom page to use for communication between parents, students, and the school community, but I'm not so comfortable with student/teacher interactions through Facebook.  I would be interested in hearing your thoughts after reading the Innovative Educator's blog post.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Did you know Google could do that?

Free Technology for Teachers had an excellent video presentation on advanced google searching techniques.  I thought that I knew a lot about  Google searching, but I learned a few things!  Check it out!

Is Prezi as good as Keynote?

I will start off by answering my question, "No."  For the presentation that I created, Prezi was not as beneficial as Keynote.  Let me further explain my reasoning.

I created a Keynote to supplement my presentation on Nonfiction author Jan Greenberg.  I was easily able to storyboard the presentation and "drag and drop" to add images and videos.  It was easy to duplicate a slide and change the necessary information.  I appreciated that themes provided a great starting point with consistency in font and style.  Links were simple to add and easy to use in presentation mode.  My favorite features of Keynote are the ability to add presenter notes to your slides and customize the screen so that the presenter can see these notes, but the audience does not.  I love to be prepared and want the comfort of my notes quick at hand.

I then used the same media to create a Prezi on the same topic.  Prezi was very new to me, so I spent some time experimenting before I put together my presentation.  I really liked the ability to zoom and move around the canvas during my presentation.  I felt that creating the path was a bit tricky because I often had to create frames to get all the elements I wanted on the screen at the same time.  I also took a tip from an article I read that mentioned the importance of letting your audience know where on the canvas you are.  (So, I zoomed out to show the larger canvas before sooming back in to another element.)  I did not like the limited font/style choices that were available.  When using Prezi, I had to add steps by uploading all images before adding them to my presentation.  I really missed "drag and drop"!  I think that the most discouraging thing about Prezi was that I could not add presenter notes to guide my oral presentation.

I discovered that I can upload a Keynote presentation to Prezi and "prezify" it.  I did try this and was happy with the results.  I still have the slide format, but now can zoom into particular elements of the slides when appropriate.  I now have the best of both worlds, but still NO PRESENTER NOTES!

In summary, I feel that both Keynote and Prezi have their place in education.  When used at the appropriate time, they both can convey information in engaging ways.  Prezi may be better for showing details in photos/images (like in art classes where zooming would be a huge benefit, or in a history class where you want to highlight details in historic photos).  Keynote is still my favorite when it comes to preparing a visual for oral presentations.

Below is a video of me presenting my Keynote presentation on nonfiction author Jan Greenberg.   Please take note that the presentation itself is only a visual to the oral presentation.  I wanted the audience listening to what I had to say, rather than reading it off the screen.

Next, is the Prezi presentation on the same topic.

Edmodo Wrap-Up

As we finished our week of class using the Edmodo platform, I was feeling pretty good about this amazing social networking site for teachers and students!  I was impressed with the many features of Edmodo including the ability to give assignments and grade them on Edmodo, conduct polls, quickly communicate messages to students, and allow parents to have access too.  I enjoyed using this form of communication for our class.  That being said, I really struggled with one thing in Edmodo: too many posts were getting lost in the "pile-up".  This was happening with our relatvely small class of 16 students or so.  What would happen in a class of 26 with students who LOVE social networking sites?  I felt like I spent so much time reading posts, responding to them, and creating my own.  I'm not sure that I liked that feature.  However, I'm not quite sure how to fix that either.  Maybe the posts can be categorized into topics and only certain topics are viewable at one time?
I look forward to utilizing Edmodo in my 6th grade classroom this fall.  I also know that Edmodo is being used by some high school classrooms.  So, I may set-up a "class" for the high school library and experiment with that as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Edmodo Beginner

I am excited to announce that I am officially (as of yesterday) an Edmodo beginner!  I have joined a class and we are conducting class in the Edmodo social network's learning environment this week.  From my introduction readings, I learned quite a bit about what Edmodo is capable of doing for us.  I was pleased to see that parents can participate (in a limited capacity) as well.  I fell that parent involvement in a real bonus when using a networking site like this.  Social networking sites like Facebook often get a bad rap with parents because of not so positive ways that students conduct themselves while on these sites.

As we begin this week of class on Edmodo, I look forward to experimenting with the features myself and becoming immersed in the use of this technology.

Monday, June 27, 2011

My very first Voki!

I LOVE this!  What a neat tool!  I'm thinking it would be fun to use a Voki on my library page as a welcome message!  What about giving students directions for a task via my class webpage?  Or maybe students can research a location, use that as the background image, and then create a "tour guide" presentation describing what they learned!  This has so many possibilities.  I can't wait to play around with Voki more!

Web tools are so much fun!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Free Web 2.0

I would like to share three FREE web 2.0 resources that I discovered on the internet.  These have great applications for learning in classrooms and libraries.
Blabberize is a free web 2.0 tool that allows you to create your won talking picture, basically a moving mouth on a astill image.  I have used this with students for biography projects.  After students researched a histrical person, they gave their presentation in the form of a "blabber".
Customizable Graphic Organizers is a site with 38 graphic organizers that can be easily edited to meet the needs of your classroom/lesson.
Big Huge Labs gives you the web 2.0 tools you need to do fun stuff with you digital photos.  Some options include creating motivational posters, calendars, movie posters, etc.  These tool can have countless applications to the classroom.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Learning From My Colleagues

This week I had the opportunity to view presentations from peers about topics related to technology use in the school library.  I would like to highlight a few things that I learned about.
Storybird allows users to create a digital storybook.  I enjoyed viewing Kathryn Koller's Storybird creation on how to use this resource in your library or classroom.  I can see this being a very motivating form of writing for students.  I am looking forward to setting up a class and using this with my 6th graders during writer's workshop.  I think that they will love it!
Shelfari is a virtual bookshelf that allows users to rate books, write reviews, create book groups, and have discussions with other Shelfari users.  I learned a lot by viewing Katherine Block's presentation.  This gave me an overview of the features that Shelfari has to offer.  This would be a great tool to place on your library webpage.  I think that it would also be fun to use with older readers (gr. 6-12).  Students would appreciate the social networking features the site offers.  I look forward to testing this out with middle school students next year.
PhotoStory3 is a Microsoft program that provides a simple interface for students to use digital storytelling.  Dyann Vilez did a great job sharing the features of this program in her presentation. I was disappointed to find that it is not available for Mac.  So, I did some additional research to see what else is available.  Tech4Teachers suggested using iMovie, which is what I would have suggested as well.  I also wonder if iPhoto would be a good option?
Diigo is a Web 2.0 tool I have heard a lot about, but haven't really explored on my own.  After watching Kelly Nelsen's video, I will trying this out myself!  I was amazed to see all the ways that Diigo can help me make sense out of my hundreds of bookmarked websites!  Thank you so much Kelly!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Video: Using WikiSpaces for Book Discussion

Here is a video I created to demonstrate how we use WikiSpaces to facilitate student discussion of the Iowa Teen Award books.  This is a collaborative effort between myself (the teacher librarian) and our middle school literature teacher.

It was supposed to be simple.....

First attempt to record: My daughter says, "I have to go potty."
Second attempt: The garbage truck drives by (very loud) and disrupts my audio
Third attempt: Oops, I forgot to set the Keynote presentation back to slide one.
Fourth attempt: The telephone rings about halfway through my recording.  My husband.  I got mad at him because he was "supposed to know" I was recording!

This is just not my day.  I finally got a recording that I was proud of on the FIFTH attempt.  Great!  The rest will be no problem!  Upload, get link, share.

Not quite.....
My Focus on Presentation was supposed to be simple.  I was to share a technology tool that I use in my library with my peers.  That's not too difficult, right?  Well, it shouldn't have been.  I was an expert on my topic, WikiSpaces, and I have recorded many videos in the past few years.  This time I wanted to try something different.  I wanted to use Jing to record my presentation.  I have heard so many good things about Jing, I wanted to give it a try for myself.  Capturing the video was simple and the product was good quality.  I was happy with it.  The problem set in when I attempted to upload to Screencast.  I kept getting an error message.  It would not work.  I contacted their customer service and got a response back a few hours later.  The technician directed me to several articles on their "help" page, all of which I had read PRIOR to contacting them.  I was disappointed.

So, I saved the movie to my desktop and tried to upload to YouTube.  That didn't work either because YouTube does not recognize .swf video files.  Bummer.  Third times a charm...right?

My third idea had to work!  I would just use one of the many free online video converters to turn my .swf video into a .mpeg.  No problem.  After downloading 5 different converters, I was still no further ahead.  It just wasn't my day.  I should also mention that I was now almost 3 1/2 hours into the process.

I was frustrated and mad.  I finally decided to go back to a resource I have used many times, Screencast-O-Matic.  I recorded my presentation again, clicked the "Upload to YouTube" button, and 20 minutes later it was loaded!  Wow!  30 minutes, start to finish!  That's all it took??

I wasn't sure if I should be jumping for joy that it worked so smoothly, or really upset that I wasted so much time trying to get Jing to work!

Thank you for listening to me vent,

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Automation Systems: Week 1

As week one draws to a close, I reflect on what I have learned and all the new questions that I now have.  I have researched many library automation systems and discovered that there are many to choose from!  I was very surprised to discover that the more popular systems in Iowa libraries were not even mentioned in the main reading selection for the week.  I will continue to look into automation systems because my school district will be updating next spring.  We had tentatively decided to upgrade to Alexandria's newest version, mainly because of the price quote we received from them was the cheapest.  However, the discussion is still on the table and we have not locked into anything yet.  This issue is important to me and I want to make sure that I make the right one.
I look forward to the technology aspects of this class.  I love to use technology and try to integrate it into my 6th grade classroom whenever possible.  I can't wait to learn from my peers and add to my tool chest of Web 2.0 resources.  There are so many great resources out there and it is constantly changing!  I guess that makes our job that much more interesting.
My goal for this week is to find other educational/ library blogs to follow.  I want to expand my PLN through reading other blogs on topics of interests.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

First Entry

I'm looking forward to learning about blogger throughout this course.  This is my first blogging experience.  I have thought about using a blog with my sixth grade students this fall.  I'm considering it as a tool to replace their "writer's workshop" notebooks.  Hopefully this will give me a good feel for how it works, so that I can make an informed decision before school begins again in the fall.  This should be fun!
Let the journey begin.....