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.