Saturday, January 23, 2016

Building a Makerspace in the Library

I have always planned makerspace activities during the library's annual celebrations of Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week. We have crafted bracelets, woven paper bookmarks, constructed duct tape wallets, and have created many interesting paper crafts. When I began planning these type of activities many years ago, I had no clue that there was a specific name for it: makerspace. 

Cart for the Mini-Makerspace

Over the last year or two, I have been trying to find grants and other monetary sources to fund a mini-makerspace in the library. I wanted to continue with the crafting activities, but I also wanted to get some of the electronic and building materials that can be a part of a makerspace. A Donor's Choose grant brought a Lego station to the library. Unfortunately, I did not win the grants that would have brought a 3D printer, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi to the library. I was devastated. All of that equipment is expensive, and though I had library money that could fund supplies for craft activities, I did not have a source of funding for the big ticket items. 


Then I was approached by one of our parents. She was writing a huge grant to outfit the Fab Lab that had lain fallow since the school moved into our new building in 2013. For the lab she was going to budget several 3D printers, a laser cutter, big format printer, vinyl cutters, Makey Makeys, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, and plenty of the consumable items that are used with the equipment. Her idea was that the library should also have some equipment so that the students who were not scheduled for classes that would be using the Fab Lab would have opportunities to build, create, and tinker. The school won the $200,000 grant from the Patick F. Taylor Foundation. (The name might sound familiar because the foundation's name is the same as our school.) The budget included $10,000 worth of equipment for the library--equipment that I could select. 

Playing with the Sphero for the first time

Whoo-hoo! My funding issues were solved. Then I had another dilemma---deciding what to purchase for the library. I did create a budget for the grant, but I was assured that if I wanted to make changes, I could. Since I really didn't know what equipment would be the most appealing to the students, I ordered only a few items to start. We got one 3D pen (the kids love it), a deluxe set of Little Bits (also a winner, a teacher had ordered a set of Little Bits with a ton of accessories and Arduinos last year which she never used, they are now in the library), two different sets of Lego Wedo (students use Scratch to program the Wedo creations), and a Sphero (there are so many apps to use with this robot). I also purchased a bunch of books for the collection that the students can use for inspiration. Five mini iPads are in the building for the library but are waiting to be given access to the school network before the students use. There is a 3D printer in the Fab Lab that belongs in the library, but it won't be moved until we get the computer that will be dedicated to design. This is where we are starting.

Sampling of books that were purchased 

Making a butterfly with the 3D pen

At this point, I think that we need to purchase two more 3D pens, some different sets of the Lego WeDo, mini figures for the Legos, another Sphero, and maybe more kits for the Little Bits. I am also thinking of creating a Lego wall because I think the kids would have a lot of fun with it.. I just found Cubelets online, but I need to do some research to see if my students will find them challenging enough as they were designed for a younger user.. 


I guess without an influx of ready funds this project may be difficult to replicate, but  I believe that you can always start very small and add as money allows. Choose somewhere to begin because it will never happen if you don't get a project going.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Using Technology to Engage Readers

Link is here
Last month I was asked to write a blog post for the Learn2Earn blog. They have lots of great articles about ed tech and reading for K-12 teachers. I was asked to write something for the reading section. That is right up my alley, so I took some of the websites that I shared recently during a conference presentation and wrote about how to use these sites in a classroom or library for the blog. 

Read the blog post on Learn2Earn here: "7 Fun (And Effective!) Reading Websites That Engage Students."

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy 2016!

I couldn't let the new year begin without posting here. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! The last two weeks off have helped to get my mind off of school. Getting a respite from the flurry of activity at school mid-year will certainly help propel me through the beginning of a new semester. I hope that others felt the same. 


I had a chance to read three books during the break. I was hoping to get in a fourth, but the book that I had to read and review for School Library Journal slowed me down.That always seems to happen when I pick up a book that doesn't move me. It takes longer to read because I have to psych myself up to opening the book and finishing it. It took a week, but I did finish it and submitted the review today. When I get to self select, I don't finish a book that I don't like. I fell in love with Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. It was not what I expected. I never saw the twist at the end coming my way. The idea of this teenager who is sealed in her home due to illness but who is so brilliant and curious about the world was an intriguing plot line. No, I don't think that the story was rooted in reality, but it made for a really good story. It certainly gave hope at the end for new beginnings. The other book that I read and really liked was Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. I am a big fan of her work, and this one did not disappoint. I was surprised by some of the negative reviews that I found on Good Reads. This work is also not rooted in reality. Lane is diagnosed with a drug resistant form of tuberculosis and is sent to a facility with a 150 other teens with the same disease. He finds that his plan to continue his goal of finishing his rigorous senior year on his own and to apply to Stanford is unrealistic. I like that he had to give into his bodily needs and try to heal. I also liked the discussions between the characters of what does living really mean.This book also ended with hope for new beginnings. I didn't realize that when I picked up both of these books to read that they were so similar. Tomorrow, I am excited to start a new audio book on my commute to work. I am going to finish the last book in the Lunar Chronicles series and listen to Winter by Marissa Meyer. My kids who have read it have loved the ending, and I hope that I will, too. I have not read any of the companion books in the series, and I may not. 

I have lots of plans in my head for the library in the new year. I am, always plotting for new ways to encourage kids to read more. It is a struggle sometimes, but anything that I can do to push free reading may make a difference in the lives of my students. The library has received money to build a mini-makerspace. I need to start ordering the items that will be purchased. I also have money to spend on new books.  I am ready to discover new and exciting ways to make the library a central part of my students' lives. I just don't know how that will look until it happens. 

Here's to 2016 and may it turn out to be one of the best! I like the idea of new beginnings, too. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Holidays from BRiMS and Bookmarked

I run two book groups at Patrick Taylor. My high school book group, Bookmarked, was created in the fall of 2007 which was my second year as librarian at the school. The students really wanted a library club, but the square footage of the library was so small that I could not imagine how any students could do any actual library work. Instead I created a book discussion group. Not only did we meet to talk books, but I tapped these students to help me with fundraisers and special programming like Teen Read Week. Helping me with these special activities seemed to appease the members. I waited until February of 2009 to institute a book discussion group for my middle school students called BRiMS, or Books Rule in Middle School. Both of the groups meet during lunch, and this year, the school added a third lunch. Now BRiMS is made up of only 6th and 7th graders. Bookmarked has 8th-12th grade students. This has actually worked well because in 2014 and 2015, Bookmarked lost a lot of members who graduated. We needed to recruit new members, and the many 8th graders who are into books have blended just fine into the club. 

I try to do some special activities with both groups that revolve around reading but might be a little outside of the box. When BRiMS met for their last meeting of the year, we wanted to create a video that celebrated the new year. 

This is what we came up with:

BRiMS wishes you Seasons Readings 2015 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Not to be outdone, members of Bookmarked, decided to create a holiday video, too:

Bookmarked wishes you Happy Holidays 2015 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

In October, I got an email from the author, Chris Grabenstein. He was asking for kids to send him short video clips to be included in the book trailer for his newest book, Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics. BRiMS filmed their run outside, and we sent it to the author. It seems that we did not make the final cut. Grabenstein did, however, make a slightly longer trailer with the out takes. It is still less than two minutes. BRiMS can be seen in blue shirts running in front of a bunch of trees.

I do wish everyone a loving, peaceful, and happy new year. I can't wait to see what 2016 brings to us in all things book related. Who knows, the next Harry Potter could be on its way to  the publishers right now. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sharing Resources for a Conference Presentation

When I go to a conference, I hate when someone hands me a sheet of paper with a list of links. What do I do with that paper? Usually, during the presentation, I will mark the sites on the paper that might be useful to me, my teachers, or my students. Then I have to bring the sheet of paper back home or to school and sit and type out all the URLs so that I can see if the sites really do interest me as something that I want to save. If I like what I see, then I save them in Diigo  and add lots of tags to each site so that I can find them again  at a later date. This is time consuming, and I have found that it may take me months to find the time to sit and go through all the websites. What a waste of time for me. I appreciate when you walk in to a conference session and are handed a paper or card with a link or QR code that points you to a website with all the resources that the presenter will discuss during their talk. I can open the resource site on my iPad during the session and decide their and then what sites are worth saving. I also know that I can go back to the link that the presenter shared with the audience. I save the presenter's resource list in my Diigo, and it is easy to go back and view and review at any time.

I have used Wikispaces many times to post my contact info and all the electronic resources that I share during a presentation. It is easy to create a wiki, but I never really use it fully. Though it is easy to make, it takes some time to flesh out and add the text.

Wiki I created in 2012
I have also used Slideshare successfully as a tool to house all the links for a presentation. By using Slideshare, attendees will get my presentation slides along with my links to resources. The downside to Slideshare is that you cannot add any links until the fourth slide.

This past October, I presented at a state conference for school librarians. I decided to submit the same presentation for our state conference for computer using educators called LACUE which is an affiliate of ISTE. On Tuesday, I will again be presenting: "Where Reading and the Web Collide." I reviewed my PowerPoint presentation and added a couple of new slides because I was short about 5 minutes when I initially made this presentation. Most of the 51 slides in this PowerPoint are screenshots of the various websites that I selected that support or enhance reading for students grades K-12. Instead of using Wikispaces for links to these resources, I created a Symbaloo. It was a breeze to edit the Symbaloo and add the links for the additional resources that I put in my presentation yesterday. It was so much faster to build a Symbaloo than  a wiki. Symbaloo doesn't allow any text, so all I need to do is put in the URL. It does take some work to make it look pretty with pictures, but I can get that done fairly quickly now that I have built so many different Symbaloos.

Symbaloo for Where Reading and the Web Collide
One downside of using Symbaloo is that there is no place for me to insert my contact info. That is an important piece because I have been contacted after speaking at conferences numerous times. I decided that by creating a personal page using I could list all my contact info and social media connections that I want to share with those attending my talk. I could add the link to the Symbaloo just like I added all the other links. Creating that page and adding it to the Symbaloo solved a problem, and now I have a personal page that I can share in my email and in other presentations that I might make in the future.

My AboutMe Page

I just love technology. I like it for how it can teach problem solving and creativity. I like it because it means I can keep all learning in one place rather than have numerous paper files saved in a file cabinet that I will never open. By tagging all resources in Diigo, I can go back again and again to see what was shared with me at past conferences and conventions.

Let the learning begin! I am looking forward to finding new tidbits that I can incorporate into my school and library after attending LACUE next week,

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December Holiday Decorating in a Public School

Tree of Peace & Love
I work in southern Louisiana where many people working in public schools don't understand the separation of church and state. Thirty years ago I remember being horrified when the principal read a Christian prayer over the intercom right before the holidays. I didn't say anything because I was young and was not going to antagonize my principal, but I did not think that it was appropriate. Many of the public schools where I have worked have had Christmas trees gracing the halls. Those were usually decorated with ornaments created by the students. The halls of many of these schools had other Christmas style decorations, too.

I would compensate by bringing in a menorah for the library. I would also have dreidels available with instructions on how to play. The students loved playing the game even if they didn't win any chocolate.

The librarian in this library (not mine) found a way to make an inclusive holiday display 
Finally, I decided that having a few Chanukah symbols didn't really compensate, and I never brought anything in representing Kwanzaa. There are a significant number of Islamic children at my school now, and there is nothing comparable for them during the December holiday season that I know of.

Still, I like the idea of having some sort of decoration to mark the season since everyone celebrates the new year. A friend of mine brings a small artificial tree into her high school library. She provides various colors of chenille stems. She asks the students to decorate the tree with peace or love symbols. Okay, that would be a way to make the holiday season inclusive. For a couple of years, I have wanted to do something similar, but I didn't want to buy a tree, nor did I really have space for it in my library. 

This is how the process began

I had an idea light bulb go off when I created a make-shift bulletin board on a wall using post-it notes. I realized that I could use post-its for my holiday decorating. On the Friday before Thanksgiving, I put a sign in post-its on  a wall saying: A Tree of Peace & Love. The students would use Sharpie pens to design a peace or love symbol on one square of a green post-it note. With these designs, the students would build a paper tree. 

Students start adding their symbols

One of the eighth graders who practices Islam at home asked what I was making. I explained to her that it was a tree of peace and love for the holidays, and then I asked her if she thought that would offend anyone. She didn't answer me right away and after some thought finally said that she really liked the idea. She believes that so many Muslims get a bad rap because of ISIS and this would be a way to include everyone in the decorating. I was thrilled to hear that from her. 

I am excited to share my students' creations with you. As you can see, there is definitely a way to get creative even on a piece of paper that is only three inches by three inches.

The finished product
Happy Holidays (no matter what you celebrate) 
Season's Readings! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Finding Time to Manage the School Library

When I was in library school, I had to take a course called school library management. It was a very straight forward course in terms of what school library management actually meant. What they didn't teach us was how to juggle getting all the management tasks done in between teaching classes, fielding research questions, readers' advisory, running clubs, dealing with technology issues, helping with whatever problem walked through the door, etc. 

Download your own copy of this sign

I have a sign in front of the circulation desk that encourages all who enter to interrupt me. Yes, I really do mean for the students, teachers, administrators, staff, and parents who walk through the doors to talk to me and ask me for help or assistance. That is a big part of my job--to be a support to all members of the school community. Also, a part of my job is to deal with all library resources including print and electronic materials as well as hardware that gets checked in and out of the library. This means that often I am in the midst of trying to complete a task when someone approaches me at my desk. 

On Friday the 20th, I decided to concentrate on getting some of the library management tasks done before the holiday break which began on the 23rd. I was able to get the school set of 30 iPad Mini devices into the library circulation system. I had been planning to do that for weeks. Luckily, I had a student worker helping me on Friday because I gave him the job of renaming the iPads to reflect their barcode number. The renaming took seconds, but I also asked him to update the operating system which was a long and tedious proposition. He will have to finish that after the holidays. I have been working on a book order for several months. I have the money, but I always agonize over my list because money is in short supply. I worry that I might make some bad purchases or miss something important. I finally decided to go with the order that I had, and I have already started a new list so that I can order books in late February, too. I actually think that it is nice to have new books trickle in. That way students will visit the library often looking to see what is new on the shelves. I also like to wait until the ALA book award lists are out so that I can add those to my collection if I don't already have them. After I placed my order, I realized that School Library Journal just announced their top picks for the year. When I looked at the top tens for 2015, I saw that I had some of the titles in my collection, but I would need to add some to my next order. Finally, I wanted to work out the kinks with MackinVIA so that I can share it with my students. 

Find out more about MackinVIA
Sometimes, it is just impossible to get any project fully completed in the library. It is just me serving 550 students and a faculty of 35, though I have one student worker scheduled during 3rd period every day. Very rarely do I have parent volunteers. So it is no surprise that over a year ago I researched creating a MackinVIA account as a portal for all my library resources, but the account had never been opened. I finally did it, and you know--it really didn't take that long. MackinVIA is a free resource from Mackin that provides a portal to all the digital content that the library owns. I understood the process, but I didn't realize how easy it was to get it set up. I had to send in a list of all my library's databases with user names and passwords. I had that list for a sign that I post by the computers in the library. Getting that information took minutes. Then I needed to submit the MARC records for my eBooks of which I have close to 600. I thought that was going to be a difficult chore, but it wasn't. We use Follett's Destiny as our library management software. In Destiny I searched the catalog for all my electronic books, then I just added them to a new resources list. You can easily export the MARC records in a resource list. Mackin houses the links to your resources for free. Mackin migrates your resources to VIA for free the first time. The next time that you add resources, Mackin will charge a fee.The students have a user name and password that they use to access the portal and from there the students can open any of the databases without needing to input user names and passwords again for the various databases. 

The PFTSTA Library MackinVIA

I want to explain the impetus for finally creating the MackinVIA for my library. After the holidays, there is a scheduled librarian meeting for the district. At this meeting a rep from Follett is going to explain Universal Search. When I went to explore Universal Search, I got excited because I thought it could do exactly what MackinVIA does. In theory, you can add all your electronic resources to the search function and access all content right in Destiny. I was unable to do that, so my students can use the Universal Search, but the results will not include all the library's resources. Let me explain the issues. 

 This is a regular search conducted in Destiny
I like the fact that I can add my databases to Universal Search by myself. You open the Catalog tab and open the Search Setup listed on the left. From there, you open the Enriched Content Searches tab. Under this tab are listed all the possible databases that you can add to Universal Search. There are even some great free database sites to add. The biggest problem is that some of the databases that my library subscribes to are not listed. I have purchased Britannica Encyclopedia Academic Edition. It is not available. The district has purchased a set of databases from Gale. Some of the databases that we own are listed but not all of them. This means that my students cannot use Universal Search as a one stop shop. I called Follett to find out if those databases could be added. I was told that if the resources is not listed, then it cannot be added to Universal Search. That truly bummed me out. 
A Universal Search in Destiny

If I want a true one stop shop for all digital resources, the students have to use MackinVIA. Now it is ready to share with my students and the rest of the librarians in my district. We shall see if the students like the idea of the portal or if they continue to use the set up that we have had in place for years. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Channeling Hogwarts during Homecoming Week

I am not that big on wearing costumes. Okay, you need to understand that I am a New Orleans native, and I grew up wearing costumes for Mardi Gras. Half of the closet in my guest bedroom is devoted to costumes. I just am not interested anymore in getting into uncomfortable and unbecoming attire. For homecoming week this year, the students developed a theme of the day and wore clothes that fit the theme. Teachers were encouraged to join in the fun. I skipped all but Friday. On Friday, students were asked to select a favorite character from a book, movie, or tv show. As librarian, I felt that the gauntlet was thrown, and I needed to become a character from one of my favorite series for the day. 

I dug through my closet and found that Professor Trewlawney and I could work together. The outfit is one that is in my closet, not the costume closet, but it was the wig that made the whole ensemble work. I had round glasses to wear over my real ones that also helped make the transformation. I was pleased that so many students could guess who I was. Some knew that I was a professor from Hogwarts but wasn't sure of my name. Others knew immediately my name. That made for a very entertaining day. There were Hogwarts' students wandering the halls of PFTSTA on Friday, too. Find more pics from the day below.
Friends from the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw Houses at Hogwarts

Trying to get to class on time

Dueling with our wands in the library
Madam Pince was none to happy with us

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Book Fair is Coming!!

Some students and I worked together to create a short video promoting some of the books that we will have at next week's book fair. It was fun and very easy to put together. I made the pictures in PowerPoint, and then I downloaded them individually in a jpeg format. That way the pictures were easy to add to the video. I used Windows Live MovieMaker to piece together the pictures and the video clips. I was able to edit the clips within MovieMaker, too. I am happy with the four and a half minute outcome. I have asked the middle school study hall teachers to show the video on Friday.

In the video you will hear the students talk about A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen, This Side of Home by Renee Watson, and The Zodiac Legacy by Stan Lee. 

Book Fair 2015 Student Book Talks from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bookmarked and Geoff Herbach Share Some Laughs

On Monday, October 26th, the members of Bookmarked were treated to a skype visit with author Geoff Herbach. He, like Jen Calonita, is published by Sourcebooks. I took advantage of the publisher's offer of free skype visits for libraries and classrooms as long as you purchase some of the authors' books. I chose Geoff Herbach for the high school book group because we seem to have so many female authors at school. Though the group is made up of a majority of girls, I figured all of the students would enjoy talking to Geoff. I was right. 

He speaks without a filter, and the students loved his humor and willingness to address anything that they threw at him. Since he began the skype visit with a story about his son and puberty, one of the older girls asked him if he had difficulties during his own puberty. He told them that being a teenager was not easy for him. All agreed that it is not easy for anyone. 

Another student asked him what was up with two of his books: Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders and Gabe Johnson Takes Over. They seemed the same, but they weren't. It just so happened that his publisher made an executive decision. Because some librarians complained that students wouldn't want to be caught reading a book with a title that begins with fat boy, the publisher changed the title for the paperback edition. In very teeny tiny print on the Gabe Johnson edition, you can see that it says the book is also known by another name. Geoff has had readers who were angry because they bought both books when they thought the books were different. It seems that Geoff likes the original title best, and in this case, it was out of the author's hands. The students liked the original title best, too. 

It was a fast-paced thirty minutes filled with lots of laughter. You can't beat that in the library. I want to thank Geoff for sharing some of his time with us, and Sourcebooks for making it all possible. Visit the library website for more pictures and information about the day. 

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