Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ten News Sites to Find Paperless Current Events

Open here to read the blog post for Whooos Reading
Periodically, I will write a blog post for the Whooos Reading blog. They ask teachers across the US to contribute to their blog with information about edtech, libraries, and tools to support learning in the classroom. This blog post is all about finding current events and newspaper articles online. These are sites where you can send your students or you could select specific articles for them to read and all content areas could find use for these web tools. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

How a Build-Off Builds 21st Century Skills

Caught reading in the PFTSTA library
Lately, I seem to write more in this blog about makerspaces in the library over books and reading. Yet, reading is still a focus in my library. You can catch pictures of students reading in the PFTSTA library by visiting the library on Facebook or Instagram and please follow us, too, so you don't miss any of the action. Back to the makerspace--it is so engaging, and if it is the robots, Lego, and a 3D pen that draws the students into the library, then I am all for it.

The three teams early in the creative process
About a week and a half ago, some 7th grade boys came to me and said that they wanted to do a Build-Off. Never heard of it, I told them. They wanted to create teams and have each team build a structure and then have me and a couple of 6th graders serve as judges to determine a winner. Okay, I thought this was a great idea. I suggested that they come up with a set of guidelines for the structures and rubric for the judging. Three teams were formed with two students on each team. They would each build a catapult that was going to be judged on structure (did it hold together after firing), style (how did it look), and distance (which catapult sent the ammunition the farthest). These catapults were built using Lego. The students worked during their lunch period only and had a week for construction. Last Friday was the day set for the competition. On Thursday, one of the team's catapults fell apart. That team could not rebuild fast enough to make the competition on Friday. On Friday, we selected two 6th graders at random and set up the arena for the competition. One team had it on style, but the other team shot their ammunition further which got them the win.

The two catapults right before competition
What I thought students learned during the Build-Off are the 21st century skills that are so critical for these students' future success. First was collaboration. The team members had to work together as they were allowed only one entry into the competition. The team that did not compete had some collaboration issues which prevented them from rebuilding their broken catapult with speed. The second skill was critical thinking. I watched as one team added an archway that allowed their catapult to launch with more force, but every time they tested the catapult the arch would break apart. It took days, but they finally found a way to make it stay together. Problem solving was also needed to figure out how to make the arch stay in tact, but each team had many other problems to solve along the way before the actual competition. Work ethic is a skill that the teachers assess for all students in our school. For this competition, the students had to eat lunch quickly in the cafeteria so that they could have 30 minutes in the library to work. Every day for a week, they ran into the library grabbed the materials and were on their way. I love seeing this dedication to getting a project complete. I see them as future engineers and know that work ethic will be essential for them to succeed. Creativity is another 21st century skill that was utilized in this activity, and each of the three catapults had a different look which illustrated the creative minds of these students. 

I know that future ready skills is the new buzz word and that 21st century skills is a term that has become passé. However, with either term, the essential meaning is that educators are helping to train and teach students for careers and jobs that might not yet exist. It is our job to assure that students will be ready for whatever comes their way once they graduate and move on. In the library at lunch, even though the students might not be engaged in a formal lesson presented by a teacher, there can be many different kinds of learning happening every day. 

The boys who designed the Build-Off think the next step is to have 6th graders make something that they will judge. So far, the decision was for the new teams to design some form of transportation with wheels that will be judged on style, speed, and distance moved. No one has yet stepped up to join a team, but I don't doubt that it will happen. What makes this activity super cool to me is the fact that it was totally student instigated and student led, and the students were so totally engaged. Really my only purpose was to serve as a judge which really wasn't necessary because other students could have taken on that role.
They may have come in second, but they had a blast while competing

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Librarians Can Support the College Admissions Process

SLJ Teen Live August 10, 2016

Interface to navigate the online conference

On August 10th, I spoke on a panel during the annual SLJ Teen Live online conference sponsored by School Library Journal. In the past, the focus of this one day conference was on young adult literature, books and authors, but this year a number of sessions were included dealing with teen programming in school and public libraries. The session in which I participated was called College and Career for the Under-served

I spoke to the 250 attendees over the phone and manipulated my slides on the computer
The college application process has been an area that is near and dear to me. I have been developing quality resources for my seniors for many years. I believe that as librarian I can help support the counseling department at my school in a big way. My school is small with 600 students, and the class of 2017 has only 30 students. Our counselor must assist students with the college process, but she also has to service all the other students in the building, too. For the first time our school will have a part time counselor to work with the middle school students, but the full time counselor will nonetheless still have a full plate. 

Class of 2016 with principal Zapico and assistant principal Higgins
Patrick Taylor Academy is a college prep public school, and we pride ourselves on the fact that 100% of our graduates since the first graduating class in 2009 have entered a four year college or university after graduating. Many of these students are the first in their family to go to college. Also, many of these students cannot attend college unless they get hefty scholarships. 

Where do I come in? First, I can provide print material. There are many wonderful books out there with info about colleges, scholarships, and how to write great essays. I have some of those books in my library. My counselor has purchased new versions of those books for the library. However, there is a huge problem with these books. I can't get many of the students to check them out. Students don't want these print resources, so I have created electronic tools as a substitute for these print sources. The wonderful thing about these electronic sources is that they never go out of date like the books. 

Webpage on the library website

The library has a very robust website which I created in 2009. I am not sure when I added the section on Getting Ready for College, but it was a number of years ago. I have divided this page into several sections including: Louisiana specific sites, searching for the right college, college rankings, finding the best college fit for you, test prep, scholarship opportunities, college essays, and blogs about the college search process. The informational links that I list on this page are updated by the sponsoring organizations. This means students will always be getting information that is current. Sometimes, these websites will become inactive, and I do have to check periodically and delete those links. When I come across a new useful site from my counselor or on Twitter or Facebook, then I can add to the list. This page is a whole lot easier and cheaper to edit than books on the library shelves, and  I can share these resources with everyone in the senior class at the same time. 

Test Prep Livebinder
One tool that I use constantly when I create lessons for my students is Livebinders. I have also used this tool to create a resource to help students as they prepare for the ACT, SAT and AP exams. All the links that I share with my students are free. I know that there are some great resources out there for test prep that cost money, but those can be a hardship for my students. The wonderful thing about Livebinders is the fact that you can copy my binder with test prep here, and then edit it to fit the needs of the teens with whom you work. I share this binder with the students taking ACT prep and ask the counselor to share with our students also. 

Scholarship opportunities Livebinder

The other Livebinder that I have created is one with scholarship opportunities. At the outset, I would use the counselor's weekly newsletter to find scholarships to add to the binder. Eventually, the counselor would just CC me on any emails that she sent to the students about scholarships. I have divided this binder into several sections, but the main sections that students will find helpful are the ones for the national and local scholarships. When I first created this binder, I tried to add the deadlines to each scholarship. This turned out to be a major undertaking because I had to make those edits on every single scholarship each year. I finally decided to give an approximation of the deadlines because I found out that most scholarships close around the same time each year. So I can list that a scholarship deadline will be mid-March or early January and remind readers to check the website for the exact date. Scholarships come and go, and I do need to check this resource periodically to make sure all links are still good. This is a great resource to share with parents. As with the test prep binder, feel free to copy this one and edit to the needs for your library. 

Paris won a Gates Millennium Scholarship in 2014 and attends UNC at Chapel Hill
The other job about the college application process that I take very seriously is assistance with writing essays. During my tenure at Patrick Taylor, I have helped three students receive a Gates Millennium Scholarship. I take great pride in this because of the competitive nature of those grants. Sometimes there is time for me to work one on one with students writing their college or scholarship essays. When there is a time crunch for either me or the student, we have used Google docs to make the editing process work. I love using Google Docs that way because I can make comments, but I can also make suggested edits. Students certainly don't have to follow my suggestions, but if they choose to do so, they can. I find my students have a hard time writing about themselves. Sometimes they get too pompous and explain how they are going to save the world, sometimes they don't tell the story that explains how much they have accomplished. I can help them with this, and I am happy to do it. Over the last couple of years, the counselor has required students to get an adult reader on campus to review their essays before submission. I think this is a great idea. 

Last but not least, I can serve as a sounding board for the students. I am able to listen as they throw out their options and what they are thinking are the best choices for them. I can offer them encouragement and maybe give them some ideas that they had not yet thought about. 

Mark on the left is attending RIT 
A quick story to end this post: A member of the class of 2016 applied to a number of colleges because the counselor requires the students to apply out of state even for those reluctant to leave home. Mark was all set to attend the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a two and a half drive from his home. He visited campus bought his sweatshirt and wore it to school with pride. He was going to receive money from TOPS (Louisiana scholarship program) that would pay most of his costs for school. Then he receives and email from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. He had gotten in and was given a huge scholarship. He crunched the numbers and discovered that it was $9000 cheaper to attend RIT than ULL. Now the Louisiana legislature is set to cut TOPS funding which means he would have been responsible for even more of the cost if he had attended ULL. Mark and I talked a lot about the college process over the last year, and I hope that I had in a small way helped to get him out of state for school. 

On Friday, the counselor asked if I would talk to the class of 2017 during the Thursday enrichment hour on September 8th. She wants to attend a workshop that day. I am thrilled about the chance to talk to the seniors as a whole about all the resources that I have curated just for them. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First Full Week of School, Done

PFTSTA Library is often filled with readers at lunch
It never ceases to amaze me. One minute I am enjoying summer break, and the next thing you know I am immersed in a new school year. I realize now that there was more that I could have done over the summer to prepare for the new year. I had only a handful of books ready to order, so I have been frantically preparing a book order. As I began orientation, I noticed updates that needed to happen on the library website. Most of those are now complete, but I haven't visited every page and know that there are more to do. Students are clamoring to know when the clubs that I sponsor will begin. I made signs on Friday advertising the high school book group and the new this year 8th grade book group. In the past, the 8th grade was with the middle school students, and then last year, I added them to the high school group. We made changes to the school lunch schedule this year, so 8th grade will have their very own group. On Monday, I met with the high school students.I have a large number of freshman in the group, and I am hoping some of the upper class-men will rejoin. I have been trying to poll the returning 7th graders to see who wants to remain in the middle school group. The group is capped at 30, and I have to see how many spots we have for the new 6th graders. There are all the calendar dates that need to be added to the library Google calendar. I am still negotiating a couple of author skype dates that I am trying to schedule. Actually, it is good that I didn't firm up those dates before school started because of the changes in our daily schedule that I didn't know about.

Bookmarked for 2016-17
The 6th and 7th graders flock to the library before school and during lunch. At lunch, our makerspace materials are out for use. Students asked for them before school, but I don't think that 20 minutes is enough time to begin any projects and get the materials put away before 1st period. Last year, the library got funding from a grant for the school to build a mini-makerspace. I have more money to spend for this year. The students love the two Sphero robots, and I am going to add the new SPRK+ from Sphero and a couple of Ozobots. The Little Bits are also highly popular. I am going to see about adding more kits to what we already have. One of the gadgets that has been used by all ages from 6th to 12th grade is our 3D pen. We purchased three of them. Unfortunately, two of the pens got clogged and are impossible for me to fix. I know that the kids loved using them, but they are just too fragile. For the price, it is just not feasible for me to keep replacing them.

6th grader makes her first creation with a 3D pen
Orientation for 6th and 7th students is complete as well as for new 8th and 9th graders. We only have eight new 10th and 11th graders, and two of those are students who left and are returning to our school. Soon I will be starting lessons on our new tool for creating citations, Noodle Tools. I haven't spent much time learning the ins and outs of Noodle Tools, so I was thrilled when I got notice of the webinars that they will offer. I will attend one on Friday for newbies. I hope to be more confident after the webinar, and I can begin creating the instructional videos explaining how to use the tool.

Building with the Legos
For some reason, it seems that a big part of my job is putting out fires. Actually, I love problem solving, but when there is a class in the library, or several kids are asking for help at one time, or the phone starts to ring it can be hard to get any one task completed. I don't think that I would have it any other way.

Orientation for 7th graders

Saturday, August 13, 2016

To Open or Not to Open the Library, the First Day of School

Engrossed in a good book

School opened for students on August 11th, so I have now logged in two school days of the new year. On the first day, I began the day helping 6th graders all who are new to our school find their classrooms. At the change of each period, I was  in the hall helping to guide the students to where they should be. The district asked schools to post on social media using the hashtag #JPPSS1stday. I ran around the building taking a few pictures to post on Facebook and Twitter. Then when I had a few minutes, I worked on the library catalog and getting the library ready to open. Also, seniors, who are taking online classes, were scheduled in the library. Oh, I am the school's laminator queen, and I had piles of posters and papers to laminate for the new year. 

First book check out for 2016-17 school year
He is gearing up for the Fantastic Beasts movie by reading the book first
The district guidelines allow librarians to wait two weeks before opening the library to classes, though administration asks that librarians check out books as needed during that period. I like to have a soft opening the first few days letting in the regulars, and then try to schedule orientation for 6th and 7th graders as soon as I can. This year, it was raining during lunch the first two days of school. I got a call from the principal on the first day to explain that the students could not go outside and needed to have somewhere to go when they finished their lunch. She asked if I would open the library for all lunches. That meant I would have students walk in who have not gone through orientation and do not know my expectations when they visit the library. 

I love seeing students reading together
Let me say this, I am thrilled to be back at school. I really love the kids and love having them in the library. BUT, it has not been a great opening. My desktop computer is not working. This is the computer hooked up to the scanner for me to check in and check out books. Though I can scan books by checking them out on one of the iPads, the wireless didn't seem to be working. So that was not an option.  I can also use my laptop, but if I have to type in the barcode numbers, it is too easy to make a mistake. We added 100 students to last year's enrollment. There really were not quite enough tables and chairs in the building for the classrooms last year, but we managed. As teachers received their class rosters this year, they were clamoring for more tables and chairs for their classrooms. That left the library with two tables and about 15 chairs. The district claims that they have purchased enough tables and chairs for the school when the building opened three years ago. That just isn't true. How am I going to teach classes in the library without furniture? There is not enough seating for the students when they visit at lunch. With technology not working correctly and no furniture, I am not a happy librarian. On top of that, the school server wasn't working on Friday. When I logged off my laptop at the end of the day. I thought that I would be able to open my orientation powerpoint at home. I just tried, and I can't get to any of my documents. My back up external hard drives won't open the document either. 

Do I sound like I am whining? I hope not. 

Using good time management and getting homework done during lunch

Back to my original focus of this post--when should the library open for the school year. I just can't see waiting two weeks before having students visit. The students are already in Destiny, so the library management program is really ready for check outs when school opens except for setting the calendar, which I fixed for the new year on Friday. The sooner that I hold orientation means the students are prepared for using the library. Teachers aren't ready for library collaboration during the first few weeks of school which gives me a bit of time to get some of the library management tasks completed. The teachers are waiting for the laptops to be given out to the students before working with me because so much of what I do with the students involves technology. 

Another student who found a good read on the first day of school 

Anyway, despite all my difficulties, the library did open the first day. I have orientation scheduled to begin next week and a visit for pre-testing with senior project students. The library is part of the school's academic program, and if the teachers have started teaching then I need to make the library and its resources available for anyone who needs them. I may grump, but the library doors are always open. 

These 7th graders were happy to get the new Sphero working for our makerspace

All the opening issues aside, I am looking forward to a good year. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Gearing up for my 36th Year of Teaching, 26th in a Library

There are only a few hours left of summer break for 2016. I start back to work on Monday, and our students will start on Thursday. Am I ready to go back? Yes and no. This has been a wonderful summer of rest and relaxation. I did not attend any conferences this summer nor did I spend hours making preparations for the new year. However, when I do reflect on the summer, I realize that my mind was never very far from the library. 

I read. I am always reading something and though I don't like reading two print books at one time, I usually have one print book going and one audio book. I review books for both School Library Journal and School Library Connection. This means that I don't always get to choose what I read, but I didn't review much this summer, though I have 5 books by my bed to review right now. I am on the committee for the state library that selects the books for Louisiana Teen Readers' Choice (LTRC). At the beginning of the summer, we narrowed our list down to 40 books for the 2018 program. I have been trying to read from that list before our next meeting in a week. Unfortunately, I can't share those titles with you because they are still on the consideration list for LTRC. Of course, I had to read the new Harry Potter as soon as it came out, and you can read my review here. 

Register here for this event
At the end of the school year, I was asked to be on a panel for the SLJ Teen Live conference. It is next week on August 10th. I am speaking at 1PM CDT on the College and Career panel. I was thrilled to be asked. When I agreed to speak, I knew my focus, but I did not know what I wanted on my slides. That took quite a bit of preparation which of course was done over summer break. I am eager to share what I do in my library for the seniors.   

This is how I am listed on the speaker page for SLJ Teen Live

I have been watching how Facebook (FB) has been evolving as a very useful professional tool. All summer long, I have been reading my feed and learning new things to use in my library. I follow several authors, probably should do more and many publishers. I am also a member of several librarian groups where I have posted questions and responded to others' questions that have given me some great ideas for my library. Some of the groups I like include ALA Think Tank, The School Librarians Workshop, and Fellowship of High School Librarians. We also have a closed group for the librarians in my school district so that we have a place to vent but also share information. There are also communities on FB centered around educational technology. I am part of a Breakout EDU group that is a fabulous place to get more information about this program. So much sharing going on with this Facebook page to help teachers, it is amazing. I just joined a FB page for users of Symbaloo. I use Symbaloo with my teachers and students and really can't live without it anymore. I am so glad that the FB page was created because I know that I have more to learn about using this tool with students. 

I also gave myself time to re-energize. I took two trips, visited with many friends, purged stuff from the back of my closets, and walked everyday. I think having time away from school and work is important. During the school year, it is hard for me to unplug. I made myself do it this summer, and I am glad that I did. I am ready to go back, and I can't wait to hear what my students have to say about the book that Rowling did not write.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

On Vacation and Looking for Libraries 2016

Enjoying my favorite garden by the marsh in Kennebunk, ME
I grew up in New Orleans, where I live now, and my parents have always lived here, too, Until after Hurricane Katrina flooded my father's house in 2005, and he and his wife moved up to Kennebunk, ME to live permanently. We have visited the area many times over the years, and last summer we toured around Vermont before landing in Kennebunk at the end of vacation. This year we decided to head north of Portland in Maine to visit Camden, Rockland, and Acadia National Park which we had never seen before heading to Kennebunk. 

Sand Beach in Acadia National Park
The coast of Maine is beautiful with its rocks, water, and quaint towns. New England has an ambiance that is so different from New Orleans. It helps that the temperatures during the day were in the 70's while it was blistering hot at home. Though New Orleans is home to wonderful food, we are quite fond of the lobster, clams, and scallops that are so plentiful in Maine. 

Lobster roll from Beals in Southwest Harbor
Last year, when we were in Vermont, I was so impressed to find public libraries in all the little towns that we drove through. I got a few pictures, but I did not capture every single one that we saw. This year, I decided to stop and capture the image of all the libraries that I found. Even though these libraries may offer limited hours, the towns do support them. We all know the importance of libraries in every community. Below are pictures of all the libraries that I found this trip. 

Cape Porpoise, ME (library is written between windows)

Somesville, ME (most picturesque spot of a library ever)

Bar Harbor, ME

Southwest Harbor, ME

Back side of library in Southwest Harbor, ME

Camden, ME (old section, entrance to modern section is right around the corner)
The other thing that I make sure to do on vacation is read. I wanted to take print books with me, so I picked the two thickest ones in my pile that I brought home from school. That way I would only need to take two books with me. We did have plenty of time to read this trip and these  books did not diappoint.

First I read Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes. I really wasn't ready to immerse myself in another fantasy series, but it had such good reviews that I decided to give it a try. It made for a great vacation read. I liked the story as told from the two different points of view. I also liked the fact that it seemed to take place long ago, but they had access to technologies that we only dream of. This seems to be a new trend, as I just finished Nimona where the characters live in a kingdom of long ago with quite advanced technology at their disposal. I know that the sequel to Tahir's book is out next month, and I can't wait to read it. My second book of the trip was the number two book in a duet. I didn't feel that I had to read Andrew Smith's sequel to Winger because I think that the book stands on its own. However, I love everything that Smith writes, and I wanted to see what he could do with the characters. I didn't think that Stand off  was as good as the first one, but I certainly enjoyed revisiting old friends. It get me engrossed and helped pass the time as our airplane sat on the tarmac for 60 minutes waiting for catering for an hour's flight. 

I love getting a chance to travel somewhere new and feel for even a brief time that I am part of this place. Now that July 4th has come and gone, I need to start thinking about the school year to come and my plans for making it another great year for the PFTSTA library.

Maybe something new for the library is right behind this door
(found on Lord's Point in Kennebunk)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I Feel Like I am Late to the Party

Kahoot was used as practice for the upcoming English III standardized test

Students were highly engaged in Kahoot

I consider myself on top of things when it comes to technology and education.Though there are many tools and tricks that I choose not to use, I try to be aware of what is new and hold it on the back burner to share with teachers in my building or eventually use it myself. Like Kahoot, I had heard about it and knew teachers that used it, but I thought that I didn't need it. Then we got a set of iPads that I could use with students in the library, and I thought that I would ditch the Activotes that came with the Promothean Board and try Kahoot. I am so glad I did because it has become a new favorite tool. I love the way that it ranks the students' answers on speed and accuracy and that the leaderboard can change from question to question so that the competition aspect of Kahoot completely engages even the most reluctant of students. 

Then there is BreakoutEDU. I first heard the word many months ago, but I had no clue what it was and didn't know if it was something that could be useful in the library. My finger must have dropped from the pulse of edtech because I truly did not understand that it could be used to teach the 21st century skills of critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, and work ethic. On top of that, you can use it for any content area and students of all ages from elementary through high school. That makes it a very cool tool. During the Louisiana Library Association conference in March, I attended a session that was presented by one of my favorite people, Susan Gauthier, the library director of East Baton Rouge Parish schools. It was a session on BreakoutEDU. I still didn't know what I was getting into, but if Susan was sharing it, then I knew that I needed to learn its capabilities. She designed the Breakout to demonstrate how to use the high schools' online resources available in her district. This was the perfect scenario to share with other librarians.

figuring out the 3D maze
During her session, I saw how everyone in the room was engaged. I also saw how teamwork was needed if the box was going to be unlocked. When I returned to school after the conference, I immediately researched how to obtain my own box. Unfortunately, spring break happened, and the PO that we sent in to purchase the box just sat for a few weeks. Finally, my box arrived just as I began the two weeks of administering AP exams. this meant that I had little time to plan a Breakout. Last week, during the final full week of school, I was able to schedule with a 6th grade math teacher my first BreakoutEDU game. I chose The Lake House because inequalities was the theme of the game and was taught to the 6th graders. It was a blast, but I learned some things to make my next sessions run more smoothly.

trying to open the directional lock
I played the game with two classes of about 30 students each. I used all the clues that were provided online, but I did add another lock box. There were four locks on the box, two locked boxes, three math problems on paper, one problem on line, and the clue for the extra box. I also threw in a red herring which I told the students could happen. I did think that it is possible to have the whole class working on the clues for one box. I would say at any given time 80 to 90 percent of the students were engaged, but there was not enough for everyone to do for the full 45 minutes. I plan to order another box, so that I can run two games at one time with 15 to 17 students each working on the game. That way it can be a competition of which team can unlock the box first. Also, I learned very quickly to remove the clues that had already been used. Students would just leave the clues on the tables and walk away whether they had solved them or not. This made it confusing for the others who would come behind them to know if the clue had been solved. I just gathered the items and put them in a bin. This worked well if I had another group coming to play a game because everything would be in one place ready to be used again. I also laminated all the paper clues so that the students could use dry erase markers to solve the problems. I even made sheets of scratch paper and put out pencils. Also, if I am going to do a math related game, I better make sure that the math equations are solvable. The teacher who created Lake House used 6 inequality problems for the directional lock. The answers offered four directions, but my students only had experience solving problems on the x axis. They did not understand how to plot their answers on the y axis. Both groups needed lots of guidance with these problems. The teacher of the class left the planning to me, but I should have checked with her first whether the students could actually solve the problems accurately. Students have to be discouraged from just trying to open the locks by guessing or looking for a pick. Also, students need to be encouraged not to give up. They would start the process of computing the answers and would quit without finishing. Needless to say, neither group made it out of the box in 45 minutes, and we did not have any time for debriefing. That is something that I would change immediately, and I believe is a very important part of the game.

success at opening a lock
School ends on May 25th, but my next Breakout is going to be for the day that I am subbing in our school''s Tinker Lab Camp. I thought that it would be a fun and different activity from the 3D printing, vinyl cutting and laser cutting that they are going to do during the rest of the week at camp. I look forward to trying it again with a game that has clues that I know will work.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Find our Finch on the Finch Robot Website

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted and asked if Bird Brain Technologies could use a picture that I took of my students' Finch robot running through a maze. The company were building a new website and wanted the picture for that site. I was flattered. My school has purchased two Finches, but I won a grant from Bird Brain Tech for the loan of twenty finches for three months. With this grant, I am able to keep one of the Finches for the library. 

Dueling Finches
The Finches are a robot with a very, very, very long cable that connects via USB to a computer. The students can use various coding languages to make the Finch do what they want. My students used Snap from UC Berkeley. You can see our Finch in action on their website here

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ahhhh, the End of the School Year is in Sight

We only have a week and a half left of the school year. How did this year fly by? This end marks my 35th year in the teaching profession and 25th as a school librarian. Really, how did that happen? Many, many moons ago when my confidence was way lower, I had not a clue if I could make it one more day much less all these years. The people who I have met, all that I have learned and all that I have given to my students over these many, many years, I would not trade with anyone. I am proud to call myself a teacher and a librarian and feel lucky to have a job that I love so much. 

Every year when April draws to a close, I find myself in stress mode with difficulty seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It is not the library that does it to me, but some of the extra hats that I wear at my school. My school only has 550 students, and unfortunately, I am needed to do some jobs that don't usually fall under the librarian's umbrella. For one, I am the school's AP coordinator. For most of the year, there is little to do. I don't mind. In March, we send out the registration forms for students to complete who plan to take one of the exams. This is an ordeal as students have to decide if they feel prepared to take the exam and can they get credit from their college for the exam. Many colleges and universities want to give their students a placement exam that they create like our state's flagship university does. Then I have to figure out how to schedule proctors for the exams, then administering each exam, and keeping all the exam material safely under lock and key and in good order. On Friday afternoon, I hit the UPS store with our completed AP tests on my way home. Boy, did that feel good.

The 39 graduates with the principal and assistant principal
Then there is graduation. That is my baby. I have been at my school since 2006, and we graduated our first class in 2009. No one stepped up to handle graduation, so I volunteered. That was a no brainer because the classroom teachers were dealing with the end of the year exams and grades. Taking over graduation was something that I could do easily. In 2009, we only had about 300 students in grades 6 through 12, and the library was a lot smaller with a lot less materials to oversee. I also coordinate the senior award night which includes writing the script for the event and making the program. I help the Val and the Sal edit their speeches. I write the script for the graduation ceremony. I make sure all the graduates are in place and ready to roll on the day of the ceremony. The strict timeline and the fact that the students don't always want to cooperate because the end is so near makes all these tasks an ordeal. 

We held our graduation this past Saturday.  As always, it was bittersweet. I am so proud of how the students grew from the naive 6th graders who entered our school seven years ago to the grown ladies and gentleman that they have have grown up to be. There are usually several students who I will miss a wee bit more than the others. That is who I want to talk about today. 

Mark is on the left and Cameron is on the right
These two boys entered Patrick Taylor as 6th graders. The last seven years have been hard work for them. They were not at the top of the class, they were not big readers so not really library kids, and they were not always friends. You can see that they are wearing the gold honor stole that show that they graduated with academic honors. One is going to school in New York, and the other will remain in town for school. Today, I heard Cameron bemoaning the fact that Mark will not be around for him to hang out with. When I mentioned that he could visit us at school, I was told that is not the same at all. I certainly understand that.

Both of these boys are extremely tech savvy. They were not afraid to try a new tool or new technology and would focus on it until they had mastered its workings. This was extremely helpful for me because I would just hand them something and ask them to figure it out and then have them explain it to me. Mark made it his mission to get the televisions around campus working with the program provided by the school board, and he researched diligently to find a tool that would allow us to manage the content on the TVs. His help with this will certainly be long lasting for the school. I often relied on his abilities for problem solving when the system went down. Both of these boys spent many hours in the school's new fabrication lab learning how to use the 3D printers, laser cutter, vinyl cutters, and the other tools. They assisted the teachers who used the lab with their classes, and their help has been immeasurable. I also enjoyed just chatting with both of them. I learned lots about technology and what was popular and what wasn't from them.

Though I will miss them terribly. I feel that they are prepared to begin making their own mark on the world that has nothing to do with Patrick Taylor Academy. That is why it so easy for me to get up every morning at 5:20AM and go to school everyday. Luckily, I have a two and a half months to recharge  before starting it all again. 
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