Sunday, December 30, 2012

Great Example of 21st Century Learning Part 2

This all began a couple of weeks before the holidays, but I have not had time to get it written down. It is such a wonderful example of 21st century learning that I wanted to share. A number of teachers have talked about asking students to create infographics to illustrate data. I was even helping 6th grade math students find websites to help them create graphs for an infographic project. The teacher just hadn't decided yet what the theme of the infographic would be, so curating sites on Sqworl was as far as they had gotten. 

In the meantime, a class of juniors and seniors taking AP Environmental Science were using the start-up to create infographics illustrating various environmental land-use issues such as flooding, national parks, etc which they had previously researched. I heard that the students were not happy with the online software, so I visited the class to tweet out the students’ issues to the makers of Infogram. I was surprised at the speed within which I got a response; it was within the hour. There were many tweets that went back and forth between us as I explained the issues that the students were having. However, in the end, the science teacher and students decided next time they would try a different program. Below is a picture showing the beginning of the storify that I created to document this discusssion, you can open to read the whole Twitter conversation.
Click here to open the storify that I created
The next week, a sixth grade class was learning how to create infographics. The students were using survey information from all the sixth graders for their infographic, like which is your favorite ice cream flavor. The teacher asked them to use or Most of the students chose and loved it. Since the previous interaction with had been negative, I decided to tweet out the positive comments of the younger students to the makers of the software. I began by posting a picture of the students in action using the software. You can see it below. 

Infogram was so pleased to hear from us that they shared the pic around the office. The company's home is in Latvia, so I think that they are 8 hours ahead of us. Anyway, this time the Twitter conversation was very positive because the sixth graders really liked the software. The simplicity of it made it easy for them to use. From this interaction on Twitter, the teacher, librarian and founder of decided to schedule a skype session so the students could explain what they liked and what they thought needed improvement in the program. Before the skype began, the 6th grade teacher created a Google doc so the students and all the teachers could collaborate across the grade levels and share their thoughts with Inofgram. The librarian shared this doc with the founder of, Uldis. The teachers invited several older students from the environmental science class to join this skype session so they could express their concerns. It took a lot of communication between the teachers and librarian for this scenario to happen at all.

Here are some pics of the skype session that was held in Mrs. Maher's room on December 4th:

We learned from talking to Uldis that Infogram was conceived during the summer of 2011 and launched in February 2012. It is really young! Infogram  was created for journalists to use, so the program needed to be simple with a fast learning curve so infographics could be made quickly in the field. There are three people on the team in Latvia including Uldis. He is a graphic designer by profession and there is another designer and a programmer on staff. He said that he knew that templates were necessary for the software to work. So the designers could make it look pretty, and the programmer could make it work. It is now being used in education and science and the news industry. One of the senior boys involved said when the skype session was over that, “this has been the coolest day at Taylor.

21st century skills at work here:

Oral and Written Communication: Between teachers, librarian, students in multiple grade levels and the founder of
Collaboration: Between teachers and librarian
Critical Thinking: Students had to assess what worked and didn't work with
Creativity: All the students created an infographic
Technology:, Skype, Google Docs, Excel, Twitter, Survey Monkey (data for 6th graders)
Real World Relevance: Students collaborated and communicated with the founder of an online software program to give him feedback on his product

I put together a video (filmed by a student) of bits and pieces from this skype session. We talked with Uldis for about 30 minutes, but the video is 10 minutes. You can view it below. 

Skype Session with Founder of 12.4.12 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Great Example of 21st Century Learning Part 1

During the last couple of weeks before the holidays, I participated in and watched two student activities that were engaging and demonstrated the 21st century skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity at a level that made me proud to work at PFTSTA. I am going to tell the story of one of these examples in this post and save the other for another post. 

All the Knowledge You Need to Survive College
by Allie and Tiffany

The top two students in the senior class were the only students taking Gifted Projects this past semester. In this course, they could design a project of interest to them that would carry them through the whole semester. Since they were both applying to a number of colleges, forefront in their minds was college and the process for taking the next step in their education. They seemed very confident about this process, but there was one aspect that both of them felt totally unprepared. They really thought their skills in cleaning and mending clothes, cooking, finances and budgeting, healthy living and decorating on the cheap were sorely lacking. They wanted to spend the semester creating a document that would give them and their friends all the tools to survive college outside of the realm of academics. 

Cover of book
When I heard about this, I immediately thought they needed to start curating websites. Most of their information was going to come from the web, so I thought that they needed a way to organize this info and access it quickly. I knew these girls would want it to look attractive so I ruled out Delicious and Diigo, both curation tools that I love. Pinterest would have been my tool of choice, but unfortunately it is blocked at our school. So I dug around and came up with Sqworl. I first explained to them what curation meant, and then I showed them several curation sites that might work for them. The teacher and the students all thought Sqworl would work best for what they wanted to do. If you want to visit their collection of websites, open here for their Sqworl. The next part of this project was the creation of a book offering a chapter on each topic for survival. I thought that this was a great idea, but when I saw the final project I was blown away. Inside they list tips for each topic and give links to some of the great websites that they found, but they also used QR codes so the reader could get to the links easily on a smart phone. Then one of the last days of school before the winter break, Allie came to me with her laptop open to a site that sells eBooks. It took some work to format it correctly, but they uploaded their work to a site so that their book would be available for a $7.99 purchase. What a great idea! Their teacher was familiar with the site, and she encouraged them to do it. If you would like to check this site out or purchase the book, open here

Critical Thinking: designed the project, decided topics of interest, decided what sites to feature and decided how to present what they learned to others
Creativity: chose a product, designed the product to make it user friendly
Collaboration: worked closely together to complete the project and collaborated with their teacher and librarian
Communication: made formal power point presentation at the end of the semester to a group of their peers and teachers, put together a written document, curated sites that could be shared, and  put the book up for sale in electronic format

Friday, December 21, 2012

Students Write Impassioned Letters to Lawmakers

I have mentioned in several earlier posts that in January the Louisiana state board of education (BESE) wants to amend Bulletin 741 that guides all school districts. My main concern with their changes to this document is the language about school libraries. In essence the document would no longer require schools to have a certified librarian on staff nor will schools and districts be required to provide a budget for library resources. It will now be only recommended, and districts would no longer need a waiver from the state to dismantle school libraries. I have written my own letter to all the BESE members, but I also asked the parents of my school to write to the BESE member who represents them. A parent sent me a copy of her letter, and I couldn't believe how supportive it was. An English teacher was so upset about these possible changes that she asked her 8th graders to use what they learned about writing a persuasive essay with logical and emotional appeals and write their own letter to BESE.

I only helped the students understand what BESE was doing; I did not tell them what to write and neither did the teacher. Some of the students thought the Board was cutting school libraries. So I had to explain that no, BESE is not actually making the cuts. These elected officials are going to leave it up to the superintendents and principals around the state to do that. People who did not need to be elected to hold their job. The students wrote their personal stories of what the school library has meant to their education. I think they did an amazing job. I have shared some of the best with you. Just click on each letter to enlarge it for easy reading. 
Click on the letter to enlarge and read
Click on the letter to enlarge and read

Click on the letter to enlarge it to read

Click on the letter to enlarge and read
If you would like to write your own letter, click here for BESE contact information. If you want to read the proposed revisions to Bulletin 741, click here. The section on school libraries is in section 1705.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Six Months of Teen Reviews

The recent edition of SLJTeen on December 19th marks six months of reviews by the teens in Bookmarked. This is the halfway mark for Bookmarked's stint as the resident teen book reviewers for the online newsletter. It has been an interesting six months. The students' book reviews are outstanding. They really have some intriguing insights about the books that they are reading. On the other hand, every two weeks arrives quickly, and it can be like pulling teeth for them to submit the reviews to me. I know that many of them are inundated with English work that entails a lot of reading. Also, our editor wants the books to be pre-pub by at least one month. It seems the publishers are sending the advanced copies much closer to the pub dates, and often by the time that the teens read the books, the publication date has passed. However, we have been able to overcome all these trials and tribulations. I want to share with you a link that will allow you to read every review that was published by the teens at Patrick Taylor Academy. If all you want to do is read the latest edition of book reviews on SLJTeen, just click here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Help Save Louisiana School Libraries

BESE. in Louisiana, wants to amend its bulletin that guides all school districts. In so doing, BESE will allow districts to decide if a library should be staffed and if it should be staffed by a certified librarian. We need to take action and ask BESE to require a certified librarian in every school. Please read what the Louisiana Association of School Librarians (LASL) has suggested on how you can help. Click here to open the LASL plan of action.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Student Blogs for YALSA's The Hub

open here to read The Hub
A couple of months ago, one of the members of Bookmarked, the high school book group, asked me if there were some places besides SLJ Teen where she could submit book reviews. I thought about it and decided to contact the manager of The Hub. The Hub is one of YALSA's blogs and the focus of this blog is young adult literature. There are a number of librarians who blog regularly for The Hub, and I thought Kayla's writing would be a great addition. Gretchen Kolderup, the manager, agreed when she read a sample. Today Kayla's first post was published. Click here to read what Kayla had to say.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Glimpse of the New PFTSTA

The construction of the new Patrick Taylor Academy began in January 2012 and is slated to be complete in May 2013. I have been taking pictures of the changes in the exterior on a monthly basis. Other teachers have been too. I was also given some video by one of the students as she drove by the new school. I put all of this together in a video. The video below shows the progress of the exterior beginning in January and running through October. 

PFTSTA Construction Jan 2012 to Oct 2012 from PFTSTA on Vimeo

Though I have really enjoyed watching the changes as they take shape, it is the 
recent interior shots that have me jumping up and down. I have never worked in a new school nor had a library space that will equal this one. The principal, Jaime Zapico, has had two hard hat tours of the interior of the new facility. Last week, she took some video just for me of the library space and the common area just outside of the library. Below is a video that I put together of those shots. 

Check it out:

PFTSTA Library Under Construction December 2012 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Policy Change for School Libraries in Louisiana - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Just last week I blogged about the importance of being an advocate for your school library and in so doing you will be an advocate for all school libraries. Little did I know that less than seven days after writing that post the need for advocacy would reach a critical point in Louisiana. The Board of Elementary and State Education (BESE), which is the Louisiana state board of elected and appointed officials, has decided that they can help reform the schools by amending Bulletin 741. This is the handbook that the administrators in all districts must use as the guidelines for managing all public schools. The title page and forward is pictured below.
Click the above image to enlarge

Then the other day, a librarian in northern Louisiana sent out a link to Bulletin 741 with all the points in the document that BESE wants to cut. There are lines drawn through many of the resolutions, but it is Chapter 17, section 1705 that makes me sick. I have made a copy of this section for you to see below. You can click on the image to enlarge it. You can see by all the lines crossed out that school libraries and school librarians may be left out of a school budget with ease. It is now going to be up to the districts to decide if a librarian is necessary, and also it is not required that libraries receive a budget for materials. 

Open here to see Bulletin 741 in its entirety

Excuse me? I am not important? Library resources are not important for educating our students? I beg to differ. I offer so much to the faculty and students at my school. I opened the library in 2006 with 1800 books on the shelves. Through hard work and many hours of writing grants, the library now has over 6400 volumes, over 600 electronic reference books and many other electronic resources too. When colleges and universities are rated for quality, the library and the number of volumes in the library is always part of the equation. Why is that not true for elementary and secondary school too? It should be. This is my 21st year as a librarian in a public school in Louisiana. I have faced cuts to the library before on the local level, but a district would always have to get a waiver if the libraries did not follow the state guidelines. Now the state wants to allow districts to make all the changes they want without waivers -- all in the name of reform. This is not reform. It is all about money and not spending it. Without a library, a school and school districts would save an enormous amount of money. But at what cost? The students of Louisiana would definitely lose out. If you want to know 100 things that students would lose without their librarian and library, click here right now.

What can you do? If you live in Louisiana you need to contact your BESE representative before the January 16, 2013 meeting and tell them not to slash school libraries. Tell everyone you know to do the same. Click here to open the link for the contact info for all BESE members. If you need talking points, check out the list of 100 things that students would miss without a school library. If you don't live in Louisiana, you need to be an advocate for your library or your favorite school library.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Librarian and Teens Review New Books

This is a picture that was taken during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Anaheim in June of 2012. That's me on the right, standing with author, Ashley Edward Miller, who wrote the young adult book, Colin Fischer. I am posting this picture six months after it was taken because I wrote a review of his book that was published in the latest edition of SLJTeen. Click here to read that review and to read two other reviews by members of Bookmarked, the high school library book group at Patrick Taylor.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Voting Opened for Annual Edublog Awards

This blog, Tales from a Loud Librarian, was nominated again for the annual edublog awards, also known as the eddies. I love this award because there are so many categories of edtech nominated, and I always find some gems that I had never seen before. 

Anyway, you need to vote daily until December 9th. The awards will be announced on December 12th. Open here to find the link to vote. You can vote for this blog under the category, library/librarian blog. Check out all the other categories for some awesome resources. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advocacy for Your School Library Helps All School Libraries

One of my colleagues at school is a big proponent of teachers' rights and believes that the teachers' unions are crucial for good public schools. This is an idea that has gotten a lot of flak lately, but I agree with him. However, there is one point that we often discuss and always disagree. Advocacy. He is a classroom teacher and thinks that his good teaching stands on its own and that he doesn't need to prove how hard he works by talking about what goes on in his classroom. He doesn't know what I have gone through as a librarian over the last twenty years, and how important it has been to broadcast about what goes on in a school library. 

Two PFTSTA students enjoying the library
I explain to him that it is vital that librarians shout about all the wonderful activities happening in their library. I do just that with this blog, the library website, twitter, email blasts, discussions with my principal, notices in the daily memo and articles in the school monthly newsletter. Since I became a librarian, I have used whatever media was available to advertise the library. I had to. Often, my library position was on the chopping block. At those pesky principal meetings I wanted my principal to say that their librarian was an integral part of the school program. My advocacy has not always saved my position. Over my 12 years as an elementary librarian, I spent four of them as half time librarian and half time literacy teacher for a specific group of children. I can multi-task, but being a librarian is a huge job, and it was difficult to do great work only working part time in each position. When I had the opportunity to move to a 7th -12th school configuration, I jumped at the chance. I figured that my position was safe. After two years, the district decided that all high schools could function with one librarian no matter how big the school. My school had 1500 students, and we did lots of teaching in the library. There is no way that one person could teach and run the library the way that we did it with two of us. Then Katrina happened. I chose to find a new library. I left the Orleans Parish schools and found a job in Jefferson Parish at Patrick Taylor Sci Tech Academy. 

This is my seventh year at Patrick Taylor, and I have worked under two principals. I feel very lucky that both of them have been extremely supportive of the program that I have created in the library. I also want to say that both of these principals were former math teachers and probably did not use the libraries very often in the schools were they taught. They watched how I brought students into the library, got students reading and helped provide a foundation for teaching 21st century skills and couldn't help but see how the library has grown to be the hub of the school. I continue to be my own advocate. I also encourage other librarians to do the same.

Why do you need to talk up your program? If you don't do it, then nobody else will. I make sure that teachers and staff know what great things are happening in the library. Because of that, I will hear the secretary explain to prospective students about all the wonderful books that are on the library's shelves. When the school holds its annual open house for prospective students, I am always amazed at what the current students say about the library. It blows me away when they say, "if you need help with your research just ask Ms. Kahn because she knows where to find the best stuff." When visitors are toured around campus, the library is always a stop and described as one of the happening places on campus. 

The library at Patrick Taylor has an open door policy. Students and teachers are always welcome, but because of this inclusive spirit other wonderful things have come our way too. We have 3 to 4 author visits yearly either face to face or through Skype, the high school book group has been asked to participate in a number of events sponsored by YALSA and we have been able to win many grants because the library program is such a viable force in the school. 

There are lots of ways that you can be an advocate for your library. It could be digital or in print. You need to reach all stakeholders: students, parents, administrators and the community. Click here for a link to sign up for AASL's Advocacy Tip of the Day. You can find other advocacy resources from AASL by clicking right here.  Libraries have not lost their importance in the digital age; they just need to be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the learners. So think about you can do to be an advocate for your library, because your advocacy can affect all libraries. It is not about keeping your job; it is about providing a necessary service for the education of the students who attend your school.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...