Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Write BESE Now about Importance of School Libraries


I have written in this blog before about the changes that the board which governs education in Louisiana, BESE, wants to make. BESE is working on amending Bulletin 741, the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators. Section 1705 refers to school librarians. BESE has altered the wording to make it easier for schools to eliminate or not create a librarian position. We need to tell our lawmakers that school libraries are not an option. 

In the March issue of School Library Journal, there is an article explaining how the research shows that school librarians directly impact student achievement. You can read that article here

The people who make decisions about our students need to hear from parents, students and constituents who care about school libraries. When I write a letter, it just looks like I am asking to keep my job. It is truly about the students not my job, but they don't see it that way. 

Below is a copy of an email that I received imploring everyone to write to BESE to save school libraries. All letters must be received in Baton Rouge no later than April 8th. 

Write now, tell BESE to maintain school libraries!
"Are you a K-12 student, or a proud supporter of a student in our state?  If so, please contact the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and ask BESE to reconsider recent changes proposed to Section 1705 of Bulletin 741, Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators, which concerns School Library Media Centers.
The proposed changes would eliminate most of the existing polices about the purpose of a school library; the kinds of materials it should provide; the physical space that should be allocated for the library; the funding of the library; and the kinds of instructional services the library should provide.
Eight existing guidelines have been replaced with two guidelines and one big loophole.  The two remaining guidelines state that schools shall provide appropriate resources and learning opportunities beyond the classroom, and thatsecondary schools shall have a library and a minimum number of librarians based upon enrollment. No mention is made for elementary libraries and there is no definition of secondary schools; are middle schools included?


It’s the big loophole that troubles me: “This provision shall not apply to schools capable of providing resources and assistance to students through an alternate structure.”
Does this not imply that a school will be able to eliminate its library space, library resources, and librarians?  Or that new schools could choose not to have a library in the first place?  What is BESE’s motivation for this broad exception? What will this “alternate structure” look like? Would an “alternate structure” be a virtual library?  I hope that “Google” is not acceptable as an “alternate structure.”  Librarians select resources that are appropriate for their students.  Google does not.  And what will the school do for students who do not have computers or Internet access outside of school?
How will the students learn to find and evaluate content?   Who will perform the instructional tasks of the librarian? School librarians must meet particular certification requirements. They are held to the same standards as classroom teachers.  They help our children develop a love of reading and independent learning.  They teach literacy skills that our students need to become successful, contributing members of society.  Does BESE believe that the school librarian can be replaced by a web site?
Is the local public library an acceptable “alternate structure”?  Public libraries are wonderful resources, but their mission is different from that of the school library.  They serve a different audience and their collections are not specifically focused to support the school curriculum.  Public librarians have different skill sets. The public library is a complement to the school library, not a substitute.
If BESE’s proposal stands, new schools might opt out of housing a library, and existing school libraries could be shuttered.  I urge you to ask BESE to reverse the proposed changes. 
Please tell BESE how libraries have made a difference for you or your loved ones.
BESE will accept written comments until April 8, 2013, at 4:30 PM.  Send your letters to Heather Cope, Executive Director, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Box 94064, Capitol Station, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064."

(the above was sent to me by Cathy Seal, Director, Library Services, East Baton Rouge Parish Schools)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

One Student, Two YA Reviews

In this week's edition of SLJTeen, one student is featured as book reviewer. Vy Mai writes reviews of Nobody's Secret by Michaela Maccoll and Bi-Normal by M. G. Higgins. Click here to read her take on these two books
Click here to read the reviews



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Voting Ended March 18th at Midnight

a happy student votes for the very last time
the whole school voted together on the very last day to watch our numbers go UP
a parent created these posters to promote the Follett Challenge
Last night the voting portion of the Follett Challenge ended. Whew! It could not come soon enough. When I left school yesterday, we were in the 6th spot, but only a handful of votes away from 5th. I kept thinking that I could get us more votes. So when I got home, I put on my exercise clothes, leashed up the dog and hit the streets of my neighborhood. I only encountered one person who was ugly to me. I talked to a lot of people that I know, but many that I did not know. Almost everyone was pleased that they could help a school library. I really have no clue how many votes my canvassing did, but I felt better about it. By the time that I went to sleep last night, we had moved back to the 5th spot with a little over 50 votes ahead of 6th. I was exhausted and could not stay up until midnight to see the end. Luckily. my husband woke up and checked the computer for me. Just before midnight, he saw that we had hold of the 5th spot with 66 votes ahead of 6th. Now we wait. There will be a live broadcast on April 5th at noon to announce all the winners. It is going to be hard, but it is time to sit back and chill until we hear something from Follett. I sure do hope that Patrick Taylor turns out to be a winner. We want to stock the shelves of the new school's library with new resources.

PFTSTA ended up with 19,033 votes
Click the above image to enlarge it and see all the voting totals



Monday, March 18, 2013

Successful TTW13 Ends Quietly

Using the iPads to create poetry
On Friday, I pulled out the 6 iPod Touch devices and borrowed 6 iPads from a teacher all with the app called Instant Poetry. I decided that with this activity I could kill two birds with one stone. The students had a great time creating poems. To save the poems, all you have to do is take a picture of the poem within the app, and it is saved in your photos on the device. You can also save the poems within the app, and you can reopen them and continue to edit. When lunch was over, I just connected the devices to my computer, and I could drag the pictures into a folder on the computer. Very easy. You can see more poems on the library website here. 


April is National Poetry Month. Two years ago, we had a fun activity that I called Hidden Poetry. Last year, I didn't do it because it took so much time to collect poems, and I just couldn't find the time. Now I have a start with the poems that the students created during TTW. 


The middle school students really got into the Research Riddles that they could play daily during TTW. One of the students asked on Friday if they would continue to answer riddles until the end of the year. Well no, it all ended on Friday, but I think that any event is truly successful when you leave the kids asking for more or asking to do it again. Our two grand prize winners for the Riddles were Zoey Prado in 6th grade and Vy Mai in 9th grade. These two students will each receive a $15 iTunes gift card. TTW got lots of kids to visit the library and that is one of my major goals. I just want them to continue to see the library as a welcoming place with resources for everyone. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Aimee Agresti's Awesome Presentation


On Tuesday, March 12th, Aimee Agresti visited PFTSTA. She is the author of two novels in the Gilded Wings series. The first book in the series is Illuminate, and the second is Infatuate, which was published this month. I scheduled the 7th and 8th graders to attend her talk because the high school students had been treated to several authors early in February. 


I did not know much about Aimee or her books. I didn't even get one of the books into my hands until the day before her visit. Any worry that I may have had about her evaporated as soon as she started talking to the students. She was well prepared. She had a power point to illustrate everything that she talked about. The kids were mesmerized. Okay, maybe it was because she use to work for Us Magazine and had interviewed some pretty heavy hitters. One of her favorite interview subjects was George Clooney. Yet, she kept the students attention throughout and when it was all over, they gathered around her to talk and purchase books to be signed. 


Aimee always knew that she wanted to be a writer, but she began her professional career writing non-fiction. When she moved to Washington D. C., she decided it was time to try her hand at fiction. She first thought about her favorite books. As a fan of the Picture of Dorian Gray, she sets up her characters to decide whether selling their soul to the devil is worth it. She also approached writing fiction just like the non-fiction pieces she used to write by deciding the who, what, when and where as part of her pre-writing activity as well as constructing a detailed outline. Her first book began life at 600 pages, but with the help of early readers like her sister, she was able to edit it down to a manageable read. 



Aimee had a set of rules for writing that she shared with the students. She said that it was important to write daily, and when she was traveling without a computer, she even wrote in long hand so she could keep working on her book. You need to take your time and not rush. Accept that some days are good and others are bad. Stay offline, away from email, twitter and facebook, so you can concentrate. Lastly, it is really important to remember to always have fun. She spoke for about 30 minutes, and then there was another 15 minutes of questions. The students asked her very thoughtful questions. Until we got to the end of the event, and one of the boys asked if anyone dies in her books. Aimee wasn't going to let lose a spoiler, so she gave a non-answer to satisfy all.

I was so impressed at how she was able to hook the kids. She also shared her email at the end of her talk. One of the older students whom she met after the presentation, emailed her and received the most wonderful response from Aimee. She was so genuine and so interested in what the students had to say. I loved that. Thank you Aimee for bringing so much to me and my students. I know that they will remember your visit for many years to come.

To see more pictures of this event visit the library website here. We want to give a big shout out of thanks to Octavia Books and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Books for bringing Aimee to us.

Hanging on to the 6th Spot in Follett Challenge

Only two more days to vote for the Follett Challenge. PFTSTA is holding steady in the 6th spot. Here are pics showing our votes so far as of early Saturday evening. 
16,168 Votes as of Friday the 15th for PFTSTA
Click the above picture to enlarge
Please keep voting to support PFTSTA and help us be one of the winners of the Follett Challenge! Click here to vote and show your support for innovation in education. As you can see below, we received over 600 votes in less than 24 hours. Whoo hoo!!!!! 

16,769 votes as of Saturday afternoon
Click the above picture to enlarge

Thursday, March 14, 2013

JPL Librarians Visit PFTSTA for TTW

JPL website
Today, I invited the teen librarians, Selena Muhoberac and Erin Korosi, from the Jefferson Public Library to teach my students how to download eBooks and audio books onto their electronic devices. Some of the students didn't understand at first that they could download these for free. Unfortunately, today is also March 14, which means that it is Pi Day. The Mu Alpha Theta members were selling pie and playing games for Pi Day. Downloading books was just not as appealing as pie. Only two high school students attended, but there were about a dozen middle school students. The best part was that I heard the presentation twice, so now I have a handle on how to download books and could easily help the students. The worst part is Jefferson is switching from Overdrive to 3M to supply the eBooks in late April. The librarians hadn't used 3M and didn't know if the same books would be available or if it would be a different collection. We will just have to wait and see, but they promised they would return to teach the students how to use 3M when it is in place. 

Selena describes how to download on a Nook
Thank you Selena and Erin for helping us celebrate Teen Tech Week 13 at PFTSTA. 

Follett Challenge is Almost Over

PFTSTA still in 6th place with 15,298 votes
Click the image above to enlarge
We are almost done with the voting portion of the Follett Challenge. Once complete, we wait to hear if we win. The weekend could slow us down with students not voting. Please make sure you vote every day. On Monday, the whole school is going to vote at the same time for the last time. Remember, every vote counts: http://bit.ly/Ya3Pyv

Duct Tape Ruled During TTW 13

Click here to see video
We always do some kind of craft activity during Teen Tech Week. I try to combine crafts and technology in some way. This year, I decided to use duct tape. On Wednesday during lunch, students visited the library to watch this video about making a duct tape phone case. I can't remember where I found the link to the video. It was either on the TTW Ning or the YALSA-BK listserv. Either way, I have a fellow young adult librarian to thank for pointing the way for me. I love that librarians think sharing is cool. It is what makes it such a great profession. 


I digress. I went to Target and stocked up on rolls of fun colored duct tape. I think that I spent around $25 total because many of the rolls were on sale. Maybe those were discontinued colors. What I really liked about this project is that I didn't have to scramble for a lot of tools. Finding scissors and rulers was easy at school. Though I showed the students one technique via the video to make their case, they could make whatever they wanted. One student brought his Nook and make a case for that. Another ended up making the case sideways, but it worked equally as well. I had three books about duct tape crafts available, and several students decided to make bow ties and hair bows by following the directions in the books. One student made a ring.  

As usual, not too many high school students participated, but the middle schoolers were in heaven. At the height of the event, I think that there were 30 crafters in the library with me and one high school student available to help. Crazy. The students said that we should have a craft activity every week. I think that would be the death of me, but I am glad that they enjoyed it. At least, they will know that there will be crafting in the library again during next year's TTW. 

Research Riddle for Thursday for TTW13


March 14th
You can play Research Riddles every day. Visit the library with the correct answer, and you will win a prize. You will use a pre-printed form to write down your answer/s and the source/s where you got the information. I don’t need a citation, but you need to state if you found your answer on Gale or Britannica or World Book or the Web. If you used a website, then you need to give me the name of the website or its URL.
Google would NOT be the name of a website 
Question of the day:
How long was the 1908 Olympic Marathon race?
(Hint: the answer is not 25 miles)

Try this site for your answer: www.wikipedia.org

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article371041.ece

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Only Handful of Days Left to Vote for Follett Challenge


PFTSTA has 14,354 votes in 6th place
Click on the picture above to enlarge
I am ecstatic there are less than six days left to vote in the Follett Challenge. Six weeks of voting has been exhausting. I thought that we would lose momentum at the end, but today we gathered steam and moved into the 6th position. It is really true that every vote counts. Please keep supporting Patrick Taylor Academy and vote for us here: http://bit.ly/Ya3Pyv.
We can win this thing!!!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Teen TECH Week (TTW) Begins

As usual, I have overbooked myself, but it sure makes the library a busy and exciting part of the school. On Monday, we kicked off TTW 13 with movie day. I popped some popcorn and showed several Oscar nominated animated shorts at lunch. I think that the Paperman, which won the Oscar this year, was the students' favorite. 

Scene from Paperman by Disney

Students enjoying popcorn and the show
Everyday during TTW, the students are emailed what I call a Research Riddle. I have been doing this for years. They must find the answer by conducting research electronically. For the last couple of years, I have used aGoogleaday to help me design the riddles. The students then fill out a form with the correct answer, bring it to me in the library, so that they can get a candy as a prize. Then every form is placed into a large jar, one for high school and one for middle school. At the end of the week there will be a grand prize winner for each level who will receive a $15 iTunes card for TTW. 

Playing in the Wikipedia Race
Today we had two events. One was an author visit with Aimee Agresti. I will make a special blog post just on her visit. The other event was the Wikipedia Races that were held at lunch. For this game two students face off in each race, they both start at the same article on Wikipedia like Hunger Games. Then they are given an ending point like filet mignon which is totally unrelated to the starting point. They can only travel through Wikipedia by clicking on links; they are not allowed to use the search bar or control f. I had never done this activity before, so I didn't know if it would work. It did work because the kids had a good time, but the laptops seemed to lag so much on the wifi as each new page was loaded that it was difficult to name the winner of each match. We are going to try and play again next week and use the desktops that are hardwired. 

Vote Today and for 6 More Days

The end of voting for the Follett Challenge is coming soon. Six weeks of voting has been very challenging. I feel that I have been very pushy with people to remind them to vote. However, it is easy to get single votes, but much harder to get people to remember to vote daily. It is the daily votes that will keep us in the top ten. This morning we moved into the 7th position. I hope that we can keep up our numbers until Monday the 18th when voting is over. Please start voting for us or keep voting, the students at PFTSTA want the new library filled with books when we move next year. Vote here: http://bit.ly/Ya3Pyv.
PFTSTA has 13,338 in 7th place
Click on this picture to make it bigger

Monday, March 11, 2013

Keep Voting Until March 18th

The Follett Challenge continues, and you can vote daily until March 18th. Today we moved from 8th place to 7th, but as you can see below, early this evening we moved back to 8th. We are less than a hundred votes away from 7th place. PLEASE help us out and vote for Patrick Taylor in the Follett Challenge every day for the next week. Every vote counts! Click here to vote.
PFTSTA has 12,024 in 8th place
Click on this picture to make it bigger


Teens Contribute Two Articles in SLJTeen

Read the article in its entirety here
In the March 6th edition of the online newsletter, SLJTeen, students made contributions to two articles. Lauren Tran wrote a nice piece on Ruta Sepetys' visit to PFTSTA in February. Students also wrote the usual reviews, this time for the books Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains).by Laurie Boyle Crompton. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's the Last Week for Voting in the Follett Challenge

Vote here: http://bit.ly/Ya3Pyv
We are counting down the last week of voting in the annual Follett Challenge. Follett, a leading educational company, has challenged schools and school libraries to illustrate how they are integrating 21st Century Skills into their programs. Patrick Taylor has applied to the Follett Challenge, a program run by Follett to recognize and reward schools for their work applying technology, content and creativity in ways that engage students, foster literacy and promote critical thinking.  

PFTSTA has 11,574 votes in 8th place
Click on this picture to make it bigger
To enter this challenge we had to write a very intense application of 5,500 words describing our program. Then a group of students created a 5 minute video showing how the library encourages collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking at our school. This is the last week of a 6 week run asking the community to vote for their favorite video. Six schools will win with one school winning upon receiving the most votes. The other 5 schools will be judged on a combination of the application and votes. The students at PFTSTA want to win so that when we move to the new school next year, we can add new library resources. 


Vote daily for PFTSTA until March 18th and help us meet this challenge. http://bit.ly/Ya3Pyv


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Ready for Teen TECH Week



It has been a busy last few weeks in the PFTSTA Library. I have been having to do a lot of multi-tasking to get everything done, but Teen TECH Week begins on Monday in our library. I have simplified a bit from years past, but the students will have something new to do everyday at lunch. I wanted to share with you all the activities that we have planned. Open here to Check In @ Your Library.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Presenting at the Louisiana Library Association Annual Conference

The beginning of my prezi
Yesterday, I presented at the annual Louisiana Library Association Conference in Baton Rouge.The title of my presentation was: "Become a 21st Century School Librarian: Learn How to Harness Digital Resources" I wanted the visuals that I used to look really spiffy, so I asked a student to help me. Mark Parfait, a ninth grader, created a wonderful Prezi out of the text and images that I gave him. Open here to see that Prezi. Since collaboration is a big part of 21st century skills, I was modeling true collaboration between a student and a teacher.

Smiling, presentation is done
I know that I had over 48 attendees because that was the number of bookmarks that I created with a link to the handout for my presentation, and I ran out of them. I felt terrible about that because I always hate it when I don't get the resource packet that a presenter has created. I built a wiki for all of those  resources. Click below to open the wiki.

Wikispaces

This was actually my first major presentation going solo. I like presenting with my colleagues, but this time I decided to do it alone. Now I know that I can talk for 45 minutes straight without stopping. In high school, I got a C in speech only because Mr. Breaud liked me. I know that I didn't deserve it. It's good to know that you can still learn a few things once you become an adult.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Do You Know Instagrok.com?


Information Literacy | Learn about Information Literacy on instaGrok, the research engine

Whenever I start working with students on a research project or paper, I ask them if they have thought about the keywords that they are going to use to find information. After selecting a topic, I think finding quality and relevant keywords is one of the most important aspects of developing good research skills. This is important whether you are using print resources and need to use the index in a book or using a subscription database or even a general search engine. The problem with helping students find their keywords is that for large projects every student has a different topic. Working one on one is extremely time consuming. 

Last fall at an in-school staff development session, one of the teachers shared a resource called, Instagrok. It is a search engine, but it doesn't look anything like Google. It is very visual and uses concept maps to display results. The teachers in the room were fascinated by it. I don't know who mentioned it first, maybe it was me, but someone said that this web tool could be useful in helping students develop their selected topics in a research based assignment. I was thinking that the students who seem to flounder when trying to find information for their review of the literature for their independent research project (IRP) in science could really benefit from using Instagrok.

Students using Instagrok in English II on Digital Learning Day
The teachers seemed to agree that we should introduce this tool to the students and get them trying it. So we did. On Digital Learning Day, February 6th, I visited an English class as they were using Instagrok. The students were asked to write an argumentative essay on a topic related to justice. The teacher gave them broad topics from which to choose, but the students had to figure out a way to narrow their topics. Instagrok helped them do that. I tweeted out pictures all day long to illustrate the activities we were doing at Patrick Taylor for Digital Learning Day. For this particular picture, I shared it with the people who created Instagrok. They tweeted back to me which is how I met Andrew Bender, president of Instagrok. I asked Andrew if he would be willing to talk to some of my students, but he wanted to talk to me first. We set up a 30 minute skype one day where he gave me some background on Instagrok, and I explained how the kids were using it. In the mean time Mrs. Maher was interested in having the students in her web mastering class talk to Andrew. 

Mrs. Maher's 4th period web mastering class skyping
For this event, Mrs. Maher had some questions for Andrew. He explained that his partner founded Instagrok, and he came aboard when a mutual friend introduced them. Right now they are the only two running the show. Mrs. Maher really wanted him to explain what kind of educational background you need to run a start-up. Both Andrew and his partner have degrees in computer science, but many in the industry do not. He believes that being able to code is a skill that is highly sought after in his business. 

Ready to Skype
A couple of weeks later, I scheduled a skype with Andrew with a small group of high school students. These students either used Instagrok in English or science class. They were there to tell him what they liked about this resource and what they thought could improve Instagrok. He began by asking them specific questions. The students were extremely thoughtful with their answers and suggestions. One student explained how she used the topic in each bubble of the concept map for each of the paragraphs in her essay. Another said that she found new terms related to her topic by grokking. They told Andrew that they liked the sliding bar with Einstein that allowed you to get more sophisticated results, and they liked that there were no more than 10 bubbles for every topic. They thought the simpler, the better. He asked them about the gallery which none of them had used. They thought maybe the name of it should be changed to explain what it is.

Skype session in the library
Andrew explained that he would be traveling to SXSW in Austin, but when he returns to California in a few weeks, the students should be watching Instagrok because some of their suggestions might be incorporated into the updates to his program. This is the kind of 21st century experience that I could never have imagined when I was in high school. The students had the opportunity to talk to someone in the work force across the country, and their opinions about his product might be used in changing the product to make it more user friendly. That is so powerful  for the students, and it is what makes teaching so exciting to me.

By the way, there is a lot more to Instagrok than I described in this post: find key facts, links, videos and images all on your topic. Please click on my grok at the top of this post and take it for a spin. I was really impressed with the key facts that I got when I searched "information literacy." 

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