Friday, June 26, 2015

What a Librarian Does on Vacation 2015

Finally, off the plane and on the road

Going away for a week during summer break is something that is sacred to my husband and me. We live in a city that is hot in the summer so we try to find somewhere cooler and in a rural area where we can spend our time being outside and enjoying nature. This year we chose to drive through Vermont and New Hampshire so that we could end in Maine where my father lives. 

Vermont is the land of covered bridges

In years past, I would buy a guide book and visit the library to find more guides to where we would travel. My favorite publishers were Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. I loved reading about what we would see and looking for the most charming place to say. It was crucial to read a guidebook with a current copyright date because so much could change from year to year, especially prices. Now I don't even look at a guidebook. I use Trip Advisor (TA). I love the app because I can save everything that I want to see ahead of time and have access to all the info on my phone while I am traveling. I sort of obsess on finding the best place to stay, but the reviews on TA really make it easy to find something just right for us. Since I rely on TA to plan my trips, I feel obligated to write as many reviews as possible from the places I stay and eat and visit. Which means that I give myself work, but I do try to write many of the reviews while I am still on the trip. 

Library on the green in Woodstock, VT 

Town Library, Jackson New Hampshire White Mountains region
 "Towns - Jackson." NH Living. N.p., 13 June 2012. Web. 26 June 2015.
One of the cool things that I found on this trip was seeing a library in every small town that we hit throughout New England. Mid-way through the trip I thought that I should have been photographing all the libraries that I saw. Maybe I will do that another trip. In the teeny town of Jackson, NH there were two libraries. 

My husband and I are on the left with Pamela & Jon  Voelkel on the right
After determining which days that we would be in Woodstock, VT, I contacted my author friends Jon and Pamela Voelkel who live about 20 minutes north in Norwich. I was hoping that they would be in town and that we could visit them. They have visited my school three times and have done a couple Skype visits with the kids at school, too. They invited us to have brunch at their home which is on a beautiful piece of property right in the middle of town. Whenever they are in New Orleans, I always felt rushed. During this visit we spent a couple of hours with them and their three children. It was one of the highlights of the trip. 

Brunch prepared for us, yummy
I am always reading something, but when I go on vacation, I want to make sure that I have books that I am going to adore. I chose three books including Buzzkill by Beth Fantaskey, When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds, and The Story of Owen by .E. K. Johnston. It is unusual to read three books in a row that I really like, so this was a real treat. Buzzkill was a murder mystery, and though I guessed the murderer early on, I still got a kick of how the teen detectives took their time figuring out who did it. Reynold's book was an urban story that I thought teens could relate to even if they don't live in New York, but the cover is very misleading. Guns do not really have a prominent place in the story, and one of the characters in the book knits; you see the gun covered in crochet on the cover. I loved, loved, loved The Story of Owen. The idea of dragon slayers in a modern day Canada is a very unusual concept and boy does it work. I probably should have had a map of Canada next to me while reading because place what an important aspect of the story. 



Everyone who visits Dan & Whit's General Store in Norwich, VT needs a urine dispenser

I met several cows on this trip, this one was at Shelburne Farms

The Harry Potter door under the stairs at the Inn at Jackson in NH

The gardens around Kennebunk Beach, ME were amazing 
It was a great ten days of visiting, reading, looking at beautiful scenery and getting out of our daily routine---a necessity of life. Ahhhh.........

If you want to read some of my reviews of the places where I stayed, ate, or visited, click here.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Creating a Year End Library Review with Edtech Tools

As librarian, I try to be the go to person to help teachers when they are looking to design a lesson where students create an electronic product by recommending sites that might fit the objectives of their lessons. Oftentimes, I am familiar with a tool because I have used it, seen it used or know other teachers who have used it successfully with their students, but I have not always had hands on experience using the tool myself. I believe that, as teachers, we cannot nor should not learn how to use every website out there, so that we can give our students opportunities to practice critical thinking by figuring out a tool on their own or collaboration by learning from their peers. Unfortunately, tools do not remain the same over time--no longer free or limited capabilities in free version or merged with another site or newly blocked at school, etc. I decided that it is a good idea for me to spend some time "playing" with edtech and creating my own products now that school is out for the summer, and I have some free time without distractions. 

I recently read how a librarian summed up the year in her library by creating a slide show. I liked the idea of a month to month guide of what happened in the library but decided that I would try an infographic instead of a slide show. We ask our students to create lots of infographics in their science classes when they need to document experiments. First, I tried to create what I wanted with, I am an ambassador for Infogram, so it seemed to me to be the best place to start. I was working happily on my infographic when I realized that I could only upload ten pictures with the free version. Since I had nine months to illustrate and some of the months required multiple pictures, I knew that I needed to try a different tool. 

Working in
I am a big fan of Canva to create graphic designs to add to my social media sites, and I knew that they had recently added a template for infographics. I thought that with Canva  I would be able to add all the pictures that I needed. As you can see below, I started to edit the template, but I did not get very far. It was very slow editing the text, and I was getting extremely frustrated that I could not get the words and pictures that I wanted to add inserted into the template. I am not sure if it was an issue with my Internet connection at home or Canva's server. It was taking way too long to edit, and I didn't want to waste anymore time, so I ditched this effort. 

Canva template 
I was hoping that the third time would be the charm. Often, we give our students a choice of tools to use when they are creating a product. When assigning an infographic, the teachers will suggest Infogram, Easelly,or  Piktochart. I had never used Piktochart, but I had seen some really nice looking work that my students had created using it. Piktochart had a variety of templates, was easy to edit, had easy drag and drop feature for the photos, and did not frustrate me. You can see the results of my efforts embedded below. I am extremely happy with the results which now I can share on multiple platforms.

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