Monthly Archives: August 2009

Vacation Ending

Ah the joys of August…reading, bike riding, writing new curriculum….  This was definitely a working vacation with no travel and I’ll be fortunate to receive a little extra money for my work.  I started out most mornings at my little desk in a corner of the family room thinking about outcomes and what curriculum was needed to achieve those outcomes.  The result was yet another wiki: Harambee Library Curriulum.

I’m turning into the wiki queen.  Organizing information must be in my blood.  Wikis are great places to do that.  I spent a considerable amount of time on a Resources page.  Over the last few years I’ve collected various books, articles, and games that help me teach.  Organizing the information by topics or units of study gives me a good list of resources for the things I want to teach.

The main problem now is that my vacation is almost over and I’m not done.  Nothing new about that.  Librarians have to get used to the idea that you’re never really caught up.  Hopefully I’ve gotten this wiki to the point where it will very useful in its current state but I can always add to it.  For instance, this morning I got the idea for an “Idea” page where I can brainstorm and think out loud.  I could also have a “Lesson Plan” page.  I’m not quite sure what that would look like.  I was very excited to find the SIOP lesson plan templates.  Last year I printed out copies of one template from a SIOP training manual and found that my lessons were much better organized.  I was much better prepared to teach and able to more easily include SIOP activities in each lesson.

For me personally, organization is key.  I also benefit from practice.  I teach many classes each week so I see what worked and what didn’t, modifying a lesson as I go through the week.  So, now I have all this information at my fingertips but I still don’t feel ready to get started.  I haven’t thought enough about the technology end of things.  I’m sure there are some good ways to integrate technology I just haven’t thought about it yet.

Well, that’s not quite right.  I did think about it but I keep running into questions in my mind about all the other things that have to happen in the library.  Because of testing in the library I’m not just sure when I’ll be able to put classes online, or even whether I’ll be able to teach in the library.  There are administrative issues to deal with: inventory is incomplete, student patron files need to be updated, budget questions, supplies to order, etc., etc.  I also noticed that I have a new bookshelf that needs to be integrated into the current setup.  I have no idea how much paraprofessional assistance I’ll have.

I guess everything will eventually get done and maybe it’ll be just a little bit easier because I spent this vacation working.  Now I need to go get caught up with my rss feeds and I really should take a look at my delicious stuff.  Who knows?  I might find some really fantastic technology integration ideas from my wonderful PLN, so what am I worrying about?  But first, I’m going for a bike ride!  This is a vacation after all.

Assessing the Wiki Project

Now that the year is over and I have some time to reflect, I want to evaluate my use of a wiki for teaching in the library.  I’d never even heard of wikis until I started the E2T2 training in September, 2008.  At first I wasn’t sure how something like that could be used in my circumstances.  Whenever I use technology in the library I have to remember what I really want my students to learn.  As I considered the way I was teaching genres I thought I should do more.  That was the reason for the project.  However, it developed into much more than that.

I still need to make a rubric.  I’ve looked at several good ones but I don’t think they quite match my needs.  My assessment would include the following categories:

  • Content in terms of the original objectives — Did students have a better understanding of genres by the end of the year?  When I told students to add the genre to the book review many still did not know enough to decide what theirs was.  I still need to do more explicit teaching around this objective.  I was also appalled at the lack of bibliographic knowledge exhibited.  Very few students knew the name of the author.  At first, I wasn’t worried and planned on showing them how to use the catalog to find that information.  Time ran out so this didn’t happen.  It makes me wonder whether classroom teachers are requiring this information when students are doing research.  Clearly here is another area that I need to address.  More collaboration is needed.
  • Technology skills — Were students able to navigate easily from the initial log in screen to the wiki?  Could they remember how to sign in on the wiki?  Did they know how to start a page?  Could they change the font, size, color, background on their page?  Were their typing skills up to the challenge?  This part of the wiki experience was something that the students enjoyed.  Because they wanted to work on the wiki they worked to improve their speed in logging in and navigating to the site.  Keyboarding was a challenge for some.  Changing the font was fun and kept them engaged.  However, this was also a distraction that kept some students from producing quality writing.  I wonder if there’s a way for some of the writing to be done in the classroom.  Again, collaboration could make a very big difference.
  • Writing skills — Were the reviews well written?  Did they write complete sentences, use proper grammar, use correct spelling and punctuation?  I don’t usually teach writing so I was stepping into a new arena here.  The teachers who came to the library with their classes were a huge help but I wish we had collaborated more ahead of time.  I think sometimes the technology got in the way.  For instance, students forgot to capitalize on the computer even though they had used capitals in their rough paper drafts.
  • Visually pleasing — Can you read the review without suffering eye strain?  Some students went overboard with the font colors.  I’m not quite as concerned about this because I think, with a little more direction from me, it’s an easy problem to fix.

Overall, I think the wiki was a big success.  Of course, there is much to work on but the wiki was an avenue for change in the library and in my teaching.  Students were definitely engaged.  I’ve been thinking lately about one girl who seemed to be pretty bored in class.  She wasn’t really disrespectful but was clearly not excited about what was going on.  That changed dramatically.  What’s more important is that it carried over into other library activities.  When we did the Battle of the Books, she was busy reading and was enthusiastic about the competition.  Judging from her attitude at the beginning of the year, this was not an outcome I would have expected.

I continue to be excited about the wiki and the ways we can use it in the library.  We could do podcasts, screencasts, or videos.  Students could learn how to take pictures of the covers of their books, upload from the camera to the site, label, size, etc.  I plan on emphasizing the bibliographic data needed and instituting a very clear format for that structure on the page.  Students could learn to link their page on the genre page.  More can be done with tags and keywords.  What about collaboration?  Maybe if a group is reading the same book they could work together on a review.  What about book discussions?  Of course, much of this is also new to me too so I have some learning to do myself.  However, my students have shown me that they can also teach me as they practice and explore.  Learning together is definitely more fun for all of us.


Our summer vacation started yesterday.  As usual, I didn’t finish the inventory before the end of the school year.  The library closes the last week of school.  Students can still come to check out one book.  In fact, they can come everyday to return that book and check out one book.  Over the break students can keep one library book and return it when they come back in September.  During that week that we’re closed I work on inventory.

It’s tempting not to do it.  I could leave the library open at the end.  Inventory is time consuming and there are many other jobs that need to be done in the library.  I can’t help but wonder if the time it takes is worth it.  I inventory the collection in sections and there are some sections, such as the videos and cd-roms that I haven’t inventoried in a couple years.  What are the ramifications of this lack?

Once someone asked me why I had to do inventory.  I was very disappointed at the question.  It tells me that I’m not doing a very good job of educating those with whom I work.  However, you can see by the above paragraph that sometimes I need to think about the reasoning again myself.

  • One of the main reasons I do inventory is to find lost books.  Sometimes they are misshelved.  Sometimes they were marked as lost and a student actually paid for a new copy.  I always tell students that if they find a lost book that they paid for, they will get their money back.
  • We try to read the shelves as we put books away but during inventory we make sure all the shelves are in the exact correct order.
  • During inventory we note how crowded the shelves are.  This is a time to shift books around.  I found that the fiction shelves are much too crowded.  I need to figure out how to handle this problem.
  • This is a good time to weed the collection.  We pull out books that are in poor shape.  Books that are too old or haven’t been checked out can be removed.
  • Sometimes we find cataloging errors that we might not have found otherwise and can quickly fix.
  • It’s important to know how many books we have so we can estimate how many more we need to support students and the curriculum.
  • We are able to mark books that are lost so that students or teachers don’t waste time trying to find them on the shelves.

I’m sure there are more good reasons, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind.  This year I decided to do the largest sections first so I completed the fiction and Everybody picture book sections.  This is the opposite of what I’ve done in the past.  Each section had over 3,000 books.  I’ll have to continue working on the rest of the library when we come back after the summer break.

Wiki Art Gallery

Art, as I’ve said before, is not one of my better subjects.  It’s not a natural thing for me like it seems to be for many so I approach art related activities with some trepidation.  This means that I haven’t really spent the amount of time I should showing students the wonders of art in the book world.  During the fourth quarter I decided I wanted to change that.

The kindergarten and first grade teachers mentioned that they feel this year has been heavy on academic activities and short on things like art.  Therefore, when I said I wanted to do a study of watercolor in picture books with the ultimate goal of having students paint their own pictures, the teachers were excited about the project.

Students looked at various Everybody picture books first, noticing the differences in styles and how some artists combined styles.  I was gratified to see them pulling other books out and showing me that there were more watercolor books in our collection.  We looked at some “how to watercolor” sites and videos, including Mrs. May’s 2nd Grade Class Caldecott Study.

It was important to me that all grades be represented in the Harambee Library Wiki so I decided to make an Art Gallery, scan the paintings, and feature each class’s work on the wiki. The students were also very interested in the idea of a video like the one they had seen of Mrs. May’s class so I made animoto videos.  The addition of the artwork makes the wiki more interesting for all the students and is giving me ideas for future projects.  Maybe I don’t have to be afraid of art projects anymore.