This blog was started to explore the integration of technology into classrooms and, more specifically, into library activities. It seems like I’ve been in limbo over the last two or three years. I found it very hard to explore new websites, apps, widgets, or extensions when my schedule became fixed as a prep provider. Teachers brought their classes into the library, then left to prepare for the rest of the day. Time to meet with those teachers to discuss ways to collaborate vanished. Time for library administration became just as hard to find. While I spent time spinning my wheels the technology world continued on its merry way. I’m feeling very far behind.
Believe it or not, I actually like posting in my blog. You’d never know that if you just looked at the number of recent posts. There isn’t time to do this at work and when I get home there are always so many other things to do. Many changes have occurred over the course of the last two years and I’ve been encouraged to start posting again. I should have more time now. Half time gives you more time at home and therefore, more time to post. I can’t complain. Half time is better than no time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I rather like half time.
Harambee Elementary School almost closed. It’s a long and complicated story so I’m not going to try to explain it all. Currently we are being run by the Roseville School District. I didn’t say that we were actually part of the school district because that would be stretching the truth. Perhaps next year that will happen.
I’m fortunate to have great support in the Roseville District. My principal and colleagues are also very supportive. It’s time once again to see what the tech world has to offer.
As I’ve said before here, one of my major responsibilities is teaching students processes so that classroom teachers will be better able to use technology to teach content. One of the things we need to address is the login process. I’ve come up with a very low tech way of handling this issue. Each student has a username/password card. I clip them together in alphabetical order by first name and file them in a folder I have for each class, taking them out when we need them.
In about the middle of the 1st quarter, students make their username/password cards. Each student records their first name, last name, username, and password on a 5 x 7 card. This happens at every grade including kindergarten (when they are capable). I grade these cards. Did they fill it out correctly? Did they remember their username and password? When I grade them I provide correct information if it is not done correctly. We use these cards every time students go to the computers. The goal is for students to be able to login without using their cards. Every time I give them a card I mark it. This gives me an added piece of assessment. Many of the 1st grade students need their cards every time they login. But they quickly see that they will get to our online activity MUCH faster if they have the username and password memorized. Usually there are also a few 2nd graders who continue to use the cards. By 3rd grade most students no longer need to use the cards for logging in.
There are other uses for these cards. It is easy to upload a class list onto wikispaces. I try to use the same username and password as we use here at school but that isn’t always an option. Sometimes the username is in use and I have to make small changes so it will be accepted. The password has to be 6 digits long so I have to add to the student passwords. I record this information on their card so they can quickly get onto their wiki page. They usually memorize this login information so they can get to their wiki page from home. We also use a couple other sites during the year where the students create their own usernames and passwords. These are recorded on the cards.
It’s not a perfect solution. Students sometimes leave their cards at the computers, even though they’ve been reminded not to. This gives others access to their accounts. I have not yet seen that it has been a problem but the potential is there. It takes time to make the cards, usually a couple class sessions. That’s because I don’t just hand out the cards and tell them to make them. I make a big deal about these being the kind of thing that they should keep secret. Each student comes up to a small table to sit alone and fill out their card. While they do this I read aloud to the class. However, the time it takes to make them is easily made up in time spent actually on the computers rather than struggling to remember username and password. This very low tech solution to several username/password problems has worked very well.
My first grade students spent a significant amount of time studying genres. They enjoyed making their own Gruffalo, reading Garfield mysteries, and trying to understand the difference between realistic fiction and nonfiction. Now it’s the end of the year and I wondered how to pull this unit together. I was very excited when I found that ABCya.com had a word cloud site for elementary students. I’ve looked at Wordle but I was nervous about using it for elementary students because sometimes older students submit wordles with inappropriate words. WordClouds for Kids doesn’t give students the opportunity to see the works of other and sometimes, that’s a good thing.
I gave my first grade students a list of the genres we had looked at and sent them to the computers. They didn’t have to type all the genres if they didn’t want to and each student typed their first name in the cloud. I have a student teacher who helped by saving the word clouds to a flash drive while I helped students check out. This activity would have been difficult without the help of another adult. I just posted the results on the Harambee Library Wiki. Look for them at the top of the navigation bar on the left.
We made a few mistakes because initially we thought that we needed a hyphen between words that should be together. The instructions did not say that typing the same word more than once would make it bigger but they learned right along with me. It was a good way to end the unit and they did a wonderful job!
Behold the computer lab I have in my library. There are 25 computers. The screens can be easily seen by standing back and looking around the room. It is a very inviting, friendly space to work.
Other teachers have started signing up for the lab. On the one hand I’m delighted because this is what I was hoping would happen. On the other hand, I now have to negotiate for time and space.
I was making plans for next week when I found that the lab had been signed out for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for the rest of the school year. I freaked out because that’s when I have 4th graders. I checked the schedule again and found that the same thing happened on Fridays with a different teacher. So now my fourth grade students are left with one day a month per class of computer time during library classes. Fortunately some arrangements have been made, at least for next week. Who knows what the rest of the year will be like?
When I tested students at the end of the first quarter, I was less than satisfied with the results. For some students it was a fun and easy way to learn about genres. These were the students who probably would have learned it anyway because they generally pay attention in class. For the others it was too much play and not enough learning. I wouldn’t abandon the games. They’re a great way to reinforce what is being taught. In the future I might make the test “open book” by making a scavenger hunt that would use the games to find the answers. I think it would direct the learning better than the way I did it this time.
As the result of a grant, East Metro Integration District now has someone to help integrate technology into the classroom. We are fortunate to have Carl Anderson join the team. Some of you may know him by his blog, Techno Constuctivist. Carl is interested in pushing the boundaries so his posts are interesting but his blog is also a great resource for sites that can be used by teachers and students alike.
Now that I’m connected through a blog, twitter, delicious, RSS feed, etc. I find that my life is digitally messy. I have 485 blog posts to read. Some of the blogs listed on the right are no longer active and I should take them out of my list. There are new ones that I follow that are fantastic that I should add. How do I have time to even look at all the fantastic sites mentioned by my twitter colleagues? I haven’t really even explored the social networking possible in delicious and I still need to go through the links I’ve saved. My own website really needs some quality updating.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t give up any of these tools, not for a minute. But I’m not sure how to organize all this information. Remember that I’m a librarian at heart and that’s what we do. We organize information and figure out how to access it. I now have a flood of information that is basically organized but I don’t know how to keep up with it. I suppose it means I need to figure out what’s really important to me. Maybe I need to set aside a certain time each day. Like anything, if it really matters to me I’ll find time for it. How do others keep up? Sounds like a tweet to me!
A couple posts ago I was listing some of the technology I use for personal uses and I left Evernote off the list. I actually used it when making the post but still forgot to list it. That just shows how much I take it for granted.
I have a class that loves to talk. It’s frustrating teaching this group and students who are trying to learn are annoyed. I rearranged the seating chart according to student MAP reading scores so that students in similar reading levels are in the same row. Now I can send one row with written instructions off to work on an assignment while I give instructions to the other two rows.
I used Evernote to print just the part of the screen I needed to make step by step instructions. I love this feature. I seldom need to print an entire screen but often need a portion of the screen. Since I can sync Evernote online, the pictures are also available to me on another computer. I’m still using the instructions I made and will surely make some more.
Now I’m sure that Evernote has many other uses. I sometimes use it to save tweets from Twitter. You could jot down notes or a to-do list. You could do some serious online shopping comparisons because Evernote provides the URL for the sites you note. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Evernote is one of those very useful little tools now available free online.
The first graders are becoming experts on the Caldecott Award. They had so much fun with the Go Caldecott game we played at the end of the second quarter that I told them we’d read some more books and then play it again. This week we played the game again and they loved it. It’s just a board game that I made following the 57 Games to play in the Library or Classroom instructions. Their scores improved dramatically.
One thing that makes it work so well is the random number generator that we used.
Part of the fun was getting to find out how many squares ahead they could move by going to the white board and pushing the arrow. This small interactive part of the game added a lot. It just goes to show that the technology we inject into our lessons doesn’t have to be huge to make a difference.
Kindergarten classes are a challenge. They need to get up and move after about 10 minutes and I haven’t quite figured out what that should look like in the library. This week though, I got it right.
They now know their letters pretty good but I know that alphabetical order will continue to be something they’ll need to work on. The document camera is still a fairly new tool in our school so I hooked it up and put a little story without words called The Alphabet by Monique Felix under it. It’s about a little mouse who digs into a book and pulls out each letter of the alphabet on little squares of paper. The kids were intrigued when they saw my hand turn the pages. We speculated about just what the little mice were doing and we all said the alphabet at the end.
That was good but Bembo’s Zoo was better. Even adults were intrigued by the way the letters formed intricate caricatures of the animals and a fourth grader walking by asked for the URL. Students came up to the white board to touch the first letter of their name and watch as the animal was formed. Of course, it got pretty loud in the library but the kindergartners were engaged, had a good time, and got a little alphabet practice. It’s a step in the right direction.