Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top 100 Learning Tooooools?

100?  Really?   
EQ:  How can we detect when we're on technology overload?  
          How can I assess whether we're using tools for Quality or quantity? 
          Does our IT Dept enable us to use these? 

Time for true confessions. I love technology and once upon a time, I was a tech-guru. Our program implemented Microsoft Moviemaker ten years ago.  Our students created Animotos, iMovies, Audacity MP3 files and more.  I built a library portal via Dreamweaver that had its' own domain name, and our students were info lit savvy.... all back when tech was in its fledgling status. BUT -- There was a limited number of educational tech tools then. Inquiry-based learning was just beginning to take hold, and not all our tech projects were stellar works of thought.  

Now, we have to be even more careful to embed thought, as time constraints have hit us like a parasite zapping precious planning time from our schedule. Now, we have tech in abundance, and if we're not careful we can be consumed with the upkeep of our program and state-of-the-art technology. This sometimes results in cheating the quality of our assignments when we should be requiring the kids to think and not just to report

We have a prominent UK educator, Jane Hart, to thank for her survey and list of the top 100 tech tools, of which I have listed 51 below.  As we survey this list, I would encourage you not to be consumed by them, but to eat sparingly.  Treat this like a gourmet menu where you ponder: 
  • "What can my students experience this year to enhance their education--not their toolbox." 
  • How many can they eat and not be overweight?  
  • How can we exercise their mind using a few of these?  
It's fun to consume new gourmet foods, but we have to insure that we get our exercise to work off the calories.  All that said, here's the top 51!  

2015 Top Tools - As per Jane Hart - Click here

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Another Half-dozen Bulletin Board Ideas!

Good bye to the old paradigm of bulletin board being a "content delivery" system. By adding an interactive element, expecting students to contribute to the postings, you are transferring ownership to the students.  They begin to see the space as a place for contribute.  Here we are again starting another school year, with interactive bulletin board ideas for you!

Carpe Diem! - Seize the opportunity to give your students a voice on a bulletin board.

1. CAUTION!  At your local hardware store purchase a roll of yellow CAUTION tape and use it to surround your bulletin board as trim. Provide a center yellow paper template stating "CAUTION! These books will keep you awake at night!"  Ask students to contribute book covers for captivating page-turners.  I remember one at-risk student sharing that when he read the book, DUNK, (David Lubar) "It was so good and hilarious that I'd rather read than watch TV."  I hadn't read DUNK at the time, but took mental note that it must be a winner!  

2. Global Connections: Flat-world? Place hints on the board, and ask the students to figure out where this place is. The questions should or could, come from the news and cause the students to: identify keywords for correct searching skills, or increase their global exposure. A world map from National Geographic would provide a good background.

  • Bujumbura is the capital of this impoverished nation. How can they crawl out from poverty?
  • This nation is below sea level.... 
  • Tell me about the city of Chittagong. How could we help them? 
  • Timbuktu is a real city located at what longitude and latitude
  • Where do the Hutu's live? 
  • This country's currency is a Baht. How many would you need to purchase a $10.00 (US Dollar) toy? 
  • Etc. - Or, ask the students to create questions for others!
3. WONDER WALL  - What are you wondering about?  Allow students to post their random questions and then teach them to find answers.  When the bulletin board gets full, you can teach a lesson on "investigating" or finding answers, keyword searching and more. 

4. Life's a Puzzle -- Using a colorful puzzle, ask the kids to complete the puzzle on the bulletin board, by gluing pieces in place when they find one to fit.  Every week include a puzzle-riddle near the board that they can contemplate as they look for pieces to fit. 

5. WANTED a Few Good Readers!  Have students  suggest titles and create Wanted Posters with book covers. Hang them on the bulletin board. Wanted a reader who [fill in the blank]!  Ex.  Wanted: A reader who likes to read murder mysteries and who wants to figure out who killed the mother!" "Wanted: Readers to learn about paranormal probabilities!"  "Wanted - someone to help me find another book this good!

6: Notable Quotable! Cut out some speech bubbles from copied black line masters such as those pictured below. Ask the students to find a great quote within their books.  For instance, I just finished reading, The Silent Boy, (pre-publication to be released Oct 2015...a page-turner-murder-mystery). While I'm reading, I always stop and note a good quote or two that I stumble upon.  In The Silent Boy, the main character comments, "Facts are solid things. You can trust them, unlike people."  These quotes can arose curiosity in readers and be a platform for discussion and discovery. 
In case you've missed previous ideas!...  

Good luck and feel free to post some pictures, of your creation! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Back-To-School Essential!

Here's an older posting, but it's a good reminder to purchase a lazer pointer for Back-to-School Essentials.  This librarian made quite the impression on her principal who thought she was rather resourceful.  If you are "Aide-less" and need another appendage, consider this: 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kwame’s Pulchritudinous Book

Three chapters of Crossover had convinced me that Kwame was a genius... a genius-wordsmith.  Look at this list of SAT words, or valuable vocabulary, embedded into the text of the first few pages:

There you go: Pulchritudinous.  So, even if we knew the others on the list, we probably haven’t used pulchritudinous in the last few days.  It was easy to decode from the context clues—simple in fact, and even defined on the following page.  Kudos to this hip-author writing basketball books, in captivating almost-rap-style modeling the value of articulation. 

It wasn’t vocabulary, which won him the Newbery award, however.  It was the weaving of words, to spin a yarn, which the reader could relate to. Who hasn’t been jealous of their sibling?  Who hasn’t lost a hero? Who hasn’t been proud of ability or upset by loss?  So, I take off my hat to a man who writes with distinction, articulates the difficulties of coming of age and overcoming adversity. He models hope to teens, encouraging them to triumph over life’s difficulties.

Hat's off to Kwame as he accepts his Newbery award this Sunday at the Gala in San Francisco for this pulchritudinous tale. (Yes. I know. I know. I've used this word out-of-context.)

Instructional EQ’s:
How does vocabulary reflect a command of the English language? 
How does literature reflect real life issues?

Pictures below of Susan Polos, librarians, Bedford Central Schools, NY with her visit from Kwame.  See this great article (click here) spotlighting getting "Fired UP for Reading" with Kwame pictured on the front, and featured story beginning on page 17. These two local programs highlighted in this article, spotlights the value of a strong reading program.  
Kwame Alexander and the Newbery Banquet held in Bedford Hills Elementary School 

Kwame Alexander, students, and Susan Polos, President-elect NYS Section of School Librarians

Monday, June 8, 2015

Blackholes, Beauty, Adjectives & Discovery

This TED talk was thoroughly beautiful, amazing, spectacular, unbelievable, puzzling, and more!  When I viewed this my mind immediately thought of educational uses. Fact:The person doing the thinking, is doing the learning. Fact:The brain is lazy, and needs to be inspired to work. Fact:Students need a reason to read or research. Fact:There are soooooo many opportunities to inspire curiousity, that teachers have no excuse for putting kids to sleep. Let's wake up the class and get them: THINKING, READING, AND RESEARCHING. Who knows? Perhaps someday they'll be studying "Blazars."
 Quick CCSS-aligned lesson to encourage "short term research assignments:"

  • Show this TED talk and amass a list of questions. 
  • Essential Question: How does space science (astrophysics) puzzle us?
  • Ask students to describe what they saw.  Tell them you "value vocabulary" and ask for expensive adjectives. (model this)
  • Brainstorm a list of questions students might have, after watching the video. 
  • Have each student pick a question or two. 
  • Research the answers - a "mini-Inquiry" 
  • Hold a "meeting of the minds" and share new knowledge.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Are You Ready for Research?

Here's an idea to tuck into the back of your mind for next year.  Prior to our 8th grade annual "inquiry based research project,"  I decided to poll the students to capture their pre-assessment on video.  This was not a scientific measurable pre-assessment, but more of a qualitative, fun endeavor.  I asked the 8th graders a variety of questions and they candidly answered.   After creating this short movie we showed this in the ELA classrooms prior to this, their first large research project. Not only did they laugh, but they serendipitously, were ready to listen.  We were amazed at the success of exposing ignorance.

You may hear a reference to, as that was our school district research site that I had maintained for years, but subsequently has been replaced. It was set as the homepage on every library computer in the building (we had 75 computers in the library and the attached two labs).

I'd like to share that my goal after this, was to vertically align the research skills taught so that students wouldn't arrive in 8th grade needing so much triage. This worked.  We were able to get district support to incrementally build capacity starting in the early grades.

As with many projects, once I started this, I was able to enlist the help of techy 8th graders (Andrew, specifically featured in the movie), to help splice comments and free up my time to move on to other things...).  Enjoy the show!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Questioning is the KEY for Success!

When Wiggins & McTygue launched a focus on Essential Questions, almost twenty years ago, they were ahead of the pack.  With the evolution of the Tech-dependent Millennial generation, EQ's are imperative for instruction.  The correct EQ will turn an assignment into a "discovery" to find the correct answer, using the vocabulary of the discipline!  The wrong assignment question will provide nothing more than a fact-fetching online session.

 EQ's can  transfer the learning responsibility into the student's hand and prevent the scenario pictured below. 

(Text from Sorry You're Lost, by Matt Blackstone) 

I'll be delivering PD on this Monday morning, in Missouri --for any educator attending MASL Conference, but most reading this will not be in Mark Twain territory for this event.  Listed below are a few sample EQ's which demonstrate how the right EQ can empower a student to learn.  These samples are 9 examples of the 99 Essential Questions found in our book, Rx for the Common Core, available via Libraries Unlimited.  (Use discount code: Q21520 for 20% off.)

EQ: Why do we need to be concerned about Plate Tectonics and your local plate.  
EQ: How is health and wellness defined by the technology of the time? 
EQ: How has the discovery of [your Chemical Element] changed the world?
EQ: How has the migration of people, changed the culture where they landed? 
EQ: How did Jim Crow cause the South to revert to a pre-Civil Way society?
EQ: How do animals think like scientists?
EQ: If you were living in Europe during the 1700's, would you have emigrated to America? 
EQ: How did scurvy impact sailing? 
EQ: Why is your digital footprint a real-world character reference

I'll be talking about EQ's, GQ's (Guiding Questions), TDQ's (Text-dependent Questions), and more, on Monday!  See you if you are in the area!  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Librarians @ the CORE

Every other week we delightfully see a salary deposit from employers and are reminded that they are at the helm. We work for them--to support their goals, their mandates, and their mission of academic achievement and college and career readiness.   That's right.  They set the direction, not us. States set the standards, grade level benchmarks and more.  They have told us we are to teach to the Common Core Standards and in order to keep the money flowing, we happily accept that challenge knowing that we can package content creatively within any set of standards. We are teachers.

There was a fad almost 20 years ago to have students re-write the poem, "If I Ran the World."  While this was a cute activity, I cannot say it was rigorous or aligned with standards.  In fact, I dare to was rather easy, self-centered, and entertaining? I actually did this after attending an elementary librarian conference where it was suggested. What were they thinking? There was no standard attached.  There was no learning objective.

We teach in an age that requires us to think critically about why we are teaching what we teach.
If you see students for 45 minutes weekly,  you see those students for 30 full hours annually.  Ask yourself the following:

  • What are your learning objectives for those hours?  
  • How can you support College and Career Readiness in those 30 hours?  
  • How can I "show" rather than "tell"?
  • Have I carefully crafted lessons that are: creative, engaging, and providing skills to equip students for success? (We could teach them 30 new tech tools for "Publishing" and I would be aligned with standards....)
Teaching is tough work.  It is not for the faint-of-heart.  But--those with creative ideas and fortitude are amply rewarded by seeing students smile with pride when they authentically craft their knowledge into something they can share.   I remember visiting the HS library a couple of years ago and running into some former middle school students.  Kyle made my day when he remarked, "Mrs. Jaeger!  I miss you and I'll always thank you for turning me on to vocabulary!"    Of course the words he began to proclaim were less-than-stellar such as, heinous, civilian, moniker and other words extracted from Al Capone Does My Shirts.  He was our star rapper when we used Audacity to record. The year was 2007.

Wrap your head around "new standards" remembering that you can be creative with just about anything.  Just weave your standard together some tech tools, valuable vocabulary, an Inquiry Investigation! 

If you do not know how to align your instruction to standards and are looking for ideas, may I suggest our newly published books as pictured below.  These THINK TANK books provide lesson examples for library instruction which have standards noted.  Recently, I received thank-yous from librarians who took the time to email stating these Think Tank books provided just the examples they needed to understand new standards.  

Available via ABC Clio - click here

Monday, March 16, 2015

Limericks, Lear and the Library!

We could interrupt instruction daily to celebrate some holiday, and today is no exception. The trick is to find some way to weave the holidays into your important learning objectives -- without confusing the two.  So, here's a creative example: 

This week holds St. Patrick's Day.  Now teachers often can't be bothered with this holiday, but in library time we may be able to rise to the occasion and teach LIMERICKS.   I used to do this with my elementary students and they got it.  It was a simple ELA integration that classrooms didn't have time for, and yet the kids could have fun.  

The pattern is simple: AABBA (See the wikipedia explanation, if you need the history.)  
I would read a couple of Lear's Limericks and then we would model writing one together.  The rest of the time, they would attempt to create one, and it worked.  They rose to the occasion.  (In addition, they learned that literary books were in the 800's....) 

To make this more educational, you could choose to have them create Limericks about some subject matter they are studying in their classroom such as: Patriots, Colonists, Explorers, the Digestive System, Chemical Elements etc.  Why not?  Creation is the key! 

There's a noble gas named radon
Which is 100 times heavier than Hydrogen
I don't understand why 
But I so desperately try
That's why I'm not working in Chem

There once was a Colonist name Benedict
He was a hero, heretic, and derelict 
He loved his money
and sold his soul with his honey
So he escaped before George could convict  

This doesn't get to the "deep understanding" that new standards such as the CCSS call for, but it's a fun activity that your students may remember!  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Eavesdropping Barbie a Smash Hit for Instruction!

Wow.  When I read in the Washington Post  about Mattel's new "eavesdropping Barbie," my adrenaline started to flow with the thought of instructional possibilities: Close Reading discussion and debate, seed text for research, CyberSafety, Patriot Act, Right to privacy, Bill of Rights, and more.  Just think about this Essential Question which would spark curiosity setting the stage for focused reading: 

EQ: Has technology evolved beyond its' own good?  

Guiding Questions for discussion or Text-dependent Questions: 
  • How do toys reflect the culture? 
  • Is there a potential for criminal activity? 
  • Would the Bill of Rights have anything to do with this? 
  • Would the Patriot Act have anything to do with this? 
  • Has Mattel toy company exceeded "childish" things with this new Hello Barbie
  • How does talking Barbie compare to talking Elmo? Why is it okay for Elmo to talk, but not this case? (This is an example of a TDQ which gets the kids to examine the text to see that it's not the talking that's the issue--but rather the listening.) 
This sample close reading piece measures a 10.5 on the Fleisch-Kincaid reading measure making it so appropriate for a great HS discussion piece.  It even has ample of great Tier 2  (SAT words) vocabulary words such as: Advocacy, advocates, affinity, subtle, vulnerable, confide, and more. If an ELA class was reading Brave New World, 1984, or some other dystopian novel, this could be paired with it to bring the material into the real world.  

(If you don't know how to measure readability statistics, read this blog posting: Click here )

Now we know that not everyone will be able to use this gem from the Washington Post. It is not a primary source document from the Library of Congress.  However, This is an example of using a short Close Reading piece to instigate a discussion --> which leads kids to conclude they don't know enough--> which leads to research to find the answers.  

For those people who need reading material of greater "substance" - consider pairing this with an excerpt from Chief Justice Louis Brandeis' dissenting opinion on the landmark "right to privacy" case of 1928.  Read this paragraph and see how appropriate his words were almost 100 years ago: 
  • MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS, dissenting. . . . By objections seasonably made and persistently renewed, the defendants objected to the admission of the evidence obtained by wire-tapping, on the ground that the Government’s wire-tapping constituted an unreasonable search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and that the use as evidence of the conversations overheard compelled the defendants to be witnesses against themselves, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.   ...."Moreover, “in the application of a constitution, our contemplation cannot be only of what has been but of what may be.” The progress of science in furnishing the Government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wire-tapping. Ways may someday be developed by which the Government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home. Advances in the psychic and related sciences may bring means of exploring unexpressed beliefs, thoughts and emotions. “That places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer” was said by James Otis of much lesser intrusions than these. To Lord Camden, a far slighter intrusion seemed “subversive of all the comforts of society.” Can it be that the Constitution affords no protection against such invasions of individual security? . . .  
After this close reading, discussion and debate, a teacher and librarian would again ask the students the Essential Question:  Has technology evolved beyond it's own good?  
Or, is technology a help or a hindrance? 
Ask your students: What else do you want to know about this?  

This is real life research. This is a life-long learning skill. This is relevant to their lives.  This fosters engagement. This is how we slowly make the paradigm shift to student-centered instruction.  Share this with a teacher who is wondering how to foster the "short term" research assignments that the CCSS says should be an "anchor standard."