Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Google is all about search

This week I started the GAFE course, Google Apps for Educators run through Buffalo State University New York this course if facilitated by Jeff Utecht.

What attracted me to this course was a colleague's recommendation. He included the link to the website and after  reading what it was about - I was sold. This course is all about using Google Apps and Cloud based technologies in the classroom. The first learning outcome listed was "Search more effectively" Just what a busy school librarian needs to know - especially when every student and staff member has a default setting of searching on Google. My own default setting is to search on Google.

Today I did the first lesson on searching (there are 4 lessons on this all together including one called "Becoming a search master" - just what I need to know. All the resources are for teachers in schools.

The scary part is that I will be assessed for comments in forums, tests and a final 10 minute presentation showing work I am doing in my school using the things I have learnt on this course. YIKES. If you want to take the course - the next one begins April 1st.

I will keep you posted as to how I am going....

Friday, January 25, 2013

Blogging in two places

Our school has developed class and subject blogs this year and of course our library has it's own blog.

We are using Wordpress and have a generic banner for all classes which could use some beautification in my humble opinion. BUT we are there and it is our goal to blog at least once a week. My colleague Pla is very good at creating photo galleries. There are some lovely galleries about lunchtime in our library, seminars and the like. I add the content pages and have started a libguide style section for our staff and students in the tab 'Learning Support for classes'.

Here is this week's offering about the Destiny Quest mobile app. This post will also be added to the IICS Facebook page to let parents know as well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Miracle on the Hudson 363.12

Do you remember the news footage of this plane crash? I think the photo on the cover of the book is the most memorable image for me. I watched the news as the world celebrated with the passengers and crew of this flight - they had survived, they were safe. Then a few weeks later I saw the passengers and their families meet the pilot and crew of this plane. They were so thankful for his actions. They were so thankful to have their loved ones. They were so thankful.

This book takes us on the flight through the accounts of the passengers on the plane. The writers, William Prochnau and Laura Parker, introduce us to these people as they start their morning on the day of the flight. They introduce us to many of the passengers and throughout the book we read their accounts of each stage of this very short flight. I had expected to read more about the hero of the story the pilot but this was the story of the passengers and it is very well told. A book review from Huntington News gives more details.

Interspersed between the passengers' stories the writers include some amazing facts and information about everything from the bird strikes, other crashes, the rescuers. I was a passenger on 8 flights during the winter holiday, four domestic and four International. I had this book to read before those flights but for some strange reason put off reading it. I am pleased I have read it and time will tell whether any of it stays in my mind for my next flight.

The trouble with reading non-fiction is - it is so real.

Here is the pilot, Captain Sullenberger - telling his side of the story and below that the passengers meet with Captain Sully and his crew.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Distance no probelm

Today while in my library at school I was able to meet with a writer who was in Valencia, Spain and visit a school in Sofia, Bulgaria. Both experiences were made possible by Skype and supplemented through Twitter

Our school is going to hosting a new writer - Ree Gillett - in February for our Love Reading Week. We were chatting about the things she needed me to set up and I was showing her our library and the space she would be working in. It was great to 'meet' Ree after a few weeks of emails trying to make her visit to Istanbul work. She will be bringing her book, Freddy Frog and the lost kite her puppets, some creative thinking strategies to share with our students and teachers and her singing voice. We are so looking forward to her visit. 

Today the third meeting of  LTEN took place at the Anglo-American School of Sofia. LTEN was created by one of my colleagues, Tom Johnson and it stands for  Learning and Technology Exchange Network. This Network is for teachers in schools in and near Istanbul, Turkey. We organise the agenda of the meeting through the wikispace. We try and meet three times a year for a whole day and share ideas, tools and learning strategies. Although I could not be at the meeting in Sofia I did attend for 40 minutes through Skype. A teacher in Sofia hosted me via Skype and an ipad as they were having speedgeek sessions run by the students in the school. I was able to see grade 2 students present about voicethread and grade 5 students about using Google apps in their classroom. Wonderful. When I wasn't able to be on Skype I stayed in touch through the twitter hash tag #LTEN. 

Two different meetings , two different parts of the world and all through Skype. Recently a principal I was speaking to commented that Skype was probably the most under utilised tool in schools today. I agree. Think of who our students could connect to using this free technology. Sometimes it is simply not knowing who to connect with that prevents this technology being utilised effectively. Perhaps we librarians can start to create a wiki or database with possible Skype contacts for student and teachers. Something to ponder....

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Everything bad is good for you 360

The title alone made me want to read this book. The full title is Everything bad is good for you: How today's popular culture is actually making us smarter. Steven Johnson is a well known social commentator with other books like The Ghost Map about the cholera epidemic in London and his latest Future Perfect about how people were using decentralized peer networks to solve problems. 

In Everything bad is good for you Steven Johnson is looking at popular culture like computer and video games and television. His findings are fascinating. As time has gone on all of these popular media have become more sophisticated, demanding greater levels of intellectual involvement from their consumers and audiences. So what has been popularly described as creating a dumber society is in fact - and Johnson provides compelling evidence to prove his case, doing the opposite.

I really liked his references to the importance of reading as part of popular culture. "We should all encourage our kids to read more, to develop a comfort with and an appetite for reading. What are the rewards of reading, exactly? Broadly speaking they fall into two categories: the information conveyed by the book, and the mental work you have to do to process and store that information. When we encourage kids to read for pleasure, we're generally doing so because of the mental exercise involved." (pg 21-22)

He also acknowledges the negative influences of gaming and television watching but on the whole his message is very positive and optimistic. We are all getting smarter not dumber from enjoying these forms of media.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wondering at work - the inside of the wonder door

So each week we have a new 'wonder' on the wonder door of our library. We put the new question on the outside of the library door - it is also right beside the print/photocopier and often there are people waiting for their printing. When we see a group and we have a moment spare ourselves we grab the post it notes and markers and ask the students to add their answers.

What happens to the answers when the week is over and there is a new question? They all go to the inside of the wonder door, inside the library. We show the question from last week, the answers AND some books from our collection that would help people find the correct answer. Here displayed is the question "What makes the earth go round?' - a question one of our grade 10 students suggested. There are many answers - some very serious involving gravity, the sun and so on and others a little more light hearted - love, money and certain people. Below are a few books which would contribute to the answers. So our wonder door is current for two weeks. On the outside with the new question of the week and on the inside with all the answers contributed and some sources of information for the answers.

Loving being an Inquiry Librarian working in our Inquiry Library....

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wondering at work - language

In our library we have many columns to support the building in case of an earthquake. Here is the column beside our work area. We have started to create our "Wondering at Work" area. It is thoroughly appropriate that we use this supporting column as we are adding questions and words which support our quest at becoming an Inquiry Library.

One question we asked ourselves was what does an Inquiry Library sound like? It was inspired by this blog post 'Inquiry is an approach, not a subject' by Kath Murdoch. She asks these great questions in her post How might I re-think my language to better reflect the reality of a day in the life of an inquiry classroom? Our learning involves us inquiring as readers, as writers, as mathematicians, as scientists, as historians, as musicians – as team members and as self-managers.  How to I let my students know that they are inquirers more often than when they are simply “doing” a unit? So we decided one way we could add to the language of Inquiry in our library was to have a word of the week. We would try to use it as we speak, as we blog, as we think and we would encourage one another and our students and colleagues to adopt the word as well. 

So far we have had the words; peruse, browse and now bibliophile. Each week one of our library teams selects a new word and in our Monday morning team meeting she let's us know what the word of the week will be. This is a small step in the process of ensuring that we sound like an Inquiry library. We want to encourage questions, reflection, thoughtfulness and we are trying to ensure our language assists this process.