Untangling the World of Books, Technology, and Instruction

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Leading the Way

Thank you technology for failing us......just this once.

The past few weeks have brought about a frenzy of craziness in the my libraries.  We have 5th graders starting some hefty research business using print, online databases, and Google Docs, and middle school students in various stages of construction on digital portfolios in preparation for parent-teacher conferences next week. Let's add to the chaos.....a bookfair in both buildings.

I spent one day literally running back and forth across the street between my two buildings and I lost count after my fourth trip to the middle school.  This week, we had the mixed blessing of Nebraska weather which resulted in two snow days in one week with a full moon.  Everyone seemed just a little off kilter by yesterday afternoon.

Not even going to mention the heavy duty discussions going on about technology, curriculum, conference presentations, and the cardboard solar panels taped to my car by my fifth grade HAL students.

With all that said, by yesterday, I was ready for the whack-a-doodle week to be OVER. I was spending the day in an eighth grade English class helping students pull together and finalize their student portfolios.  At the middle school, we have been moving toward a digital portfolio for students to use as an archive of work, goals, and progress.  It will become a living document and digital footprint foundation as they go through high school.  Our template consists of a Google Site developed last fall and students add their work, assessment information, and examples of their learning.

Yesterday, our plan was have students scan their documents and send to Google Drive for addition to their portfolios.  We had chosen an app for the scanning process and seemed to be set to start working.  For whatever reason, the app would not export....... at all.  Ok, well actually it did... like seven hours later. We had to switch gears pretty quickly and I started using my phone to scan and email students their artifacts so they could keep working.  At some point, a few students started using their devices and took care of their own documents.  And then....

I looked up and saw kids huddled together over phones, passing devices back and forth, helping each other take photos of posters they had made, kneeling on the floor next to another student walking them through the process.  In the course of constructing their own portfolios, they also reached out to their peers who were lost, unsure of what came next, or didn't have a device.  And once again, I was humbled by the power of watching kids collaborate and support each other in the learning process.

Yesterday, started out as a day of individual work on a personal archive, and ended as an opportunity to not only learn, but to teach others. Grateful I was there to witness the power of students collaborating and supporting each other.






Sunday, January 11, 2015

And Above All Else....

One of the my favorite moments of each day is the sunset.  Often sunset brings a mass exit from our house, a jump into a vehicle, and a quick dash to the beach on the other side of the lake from our house, phone in hand, camera ready. My girls are often with me and then it's a race to Instagram the first image captured.  They have their own reasons for capturing sunsets, but mine center around gratitude.

It has been almost three years since our lives took a strange and unexpected turn, professionally and personally. There were things I thought I wanted in my life and the months following our move brought none of those things.  Instead, we were blessed with different opportunities far beyond our imaginations and far greater than I would ever considered.

The Tangled Librarian blog started as a record of my journey as an educator.  It has become an archive of the moments that have made me who I am. My passion is always striving to make the school library environment better for students in whatever form that may take.  I've been blessed to be a part of a dynamic learning community through Twitter, Instagram, and Nebraska Ed Chat.  I was honored and humbled after receiving an award from my state organization last fall.  I have an opportunity to guide future school librarians as they prepare for our profession, and began my school year in two new amazing buildings with beautiful libraries in a district moving forward and looking to the future of education. All of these blessings are far greater than  what I thought I needed in my life three years ago.

The lesson which has settled in me during this journey is that above all else, be grateful.  Be grateful for every beautiful sunset, small victory, miracle, and simple blessing that comes along.  Gratitude makes room for inspiration and innovation which keep us coming back everyday.  Gratitude makes room to breathe and look up at what we do each day and know that somewhere we made a difference.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why Twitter? Why Not?


I have been percolating the idea of how to explain the power of Twitter as a professional learning and branding tool for quite some time. When I've been asked by colleagues why it's such a great resource, I kind of go ...... Um........Wow, I really need a good answer.
How do those of us using Twitter share it's power with the non-believers? And I write that with no mean spirit intended.  Facebook hasn't been a go to resource for me, and I deleted my account, but you know it never goes away - ever.  (Now there's a digital citizenship lesson.)
Last summer, sitting at the Southwest Iowa Google Summit (#swiags) listening to Eric Sheninger's keynote, the lightbulb finally started to shimmer. He made a comment that we don't have to be connected educators, but why would we close the door on all of the amazing resources and people in social media?  Well, duh? And today, in church, our pastor shared a comment that completely threw the switch.  "We are built to be connected." And again, duh? We are educators and we are people.  We look for connections and relationships, it part of being who we are and as educators, we get a double dose. We are teachers and learners guiding the next generation of teachers and learners. In 140 characters, Twitter provides us with the fuel to keep coming back for more, every student, every day (That's a Dr. Stogdill-ism)
#nebedchat T-Shirt (@shellymowinkel)
I spent the afternoon thinking about my experiences at recent conferences smiling over conversations I have with friends I met through Twitter. At NETA14, Brent Catlett and I staked out a corner and had the most amazing conversation about life, career, and the amazing journey we have found ourselves on. Brent is someone I met first on Twitter and later in person. I will never forget the first time we met in person at NSLA/NLA.  I was so starstruck (seriously - same with Laura Kroll when I met her the first time in person) because he knows so much and it was so exciting to stand next to him and get a hug.  Ann Feldmann and I had a quick chat about the importance of refilling the well and staying inspired.  I remember that conversation when I'm feeling rattled and cranky. And I'm pretty sure I landed at the amazing district I am in today because of the connections I made with other educators through Twitter. 
This is where I could start dropping names but I would surely leave someone out, so I'm not going there. You all know who you are.......
I will say, however, I am so blessed to have met such amazing people over the last several years because of Twitter. My professional journey is completely intertwined with Twitter relationships, #nebedchat, and presenting and attending conferences where I might have spent more time swapping ideas than sitting in a session. I've connected with librarians and authors who are embedded in who I am professionally. They are my friends. We cheer each other on when things go well, and offer our support when things get really, really dark. I am a better person and educator because my view is wider and larger than my building, my district, and my profession. And for the record, most of my really good ideas come from Twitter at 3 a.m.
So there's my answer to the question, Why Twitter? ..... Why Not? 
"If you are the smartest one in the room, you need a bigger room. That's Twitter." -- Paula White, elementary gifted resources teacher, Charlottesville, Virginia
"Alone we are smart, together we are brilliant. Twitter helps us do that." -- Steven Anderson, educator, Winston-Salem, North Carolina