Untangling the World of Books, Technology, and Instruction

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To Be or Not To Be...

Image from Behold.com
I continue to struggle with the procedures for electronic devices in the school library.  District policies range from no use of devices to access during non-instrutional times (lunch, between classes, etc.).  I am fortunate to be in a district where the policy is on the more liberal side. Since the library is a learning environment should no devices be allowed.  But....it's not a traditional classroom and the instruction is pretty informal unless I am teaching a class. Further, our students often use devices for study purposes and learning, even texting a parent to pick up a book at the public library if it is not available in our library.

This is a trending topic in the #edchat discussion on Twitter. 21stPrincipal has made some ground shaking comments about electronic devices which I have to say, I kind of agree with. "Simple Cell Phone Policy: None, only ask them to put it away when it distracts them or others." and "Why do we continue to fight the Cell Phone Battle? We are losing!" Additionally, students are bringing their e-readers and Ipads in the library, as well.  I am not going to ask a student to put away their Kindle in the library - Duh!

Currently, my thoughts are leaning toward considering the appropriate use of electronic devices in the library when students ask for permission. I am hoping that provides some accountability and some reminder that we are in a learning environment. I'm not sure outlawing the use in the library setting is an appropriate response to their presence in our students' lives. Instead, I am hoping that by providing some guidance and positive modeling, we can make better use of those resources in the learning environment.

This philosophical debate lends itself to the discussion of technology  integration as a whole. I am reading Heidi Hayes-Jacobs book, Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World.  I found this through Twitter as well. Basically, we are expecting our students to function in the 21st century but often educating them in the 1980's.  I don't think it is a matter of funding because there are plenty of free resources out there for educators, but instead it is the manner in which we teach. We can't put Smartboards and projectors in classrooms and call them technology integrated. Technology integrated has to mean instruction that is engaging and learning that is authentic.  A fabulous librarian that I met during the first few months of this school year told she doesn't ask her students to complete any task that isn't authentic and applicable in another area of their lives.

We are on some boggy ground, but also in a position to be a part of some exciting shifts in thought and learning.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And Above All - Be Grateful

I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this bowl of soup and gratitude.

It is turkey noodle from the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I made it at my parents' home with leftover turkey that my husband brined and cooked for us. The bowl next to it belongs to my dad who had a heart attack just about a year ago. At the moment I took this picture (with my family laughing at me) I was so extremely grateful for the fact that my dad was sitting next to me.  We almost lost him. I was also so grateful for my husband who started the turkey process on Tuesday, drove us to Iowa, cooked the turkey, and survived midnight Black Friday shopping to get the items his daughters really wanted as Christmas gifts. Both of these men have listened to me and held my hand through the most challenging months of my life.

That gratitude started to creep into my thinking about my library. My thoughts kept turning to all things I have not done, all the times where I felt like I had failed, and do I really know what I am doing? I realized, looking at that bowl of soup, I needed to look up.  I am so truly grateful that I am in a library following my dream.  It has not been what I expected. It has been worse and far better than I could have imagined.  However, the struggles taught me lessons I will never forget and made me a better educator and stronger advocate for my students. I am grateful for my students who are wonderful readers and for those who are just finding the wonders of reading. I am grateful for a mentor who guides me and motivates me and has taught me to teach from my feet and not my knees. I am grateful for the two hour drive to class once a month where I could step onto campus and start to feel solid ground under my feet. Also, for the Starbucks I stopped during those drives - coffee and cranberry orange scones.

Cherish and treasure the little blessings that find you each day.  They may seem few, but they will carry you through every day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Untangling All Those Cords

Image retrieved from ehow.com
If you peek into my office when I am actually sitting at my desk, you will usually see me trying to untangle my computer cords unsuccessfully at least once a day.  My desk may be a wreck and my cords a mess, but my technology gadgets are all in order.  This is mainly because of some invaluable tools that my husband has shared with me during from his Technology Bootcamp and Twitter chats.  First, after lugging my laptop home after a long day, I realized I couldn't access my files because.....I wasn't on the school NETWORK!  Nice...the laptop never made it out of the car.  Enter, Google Docs.  I uploaded all my current unit lesson plans to Google Docs and plan to create a folder for my elementary library lesson plans, as well.  I also downloaded Evernote to my iphone and each laptop.  I have been dumping lesson ideas, staff technology notes, and books I find and need to review for our library.

The constant tangle seems representative of my journey as a new librarian.  Each cord has an important function and it's up to me to keep them untangled and working properly.  Sometimes the tangle gets pretty nasty and sometimes it just takes some time to sit down and straighten it all out.  And it is necessary to take that time -  to clean your desk, office, shelf, whatever.  Part of untangling is also unplugging... and I am becoming a huge advocate of the unplugged moments in life.  As the stack of unread books, magazines, and professional articles piles up, it's ok to go "old school" and curl up with some actual paper reading material.

Finally, a HUGE shout out to Kristin Fontichiaro and Buffy Hamilton for their new publication School Libraries: What's Now, What's Next, What's To Come. Published electronically, downloadable, and awesome!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You Will Want to Quit - But Don't.

This day will come.  You will look around your library and realize you may have made a huge mistake.  Don't turn in your keys. One of the things I did not realize about the first year as a new librarian is that you are also a  new teacher.  If you have your head in your hands, everything on your desk is swimming, and you are having trouble breathing - you are having a first year teacher moment.  That day has come and gone for me - in fact I have had a couple of those days and fully expect a few more.  The experiences that saved me will find you, as well.  First, my students - thank the good Lord for them.  I have a handful of senior boys who make me laugh and with out knowing it, seem to find me whenever I am having a weak moment.  Second, I met with another librarian for my graduate class.  We found a common connection in some of the experiences we had faced.  I can't express in words my gratitude for the time she spent with me on my assignment, but more important, the experiences she shared about her first year.  I didn't feel so isolated and I realized that this time will pass and I will be a better librarian.  There is someone out there who will know your pain, frustration, and fear.  If they aren't in your building or in your district - they are there and you will find them. Finally, I am so very thankful for my family - most of all my husband.  As a principal, he herds his own flock of new teachers in another district but has time to listen and guide me through my first year.

Find the blessings in even the smallest triumphs, stay focused on the kiddos, and stay strong.  Been there - still there - but not giving up.

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Know You Are A School Librarian....

After one month as a school librarian, I have found there are some milestones and common threads found in this position that I had not expected.
Image: photobucket.com
1. You shop for your students at Barnes & Noble - not yourself
2. You carry the AASL and ISTE standards in a file folder inside your totebag in case you think of an activity and want to connect it to a standard in a lesson plan.
3. In previously mentioned totebag, there are at least two books you are reading and one you are planning on reading.
4. Your idea of fun is an afternoon of cataloging reference books.
5. Your idea of a break is scanning in the returned books and alphabetizing them on the bookcart.
6. You read one of above mentioned books during lunch and ignore everyone else.
7. You worry you will miss the release of the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid novel.
8. Your new best friends are Twitter and Diigo.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Day at A Time

Starting this blog to keep a record of my first year as a school librarian - ups, downs, triumphs, and epic failures - not only for myself, but for anyone who is making their merry way in the world of the school library.
Dedicated to those awesome librarians (See Blog List) who have inspired and led the way in a vast and new frontier.  This ain't  your grandma's library, baby!

Rule #1 - Don't forget why you applied for the job!  

Got way...way... way....off track those first few days trying on all those hats - some I knew I would wear and others...not so much.  But when the bell rang and the kiddos filed in...they are the reason I was there.

Shout out to the Daring Librarian for leading me to Comic Life and all its many possibilities! See poster at left created for in-service introducing myself to the rest of the staff. It shows an overview of who I am as a library professional, citing sources, technology integration, and a little bit about the real me.