Saturday, December 31, 2011

Flubaroo: A Teacher's Resolution Revolution!

About a month or so ago, I ran across this video on Flubaroo, bookmarked it, and then went about my merry way.   Fast forward to winter break - you know that special time of year where teachers all around the world put up our feet, drink hot toddies and laugh at all the poor chumps who actually have to work for a living - or, in my case, a fleeting 2 weeks when I try to catch up on several month's worth of work during my "time off," while also entertaining family, eating way too much and trying not to go into debt.  One of my projects this year was to create some quick, basic level assessments for my school's Battle of the Books team, which led me back to Flubaroo: a slick little app that, when combined with a google form, actually GRADES, teacher made assessments.  You heard me right, it grades your assessments.  So... here's the lowdown:

The Good:
  • It does the grading for you!
  • It generates reports that flag the questions that were most often missed.
  • It will email grades directly to students (or parents!?)
  • It's free!
The Not So Good:
  • It's pretty much limited to multiple choice assessments - unless, of course, you're a math teacher and your "short answers" would be exact numbers that the script could recognize.
  • It may be a little complicated to set up for technophobic teachers. 
Possible Uses:
  • As I said, I'm using it for some quick, basic level assessments for our Battle of the Books team, but it could also be used as...
  • Quick, "ticket out the door" assessments.
  • In small group instruction, students could take quick quiz before moving onto the next station.
  • Any assessment in which you just need to know that students have a basic understanding of key concepts.  
I gotta tell you, I love it!  And since this is the time of year when we're all resolving to do things faster, better and more efficiently, Flubaroo may be able to help. 

So, as I always try to do when introducing my staff to a new web tool, I've added it to our tech wiki and created a step by step tutorial for my teachers to follow.  Then, I'll do a 5 minute intro at a staff meeting in January and follow it up with more training as requested and needed.

As always, please feel free to use, share and change anything I've created to suit your own needs.  Oh, and Happy New Year!  Though it's kind of a footnote to this post, it's no small thing to say that 2011 has been one of the best years of my professional life.  Thanks to each and every one of you for encouraging and inspiring me in this year - here's to an even bigger and better 2012!

View more documents from Jennifer LaGarde

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Video: "I Love My Librarian" Award Ceremony

Since I couldn't take you all with me, I thought I'd share the video from the I Love My Librarian Award ceremony which I blathered on about a few posts ago, but which also remains one of the most magical nights of my life. Seriously, I'm still pinching myself!  It's over an hour long, but if nothing else, I'd suggest you at least listen to Caroline Kennedy's remarks.  They are very good.  As are those by Vartan Gregorian.  Come to think of it, the remarks from the other nominees are really great too, so you might as well watch the whole thing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wikilicious: Collaborative Portals for (Life Long) Professional Learning

Several years ago when AASL came to Charlotte, I wandered into a session called Gadget-A-GoGo! - starring Gwyneth Jones, the Daring Librarian.  That session rocked my world in so many ways, but one idea that I got from Gwyneth that day was the notion of creating a tech wiki for my staff - a collaborative portal to help teachers - whether they're technoPHOBES or technoFABS - incorporate technology into their learning.  Now, Gwyneth's wiki is, truly, a marvel, so you're not allowed to compare my work to hers, (because there's no comparrison!), but I did want to share the collection of resourcse that I've been slowly piecing together for the last couple of years.
I'm sure many of you have heard of the "21 things" approach to staff development that provides teachers with bite sized exposure to new concepts over time - allowing them to explore new resources and dive into those that particularly interest them - as opposed to prescribed, lecture based workshops that we all know and love so much. Anyway, for the last couple of years, I've led a similar yearlong staff development at my school in collaboration with our computer resource teacher whom I love and adore for so many reasons, but mostly because she always knows the "hows" of my always big, and often crazy, ideas.  Essentially, we take 5 minutes out of each faculty meeting to introduce the staff to one cool new tech tool.  That tool is added to the wiki, along with a video tutorial and other related info as I find it.  (Note: up to this point, the video tutorials I've posted are just those I've found on youtube, but if I can get my act together, I'm planning to do at least one or two of my own this year in homage to The Mighty Little Librarian (Tiffany Whitehead)'s Tech Tuesday's video series!)  As the year progresses, I offer longer, completely optional, more in depth sessions for teachers who are interested in learning more about a specific tool or who require a little extra help getting started.  Then, at the end of the year, whether you've participated in an optional session or not, we offer an opportunity for staff members to earn renewal credits by implementing one of the tech tools listed on the wiki, submitting a lesson plan and writing a reflection.  Bam!

Now, I have no idea how many "things" we go over in a year, but over time the wiki has grown in to a living resource that not only includes my own write ups of the tech tools, but also video tutorials, .pdf instructions to FAQ tech questions and even a running bibliography of professional reading for those teachers who haven't joined twitter, but who are still interested in what's happening in the Edtech world.  As always, you are more than welcome to steal, share and change anything you find on my wiki.  Just remember, like all wikis, ours is a work in progress and will likely *never* be finished - but that's kind of how learning works, no?

PS:  Everything on the wiki is formatted to look AWEsome on the old school square PC monitors we have at school (after all, my target audience is there) - so if you've got a shiney new on your desk or are lucky enough to have something equally impressive at home, the proportions may look a little off.  Plus, there's definitely some Flash-love happening on the wiki, so if you're scoping it out on your iPad, you'll be sorely disappointed.  But trust me, if you ever come to my school, it'll rock your socks. :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Night To Remember: The 2011 "I Love My Librarian" Celebration

Nerd Alert
I'm not really sure how to start this post, so... I suppose I'll just start at the beginning.

November 16th was a busy day in my library.  I had back to back classes scheduled, a calendar snafu (my own doing, of course), that needed fixing, and a district wide staff development to prepare for.  So, when the phone rang just as a group of 6th graders were piling in, I was sorely tempted to just let it ring.  Then, when I did answer it, and heard someone on the other end tell me that they were calling from the American Library Association and wondered if they could put me on speaker phone, I have to be honest, my first thought was "Uh oh.  What did I do now?"

What happened after that is kind of a blur.

I can't remember the exact order of how things went, but I do know that in the five minutes that followed I a) cried b) spilled my coffee and c) was told by a student that I "looked like I'd just won the lottery" which is sort of true, because in fact, I'd been chosen as one of this year's winners of the American Library Association's "I Love My Librarian" Award - a fact that I still find entirely surreal even as I type it out.  If you're not familiar with this program, it's an annual award which is sponsored by The Carnegie Corporation and The New York Times.  And, in my opinion, it's really special because it affords library patrons with the opportunity to recognize the contributions of their librarians.  This year, 1700 librarians were nominated.  Ten were chosen for the award.

In the weeks that followed, there were travel arrangements to make, photos to submit and speeches to prepare, all while keeping the whole thing top secret (which, let me just tell you, was the hardest part of all!).  In that time, I was (virtually) introduced to the nine other librarians who were also chosen for this award - an insanely talented group that had me HUMBLED at hello.  Then, finally, last Thursday, I got to meet them in person during the award ceremony in New York.

Voguing with Saundra Ross-Forest
Because nominations are taken from library patrons all around the country, our gang of ten is a pretty diverse group. And yet, funnily enough, there was one thing we all had in common. As we sat in the "green room" waiting for instructions, we nervously made small talk (turns out two of us earned our library degrees from Appalachian State  - Go Mountaineers!) until someone admitted that they couldn't bring themselves to read the nominations that had been written about their fellow recipients - a confession that was met with a chorus of "I know!" and "Me too!" Now, I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but just a few sentences into the only nomination I attempted to read and I felt completely out of my league - which, at the risk of sounding cocky, isn't a feeling I have all that often. (Note: I feel starstruck and fan-girl impressed by other educators all the time, but inept and completely unqualified? Not so much).  The fact that they all felt the same way was somehow reassuring.

Since then, I've taken the time to read about my fellow honorees and I was right to be impressed.  These women are fierce!  And what's more, they are vibrant, funny and incredibly generous.  As each one of them took the stage to accept the award, I grew more and more attached to them and their stories.  From Venetia's impassioned advocacy for patrons with disabilities to Barbara's proclamation that winning the award made her feel like being crowned "Miss Indiana," I gotta tell you, I teared up during each and every one of their remarks.

Geek Chic w/Michelle Luhtala
The rest of the night was equally as magical.  I got to meet Caroline Kennedy, Vartan Gregorian (who called me fiesty!) and some true library royalty like Sara Kelly Johns and Nancy Everhart.  THEN, as if that wasn't enough, I got to hang out with Michelle Luhtala, (whose likeness is on a lunchbox for crying out loud), and be interviewed by Rocco Staino for SLJ.  Seriously, it's all down hill from here.

When it was all over, my husband and I wandered the streets of the Big Apple, checking out the holiday lights and drinking hot cocoa.  At the risk of sounding goofy, it was like something out a dream.  The whole night, I kept expecting someone to shake me awake and ask me to fix their overhead projector. But that never happened.  Finally, somewhere around midnight, we realized we'd never eaten dinner, (we'd spent the whole day in the air and I'd been too nervous to eat during the reception), so we stopped at a street vendor and ate a giant pretzel in Columbus Circle.  We were frozen, but very, very happy.

Now, I know this is the part when I'm supposed to say how humbled I am to have been honored in this way, and I am, truly.  However, if anything, I emerge from this experience, (as we are wont to say in the South), fired up.  Throughout the night, people kept asking me how it felt to win the award.  And no matter how many times I tried to think of something witty or charming to say, the thing I kept coming back to was the idea that being honored for quality service is really just a confirmation of something I already know to be true: that what we do is worth fighting for.

As I said during my 90 seconds on the stage, it's been a tough year for libraries. What's more, I know sometimes we feel powerless to do anything to change the things that have made the last (and next) few years so challenging - but that's wrong and dangerous thinking.  The one thing we all have control over, is also the thing that's the most powerful:  the quality of our work.   We can't control our budgets or the whims of local (or federal) politicians, but we can control the impact we have on our patrons, the environments we create for them and the opportunities we provide them for learning.  Every last one of the ladies I met on Thursday could use a bigger budget (or one at all!), more staff and a magic wand - and yet none of them let the lack of those things diminish the quality of the work they do.  So, yes... I'm humbled.  But I'm also empowered by the knowledge that no matter what hand we are dealt, how we play it is completely up to us.

Update:  Since this post, ALA has added some information to their page about the award that I wanted to share.  First off, if you're interested in reading Caroline Kennedy's remarks about libraries (which I found quite moving) they are posted in their entirety here.  And secondly, if you're interested in conveying your congratulations or warm wishes to any of the recipients, you can do so here.  ALA has set up a separate page for you to share your thoughts with the honorees, which I think is kind of a neat thing.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A List of Absurdly Talented Librarians... and Me

When I cast my virtual ballot for this year's Edublog awards, I talked about how, even if you never vote, the Eddies are a great way for you to beef up your PLN - and I meant it!  Each year, around this time, the list of folks I follow on Twitter or who share space in my RSS feed grows dramatically, and that's all because of the Eddies!  Every educator can benefit from exploring the list of folks who made the Edublogs "short list" of nominees.  Each category is chock full of great people to follow and learn from/with - a fact I state with absolute humility considering the fact that this blog made the cut in the "Best Librarian/Library Blog" category.

I'll be honest, this is the point where I'm tempted to beg for your vote - after all, I've never been one to shy away from self promotion -but looking at the list of people nominated, that just seems silly.  I mean, really, look at the folks on this list. There's so much talent there, it's almost embarrassing! And yes, I know it's cliche to claim that "I'm just happy being nominated" but I have to say, I really am. The truth is, just being included in this list is not only surreal, but also incredibly satisfying, (which is kind of a strange thing for me, the girl who thinks "2nd place is just another name for the first loser," to be saying!)

So, instead of trolling for your vote, I'm just going to encourage you to use the Eddies as a chance to widen the reach of your PLN - by all means, vote (even for me!) if you're so inclined, but remember, no matter who ends up with a new badge to sport on their blog, the real winner is our community of learners whose connection grows stronger with each click.

Update:  Who needs shameless promotion when our tribe is so freakin' generous?  Big thanks to my friend, mentor and inspiration, Gwyneth Jones, who gives so much to our community - including her tireless cheer leading and support.  Be sure to check out her latest graphilicious Edublog post!

Also, I just really wanted to point out some of my fellow North Carolinians who are represented in this year's Eddies! First, my pal and presenting partner, Jennifer Northrup, whose blog, The Candid Librarian, is nominated for Best New Blog.  Second, Steven Anderson, of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, who is up for SEVERAL Eddies including one for Best Ed Tech Blog, and third, Bill Ferriter, of Wake County, who is nominated for Best Individual Blogger for his work on The Tempered Radical. Oh yeah, and my blog was nominated for Best Library/Librarian Blog (Woot!) Congrats to my fellow Tar Heels for their outstanding contribution to the field of education.  You make me proud! 

List of Absurdly Talented Librarian and Me.
  • A Media Specialist's Guide to the Internet - Julie Greller
  • A Year of Reading -
  • Aberfoyle Park Campus Resource Centre - Jo Schenkel
  • Adult Books 4 Teens - Angela Carstensen
  • Adventures of Library Girl. - Jennifer LaGarde
  • Bulldog Readers Blog - Mrs. Hembree
  • Cosy Corner - Mrs Howlin
  • David Lee King -
  • Hey Jude - Judy O'Connell
  • Liberos - Roger Michelena
  • Librarians are go - Staceyt
  • Library Grits - Dianne McKenzie
  • Library Matters - MRC Juniors
  • Lucacept - Jenny Luca
  • Never Ending Search - Joyce Valenza
  • Read It 2011 - NSW Readers Advisory Working Group
  • Read@UTS -
  • Readers in the Mist - Blue Mountains City Library
  • Tales from a Loud Librarian - Elizabeth Kahn
  • Tame the Web - Michael Stephens
  • The Daring Librarian - Gwyneth Jones
  • The WebFooted Booklady - Lesley Edwards
  • Tipperary Library News - Tipperary Libraries
  • TLC = Tech + Library + Classroom - Tara Ethridge
  • Try Curiosity! - Sarah Ducharme
  • Unquiet Librarian - Buffy Hamilton
  • Van Meter Library Voice - Shannon Miller
  • Watch. Connect. Read. - Mr. Schu
  • What Adrienne Thinks About That - Adrienne Furness

Friday, December 2, 2011

Professional Development that Matters: Library World Smackdown

Last week, I had the opportunity to watch The Mitchell 20 with a group of educators from my district. I have to admit, I went into it feeling a little dubious. After all the hullabaloo surrounding Waiting for Superman, I was prepared to be unimpressed. And while I didn't leave the theater inspired, per say, I did leave with an overwhelming feeling affirmation - as if something I've long known to be true was being validated up on the screen.

We all know there's a lot wrong with education. No matter where you teach, things at school are getting tougher, not easier. Increased poverty decreased funding and a national dialogue that is decidedly anti-teacher are heavy burdens for even the strongest among us to carry. And while The Mitchell 20 doesn't gloss over or dismiss those realities, its main focus is on a frank and open discussion about teacher quality and, more significantly, on the lack of relevance, collaboration and reflection in the professional development that is available to most teachers. In my opinion, this is a discussion that needs to be had.

While the film holds up National Board Certification as a model of high quality professional development because of its emphasis on rigor and reflection, as an NBCT myself, I don't believe being Board certified is only way to skin this particular cat. If relevance, collaboration and reflection are the keys to transforming professional development from a waste of time to a game changer, then it's up to all of us to take control of our learning and embed ourselves in professional development that both matters and makes a difference. What's more, I believe this is totally doable. Indeed, if there's one overwhelming message to be taken from The Mitchell 20, it's that there's really nothing a group of committed, quality teachers can't do.

Which leads me to the TL Virtual Cafe. As Teacher Librarians, we are so lucky. When I was a classroom teacher (which, I promise, wasn't that long ago), I never felt as connected to or supported by my professional community as I do now. We have many opportunities to engage with our colleagues, to reflect on our practice, share our successes and scoop up new ideas. The TL Virtual Cafe is one such opportunity.

And, as luck would have it, there's one coming up!

So, whatever you've got scheduled for Monday, cancel it and pencil in the TL Virtual Cafe Smackdown. This is an open mic session, hosted by Joyce Valenza and moderated by Gwyneth Jones, where you'll not only be wowed by the mad skills of your library homies, but you'll also have the chance to take the mic and impress all of them as well. It's going to be super fun and incredibly impactful. Here are the details.

Monday December 5th - 8pm EST
Joyce will share her top discoveries of the year.
Get ready to share your faves too and help us build an interactive resource book.

At the TL Virtual Cafe on December 5th, 8PM Eastern, we’ll be hosting a tlvirtualcafe/Open_Mic|Learning Tools Open Mic/Smackdown/Karaoke. We’re planning to get ready by building a crowd-souced presentation/book. Please feel free to grab a slide (or several) and be ready to grab the mic on the night of the event and share your faves. We’ll leave the evening with our own dynamic, growable resource book. Participant Link

It looks like serious fun, right? I hope to "see" you there!