Friday, March 23, 2012

My #HoldShelf - A Window Into What Kids Really Want

Maintaining a "hold shelf" for patron reserves is hardly innovative practice.   However, a recent tweet by library rockstar, John Schumacher, has made me pay closer attention to this obligatory library feature.   Taking a page from the gospel according to Travis Jonker, (the braniac behind the blog 100 Scope Notes), who maintains that "the library hold shelf is one of the best ways to know what kids are actually lining up to read," both bloggers have been encouraging librarians from around the world to share their hold shelves.  I think this is a lovely little idea that is, frankly, just sprinkled with genius.  After all, what a great way to see what books other kids are excited about!

I teach middle school and my hold shelf certainly reflects that fact.

Featured prominently among the ever growing collection of gators (our mascot) that crowds my circulation desk, my hold shelf is currently brimming with series fiction - The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, (both by Collins) The Whisper (by Clayton), Gone (by Grant), Vietnam Book 1 (by Lynch)  and Wonder (by Palacio).
Please ignore the mess behind my hold shelf.  Clearly, I do! 

To be honest, though, my hold shelf hasn't always looked like this.  In fact, until Mr. Schu threw down the share gauntlet, my hold shelf was tucked away behind the desk where kids couldn't get to it (without permission).  But this little challenge made me rethink its location and purpose.  After all, if the hold shelf is a great way for ME to see what other kids are reading, why not share that information with other kids, teachers and anyone else who meanders by?  So I moved it up front (it's right next to my circulation station) and added some cool signage.

But somehow this didn't seem like enough.  Checking out the books that are currently on the hold shelf made  me wonder what books were reserved most.  A few clicks later, I had a report that told me which titles kids had placed on holf most during the month of February - and, I have to say, I was surprised by a couple of the titles! Now, I'm a big fan of sharing circulation data with kids and staff.  I've posted extensively on how I use my data wall to share this info and connect students and faculty to these numbers, so I usually have a pretty good handle on what's being checked out most.  But holds?  Well, that's a whole different story.   For example, I was floored when I saw that Jumped by Rita Williams Garcia and Three Black Swans by Caroline B. Cooney were in the top five most requested titles in February as NEITHER books made the list of the top 25 most checked out books that I post each month.  Clearly, kids want these books, I just don't have enough copies to keep up with the demand! Oi!

Of course, I realize none of this is rocket science, and the three people who actually read this blog are probably shaking their heads in disgust, but this feels like a revelation to me.  So... thank you John and Travis for lifting my veil of ignorance!  I'm excited to use this info to help provide my students with the books they actually want!

Now. If YOU want to share some hold shelf love, here's what you do:

Before Tuesday, March 27th, take a photo of the hold shelf in your library.

Then share it by:
  1. Posting it to your blog and letting  Travis know in the comments.
  2. Emailing the photo to Travis at scopenotes at gmail dot com.
  3. Tweeting the photo using the hashtag #holdshelf.
Mr. Schu will be hosting the #holdshelf share-a-thon next month.  And, of course, I would LOVE to see your hold shelf photos as well, so if you're feeling generous, PLEASE post some links here too!***

But even if you're not keen on posting photos, take a closer look at what your kids are reserving.  I guarantee your hold shelf is worth a second look!

*** PS:  Spambots have forced me to start moderating comments on this blog. So... if your brilliance doesn't appear right away, don't be alarmed.  I shall unleash your wisdom upon the world soon enough. :) 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

One Lucky Mover and Shaker

Back in December I received an email which read:
Dear Jennifer,
"I’m pleased to tell you that your colleagues have nominated you as a Mover & Shaker for 2012...."  
Since that time, I've been fumbling my way through a series of utterly surreal events including a photo shoot in Dallas and ending with this week's announcement that I had, in fact, been chosen by Library Journal as a "Mover and Shaker."  Throughout it all, I've been trying to figure out how I feel about it.  And I'm still not sure I know.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm completely and utterly humbled.  I'm honored, thrilled and, in some ways, intimidated and overwhelmed by it.  But, truth be told, I don't feel like a Mover and Shaker.  Rather, I just feel really, really lucky because a) I get to do the work I love b) I'm surrounded (in real life and virtually) by BRILLIANT and supportive people and c) I live during a time in human history when sharing and learning with others is incredibly easy.

Even though Library Journal has been honoring librarians with this distinction for 11 years, I think I first became aware of the "Movers and Shakers" program in 2010 when Ernie Cox (a fellow NC TL - at the time anyway) was given the honor.  I remember reading about him and thinking "holy cow, this guy is a rock star!"  Then, last year, three people I admire greatly were chosen:  John Schu, Gwyneth Jones and Buffy Hamilton. To me, these people are school library royalty.  They represent the BEST of the best.  The cream of the crop.  The top of the heap.  The pick of the... well, you get my point.  Then this year... it's me.  Seriously, somebody queue Cookie Monster.

What's really crazy is that if EVER there was a week when I've felt a lot like whatever the opposite of a Mover and Shaker is, it's been this week.  Even though I arrived at school on Monday, totally excited about what I'd learned at NCTIES the week before, (and super ready to put some of it to use with my students), I ended up spending much of the week either fixing equipment or apologizing for dropping one of several balls.  Not exactly Mover and Shaker material, I fear.

And then the announcement came.  And suddenly there were all these people (literally and virtually) tapping me on the shoulder to say congratulations or to share some sweet part of themselves.  I gotta say, it's tough to feel sorry for yourself when the whole world seems resolved to make you feel like a rock star.

So... in the end, instead of focusing on the how and the why of this, I’m just determined to enjoy it. One thing is for certain, when I became a librarian I never, ever thought I’d be flying off for photo shoots or finding my mug on the cover of magazines.  HOWEVER, I'd be a complete liar if I said it wasn't a thrill, because it totally is!  That said, I'm so grateful to be a part of the library community and it's an absolute delight to be recognized for the small ways I've been able to contribute to it. I’m still not 100% sure I know exactly what it means to be a Mover and Shaker, but I sincerely hope I can live up to the title.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reflections from #NCTIES12 - Day Two

I went to three great sessions yesterday, the last day of NCTIES.  Usually, by the time the last day (of any conference) rolls around, I am feeling the urge to head towards home - but this time I left wishing for "just one more day," which I think is a pretty good sign.  As it turns out, the three sessions I attended on Friday were my favorites of the whole conference.

1.  Presentation Design w/Ken Shelton.  This session was amazing!  Truth be told, I hadn't planned to attend it.  I was already snuggled into an extremely crowded session on using interactive whiteboards when the presenter announced that, even though the program didn't mention it, her session was intended for primary grades, forcing me to quickly revert to Plan B.  Boy, am I ever glad that Plan A was a bust!  I've been to several presentation design sessions over the years and always come away with something new, but Ken's really stands out for me, because it focused more on communication than just design.  In it, I learned about the different ways that an image creates cognitive meaning, I learned how human communication has evolved throughout time, I learned about how the eye processes information and how comic sans isn't just bad... it's really, really bad.  :)  It was more than just "do this" and "don't do that," it was more of a call to action - a charge to use the opportunity of a presentation to reach, affect and communicate with your audience. One of the best parts for me was near the end when someone from the audience asked what to so when people demand ppt handouts complete with bullet points and a uniform theme, to which Ken responded with a list of books and research that back up the elements of good design and effective communication.  Then he said, "then ask them what research they have to prove that bullet points are effective."  I *love* it when a presenter isn't just good, they're also really, really smart.   My only regret is that I didn't jot down the list of research he spouted, so... if you were there and had faster fingers than me, please share!

2.  Best of the Web w/Richard Byrne:  In this session the author of Free Technology for Teachers went through 75 (!) web 2.0 tools that he felt were worth sharing.  I really liked that he started the session by giving his criteria for sharing a web resource: "I have to be able to figure out how to use it AND how to use it in a classroom in about 5-7 minutes."  I love that.  If it's too complicated, it's out.  If it's really cool and simple, but doesn't have a classroom application, it's out.  After that, the hour long session was a blur.  He went through each tool thoroughly, but incredibly quickly too.  I tried to keep up, tweeting as many as I could, but my fingers aren't as nimble as they used to be!  Luckily, the session slides are shared on his website for review.  A couple of the resources I really can't wait to play around with more and SHARE with my own staff are twurdy: a search engine that lists results by reading level, magazinr: which allows you to bookmark and tweet resources at the same time, wikimind map: which creates search results in mindmap form (looks great for helping students seek out related topics), jellycam: a web based stop motion video editor and vodburner: which allows you to record and edit skype conversations.

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3.  The Game Plan: How Gaming Can Enhance Learning w/Peggy Sheehy:  At a tech conference (not specifically aimed at librarians), Peggy said in her opening remarks that "Librarians are your go to people if you want to start an innovative program at your school."  So... essentially, she had me at hello!  Honestly, I'm only just dipping my toes into the world of gaming, but so far, I very much like how the water feels.  Again, Sheehy's was a presentation that was chock full of research to back up her assertions, but what I liked most about her presentation were the stories she shared from her own experience as a high school drop out - who felt school never spoke to her - and the journey that meandered its way back to school, through several advanced degrees and to the classroom where she now works with students "who have no tribe." When she talked about gaming as "pure, beautiful, constructivist, scaffolded learning with a required, built in, cycle of reflection," and how gaming requires students to learn through failure and how video games are, essentially, all problem solving and assessment (the most hated parts of school for many kids), I could feel the goosebumps rising on my skin.  For me, this is the session that is most likely to remain a pea beneath all my cognitive mattresses.   I've only just begun to unpack my learning from this session, but I am looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

So, now I'm home and getting ready to tackle the mountain of work that, remarkably, didn't go anywhere while I was gone.  Even so, I'm glad I took a few days off to learn at NCTIES this year.  I can't wait to put the lessons I've learned to use in my school.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reflections on #NCTIES12 - Day One

"Master teachers must be public learners."  -David Warlick at NCTIES 2012

Today and tomorrow I am getting my geek on at NCTIES - my state's annual tech ed conference - in Raleigh.  This is one of my most favorite conferences of the year.  It's tightly run, full of smart people and just plain fun. Today, I had the pleasure of sharing two presentations with some incredible educators from around my state. In the morning, I got to tag team with my buddy and fellow librarian, Jennifer Northrup, for a web 2.0 smackdown session that was standing room only!  There's no formal presentation for this session - instead we use a symbaloo to share some of our favorite web 2.0 tools and then asked the audience to share theirs.  It's not the first time we've done this presentation - and it's always a BLAST!  Today's session was particulary fun AND the icing on the cake was when two student presenters at the conference (who sat on the second row during our presentation) got in line to add to our symbaloo as part of the smackdown!  I mean, really.  It just doesn't get any cooler than that! Our symbaloo, which is updated frequently, can be found here!

Later, I was honored to get to share my "Snapshot of a 21st Century Library Program" at another full house session with some great librarians and tech folk from around our state.  It was a blast and afterwards so many gracious colleagues came up to ask questions and share their stories.  It was truly humbling to be a part of their journey - even in this small way.

Photo Credit:  Ryan Redd
Photo Credit: John Downs
But, for me, the best part of this conference has been the chance to connect and reconnect with both old friends and new ones.  I've bumped into friends from *cough* almost 20 years ago while also making time to stalk connect with my latest brain crushes.  One of my favorite people to connect with stalk is Uber Tech Guru, David Warlick. He is smart.  He's funny.  And he is from North Carolina, which means I get the chance to see him present fairly often.  Whenever I go to one of his sessions, I learn something.  Every single time.  Sometimes, I learn about a new web 2.0 tool, (David was the first person I ever saw use Prezi back in 2008), but more often he makes me think about my practice - as opposed to *just* the tools I use to deliver it.  Today, in a session full of gems, the most impactful nugget of truth for me was that master teachers must be PUBLIC learners.  He then went on to talk about the "trail of breadcrumbs" that public learners leave behind for others to follow. Genius.  I know!

As day one of this great conference draws to a close, I am feeling totally exhausted but also renewed and inspired to leave my own trail of breadcrumbs as both a public learner and a wanna-be master teacher!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wii Wednesday! Gaming Technology in the School Library

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to speak to our local chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa – an educational sorority that a few teachers from my school belong to.  About half the members of the chapter are retired school teachers who wanted to know “how the media center has changed” over the years.  To be honest, I had a whole formal presentation planned for the evening, but at the last minute I decided to hook up the Wii and get these ladies shooting some free throws while learning some math!

But that’s not really where this story begins.  This story really begins several weeks earlier in a webinar that rocked my world. 

Back in January, the TL Virtual CafĂ© hosted a webinar on WiiLearning: Engaging Students through Gaming Technology.  In this session, Matthew Winner and Meghan Hearn wowed participants with the story of how they use the Wii as an instructional tool to engage students and support math instruction.   Because Matthew and Meghan are a librarian + math teacher dynamic duo, I decided to invite my math partner in crime, RyanRedd, to attend the webinar as well , something I didn’t think twice about  at that time, but now I wonder why I haven’t invited other teacher partners/administrators to join me in past webinars.   Truly, if this learning is relevant for me, then surely it is for them too – plus, wouldn’t it be nice to hear the perspectives of those outside library land?   But I digress.
Anyway, Matthew and Meghan were AMAZING and Ryan and I came away with a mountain of ideas with which to feed the math fueled fire in our bellies.  It, literally, only took us a few days to procure a Wii and a few games for the library.  Soon, we were spending Saturday afternoons at school “conducting research” and planning Wii driven math lessons which we excitedly unveiled to a “test group” of students just a few days later.   Armed with the student feedback and our own reflection, we tweaked our lessons and started work on new ones.   Meanwhile, I unveiled a new library program:  “Wii Wednesdays!”   Essentially, every Wednesday, students sign up to play Wii in the library during their recess time – but only if they complete selected math activities as part of their play.

 Reaction has been ASTOUNDING.  Kids simply can’t wait to do math at recess!  And what's more, I can't wait for Wednesdays to roll around so I can don my math cap and interact with students in a whole new way.  But what has been even more AMAZING is the reaction I’ve received from other math teachers who not only want to bring their classes to the library for collaborative teaching, but they also want to work with me to plan lessons.  Let me repeat that:  math teachers are now asking ME to help plan and teach lessons with them.  It's like I've died and gone to library heaven! 

Which brings me back to the ladies of Alpha Delta Kappa who wanted to know how libraries have changed over the years.  To me, “Wii Wednesdays” and collaborative teaching between the librarian and the math department are prime examples of how libraries are (or at least should be) evolving.  Sure, libraries are still information conduits within the school setting and many of the librarians at their helm still wear bifocals, but the library mission MUST be changing and growing.  (And if it’s not, it will soon be extinct).   We are no longer (just) about books – we’re about learning.  And learning is messy, collaborative, often loud and sometimes involved video games!

So… instead of flipping through some powerpoint slides, I broke out the Wii and let the ladies of ADK complete one of our math lessons.  Then we talked about how student learning has led to a much needed reboot for school libraries.   They had a BLAST and so did I.  What’s more, their idea of what a school library is and what should take place there has changed, which makes me very, very happy.

As for “Wii Wednesdays,” well… they are still evolving and growing.  But for now, I’m ready to share a couple of lessons which have been student tested and teacher approved!  I’m confident that these are just the first of many such lessons AND I’m hopeful that, in the future, I’ll be able to expand this program to other subject areas.  In the meantime, however, feel free to use and share whatever I post here.   And be sure to keep your ear to the ground for more fantabulous gaming in education resources from Matthew Winner and Meghan Hearn.   In addition to a book on the subject, these two terrific teachers are working on a number of other projects to help create a network for educators who are incorporating gaming in their instructional plans.  I, for one, am so grateful to them for their hard work and inspiration.  I love how the seeds they’ve planted are blossoming in my library! 

Wii Wednesday: Math Madness!