Thing 20: Tools for creating websites, pathfinders, portfolios , etc.

"Officer distributing mail to the crew of Magdalene Vinnen" by Samuel J. Hood, 1933. No known copyright restrictions.

“Officer distributing mail to the crew of Magdalene Vinnen” by Samuel J. Hood, 1933. No known copyright restrictions.

When I started as a teacher librarian ten years ago, I knew that it was important for me to have a web site for both educational and communication purposes. If I expected my students (and also my teachers) to use reputable and reliable library resources, then I had better  start publishing some web pages. Fortunately, I had some tools, some resources, and some know how.

My initial ventures were with html. We use a bulletin board system (BBS) as our communication tool in our school district. In addition to providing email services, teachers also had access to a web page module and individual root web directories. This module, while functional, did not meet my needs. Fortunately, a commercial software product was made available and this better met my needs. I could easily create and post web pages for my different classes as needed. However there remained several key limitations. My resources were limited to the html coding and graphics creation skills I possessed or picked up since we did not have a web master available. Web page creation took time, valuable time that could have been sent providing instruction to students, curating resources, developing the collection, and managing my library.

My next big venture was with blogs and wiki. Through the SLS Office at our BOCES, we had a training on creating blogs for our school libraries. I saw that I could create and post pages of information for my classes easier and quicker than I could with Web 1.0 technologies. Although I was stuck with one layout and some basic colors, using a blog worked for me although I had challenges navigating my blog to find previously posted materials. I had also explored using a wiki with similar results.

Recently LibGuides were made available through our BOCES. It provides design flexibility, easy access to my informational content, collaborative features, and access to resources posted by other LibGudie users. It is a product designed for and used by libraries. Working together with a colleague from a neighboring school district, we built a LibGuide and presented it as a poster at the 2014 NYLA-SSL conference in Syracuse. In addition to meeting my needs, LibGuides are also friendly on mobile devices and this makes my information more readily available to my students.

After this school year, I will officially retire my remaining html pages with LibGuides as the main vehicle for my class project pages and other related information about my library program. As for my teachers needing to create wed sites for their classes, we are encouraging them to use Google Sites since it is easier and more flexible that the html module found in the BBS.

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Thing 19: Online Learning & DIY PD

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Some Officers Studying a Map of Newly Captured Ground.

As one of two school librarians in my school district, sometimes it is difficult for me to find meaningful professional development when things are delivered en masse because ‘all teachers need to know this stuff.’ While I do understand that there are trainings that are required (for example, safe material handling) and other times there are trainings for district or school wide initiatives, sometimes I’m left wondering how does this make me a better school librarian, improve my library services, or enable me to better do what I do to contribute to the broader goals of the school and the district.

With this in mind, I was excited when the professional development committee announced that next year we would be shifting to a more team-based approach of PD through the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLC). The idea of PLC is that groups of teachers would be engaged in collegial inquiry on the topics of curriculum needs, assessing student learning, and responding to those that have learned or that are struggling with their lessons. I do believe that this PLC approach will better enable me to better collaborate with my colleagues in more meaningful ways and I do look forward to these activities.

On the professional front, I  am a member of AASL and I look forward to further exploring their online learning opportunities. I would also like to spend some time rummaging through iTunes University to see how this might meet some of my eclectic librarian needs. Should I discover a really nice online gem of a magnitude similar to Cool Tools for School, I would approach my school for PD credit.

Image Credit

“Some Officers Studying a Map of Newly Captured Ground.” N.d. First World War ‘Official Photographs’. National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. N.395. Flickr Commons. Web. 18 May 2014. No known copyright restrictions.

Thing 11: Mapping & Geolocation Tools

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“C.O. with pilot and observer referring to photos and maps prior to setting out for the German lines” by Thomas (Tom) Keith Aitken, 1918.

Although this topic was introduced earlier this year, I had a difficult time getting a handle on it. I have not had teachers wish to integrate mapping and technologies in their lessons. (Although if I asked I still might find blank outline maps of the United States.) I know that the students know about street view in Google maps, several having demonstrated in my library a stronger interest in ‘virtually driving through a city streets’ instead of working on their lessons and class assignments.

I do know that, in addition to city streets, Google has street views of museums, government buildings, universities, etc. and indeed some of these look quite interesting. I have read about street views being created in the national parks (Burnett) and that Google works with trusted photographers and cultural institutions to make more content available. Upon searching for things in Central New York State, I did find a street view of Cornell University (although the images of this campus felt empty because they did not have many people in them and I could not find the Carl Becker House). I also noticed when I zoomed in on the map of Ithaca that additional smaller red dots emerged that indicated additional street views of local venues. I’m not sure if these were official street views or user-submitted views. Again, these are really neat but I have yet to find that curriculum tie-in.

One of the professional development tools I use is +Google. On day earlier in April, someone posted an article about privacy issues related to Google street images (Helft). Since I also use +Google as an asynchronous learning tool in my mobile technologies course, I shared it with my students. This provided an interesting opportunity for us to discuss this technology that they were very familiar with (Google’s street view) and digital privacy issues (implications of background artifacts and other informational details of casual digital photographs; tagging friends and others in personal digital photographs that one shares with others).

While I am still looking for that curriculum tie-in at my school, I did like how this article allowed me to introduce the topic of digital privacy with my students. We are planning to offer this special elective again in the Fall and I will use this article again. Perhaps at that time I will have addition ideas of ways to use mapping and geolocation tools in this (and other) classes.

Referernces

Aitken, Thomas Keith. “C.O. with Pilot and Observer Referring to Photos and Maps Prior to Setting out for the German Lines.” N.d. First World War ‘Official Photographs’. National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. N.395. Flickr Commons. Web. 18 May 2014. No known copyright restrictions.

Burnett, Jim. “Google Maps “Street View” Coming To The National Parks.” National Parks Traveler. National Park Advocates, 04 October 2013. Web. 18 May 2014 <http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2013/10/google-maps-street-view-coming-national-parks24033 >.

Helft, Miguel. “Google Zooms In Too Close for Some.” New York Times. June 1, 2007. Web.  Web. 18 May 2014 <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/01/technology/01private.html?_r=0 >.

Thing 18- Digital Tattoo & Digital Citizenship

Last summer as we wrote curriculum for our new media literacy course for 6th grade students, we decided to that online behavior and online communication would be central themes in this course. Through out this school year, these two ideas were always in mind when I reflected upon what worked (or didn’t work) and when I developed my lessons for this class.

The other day, someone forwarded an article about something called “Digital Driver’s License” (DDL). It is an online tool for students designed to teach students, through case studies, about digital literacy and safety while encouraging them to become independent and cautious digital learners. One could access this information through the Internet or via an app.  It includes resources from Common Sense Media (I use many of their resources in my class) and others. It appears to be customizable.

This sounded interesting to me since it was similar to our guiding philosophy for our media literacy course. So I created an account in DDL to see how it worked and I took a look at one of the Middle School-level cases. It presented a really nice info graphic with a set of questions related to it. This info graphic was indeed information dense and came from an outside source. The attached questions required careful reading so that you could properly answer them. Probably best not attempted after a long day just before one goes home.

I did like what I saw in this case study. I believe that it might be a valuable addition to this course. If the other case studies are similar to the one I experienced, we would need to spend more time in class deliberately reading for understanding. I do need to further explore DDL to discover how I might use it with my students.

Thing 16: You Pick! Nearpod

The Fifties in 3D
“The Fifties in 3D.” 11th May 11, 1951.National Archives UK. No known copyright restrictions.

This has been an exciting year in my school district in regards to educational technology. During the summer we set up our technology mentor program. The tech mentors are a group of teachers from across the district that are technology enthusiasts, that use educational technologies with their students, and that are willing to support other teachers to use technologies in their classrooms. This year we also had iPads  available for student use in the classroom. One of the technologies we saw at our tech mentor training over the summer was something called Nearpod.

Nearpod is an online presentation tool and it does have an app for tablet devices and smartphones. Just imagine you are giving a lecture. You slides, instead of displaying on a large screen in front of the class, are on display on the students’ computers, tablet devices, or smartphones.  Preprogramed questions popup between the slides at critical points so that your students can submit responses to critical questions. You can instantly see the students responses to gage their understanding of the concepts of your lesson. Nearpod presentations are easy to create and easy to use, and you can also get reports of students’ responses. Nearpod allows you to turn your static slideshow into an interactive learning experience.

During this school year, I collaborated with another tech mentor (a High School science teacher) on a Nearpod presentation for our Board of Education to introduce some of these ‘new to our school district’ technologies for educational use. I have also demonstrated it at faculty meetings, and most recently at a BOCES SLS Council meeting, to discuss how this technology could be used for formative evaluation in the classroom. It is wildly popular in the Elementary and Middle Schools. Some of the interesting applications have included using Nearpod as a tool for reviewing materials and as an exit ticket tool. I find it to be a very versatile tool and I enjoy seeing how my teachers use it with their students.

Thing 15: App-palooza! The Snapguide App

As a school librarian, I know that learning comes in many different forms. Sometimes it is more formal, like when I’m delivering bibliographic instruction to a class, or more informal, like when a student has a ready reference question. Often I am readily available to assist my students face-to-face. Many times my students have real complex questions related to their research, and often they just need how-to directions to complete a task. Then there are times when I am not available in the library (e.g.: weekends, holidays, etc.),  learning is an asynchronous activity that may not follow a clock or a calendar. An app that I recently found that could address these needs for how-to directions is Snapguide.

I do not remember where I first saw this app, but it intrigued me. Here were how-to guides that people had created and posted. guides about crafts and recipes, how to fix a fence and make a martini. These contained step-by-step guides with pictures and text, complete with supply lists. These guides displayed nicely on smartphones, tablet devices, and computers. Like other forms of social media, these could be shared with other services and embedded on web pages and people could add comments. You could easily search Snapguide by keyword or category. While it does not have a section for education, it does have one for technology.

Creating a guide is easy. You need an idea, a collection of screenshots or photographs to illustrate your project, and text to describe the steps involved. I decided to build a guide about using library ebooks. We started developing our ebook collection last year and I need to find ways to better promote them. Perhaps this could be done with Snapguide. Using only an iPad, I took screenshots, annotated these images using A+ Signature, imputed these into a Snapguide, added directions and published my first guide. Later I shared this with my High School mobile tech students, made some quick edits, and re-posted my guide.

Thing I like about Snagguide includes:

  • Ease of Use. People can be used to easily find instructional information on a wide-variety of topics. Materials view well on any device.
  • Ease of Creation. The app on the iPad is fully functional, providing all of the options found on the web site
  • Flexible End-User Experiences. Several of the details of my images appeared at the edges off the screen. Clicking on the  image will display it full-size with these details now in view. Clicking on ‘print’  will display each slide with the text instructions, just like we often created for how-to instructions.

It would be nice if there was a Snapguide for education, this service does indeed have some interesting applications in a school library. Guides could easily be created for searching the library catalog and the various research databases. Guides could be created for providing instruction on information literacy and media literacy topics. Some of these may already exist in Snapguide. I’m going to enjoy finding ways to use Snapguide as part of my library and media-literacy instruction and as a vehicle to expand my library program. It is an excellent tool for use in both flipped classrooms and mobile technology friendly situations.

Thing 17: Coding and Coding Tools

"This Is a Card Puncher, an Integral Part of the Tabulation System Used by the United States Census Bureau to Compile the Thousands of Facts Gathered by the Bureau."

“This Is a Card Puncher, an Integral Part of the Tabulation System Used by the United States Census Bureau to Compile the Thousands of Facts Gathered by the Bureau.” Census Machines (Record Group 29). Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census. Circa 1950. No known copyright restrictions.

I remember my first introduction to computer programming. I was taking an undergraduate introduction to computer course. It was the early 1980’s. Computers were only seen in print or on TV. Personal computers, if you had access to one, were difficult to use. There was not Internet or email, no mouse or graphical user interface. Computers were found only at universities or places like NASA, or in science fiction stories.

As part of this course, we learned some BASIC programming using Commodore 64 and saving our programs on audio cassette tapes. We learned about variables, arrays, loops, and conditional statements. Had I been able to see the future at that time, I probably would have changed my major from management to computer science.

My next exposure to coding was when I learned html in the early 1990’s using a text editor. I was soon dabbling around with some JavaScript, later some XML, and most recently with some RSS. I was self-taught and I knew enough to do what I wanted to do. By no means was I an expert nor did I want to be, yet I found having some background knowledge in coding to be valuable as a librarian.

In late winter of 2013, I began developing a mobile technologies course for High School students. I intended to introduce my students to concepts of information literacy, media literacy, and computer science. If I could create a curriculum integrating these topics, my students would be more successful in school and perhaps would discover potential career paths.

I had clear ideas of the information and media literacy aspects of this curriculum, I knew I wanted to do something with coding. While I could teach some HTML, this alone would not provide the ideal experience for my students. I’ve been incubating on this problem without the development of meaningful ideas until I the codeacademy app (http://www.codecademy.com).

This interactive app is designed to introduce students some of the various aspects of coding that had originally hooked me. It demonstrates that coding relates to computer programing, app creating, and creating web pages. It provides students with enough information so that my students will know if computer science might be something they would like to further explore in college.

Coding is something that should be taught in schools. Just like music and the arts, it teaches students about thinking and learning. Like math and literature, it teaches students about problem solving. These are valuable, cross-disciplinary skills that they will indeed find useful as productive citizens in society.