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.

Thing 8: Collaborating, Connecting, Sharing

Telephone Boxes

Some of the first telephone boxes to grace Dublin’s streets. Installation was in preparation for the thousands of people who descended on the capital from all over Ireland, and from all over the world, for the 31st International Eucharistic Congress in June 1932.
Telephone Boxes. Independent Newspapers PLC. [1912-1936]. The Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Collection, National Library of Ireland on The Commons.

The role of a school librarian continues to change. Long gone is the image of someone that just checks out books and shushes noisy students, although some people probably think that this is what I do all day. From my experience- collaborating, connecting, and sharing with teachers and students more accurately reflects my activities in the library. Two tools that I am currently exploring for this blog post are Google Docs and Skype.

In late January at the technology committee meeting, it was announced that Google Docs would soon be made available at in the district. The way that it is set up for us is that we have access to Google Docs with cloud computing and document sharing within our district yet we cannot share outside our school district. While I had heard of Google Docs years ago yet I had not yet explored it in any great detail. Until now. I did log in and explored some of the basic productivity tools (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.) and document filing. I also read about the ability to create and share editable documents with others, and I saw that blogging, photo sharing, and many other apps were available. This was going to be fun, however, it was going to be a learning and exploring process. While I am fine with this type of learning, I know that it drives others nuts.

This week I have had some interesting experiences with Google Docs at school. First, I was sent a copy of the minutes from a technology user group  meeting. The group met the previous day after school and one of the teachers took the minutes during the meeting to later share this document with group members shortly after the meeting, It was a pleasant surprise the next morning to see this document since I had not been able to attend this meeting. The next day I received calendar invitations from Google Calendar. These were from one of my Spanish teachers, we were planning for Foreign Language Week presentations next week and she was sending me the dates and times of the different presentations. Way cool, different aspects of Google Docs that were created and shared with me on two different collaborative projects. I am looking forward to learning how to create and share similar files and information with others at school.

The other tool I am currently exploring is Skype. Earlier during the winter holidays, I helped  my mother set up her Skype account so that she could easily communicate with her granddaughter. While she has not called me for technical support since then, so I really don’t know if it is working for her or if she has not yet used it. I have also played around a little bit with FaceTime, however since I don’t use either one my experience is minimal. Welcome back to Foreign Language Week preparations. Two of the presenters, and perhaps a third, are not local and these people asked if they could Skype into the library to meet with our students. Skype had been used a couple of times last year at our school and I heard stories of how difficult it was to use. While I am comfortable coordinating and supporting educational technologies in the classroom, I did not know what to expect on this topic. I am not sure what has changed, however when I asked, it appears that now Skype is something that can easily be done. While we still need to get the software installed and then tested before the presentation, I am excited to see this happen. I could easily see this technology being used for brining guests into the classroom, to meet with others that are unable to meet in at school, and to participate in webinars for professional development.

Other experiences with collaborating, connecting, and sharing include: curriculum writing with a business teacher using a wiki as a collaboration tool, using Dropbox to make my files available remotely on my mobile devices and to share with others; using Doodle to schedule meetings; using Survey Monkey to create online surveys to gather information from students or teachers; collaborating with another school librarian to create a LibGuide to share with other school librarians as part of a training on LibGuides; and exploring how students could use Diigo to collect and annotate resources for their research projects. There are a lot of neat, different tools that meet specific needs and sometimes this is just what is needed for the task at hand. In industry they talk about ‘just in time delivery’ of products and services. Tools like these allow school librarians to provide this same type of service with information and documents to further support classroom instruction and related programs and services in the school district. No longer is sophisticated informational technology relegated to just the computer technology department.