Thursday, October 7, 2010

Google improvements

I logged on to write that Google is now advertising "real-time collaboration" in Google Docs! WooHoo! I was disappointed to see the Google Wave experiment disbanded,, not because I liked the Wave, but because it did allow real-time collaboration that Docs did not. And now! Google to the rescue. They poured the Wave technology back into Docs to make it better than before!

So my next dilemma, why can't I get teachers or our computer services department as excited about these tools for students and especially for group projects? Well check out the white horse that rode into town on my Google Reader yesterday.

Google Apps Now In A New York State Of Mind

Washington Post - Oct 5, 2010
This deal will give 3.1 million students access to Google Apps for Education?including Gmail, Docs, Sites and Calendar.

Google Apps Now Available in New York Schools  

PC Magazine - Leslie Horn - Oct 5, 2010
... to providing schools the deployment and professional development resources they need to make Google Apps for Education - including Gmail, Docs, Sites, ...

New York schools go Google with Apps announcement

Fortune (blog) - Seth Weintraub - Oct 5, 2010
... they need to make Google Apps for Education—including Gmail, Docs, Sites and Calendar—a powerful tool for teachers and students across the state. ...
OK, so these are talking about state level decisions.  Not sure how they actually affect our district, but certainly should begin to give some credence to my mantra, "like it or don't, Google is real world and offers tools our students need to learn and use."

Is Google taking over the world?  Should we be scared?  Well these are questions for a different day, but for now, I see it as important that we teach users how to harness the power of the available tools as a step toward continued advancement and understanding of the digital world and how we can use it to learn and improve ourselves and our real world situation.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

YouTube in a PowerPoint show!

Ok, All revved up to start posting regularly and my wheels are spinning off.  Great start to the school year but have jumped in full speed ahead.  Focus is on planning for the year and trying to get teacher's attention.  Lucky for me I have a few who are keeping me busy!

Have spent today trying to get ahead of the curve and figure out the best way to teach MLA formatting with newly installed Word 2007.  (What the heck is up with Google and the Calibri font?)  I will post on this topic very soon.  I've come up with some great questions regarding the level of teaching to do on this topic and some great solutions with various levels of student input.

Serendipitously, today I came across the answer to a question that I have been asked a bizzilion times (almost).  Can I put a YouTube video on my PowerPoint?  Well, yes Virginia, as of MS 2007 you can do exactly that!  And it is easy and fun!  Check out the video below for step by step details of what to do and how to do it.  (Might look a little scary for non-techies but very simple when following this recipe.)

This video assumes an active and unfiltered access to the Internet.  For districts that still block YouTube and other video sites other options do exist.  The same author who produced this video offers a second video describing a rather complicated method.  I prefer the much easier method of using or other similar file conversion site to rip the video into a format that can be saved on the hard drive and played locally. 

When streaming video directly from YouTube, there are no copyright implications (see previous posts in this blog).  In any case where the video is removed from its source (converted and saved on your computer) it is important to remember to give credit to creators! 

Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Explosion of Expression

Welcome to the Grand Illusion . . . Not exactly sure why but these Styx lyrics popped into my head when I finally realized I was going to give myself permission to write again.  My fingers are twitching I am so excited!

Yes, gave myself permission.  I am behind on some projects that I really need to get done and I have stopped myself every time I tried to express my thoughts here with the admonition that I should be using my time wisely to get my projects done.  Months have gone by and that strategy has not worked and so today I am giving in and will look for new motivation on those other fronts.

I have had a great summer with the family.  We enjoyed several weeks at the lake and a couple other roadtrips to add a little spice.  I worked a little and played Mr. Mom as my wife embarked on a new career.  Perhaps most enjoyable, we actually made time to do a few projects around our own house this summer.

I had one great interview for a secondary position.  It would have been a great job for me and, though it meant cutting lake time short I was very excited.  Turns out over 60 people applied including five with professional library experience.  Of the 60, eight were interviewed and three called back to teach a lesson.  It sounds as if I was a strong second choice but was edged out by one of the more experienced candidates.

My strengths, according to the interviewer who notified me of the results were my knowledge of technology but more importantly, my understanding that technology is not the answer without a strong curricular link.  He said my answers that focused on a scaffolded approach to teaching 21st Century Skills and preparation of students for life beyond high school with regards to research and presentation were very impressive.

Alas, summer is over and the job did not come my way but I am blessed that I have such a fantastic venue to continue to learn and grow as an educator and librarian.  Our team, two librarians, two clerks, and myself returned intact to greet a new year in a freshly painted and exciting library.  The computers are warmed up and the books dusted and we are ready to go! 

Perhaps it is a line later in the song, "deep inside we're all the same," that made this song relevant to me today.  Though I am technically still a Teaching Assistant, in my mind this year I am a librarian and plan to conduct myself as one at every opportunity.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Student learning is our priority

Alison Zmuda opened her day-long conference, Librarians as Learning Specialists, with the statement, "Without a curriculum and a robust assessment system school librarians cease to exist."  I was invigorated to hear the repetition throughout the day that, "Student learning is our priority."  She focused on ways to re-design our lessons and align our standards with content curriculum areas and standards.

Two weeks later I had the opportunity to attend a conference hosted by Dr. Ross Todd on the topic of Evidence Based Practice and School Libraries.  He spent the early morning describing our "invisible evidence syndrome," and the afternoon focusing us on "learning outcomes" verified by "evidence based practices."  His message and Alison's mirrored and complemented each other.  They both agree, and write and speak about ways to alter the image and, in fact, the reality of what school librarians do and how we do it.

Alison offered more suggestions for effective teaching opportunities, while Dr. Todd filled in the blanks with more concrete examples of learning-focused, lesson-based feedback and assessment collectibles.  Talking with other conference attendees I discovered that my comfort level with this dialogue of true curricular collaboration and measurement of outcome extends from my business background.  Two other librarians at my table, responding throughout the day with nods and smiles, also came from previous business experience.  The two career librarians at the table generally agreed with what they heard, but did so with trepidation.  

Four years ago in the first paper I ever wrote about school librarians, a literature review based upon current school and library journals including quotes from Dr. Todd, I lamented the need for librarians to map their curriculum to blend with content areas, to find ways to assure progressive information literacy development from year to year and to find ways to document progress and achievement.  I am not sure what topics my classmates chose but even as an outsider I saw the need for this change in focus.  My advocacy has continued in verbal and written reflections for LIS classes and in my job as a high school library teaching assistant.

Working in a school population nearing 1500 students, this knowledge has been a painful load to carry as I have had difficulty figuring out any consistent ways to measure student achievement or growth across the information literacy continuum.  Collaborative opportunities are frequent, but convincing all teachers in a given content area / grade level to approach a project in the same way to allow us to give similar lessons and collect uniform data has proven virtually impossible.  As if a symbol of the failure, much to frequently, we are asked to do a "quick, basic database intro," or worse, teachers with low expectations assign information-driven  projects without library support.

Coinciding with the conferences I attended, however, I had the opportunity, as part of a required practicum, to work for five weeks each in two different smaller schools, a middle school and an elementary school, both with populations of closer to 500.  Suddenly the lights are coming on.  When all teachers for a subject / grade level can be counted on one hand (sometimes one or two fingers) the needs and opportunities are easier to identify.  As both Zmuda and Todd and other authors I have read admit, the process is still not easy or quick but I am beginning to see light in the woods that may indicate a path.

The beginning of the path lies in continued movement away from "the database lesson" and toward true collaboration with teachers to design lessons, deliverable products, and grading criteria.  As teacher-librarians, even as "information specialists," we need to step away from the role of information, material, space and student managers and aggressively into the role of information literacy teaching specialists.  It goes without saying that we must be comfortable with the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner, but to achieve success we must think simultaneously about core content area standards and how to blend the curricula to achieve success.

I still find humor in the sign in the back office of one school library I visited that says, "If it's not barcoded, it doesn't exist," but as I see our budgets crunching and librarians losing clerks or losing their jobs to clerks, and as I see librarians taking over book-rooms and managing study halls, I am increasingly concerned that we must pursue education over management if we are to survive.  I certainly do not have all of the answers; in fact I believe I still have more questions than answers but I am agressively seeking ways to make an impact, even one student or one teacher at a time.