Monday, March 23, 2015

Looking for Spring with Kindergarten

In my lesson plans for today we were going to compare fiction and nonfiction books. Well, today was a beautiful day, and sometimes plans have to change! I had just unpacked a box of books and found Finding Spring by Carin Berger.

I couldn't imagine reading this book to my kindergarten friends inside the library! Our library is upstairs and overlooks a courtyard area that was begging us to come read in it. So we headed outside today, armed with this book and a couple of iPads. Recently I read that teachers should equip the students to document the learning, so I handed iPads to a couple of students & even gave one my phone. As we went outside, students were instructed to find signs of spring and take pictures. 

We gathered at a bench and read all about Maurice, a baby bear, who is anxious to experience his first spring. Unfortunately, it is winter and Mama Bear is already for hibernation. Maurice decides to go out and try to find spring. This book gave us a good opportunity to talk about seasons, animal habits, and even evaporation. 

It was so much fun watching these students eagerly search for signs of spring and then call for friends to come take a picture. Here are some of their great shots! Happy Spring!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Actually, It Is Rocket Science!

This week, some of our students Skyped with members of the Tarleton State Aeronautical Team, or Rocket Team as we are calling them. 

Dr. Keith Emmert, our parent volunteer who helps lead our maker club, is a math professor at Tarleton State University, and he helped arrange this partnership. The plan is for the rocket team to Skype with our 5th and 6th graders, as well as our after school maker club. Then the team will visit Curtis in March, bringing their 3D printer and rockets. Fifth and Sixth grade students will be able to watch the team launch one of their rockets, after learning more about rockets and seeing their 3D printer up close.

On Tuesday, our 5th graders Skyped with the team. Michael Daigrepont and Andrew Olbrich, explained about the competitions they participate in, shared the process of building their rockets, and answered questions from the group. 

The students were very interested in how high the rockets could go and how much it costs to build the rockets! They were also able to see video footage from a competition and footage shot from inside the rocket! It was interesting to learn what all is involved in a competition, including how they track their rockets.

The rocket team, now including Suleima Rangel, repeated their presentation with our after school maker club. 

The maker club was excited to learn that they would be able to work with a partner to design their own rocket to launch. The Tarleton rocket team will use their 3D printer to print these pieces and bring them with them for our rocket day! 

The rocket team explained how their 3D printer works, and showed students some of the things that they have printed. Dr. Keith brought rocket parts that had been printed so students understood what they were selecting for their own rockets.

For our the last Skype for the week, our 6th graders listened intently as Michael explained all about their competitions, 3D printing, and what would take place during their visit on March 4th. 

During this Skype, we had approximately 20 visitors come in from the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce Leadership group.  We were happy to have them see the great things that are happening in Weatherford ISD and in education in general!

To say we are excited about the visit from the Tarleton Rocket team is an understatement! Stay tuned for news of our rocket launch! More information about the Tarleton Rocket team can be found at and on Twitter at TSUAeronautics.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

TCEA15- Learning, Growing, Connecting

Last week I attended the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) Annual Conference. As educators, we should model life-long learning and attending conferences is one way to do that. The week was full of learning & connecting, so much so that it would require a quite lengthy post to cover everything. Here are my major take-aways for the week:

Kristen Swanson, the founder of the Edcamp movement, started our first day with a reminder that "learning is fundamentally different in a connected world." When educators are connected, they can learn anywhere, from anyone, at anytime! It becomes personalized, which is exactly what we are striving for for our students. A big take-away was "when we change the learning for adults, they will change the learning for their students!" YES! This, as well as another session, helped me rethink the way I share information with teachers on our campus. 

The first day ended with a nice honor. I was recognized as a finalist for TCEA Library Media Specialist of the Year. There to support me were my biggest cheerleaders: Nancy Jo Lambert, Tina Berumen, Erin Griffith, and Racheal Rife! 

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to present with some pretty AMAZING people! The first presentation was with my principal, Racheal Rife, and friend/mentor, Erin Griffith. Racheal encourages and supports innovation on our campus and inspires me to rethink how I look at our education system. Erin Griffith, worked in our district last year, and was a huge reason we hosted our first Edcamp Parker County! We presented on Collaborative Learning Spaces and how to create these spaces on a budget, with limited space, AND with student involvement. We shared spaces we created with our students, and talked about the WHY. It was wonderful to hear others in the audience share about their spaces. Attendees added pictures and links to the presentation's Google Slides which we hope will be a resource for others. A highlight of this session was discovering that Carl Hooker had created sketchnotes of the session and shared them!

The sessions were back to back, so I ran to the next room to present #Makerspaces with my #TLBFF, Nancy Jo Lambert! This was the first time Nancy Jo and I had presented together, and it was a lot of fun! She is such an incredible librarian and so willing to share with others! 

Makerspaces are a great addition to a school, whether it be in a library, classroom, or another part of the building. They are also easy to personalize, and there is no right or wrong in makerspaces. The purpose is to create a space where students are able to collaborate & innovate! We shared some of the items that we have in our makerspaces.

There was a full house in this session, with many of them being librarians. This seems like a good indicator that librarians are ready to be key players in creating innovative spaces for their students!

At a conference of this size, another great part is being able to connect with friends and members of your PLN. There are many people who inspire me that I am only able to see face to face at conferences. There were also many new people that I added to my PLN during and after TCEA. 

There were many sessions and learning opportunities throughout the week, and the last session we attended was an inspiring way to end this conference. A new addition to my PLN, Matthew Arend, mentioned that George Couros was presenting on Thursday. My principal and I made it to his first session, Your Digital Footprint, at 8:00 AM. I honestly would have gone to all three of his sessions that day if I could have, he is that good! There are many great resources on his blog, which I will be checking regularly! He reinforced my belief that being a connected educator is important. 

By watching the hashtag #TCEA15Couros, you could see how everyone was connecting with Couros! In fact, I went back and read tweets from the other two sessions to see what I missed. Like this question:

Right away, I was able to implement some of what I learned in Couros's session with my 6th graders on Friday as we talked about our Digital Footprint. 

This slide was all over Twitter on Thursday and is such a good visual for what we should be aiming for:

So I take back to my campus great ideas to share and the reminder that the most important thing is still RELATIONSHIPS! Technology is a wonderful addition, but forming relationships with people, whether it be our students, the teachers on our campus, or connecting with members of our PLN in person, that is where we really make a difference. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hanging Out With an Illustrator

How much fun did we have with our Google Hangout with Debbie Ridpath Ohi? Tons!

During January, we have been talking about medals books can earn, and have specifically talked about the Caldecott medal with our younger students. Which made this a perfect time to connect with an illustrator! A librarian friend of mine, Jennifer Reed, had recently posted on Facebook about her Skype visit with Debbie, the illustrator of I'M BORED! Debbie mentioned that she was interested in connecting with other schools and to email if you were interested. Always looking for a way to connect our students, I emailed and we set up a virtual visit for mid January, with a practice connection a week or so before. It was during our practice Skype that I mentioned the idea of a Google Hangout (GHO). For some reason, in our district, the image during a Skype is a little blurry. It seems to be better during a GHO. So in the middle of our Skype, we tried a GHO! The really cool thing was she could demonstrate how she illustrates on her computer. I knew our students would love this part!

To prepare, even though I have read I'M BORED! to many of our students, I asked the 2nd grade teachers to read it to their classes. It is such a fun book, written by Michael Ian Black, about a child who is bored. Haven't we all heard a child utter those words? The little girl then meets a potato, who is also bored! She tries to come up with ideas to entertain the potato, which of course keeps her entertained! The illustrations are so fun, and of course the story has students giggling as they listen to it!

While we waited for all of the students to come into the library, Debbie entertained the students with drawings on the shared screen. It was amazing to see how quickly an illustration could appear. 

After everyone was settled, Debbie shared with us how she created the illustrations for I'M BORED. She talked about how the author and illustrated rarely talk or even meet during the creating of the book. Then students were treated to an interactive reading of NAKED, also written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Ohi. The students were able to read the word NAKED, which had them all howling with laughter!! (See first picture)

Students were able to ask questions like when Debbie began illustrating, and if she has written any books. 

They were excited to hear that she has written and illustrated a book that will be coming our May, 2015 called WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? We can't wait to add this to our library collection!

Our students were treated to another creation, this one with torn paper. They couldn't wait to share this technique with our new art teacher! I would not be surprised if we didn't have a few budding illustrators at Curtis!

I am always so appreciative of the kindness of authors and illustrators, such as Debbie, who will so freely give their time to share their passion with our students. It is a wonderful experience for our students, and it brings literature to life for them! Thank you, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, for a great time!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Robotics, Coding & Beyond

The new year brought new members to our after school Robotics & Coding club. We had 30 students in the library for the first meeting of 2015. Thankfully, we also had two parents helping!

It was so fun to see the number of students who had received either a Sphero or an Ollie for Christmas! I encouraged them to bring their own Sphero & device, and they did!

The first thing we did was participate in a Google Hangout with a young man who has graduated with a degree in computer science and currently works as a programmer. Aaron happens to be friends with my oldest daughter and was kind enough to visit with our students about opportunities they might have if they learn computer coding.

He works in Austin, Texas for a start up company, but has also worked for Samsung. Aaron shared how he has people who approach him about jobs, having received an email just that day about a job opportunity. I wanted the students to know that although it is fun playing with the Sphero robotics balls, that it could lead to more. With House Bill 5, students will choose a focus in high school. One of the strands is STEM. Robotics and coding feed right into this, and I hope that through our after school club, students might decide that this is something they are interested in.

The students listened intently as Aaron shared that he did not do any coding until he got into college and how he was impressed that they were doing these things in elementary school. It was also very interesting to hear him say that the majority of the people he works with are men, but the few women he works with are very talented. We have quite a few girls in the club, and I saw smiles on their faces as he said this. It made me wonder how many of them might go into this field when they finish school.

After we finished visiting with Aaron, Dr. Keith talked to the students about an early form of coding-- Morse code. Some of the students were familiar with Morse code, and were excited to share what they knew. Dr. Keith talked to the students about using Morse code to program the Sphero balls. 

We are using the SPRK Education Program on the Sphero website. These lessons are a great way to extend the learning with Sphero. With these lessons, students learn to program Sphero and Ollie, instead of just driving them with an iPad app. 

Our after school club keeps growing and it will be exciting to see what all they learn this school year. I would love to hear from others who are using Sphero robotics balls and Ollies in the elementary school. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Let the Research Begin!

After a wonderful Christmas break, we started the new year on Monday.

With research projects on the horizon in each grade level, it is important for the students to know HOW to find information and WHERE to find information. Our students have access to several different databases, but too often these are forgotten when research assignments are assigned. One way to make sure teachers don't forget about the paid databases is to go through the students. If I teach the students all of the databases then they will remind their teachers about it! 

One of the things that make accessing our databases so easy is MackinVia. This is what we use to house all of our e-resources. Students can access ebooks, online databases and audio books. With our recent update, students only need the User ID and the Password. There is no need to select a school.

Here students can easily locate our online databases without additional logins. Several of these databases also have read along capabilities which make them a great tool for Daily 5 time. 

We also looked at World Book online. This is our first year using this database. One aspect the students are really enjoying is the Dramatic Learning part. Here they can find plays and reader's theater  grouped by grade level, subject and title. 

We explored both World Book Kids and World Book Student. Students talked about the differences between the two, recognizing that sometimes it might be more effective to use one rather than the other.

Fifth graders are doing research on US regions, so that was our focus as we looked at World Book Online as well as TrueFlix. TrueFlix is a perfect tool for this, as there is an ebook for each region of focus.  Students can also easily find additional resources on TrueFlix, as well as a short video clip. Fifth graders will be presenting their research with either a Weebly website or a Thinglink.  Before Christmas break, students came to the library to learn about these two tools. I can't wait to see what they create!

Third graders have been enjoying PebbleGo Biographies, so we looked at the new PebbleGo Science and all it has to offer.  While looking at this, we talked about using key words to search for specific topics.  


In addition, we discussed the importance of citing sources while doing research. PebbleGo makes it easy for students to cite sources!

My hope with these lessons is to equip students with research skills that will enable them to get started on their assigned projects. As a classroom teacher, I remember it being difficult to teach research skills, assign a project and also have the time to actually have students complete the project. By teaching research skills to students before the classroom teacher assigns the project, it allows the teacher to focus more on the actual project. 

In future lessons, we will focus more on keyword searches and practice citing sources. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Coding & Robotics Week 3

This week, during our Coding & Robotics club time, our students were actually able to program the Sphero Robotics balls using the app MacroLab.  Thankfully, Dr. Keith explained all of this to the students!

He started our club time by showing the students that they could actually do more with the Sphero balls that just drive them using the iPads as a remote control. Using our big screen, he demonstrated how to command the Sphero to do what you want it to do using an app called Sphero Macrolab.

Basic programming was explained to the students, as well as degrees and angles. The Sphero Macrolab site says, "The macro system we have developed for Sphero has very practical applications, such as teaching kids procedural thinking and basic programming skills."

It was very exciting to watch the students actually program the Sphero instead of driving it with the iPad app. There was definitely collaboration and critical thinking involved in this process, as pairs of students worked together to drive the Sphero ball.

iPads ready with the Sphero MacroLab app
The students did a great job of applying what Dr. Keith had taught them, and Sphero balls were buzzing all around the library! 

A few students worked with the new Sphero Ollie, using their own device to control it. We had a little difficulty finding the right device to pair with it as it seems our iPads are too old for the app to work. Luckily, a couple of our students had newer devices and downloaded the app. That is a great thing about being a BYOD campus! Someone usually has a device that will work!

As if learning to program the Sphero balls weren't enough, we also brought out the new Makey-Makey we received through Donors Choose. I have to admit that I have been a little intimidated by the Makey-Makey, but the students (with the help of Dr. Keith) figured it out quickly! We even had students come in during lunch the next day to explore it more!

Next week we will continue to learn programming using the Sphero ball and the Sphero Ollie. After the Christmas break we will bring in new members to learn coding and robotics, while the current members continue learning. It is exciting to hear the students talking about coding, coming into the library during lunch, recess and any free time, to work with the computers or Sphero balls!