Monday, April 14, 2014

What a Day We Had With Winston & Wandoo Planet!

We had a blast today with the Banish Boredom Tour, and the students are fired up about Beta testing Wandoo Planet!  Thank you Lindsey, Winston and all of our new friends from Wandoo Planet! We hope you will come back to see us!

The smiles say it all! What a fun day!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

TLA '14 Top Ten (But Could be WAY More!)

The clothes are unpacked and the goodies are sorted, but I've discovered that is the easy part. Processing and implementing ideas learned from a conference is much more difficult. To implant these ideas into my brain, and to remember all there is to remember from this fabulous conference, I thought I would create a Top 10 List recap. It could easily be Top 20 or even higher, but to make sure it gets done, I think I'll start with the Top 10 Fabulous Things About #txla14.

10. Seeing the latest and greatest in the exhibit hall. I was able to put my hands on books, see new library furnishings, and meet the people behind Wandoo PlanetMackinVia and other resources I use in the library! Wandoo Planet will be at our school on Monday, so it was fun to talk to them face to face before then!

9. Hearing fabulous authors speak! James Patterson's keynote, highlighting his passion for getting kids to read, was inspiring! Him reminding us it is a parent's responsibility to encourage reading was refreshing, and seeing what all he does to promote reading as a life skill was awesome! 

Lemony Snicket, at the TASL Author breakfast, was beyond entertaining! I sent a text to my oldest daughter, who loved reading A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS books, during the breakfast! She would have also loved to hear him speak! 

8. Meeting members of my PLN face to face. Thanks to Twitter, I am surrounded by an incredible resource: inspired and inspiring people! Whether they are librarians, authors, teachers, technology resources, or administrators, I count on the people in my PLN to motivate me to be the best librarian I can be and they do not disappoint! So to be able to meet them face to face is always so much fun!

7. Fellowship with my district colleagues! We don't often have the opportunity to all be in the same place, so it was nice to have dinner with them, and spend time brainstorming and sharing ideas on the trip there and back.

6. Receiving a MVP Award from TASL. I was one of three top vote getters for the Media & Virtual Presence Award, having been nominated by my friend, Nancy Jo. It was a wonderful honor, made even sweeter by my friends who chose to come support me. The bonus: we all got a beautiful pop-up book created by Robert Sabuda!

5. New Books! No surprise, I LOVE books! So getting books, both signed and unsigned, new or soon to be available, is a special part of TLA or any conference for that matter! I received signed books at the Abrams' dinner, which will be given to students or teachers. Books were given to attendees of the Texas Bluebonnet Award Luncheon, and then there were books sometimes given away on the floor of the exhibit hall. I made a conscious decision this year not to get more books than I could carry and give away. 

4. Making new author friends! This is such a fun part of a library conference! I was invited by my #TLBFF Nancy Jo Lambert to Abrams' dinner with authors & librarians and it was fabulous! The dinner was a small event, almost one to one author to librarian, and it was a fun night of conversation & planning future visits, both virtually and in person! I can't wait for my students to meet some of my new author friends, like Julie Sternberg (author of LIKE PICKLE JUICE ON A COOKIE, LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER, and her new book, LIKE CARROT JUICE ON A CUPCAKE.) Julie was so kind, someone you instantly feel at ease with, and she is excited about the possibility of doing a Google Hangout with our school and several others that were there that night. 

I also got to meet Natalie Lloyd, who wrote A SNICKER OF MAGIC, which is being read by my 5th grade Lunch Bunch Book Club! They are going to be so excited when they hear I met her and that she agreed to Skype with them when they finish the book! 

3. Being inspired by Jennifer Lagarde! Loved the reminder of what is important! Jennifer reminded us that we "are not the IRS!" and that we should be way more than worrying about fines & lost books! Jennifer challenged us to "shift" our thinking and redefine what we are about. We looked at why we share library stats and what they really should be showing! She encouraged us to provide opportunities for students to create & make in the library! Jennifer is a dynamic speaker and certainly helped me "shift" my thinking for the end of the school year! Her fabulous presentation, as well as others from TXLA14, can be found HERE! A bonus to this session: being able to see my friends, Shannon Miller & Andy Plemmons, who I usually just get to see online! 

2. Attending the Nerdy Book Club session! WOW! A panel of some of my favorites in the book world! Kirby Larson...I loved reading about Hattie! Jenni Holm....Babymouse & Turtle...some of my favorite characters! Linda Urban...Tom Angleberger... Colby Sharp....John Schumacher (Mr. Schu Reads!) all wrapped up in a neat package, presented and presided over by Cynthia Alaniz! Oh my! What a session! I loved hearing their stories and getting to know them as readers (& writers for some) a little better! Seeing, in person, how passionate they are about books & stories, was so awesome! And being reminded to "pay it forward" by John was a great takeaway! I will find a perfect home for each book I brought home from TLA & think of Mr. Schu when I give that book! 

And the #1 Best Thing about TLA is....
1. Meeting my #TLBFF's in person! I found a group of ladies on Twitter that have been a continuous source of inspiration and encouragement for me. Cynthia Alaniz I found first, even before she became a librarian, drawn to her because of her love of books and her generosity in sharing about the books she was reading. Then early last fall, I found Nancy Jo Lambert and Tina Berumen. Each one of these ladies has strengths different from mine, which in turn makes me stronger! We put together a poster session (poster by Cynthia! ;) and I met them in person at the convention center for the first time. It was so fun, and it was like we had known each other for years! I look forward to many more collaborations with these three fabulous ladies! 

What a conference! Conferences remind us of what is important, help us to make connections with others, and inspire us to be better! Can't wait until TXLA15 in Austin!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

#BanishBoredomTour Coming to Curtis!

We are so excited to have recently been selected as a stop on Wandoo Planet's  #BanishBoredomTour! Wandoo Planet will be at Curtis Elementary on Monday, April 14th to get students started using this interest-driven website!

A while back, I received an email asking Curtis students to Beta test Wandoo Planet. A great description can be found here: What Is Wandoo Planet? Our afterschool media club, The Digital Bookworms explored the site, and even talked with our friends, the Technical Difficulties Club at Van Meter, about it. Then last week, the Digital Bookworms Skyped with Lindsey Hill from Evanced Solutions, the company  behind Wandoo Planet.

Wandoo Planet is the world's first kid-powered interest genome project!

Think Pandora, Spotify, or Netflix with a twist. It's a new software platform that empowers children to discover their keenest interests and find relevant books and other content via a powerful recommendation engine. - from Wandoo Planet Website

The Digital Bookworms had already created accounts and were a little familiar with the concept of the website. During our Skype visit, the students were able to hear the story of how Wandoo Planet came to be, and the purpose. Mrs. Hill shared with the students that she had been a teacher for 14 years before going to work with Evanced Solutions. She explained to them that they had a wonderful opportunity to try out Wandoo Planet and give their feedback to make the site better! Through their use, they were making the program smarter, showing it what students were interested in and what they weren't.

Students were encouraged to spend a few minutes listening to the story in the beginning and then clicking on the "thumbs up" sign for things they were interested in, and clicking on the "thumbs down" sign for things they weren't interested in.

Things they LOVE doing, should be marked with a heart--this will be the beginning of their tree.

One of the options ask if you are looking for a specific book or content related to your interest. Students can then type in a title of a book and get the information for it.

The students can also print a list of books and take it to their school or public library, or even to a book store, to find books based on their interest. One thing that I liked about this part was that I could use this to add books of interest to our collection, and the students would have specific books to request instead of just requesting a "drawing book".

The Digital Bookworms spent their entire club time exploring Wandoo Planet. Lindsey shared how important their feedback is, so we created a Google Doc for the students to use to give feedback.  It can be found HERE. Feel free to add your thoughts to it after you use Wandoo Planet. We will give any feedback to the team when they come to visit us in a couple of weeks.
 Being Beta testers for Wandoo Planet has been very empowering for our students. It was great that they were able to ask questions while using the tool, as well as to offer feedback. Lindsey was taking notes as they would share their thoughts. They loved sharing their opinions and being a part of helping Wandoo Planet get even better! 

We can't wait to meet Lindsey, and the whole team, in a couple of weeks, as well as Winston the Owl!  And the great thing is, they are also going to Iowa, to meet our friends at Van Meter! You can read more about that visit on Shannon Miller's Blog! I can't wait for the Digital Bookworms & the Technical Difficulties club to connect in a few weeks and talk about our time with Lindsey, Winston & the whole Wandoo Planet team!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why a Librarian, You Ask?

As you can see, April is School Library Month, and so I am joining other librarians in my Twitter Professional Learning Network (PLN) to share stories on how we ended up as librarians. Funny how a tweet can quickly turn into a hashtag. You can read Andy Plemmon's story HERE and Sherry Gick's story HERE, and follow #whylib on Twitter to read more stories.

Here is my story...
I have loved to read as long as I can remember, but I honestly never thought I would be a librarian. When I was young, I really wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer and then  a judge. When I went to college, I studied criminal justice and received a degree in Criminology & Corrections. I toyed with the idea of going into law enforcement, but ended up as a parole officer in Houston, Texas during a time when the state prison system was letting out inmates by the hundreds each day. I had over 300 parolees on my caseload, with home visits being required for most of them. For those who haven't seen me in person, I am about 5'3"... you can probably guess that this was probably not the best fit job for me. I lasted a year, and fortunately we were moving out of Houston, so a new job was needed. I decided maybe criminal justice wasn't the right field for me, but I also knew I definitely wanted to make a difference in the world. 

For about 2 years, I worked in the business world, and then had the opportunity to begin a Alternative Teacher Certification program that our local education service center was beginning. With criminal justice, I felt like I was getting to people too late to make a difference, but surely as a teacher, I could have a positive impact. The program required you to attend four weeks of training during the summer, eight hours a day. Nervous about leaving a job without having another one, I started interviewing for teaching positions. Luckily, I was hired before I started the program, so although I would go a couple of months without a paycheck, there was a teaching job in my near future. Let me say, I LOVED teaching. I began teaching 3rd grade in 1992, when my oldest child was a little over one. It was a perfect fit- I felt like I could make a difference and I had time to spend with my young daughter. I continued to teach at this school for the next six years, changing grades from time to time, even looping up with a class from 4th to 5th grade.  Then there were a few relocations that required new positions, all still in 4th.

In Texas, 4th grade is kind of a stressful year because the students take three state exams, writing, math, & reading. The standardized testing system had changed a lot since I first began teaching, and I was getting frustrated and feeling ineffective as a teacher. 

During all of this time, I knew I wanted to go back to school to get my master's degree, but could not decide what I wanted to study. Some days, I wanted to be a counselor, other times I thought maybe I would try for diagnostician, but I was never 100% certain on anything. Part of it was that I was always looking at what degree would increase my salary, not what degree would increase my satisfaction. Thankfully, there is always someone else watching over me. I waited, and doors opened. 

By the time I thought about a library science degree, my oldest was 20 years old. It just so happened that I was still teaching 4th grade, just in a different school. I had always said that when teaching stopped being fun, I would do something else because the kiddos don't care how long you've been teaching.  It is, hopefully their only year in that grade. The joy of teaching was definitely dwindling by this time.  One day, I got a phone call from a librarian friend at my previous school. She asked if I had heard about our Education Service Center's meeting for a MLS cohort in the area. No, I hadn't, but I looked it up and went to the meeting. Ironically, the same university, Sam Houston State University, where I had received my BS degree, was offering the MLS program and it was mostly an online program. 

I signed up and began the program, even convincing my friend Nitza Campos to join me. That was in January of 2011. Fortunately,  the librarian job on my campus became available for the next school year- doors opening....  I started in that position while completing my degree and within 18 months, I graduated with my MLS. That was just three short years ago, and every single day that I walk into the library, I am thankful for the opportunity to be there and to make a difference. 

I am also thankful for the inspiration and encouragement I get from my PLN on Twitter. When I was in grad school, one of the professors had us create a Twitter account. This was probably one of the best things that happened to me as a library student. I discovered two awe-inspiring librarians named John Schumacher  and Shannon Miller and began following them. Then I checked out who they followed and found others who equally inspired me. Eventually, there would be many, many people I would add to my PLN, like Andy & Sherry, Matthew Winner, Jennifer Reed, Margie (aka: @loveofxena), authors, illustrators, technology tools, and I would even find my #TLBFF's (Nancy Jo Lambert, Cynthia Alaniz & Tina Berumen) who encourage & inspire me a little closer to home (they are also in Texas!) There are truly so many inspiring librarians!

So from parole officer to teacher to librarian... not exactly the route I would have guessed, but maybe you have to travel the path to wind up exactly where you are meant to be...Being  a teacher-librarian is rewarding and the PERFECT job for me! Books & kiddos, with some technology mixed in... what's not to love?? And the icing on the cake- receiving emails like this from a student just this past Friday night.

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That's #whylib! :) Happy School Library Month! Lives Change @ Your Library!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Student Review of the New MakerSpace by Sierra & Kayla

Hey, this is Sierra and Kayla filling in for Mrs. Ford! This is the first time that we  got to see the maker space room. It was so fun there was Legos, K'Nex , and Little Bits. This Maker Space room is fun for kids to Create, Connect, Collaborate! In the room many kids enjoyed the Little Bits! Little Bits are fun creative circuits that you connect to make lights come on, and motors start up! This was a very enjoyable visit, I know that everyone loved it. To be honest though, We believe that 2nd-6th enjoy and use it the most! I would not recommend K-1st to use it because there are a lot of higher level thinking tools in this particular area. To conclude this, everyone really enjoyed this fun Creative Room.


Collaborating & Creating During Library Centers

It has been a whirlwind two weeks as we explored our new library centers and enjoyed familiar ones. Students were thrilled to see our new MakerSpace that was created over Spring Break! You can read all about it here:
Spring Break = New Makerspace.
It has been interesting to watch, not only which centers the students pick, but also how they interact in the spaces. Sometimes they work together to create something, and some group work individually. These first visits to the centers have been for exploration and soon there will be opportunities for bigger projects, long term projects. We are lucky that our newly painted shelves are empty and ready to house "works in progress!"

I only wish that there was more room, because the number of kiddos that have wanted to try out this space far exceeds the room's capacity! :) Some components of it have been moved to the tables in the library area, such as the K'Nex.

As students have used the different centers, I have asked them to evaluate the center for interest and engagement. It has been interesting to read their thoughts on the centers and how we can improve them.

 Just as popular as our new makerspace, has been the Rainbow Loom Table. We have joined Shannon Miller, and her students in Van Meter, Iowa to create and collect bracelets for children in Mangalore, India. Our students have been so excited about Banding Together with students from all over the country to collect these bracelets.

The students stream into the library throughout the day, dropping off their bracelets in the donation basket. You can see by the evaluation that they are taking it seriously- no talking & more time! ;)

In addition to these centers, we also have our puzzle table. We now put our puzzle together on an old white board so that it can be moved without taking the whole thing apart. This is great because we actually get to finish puzzles!

Our MakerSpace is a work in progress. We are learning as we go, what works, what doesn't, things we want to add... our original steering committee comes in during lunch to research new things they would like in the makerspace. There next big decision will be a name!

Our first week ended on a great note, with Mr. Clark, one of our student's dad, dropping off a bag of goodies! The students were excited on Monday to start exploring these items! And we are looking forward to reading all about 3D printers in the new Make: magazine! This might just be our next item to add to our makerspace!

 What would you add to our library stations or makerspace?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Break = New Makerspace

Our makerspace is finally a reality! After receiving our grant items from the Weatherford ISD Education Foundation, we knew we needed a space for students to collaborate and create. The library has a storage room attached to it with a wall full of shelves, and this seemed the perfect place to house our future Makerspace or at least part of it.

The storage room had not been updated in many, many years and was definitely in need of some freshening up. After some calls to our local home improvement stores, we were excited to get a donation of materials from Lowe's. They donated whiteboard paint, magnetic paint & chalkboard paint. They even mixed a special "Roo Blue" chalkboard paint for us.

In addition to this donation, we were also very appreciative of Home Depot's donation of paint and painting supplies. We were ready to prep and paint! As you can see by the pictures, there were several Curtis faculty members who gave up some of their Spring Break to help with this Makerspace Makeover! We even had the father of one of our teachers come and paint the wall of shelves and how much better do they look!?!?!

Here are some more pictures of the transformation! I can't wait to see the students' faces when they see their new space! 

This is just the beginning of our Makerspaces, and we are excited about creating spaces for our students to make & create! 

Now to figure out what else we need to add. We have Little Bits, Legos, and K'Nex kits, but there are so many things we could add! What would you suggest? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reading & Connecting with Read Across America & World Read Aloud Day Day Part 1

We had a wonderful week full of reading and connecting! It was busy, but since it was our 2nd time to celebrate these two events, it was even more fun than last year, if that is possible! Like most great events, this began with a Google doc & Twitter! :)

Our celebration actually started on the Friday before as we enjoyed D.E.A.R. time and an early Dr. Seuss Birthday. Curtis readers cuddled up with their favorite stuffed animal and read or listened to a story. As I went around the school snapping pictures, it was fun to see the teachers in the older grades taking time to read aloud to their students. The days are always so full for these kiddos, and sometimes teacher read alouds are left behind.

With Monday came a late start for us due to weather, but cancellations for many others. The two author Skypes were still a GO, so I was excited! A favorite trilogy of my middle grade readers is The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen.

Our entire 5th grade was able to participate in a Skype visit with Jennifer NielsenIt was fabulous to be able to visit with her and have her share her thoughts about the characters and the story of Sage and how this trilogy began. Our students were able to ask Nielsen questions. They were also excited to find out that there would be a signed copy of the new release, The Shadow Throne, put in a drawing for one lucky reader! 

The day ended with a Google Hangout visit with Ame Dyckman! She is always so energetic and fun for our students! What was even more exciting was that I was able to bring in another school from our district. Seguin Elementary librarian Lori Tucker agreed to join us after our other group had to cancel. I don't think this will be her last GHO or connection!

Ame read Boy + Bot to our kinder students and they LOVED it! It is always so much fun to see the students reaction to Ame's hair color. 

I'm always amazed at the kindness of authors and how they connect with their readers. It means so much to our students, AND I can't keep their books on the shelves after a connection! ALL books by both of these authors are checked out!