Conference time=reinvigorated!

One of the best and fastest ways to re-energize yourself professionally is to go to a conference centered on your field. I am fortunate enough to go to an annual conference in Florida for school librarians every year, and I get so much out of it that I can’t imagine not going. It’s held in Orlando, which is a little under two hours away from me, so it’s a really easy trip, and some years I’ve even driven down just for the day and returned so I can at least get eight hours worth of knowledge.

This year was especially great because we had a wonderful group of major authors come. They each had their own hour-long sessions, but they also donated their time to hang out in the main exhibit hall to sign books and take pictures with us adoring librarians. I was thrilled to meet some of my favorites and get to talk to them one-on-one.

My sweet co-worker and friend, Paul Griffin, and myself.

My sweet co-worker and friend, Paul Griffin, and myself.

Marie Lu!

Marie Lu!

Rick Yancey, who lives in my hometown. Hometown hero!

Rick Yancey, who lives in my hometown. Hometown hero!

Matt de la Pena. So nice and funny, and an amazing speaker.

Matt de la Pena. So nice and funny, and an amazing speaker.

Jody Casella. Can't believe Thin Space is her first book. What a debut!

Jody Casella. Can’t believe Thin Space is her first book. What a debut!

While getting to meet authors is incredible, I did also learn a lot from our sessions. These are lead by fellow teacher librarians, which I like because you know the information is practical and coming directly from the source. Although there was no one “theme,” I do notice that every year we focus more and more on technology, which only makes sense. I’m a little divided personally, because I see the importance and fun of technology, but I also like the idea of doing it “old school” with real books and pen and paper. One way to marry old and new school is the growing popularity of makerspaces in the library. I went to one session focused on just that, and I liked that you can start small or go all out. It was lead by teacher librarian Diana Rendina, and you can check out her library’s blog here. Although I’m in a high school and she is in a middle school, I like to think that my students could handle having a Lego Wall or a K’Nex set out for their enjoyment. I’m just starting the process now, but I’m hopeful we can get started soon, even if only on a small scale.

Tiffany Whitehead was our keynote speaker, and she did a few sessions of her own, and she was a total inspiration. She is a teacher librarian at a middle school in Louisiana and she does it all. I don’t know how she does it, but she does. She had a lot of good ideas and she brings a fresh energy to librarianship. I had never seen any library with a hot pink and zebra print theme, but she makes it work. The biggest thing I took away from her talk is to pick a focus each year, because you really can’t do everything well. For example, this year focus on digital citizenship. Next year, focus on reading for pleasure. I like that a lot, because I realize I spread myself too thin every year and then end up feeling like I didn’t get anything accomplished. Pick one, or pick a few, but prioritize them. That’s going to be my new strategy.

I came back to school feeling ready to hit the ground running, only to be surrounded by crazy teens running around, and thinking to myself, “Hmmm.. am I sure I can do this?” But I can, and I will, and you can, too. If you’re fortunate enough to have any kind of professional conferences nearby, try and go to them. I know our budgets are shrinking every year, but do ask and try. If you can’t do that, maybe try some webinars (look on ALA’s website). If nothing else, expand your own professional network through blogs like this or on Twitter by connecting to other librarians and even authors. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can learn!

Flipping the classroom

I keep hearing about how everyone is flipping their classroom, and I want in on the action, too! I have already sort of dipped my toe in the flipped pond, so to speak, with my school blog, texts to students, and book trailers on my website, but I haven’t really jumped in all the way. I keep meaning to start, but where does a librarian start? Classroom teachers have it easy because they can just start with that day’s lesson, and voila, there’s your first video. But maybe it’s not so bad being a teacher librarian, because we have more freedom and luckily, access to tons of resources to help us get started.

The easiest way is to just set up a camera and video yourself, or have someone very kind and patient video you. Although it’s hard nowadays to get your hands on a Flip camera (pictured below), you can always use a smartphone or tablet to video with. One idea I had a while back and just can’t seem to accomplish is videoing students demonstrating proper library behavior, like how to check out a book or computer, or where to find a book on the shelf. It would be fun and incredibly simple, but I just never seem to find the time to do it.

flipcam

There are also services like Camtasia (http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html) that allow you to do screen recordings if you want to create a lesson on how to use the databases or correctly cite a research paper. Camtasia isn’t free, but if you search you can find similar services that are.

Apps that can help you flip your classroom are also becoming a more regular sight. One that received an excellent review in School Library Journal is TouchCast. It’s only available on iPads right now, but it’s chock-full of tools that can help you and your students create professional-quality videos.

And finally, if you’re even less ready than me to get started with a fully flipped experience, there are tools that help you share videos that OTHER people have made. Teachem.com and Huzzaz.com are both free websites that basically allow you to curate collections of videos for your students. They both also feature interactive elements that go along with your videos.

So don’t be like me, go on and get started flipping that classroom (library)! It sounds really fun!

When technology fails you

Have you ever had technology fail you? I’m sure you have. There’s no way that it hasn’t at this point. But have you ever had it fail you in front of hundreds of teenagers and your colleagues? During a major event you’ve planned for months? Well, that’s what happened to me last week, and it was kind of horrible. Did we all survive… even me? Yes. But boy, would I have liked to have avoided THAT.

We have an annual Battle of the Books at our school in which we use clickers for the students to buzz in with. We had a record number of students participate this year, around 140, which was wonderful, but it meant the auditorium was packed tight. I borrowed a set of clickers from another school because I know our clickers are older and not that dependable. I wanted to make sure everything was going to go smoothly. Well, little did I know…

The day of the Battle I was buzzing around, getting everything ready, making sure everything was in place. We were going to do three rounds of 12 teams each to accommodate the large size, so we only checked about 15 of the 25 or so clickers. Big mistake!

Almost as soon as the Battle started, we were having some technical difficulties. Some of the teams said they were buzzing in, but their answers weren’t registering. I was a little skeptical, so I told them how to correctly input their answers again and reminded them to be patient. But then it kept happening. So, I decided to just switch out the faulty clickers for different ones. Well, the more that didn’t work, the more we pulled, and then we started realizing that the latter half of the set didn’t work at all. Some even had corroded batteries! I had borrowed a set thinking I was getting a better deal than what I had– joke was on me!

I have to say I panicked internally, but after pausing and thinking for a few minutes (not to mention one awesome student who was cooly and logically brainstorming solutions with me), we decided to do it old school: paper and pencil!

As much as I love technology, I mean, my name on here is Techno Librarian Kate, sometimes the simple way is the best way. Once we did it paper and pencil everything went smoothly. It took a little longer to grade them of course, but it worked and we had no technical difficulties.

Lessons learned: It never hurts to be REALLY overly prepared, always be ready for anything to go wrong, be flexible, and always have paper and pencil ready!

Are we to blame?

I read an interesting comment in the Letters to the Editor section of School Library Journal this month and it made me pause. A reader suggested that as we as librarians are lamenting that young people no longer want to read actual books in actual brick and mortar libraries, we’re actually the ones to blame for this because of all of our pushing of electronic devices and new tech. Good point? Maybe.

Is it because of Kindles, Nooks, and iPads that young people are reading less? Or is it just something that is happening despite our best efforts? Are¬†ebooks getting reluctant readers to actually read? I’ve seen how using iPod touches and iPads do help lower level readers engage more with books, but I don’t know if they’re hurting us when it comes to getting these same young people to come into the library on their own.

I would argue that readers are readers no matter how they consume their books. I know some avid readers who prefer reading on handheld devices, and I know some people like me who prefer actual books. So I don’t know if it’s fair to share we’ve turned young people off books by pushing e-readers. I’ve only seen positive experiences come from using handheld devices with students, and I do think reaching out to them with these tools helps them feel less intimidated by us and our libraries.

Hi and thank you for visiting

Hello blogosphere! Although this isn’t my first time blogging, it’s my first time blogging as a full time librarian. I have worked in the library setting for over 13 years now, but I haven’t taken the time to sit down and share my thoughts, experiences, and knowledge in a blog form. I know I’m not an expert by any means, but I know that I appreciate learning from our peers, so hopefully I can at least help others by sharing some of what I know or find. Yes, this is another librarian blog, but the more the merrier! We can all learn something from each other.