April is National School Library Month

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April is here and once again it’s National School Library Month. Yay! Trust me, I love it, but it’s always a little disappointing because April is also when our testing starts at school, so that means our school library is closed every day until May! Yikes! It does make it a little difficult to celebrate because not only are the doors closed, but I’m a proctor, so I can’t go out, either.

So is this just a Florida thing, or are other school libraries closed for testing now, too? I think it just may be us, because if every school was on the same schedule, I would think ALA would change it from April. I’d like to try and do something to celebrate this month and spread the positivity from the media center, but lately I’ve been discouraged because students aren’t participating in contests and events as much anymore. I’ve asked students in the past what is stopping them from entering, and many of them say they just don’t have the time to make a book trailer, or create a poster. Is it overload or apathy? Or both? I’m not sure. I think it may also be a little bit of a high school thing, but I see other high school librarians creating really successful programs. But in fairness to me, these are always mandatory, teacher-led programs. So maybe I’m doing OK.

Wherever you live, try and take some time out and celebrate the school library. I loved my elementary school media center, I worked in TV production in my middle school one, and I barely ever stepped foot in my high school one. I take these experiences to heart now that I work in one, and I try and make it the most welcoming and warm place in the school. Even when we’re closed for testing.

The Maze Runner trailer is here!

If you haven’t read the Maze Runner series by James Dashner, or even just the first novel, hurry– you have until September, because that’s when the movie adaptation is slated to come out in theaters. Watch the trailer here and GET EXCITED! I just finished the second book in the series last night, and boy, was that a nail-biter. The first book feels like another Hunger Games when you start out, but the twist at the end hooks you, and that’s what brought me back. The Maze Runner was a Florida Teen Read selection a couple of years ago, and I make it part of my job to read all 15 titles every year, but only really special books bring me back to read the rest of the series (it seems like 90% of the titles become series). This series is super action-packed, and the second one is downright macabre. It looks like the movie is really well done and will do the book justice. I hope it brings more fans to the book series!

Libraries aren’t dead!

I’ve never worried too much about the demise of libraries because I’ve worked at a public library and I’ve seen how busy they still are, especially during the bad economic times. Proving my lack of worry right, a recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that more than two-thirds of Americans are actively engaged with libraries. I came across this article that explains people still trust libraries to help them find accurate information, and socially engaged people understand the importance of libraries in the community. Even active community members who have never been to the library were found to understand their civic importance. And a bonus little fun fact, these people are called “Distant Admirers.” Isn’t that cute! The most engaged group is known as “Library Lovers.” What are you called if you love libraries AND are a lifetime employee of them? Hmm…

But what struck my attention for this blog is that this study disproved a common misconception- that technology is killing people’s interest in libraries. It found that the biggest technology users are also the biggest library users! Smartphones, e-readers, and Google have not killed off people’s love of libraries and actual books. But honestly, I’ve seen how libraries, both public and schools, have been changing to embrace and offer more technology, so this isn’t a shocker for me. Smart people are smart people, and they realize the important of libraries and trustworthy information.

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Upcoming tech trends in the library

I’ve come across a couple of articles recently prognosticating on upcoming tech trends in education, so I thought I’d pick out a few and share.

The first one I’ll mention is the flipped classroom, since my last blog post was on that. I think this trend started a couple of years ago with Khan Academy. It was founded in 2006, but I think the 60 Minutes television article really brought mainstream education to the table. I had one teacher who loved using Khan Academy, but she retired about two years ago, and sadly I don’t see too many of my current teachers using it anymore. That’s a shame because I think it’s a great springboard to a fully flipped classroom. I know of one of our teacher who has fully embraced flipped learning, due mostly because his wife just had a baby, and since he was out a lot, it was more out of necessity. But it seems like he’s sticking with it and as far as I know it’s working great. If you’re looking to get started, see my last blog post for some helpful tools to wade into the flipped pool.

Social media is another area that’s still growing in the education field. I’ve seen some school libraries that have Twitter and Facebook pages, but our district blocks those websites, so that takes those out of the equation for me. But I’ve found success with my school blog, Edmodo, Remind 101, and even Pinterest amongst the staff (well, like two teachers follow my school Pinterest page, but it’s a start). Specifically for libraries, there are sites like Shelfari and GoodReads that allow users to keep track of books they’ve read and want to read and share those lists with others. I ADORE GoodReads and think it’s brilliant, and I wish more of my students would use it. Just remember to be careful with social media and crossing any professional boundaries with students. I’m sure your students are the same as mine and love to share every little detail of their lives on social media, and they drool over the chance to befriend you online, too. But keep your social sites strictly professional, and don’t ever give a student your personal cell phone number.

I want to mention MOOCs next mainly because this is one area that I’m woefully undereducated in. I know what a MOOC is (a Massive Open Online Course), but I haven’t had a chance to actually take one or even really look into any, but I want to. I think many of us librarians are familiar with the idea of a MOOC since many of our Masters programs are online. Some people have complained that although MOOCs are wonderful because they allow everyone access to Ivy League level classes, they take out the face-to-face element of learning. But we’re no strangers to that, and I don’t think I suffered one bit getting my Master’s degree online. I don’t know how much MOOCs will affect us in K-12, I think we should promote them to our brightest students who are always wanting to learn more, as well as to our colleagues.

The last trend is BYOD and one-to-one devices in schools. Right now we do allow students to bring their own devices to school if they and their parents sign the appropriate paperwork, but we also have very rigid rules forbidding use of cell phones. It’s a little complicated. Next year a handful of our schools will be pilot programs for one-to-one devices, with K-2 getting iPads and 3-12 getting laptops. As exciting and innovating as this all sounds, the daily work involved is scaring some of my co-workers. The students do not get to take these devices home, so that means the school librarian will have to check them in and out and store them each day and night. And I’m sure I’m not alone when it comes to tech help with teachers and students. When our IT person is busy or not around, guess who everyone comes to? And when EVERY STUDENT has his or her own device, well, imagine that. I know that this is the way it’s all going, but it is a little daunting to think about how this will change our jobs.

So, strap in, the future is here today. It’s not all neither good nor bad, but it for sure will be interesting.

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.

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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!

Pardon my ignorance

I was browing Pinterest a couple of days ago, looking through my feed, when I came across a great pin for school librarians that mentioned “passive programming.” I had no idea what that was, so I clicked on the pin, and immediately it hit me– OH, this is the kind of programming I’ve been doing for YEARS, I just had no idea there was an official name for it! Do you all know what passive programming is? Yeah, I’m sure you’re all sitting out there thinking, ‘yes, Kate, we know.’ Ok, well… whoops! But in case you’re not sure what it is, it’s basically whenever we post signs, posters, boxes to be filled with answers, etc. Here are some examples:

http://tametheweb.com/2012/02/14/question-of-the-moment-nicest-thing/

http://fvrlcs.blogspot.com/2013/05/help-yourself.html

http://mlissinginaction.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/passive-programs-and-other-experiential-library-doings/

I’m kind of obsessed with all of these ideas right now, but then again, I guess I’ve been obsessed for years because it’s been part of my daily practice from my days even at the public library. I just thought I’d share this tidbit with you in case. What is it… the more you know? There you go!