Badges Are Not An Alternative to Library Media Specialist Certification!

I love to learn!!  As a school librarian there is ALWAYS something new. Professional opportunities abound on the Internet with online classes and webinars. Google, PBS, Coursera, and Creative Commons are among the organizations offering virtual learning opportunities and awarding certificates or badges. Some companies, like Flipgrid, offer badges based on usage.

Jennifer Casa-Todd recently reflected on her journey to Google Cerification on her blog. Casa-Todd states "Preparing for the test taught me so much that I would definitely use and show others." I agree that these certifications and badges have merit and are valuable ways to continue learning. Badges/certificates are a great visual to show teachers and students what we know and how we can help them. They also demonstrate to administrators the independent work we do to grow professionally. 

We know that certified school librarians are being cut in school districts across the country. My fear is that school officials will feel that a non-certified individual with a few online classes and badges can sufficiently replace a certified school librarian for a fraction of the cost.  

A professional school librarian in Connecticut (where I live and teach) holds an 062 School Library Media Specialist teaching certificate. This endorsement is earned after successfully completing the required academic coursework, which includes both library science and educations classes. Student teaching experience is required. In addition, many of us also have a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science (MLS).

Just because someone can create a Google Site, has made a bunch of grids in Flipgrid, or has completed a webinar, does not mean they have the experience and knowledge to implement the "badge learning" into meaningful grade-level appropriate lessons that enhance curriculum. 

How do we make sure that stakeholders and school decision makers do see us as "book stampers" that can be replaced with non-certified personnel who has a couple of badges or online certifications?   Don't be afraid to promote! 

Publicize what is happening in your library, the lessons you teach, the collaboration with teachers, the activities you plan for students! Use social media, attend board of education meetings, get on your school leadership team, talk to a parents, submit to the school newsletter. Publicly celebrate when you earn a badge from one of the professional learning opportunities AND share how are implementing it with students!  Do not think of this as self promotion (I think many of us shy away from this), think of it as celebrating our profession and the amazing learning experiences we provide for our students!

Adventures with WeVideo Part 2

In March I began a collaborative project with Devon O'Keefe, the Animal Behavior and Training teacher and Agri-Science Instructional Leader. She wanted her students to record their progress throughout the semester as they trained one of the animals on our school campus. (I blogged about "Part 1" here.)

I am super proud of the work they did both training their animals and their willingness to learn a new tool that was both fun and (occasionally) frustrating. Here is the YouTube Playlist where you can find the rest of their videos.  

The students knew they were our test group as we tried out WeVideo to see if it was worth purchasing for the school. There were some frustrations - like WeVideo not linking to their Google accounts. The help desk at WeVideo tried to assist me but with the recent Chrome update it seemed to be a Google problem which eventually was fixed.  

Because we worked on it all semester, students were constantly tweaking their videos. Both  their teacher and I had access to their works-in-progress, we periodically watched videos in class, giving peers and teachers to offer suggestions and ideas. The ability to view students' videos throughout was an excellent tool that allowed their work to be graded along the way. 

This process also taught me things that, as a teacher, I can do to better prepare students to create videos. I have added them (and continue to add) on to my WeVideo Planning Guide HyperDocHere are a few of the tips I have added: 

FILM HORIZONTALLY - this is a big one! It seems more natural to hold your phone portrait style but videos should be shot in landscape!

Pay attention to your backgrounds (a dumpster can ruin a great shot).

Green Screen:
- make sure there is no light behind
- minimize wrinkles
- when filming, make sure entire screen captures the green

Cohesiveness of Video:
- choose a color scheme for text/graphics
- choose text with background behind if it is hard to see (especially with video and images behind text)
- speak clearly and make sure you project your voice.
- adjust music levels when there are voice-overs or dialogue to ensure they can be heard

Students in French, Civics and U.S. History classes also used WeVideo for their end of year projects. Here is one of the French videos made this year. This was a collaborative project. We liked the ability to create and share videos for group projects. 

Both students in teachers who used WeVideo overwhelmingly agreed it is a great tool to use to create videos. While I would love to have a district or school account, it is expensive so I will be purchasing 300 seats that I will manage as needed...and I think we will be needing them a lot next year. I am very excited to keep learning and creating with our students!

Encouraging Teens to Read & Learn this Summer!

How do we as librarians encourage and inspire teenager so read and learn over the summer?

Last year we started a new summer reading "program" (you can read about it here). It was not mandatory, there was no set list of books, no long written assignment. It was intended to make reading just plain easy and fun. Students were asked to read and log their books on a Google Form. Winners were chosen at random and awarded prizes - season passes to home sporting events, a voucher for the following year's yearbook, homecoming tickets, and other school related gear. Books, eBooks, audio books even partially read books counted. I tried to make this as inviting and easy as possible. I even encouraged students to check out books to keep over the summer.

This year I am expanding SUMMER READING to include LEARNING. While I was pleased with participation last year, I know plenty of students won't pick up a book to read for a variety reasons. This year I am also counting podcasts (see Smore on LibGuide thanks to Casey LaPlante) and TED Talks. Students can listen and watch and log their learning on the same Google Form to be entered. 

Getting the word out can be challenging as I do not teach a regular class. I am asking high school English teachers to post in their Google Classrooms and am using the school newspaper and lots of social media to share a promotional video. I am meeting with 8th grade (soon to be 9th grade) middle school students to invite and teach them how to access the high school's eBooks and audio books. I also send emails throughout the summer to student's school accounts reminding them and sharing suggestions. This year I also have the benefit of last year's summer reading participants to talk it up and inspire other students.

Recommending Books 
Instead of a generic list of "recommended books" I asked teachers and coaches to list their recommendations for students and have them listed on our LibGuide. My hope is that a student might try a book if it has been suggested by a  particular teacher or coach that they connect with. 

Modeling Reading
Inspired by two of my favorite librarians and most avid reader friends, Laura Gardner and Casey LaPlante, I use GoodReads, Instagram and Twitter to share my own reading and suggestions for students. It is important that students see adults conversing about books (or podcasts and Ted Talks) in person and on social media, that reading and learning is not something done just for school.

Last year I participated in Laura Gardner's #30booksummer where teachers ( mostly from her school), a few librarians, and whoever else wanted to join challenged ourselves to read 30 books and post them on social media throughout the summer. I love being part of that reading community, it helps me find personal books to read, it helps me with my orders for my libraries and it helps me recommend books that I may not have read to my students. 

I can't wait to start this year's #30booksummer! 

I am ready...let's bring on Summer Reading & Learning! 

Why Haven't I Blogged Lately?

In March I had the honor of being asked to co-present a session at the Massachusetts School Librarian Association's annual conference. To say the experience was awesome would be an understatement. There is a certain energy I get after spending time with fellow librarians, sharing our passion for igniting the love of reading, discovering new technologies, teaching media literacy, and preparing student with future ready research skills. My mealtime conversations were enough to leave me giddy and excited to start my school week.

I also got to meet two of my professional idols Laura Gardner and Jennifer Casa-Todd. 

Laura and I presented Expand Horizons with Virtual Reality which we collaborate on via Google and officially met that morning. We met on social media and communicate regularly about lesson ideas, technology, and books. 

Jennifer is the author of Social Leadia. Since reading her book, I started following her blog and eventually met her online through social media. We communicated often last summer about her inspiring book.(Jennifer is also a co-worker of George Couros.)

I have shared some of my favorite learning from the day as a Twitter Moment. If you have not used Twitter Moments yet, they are a great way to save and organize tweets 

I could not wait to get back to school and start using what I learned to work with students and teachers, to write grants, and to continue making the library a vibrant welcoming learning space! 

And that is why I have not been blogging lately...

Adventures with WeVideo Part 1

Even high school students learn through play. 
For more than a year, I have been watching students struggle to create videos for class projects. They record videos on their phones and, if they haven't accidentally deleted them, struggle to figure out how to put them together to submit. I would often hear them sigh "I wish I could just use PowerPoint or Google Slides."

Video editing can be proprietary, device specific, un-collaborative and difficult projects for teachers to manage.

I was looking for video editing software that had the following capabilities (YES WeVideo has them all!):
  • Web based (not computer specific!!)
  • Stores work in progress 
  • Green screen capabilities
  • Google compatible
  • Allows for collaboration
  • Works on Chromebooks
  • Create videos longer than 5 minutes
  • A variety of special effects and transitions
  • COPPA compliant
  • User/class management abilities
  • Searchable library of images and videos on site for students to use (this feature was just released and is AMAZING!!!)
I had heard about WeVideo through Dr. Kristen Mattson on Twitter. and finally decided to give it a try. I signed up for a free trial and was really impressed. So much so that when the Instruction Leader of the Agri-Science & Technology Department approached me with the idea of a video project for her student Animal Science course, I excitedly jumped at the opportunity. I reallocated funds to be able to purchase a 30 seat subscription for her students. I was beyond excited to collaborate and co-teach the tools needed for their project.

The AASL Position Statement on the Role of the School Library Program states: 
"Beyond its curricular role, the effective school library program gives each individual member of the learning community a venue for exploring questions that arise out of personalized learning, individual curiosity, and personal interest. As part of the school library program, the school librarian provides leadership and instruction to both students and staff on how to use information technologies constructively, ethically, and safely. The school librarian offers expertise in accessing and evaluating information and collections of quality physical and virtual resources. In addition, the school librarian possesses dispositions that encourage broad and deep exploration of ideas and responsible use of information technologies. These attributes add value to the school community."

The school library media center is the perfect place for students to learn and use the technology responsibly and effectively. Video production is supported by the AASL Standards Framework for Learners, specifically building on the learner's ability to Inquire, Collaborate, Curate, Explore and Engage.

While teachers often give students project options, they tend to fall back on what they know and what is easy, I am grateful that more and more teachers have been asking me to introduce video production so students feel comfortable with the technology and see how much fun it is!

Note: I have been encouraging teachers to offer students video options for their projects but most have been reluctant because they are not comfortable with the technology themselves. I try to inspire teachers by creating mini introductions and tutorials as as I experiment with different tools - like Adobe SparkTouchCastFlipGrid, DoInk - all of which are also great tools depending on the project. It took a few months before a the first teacher jumped on board. The excitement has been contagious, one student was overheard telling a friend "You are going to have so much fun in class today." Since I started this post 3 more teachers have approached me about teaching students how to create videos. I think it is catching on!!

When students become media creators, they also become better media consumers. When students learn how to create and produce videos, they learn that the professional-looking and convincing messages they see (especially on the Internet and social media) might be manipulated with misinformation or disinformation. If students choose to post their videos on the Internet, students understand their role as digital citizens contributing to the digital world. It is important that students are mindful of the integrity and meaningfulness of their work. These are important conversations to have with students as part of the video creation process. 

Jamie Keet's Teacher's Tech WeVideo 2017 Detailed Tutorial
While WeVideo has lots of helpful tutorials, I prepared and learned WeVideo by watching and re-watching Teacher's Tech WeVideo 2017 Detailed Tutorial on YouTube I love how Keet timestamps his 25 minute tutorial, making it easy to jump to exactly what you need. 

Vermont Video Project with WeVideo and Vita-Learn IGNITE
As I researched ideas for rubrics, I found this site. I was interested in the rubric created by Eric Hall and reached out to him for permission to use. Hall is the Technology Integration Specialist and has been using WeVideo since inception. It has been their district's primary video editor for four years, since they began using Chromebooks. He shared with me his rubric which we adapted a bit (link below) and 

Eric Hall shared with me this guide he updates regularly (he also gave me permission to share it here). In our email conversations he stressed that planning is just as important as the video skills. Hall offered me lots of advice as well as I bounced ideas off him: 
"I try to get students to focus on their message. Editing without a plan leads to thin content. In that regard one suggestion I would make is to reorganize your planning guide so that WeVideo comes last after storyboard, sources (part of gathering content,) and photo uploading. That makes it easier to focus on the "content project" vs. the "tech project.""

I am so lucky to have stumbled across his expertise (love social media and PLNs!!), and am extremely grateful he was willing to share his thoughts and resources.  

Now that I was ready to work with students, in the initial lesson I introduced to WeVideo and allowed students to play with the different aspects of the tool. I used Keet's video to teach students so they could use it as a reference.  

This particular video project will last throughout the semester as students record and document their process as they train a particular animal. We discussed how to plan their video, how to back up their media throughout the process and how to create their video in segments. The final video will be used for assessment and for the student's portfolio as well as a potential promotional video for our school's Agri-Science & Technology Department. 

Video Planning Guide HyperDoc (posted below)
Animal Training Project Video Rubric

Gathering Information HyperDoc

Researching in the digital age can be overwhelming. Students are doing a majority of their research online and using digital note-taking tools. To help streamline the process, I have created this Gathering Information HyperDoc with steps and tutorials.  

This will be accessible on our LibGuide and be sent to teachers, with an offer to make subject specific changes. 

How to Write a Press Release: Promoting Your School Library Beyond Social Media

Social media is a great way to celebrate all that is happening in your school library media center but is it enough? 
Do stakeholders, decision-makers and voters know the importance of a professionally staffed school library media center?

Across the country, school library media specialists and even school libraries have been the victim of budget cuts. The words hit me like daggers:

"Why do we need a school library?  Kids read books on their phones." 

"Do they really need a certified librarian to check books out?"

There are still people who do NOT understand that school librarians are so much more than a "book checker-outers". (See my post Use the Words Library and Librarian about the role of today's future ready librarian). The term librarian still conjures an image of a bespecatled woman behind a desk raising a finger to her lips "shhh." Some of these same people are making decisions about school libraries, some are voting on town and education budgets. 

I love social media and use it daily to share information and events with colleagues, students and fellow librarians. I see other school librarians doing the same. We post on Facebook in groups like School Librarian's Workshop or Future Ready Librarians. We share on Twitter with hashtags #tlchat and #FutureReadyLibs.  We share on Instagram to reach our pre-teen and teen students.

But not everyone is on social media. School board members may not be following us. But they probably read the school newsletters. Are you submitting library events, student learning, and highlights in each and every issue?  

There are lots of people who still read the newspaper. The actual newspaper.  Made of paper and delivered to their doors. (Please note I am one of those people too, newspaper to the door but it is not my sole source of information and events). The newspaper is the only place some people find out what is happening in the community. In our digital world, it is important that we remember to get our message out in all forms of media.

Submitting a story to a newspaper does take a little more time than a few clicks on social media. As a former freelance writer for a local paper, I know that press releases are important. A well written press release means less work for a reporter or editor which increases the odds it will get published. Submit pictures or relevant graphics with your press release, make it easy on the newspaper staff to run your story.  

Below you will see Tips for Writing Press Releases with some links to assist you. 

Social media will always be the "go to for" sharing. Please consider occasionally celebrating what students are learning and creating in the library...the digital citizenship lessons, the Breakout EDU, the green screen experience, the Hour of Code, the podcasting, the author visits, and yes the reading challenges the printed newspaper. 

Let's make sure everyone knows that school libraries and school librarians are active and tech-savvy learning centers that are vital to education.  

Direct link to Press Release Tips Doc

Badges Are Not An Alternative to Library Media Specialist Certification!

I love to learn!!  As a school librarian there is ALWAYS something new. Professional opportunities abound on the Internet with online classe...