Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swimmy - No Teacher Left Behind

Stop by the CCHS Library before the first bell of the day, and you will see controlled pandemonium. Students waiting four deep at the main desk for study hall passes, checking books in and out, printing papers, downloading assignments, and, oh, yeah, doing some socializing. This morning was no different.

Through the throng I spied a teacher chatting with students while he waited for me. When the bell rang and the crowd thinned, he approached with a sheepish grin.

"I don't know if you can help me or not, but I need a book."

"Well," I replied with a heavy dose of irony, "you're in the right place."

"Have you ever heard of Swimmy?"

"Leo Lionni." I shot back. Lionni is one of the greatest children's authors of all time. Eight years as an elementary school librarian - come on, give me a hard one. "Why do you need Swimmy?"

"Working on some team building."

This is what I love about working at CCHS. Not only does this teacher work all day teaching and challenging students, he coaches one of the biggest teams as well. 140+ student athletes are a lot to manage, and he is looking for a creative way to build team spirit. Swimmy is a great choice. He needs it before practice at 2:30. Today. No problem. My philosophy is that student and teacher requests are our first priority, no matter what. You need it? We hop through hoops to get it to you as quickly as possible. No student (or teacher) is ever left behind.

During a gap between classes I zip over to the Thoreau School Library to borrow their copy. Karen Pettyjohn is in the middle of a third grade lesson on the Dewey Decimal System. They are all working in the restaurant "Chez Dewey," and Dewey is on the menu! The kids can't wait!

Swimmy and I dash back to CCHS, I prop the book on the teacher's desk, and make it back in time for the next class. As a section of sophomores files in for a research project, I have an unusually big smile. It's always fun to collaborate with teachers and other school librarians - even to grab a picture book. We're a team. Kind of like Swimmy!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dude - Just Facebook It

"Dude, what's your project on?"

"My cousin has some weird disease. I'm doing that."

"What's he got?"

"My Mom said it once but I don't remember."

"Just Google what you remember and Facebook him."

Less than 30 seconds later, toggling multiple screens, the student had the name of the disease, a list of symptoms, and organizations promoting awareness about the disease.

Web 2.5? Students are already at Web 3.0, and they are not waiting for us to catch up. At best we, as adults, are irrelevant. At worst, we are in their way. The reality is that most of us are still trying to get over feeling stupid about using the phrase Web 2.0.

Teens are living transparently and seamlessly on the Web. Their terrain is different from ours. While we wring our hands and fret, they engage, create, and achieve a fluency and online confidence that we, as adults, can't seem to validate. Why?

What do we bring to the table? Wisdom. This student was awash with information, and struggling to develop the critical skills needed to assess, understand, and apply his new knowledge. Dude - That's what we help with in the library.

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

[54/365] Designing for the Social Web by Ben Dodson

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Facebook Signs Agreement With GSA

Call me naive, but I was surprised by this one. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has signed an agreement with Facebook and other social media networks laying "the ground work for government agencies to use Facebook for any purpose."
Facebook Signs Agreement With GSA

Martha Dorris, acting associate administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Communications stated that “ is breaking new ground by migrating to new media sites to provide a presence and to open up a dialog with the public. We know that many other agencies want to do the same, and having these agreements is an important first step.”

In a way, I applaud our government for being so forward thinking and utilizing the power of social media. At the same time, it feels a little creepy.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Repeat after me..."

Three giggling girls in pretty sundresses, with a nervous boy standing by their table, stammering and shifting from foot to foot. "What's going on here?" I ask.
"She just asked me to the prom."
He points, indicating the pinkest cheeked of the girls.
"Well, what did you say?" I coax.
"I, uh, um, I don't know what to say". He looks like he is ready to hyperventilate.
"Take a breath."
He takes a jerky breath.
"Repeat after me....Thank you for the invitation"
"Thank you for the invitation."
"I'd love to go to the prom with you."
Big smile, getting progressively bigger as he turns toward the girl and says "I'd love to go to the prom with you."

Another good day in the library.

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

Will You Go To Prom by IronMonkey007


Sunday, April 26, 2009

When did you join Twitter?

515 days ago. I am "following" 28 people, and am "followed" by 23. Let me point out that the Dalai Lama is one of my followers - yeah, that's right. The Dalai Lama! Of course, he follows everyone.

When did you join Twitter is a little app that, as far as I am concerned, has exactly two purposes.
  1. To validate you as a success in social media.
  2. To highlight your - um, deficits in utilizing social media.
I am feeling my deficits. EVERYONE seems to be twittering and tweeting except me. People in the field of school librarianship (talking about the big conference presenting Kahunas, here) rave about it, and wax on about how it feeds their professional growth. I'm working at it. Maybe I have to work harder.

Tell you what. I'll follow you if you'll follow me.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

What I Read Over April Vacation

How did I spending my April vacation? I read so many wonderful books! When students come to the library looking for HELP (and I mean S.O.S. I gotta have a book in my hands when I leave here!!!) in choosing a book, it makes a big difference when I can say that I recommend a title because I have read it myself. The book suddenly has street cred. Kids aren't stupid. If you couldn't be bothered to read it, why should they?

This means I read a wide variety of titles. SciFi, urban lit, coming-of-age, sports, chick lit, nonfiction, Pultizer Prize, National Book Award, Printz Award, NY Times list, People magazine top ten, you name it. April vacation is also a time for going over the summer book order which entails pouring over review journals like VOYA and School Library Journal. Predicting what books will appeal to students, support curriculum or be of personal interest, or be the next big thing, like Twilight, is always a really fun challenge. A little extra in the library book budget would help - but no complaints.

So, how did I spend my April vacation? No gardening, no window cleaning, no massive house projects. I read. A lot. Stop by the library and I can suggest a few titles.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blog Love - CCHS Students in Japan or Why Blogs are AWESOME!

David Nurenberg is an inspirational English teacher at CCHS. He has spent his April vacation leading a group of students (along with chaperones Superintendent of Schools Diana Rigby and fellow-English teacher Vicky Moskowitz) on a trip to Concord's Sister-City, Nanae, Japan. 17 students are forging personal connections in Japan, deepening their knowledge and interest in manga, and learning about global peace. His blog is AWESOME!
Not only is David coordinating, leading and teaching, but he is also taking the time to write up the experiences of the delegation and posting them to a blog. It is a privilege to follow the adventures of our students as they discover Japan.
This is what preparing students for the 21st century entails. David goes the extra 10,000 miles (approximately:) in guiding students towards cultural understanding.
So, give a little blog love. Add a comment. Post that you read, that you connected.

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons
五稜郭 (Pentagram Fort) by 14-2-1
Manhole cover - Hakodate, squid [squared circle] by Mr Wabu

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

MINE: My Magazine. My Way.

Is this the future of periodical publication?
MINE: My Magazine. My Way. This is a free service that allows you to customize your own magazine, and receive it in print or digital format. I chose digital.

You choose your top 5 choices from a selection of popular TIME publications, and answer these 4 rather odd questions.
  1. Which do you crave more? Sushi or Pizza
  2. Do you like to sing in the car? Yes or No
  3. Which would you like to learn? Juggling or Celebrity Impersonation
  4. Who would you like to have dinner with most? Leonardo DaVinci or Socrates
Based on your selections and responses a personalized magazine is generated. It will be interesting to see what turns up. What will this mean for our personal information streams? What if my choices narrow my magazine to topics of wasabi and pop music? Where will I find diversity of opinion, new topics, and fast breaking news from outside my community and interests? This is going to be interesting.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Teamwork 2.0

An incredible resource for the latest on "web technology trends, social networking and social media, Read Write Web once again hits the mark with The Online Collaboration Tools Guide.

Collaboration is a cited as a core skill by businesses, and education is working to provide opportunities for students in this area. The challenges for busy teens are time and logistics.

Online apps like Google Docs and Zoho are perfect for this kind of collaborative work, and also reflect the current work environment. Students can move forward on projects as well as sharpen their skills in working together and managing a project. Plus, they are FREE!

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept by lumaxart

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sophomore Research, Spring Fever & Using Your Noodle

Are you kidding me? Starting the English Sophomore research projects in APRIL! It is the week before vacation. Birds are singing, daffodils are blooming, skirts are shorter, belly buttons are winking, and the soft smacking sound of flip-flops can be heard in the halls of CCHS. Tough competition for the marvels of the research process. However, it really is an amazing process.

Narrowing down topic choice is the first and biggest hurdle for students. Obscure topics can lead to frustrating dead ends, while massive, unrefined topics result in overwhelming information overload. After wrestling the topic to a manageable thesis statement, comes research to support the thesis. Easier than it sounds. Luckily, we have some terrific tools.

NoodleTools is a fantastic resource that provides citation services and note-taking support. (Please note the provided link is to the CCHS Library webpage. Students must access NoodleTools through our page.) The note card feature allows the student to copy and paste a direct quote into one field, put it into his/her own words in another field, and then reflect and write about how this information supports a specific element of the thesis statement in the last field. Much like the old stacks of note cards on the dining room table, the student can create digital clusters of note cards, and move the cards from cluster to cluster. The clusters themselves can be moved, so the notes are very flexible and allows the student to manipulate the data as the research takes shape.

For me though, the "share" feature really makes this indispensable. Teachers create an account on NoodleTools to which students link, enabling the teacher to monitor progress and evaluate notes. Gone are the days of lugging shoe boxes of note cards. If a student is not making progress or is struggling generating notes the teacher can intervene. (In teacher talk this is called a "summative assessment".) I remember last year at this time we had a teacher sending a stream of students to the library for "sources that better supported" their thesis statements. Brilliant! As a librarian, I could then dig into the information needs of this student, and customize the process for reading level and interest. I live for this stuff!

As NoodleTools and the databases are all web-based, students can work anywhere there is an Internet connection. Perfect for vacation travel. Just don't get sunscreen on the keyboard.

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons:

98/365: free your mind by samantids

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Flipping the Library

I got a little behind this year in keeping up with my professional journals. Every month a new edition of School Library Journal would appear and I wanted to put my hands on either side of my face and do the Munch scream. This is the long way of saying I just finished the December issue, and one of the most exciting articles on school libraries I have ever read.

Flip this library: School libraries need a revolution, not evolution by David Loertscher lays out the blueprint for change in student and staff services for school libraries that we need to implement. The Learning Commons model re-casts the school library as a very different space.

It is both physical and virtual, with flexible support staff such as literacy coaches, tech specialists, and other specialist area teachers working collaboratively to create new learning experiences and co-planned/taught units with core subject teachers. Supporting and showcasing the best teaching and learning practices needs support, and the Learning Commons is designed to provide that environment with the professional development and learning and resources required for success.

The Learning Commons looks very different than the typical library, the biggest change being flexibility of philosophy. Flexible space means moveable furniture that allows for quick shifts in floor plan for various functions and activities, small and large group uses, and action research activities. Virtual space also has to be flexible, and the Learning Commons is an ongoing conversation with digital resource available 24/7, and information flowing between all members of the learning community.

Imagine the CCHS Learning Commons as a dynamic resource for students, teachers and administrators revolving around academic, information, artistic and community needs. As Liz Lemon says on 30 Rock, "I want to go to there."

Paradigm Flip - chart courtesy of David Loertscher (double click for enlarged image).

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

I am Here for the Learning Revolution by Wesley Fryer

uploaded 5/23/08

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Monday, April 6, 2009

152.4 - Emotions & Feelings

According to the Dewey Decimal System, emotions and feelings are cataloged as 152.4. This is worth noting, because the CCHS Library is the most romantic place on earth. Assignations in the study carrels, conveniently next to the books pertaining to Emotions and Feelings (love) - 152.4, is where more established couples have regular study dates, occasionally having to be interrupted with a gentle warning when the books get pushed aside in favor of more - how do I phrase this - intimate studies.

Other examples of library love? Two students sitting in the stacks, side-by-side, reading quietly, elbows almost but not quite touching, gentle sparks filling the space between. Romance budding over books. There was recently a flirtation over the Scrabble board resulting in a fairly competitive game that required adjudication.
"Is faireth a word?"
"It is if I say 'you are the faireth in the land'."

Who am I to correct with "fairest" and toss the dictionary at them? She is thrilled that he thinks she is faireth, and he can't believe he worked up the courage to let her know he thinks she is pretty. You won't catch me challenging that one.

Working in a high school library includes being witness to all sorts of emotional upheaval. The girl who lasers her attention on a boy and before you know it, they are walking around hand-in-hand, the boy looking a little stunned. Or the guy who swaggers through the door with confidence and attitude, oblivious to shy glances from girls who believe they are invisible. Then there is the gay student who keeps a crush secret and close to the heart.

Sometimes it is darker. A knot of concerned friends huddled around a girl with red rimmed eyes and a damp tissue being slowly shredded in her hands is the sure harbinger of a romance that has hit the rocks. The boy conversely, is isolated, hands jammed in pockets, too angry to socialize. His friends give him distance. The emotions are raw, and incredibly powerful.

And now prom season is upon us. The stakes ratchet up as self-worth gets tossed into the human soup of hormones and anxiety. Will I get asked? Will she say "no"? What if I'm the only one without a date? Should I ask now, or is it too early? I've never been kissed....

The library is a refuge for students who come for work, relief, diversion, and sometimes, for sanctuary. It's tough being a teenager.

Going home in the evening I carry these stories with me, along with notes I have stuffed into various pockets throughout the day. Teacher requests, grocery items, meetings, a host of unrelated trivia. Sometimes my husband finds a stray note, and I find him puzzling over an item. "Burn journals?" he will ask. "Hiding the evidence?" (Actually, The Burn Journals is a book recommended by a student. I put it on our summer order.) My cryptic notes are usually good for a laugh.

Lots of 152.4 when I get home - but without the drama!

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

LOVE by Little Nora

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Test is Broken

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, otherwise known as "ugh - MCAS", has the students enrolled in public schools across this fine state firmly in its teeth.

Today the CCHS Library closed its doors to classes and students on study passes in order to make room for over 165 students who needed additional time to finish today's exams. This is in addition to students in 3 other extended-time locations in the school. In other words, the majority of the sophomore class was unable to finish the test in the allotted time.

As I look at the kids silently writing away in every available space, I see many of the brightest and most diligent students at CCHS. There isn't a student in this library who isn't totally focused on the task at hand. I am so proud of all of them, and yet I can't help but feel frustrated.

When I think about the time allocated to mandated testing, balanced against lost instructional time, and multiply it across the state and across grade levels, I have to join the chorus and ask is this really necessary?

Wikipedia says MCAS has 3 primary purposes:
  1. to inform and improve curriculum
  2. to evaluate student, school, and district performance according to Massachusetts Curriculum Framework content standards and performance standards
  3. to determine student eligibility for the Competency Determination requirement in order to award high school diplomas
These are legitimate goals. Protecting students in chronically under-performing schools and federally guaranteeing them the right to an education based on standards and verifiable results is worth it, without a doubt. This isn't the way to go about it.

When the majority of a class is unable to finish a standardized test in the allotted time, it isn't their fault. MCAS just doesn't work. The test is broken.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons
take the test already
by billaday
uploaded 5/28/08

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