Monday, July 26, 2010

Tenacity and Summer School

For some kids the last day of school means the year is done. For others, it is four more weeks of morning classes from 9-12, because they will be attending summer school. We call it Summer Reading Camp, and it is for students who are at risk of losing too much ground over the summer vacation. Extending their school year with reading activities minimizes the "melt" so many kids experience. I love providing library services for Summer Reading Camp.

It is all about fun. Choosing the best, most engaging picture books, layering on Google Earth, music adaptations, alternate versions of folktales from around the world found on  You Tube, creating digital book trailers and reader's theater podcasts  - all of it. Swimming in stories for the fun of reading. For these are students who struggle with reading, and who may not have particularly positive connections with books. My job during summer school is to make it joyous. For four weeks I read with voices, make animal sounds, laugh loud and long, and help reluctant readers find the perfect book. 

After reading about early American "super-hero" Paul Bunyan and mapping out the routes of all the tall tales we discussed how and why stories travelled, and their role in entertaining settlers who didn't have easy access to books or the technology that makes sharing stories so easy today. Imagine the hilarity when three of the boys got together and created their own tall tale skits about how they would perish without their computers. The mash-up of Paul Bunyan being resuscitated by Babe with a Wii was brilliant, and boy, did they "get" the elements of the tall tale!

Then there was a certain group of up-and-coming second graders who would finish their library visit by gathering on the carpet in front of the rocking chair and share their theories about God. This had nothing to do with me - I just quietly shelved nearby and eavesdropped. Picture some of the scrappiest, most ADHD kids you know, still dusty from the playground, taking a few minutes to ask each other "So you really believe God is some old white dude sitting on a cloud?" "Do you think it is true, that God can see everything?" "I think God is that good feeling you get when you do something nice for someone."

A group of rising fifth graders took a selection of their favorite picture books and made digital book trailers to share with younger students. Using storyboards and script outlines they pulled out characters, setting, conflict and wrote reviews. One team of boys struggled with their book, The Lazy Lion by Mwenye Hadithi. As they discussed and flipped back and forth from book to script I was amazed by their persistence. They kept at it until they came to consensus and then slowly put their thoughts to paper, checking spelling and correcting punctuation as they went. This wasn't easy and it took a lot of time. When I congratulated them on their good work and praised their tenacity one of the boys looked up with a huge smile. He said "My Mom says the same thing! She says my tenacity will see me through!" And he went back to work.

As a high school librarian this is a powerful way to touch base with my K-5 roots, and re-ground myself in the K-12 continuum. When a student enters the high school as a freshman I may have already met them in summer school. As librarian I already know that he/she may have challenges with reading and comprehension. Maybe this is a student with a learning disability. Maybe this is a student who feels disenfranchised by the educational process. But maybe this is a student who views the library as a safe haven, and associates it as a place of joy and not defeat. And maybe by working with this student during K-5 summer school I have built an important bridge that will contribute to success at the high school.

Dear 2010 Summer Reading Campers,

Thank you for letting me be your librarian this summer. I had so much fun with you, and I learned a lot, too. Have lots of fun playing, swimming and relaxing, and keep reading! 

Your friend, Mrs. C.

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons
Summer for kids
from cuellar

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The BLC 2010 Conference starts tomorrow, and I am raring to go!  Passionate teachers gathering to discuss/share/collaborate/plan to deliver a cutting edge, student-centered education for their students; it is an electric environment that charges me for the entire year. I will be part of a team of 20  K-12 educators attending from our schools, and am deeply grateful to work for a district that supports teachers in attending learning opportunities like this.

Usually conference going entails my laptop and a mad scramble for a seat by the LCD projector. Where there is a projector there is electricity, and there will also be people digging around under the table cloth looking for an outlet. I tend to live blog my notes, inserting links as I go, and then posting, errors and all. This really works for me, keeps me hyper-engaged in the speaker, and captures all the resources highlighted during the session. My conference posts support me all year as I cycle back for ideas and clarification from the conference.

This year I'll be bringing my iPad, and am a little nervous. Embedding links on the fly might be a little tougher. As much as I have explored the iPad, this might require me to do more in the way of post-production editing for posts. This will be akin to jumping off the dock.

Oddly, my trusty laptop died yesterday. I can't count the conferences, meetings, countries and digital adventures we went through together. It was actually tough to say goodbye. The white palm plate was grey and cracked. The keys as well. But the toolbar, bookmarks and Firefox extensions were perfection. I spent today with my new, pristine, shiny white laptop, rebuilding, reloading.  I switched from Firefox to Google Chrome. The changes have me a little less sure-footed, but that is OK. It was time to shake things up a little.

Feeling good, and ready to learn. Can't ask for more than that!

BLC Conference | November Learning

Phot credit:
Flickr Creative Commons
Uploaded on July 20, 2007
by luna.nik

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Saturday, July 10, 2010


Put an "i" in front of it and there I am, sprinting to our Mac Store. (That is me with the red umbrella - naw, it isn't.)  It is the only time I get exercise.

i need an intervention (get it?). There is, however, method to my, ummm, madness.

As I play with my MacBook, iPhone4, iPad and Kindle, and also juggle my stack of summer reading books and professional journals, the real point of it all is trying to understand how it functions together. I am looking for perfect integration across devices (digital and analog) to mainstream my learning needs, my teaching needs, and my professional needs. Tech lust aside, it is about efficiency.

My RSS feed was particularly abundant today, and among the treasures was Top Ten iPad Apps for Librarians | Information Tyrannosaur.  Please, open a new tab and check it out. When you finish come back here. I'll wait....

Good stuff, right? I already had a number of the suggested (excellent) apps and checked out all the others. After playing around with DropBox (free) I added it to all my devices. I'm going to evaluate and compare it to GoogleDocs, Diigo and Evernote. Finding the most efficient, web-based integration tool is, to my mind, the Holy Grail for school librarians right now.

  • iPad - I can't edit docs easily. Great reading functionality, but I keep tap, tap, tapping at the screen waiting for the keyboard to pop up. It will come with time and updates, but I really need it and want it now.
  • iPhone4 - This is my first iPhone, and I got it because my husband was appalled that I wanted a new digital camera. He said ours was fine and I replied, in dulcet tones "NO IT ISN'T!!!!" Snakes may have shot out of my head. He responded with specs for the new iPhone camera and...he had a point! I lovelovelove the iPhone camera because of the amazing integration. 
    • iMovie - This $4.99 app is flat out amazing. I tested it out on the 4th of July, which is epic in Boston. Editing was intuitive and painless, but moving it off the camera was frustrating. I videoed my nephew and wasn't comfortable uploading to YouTube, and the email options had size restrictions. I need to play some more to figure this piece out. Uploading to DropBox or Vimeo would be perfect, but either the functionality - or me - just aren't there yet.
    • I'd also love to know if it is possible to upload photos and video directly to my blog or other web-based platform. Again, I have to figure this out.
    • By the way, the-most-patient-man-in-the-world also found me an iPhone case that has a little pocket big enough for a drivers license and a credit card. Really and truly I grab my phone and walk out the door. Hopefully the next iteration will have a side pouch for Chapstick. Then the world will be perfect.
    • Note of interest - my previous phone was a little brick we got on eBay. It was a phone with texting, and that was it, and that was fine. When we got it the texting was pre-set to Portugese because it came from Brazil. The first time I texted I thought I had had a stroke and lost the language section of my brain. But I digress...
  • Kindle - Really great functionality for sharing across devices, if you are willing to play with the settings. However the proprietorship will ultimately prove to be too restrictive. Ergonimically I just love reading on the Kindle.
At the end of the day (epically rainy in the Boston area today) what I am looking for is a triangulation of functionality. Our students and teachers need web-based platforms that will function irrespective of device. They need a portable device that will synch accounts while simultaneously allow for collaboration and editing on the live web.

We are getting there, and devices and platforms are evolving by the minute. Playing, testing, reading about it all is more fun than I ever imagined.

I'm so glad it rained today! I stayed in and played.

Photo credit:
(Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)

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