Archive | April, 2011

Fly away with me

30 Apr

I tend to come up with ideas while I sleep. I used to proofread essays while I slept and I would wake up and head straight to the computer to make the changes I had dreamed about. I have come up with crafts and lesson units, but now I come up with ideas for the library. This past week I dreamed of butterflies. Paper butterflies.

So I made them.

They were really simple to make and are almost as beautiful as the real thing. Here’s how I made them…

Materials:

  • an old book
  • scissors
  • floral wire
  • tacky glue
  • butterfly picture

1. Tear two pages out of the old book.

2. Place those two sheets with a rough cut butterfly on top.

3. Cut around the butterfly, through both sheets of book paper. Make sure that the two sheets don’t shift so that they end up being exactly the same shape.

4. lay both of the butterflies down with the same side up (i.e. top side).

5. Measure and cut two pieces of floral wire so that it can cross in the centre of the butterfly and reach all the way to the tips of the wings.

 

6. Cover one butterfly with tacky glue. Make sure you get right to the edges.

8. Place the wire across the butterfly in the shape of an “x” and place the second butterfly directly on top of the first. Try to ensure that the two butterflies are perfectly lined up. Press down along all of the edges.

9. Use the wire to lift the wings into a shape that you enjoy.

You can make a series of butterflies for the edge of a bookshelf, perch one on the corner of your computer, hang a collection of them as a mobile or attach them to magnets to hold papers on your fridge. If you want them to last longer (or if they are going to be handled), try covering them in Modpodge to harden them.

I will be making a collection of these to put on a baby mobile for a friend. This is so simple as easy that I’m also thinking of using it this summer when I do arts and crafts with 5-10 year old kids. I could use simple butterfly shapes with the younger kids and more detailed shapes with the older kids. These would look great with a light paint wash as well. The possibilities are endless!

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Yes, books were harmed in the making of this display

29 Apr

I will admit, we have heard a few cries of shock over the books that were sacrificed for this window display, but since none of the books had been read in the past decade, I find it hard to feel too upset about it. Especially when the outcome of five measly books being torn apart is something like this that makes a strong statement (also, Perry Mason mysteries don’t have vampires or fallen angels, so teenagers aren’t really gobbling them up).

Oh, the irony. That a book would have to die to create art only suggesting what it used to be. Or something like that. So far, I’ve gotten quite a few compliments on the display. I’ve been asked where I get my inspiration, and, though I have to bite my tongue, I’ve been able to resist blurting out, “I just didn’t want to paint anymore!” I like the way this new display looks, from the outside and the inside. It is visually interesting, while remaining neutral, and symmetrical in nature, both of which agree nicely with my OCD tendencies.

I’m hoping that the law in advertising that the more you see a product, the more you want it, will work in this case. Every time kids walk past, I want the word and the pages to burrow into their brains like parasites causing them to become totally overrun with the desire to open a book. The power of suggestion can be a powerful thing.

Recycled art

28 Apr

Here is a sneak peak of the new display that is going up in the library. I am really excited about it because…

a) it gets some of the weeded books out of my office

b) it does not involve paint

and c) it should be quick and easy to do.

Well, that last point may not be entirely accurate.

Our first plan for the new window display was to do a springtime scene, but it felt too cheesy for secondary school. Then I wanted to do monsters eating books. I don’t know why I have had a desire to do this display for the whole year, but I have. I tried to roll with it, but I didn’t like how it was turning out. My monsters looked like crazy blobs doing heaven knows what to the books. So I surfed the internet for inspiration and found this image from Concordia University Library when I googled “library art”.

I’m not a big fan of messes, but, apparently, messes that look like collages are inspirational for me.

And thus, the birth of our latest window display. Stay tuned for the final reveal.

Blogs + RSS = Love

27 Apr

It’s official – I’m a blogger. When my husband and I went to Northern Ireland for Spring Break and walked past the Belfast Public Library he suggested that I take a picture of the library and put it on my library blog. If he has accepted it, I will accept it. (If only he would actually read my blog!)

 

I also love reading blogs! Up until January, I had a collection of blogs that I would check every day (mostly quilting related) but I found that I had

a) a hard time remembering all of the blogs that I wanted to check

b) a crazy laundry list of blogs in my favourites bar

 c) bouts of frustration when blogs weren’t updated often enough for my liking

After registering for my Web 2.0 course, I saw that we were meant to sign up for an RSS reader. My response was, “A what?” followed closely by an “I don’t know what that is, so it must be scary.” To take my fear down a notch, and answer some of my questions, I started to read about RSS (RSS for Educators by J. Hendron (2008) is a fabulous book that I would highly recommend!).

My first question was what does RSS even mean? Apparently it stands for “really simple syndication” and it is (simply) a way to be constantly updated on posted information without having to manually check every site. It is kind of like driving the internet in an automatic car, rather than a standard. 

  

I chose to use Google Reader as my feed aggregator (feed aggregator has nothing to do with dinner time for an alligator, rather it is the program that collects new updates from specified websites). I initially subscribed to my few quilting blogs by simply clicking “Add Subscription” and then typing in the blog’s main URL or the name of the blog. After selecting the correct site from the list that Google Reader generates you can add the site to your aggregator. But what does that actually mean? Now, instead of going to each site, Google Reader will automatically check the site for updates and then place a copy of the new update into your feed list. Every time you log in to Google Reader, all of the recent blog or website posts that you haven’t read yet are put into one easy place for you. That in itself is wonderful, but wait, there’s more. You can view folders of each website’s feeds, star items for further viewing (and easy searching) and “like” items. I think that the most powerful use for me is the ability to smoothly share items through RSS, email, Blogger, Facebook, Delicious and Twitter. You simply finish reading, decide you like it and would like to share it and click on the Send To tab to select the item’s destination where you are automatically asked to login and the page information is embedded as a link. I love anything this easy (since, realistically, if it is more difficult than this I will tell myself that I will get to it later and then probably never get to it).

Now that I know how to use these tools in my personal life, it is time for me to begin to use these in the classroom and library. To increase traffic to our school library blog I have created labels and slapped them on the back of bookmarks. When classes come in I direct them to the blog where they can easily access links created specifically for their class and their project. While they’re there, I’m sure they take a moment to view a book trailer, watch a Prezi presentation, or spot a book that they would love to borrow in our LibraryThing widget (we all have our dreams).

I think that blogs can be a powerful tool in the classroom. According to Lenhart and Madden (2005), 57% of teens create internet content and 32% have contributed to blog content. True blogging is not simply writing one’s thoughts but creating content by linking and interpreting information from a variety of sources and adding a personal twist or insight to the material. This sounds like critical thinking to me. So if 32% of teens are already creating online content and the creation of a blog pushes students towards critical thinking and analysis, blogging seems like a wonderful tool for classroom teaching.

I would consider using blogs in different ways such as…

a) As a blog for the classroom – a portal into our mini-universe. This would have teacher updates and student contributions. You could highlight work that has been done by students, post videos and pictures (if parental permission is given) and post upcoming events. This would increase communication with parents and help to make things in the classroom more transparent.

b) Individual student blogs to develop their learning. These could be maintained by students as an online learning portfolio. Students could be asked to respond to questions, find and link new information, comment on information given by the teacher, and track their own development. Blogs are also a fabulous way to increase the modes of presentation by allowing students to use and embed YouTube, Prezi, Xtranormal, Audacity, Comiclife, etc. The list is endless and can allow for all learning styles to be expressed.

As Richardson (2010) suggests, you can use your RSS feed to track all of the students’ work and posting. As long as you have a subscription set for their blog, you will be automatically sent updates. This makes following their progress, monitoring their content and tracking assignment submission quite easy.

There are some concerns that arise with using blogs in the classroom (just like using any program where personal information is shared, created or posted online). Parents and administrators would need to be informed of the blog usage and a special information package with a permission slip should be sent home. Throughout the year, students, teacher and parents would need to be vigilant about not sharing personal or identifying information online and only posting appropriate content. This would need constant teaching and reminders and would probably be an issue to highlight all throughout the year. Privacy settings can also block search engines from finding a class or student blog.

A second concern is that blogs usually have comments and, though this feature can be disabled, this helps to link the students and classroom to the world. Comments can make the experience much richer and will usually only be made by people who have some connection to the class. Comment moderation should be selected so that the teacher is sent an email and has to approve each comment before it is visible on the blog. Though this may take some time up front, it could prevent a major headache in the future if an inappropriate comment was to slip through.

Thirdly, there is always the issue of some students not having easy access to a computer. While this is not something that is within a teacher’s control, the teacher may be able to arrange some special time for those students to use computers in a lab or library in the school.

Even with all of these potential concerns, I think blogs are an exciting addition to a classroom, and blogs combined with RSS are a power due. It’s kind of like an internet Batman and Robin because of all of the great things that they can do in your classroom. Blogman and RoSSbin anyone? 

 For further reference, check out Cybrary Man’s list of student, class and school blog links, Common Craft’s RSS video and Makeuseof’s How RSS Feeds Work in Simple Terms.

References

Hendron, J. G. (2008). RSS for educators: Blogs, newsfeeds, podcasts, and wikis in the classroom.  Washington, D.C: International Society for Technology in Education

Lenhart, A. and Madden, M. (2005). Teen content creators and consumers. Pew Internet: Pew Research Center. Retrieved on March 16, 2011 from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2005/Teen-Content-Creators-and-Consumers.aspx.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

With a name like Twitter, you’d think it would be easy

23 Apr

I have resisted joining Twitter. I like to resist things that are popular, so this seemed to make sense. I really shouldn’t resist things so much. After all, my husband and I, former high school friends, reconnected on Facebook and became engaged within 4 months. Good things can happen from social networking sites. Then Grey’s Anatomy, one of my favourite shows, forced me to think that there may be ways to use Twitter to help with work. No, I’m not performing surgeries and saving lives but I am trying to learn and grow as an educator so that I can help the teachers and students in my school. If Twitter can help me to do that, maybe it is worth a look.

I’ve spent much of this year as a librarian reading back issues of Learning and Leading With Technology, School Librarian and Multimedia & Internet in Schools (now called Internet@Schools). I began to realize that the reason that I read those magazines was to learn about new ideas. These magazines constantly talk about establishing a Personal Learning Network, so I decided that I was going to use Twitter to do that very thing. It was going to help me learn, grow and develop as an educator (a lofty goal!).

I actually held my breath when I signed up for a Twitter account. I always swore that it would be the end of the world when I became another one of the Tweeple out there. I’m a little bit gullible (even for things that I make up myself) so I was nervous. But, good news, the world didn’t end.

Using lists such as Best Education Tweeple (Barnes, n.d.), Building a PLN (Cybraryman, n.d.) and Twitter4Teachers Wiki allowed me to find other educators with similar interests to learn from. I focused on adding people who were librarians or technology educators since these are the topics that I am actively learning about in order to do my job better.

Once I started “reading” the Tweets I was so confused. Thankfully I found Mom, This is How Twitter Works (Hische, 2010)! I finally understood why people kept throwing the @ symbol around like it was going out of style. I also understood how the placement of the @(user name indicator) in the tweet controls who will see it and how it will be traced on mentions. Retweeting was easy to understand – and easy to do! That was how I first managed to break into some Twitter conversations. Hashtags stumped me for awhile longer. They work kind of like a file folder, grouping tweets about the same topic together. Cybraryman (n.d.) has a list of all of the educational hashtags out there so that it is easy to find and join conversations (www.cybraryman.com/chats.html).

(Can I quickly mention that I feel like a little blue bird has kicked my cyberbutt this week?!)

One thing that I found difficult was having followers. I thought that this might be because the only thing that I posted regularly were my blog posts and that is just shameless self-promotion. For a week I decided to tweet at least 5 things a day. I retweeted great ideas, tweeted about blogs that had helpful information and posted useful links. Did that help me gain followers? Actually, yes! It also was a wonderful week because for the first time I felt like I wasn’t just being a Twitter parasite. Now I was in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with the tweeting blue bird.

Why Tweet: A Personal Journey Through the Twitterverse (Via, 2011) is a laugh-out-loud explanation of how Twitter can be a beneficial addition to further learning for teachers, though, initially many educators resist it.

After using Twitter for the past few months, I agreed with everything Via said. I felt that same resistance. I struggled to use Twitter effectively. But in the end I saw it’s value. As Via succinctly states, “Whereas tools such as Diigo, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Reader add depth to my personal learning network, Twitter adds breadth and allows me to participate in conversations that help me every single day.”

When I log on Twitter I think, “Wouldn’t it be great if I find something new or exciting for work?” and I’m rarely disappointed. I’ve found new blogs to follow, great project or lesson ideas, and some fabulous online tools to use.

Great things that I have found because of Twitter:

Some of the best resources that I have found to help educators learn about successfully using Twitter to expand their teaching practices are:

I will admit that I still don’t use Twitter as much as I probably should, but I think this will grow as I have more time to play on it and feel like I have more to contribute. After all of this, I am still a newbie on Twitter. I would like to create my own custom background and continue to use Twitter to learn about and share new ideas and resources. All that I know is, Twitter definitely isn’t a tool that I will be dropping when this course is done!

P.S. – Fake Tweet Builder would be a fun tool for teachers to use in class. Not as developed as FakeWall but still pretty cool!

References

Barnes, M. (n.d.). Best education tweeple. Retrieved on February 20, 2011 from http://socialmedia.editme.com/Best-Education-Tweeple

Cybraryman (n.d.). Building a PLN- My PLN stars. Retrieved on February 20, 2011 from http://cybraryman.com/plnstars.html

Cybraryman (n.d.). Educational chats on Twitter. Retrieved on March 3, 2011 from http://www.cybraryman.com/chats.html.

Hische, J. (2010). Mom, this is how Twitter works. Retrieved on February 22, 2011 from http://www.jhische.com/twitter/.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Via, S. (2011). Why tweet: A personal journey through the twitterverse. presented as part of Wicks, D., Via, S., & Rhode, J. (2011, January 27). Using Twitter for Teaching, Learning and Professional Development. Retrieved on March 10, 2011 from http://www.edupln.com/video/why-tweet-a-personal-journey.

Keep in touch, won’t you?

13 Apr

I am constantly wary of Facebook. For example, I am wary of the time that it takes from my life, the way that it feels that it “owns” my personal pictures and the information that is shared each time you join a group or add an app or a game. Because of this I tend to limit the ways that I use Facebook. I simply skim through status updates, look at people’s pictures and keep tabs on my sister who lives in California.

Richardson (2010) and much of the reading that I have been doing for this course over the past months (many random blog posts and articles) heralds the use of Facebook as being more than I am using it for.

There has to be a better way for me to use Facebook. As David Lee King (2008) suggests, there are many ways for a library to use Facebook. This week I decided to branch out and create a Facebook page for the library. This is a different option than a profile because Facebook pages don’t have friends, they have fans. It was tricky to set up the page because the set up of a page for an organization is different than establishing one for a person. I called my brother to help me with some of my questions and the rest I learned through use. Even though I muddled my way through, in the end the McMath Library officially has a social networking presence!

My goal for the Facebook page is to help give the library more relevant, to inform students of new books and draw them in with YouTube book trailers, to give students updates about events in the library, and to provide them with Web 2.0 links that might interest them or help them in their classes. 

It was difficult for me to publicize our new Facebook page just because I have a fear of rejection. I am afraid that I will only have 3 people “liking” the library for the rest of the year. But in the end I put up a new window display to share our new Facebook page with the students. I will also be putting it into the announcements after Spring Break. I think that the most important part of making this work in the school is updating the page frequently with things that the kids are interested in. It will be important to keep my audience in mind as I’m thinking of my updates. Chris Bourg (2008) gives me hope that my Facebook page may become a relevant part of the school community but I know that it will take awhile. As of right now, I still only have 3. Sigh. 

Shelfari and LibraryThing are also helpful social networking tools for librarians. I have created accounts with both and primarily use Shelfari for personal use and LibraryThing for our school library blog. In LibraryThing you can create a widget for Blogger that is a rotating slideshow of book covers that you want to highlight. We use this to highlight new books that we have added to our collection. The best part is that under “Add Books” you can simply scan the ISBN and the system is able to locate the book to add the cover to your widget. The widget is directly linked to Blogger and the covers are updated automatically. Less work = Library love!

It’s finally over!

13 Apr

For the past 12 weeks I have been frantically completing a Web 2.0 course. And, ironically enough, that means that I have barely posted anything on my own blog. But it’s time to get going again and I’m not going to let all that hard work I did go to waste! Get ready for a barrage of Web 2.0 tools for the classroom. Welcome to my life for the past 3 months.