Saturday, April 21, 2018

Our Skype With A Teen Author

Over the past few years, some of the most exciting activities we have held in the library have been Skype connections. From Mystery Skype to virtual tours of national parks, our teachers and learners never seem to get tired of connecting to distant places. One of the most recent connections was with a young author in another state!

How We Connected

I remember running across teen author, Ashley Royer (@RTFbook), on an Internet search last year as we were looking for potential connections for our students. After reading about her, I discovered she had accumulated lots of fans on Wattpad and later became a published author. Her book, Remember to Forget, has been in publication since 2016. I decided to connect with Ashley via Twitter during the spring of 2017 to get more information about her book. She actually signed the copies we purchased. Since the end of the school year was quickly approaching, we were never able to connect her with our students.

This school year, we discovered several students that are interested in writing. I shared Remember to Forget with some of these students and told them I had communicated with the author last year. They indicated they would like to speak with Ashley, so I reached out on Twitter to see if she might Skype with us during lunch. It turned out Ashley was on spring break from college, and she agreed to connect during lunch. The students were so excited that they were going to get to visit with a teen author! 

Student Questions

I used a collaborative document to have the students submit questions for our connection. Below are the questions we all created together.

  1. How old were you when you developed a passion for writing?
  2. How do you get an idea for a book?
  3. How did you develop your writing style?
  4. What was your experience with Wattpad?
  5. What are the biggest challenges for young authors to get published?
  6. What advice would you give young authors?
  7. How old were you when you began to write Remember to Forget?
  8. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
  9. How many hours a day do you write?
  10. Do you have any people that help you with editing or coming up with ideas within your stories?
  11. If you could meet any Author in the world, who would it be?
  12. What author did you idolize/look up to as a child?
  13. Where do you get your inspiration for writing books?
  14. What was the hardest scene to write for you?
  15. How long on average does it take you to write your books?
  16. Do you believe in writer’s blocks?

The Session At Lunch

Our students were very excited to get to the library on the day of the connection. We invited students that had submitted questions to come to the Microsoft Surface to be on webcam as they visited with Ashley. During the session, Ashley told about herself and her love of writing. It was very inspiring to our learners. Afterward, they wanted to know when we could Skype with an author again. They began listing names of authors they wanted to contact. It was a great day!

Student Reflections

"This author meet impacted me because I am a young writer myself and getting to connect with Ashley helped me understand how to write better and have a better outlook on writer's blocks, and other things like that. It was very fun and I was glad that I had experienced this unique moment. It definitely helped me become a better writer and encouraged me to become an author." - Dekotah

"I really enjoyed getting to meet the teen author Ashley and getting to ask her some questions. It was a great experience and I hope to be able to do it again."- Sarah

Next Steps

This activity was an excellent reminder to me that Skype in the Classroom has many resources for connecting. Previously, I wrote a blog article about some of these tools. In the future, I need to look on their site for additional author connection possibilities. I encourage you to look for authors that are willing to connect via webcam. These types of experiences may help inspire your learning community. Who knows... it may inspire a future author!

Other links that may interest you:
Social Studies Maker Project Part 1

Social Studies Maker Project Part 2

Your Story is Worth Telling

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Social Studies Maker Project (part 2)

In a previous blog article, I shared about the planning stages of a maker project initiated by two of our 8th-grade social studies teachers. If you haven't read it, you might want to start here. The first day in the library was spent showing students all of the maker tools we had available in the library. These included  Legos, K'nex, our Makerbot 3D printer, Unity (a 3D game creation tool), Makey-Makey, Green Screen, Oculus Rift devices, and Minecraft.

The Instructions & Rubric

The teachers provided the following instructions and rubric to their students on Google Classroom (see below or click here for the document).

Maker Collaborative Project

Wed, Jan 10th: Student Intro Day to Maker options (Library)

Fri, Jan 12th: Brainstorming / Research day in class
Wed, Jan 24 - Fri 26: Library days to work on Maker component
Tues, Feb 6th: Presentation Day

Project Guidelines:

For this assignment, you will work in a group of 3-4 students to complete a project
that consists of multiple parts, including historical research, a “Maker” component, and a
video documentary of your research project. Project topics should relate to the themes
of U.S. History during the 1800s. There is a topic list included below, but it is not meant
to be a complete list of your only choices. You have a wide selection of options for your
project’s Maker component. You should communicate with your groupmates and decide
on a Maker that would complement the historical topic that you choose. Get creative
with this part and have some fun with it, but be sure that there is a clear connection to
your content topic. Lastly, your group will need to document your work and research by
producing a 5-minute documentary that will (1.) provide a short lesson on your topic of
choice, as well as (2.) showcase your Maker product, its connection to your topic, and
your process of creating it. This documentary will be shown as your group presentation
on Tuesday, Feb. 6th in the Library.

Makers Options:

3D Printer
Green screen / Feature length documentary (10+ minutes, separate from your presentation)
Makey Makey

Unity 3D software
Oculus Rift VR

Video Resources for Maker Project (what we showed you in the Library)

Parts to be graded:
1. Research thoroughness (kept on a Google Doc shared with group members and Instructor)
Each person needs to select a color font (all darker colors- ex: do not select pink or yellow
{light colors as they are harder to read} Identify the persons name and color using. Ex: Coach
Lawson - Blue / Mr. Lee - Black on your Google Doc
2. Maker Creativity / connection to topic
3. Video Documentary Presentation   
        editing / effectiveness
Grading: (See rubrics at bottom of document for detailed grading requirements and scores)

  —Overall Group Grade— (50% of final grade)
1. Peer evaluation of parts 2 and 3 / audience rating each Group’s final project/presentation
2. Instructor's evaluation sheet of parts 1, 2, and 3 (30%).
 —Individual’s Grade— (50% of final grade)
3. Each participant rating their fellow group member’s performance/contributions (20%)
4. Instructor’s evaluation sheet rating individual performance (30%).

*So each gradebook score will be comprised of a total of 50% overall group grade and
50% individual grade.
*Students will combine for 40% of the final grading (20% overall group + 20%
individual) and the instructor’s grades will combine for 60% of the final grading
(30% overall group + 30% individual).
*Students will receive a rubric with various component breakdown/scoring for each
group, AND a separate rubric for evaluating their own group members).

Student Responsibilities breakdown (All this should be labeled and defined within the Google
Group Leader- keep everyone on topic and organized
Time Keeper - maintains time on task in class and even when components are due and
available time left to work on things
Notes (every member should be contributing to the Google Doc- have them select colors to
type in so at a glance we can see who has completed what towards the topic / research)
Video Person (able to edit and put all segments together in a documentary style video- this
records all components- not necessarily having to video everyone but combining and editing all
video segments into one finished product).
Creative Maker- (if choosing an item that only one can work on)

Topics I would like covered are ones that we should address in our unit (Manifest Destiny) and
other upcoming units that play an important role from 1800 to 1900; also feel free to add to the list.

Units (include anything from these Units that apply in the project):
-War of 1812
-Women’s Suffrage
-Immigration / Ellis Island (etc)
-Slavery (plantation life, harvesting time (tools/ machines)
-Industrialization (new inventions, social patterns, etc within the time period)
-Manifest Destiny topics (Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark, Oregon Territory, Mexican
Cession, Texas Annexation, Northwest Ordinance, Gadsden Purchase, Mexican-American War,
Seward’s Folly {Alaska}, and these trails… Trail of Tears, Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, & Sante Fe)
-Civil War (be selective and only 1 group per class unless can justify the difference and its
-Reconstruction Era and Jim Crow
-Spanish-American War / American Imperialism

**Project topics can be very specific within these eras/themes**
**Topics not listed may be accepted by instructors if your group can justify, be able to research,
be able to create- be ready to answer questions for the instructor to justify topic**


The following rubric will be used by the instructor to grade your group’s final project (30%):

The following rubric will be used by students to grade other group’s final project (20%):

The following rubric will be used by your instructor to grade you as individuals (30%):

The following rubric will be used by your groupmates to grade your performance (20%):

What Happened

Students were given 3 weeks to complete the maker project. We provided the space and tools for classes to work in the library. If they needed any assistance (technical issues or questions), we were available to help each day. At the end of the project, the presentations were shared in the library.

Student Products

Mr. Lee's class had the following products. (Click on the link for his document with video samples).

Below are a few highlights from Coach Lawson's classes.

Teacher Librarian Reflections and Next Steps

After seeing the student products, we realize there are many opportunities for additional instruction. Next year, we can offer to share information about citing sources in their video or presentation credits. We can also have discussions about copyright and the use of music or images. This collaboration corresponded with several Future Ready Librarian components: Designs Collaborative Spaces, Builds Instructional Partnerships, Empowers Students as Creators, Curates Digital Resources and Tools, and Facilitates Professional Learning.

Next year, we can share these student products with other subject area teachers and try to generate interest in more maker collaborations. Together with these two teachers, we have opened up many additional possibilities. Have you had successful maker projects with your teachers? Share your stories in the comments below.

Other links that may interest you:
My table of contents for the blog is here!

Our First Book Tasting Event

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Social Studies Maker Project (part 1)

Recently, I was approached by Brooks Lee, one of our 8th grade Social Studies teachers, about helping him use Makerspace tools in his curriculum. He had attended a session at a professional development meeting, and his eyes had been opened to the possibilities for his students. During his preparation period, we started meeting regularly and discussing how this might look. He shared the idea with his co-worker, April Lawson, and she was also on board to team up with her 8th grade Social Studies classes.

A box of K'nex

April and Brooks began working out the details with a rubric and timeline. It was decided that they would have the students pick any topic from the 1800s and create an informative presentation using innovation tools of their choice. They requested that the students have a day in the library to show them the possibilities with our various Makerspace tools. We decided to show them the items that would work well with the assignment. These included Legos, K'nex, our Makerbot 3D printer, Unity, Makey-Makey, Green Screen, Oculus Rift devices, and Minecraft.

The YouTube clip above shows how we presented Maker tools to students

To introduce the items, we demonstrated how they could be used by showing the tools. We also presented videos that displayed finished products. These videos were found on YouTube and included Minecraft, Makey-Makey, K'nex, and Unity.
Mrs. Price demonstrates Makerspace tools

We were impressed by how engaged and interested the students were during all the introduction sessions. It was exciting to hear how they began to brainstorm ways they would use the maker tools for their presentations.

Future Ready Librarian Connection

As I look at the Future Ready Librarian Framework, activities like this strongly connect to these components: Builds Instructional Partnerships, Empowers Students as Creators, and Curates Digital Resources and Tools. It also connects to the component, Designs Collaborative Spaces. When we have collaborations that employ making concepts, it is important to share these connections with administrators and other library stakeholders. Many teachers may not feel comfortable taking on an innovative project with students. By supporting them in the library, we can give them confidence that they don't have to take it all on alone. The school library is the perfect environment to allow students to create and innovate!

We showed the Green Screen App video by Do Ink to give the students ideas!


We learned that we didn't have to be the experts with every type of Makerspace tool. We only had to show the students the tool and the possibilities of what it could do. After that, it was up to the students to become knowledgeable about their Makerspace item(s) of choice. The teachers and library staff merely served as a source of support when problems arose. In the next installment of this blog, I'll share the process and the products that the students created. I'll also share some teacher and student reflections.

Other links that may interest you:
My table of contents for the blog is here!

Your Story is Worth Telling

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Your Story Is Worth Telling

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was an exciting experience for many reasons. It was my first time to travel out of state to deliver a keynote and also my first visit to Iowa. In this blog article, I want to reflect on the experience and the excitement I witnessed that was generated in a room full of 58 Iowa teacher librarians.

During the fall of 2017, my friend and colleague, Lynn Kleinmeyer (@THLibrariZen), began telling me about a full day of professional development she was planning. Lynn is a Digital Learning Consultant at Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She wanted the experience to motivate local teacher librarians to utilize the Future Ready Librarian Framework and also be stronger advocates for their programs. When she asked me to consider traveling to Iowa to deliver a keynote and breakout sessions, I quickly accepted! It is always an honor to visit another state to share best practices and learn together. Lynn and I first met in a Twitter Education chat in 2015, and we met in person (while my wife and I were traveling through her state) during the summer of 2016. She is a wonderful educator, teacher librarian, and a powerful advocate for our profession. She and her husband, Nathan (@NKleinmeyer), are exactly the type of forward-thinking educators I want to be around. I couldn't wait to visit with them in person again! As the months went on, Lynn shared her specific plans for the day, and I began to prepare my presentations.

Cloudy start to the flight from Little Rock, Arkansas
Flying to Iowa

After enjoyable connecting flights to Chicago and Cedar Rapids, it was great to see Lynn and her family again after nearly two years. They were wonderful hosts that gave me a taste of local history with a visit to the Amana Colonies and surrounding areas. I enjoyed it so much, I plan on returning there to take my wife for a visit of the remarkable location.

Full room of teacher librarians!
Your Story Is Worth Telling

The day started off with me presenting a keynote to the teacher librarians in attendance. Lynn specifically wanted me to share about my experiences with social media, blogging, and library collaborations. I also added in some student stories to illustrate how school libraries can change lives. It is always good to remind ourselves why we are in education; we are there for the learners.

I called the keynote, "Your Story Is Worth Telling" because if we don't share our library stories, who will? Also during the presentation, I shared
Elizabeth Hutchinson connects from Guernsey
how connecting to other schools via Skype and Google Hangouts had been so transformative for our learning community. My friend, Elizabeth Hutchinson (@Elizabethhutch), visited with us for a few moments from the Island of Guernsey via Google Hangouts to talk about the power of being a connected educator and librarian. Everyone seemed very inspired by Elizabeth and her stories as we modeled the possibilities together.

After the keynote, Lynn presented about the Future Ready Librarian Frameworks and the new AASL Standards. Participants were asked to change to different groups and visualize what a Future Ready Student actually looks like. They did this by drawing a Future Ready "student " on large paper pads with markers. They took time to discuss and share their interpretations and how we can best serve learners from the school library.
Teacher librarians draw a "Future Ready Student"

Conversation Strands

Lynn Kleinmeyer leads the discussion
In the afternoon, teacher librarians had options of several breakout sessions in the form of 25-minute conversation strands. Some of the topics included OER, Makerspaces, Expanding Your PLN via Twitter, and Making The Most of Your Space. Facilitators would share highlights of their experiences and share resources, then all in attendance could share and discuss together. It was a great time of learning for everyone. To finish up the day, Lynn asked everyone to reflect and give feedback on a survey. At the conclusion, everyone said their goodbyes and departed.

Stephan started a blog!

I don't recall ever seeing so many excited teacher librarians in a room for professional development. I strongly believe all 58 educators that attended wanted to improve for their students. During the conversations and group activities, the idea sharing was continuous and productive. They were all happy to see each other and learn together!

A few days after I got back home, I received some very exciting Tweets from teacher librarians. One had started a blog. Another had committed to seeking teachers that would be willing to collaborate. I was super excited to see that Michelle Kruse had connected her classes via Skype for World Read Aloud Day (see her Tweet below)! She was so motivated that she even led a school-wide Skype read aloud a day later. Imagine the excitement in Michelle's school as she became the great connector in the building. She changed her school by virtually knocking down the walls for her learners and teachers!

Michelle hosted several Skype sessions at her school!


Thank you Lynn, Nathan, and Grant Wood AEA!
I firmly believe that teacher librarians must continue reaching students with literacy promotion and information search techniques. I also know that we must prepare students to be Future Ready by aspiring to achieve the many components of the Future Ready Librarians Framework. It is not enough to quietly work in our spaces. We have to get out of the library and build relationships and collaborations. We must share our library stories in every way possible and connect those stories to the standards. These are important points to change the perception of our profession and build strong advocacy among library stakeholders.

I hope that more teacher librarians can experience professional development like what I witnessed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Such experiences pave the paths of change and advocacy for our profession.
I want to express thanks to Lynn Kleinmeyer for inviting me to visit Iowa and providing me an opportunity to share library stories. Thank you to the Grant Wood AEA for allowing me to come. Finally, thank you to all the teacher librarians that attended. I will never forget this experience! Let us all take steps out of our comfort zones for those we serve and share the countless stories from the school library.

Other links that may interest you:
My table of contents for the blog is here!

Keeping Things In Focus

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