Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Making Ordering Even More Fun

I was recently told of a site called Lookybook, and it has quickly become my new favorite place to hang out and check out books. Lookybook has a huge selection of children's books you can read online, cover to cover, with full illustrations, pretty close to having the book in your hand.

At first I thought it was just a great resource for teachers, but I soon discovered a fabulous benefit for me:it gives me a chance to leaf through the book and decide if it's something the library collection will love. Pouring over illustrations, looking for the rhythm of language that appeals to kids, and having a gander at recently published books has allowed me to discover some gems that I've added to the order, like this Canadian book I know many students and teachers will enjoy. The only negative is that I have to wait until August to have the books in my hands.

Monday, 1 December 2008

More Font Fun

Something I've been noticing lately is how, in the blogosphere, people are posting pictures with words using cool fonts (a small addiction of mine) right on the picture. I investigated and found that there are various sites that can do this, but I chose Picnik. It is almost beyond easy, which I hate to say unless it's really true. But it is. Just upload the picture, add the bells and whistles (I put a '60's look on this one of me and my mom), and save.I used it already for our Room With a View project when we wrote about the frangiapani tree, and I knew our new friends in Wisconsin might not know what that is. A quick label and they can see what we are talking about.I did mention the fonts are cool, right?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Great Reads!

At Learning 2.0 in Shanghai, I remember talking with a group of librarians about blogging, and a comment that stuck in my mind was, "What do I have to say that anyone wants to hear?" Ever since, I've been planning a beginning blogging for librarians session in my head about how to get started and all the things that librarians do have to say.

Enter the perfect starter blog for librarians: book recommendations. We do it all the time anyway, why not put it on a blog to share with others? Everyone appreciates a recommendation, it gets people talking and reading, and most of us love the beauty of book covers.

I've created a new blog called Great Reads! It's my way of communicating with students, teachers and parents about fabulous books I find.

Image above is from my newest FBA alphabet book, a gorgeous read for any age!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Room With a View

As a librarian new to my school, I've been trying to find ways to collaborate with teachers by embedding 21st Century Literacy skills into their existing curriculum. We all know teachers are insanely busy, so finding something cool that doesn't become "one more thing" is crucial for me at this stage of collaboration.

Enter Room With a View, a fabulous worldwide project started by Jennifer Wagner. Our second grade classes do an Air and Weather unit, and so this project fits seamlessly. Classes from around the world take a picture each month of the view outside their classroom window. With this picture, we do a shared writing lesson describing the picture, what we see, what is happening with the weather, and any other observations.

One of our wonderful second grade teachers, Susan Souza, agreed to team teach the project with me this year, and it's my baby step into collaborating at a new school. Since we live in the tropics, we thought at first that our picture wouldn't change much, but we were wrong. All sorts of great noticing is going on, like what happens to the leaves on the trees in the heart of the rainy season. We are now connected with two other classes and planting the seeds of global conversations: one class in California and another in Wisconsin.

Check out our Bangkok View wiki. We'll update it each month of the school year.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Google Docs

Oh, the myriad of tools available on Google now! Just this school year, I have been introduced to the wonder of what is called a "Google Doc." It's a brilliant concept--a word document that all invited can see (you need a gmail account to do so)and everyone can also edit the document at the same time. With this feature, a group of people working on a document can edit from anywhere and save the changes, continually adding to the existing document that everyone sees.

Google docs can be found in the upper left-hand corner of your gmail account page. Click NEW to start the document and SHARE to invite the people in your group.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Multimedia in the Hub

My partner Kim, the 21st century digital learning specialist, and I, the library lady, are trying to find ways to be a resource to classroom teachers by enhancing their ongoing curriculum. After some brainstorming, we came up with an idea to have a multimedia day in the Learning Hub. Our guinea pig classes were the 4th grade as they are studying water in their science curriculum.

We kept it simple for everyone and had three rotations of 15 minutes a piece (in hindsight, we needed more time for each rotation). One rotation was exploring websites we had found that were level-appropriate and one was a reading time with all the book resources I pulled from the shelves. The last rotation was my favorite: a slideshow of water around the world, in various forms and using very thought-provoking pictures with only one or two words on the slide. Stopping every five slides or so to have a 'turn and talk' discussion about what they see is where we are going the next time.

Our hope is that this can become a more consistent supplement to the ongoing curriculum as a means of using our Hub as a continual resource. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

FBA Poetry

Nye, Naomi Shihab. A. Maze Me. Greenwillow, 2005.
You know when you check a book out of the library and you keep putting off returning it so you can have just one more look at it? This is that book for me. Thankfully, I am the librarian, and so I can cheat a bit on overdues. Naomi's gorgeously illustrated book sat on my bedstand forever and was the perfect poetry collection to leaf through every now and then to find gem after gem of honest, tender, raw poetry geared for girls (but great for boys, too!). A brilliant addition to any classroom or bookshelf.

Here's a snippet of the magic:

Life is a tangle of
Twisting paths.
Some short.
Some long.
There are dead ends.
And there are choices.
And wrong turns,
And detours,
And yield signs,
And instruction booklets,
And star maps,
And happiness,
And loneliness.
And friends.
And sisters.
And love.
And poetry.

Life is a maze.
You are a maze.
And amazing.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

"Unconferencing" with Librarians

One of my favorite parts of Learning 2.0 was the "unconferencing" option. The organizers set aside time slots where people could gather to talk about whatever they wanted. I scheduled an unconference for librarians out of sheer curiosity of who was at the conference and was thrilled to find about 18 of us from all over the region. We had a lively conversation and went around the table talking about what some of our questions and passions are as librarians in various schools.

I took notes on our conversation, and these were the main themes:

1. space redesign--how to make it the best it can be

2. role of library in the future

3. blogging--why do people want to hear my voice?

4. non-fiction--where does it fit at this time?

5. traditional library skills--where do they fit?

6. fixed vs. flexed

7. virtual library page--check out International School of Bombay's new site

8. paperless libraries?

I loved being around other librarians (it's a rather lonely job at times, which is something I didn't fully realize until I was around others) and the discussions that followed. Looking forward to keeping the connections made and forming new ones.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Learning 2.0

Loving the Learning 2.0 conference here in Shanghai.

Snippets of Learning

*Thoroughly enjoyed the balance of tech and practicality of both Clarence Fisher and Ewan Macintosh in their presentations.

*Making more peace with Twitter (I am bookchica) and seeing more of its potential here at the conference. It is definitely a great tool to connect with others I've met here.

*Thinking that some sort of animation after school activity would be great fun for kids.

Food for Thought

*Completely blown away by the difference of a tech conference with that of any other conference. The fact that people are encouraged to be multitasking during presentations used to make me so uncomfortable, but I have embraced it, and I've been blogging and chatting and reading while listening. However, I still find that the truly engaging speakers make me want to take my head out of my computer. What does that say about classrooms? Are we engaging students enough to keep them with us?

Having an "unconference" with international librarians soon. Hoping to learn lots about what others are doing around the globe in regards to 21st century learning.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Book Reviewing

I'm a sucker for book covers, and I still love having my LibraryThing account that shows a random display of my personal collection on my blog. Their blog is also very interesting and worth checking out. Just recently, I discovered that as a LibraryThing member, you can be a part of their Early Reviewer program. Free books to you with the promise of a 25 word review on the LibraryThing website. Not a bad deal in the least. They currently don't deliver to many countries other than the U.S., Canada and the U.K, but I happen to be going stateside in October so I can pick mine up and do my first reviews. I hopefully scored two children's books and what claims to be a Sedaris-esque tale about knitting this time around.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Adios, Dewey?

Working with my fabulous new teaching partner, Kim Cofino, has me thinking a lot about library practices, and we've had some great conversations about the good 'ol Dewey Decimal System. Now, I can't call myself a diehard fan of Dewey himself, although my husband does roll his eyes when I start a sentence with, "Wanna know something interesting about Dewey?" My issue is this--why is it that so many other areas of education and technology have made leaps and bounds in regards to progress over the years, yet we are still using an organizational system that was created over 130 years ago? I have to ask myself why nothing else has come along that has the potential to be a better, more accessible tool. And 130 years old or not, it's a tiny percentage of people who need to know what the numbers mean.

Take the Perry Branch Library in Arizona, who bravely went where no library dares to go by moving away from the DDS into a library set up by subjects similar to that of a bookstore, thus catering to the patrons who desire more of a browsing experience. Check out their humorous Dewey or Do We Not? video below, filmed with the background music of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide...Well, I've been afraid of changing..." You gotta love witty library people!

Another group taking on the challenge of exploring new, more current ways to catalog books are the people over at LibraryThing. They have started a wiki, faciliated by two librarians, that has begun quite an interesting conversation about changing the status quo.

At the end of the day, most of my elementary kids just want to know where to find the hamster books. They really don't care that pets are in 636, and it makes no sense to them that hamsters aren't logically found with all the other animals in the 500's. And, truth be told, that isn't so logical to me either.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Campaign 2.0

It's hard not to notice that Barack Obama is doing a great job of targeting the 2.0 crowd. From the article in Rolling Stone about what is on his Ipod (poor McCain has said he doesn't even send emails!) to his newest campaign of instant notification of who his VP choice will be. Smart man to know his audience...

Thanks to the Travelin' Librarian for posting about this

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Reflections of a First-Year Librarian

As I embark on my second year as a librarian, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what was a fantastic first year. Often I found myself wondering why I didn't become a librarian years ago. It felt like such a natural switch and the best kept secret as the most fun job on campus.

Here is what I learned:

1. Just about every kid loves coming to the library. You can't really go wrong (unless you are grumpy, but let's not be!) with the library, and that was a blast for me.

2. Little touches really do make a huge difference! Delivering books directly to the classrooms, going the extra mile for a teacher who needs help, bending the rules on checkout limits, all these things helped me develop solid relationships with teachers, kids and parents, and they greatly appreciated my efforts.

3. Hardly anyone uses the online catalog! This was surprising to me, and I aim to figure out ways to get more people using them next year. Instead, everyone comes to me (even teachers!), which is not a bad thing, but it can get crazy if I'm fielding tons of questions.

4. I learned that people get really fired up if they think they have returned a book and our system says they didn't. I learned early on to just nod my head and say, "Don't worry about it. We'll find the book" while they insisted they returned it. Many, many times, they wound up finding the book themselves at home and returned the next day with the book in hand, tail between their legs a bit. It definitely made me glad I didn't get defensive.

5. Lots of people think librarians do nothing. I myself was surprised with the amount of managerial work involved in being a librarian. I love that kind of stuff, but a lot of time is spent behind a computer entering data or helping people look things up, or searching for information, so it may appear that librarians are not working. I made a conscious effort to not be offended by this but instead make people aware of what I was doing to again work on developing the relationships.

6. On a comical note, I learned that I am the librarian no matter where I am. In the grocery store one night, I heard a tiny kindergarten voice say, "that's the library lady!" I smiled all the way home because I love being the library lady.

Can't wait to begin my brand-new job as a library lady AND a tech lady in just a few days at the International School of Bangkok.

Friday, 11 July 2008

My New BFF, the Kindle

Me and my new Kindle, chillin' at a wifi cafe this morning. I'm at a literacy conference in downtown Seattle, and my commute of 2+ hours was so enjoyable this morning surfing the booklists on Kindle and adding tons of samples (I love the option of trying out a book before buying it). Loving every minute of it so far, and the guilt/treason I thought I might feel leaving paper behind is nonexistent. They still have a place in my life (how I could possibly live without the beauty of book covers?), but throwing the Kindle in a bag is the way to go for me right now. It was all I could do to not stop random people on the ferry to show them how fun it is!

On a different note, a huge thanks to Vicki Davis for mentioning my newbie blog on her Cool Cat Teacher blog. I had a ton of comments yesterday that I assumed were spam, so imagine my surprise to find real people commenting (other than my mother and my friend Sharon, that is). Thanks, Vicki and others, for the support of an emerging blogger.

One other observation...out of 180 international teachers at that literacy conference, only a smattering are using laptops as a means of notetaking. Found that quite surprising, and it reinforces my thinking that we have a long way to go in helping teachers use technology to their advantage.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

To Kindle or Not to Kindle?

Admittedly, I was skeptical about the release of the Kindle. Reading a book on a handheld computer? Hmmm...not sure about that. The feel of a book in the hand or simply looking at them all lined up on a shelf makes my heart flutter, and changing to an electronic device was not something that was sparking my interest. That it, until my friend Kim showed up at my house and brought out her Kindle for show-and-tell one night.
And now, to my surprise, thoughts of buying my own Kindle are percolating in my head.

Here's the rundown on the positives

1. It is the real size of a book

2. SPACE--especially for travelers! Instead of hauling around tons of books, you can fit up to 200 books on a Kindle

3. Different font sizes

4. Books are cheaper to add to a Kindle than to buy in the store

5. You can access samples of books to read the first few chapters before buying

Definitely food for thought...

Friday, 13 June 2008

The Most Modern Library

Take a gander at the "library concept center" called DOK in Delft, Holland. Its goal is to be the most modern library in the world, and I was drooling while reading the article about all if offers its patrons: multimedia chairs, rotating art exhibits, video games, an entire room dedicated to graphic novels, cafes (please let's get cafes in school libraries at some point!) and a groovy information dispenser called a TANK U.

Jenny from the Shifted Librarian wrote a great article about her recent visit there and all the amazingly different things she found in comparison to traditional libraries. It's got me thinking about how the idea of what a library should be is so archaic, yet so engrained in people's minds as a quiet place where kids go to learn or study or read quietly. And that's it for many people. In order to change how we think of libraries, perhaps changing the name is the perfect place to start. I'm heading to a new school in July, the International School of Bangkok, and they have recently changed the name of the library to the Learning Hub, or Hub for short. What a myriad of possibilities a new name invites...

image taken from Shifted Librarian

Sunday, 1 June 2008

A Near Brilliant Idea

Is there anything worse than a grumpy librarian hounding and nagging kids and teachers at the end of the year about returning books to the library? Stories have been shared with me about librarians getting their knickers in a twist about this, and I was determined in my first year as a librarian not to do that. So, I came up with a contest--the first 3 classes to get all their books in (teachers not included as I know they still need their books) would get a popcorn party and movie in the library. The lovely twist to this is that it motivated teachers just as much as students because the party gave them an extra prep time when they need it so desperately at this time of the year. The "Get Your Books Back" contest was a huge success, almost too huge with the chaos that ensued in the early morning moments after the busses arrived, but it was a great idea. Feedback received from teachers was so positive and appreciative that it will now become a tradition for me each year.

Parting words...librarians unite! Let's change some/many/all of the negative stereotypes about us!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Our Friend Dewey

With all the integrating with classroom curriculum in regards to library lessons, I realized sometime in March that the majority of kids still had no clue about how to find a book on their own. So, I started looking for ways to teach the Dewey Decimal system that wouldn't be so boring that I would lose them all in the first five minutes. There's not a ton of stuff out there, but I did find a good Webquest and decided to use that as my teaching tool. Sure enough, the adventures through the sections of the library and finding mystery letters along the way to break a code was just motivating enough to generate responses such as, "This is so cool!" from 4th graders. Our three week mini-unit ended with me creating a Dewey Decimal Jeopardy game using a template. Just fill in what you want on this and use it for tons of great activities.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

President for a Day

A colleague found this awesome website at PBS KIDS where students (or grownups) can fill in their basic information and be guided through what it is like to be President for a day. The day starts at 6:00 with choices of what to do before the appointments start, and each page has photos of former U.S. Presidents in action with factual information. It is just the right amount of content to hold kids' attention and teach something at the same time. When you finish going through the whole day, a news article is written about your day as President. Pretty cool!

Decided to take this one step further with a willing teacher, and we are going to make a student-created movie based on a day in the life of a President. Small groups will take portions of the day, write a script, act it out and film using the very cool and kid-friendly FLIP cameras. One of the groups will add in random Presidential facts between takes. Loving the idea of finding a fun way to understand the President's job a bit more.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Simple Yet Brilliant

My husband showed me this the other night, and we both wound up exploring every inch of the website as it was simple yet brilliant. Matt, from Where The Hell is Matt? (oh, the teacher in me wishes so badly that he named it "Where the Heck is Matt?"), has traveled the world and films himself doing a really funny and not so coordinated dance in a ton of different countries. He made a YouTube of a bunch of clips, and it has taken on a life of its own, leading to corporate sponsorship and him creating new dance videos with people living around the globe. The Google Earth aspect is great on this, and I love the inspiration his dancing gives in the fact that someone can take something quirky and spread that little bit of joy around the world by means of using technology. Of added interest is the video clips of his presenting of how the idea came about and how it grew to such a huge audience.

International teacher sidenote: Our counselor showed this at a middle school event and had kids cheer for places they had visited. Love that idea! Plus, it reinspired me to get to Petra, Jordan.

Image used is from the wherethehellismatt.com website

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Adding Fonts

Warning: adding fonts can become addicting! This falls under the category of something that everyone kept saying was "so easy" but I couldn't get it. Well, now I've got it, and I want to share it. Please note that this was done on a Mac, but most fonts are for both Mac and PC.

First, you must download STUFFIT, which compresses the files for you. This is the part I was missing, which made it not so easy.

After you have Stuffit, go to a free font site. There are tons out there, but I used DaFont and Simply The Best and found some really fun ones.

1. Download the font(s) of your choice. You will see that it becomes a TTF file (your file will say the name and then .ttf).

2. Go to Applications and click on Font Book.

3. Then click on File, Add Font.

4. Find the font you downloaded and add it.

5. Done! A groovy new font on your computer. Repeat and repeat and repeat. Man, I love fonts.

images taken from simplythebest.net

Saturday, 5 April 2008


Oh, Twitter! Twitter, in a nutshell, is like a chat but with many people. So, if you send something out there into the Twitterverse (yes, that is really what it is called), such as a question about technology or even what you had for lunch, all the people you have put on your Twitter list see this. Much like Facebook, I avoided Twitter for a long time, mostly because whenver I looked at it, I would see people writing things like, "Just had an awesome egg salad sandwich" or "leaving for the airport in 2 hours," and I couldn't figure out why I needed to know that. However, I need to be careful, because especially with all things technology, I tend to eat my words six months down the line. What I said I wouldn't do often comes back to haunt me.

Case in point--a month or so ago, I was with a class and having a devil of a time getting Voicethread to record, so I had to take my laptop and walk all the way over to the high school 3rd floor just to find our tech guy to ask him what to do. If I had had Twitter, I could quickly send out the message/question I needed and get an almost instant response (seems many Twitterers are great at responding right away). Another month goes by, and I realize I have yet another quick question that required me to send an email to Thailand and wait for a response. Twitter would have been much quicker.

A friend of mine mentioned that all these social networks feel like high school all over again--Will you be my friend? Do you accept me as your friend? How many people are following you? Long story short, I joined Twitter, albeit still with hesitation. I'm starting out small and following only a few people, but I've already found it useful. I found out that blogspot blogs are unblocked in China at the moment (yippee!), baseball season started and I found a few great links to good blog postings. Worth it already, and who knows? Maybe six months from now I'll be writing down what I had for lunch. My Twitter name is bookchica if you want to check it out.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

5th Grade FBA

The Book Without Words. Avi. Hyperion, 2005.

My 5th grade book club chose this book by Avi as their choice for discussion. I had three book clubs in all- one girls, one mixed and one boys. This was the mixed group's choice, and it was by far my favorite one of the three. The Book Without Words grabbed me on the first page and held my attention throughout the book, not an easy feat for an adult reading a YA book. Master Thorston is on a quest for eternal life, but he must sacrifice the life of a green-eyed thirteen year old to do so. Sybil and Odo must stop Master Thorston before he swallows all four of the magical stones that will give him eternal life, thus ending hers.

This book had just the right amount of intrigue, suspense and heart to make it perfect for solid upper-elementary readers. The female protagonist, Sybil, experienced significant changes during the book that were great fodder for conversation. The paperback version I bought came with discussion questions in the back that were a wonderful guide. It's my new favorite recommendation for boys and girls alike!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Blogs Revisited

When I posted my question about the three top blogs to get people started on the Classroom 2.0 website, I was very pleased to get a number of responses. Ok, and truthfully a bit surprised as well because I still find the whole web connecting thing so bizarre and intriguing! What was very interesting (and even sparked another blog posting) was the fact that some people wrote in that their own personal blog was one of the top blogs. Hmmm...I will compile the list and include it in an upcoming post.

One conversation that was sparked by the question I posed was very insightful and hit the mark for me. That is, if you have been asked to start reading blogs as a means of professional development or are choosing to enter the blogosphere due to your own curiosity, a good way to start is by finding blogs on a subject that is of interest to you, and maybe at the start that isn't necessarily technology. I started out reading adoption blogs and design blogs and still read those everyday. However, if you would have told me a year and a half ago that I would do a ton of online reading, I never would have believed you. Reading online is a big change from magazine reading, and it takes time to make the adjustment. Tip: A good search engine to try for blogs is Ice Rocket.

Another point that was brought up is that there are two types of technology blogs: the 'big picture' blog and the 'concrete idea' blog. The big picture blog tends to include reflections and information about the person's experiences at conferences and in the classrooms and/or a means of recording thoughts and opinions. The concrete idea blog is one with links to recommended resources or simply ideas of how to enhance one's program. Both are great types of blogs, but you need to figure out which one suits you at the moment. I find I am still drawn mostly to the concrete idea blog, perhaps because I am busy filling my metaphorical suitcase with ideas about tech and library connections, but I also like to mix it up with thought-provoking blogs as it helps me have a better idea of what others in the field are doing/thinking and reminds me of what a tech-rich classroom and library look like.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Fiction Fashion

I wrote a while back about the Fiction Fashion show we were putting on for the Love of Reading week. Turns out it was a smashing success, and I'm so glad I decided to go that route. We had tons of teachers volunteer to be characters, and they were so awesome in having great costumes and working it on the runway! Characters ranged from Olivia the pig to the beloved Arthur (picture shown) to our grand finale of Captain Underpants. Kids were literally jumping up and down for most of the show, which was exactly the kind of enthusiasm we were looking for! I'll have to be on the lookout now for something equally as dynamic to do next. I'd love any ideas.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Organizing Ideas

I was turned on to Journler the other day during a technology session at our school, and I love it. The basic premise of Journler is that it is a place to write down ideas to have them stored all in one place. Instead of what I tend to do with information, which is writing down websites on random pieces of paper or forgetting which great idea I found on which blog, you can quickly enter them into your Journler account and categorize the information as well. It's free, fairly easy to use, and I love having different folders for keeping ideas and memories organized. Even better, you can add pictures and even use audio . My husband is a musician and is loving the fact that he can quickly record a riff or a verse to a song and have it catalogued before he forgets it. I see it as being a potential tool for student reflection.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Another Means of Connecting

View my page on Classroom 2.0

Just the other day, I heard a colleague say, "Where do you even start with doing things like reading blogs?" and I thought it was a fantastic question. How on earth does one dive into the web 2.0 forum when all of it is new? My feeling at times is that the educational world is expecting teachers and librarians to already be well on their way to integrating technology when truthfully there are many who are still on the starting blocks and not sure what to do when the whistle blows. Recently, I've found a relatively easy way to connect with other teachers around the world at Classroom 2.0 website. Any question you might have or any collaborating you might want to join or start yourself is right there for the taking. Even a question like, "Where do you even start with reading blogs?" could be posted there, and I imagine the results would be great. Actually, I'm going to do that myself and see what kinds of answers I get from others. I'll post them here at a later date.

For the record, the tech blogs on my RSS feed that I somewhat faithfully read at the moment are
Cool Cat Teacher
Always Learning
The Fischbowl
Utech Tips

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Love of Reading Assembly Idea

As a new librarian, I wanted to do something really fun for our Love of Reading assembly that happens as a kickoff to our Visiting Author week in March. However, when I went online, I couldn't find much out there, so I thought I would post our fun idea on this blog in case someone else is searching for ideas. Our VP did this cool thing when she worked in Brazil-- we are going to have a book character fashion show called Fiction Fashion Week. Teachers will dress up as various book characters and walk the runway to clues being given by our host and kids will shout out (yes, this will be a crazy loud assembly!) the character's name. It's great for teachers because they don't have to act, just strut their stuff, and I know the kids are going to love it. To top if off, we have an incredibly vivacious art teacher who is a perfect MC.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Two Million Minutes

Fascinating trailer of a documentary called Two Million Minutes. That is the estimated amount of time spent in a 4-year high school. Tracing the lives of 6 students from 3 countries--United States, India and China--it highlights the differences and how the U.S. values about education are radically different from India and China, the two biggest competitors on the world market. Living in Shanghai, the attitudes towards education are intense, even in the elementary grades. What a great documentary to show students living in any country to get conversations started.

A Bit of Funkiness

I love a library that has a personality to it. To me, it makes the space inviting and warm. We are lucky to have an amazing floor-to-ceiling mural on our main wall, but the story corner is tucked away and feels a bit lonely to me. I'm thinking of adding one of these wall decals I've found online. They are inexpensive and removable (but not reusable) so there isn't the fear of it being permanent, but I think they are simply fantastic.

The decal shown is only $35.oo and is found at EllyNelly

Other sites for decals are blik and WinkWall.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Reading Incentive Programs

I've been looking into ideas for reading incentive programs because I want to do something more interactive and meaningful for kids. This year, I did a 100 Days of Reading, which was nice for the kids because they got a prize for reading for 100 days, but it had little connection between the library, classroom and kids--or the world for that matter. One of my favorite charity organizations, Heifer International, has a program called Read to Feed. In a nutshell, the idea behind Heifer is that one buys an animal as a donation, anything from ducks to a water buffalo, and that animal is then donated to a needy family somewhere around the world. The family that receives the animal then passes on that animal's offspring to another family in the community, thus creating a "pay it forward" concept. The Read to Feed program is geared toward upper grades with its videos and lesson plans, but it could easily be modified as a fundraiser for all elementary grades. I have the coolest vision in my head of a kindergarten class discussing how they will use their money raised--do they buy 3 flocks of geese or 2 pigs? Pro and con writing in a completely authentic setting, and kids making real-life decisions that affect the world.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Virtual Field Trip

After finishing my first collaborative project, Books Go Global!, another teacher approached me (the seed has been planted...) to collaborate on something. Perfect timing as I wanted a partner for a Virtual Field Trip idea where kids make a movie of their city and post it on a website so kids around the world can go on a "field trip" to that city. It's a true TLC partnership as the technology teacher, the librarian and the classroom teacher all did the kick-off this morning to get the kids pumped up about the project. Our tech teacher extraordinaire, Mike, made a sample Photostory 3 (our medium due to the age group of the kids and ease of creating them--fabulously easy way to make pictures into a movie) of Shanghai to give them some ideas. From here, their homework in the next few weeks is to take pictures of their surroundings and activities in their world that represent Shanghai. We will also take a TLC field trip together to some key landmarks in town.

I know that the organizer of the this collaborative project is looking for more teachers to join. Check out his site for an incredibly authentic and relevant way for kids to study their hometown. I'm including Mike's sample Photostory in case it inspires anyone to join the fun!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

21st Century OPAC?

After reading a Kim Cofino's wish list for the "best" library catalog system out there, I've been thinking about how everything else around me is becoming technologically advanced at lightning speed, so why not the OPAC? Navigating it is not always easy for me as a librarian at times, so imagine the elementary kids who are trying to find a good book and actually want to do that independently by typing in a title and having it lead them to new titles they might like? Instead, if they spell the title wrong, it often leads them to a dead end. School Library Journal has a fabulous article addressing just this issue (like why on earth do we have MARC records displayed for all to see in this day and age when there are of no real use to students?!). He suggests a tool called Fish4Info which looks intriguing to me. It's open source, so it's free, and from what I see, your catalog is on it but it's streamlined, friendly and includes some of the neat additions like student book reviews and notes from the librarian. Worth exploring...