Remembering September 11th and Moving Forward

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Each year, our 5th graders learn about September 11th as a part of their social studies standards.  They have to know about the events of the day as well as how that act of terrorism has impacted our lives today.  It’s a scary topic for an elementary student who has no memories of this event.  For them, it’s really just a part of history that doesn’t resonate in the same way as it does for adults.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t explore this tough subject.

We look at the day from multiple angles and see what we can discover about terrorism but also the heroism of the day.  We’ve used this tragedy to think about how we respond to sadness, how we memorialize those who mean so much to us, and how we create good in the world.

We spread our learning across an entire day.  Each teacher leads a different part of the day and students rotate through several experiences.

With me, students use a Symbaloo to explore online content.  I love Symbaloo because I can group the links together in a meaningful way.  I split the links into 4 areas: looking back & reflecting, the events of the day, rebuilding, and remembering.  When students came in, I used our Flipgrid responses from last year to talk about how we have to rely on people’s memories and what has been left behind in order to learn about and learn from history.

Last year’s Flipgrid

We also talked about how different the documentation of 9/11 would be if it happened today.  It happened at a time when smart phones, instagram, Twitter, and Facebook didn’t exist.  We also talked about our comfort level with tragedy.  I labeled several of the links “graphic” so that students could decide if they really wanted to click on that area.  Students could stop at any point and take a break in the hallway or with the counselor.

Our 9/11 pathfinder

At the close of my session, students had a chance to talk about what they heard and saw.

With Ms. Mullins, students looked at the first responders of 9/11, including the rescue dogs.  They used the information they learned to write haikus in response to the heroism.

With Ms. Selleck, students read 14 Cows for America and talked about how other countries responded to our tragedy.  We saw September 11 as a time when other countries felt our pain and reached out to help us.  Students responded by creating artwork to symbolize a response to tragedy.

With Ms. Olin, students read Fireboat and talked about how everyone pulled together on September 11 to help one another regardless of jobs or beliefs.  We were all Americans.

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After lunch, we had a guest speaker.  Bob Hart has created a 9/11 memorial trail right here in Athens, and he came to tell the students about how he got the idea, what each part of the trail represents, and answer questions from the students

Bob Hart’s 9/11 Memorial Trail in Athens, GA

This was a new piece to our 9/11 remembrance day and it was powerful.  Bob had so many touching tributes to the victims, and each part of  his memorial was thoughtful and created with love and respect.  His trail is open to the public, so I’m sure many students will want to visit.

We even found out that his trail is featured in a Weird Georgia book which we have in the library!

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At the close of our day, students used Flipgrid to record their haikus, artwork, and reflections.  Three volunteers came in to help me facilitate the recording so that students had a quiet space.  You simply have to listen to their voices!

Students shared art, poetry, and reflections about 9/11 on a Flipgrid

While this day is tragic, it is a day that I cherish each year because our kids take so much away from the day about heroism, response to tragedy, and the pride of being an American.

What Fairy Gardens Taught Me About Makerspaces, Teaching, and Learning

Entertaining a 5 year old and 3 year old during the summer is a big job.  I love being a parent, and it has made me grow so much as an educator.  Summertime brings many days of opportunities for adventures.  We get out of the house every single day and go somewhere whether it’s the botanical gardens, the local UGA campus, the local zoo,a movie, or the pool.  In between all of the fighting that happens between a brother and sister, there is a lot of curiosity about the world, and I love watching this unfold during the summer.

Recently, Athens held its big summer music festival, Athfest.  A part of this festival is an artist market, and my kids loved seeing what was in each tent.  Their attention was most drawn to a booth of fairy gardens.  These artists had created living pieces of art inside picture frames and jars.  They had made every single item in the gardens.  Building on my kids’ curiosity of this art, I decided we would make fairy gardens one day.  The only instructions we had were the memories of what we had seen at Athfest.  I intentionally did not look up examples on the computer because this was not a copying activity.  I wanted this to be full of investigation, dreaming, tinkering, and creating.  In fact, I really love not planning out every single detail of what we do because I can just see where the curiosity takes us.

We started by looking around our house for fairy homes.  We looked at several pickle and jelly jars as well as empty flower pots.  Alora and Anderson each chose their favorite.

Then, we had an outing to the local hobby and craft store to find trinkets for the fairies.  I didn’t have a specific budget in mind, but I like a good bargain, so I didn’t plan to spend very much.  We got a basket and each child got to put things into the basket as possibilities.  There’s not really a “fairy garden” section in the store so you have to really wander around with a fairy eye and think about what a fairy might like in his or her house.  We spent a good amount of time in the dollhouse section of the store.  Finally we made our way to the clearance section which was a hodge podge of all kinds of stuff.  We really had to dig here.  After the basket had a good amount of stuff, I got out my phone calculator and started looking through the basket.  We sorted piles of “definitely want”, “kind of want”, and “don’t want”.  As Alora and Anderson were making those decisions, we talked about price and also how many items were in each pack.  They knew they would be sharing so they were more interested in packs that had multiple items in them that could be split up.  After agreeing on an amount, we visited the register, chatted with the cashier about fairy gardens, and paid our bill.

Back home, we took to the outdoors with a basket.  We did a nature walk and collected free items for our gardens.  On our walk, we talked about what to touch and what not to touch.  We collected sticks, rocks, pine cones, moss, and leaves.  Finally, we prepped our fairy gardens.  Again, we didn’t specifically look up what we should put, but we talked a bit about the layers in the Earth and decided to make some layers in our gardens.  We filled the bottom with rocks.  We didn’t have any sand, but we noticed that there were some rocks along the sides of the house that had been broken down a lot by the water gushing out of the gutters.  We talked about the rock cycle and erosion while we shoveled up some of this sand and bits of rocks to make another layer.  Finally, we put a layer of dirt.

Back inside, we added some water to pack everything together a bit and then topped our containers off with some moss.  We spread out all of the items from our nature walk as well as all of our trinkets from the store.  They both started placing items into the gardens and making decisions about what the fairies would like the most.

When their construction was complete, we topped off each garden with a metal candle shade from our junk closet and placed all of the remaining items in a ziploc bag so that they could trade out things in the gardens when they wanted to.  The gardens went to each child’s room.  At bedtime, I went in Alora’s room and she was busy once again.  On her own, she had gotten a roll of tape and a ziploc bag.  The ziploc was on top of the metal shade and was securely taped on.  When I asked about it, she told me that if a fairy went inside she didn’t want it to get out.  Nevermind the gaping hole on the front of her flowerpot.  I loved how she was already extending what we had started.

It really wasn’t until that moment that I started reflecting on the whole experience: where we had been, where we could go, and what implications it had for my own teaching.

A Few Topics We Explored:

  • perspective through the eyes of a fairy
  • financial literacy through budgeting and decision making
  • speaking and listening
  • layers of the Earth
  • habitats
  • erosion and rock cycle
  • plant identification
  • problem solving
  • reusing
  • safety
  • art
  • creativity

A Few Potential Extensions:

  • reading fairy stories to learn more about fairy behaviors and needs
  • building upon Alora’s idea of a fairy trap.  We could use littlebits to make an alarm to alert us when a fairy is inside.
  • adding electronics and circuitry to our garden.  To give the appearance of a fairy or even to add some light for an existing fairy, we could use littlebits or leds with coin cell batteries.  This could lead to a whole exploration of circuits and electricity.
  • spending more time learning about terrariums and the types of plants that could live inside a jar.
  • storytelling based on our fairies and fairy gardens.

Some Takeaways

  • Some of the best learning experiences can happen when you don’t have every detail planned out. We had a goal, which was to build a fairy garden, but we didn’t lock ourselves into a series of steps.  While I love to plan, I think we often miss out on some incredible learning opportunities with students when we aren’t observing, pausing, listening, and reflecting.
  • Our library makerspaces are a place where these types of experiences can launch, but the space alone does not create the learning.  I add a few layers to our makerspace each year.  More stuff brings more possibilities.  However, I learned last year that you can’t just turn kids loose in the makerspace and expect that they are going to come out with an amazing project.  There’s a big inquiry piece that is amplified through conversations with an educator like the librarian.  Kids can come into the makerspace to dream, tinker, and create, but it is up to us to be observing, listening, reflecting, and inquiring to take the student learning to the next level.
  • When students are engaged through something that is of their own interests, multiple required standards can be woven in.  They may not happen on the timeline that comes from the district or state, but they can be woven in.  My struggle, just like many educators, is how to replicate this type of individual experience with a class of 25-30 students.  It can be done.  I believe it can, but it is very tricky.
  • I thought back to my experiences with Kelly Hocking, a kindergarten teacher at our school.  She can take just about any topic that most of the class is interested in and create a magical year long project that weaves in multiple standards, experiences, and projects.  The fairy garden could easily be that kind of project, but I’m not telling everyone to go out and make fairy gardens.  I think we need to listen to our students’ voices, find their interests, and somehow find connecting threads that allow us to create projects and experiences that honor those while still upholding the standards we are required to teach.

I know there is more here, but my brain is in summer mode and I’m still trying to entertain a 3 and 5 year old as I write.  I’m going to continue thinking on this.  If you have your own thoughts, ideas, extensions, takeaways, etc, please leave them in the comments.

A Year-Long Kindergarten Interdisciplinary Space Project

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I have to take a moment to brag on another teacher and group of students in our school.  Kelly Hocking is an amazing Kindergarten teacher, and she has a talented group of Kindergarten students who are some of the biggest researchers and creators in our school.  I love how each year she finds something that her class takes an interest in and somehow weaves into every subject area and standard that they study in Kindergarten.  One year it was art.  Another year it was a study of maps and stretching the imagination.  This year it was space.

Kelly never knows at what point in the year something will pop up as an interest in her class, but this year it happened when they were doing a GoNoodle.  It happened to feature space, and it took the class into a series of questions and wonderings about space.

They started reading lots of books about space as well as studying the science standards about the day and night sky.

The more they read, the more they started to notice about space popping up in so many areas of their curriculum and life.

They launched into research mode and asked lots of questions.  In the library and classroom they used print and digital resources to learn about the planets and collect facts about each one.

In February, the class celebrated Fat Tuesday by dressing as planets and parading around the school.  Each costume was space-inspired and they handed out coins and beads to lots of classes.

Research continued in the classroom and the media center.  Students used all of their facts to write a series of notes.  In groups, the students put those notes in an order that made sense and prepared to make their own ebooks about space using the Storykit app.

At this point, we were approaching poetry month, so I suggested that the students think about space poetry.  I connected the class with several poetry books about space, and they started crafting some poems in class.  Ms. Kelly also has ukuleles in her classrooms, so the poems eventually were turned into songs with music composed by the students.

At our annual Poem In Your Pocket day, the groups of students performed their poetry songs for a live audience.  We even had poet, Laura Purdie Salas, listen in to the poetry since students were inspired by her space poems and songs.

At this point in the year, lots of attention turned to Mars and space exploration.  Students really didn’t want to travel to Mars themselves, but they did want to think about helping other people get there some day.  We created a Padlet to collect all of our research in the library and the classroom.

Eventually, the students wanted to start making some inventions to help Mars explorers, so we did a lot of tinkering in our Makerspace.  In class, students constructed elaborate prototypes of their inventions and did informational writing to accompany their creations.

If we had more time in our year, I’m sure Ms. Kelly and her students would have come up with even more miraculous things, but it truly was an amazing year of exploration and I’m glad that our library was a part of it.

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You can read more about the library parts of this project in these posts:

Why Do We Explore Space: A Virtual Field Trip Opportunity

Can a Foodini 3D Printer Go to Space?

Kindergarten Mission to Mars: A Makerspace Exploration

Kindergarten Researchers in Action

Also, you can view Ms. Kelly’s full deck of slides which includes lyrics to a cumulative song that explores all of the planets and the facts the students learned.  They performed this song at our end of the year assembly.

View the full slidedeck here.

Providing Space for the Miraculous

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I’m a planner.  In my personal life, I like schedules, details, and wouldn’t consider myself very spontaneous.  However, in education, I’ve learned to push this part of me aside and embrace flexibility.  It isn’t always easy, but it is essential.  When I meet with teachers to plan a collaborative project, we definitely put together a strong plan, but nothing makes me happier than hearing teachers say “let’s just see where this goes”.  Phrases like that mean that we are giving ourselves permission to be flexible.  We are providing space to look for miraculous things that are taking place right before our eyes.  If we script every step of a project, then the project gets done, but at what cost?  To me, the cost is student voice.  When we structure lessons and projects too much, we miss the opportunities to listen to individual student voices and interests.  We miss opportunities that might be waiting for us out in the world with experts, other schools, developers, and more just because it doesn’t fit on our timeline.


Here’s a perfect example of what can happen when space is provided for the miraculous to happen.

During our 2nd grade black history project, we made numerous changes to our plans.  I’ve written several posts about this, but to summarize, we:

  • made the project more authentic by creating our own award called the Barrow Peace Prize
  • established our own criteria for the award, which matched numerous character traits that students study in social studies
  • housed all of the student videos on Flipgrid and linked them on a Google site with our embedded voting tool
  • created a medal using our 3d printer to honor the person from black history who won the votes

When we planned this project, we knew that certain components would be there such as time to research, time to write persuasive pieces, and time to record videos.  One thing we didn’t know when we started was that we would actually create a medal on the 3D printer.  Because we allowed ourselves to be flexible, to give individual students voice, and to look for the miraculous, an individual student was able to design and create a 3d-printed Barrow Peace Prize.

Taylor, our student designer, has been so proud of his work.  This one moment where we provided space for the miraculous has given him and our school some other incredible moments.  Taylor was able to share his work with Okle Miller’s Kindergarten students in Tampa, FL via Skype and inspire them to make their own inventions.  He also shared his work with the Flipgrid team in Minneapolis during our Skype.

While Taylor was designing his work, I was of course sharing it on Twitter.  Brad Hosack, co-founder of Flipgrid, half-jokingly replied:

This one tweet made us think even more.  We originally just planned to print one medal and share it among all of the 2nd grade teachers in honor of the winner of the black history votes, but because we gave ourselves space for flexibility, other miraculous things happened.  We printed enough medals to put one in each 2nd grade class so that now students can take turns in their classroom holding or wearing the medal, and we also sent some to Flipgrid headquarters in Minneapolis, MN.

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Now, Taylor’s 3D creation is hanging in Minneapolis with Flipgrid’s many other awards.  How miraculous is that?

The Flipgrid team proudly displays their Barrow Peace Prize medals along with their numerous other awards.

It is stories like these that remind me of the importance of slowing down and being flexible.  Planning is still crucial, but I’m reminded that I shouldn’t plan so much that it hinders the amazing things that can happen when we let go of control and see what happens.  I encourage you to give it a try.

September 11th: A Global Perspective

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Each year our 5th graders take an entire day to explore the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  Each year, the students become more and more removed from the topic because they weren’t even born at the time of the tragedy.  The events of September 11 and the impact they had on our war on terrorism are part of the 5th grade social studies standards, but we also spend a great deal of time at our school on social emotional learning and how we support one another in a community.

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Each year I write a blog post about how we teach September 11th, and each year there is a new addition or a new angle in which to explore the day.  This year, students opened the day in their classrooms by talking about everyday heroes.  They shared where their own families work and how each of us can be an everyday hero.

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Then, students split into 4 groups and rotated through 4 experiences every 30 minutes which were facilitated by me and the classroom teachers.

Experience 1:  Haiku poetry.  With Ms. Mullins, students learned about the unlikely heroes of the day including dogs.  They studied the poetry form of haiku and how a brief 3-line poem with 17 syllables can magically express a feeling or an image.  They focused their haiku on heroes.  They didn’t have to specifically write about the heroes of 9/11, but many chose to.

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Experience 2:  Response to tragedy from afar.  With Ms. Selleck, students looked at how people around the country and the world responded to the tragic events of 9/11.  It was a time that people wanted to take action and do something to help.  Children wrote letters, drew pictures, and made cards.  The Maasai people of Africa offered 14 cows as a gift for America.  Ms. Selleck shared Carmen Agra Deedy’s story 14 Cows of America and students considered how people who weren’t even in our country wanted to help.  This posed an interesting question of how we might respond to the tragedies taking place every day in other countries.

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Experience 3:  Heroes of 9/11.  There were so many heroes that stepped forward on 9/11 and many of those heroes lost their lives in the process.  At this experience, students took a look at many example of heroes and read the story Fireboat by Maira Kalman.  Students learned about this old fireboat first launched in 1931 and how it was called to duty on 9/11 to help pump water to fight the fires.  Students designed a drawing to represent the many heroes that took action on 9/11.

Experience 4: The events of 9/11.  This is the most sensitive of the experiences for students because we all react differently to seeing the tragedy of 9/11.  Over the years, I’ve developed a pathfinder of sites that explore 9/11 from multiple angles.  There are interactive timelines, eyewitness accounts, actual video footage of the day, oral histories of memories from victims’ family members, virtual tours of the memorials, and cartoon videos explaining the events in kid-friendly language.  We start with a video:

This video frames that on 9/11 we remember but we also take action to create good in the world.  I invite students to view the various resources and reflect on what they might do to create good instead of evil.  At the bottom of the pathfinder there is a padlet where students can record their actions that they want to take.  During this experience, I always tell students that they don’t have to watch any of the videos.  They can also take a break at any moment if the tragedy just becomes too much to handle.

This year, 2 new pieces were added to this experience.  First, Gretchen Thomas, a UGA teacher in instructional technology, brought one of her #EDIT2000 classes to support students.  This was a piece that I’ve always felt was missing from the pathfinder experience.  September 11th is such a heavy topic, and I do worry about how kids are processing the information.  With these UGA students, we were able to pair every 5th grader with a UGA student to have reflective conversation about each website, video, and story that students experienced.  UGA students shared their own understanding of 9/11 as well as their own memories of being in elementary school when it happened.


I’ve also been thinking a lot about global thinking, global collaboration, and global perspectives.  This year, I decided to make a Flipgrid well in advance of today.  Through social media, I’ve been sharing the Flipgrid in the hopes that multiple people will share their own perspectives of 9/11.  While there wasn’t an overwhelming response to share stories, the stories that were shared were powerful.  The students in Gretchen Thomas’s class shared their own memories of being in elementary school at the time.  These stories included very personal connections to the tragedy such as family members who were in New York on the day of the tragedy and a student coming into New York on a plane from another country and being diverted to Canada.  Several librarians stepped up to share stories as well.  Beth Miller of Georgia shared her story of working in the World Trade Center during the bombing in the 1990’s and how she had family and friends who were in the towers on 9/11.  Her family made it but several friends did not.  Elissa Malespina of New Jersey shared the story of her husband being in New York on 9/11.  He was on one of the last trains coming into the city.  It was chilling to think how many people have been affected by 9/11 in very personal ways.  Even if you don’t have a personal connection, there are many stories about where people were when the tragedy happened.  I wish that I could talk about every story on this Flipgrid because each one is meaningful in its own way.  Please take time to listen to these stories and feel free to add your own.

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This Flipgrid was a part of the pathfinder but it was also a place that students recorded their own thoughts at the end of the day.  Students spent some time reflecting in classrooms.  Then, they came out into the 5th grade hallway with iPads to record their reflections on the Flipgrid.  Another of Gretchen’s UGA classes came to assist with this process.  I had instructions typed up with the Flipgrid code and we got as many students recorded as possible at the end of the day.  Students loved collaborating with students from UGA to create their videos.

I think that this project has such potential for a global collaborative project.  What would it be like if students in another country shared the tragedies taking place in their own countries?  What would happen if our students in the  US considered how they could respond to the tragedies taking place in other countries?  What are people’s perspectives on 9/11 from other countries around the world?  What do everyday heroes look like around the globe?

My hope is that this project can continue in some way this year.  If it doesn’t, I hope that next year’s layer that gets added on is developing a more global perspective on tragedies around our world and how we respond to those tragedies as a global society.


Goal 4: Supporting the Reading Habits and Curiosities of Students with Wandoo Reader

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Lindsey Hill, educator superstar from Evanced Solutions, visited our library to help us with goal 4 for the library this year, “Supporting the reading habits and curiosities”.  In fact, this goal is so important that it is a part of our school improvement plan.  We believe that one of the best ways to become better readers is to read, read, read.  More importantly, we believe that finding books that we are interested in that match us as readers is an essential part of building stamina as a reader.  This year we are piloting a tool called Wandoo Reader to see how it supports us in tracking our reading habits and curiosities.  This tool is still in development for schools so we are figuring out what works well and what needs to be adjusted.

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Wandoo reader is a “game and a reading tracker”.  It follows the story line of a robot who stumbles into a library but is low on power.  In order for the robot to power up, the robot needs kids to read books.  Students read books or really anything of their choosing.  In the online reading log, students submit the reading material title, amount of time read, and whether or not they finished reading the material.  Each time they log reading, they earn credits which allows them to purchase parts to the robot.  There are over 8,000 combinations of parts, so it’s pretty difficult for students to ever be truly “finished”.  Wandoo Reader also allows the administrator to setup incentives or prizes as well as secret codes for completing various challenges.

Our goal for Lindsey’s visit (and next week) was to get all of our 3rd-5th graders setup with accounts in Wandoo Reader.  Lindsey and I met with many classes.  I kicked off each session by sharing the news with students that we are the only school in the world currently using Wandoo Reader.  I wanted to emphasize the potential in this.  I brought in a conversation about empowering student voice in this opening (goal 3 for this year).  Students have an opportunity to test out a tool, figure out what they love, get frustrated with what doesn’t work, and point out what they just don’t like.  Each observation or failure that they make goes directly to Evanced Solutions for consideration in improving Wandoo Reader for future schools, so our student voice really matters and makes a difference.

Lindsey did a demo of what Wandoo Reader would look like once students registered.  She show them how to log their minutes, how to earn credits, and how to purchase a robot part.

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Then, we started the long process of getting students registered.  It didn’t take us long to discover that this process is not quite ready for schools and will need some adjustment.  Each student had to create a username, password, confirm password, and select the difficulty level for the game.  Then, students had to type my email address to send an email confirmation.  Each email had to be clicked on to activate each student account before they could proceed.  Bulk uploading is already in development and it is essential for schools to have this feature because the wait time students felt while I clicked on each email was too long.

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Once students have accounts activated, Wandoo Reader takes them through a tutorial which reveals the story line of the game and shows students the different buttons they will click to log reading, purchase parts, build a robot, etc.  This tutorial is text-only for now.  Some students read every word, others clicked through without reading at all, and others really tried to read but got frustrated without the support of audio or an adult’s help.  Again, this was an area where students and teachers offered feedback about their experience and observations and would really love to see an audio feature or simpler text.

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After the tutorial, students come to another screen where they have to put in their name, birthday, zip code, gender, and select their teacher.  There was a lot of learning here for students because it revealed that most students had no idea what a zip code is.  It was a great lesson, but it did slow down the registration process.  Our suggestion for this page was to cut out much of this page.  The essential information is the student name and the teacher.  These are the two pieces that will be used the most when running reports for data from Wandoo Reader.

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Once students made it through registration, the fun began.  Students practiced logging some books that were recently read, earned points, and started building robots.  Every student logged “Wandoo Reader” as a book if they read the tutorial.  There were smiles all around as each robot looked a little bit different than the next.  I loved how this feature gives students a sense of personalization, which is so important to students.  Once kids got into the program, we heard things like:


Students were really engaging in goal 1 from the library this year, “dreaming, tinkering, creating, and sharing”.  Of course, some students started testing the system to see how many points they could earn for more parts.  We can always clear that out through the administration portal, but they had permission to tinker.  They figured out how things worked, how things didn’t work, and also revealed to us what Wandoo Reader might need in order to focus kids on the true goal of the tool which is increasing student reading ability.

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Students were so proud of their robots

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We closed our time by talking about the importance of the data that Wandoo Reader will produce for our school.  I gave specific examples.  For example, if I see that a student clicks “still reading” on multiple books and never clicks “finished reading”, it might reveal to me that the student isn’t finding a good match for reading.  If a student reads the exact same book over and over, it might reveal to me that I need to have a conversation with that student to find similar books to the trusted favorite.  If I notice that several students are reading a lot in a particular genre, it might reveal to me that I need to purchase more of that genre for our library collection.  The list could go on and on because the data that Wandoo Reader can produce for me as the librarian as well as for classroom and collaborating teachers is something we have never had access to in a single location shared across the school.  If kids use it with “fidelity” as our superintendent says, then we can start to notice and really pay attention to the amount of time that our students are spending reading.  If we want to close the achievement gaps in reading, then one of the most important steps is getting the right books in kids’ hands and giving them time to read and have fun with that reading.  Wandoo Reader has great potential for this.

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Ms. Spurgeon record feedback for Evanced while supporting a student

Looking back over the day, there were many frustrating moments in the registration process.  In fact, there were times that it was that level of frustration where you just want to say “no thanks” and move on.  For students, there were moments where meltdowns, shut downs, and giving up could have happened.  However, the thing that sticks out to me most about the day is that there weren’t any tears.  Not a single student gave up.  I won’t pretend that they didn’t get frustrated because they did.  However, it is more important to me to see what they did with that frustration and it makes me ask “why?”.  Why didn’t they crawl under tables, cry, close their computer screens, or say I don’t like this?

I can’t prove why at the moment, but I can’t help but wonder about the library goals for this year.  We began each session by giving students permission to tinker and fail (goal 1 dream, tinker, create, and share).  We established a sense of purpose by helping them realize that their failure and feedback was contributing to the greater good of the world (Goal 2 global thinking & collaboration).  We empowered them to notice what wasn’t working as well as what they loved and share that into Lindsey’s recorder to take back to the developers (Goals 3 empowering student voice).  We talked about reading multiple kinds of text and logging everything and even gave them permission to log Wandoo Reader as a book (Goals 4 supporting reading habits).

Wandoo Reader Kickoff (15) Wandoo Reader Kickoff (21)

When I started the day, I really didn’t plan for every library goal to be evident in this one lesson.  As we moved through the first session, it became very clear to me that I needed to be transparent with students about the multiple layers of why we were using Wandoo Reader.  When I did that, the library goals naturally came to life because they are a part of my thinking every day.  If I can continue to replicate experiences like today, I feel like our students will continue to develop perseverance and stamina as well as feel like their voice matters in our school as well as the world.

Now the students who are setup are ready to start logging everything they read and building robots.  I told them to not worry about what they have read in the past but instead start with what they are reading right now.  Many will probably log minutes this weekend by visiting our Symbaloo page where we keep all of our resources.  Others will start logging minutes at school next week.  Regardless, the task now is to continue to tinker for a bit until we all figure out the best process for having kids log their minutes.  I will also follow up with teachers to see how they are feeling about Wandoo Reader and see what our next steps really are.

bar   CCSD Start Page

Even with the frustrations of registration, I feel like we all gained so much from this day to support us throughout this school year.  Thank you Evanced for this opportunity, and we can’t wait to see the changes to Wandoo Reader based on what was learned from these first student users.

Developing Library Goals to Carry Into Every Collaborative Meeting

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Last year, a book impacted my life, my library program, and found its way into so many conversations with students, teachers, and librarians.  “Expect the Miraculous” came to be our mantra in the Barrow Media Center thanks to Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.  It was all thanks to p. 130-131.

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This summer, as I sat down to develop our library program goals for the 2014-2015 school year, that mantra of expecting the miraculous everyday was still a big part of my thinking.  However, this summer I carried so much more with me as I reflected on goals.

I had my experiences and conversations with the #Wandoo5 at Evanced Games in Indianapolis.

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I had the moonshot thinking and action plan of the Google Teacher Academy and becoming a Google Certified Teacher.



I had the Invent to Learn Workshop with Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager.

Photo credit: Sue Levine


I had numerous experiences at the ISTE 2014 conference including a zombie fighting keynote from Jennifer LaGarde, empowering talks from George Couros and Todd Nesloney, and inspiring keynotes from Ashley Judd and Kevin Carroll about the importance of each child’s story and the importance of play.

The more I reflected on my summer professional learning experiences the more I realized that I wanted this year’s goals to be different.  In the past, I’ve made big goals about developing the participatory culture in our library, but I’ve also made specific goals about the collection.  While the collection is important, it is not my primary focus for the library program.  I was reminded of a question in Jennifer LaGarde’s keynote about the Dewey decimal system and her answer of “who cares”.  Who cares if I have specific goals about the library collection?  What cares if the 300’s have the recommended number of books?  Who cares what the average age of the biographies is?  The heart of the program isn’t the physical collection.  The heart of the program is the students, the teachers, the families, and the community.  The heart of the program is the opportunities that they have through the library.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m abandoning the collection or that I don’t have goals about the collection.  It’s just that my primary goals of the library aren’t about the collection.

I want goals that I can carry with me into every collaborative meeting that I attend.  I want goals that I can put up on the walls of the library and add tangible evidence throughout the year of how they are impacting the students, teachers, and families in our school.  I want goals that support our school and district goals as well as reflect what is being talked about on a global level.

This week, I will share these goals with our faculty during pre-planning, but they’ve already faced their first test.  During our first day of pre-planning our principal set the stage for our year.  I must say that it was one of the most inspiring opening days that I’ve ever been a part of because it wasn’t filled with duties and responsibilities, mandates, and daunting changes.  Of course, all of those things  will be present this year, but our principal chose to focus on how we can value each child’s story, how we can add to and enhance that story by what we offer at school, and how we can develop a vision and mission for our school that represents what we truly believe in education.  As I listened and as I talked with other teachers, I was already carrying my goals with me, and I must say that I felt really good about the 4 goals that I’ve chosen.

These are the goals that are based on the themes that consistently surfaced in all of my reading, professional learning, conversations, and reflections.

Goal 1:  To provide students, teachers, and families opportunities to dream, tinker, create, and share

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I chose these verbs carefully because I think that the order matters.  So often, we feel the time crunch in education and I think we often jump to having students make something with so many detailed requirements that they don’t have time to dream about what they hope they could make or have time to mess around, fail, and learn from those failures.  As I plan projects with teachers this year, I want to intentionally plan spaces for students to pause and wonder and have time to explore before they actually create a final product that is shared with an authentic audience.  I want us to think carefully about how we “show our work” just as Austin Kleon outlines in his books.  He says, “If your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.”  I’ll be thinking carefully about how we give students opportunities to create and also how they share their process as well as their final product.

Within this goal, I have subgoals about the number of large-scale projects I will do with each grade level, the development of our library makerspace, the collaborative relationships with our community makerspace and tech startup, and embedded digital citizenship.

Goal 2:  To engage in global thinking and global collaboration

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I can’t even count the number of times that global thinking and collaboration came up this summer.  I feel like so many people around the world are primed and ready for this endeavor during the upcoming year.  Last year, our library was more connected than it has ever been through authors, guest speakers, reading events, and peer feedback through Skype and Google Hangouts.  Even though we felt connected, most of our work was projects or single connections.  I would love to see global thinking and collaboration become more evident in what we do through long-term collaborative relationships around the globe and authentic questions and projects that matter to the world.  Within this goal are the many networks that I will be a part of this year including GlobalTL, Connected Classroom, Skype in the Classroom, and my Twitter PLN.  I’m inspired by the work of Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano and will look at her work as we plan this year.

As teachers and I plan this year, we will ask ourselves how we are being global thinkers and how we are connecting our students beyond the walls of our school.

Goal 3:  To empower student voice


When I thought about this goal, I was reminded of many stories shared by George Couros at ISTE including the story of a little boy who made a video where he overjoyed by getting one “like” on a social media post.  I was reminded of Todd Nesloney sharing about his math fair and how he asked students to “wow” him by showing their math knowledge.  Students did more that “wow” him.  They shared their passions in life, involved their families, and were empowered.  I was reminded of how we all want to be heard and feel like we’ve made a difference.  As I plan with teachers this year, I want to ask how we are empowering each student by allowing them to share their passions and feel that their voice is heard.  In the library, I will continue to explore this as well by giving students opportunity to document our year, make decisions about library resources, share their passions through contests and displays, pass on their expertise through co-teaching experiences, and listening closely for opportunities I don’t even know about.

Goal 4:  To support the reading habits and curiosities of students, teachers, and families

It’s no secret that the more you read the better reader you become.  You of course need to have the skills and strategies to accompany that time commitment.  You also need access to reading that matters to you.  This year I want to be more intentional about supporting reading curiosities to match students, teachers, and families to the kinds of stories and information they are looking for.  I also want to be more intentional about documenting that commitment to reading.  Our library is not the only source of reading materials, so I want to continue to build a collaborative relationship with the public library, local bookstores, and other community resources to all work together toward a common goal.

This year, we will explore an Evanced tool called Wandoo Reader.  This tool will give students a portal for documenting their reading lives through tracking book titles and minutes read.  Along the way, there will be challenges issued to students, and within Wandoo Reader, they will earn pieces to a robot that they will customize.  I hope that this tool will offer a level of engagement for tracking reading as well as encourage students to spend more time reading in multiple ways from multiple locations.



Our planning will begin this week and I look forward to carrying these goals with me, trying them out, and see what miraculous things happen this school year.

What are YOUR library goals?  I invite you to think about them in new ways and share.