Student Book Budgets: The Final Lists

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It has been a long road to the final book lists this year, but our student book budget group has done it!  They’ve taken over $4,000 worth of books and narrowed it down to our final order.  In the last moments, they chose to take advantage of Capstone’s incentive right now which is to spend $1750 and earn 30% in Capstone Rewards.  This stretched our budget to almost $2300 for Capstone and $250 for Avid Bookshop.  Our list from Avid was not quite as long for this first time working with them, so it was easier for students to decide to go with the Capstone incentive.

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After lots of debate, we narrowed the list down one book at a time until our dollar amount matched our budget and we felt like the books we included matched our goals.  We all got to take a deep breath because the hardest part was done.

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Next, I got to share some great news with the students.  Each year, Capstone is a huge supporter of our project.  We do lots of sharing of our work and it has inspired many other libraries to give this type of project a try.  In turn, Capstone loves to celebrate the work of the students and our willingness to share the work of our process.  This year, Amy Cox offered the students a tremendous opportunity.  Since they had made such tough decisions about books, she wanted them to each have a chance to pick a book for the library that they personally wanted to include on the list.  It didn’t have to match a goal; it just needed to be a book that mattered to that student.  You should have seen how fast they started flipping through catalogs when I shared the news!

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I made a separate list in Capstone for this order and we started adding in books.  We saw books come back onto the list that had to be cut as well as books that students had longed for as they looked at catalogs.  There were hilarious books such as the Space Penguins series but also prolific books such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  We can’t thank Capstone enough for this special surprise for our students and library.  It means so much.  We are even going to put special stickers inside to mark that the books were donated by the 2015 Student Book Budget group.

During our final meeting before ordering, we were able to Skype with Karyn Lewis in Houston, Texas.  She was inspired by our long-standing project to try this with her students.  She also worked with her Capstone representative.  It was fun to have our group who was about to place an order talk with her group who is still in the midst of making decisions.  The students were able to take turns telling about our work so far.  We immediately noticed the connections that our students had with the students in Texas.  Some of the same types of books were popular in both states, and graphic novels were high on the list.

Then, we did a screen share and showed them our list.  Many of Karyn’s students noticed that we had some of the same books on our list as they were including on theirs.  Both groups of students also got to ask questions to one another.  They asked about things like how the surveys were done.  The Texas students noted some trouble getting responses due to testing and other school events, and we shared that we experienced some of the same problems.  We were able to share some strategies we used for getting more responses such as going to lunch and surveying people while they ate.

After we disconnected, I showed the students what would happen with their order at this point.  Amy Cox at Capstone shared a great video with me that shows just what happens to that order when it reaches the warehouse.  It was fascinating for all of us to see so many books and how they fill an order.

When students left, I proceeded to send off their orders to the appropriate places.  Now, we get to take a breath and wait for the fun day when the books all come in.

Thank you so much to the Amy Cox, Jim Boon, and the whole Capstone team.

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Also, a huge thanks to Will Walton and Janet Geddis from Avid Bookshop.

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Our project would not be the same without all of this support.

I can’t wait to see how this project continues to grow and inspire other.  Just today a library in New Jersey shared how they are trying out the project too.  The students were so excited to consider themselves teachers of schools around the country.

Student Researchers: Interviews Using Google Hangouts

The tools that we have in today’s libraries and classrooms are just amazing.  Gone are the days where you have to look for an expert in the local community that can leave his or her job long enough to come to a school to speak to a whole class or an individual.  While that is certainly possible, the collaborative tools we have online make the entire world our local community.

Today, a 4th grader came to the library to hold an interview with Joey Shea at Southface Energy in Atlanta.  Danny is doing an inquiry project for his 4th grade class.  He recently read a book about energy that made him very curious about how energy can disappear and what we might need to do in the future in order to conserve energy or find new ways of producing energy.  His teachers found Mr. Shea and began an email dialogue with him to setup a time to Skype or Google Hangout with Danny.  Danny worked on a list of questions, and I setup the technology side of things.  I communicated with Mr. Shea in a few emails to determine that we would use a Google Hangout.  I setup a Hangout on Air so that Danny could record the interview to refer back to in his researcher.

For 30 minutes, Danny setup in my office and talked with Joey Shea.  It was awesome.  Danny was the leader through the whole interview, and Mr. Shea even got a chance to ask him some questions about our school and his project.  I love that when students interview someone through Skype, Google Hangout, or Facetime that it doesn’t intrude very much on that person’s schedule.  I also love that students see the person in their own setting and often get to see parts of a career that couldn’t be carried into a school.

I don’t think that this happens often enough.  I hope that we will continue to find opportunities to connect young learners with experts in the world.  It empowers them to realize that they have a voice in seeking answers to their questions and it connects adults with the young learners of today to remind them of the upcoming generations and their curiosities.

Thank you to all of the teachers who help make these experiences happen and thank you to people like Joey Shea for taking time to connect.

Student Book Budgets: Building Wish Lists and Making Tough Decisions

narrowing (12)Our student book budget group is hard at work.  So far, they have made lists that total almost $4,000, but our budget is $2,000.  Isn’ t this the struggle that we all face with budgets?  How do you decide what to buy and what not to buy?

During our most recent session, we revisited our goals.  We decided based on our survey data to purchase books about

  1. Animals
  2. Sports
  3. Mystery
  4. Comics and graphic novels
  5. Action Adventure
  6. Horror/Scary
  7. Fantasy
  8. Humor
  9. “How to”
  10. Music
  11. Games/Video games

As we made wish lists, our excitement over so many wonderful books caused us to add several things to our list that really didn’t match our goals so we had to think about this.  Do we stick with our goals or do we give ourselves permission to buy whatever we want?  The general consensus was to stick to our goals but possibly have some extra additions here or there.

Since we are way over budget, we have a lot of work to do.  During the most recent work session, we divided the responsibilities.  We identified 3 things that needed to happen:

  1. Continue searching through the Capstone catalog for books that match our goals and adding them to the list
  2. Examine the current Capstone list to see what does not match our goal or what might need to be cut
  3. Continue searching for books that match our goals that could be purchased from Avid Bookshop

One group of students formed an independent group to work on the Avid list.  They used Avid’s website, Amazon, and Novelist to look for books that might be of interest.

The students in the Avid group accidentally lost part of a title on our list, so we consulted our friend Will Walton at Avid via Twitter.

The author of the book even jumped in on the conversation.

Another group of students worked with Mr. Coleman, a 4th grade teacher, to examine our existing list.  He was great at facilitating a conversation with this group.  Only one person at a time was in charge of the mouse to delete books from the list, but all students were engaged in conversation about the books.  As usual, it was heated at times and at other times there was quick consensus about a book.  They narrowed the list below $3,000, but they knew that another group was adding more books to the list.

I worked with the third group who each chose one of our goals and looked through the Capstone catalog for books that matched.  They once again used the easy scan feature to scan books into the list.  I had a great conversation with a student who was adding an animal book to the list.  She asked me, “Do you think this is a book that fits the nature category?”  It really seemed like she was just putting the book on the list because it matched instead of putting it on the list because she thought people would read it, so I asked her about that.  I asked, “Do you think this is a book that kids would be excited about reading?” She paused.  “Do you think this is a book that a teacher would assign someone to read?”  She said yes.  It was a good time for me to say that I strongly believe that the book budget group is a time for kids to buy books that they think kids will be excited about reading.  I can buy books that teachers can use or books that fill gaps in our collection at another time.  This budget is all about what students want.  She smiled and continued looking for a books that mattered to students.

At the end of our time, I don’t think we narrowed our cost at all, but we did get closer to finding books that matched our goals.  Our next step will be to look closely at our budget and the promotions that Capstone offers to consider what our budget really is.  With Capstone Rewards, we really have a lot more money because if you spend $1750 you get 30% in rewards.  This might help our decisions during our next meeting.

Why Do We Explore Space?: A Virtual Field Trip Opportunity

Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class has just amazed me across this year by how they have used a study of space to flow into so many of their standards.  They have written their own ebooks, composed music, written lyrics, researched multiple questions, and now they are coming up with a plan to help the people who want to go on a one way trip to Mars.  During the course of this study, an interesting question came up.  Why do we explore space in the first place?  It’s something we haven’t even considered during all of our research.

It came about because of an email that Ms. Kelly got about a virtual field trip to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

30 minute virtual field trip begins at 1:00 PM (ET) and is appropriate for all grades. Get a tour of a NASA facility and learn about the research being carried out into planetary exploration. Learn why it is important to explore the universe and how our knowledge of the universe has expanded due to the space programs. Understand the multitude of scientific practices involved in space travel, and see the application of many of these in the real world.

The virtual field trip is next Friday May 1, 2015 at 1PM EST.  It’s appropriate for all grade levels and it’s free!  All you have to do is register and you can even have students submit questions ahead of time.  http://www.discoveryeducation.com/Live/of-the-people-space-day-2015.cfm

Ms. Kelly wondered if we might explore the idea of space exploration a bit before students engage in the virtual trip.  I’m brainstorming about this right now, but I first wondered about putting the question out to more people.  I wonder what all of us think about why we should explore space or even why we shouldn’t.  I decided to make a Flipgrid.  Anyone can post a 90 second to this grid responding why we should or shouldn’t explore space.  I would love to have kid voices and adult voices from multiple perspectives to share with this Kindergarten class.

If you have a moment, reflect on the question and make a video.  If you have even more time, do this with your own students in the next few days.  If you don’t have time to make a video, consider sharing it with someone who might.

Why should we explore space? (or not explore space)

My thinking at the moment is that I will share these videos with my Kindergarten students as an opener.  We’ll take time to read some books such as The Planet Hunter or Moustronaut and reflect on the question ourselves.  Then, students will have a chance to add their own ideas to the grid along with the other voices.  http://flipgrid.com/#c6c0c1f0

Ms. Kelly and I never know where we are going to end up.  We just keep our minds open, look for opportunities, and give it a shot.  We usually find that our risk-taking leads to some miraculous opportunities for our students.

 

Can a Foodini 3D Printer Go to Space?: Empowering Student Voice in the Makerspace

Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class is continuing to explore how humans might one day travel to Mars and live.  You may recall that they spent a day in our makerspace exploring several tools that might help them in their research and inventing.

Students are now in the design phase of their project.  They have each thought about a topic that they want to focus on in relation to surviving on Mars.  Some have chosen topics like water, oxygen, food, shelter, robot exploration, and clothing.  They are continuing to research online and in books, but they are also taking time to think about their own dreams of what might be possible in 20 years when we might live on Mars.

A small group of students came to me in the library.  After a quick check in on topics, each student started sketching some designs on blank paper.  I walked around and listened to students describe their designs and asked follow-up questions or shared resources that I knew about.

One girl was focusing on food.  She wanted to create a machine that would dispense food as needed.  Since I knew the kids were familiar with our makerspace, I asked her what she knew about 3D printing.  It turns out that her brother is the very student who designed our Barrow Peace Prize medal, so she knew a whole lot!

I followed this discussion by telling her that there are many kinds of 3D printers including ones that print food.  She looked at me in disbelief, so we went to the computer to look for some information.  We came across the Foodini.  We read some information and then we watched a video about how it worked.

After watching the video, the student went back to her design and started drawing her own version of the Foodini.  She thought it would be great if we could take the storage containers of food into space, put them into the printer, and then print food as we needed it.

She was also very curious about whether a Foodini would work in space, so I said “why don’t we ask them?”  I pulled out my phone, opened twitter, and composed a tweet to Natural Machines (@NaturalMachines).  The student helped me write what to ask.

Later that day, we heard back from Foodini.

I thanked them for answering us back.

It was nice to know that there was a company out there willing to answer a question from a Kindergarten student, and it makes me wonder how many other opportunities are out there for our students if we just step up as the connector between the student and the company.  A Kindergarten student shouldn’t have a Twitter account, but the teacher or teacher librarian can harness the power of Twitter to make that connection for her.

I can’t wait to see what this student comes up with in the end, and I look forward to connecting even more students with the resources they need through my access to social media.

The Natural Side of Student Voice with Flipgrid

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Empowering student voice has become one of the goals in the library that I am most passionate about.  I love it when a student’s voice reaches out into the world, finds an authentic audience, and gets a response.  One of the tools that has been the most helpful in getting student voices out into the world has been Flipgrid.  In fact, we use Flipgrid so much that students ask why we aren’t using Flipgrid if we choose to use something else.  It is user-friendly for both the educator and the student.

Flipgrid Celebration (8) Flipgrid Barrow Peace Prize (7)

With your yearly Flipgrid subscription, you get 10 grids.  Think of your grids like your classes or your big topics.  I have a reading grid, math grid, science grid, etc.  Within those grids, you can ask unlimited questions with unlimited video responses from students up to 90 seconds each.  As soon as students press the submit button, there video is uploaded and live for an audience to view which means no extra work on the part of the educator to prep videos for viewing.

You can find multiple uses of Flipgrid within the posts on this blog.  It seems like we are always coming up with new ways to use the tool in our library.

Recently, some of the Flipgrid team visited my school to see what a day in our library is like.  Along the way, they saw ways that our students have a voice as well as ways that we are using Flipgrid.

The first of two videos has been released based on that visit.  I invite you to watch this short video about the natural side of student voice.  Share it with your network and consider how you can give students a voice within your library.

 

 

Creating Wish Lists with Capstone Press: A Next Step in Student Book Budgets

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Jim Boon from Capstone Press has been doing student book budgets with me since the beginning.  Each year things change just a bit, and Jim naturally adapts right along with me.  This year, we have our largest group of students working simultaneously so it gets noisy fast.  The most challenging thing is making sure that every voice is heard and that all members of the book budget group are engaged.  I love bringing in Jim because he masterfully listens to all students.  He makes connections with them and even remembers them from year to year if they have been part of the group before.  The students in turn have come to know him.  The returning students welcome him back and the new ones quickly learn why we bring him back every year.

Ahead of Jim’s visit, I email him some possible dates to visit.  We establish a time and he mails catalogs for all of the students to use on the day of his visit. Once we have our purchasing goals, I share those with him as well.  He sets up a big selection of Capstone books for students to look at that match the goals that they have set.  He even divides the books into 2 displays: fiction and nonfiction.

Jim does a very short explanation of what students have in front of them. He shows them how to look for books in the index and as well as how books a grouped together. He shows them that the displays might only have one book from an entire series that they can find in the catalogs. He shows them where to find prices for individual books as well as complete sets.  He shows them how each set of books has a barcode in the catalog that can be scanned straight into a wishlist on capstonepub.com  This scanning feature puts the entire series into the list, but then you can go in an uncheck the books that you don’t want to add.

Finally, Jim talks to students about current promotions that Capstone is offering that might stretch their budget even more. I love this part because it helps students think about how they might invest their money or how they might request extra money from me in order to take advantage of a promotion.  This discussion usually doesn’t happen on this particular day, but I always love seeing their wheels turning as they give me reasons why we should spend our money a certain way.

The fun begins when students leap into action. They take books from the display back to their tables and look through them.  They peruse the catalogs.  This is the point where it is hard to stay focused on our purchasing goals.  With a catalog of hundreds of pages, there are so many interesting books that don’t match what we said we were going to buy, and students easily slip into what they personally want to buy rather than what the whole school wants.  I don’t really worry about this very much during our first day with catalogs. Instead, I give a few reminders to think about our goals, but I know that we will revisit the entire list when we make cuts to match our budget.

As students find books that they want to add to the wishlist, they begin forming a line at my computer. I pull up a student book budget list on capstonepub.com and students scan the barcode in their catalogs.  We uncheck all of the books in the series that they don’t want to keep and then save the list.

At this point we don’t worry much about money, but when a student scans a series of 32 books and says that they want to add all of them, I do let them know how much all 32 books would cost.  Most of the time, the student is shocked and quickly narrows down to a few books that they really want to add.

Across an hour, students made a wish list with 161 titles totaling $3071.91.  Capstone is not our only vendor we are working with, so we are definitely going to have to cut some titles from this list.  We will meet 4 more times to add more titles, revisit our goals to see that they are all represented, and finally narrow our list down to the budget we have agreed upon.

We thank Capstone Press and Jim Boon for their continued support of his project.  We appreciate that this company listens to students as well as offers a rewards program that allows us to stretch our student budget even more.