West Georgia RESA Summer Camp for Library Media Specialists

west ga resa camp

It’s summer. Educators have the summer off, right? While on paper it may seem that educators have two months off, most of us continue to develop our professional lives and dream and plan for the upcoming school year. I’m excited to join media specialists from around Georgia and neighboring states at West Georgia RESA on June 20 from 8:30-3:30 for a summer camp for media specialists.  I’m so thankful to West Georgia RESA for providing this opportunity to librarians around the state who often don’t have professional learning targeted directly at them. Registration is still open and costs $65 for RESA members and $85 for non-members.

What will we do together? Here’s a look at our approximate schedule for the day.

8:30-9:30 Opening presentation/Q&A Empowering Student Voice.  We will set the stage for what it means to empower the voices of our students as well as think beyond the walls of our own schools.

9:30-9:45Break

9:45-11:00 Tools for collaborating, crowdsourcing and sharing. Disruptus game. sharing tools crowdsourced by us all and thinking about how to disrupt their uses.  There are so many amazing tools out there, but we will use this time to think about tools that will allow us to crowdsource information and collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously to create classrooms that are part of a global community.

11:00-11:30 Harness social media and develop your own PLN.  We’ll answer any questions about social media and look at how social media allows us to show our work, connect to opportunities, and empower all the voices in our library community.

11:30-12:30 Lunch

12:30-2:00 Makerspace Exploration. Hands-on exploration and a look at my own makerspace, how it’s funded, and how it functions

2:00-2:15 Break

2:15-3:15 Goals that Matter. Time to talk about goals and set some short and long-term goals

3:15 Final Q&A

We will of course be flexible and take into consideration the needs and requests of the group as we spend time together. Join us in Grantville, GA and bring your wisdom to share with the room. See you there!

Students and Vendors: Meeting with Avid Bookshop

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Our book budget students have continued to meet with vendors to spend our $5,000 James Patterson Partnership grant.  They have gone through a long process to create a survey, survey students, analyze data, set goals, and meet with vendors to create consideration lists.  They met with Jim Boon of Capstone Press and Gret Hechenbleikner of Gumdrop books.  Students have just finished meeting with their final vendor, Avid Bookshop.

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We love working with our local independent bookshop.  They are always willing to come into the school or Skype in to share books with us for projects.  Will Walton, author and bookseller, came in to do book talks with our 3 small groups of book budget students.  Each grade comes in separately for 30 minutes, and each group picks up where the previous group left off.

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We pulled up our goals on the screen so that Will could use them as a talking point with students.  He brought some Advance Reader Copies of books that might meet our goals but also offered his own knowledge of books that matched many of our goals such as graphic novels, scary, and humorous stories.  As Will talked, I was in charge of creating a Google doc of the books so that students could look back at them later.

One of the things that I absolutely loved as Will was talking was how our students were getting hooked on the books he was talking about.  There was an immediate trust of Will, and several students found a book that they personally wanted to read.  He graciously handed out some the ARCs and told students to read them and pass them on to someone else.  He also encouraged students to come in and visit Avid Bookshop.  Several requested that he write down the address of the shop since they had never actually been inside.

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Will also started thinking of certain authors and series and going onto the shelves of our library to find them.  He handed out several of our own books and students checked them out to read.  He really reminded me of the importance of book talks and how I really need to be doing this more than I am!

After Will left, we continued to work on our Avid list.  I email it to Janet Geddis and the Avid team.  They will now check the list to make sure all of the titles are available, and they will send us a quote to help us narrow down our list to what we will actually purchase.  Students have two more meetings before the holidays, so we  hope we can fine tune all 3 of our lists to match our $5,000 budget.

Students and Vendors: Meeting with Gumdrop Books

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Our student book budget team is still hard at work compiling consideration lists to match their goals.  Today, they met as grade levels with Gret Hechenbleikner from Gumdrop Books.  This year, we are using 3 vendors for our purchasing.  Students already met with Jim Boon from Capstone Press, and they will meet with Will Walton from Avid Bookshop later this week.

Our process with Gumdrop was slightly different than Capstone since Gumdrop doesn’t have a scan to cart feature or a catalog.  Instead, Gret brings a selection of books for students to look at.  Inside each book, she has list of the other books that are found in that same series.  Students can get a taste for what the book looks and feels like and consider whether they might like other books in that same series.  Gret brought multiple books that matched the goals that students had set based on our survey data.  I sent these goals to her a couple of weeks in advance.

Gret did a quick intro of what she had brought and told students about the lists inside each book.  She setup her computer and printer at a table and students started looking at all of the books.  She and I both walked around and talked with students about what they were looking at and asked them to consider whether or not students at our school would enjoy the book they were looking at.  When students found a book or set of books they wanted to add to our consideration list, they took it to Gret at her computer.  She was able to pull up the complete series on her computer, check to see if we already had the book in our collection, and add it or a set of books to our consideration list.  When books came up that we already had, Gret and I asked them to think about whether we might need an additional copy.  Most of the time students said no, but they did decide to add another Frozen drawing book to our list.

Every 30 minutes a new group of students came to meet with Gret.  We even had a few random students who dropped by the library to check out books who offered their own feedback.  When all students were done, Gret printed a master list for us to talk about when we meet our budget.  She will also email me a PDF of the list that I can manipulate.

I always love this process of meeting with vendors because I put all of my trust in the students.  Even when a vendor may ask me about things I want to add to the collection, I remind them that this is completely up to the students.  I’ll do my purchasing with other money and other lists.

Students have quite a job to do next week.  We currently have 2 different lists which total more than $3,000 each and we have one more vendor to meet with.  Our $5,000 budget, which is a grant through the James Patterson Partnership, will definitely not be enough to purchase all that they want, so some tough decisions will have to be made.  This is all an important part of the process.

 

New Year’s Resolutions: The Barrow 2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Barrow Reading Challenge   Google Docs

One of the new traditions at our school is to hold a schoolwide assembly when we come back from winter break.  This assembly focuses on goal-setting.  The new year is often a time to make resolutions, but in the education world it is a time to check in with the progress made in the first half of the year and think about what we strive to accomplish in the second half of the year.  Last year, I invited all of our students, teachers, and families to join me in “expecting the miraculous”.  We created a Flipgrid where we shared our expectations for 2014 and “expect the miraculous” because a common mantra in our school.  My principal asked if I would once again share something at this assembly.  I wasn’t quite sure what to share at first, so I spent some time thinking about the goals for the library that I established over the summer.  One of those goals is to “support the reading habits and curiosities of students, teachers, and families.  I’ve done several things so far this year to support this goal.  We’ve held 2 author visits, a storybook celebration, Polar Express Day, a picture book month challenge, and a picture book smackdown.  However, I feel like I haven’t done something that really encourages reading a variety of texts for students, teachers, and families.

Barrow 2015 Reading Challenge

As I was pondering, I was reminded of something in my Facebook feed about Mark Zuckerberg’s new year’s resolution.  Each year he “takes on a challenge to broaden his perspective and learn something about the world beyond his work at Facebook.”  This year, a crowdsourced list helped him decide on his resolution.  He will choose a new book to read every other week and post about his learning on Facebook.  His selections will have “an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.”

I thought this idea would make an interesting challenge for our students, teachers, and families.  What if we invited students, teachers, and families to choose a reading goal for themselves?  Maybe it could be something they want to learn more about.  Maybe it could be about selecting books from a genre that they haven’t tried.  The goal would be completely up to them.

The second piece of Zuckerberg’s goal is a frequency of reading, so I wondered what it would be like to invite students, teachers, and families to choose a number of books to read across the next 3 months of school or a goal for how often they might finish a book.

The 2015 Barrow Reading Challenge was born.  I created a log that explained the challenge.  I made 2 versions.  One could be copied to hand out to our prek-2nd grade students who do not have 1 to 1 computers.  The second version could be digitally shared with students.

Since our 3rd-5th grade students are 1 to 1, I setup a Google Classroom and sent an email to all students inviting them to join the classroom if they wanted to participate in the challenge.  Once students join, I will assign the Google doc reading log to all of them so that they have their own copy to edit and turn in by April 1st.

2015 Barrow Reading Challenge   Google Docs challenge

In addition, our principal will email the digital copy of the reading log to all families on her listserv and I will copy additional paper copies to have on hand in the library.

Slideshow

I made a slideshow to show students, teachers, and families at our assembly.  It includes slides on the story of where this challenge came from as well as the details.  I hope the assembly will get the whole school excited about participating.

Along the way, I hope to spark some conversations about what we are reading within the Google Classroom as well as offer opportunities for all students, teachers, and families to talk about their reading through tools like Flipgrid, Padlet, and our library glass board.

Once the challenge ends, I hope people will consider continuing their challenge through the year.  There will of course be some rewards beyond accomplishing your goals.  Participants who turn in a log will receive a certificate, a bookmark, and be entered into a drawing for lots of new books and anything else I can round up over the next 3 months!

I can’t wait to see  what happens.  We will continue to expect the miraculous, and I hope to see lots of people join in the challenge and fun.

Connected Librarians: Eyes Wide Open & America Recycles Day

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One of my goals this year in our library is to foster global thinking and global collaboration.  To connect with these types of opportunities for our students, I seek out connections on Twitter as well as in Google Plus communities such as GlobalTL and Connected Classrooms.  I also offer opportunities within the projects taking place in my own school for other people around the world to join in.

This summer, I became involved in a conversation with Joyce Valenza, Shannon Miller, and Paul Fleischman about how books could live beyond the closing of the cover.  What if a book inspired us to take action in the world?  What would those actions look like around the globe?  How could they be documented?  How could they be shared? What would it look like if the author engaged in conversations about the actions being inspired by the book?

This September, Paul Fleischman’s book Eyes Wide Open: Going Beyond the Environmental Headlines was published.  It’s a different kind of book because it doesn’t give our young people a prescriptive list of answers to solve the environmental problems of the world but instead to take an inquiry stance.  It inspires our young people to listen closely to the environmental stories being shared about our world and to uncover stories of their own.  It calls our young people to take action on those world problems and realize that even at a young age they can make a difference in our world.

Joyce Valenza wrote a great post about the book.  In it, she included Paul’s voice about his book.

About Eyes WIDE Open:

Paul Fleischman 300x225 Eyes Wide Open: A proof of concept for sustaining the conversation around booksWe’re living in an Ah-Ha moment. Take 250 years of human ingenuity. Add abundant fossil fuels. The result: a population and lifestyle never before seen. The downsides weren’t visible for centuries, but now they are. Suddenly everything needs rethinking–suburbs, cars, fast food, cheap prices. It’s a changed world.

Eyes Wide Open explains it. Not with isolated facts, but the principles driving attitudes and events, from vested interests to denial to big-country syndrome. Because money and human behavior are as important as molecules in the environment, science is joined with politics, history, and psychology to give altitude on this unprecedented turning point. It’s a time of bold advances and shameful retreats, apathy and stunning innovation.

What better time to have our eyes wide open?

An Eyes Wide Open Google Plus Community has been established to make connections for global collaboration around the book.  Paul Fleischman has also created a site to house headlines, projects, and conversations about the book.  He wants this to be more than a book that you read and close, but instead for it to be a book that inspires action in the world.

Also from Joyce’s blog, there’s a great list of ideas of how you might use Paul’s book with students.

What sort of reports might students contribute?
  • Take photos (and create a gallery) that document population rise or consumption levels or innovations being used to address these challenges.  Attempt to document how your eggs, milk, farmed fish, and meat are made.
  • Make a video describing a local citizen science project.  Document a plastic bag banning campaign, a local pollution issue, or your own attempt to go vegan for 30 days.
  • Interview someone in city government connected with water, transit, city planning, or emergency services.  Or a biologist, park ranger, or science teacher.  Or a religious leader whose church has taken a stand on the environment.  Or your state senator, state assembly representative, or an aide to your congressperson.  Or fellow students or neighbors to get a sense of how average citizens view the situation.  Google+ Hangouts might be a perfect venue for archiving these interviews!
  • Write a description of one of your area’s key issues and how it’s being dealt with.  Join with one or two others, each tackling one part of the project: research, interviewing, editing.  Would your local newspaper be interested in the result?
  • Do a survey of your city, finding out where your water comes from, how your electricity is made, where your trash goes.  Prepare to make many phone calls and to ask follow-up questions.  More fun with a friend.
  • Annotate local newspaper stories, adding commentary that lets us see how the global trends and mental habits described in the book are playing out locally.  Feel free to refine my thinking.
  • Remix media and create digital stories around an area of local interest.
  • Inspire a meme to invite continual, global reinterpretation around an environmental prompt
  • Submit a field report. Work prepared for school assignment is fine.  Take time to review and revise.  Once you’ve posted it on Google Docs, YouTube, or another platform that all can access, send a description to fieldreports@eyeswideopenupdates.com.  Include a bit about yourself, how you came to the topic, and a photo of yourself or something connected to the report.  If Paul finds it well done, he will add it to the roster, put a pin in the map, and maybe even give it a shout out in his blog.

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Connected librarians have a huge opportunity with this book and the many communities that are available to us.  We are the people within our buildings who work with every student, teacher, and family member within our school.  If we collaborate, then we connect our entire school communities with one another.

November 15 is America Recycles Day.  The week of November 10-14 would be a great week for us to begin to connect our voices with one another around an issue that really affects us globally.  Paul’s amazing book Eyes Wide Open could be a piece that we could use to spark conversations around the globe.  It could also be paired with a plethora of other picture books and informational texts on environmental action.  More than a conversation, our connections could push our young students to take action in our world, and those initial connections could lead to a continued connection between schools around the world in the name of environmental action.

Here’s what I hope to do:

  • Connect with schools throughout the week of November 10-14 via Skype or Google Hangouts
  • Read an environmental text together
  • Have each school identify and explain an environmental issue in our school or community.  For us, it will most likely be the amount of waste being thrown away in our classrooms.
  • Have each school exchange their issue and brainstorm possible next steps for one another.  Wouldn’t it be nice to hand your problem over to someone for a few minutes to see the problem through their eyes?  That perspective might be the very thing you need in order to take a next step in your problem.
  • Share our brainstorming with one another and document suggestions in a digital format such as a Google doc or Padlet.
  • Commit to reconnect at some point to share what actions we have taken, what has been successful, or what new problems have surfaced.

I invite you to connect with my students and also to post your own schedules and find your own connections via this Google Doc.

http://bit.ly/americarecycles14

Let’s do more than just connect our students for a day.  Let’s connect our students to work on an issue that has an impact on our world.  As part of Connected Educators Month, let’s start thinking of how we can connect our students in meaningful ways throughout the year and begin planning those connections now.

As you make connections, create action steps, and make an impact on your world, share it!

Eyes Wide Open hashtag: #ewopf

America Recycles hashtag: #americarecyclesday

GlobalTL hashtag: #globalTL

and don’t forget #tlchat

Empowering Student Voice through our Makerspace

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At our “Meet the Teacher” night back in August, several students raced into the library to tell me about project ideas that they dreamed up over the summer.  As soon as I heard their enthusiasm, I knew that one of my library goals, “To empower student voice”, was going to be an important one for this school year.  One student shared about his idea to design his own Skylanders and 3D print them.  Another wanted to create a set of model trains on the 3D printer.  Another wanted to explore the MaKey MaKey. and program things.  I told them all that we would figure out how to make this happen this year, but I needed some time to get the library going.

As usual, the start of the school year has been busy getting projects, lessons, and technology off the ground, so I had not gotten back to these students.  I just love when students feel comfortable to raise their voices.  I received an email a few days ago from two students that went something like this:

Dear, MR Plemmons

We would like to come to the makerspace once a week during recess if possible. We would love to use the makey makey to possibly control Sphero. If this is possible please email back.
I knew I needed to make this happen fast because I had already waited too long to let these guys start tinkering, so I responded back:
When is your recess and what day are you thinking of?  I want to make this happen for both of you.
And then they responded back with the day, time, and:
Thank you for giving us this opportunity.
The first day of tinkering was just awesome.  Within a matter of minutes, Kearn had the MaKey MaKey connected to Play Doh and was controlling a train simulator on the computer.  Ludwig controlled the horn and Kearn drove the train.  Kearn wanted to make a video to show what he had done, so we pulled out an iPad and made an impromptu video which he wanted to add to his Youtube channel.  He also started following my blog and even left a comment about how much he loves the makerspace.  Both students were completely independent and were perfectly capable of dreaming, tinkering, and making on their own.  I was available for support as needed, but they really just wanted a space to explore.  As they continue, I want to connect them with some experts that might mentor their ideas and curiosities, but for now, they just need to tinker.

This is what I’m talking about when I say “empower student voice”.  These two guys are full of energy and passion about making.  I am sure that they will figure out so many things that I couldn’t even imagine myself during the course of this year.  They willingly share their knowlege and expertise, and I’m sure that their tinnkering, failures, and successes will inspire and support many other student projects during the year.  When I see two students get so excited about learning like this, I can’t help but think about what other opportunties students need to spark their own passions for learning.  I hope that our makerspace is just one space that ignites students’ curiosities this year.

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:

and

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.