Congratulations to the Flipgrid 2015 Graduation Voices Winners, Top Voices, and More

I was honored to be one of the judges in Flipgrid’s inaugural Graduation Voices contest.  Graduates of high school and college contributed their voices to two grids to complete the sentence, “To me, graduation means…”  Almost 200 graduates added their voices between the two grids, and I enjoyed watching all of them along with fellow judges Shannon Miller and Alec Couros. Congratulations to the two winners, Eliot and Jay.  They will each receive a new Apple watch.  You can read the full post on Flipgrid’s blog. I also send a huge congratulations to the other top voices on the grids.

Judges’ top choices for Graduation Voices 2015

High School

Watch Ami’s video here. Watch Anthony’s video here. Watch Ben’s video here. Watch Guillermo’s video here.  Watch Kyle’s video here.

College

Watch Abbie’s video here. Watch Alyson’s video here. Watch Jamie’s video here. Watch Liz’s video here.  To view all entries to the #grad15 grid, click here. Since I had the pleasure of watching every single video, I heard many standout voices.  Every video was special in some way, and some had me laughing out loud.  Graduation means so many things to so many people.  We all might think of it as closing one chapter and starting another, but most of us have other reasons we love graduation.  High school and college are a time to find yourself and further develop yourself as an individual.  Bravo to these students for letting their personalities shine through.  I want to recognize a few of the voices that made me smile in their own way.

Neil’s: I’m done with school!

You know you all want to binge watch Netflix and eat some junk food at 3AM.

How about the freedom to buy baked goods?

The end to regulated lunches?

Here’s to sleeping in!

Spread your wings and prepare to fly from sea to shining sea

Time to do whatever you want

The end to pointless homework

Getting to go home!

Get on board that train

I wish all of these graduates the best as they continue on in what life has in store for them next.  Go out and change the world!

Voices of Reading: Our Contribution to the GA Children’s Literature Conference

Meeting Patricia Polacco several years ago at the Children’s Literature Conference

This weekend is an exciting weekend in Athens, GA.  It’s the annual GA Children’s Literature Conference.  This conference always offers an amazing lineup of authors who share their craft with educators as well as spend lots of time autographing books.

I’m excited that the conference is really thinking about how to bring student voice to the attendees.  Giving students this authentic space to share their voice is not only empowering, it also centers all attendees (including the authors) on why we all do this work.

My students along with Anne McLeod’s students at Burney Harris Lyons Middle School collaborated on a video that we called “Voices of Reading”.  This video was played at the opening of the conference.

It’s fun to see colleagues already talking about the video at the conference.

We also worked together on a Flipgrid sharing our favorite books.  Many voices came together for this Flipgrid, and these voices will be played on a screen on the exhibit floor.

Click on the picture to hear lots of favorite books!

I hope that this conference continues to find ways to empower student voices.  This is definitely a step in the right direction.

Reflections on Google Teacher Academy #GTAATL

 

google-certified-teacherOn June 25 and 26, 2014 I had the honor of attending the Google Teacher Academy in Atlanta.  It was a long road to get to GTA.  The application process is a test in how well you can boil down your practice into the most concise wording and video that represents your innovation and reach.  The application is short with only a handful of questions that limit your response to 800 characters.  One of the most challenging parts of the application process is the video.  In one minute, you have to introduce yourself and show how you foster innovation in education as well as how you have a global impact.  I don’t even know how many hours it took me to craft a one-minute video, but I do know that the process forced me to really think about my practice.  I made multiple versions of the video and got feedback from multiple including Cat Flippen, #GTACHI.  Here’s how it turned out:

The wait to find out if I got into GTA was agonizing.  I won’t lie about that.  Even though I had IFTTT recipes setup to notify when the email came, I still stayed glued to my phone and computer because I was in a professional learning session on announcement day. Once the email came, things started happening fast.  The 35 were invited to a Google Plus community where we could begin connecting.  It didn’t take long for the collaboration to begin.  Here are just a few things that happened:

  • Jennifer Armstrong began making a Youtube playlist of our GTA videos

  • Jerry Swiatek made a Twitter list
  • I created a Google doc where we could begin crafting a shared blog post that we each could share in our own networks to introduce the 35 #GTAATL participants
  • Linda Humes and Corey Holmer started designing a t-shirt for us.  Corey’s design was ultimately chosen, but many people in the group contributed ideas.  Frank LaBanca ordered our shirts and had them all shipped to me in GA so that I could easily drive them to GTA rather than someone having to bring them on the plane

shirt

  • Renee Nolan organized a meetup for most of us on the night before GTA began to get to hangout together before GTA consumed our brains
  • Janna Gibson made a guide to Atlanta to introduce everyone to the food and sights to check out in Atlanta
  • And the list goes on

I loved this because it brought out one of the things that inspires me about collaborating.  We all have talents and expertise, and so many people stepped up to share their talents and passions with the group.

Finally meeting everyone face to face was so much fun.  We only knew one another from our profile pics, social media posts, and blog stories.  We all met at Marlow’s for dinner the night before GTA and spent time just having conversation and sharing the anticipation of what the next two days would bring.

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We arrived at the Google office and waited until the exact time to enter.  After checking in, we were immediately launched into the Google culture, which of course started with food.  We had a great breakfast before moving into our agenda.

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I won’t detail the entire agenda, but share some of the things that stood out to me along the way.

First, the planning team revamped the entire agenda, and we were the first GTA cohort to try out this new agenda.  This was exciting but also a little risky since it meant that we might not experience what we thought we were going to experience.  What I saw was that the agenda focused a lot more  on philosophy than on specific tools.  The idea behind this is that tools come and go and tools change, but if you have an innovative, risk-taking philosophy of teaching, then you adapt to new tools and environments as well as create entirely new environments for you and your students.

We watched the Moonshot Thinking video, which I had seen at a GAFE Summit.  It is always powerful no matter how many times I watch it.

I loved how this framed our entire GTA experience because it set the tone that we as innovators in education we need to be trying things that have never been tried and creating new tools and experiences for our students that stretch far beyond a “next step”.  I loved how this moonshot thinking and “solving for x” brought us into our first experience at GTA.

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This was probably my favorite “activity” that we did over the 2 days.  Prior to GTA, each of us submitted what we felt were our biggest challenges in education.  Those challenges were compiled into themes.  At our tables, we were randomly assigned one of the challenges.  Then, one of our team members had to spin a wheel filled with tech tools.  Our goal was to use this tech tool to address the specified challenge, and to make things interesting, we only had 5 minutes to make a decision.

Problems of Practice  PoP    Google Teacher Academy Resources

My group ended up with “lack of teacher training” paired with “Panoramio“.  Most of us in the group had never used Panoramio, which was perfect!  I felt like it put us in the shoes of our teachers who feel insecure when facing a new technology tool.  I was reminded of teachers who feel frozen when they face the unknown and want someone to just tell them exactly how a tool works before they will try it.  With the clock ticking, we didn’t have that luxury.  Instead, those of us that had used the tool began brainstorming how Panoramio could address teacher training.  Others, like me, frantically researched the tool to see what it was capable of.  At a glance, Panoramio is a collection of photographs uploaded by the community of users and embedded onto Google Maps by location.  You can browse the photographs by location or you can specifically search for topics of pictures.  For me, I was trying to figure out if you could tag images and search by tag.  From my own experience, I’ve seen the lightbulb go on so many times for a teacher when they see something put into practice in a classroom.  Sometimes all it takes to help a teacher feel “trained” enough to try something is just seeing what it looks like in a classroom.  I thought that if we could create a massive social media campaign for educators to upload images of their classrooms into Panormaio and tag those images by the topics that they showcased, then we could support teachers in “seeing” what that specific topic looked like in a classroom.  If we needed specific kinds of pictures uploaded to Panoramio, then we could be specific like pictures of students using social media in the classroom.  I added this thinking to my group, but I loved that others in my group had completely different ideas for how this tool could be used.  This exercise also reminded me that our focus can’t be on the tools.  Our focus should be on our students, teacher, families, and community along with the needs that they have.  There’s a whole range of tools that can support those needs.  If we push our thinking and try something radical, sometimes a tool that seemed like the most absurd idea for solving the challenge actually leads to something innovative.

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Our day was of course surrounded by snacks.  We had official breaks, but drinks and snacks were always within reach.

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Even breaks to the bathroom kept you learning and surrounded by Google culture.

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Throughout the 2 days of GTA, there was time for “inspiring ideas”.  These were short presentations from various members of GTAATL.  We submitted ideas before GTA and were selected by the planning committee to present.  I was the very first one to share, which was a bit intimidating.  I shared various ways that I empower student voice through Google forms as well as how Google forms can help you crowdsource information.

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Other rockstars included Chris Aviles, who shared how he gamifies his classroom.  He has created an entire story line that plays out with his students which even includes getting phone calls from game characters using Google Voice.  Amy Burvall shared how she used Google Plus to give her students a space to contribute to the classroom and crowdsource information.  She also uses this tool to connect people in her professional development sessions.  By doing this, people aren’t sitting passively in her sessions, but are instead, actively contributing during her session and beyond.  Genius!  Hearing from all of these amazing educators during this session was an energy boost during an exhausting day.  I was proud to be a part of this group.

One of the things that I hoped would happen was a preview of Google Classroom.  We heard about the process it took to develop Google Classroom.  I loved seeing a picture from an elementary teacher’s classroom where she had posted about 7 or 8 steps it took to turn in an assignment to the teacher.  This was one of the inspirations for Google Classrooms.  We had a chance to try out the interface and were all excited and blown away by the usefulness and simplicity.  With 35 innovative educators in one room, it didn’t take long for a range of questions to surface.  We definitely surfaced some barriers that people may face in using Classroom, but overall the buzz was one of excitement and eagerness to get this tool in our teachers’ hands.

Our lead learners

Our lead learners

The rest of GTA involved 4 rounds of explorations of various Google tools and themes.  We grouped ourselves into these rounds by common interests in the kinds of challenges we wanted to tackle in our action plans.

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We saw a lot of tools, but didn’t have time to use them very much.  Now that I’m away from GTA, I’m starting to look at what I saw and consider how these tools fit into what I may try in the library this year.  I’m already thinking about how Google Draw can be used as we connect with other schools via Skype and Google Hangout.  I wish that we had spent more time with the various map tools from Google because I think there is a lot of potential with those as well for global collaborations.  I’ll have to take time to do this for myself.

At the end of day one, we all became Google Certified Teachers.  We had a pinning ceremony and a celebration dinner.  It was a great sense of accomplishment, but it was only the beginning of the work and opportunities ahead.

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Day two was time for us to explore our own interests through an unconference as well as work on our action plans.  After GTA, it is an expectation that you create an action plan to facilitate change in education during the coming school year.  My focus is on global collaboration.  Seeing what students gain from connecting with authors, experts, libraries, and classrooms beyond our walls has convinced me that I need to develop even more opportunities for students to have these connections.  This year, I want connecting to be more than a one time thing.  I want to create content with students in other states and countries.  I want students to offer one another feedback and ask one another questions.  I want students to have an opportunity to create projects that matter to them and share those with a global audience.

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Amy Burvall inspired many conversations about hashtags and “showing your work”.

I had many important conversations during GTA about this project.  Amy Burvall and I talked a lot about hashtags and how tags are the “soul of the Internet”.  She helped me to think about how we track our work so that it continues to inform our next work.  We talked about the importance of sharing the whole process of a project and not just the final project.  This is the kind of thing that GTA does.  You may not get to know every single person at GTA, but you make connections with people that you know are going to continue to push your thinking well beyond the 2 days that you spend together.

Global TL logo

Now my attention turns to GlobalTL, a Google Plus community that was started by Joyce Valenza.  Now, I’m working along with Joyce and many other librarians to develop this community that will facilitate global connections.  I know that by connecting and collaborating with librarians, I am connecting my students and teachers with students and teachers around the world.  Librarians work with every student, teacher, and family member in the school.  I think it makes sense to think about how to create a community that connects people.  We don’t know exactly what will happen in the group, but we are going to shoot for the moon to foster global collaboration.

Google Teacher Academy has connected me with 34 other amazing educators, and I know I can call on them for any questions or roadblocks I face.  I’m also now connected to a global community of Google Certified Teachers who are actively supporting one another in their educational spaces.  I’m sure that GTA is only the beginning of a long collaborative relationship with some amazing global educators.

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Photo Credits: Danny Silva (@iteachag)

4th Grade Created an Augmented Reality Wax Museum using Layar and Multiple Digital Tools

IMG_3325Each year, our 4th grade creates a wax museum for their colonial period social studies standards.  Students research a person from that time, write and memorize a script, dress as that character, stand throughout the school, and give their speech multiple times to visitors.  This year the 4th grade team and I decided to try something different.  We wanted to create a digital wax museum and expand the standards beyond the colonial period to the entire 4th grade social studies standards. This new project would use the augmented reality app, Layar, to unlock all of the digital projects that students created about their person from history.  It would also be a collaborative project between 4th grade, art, and the media center.

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Updating this project was a big undertaking, but we created a process that I think can grow and expand next year.

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First, students came to the library and learned about the project.  I showed them various digital resources that they might use for their research including Pebble Go and our state Galileo database which includes Encyclopedia Britannica.  I showed them how they could search for websites within Destiny when they are logged in.

Wax Museum Research   Google Docs

Next, I showed them how they could create a double column table in a Google doc.  One side would be a space to copy and paste information from digital resources and the other side would be for putting the information into their own words.  I showed them how to use the Easybib add-on within Google docs to document where their information was coming from.  They loved this feature and so did the teachers.

Barrow Elementary  Wax Museum   4th Grade

Finally, students used a Signup Genius to sign up for their topics.  This made topic selection fast and teachers were able to give a final approval to the person that students signed up for.

After that, students started their research.  Most used their gathered facts to write scripts for various projects.

Wax Museum Project Options   Google Docs

Then, they all returned to the library to learn about their project options.  Students did not have to use technology to create their project, but they did have to use technology to document their project.  For example, if they made a physical poster, they had to use some type of technology tool to record some information about their poster using their script. Many digital tools were suggested to students, but students were welcome to find and try their own tools.  We suggested Chatterpix, Tellagami, and iMovie as main options. Students chose projects and continued working in class.

In art, students researched images of the historical events their person was involved in and created an image to serve as the trigger image for the Layar augmented reality app.  The images were created with water colors, pencils, crayons, markers, and various other tools.

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As images were finished, they came to me in the library so that they could be photographed and uploaded to Layar.  I also printed each photograph so that we had a uniform size picture to scan in the hallway.  This wasn’t necessary, but it was nice to have a smaller image to scan since some were large.

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Students made multiple kinds of projects to attach to their image in Layar.  Some chose to make gamis in Tellagami.  Because this app lets you make 30-second clips, some students chose to make multiple videos to upload to Youtube while others used iMovie to compile their videos.

Some students used Chatterpix to make a picture of their character talk.  Once again, they either created multiple files or compiled them.

Some students chose to do the traditional wax museum project of dressing up as your person, but this time, they filmed themselves and uploaded to Youtube.

 

 

A few students created unique projects that no one else attempted.  One student used Powtoon to make a Common Craft-like video about indentured servants.

Another student wanted to do an interview, so she filmed clips of herself as a news reporter asking questions and made response videos using Chatterpix.  Then, she used WeVideo to put them together.  Because the free version of WeVideo doesn’t upload to Youtbe, we had to do a screencast of her project in order to view on the iPad.

Another student used Songify to record a rap song about Martin Luther King.  We converted his file in Any Video Converter and put it into iMovie so that it could be uploaded to Youtube.

 

Once students had a video or link to their project, they emailed it to me to upload to Layar.  They could have done the uploading to Layar themselves but we wanted to test most of the Layar pages before we put them in the hall.  Many people helped students with the creation and uploading of their projects.  Many thanks to the 4th grade teachers, our grad assistant Carol Buller-McGee, our instructional tech specialist Todd Hollett, gifted teacher Heather Carlson, special ed teacher Haley Beaver, an EIP teacher Lee Rogers for assisting me with getting students videos uploaded and emailed.

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Students worked with me to connect their links in Layar, put them in right spots on the image, and test them out.  I went ahead and published our “campaign” in the Layer creator.  You have to “publish” before the images will work when they are scanned.  You can still add pages and links even after you have published.

Barrow 4th Grade Wax Museum 2014   Smore

We also uploaded all of the content to a Smore page so that families (and the world) could view the projects from home without Layar.

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The 4th grade team and art teacher displayed all of the art in the hallway.  Today, families were invited to stop by and view the gallery.  I rolled the iPads to classrooms and took headphones too.  Students came out with their families and showed off their projects and the projects of their friends. They showed parents how to open the Layar app, point the iPad at the image, tap the screen to let Layar scan the image, and watch the content magically pop up on the iPad screen. Several parents had already downloaded Layar on their phones too.  There was excitement in the air as families experienced augmented reality for the first time.  I overheard some of them saying how they wanted to go home and try it themselves.  Others were amazed by the variety of projects that students made.  I overheard conversations about social studies content but also conversations on how to use all of the tool that were needed to make this project happen.  I loved seeing the students taking a leadership role in sharing with their families how to use the technology that they use at school.

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Next week, classrooms will be invited to tour the gallery.  I think we learned a lot from this project.  One of the things that I loved most was how differentiated it was.  Some students created multiple projects for their person while others focused really hard on one project.  Students were able to showcase their strengths and interests, and I felt that every single student was fully engaged in this project.  I hope that others found value in this project as well so that we can continue and expand upon this type of experience for projects next year.

You can see all of the projects without Layar by visiting our Smore.

Also, take a look at what our augmented reality wax museum looked like in action today.

First Grade’s Fun Skype with Crabtree Co-creator, Jon Nichols

IMG_3166Our community amazes me.  Every year, new people within our school community step forward with ideas for our library program.  People share their talents, their connections, and their love of education.

This year, Rachel Gabara, a parent of a 1st grader, introduced me to a new book called Crabtree by brothers Jon and Tucker Nichols.  I’ll admit that it was my first time hearing of the book, but when I looked at the praise for Crabtree on the McSweeney’s website, I was floored.  Authors like Jon Klassen, Maira Kalman, Lemony Snickett, and Jon Agee all raved about the book.  I immediately ordered it from Avid Bookshop.  When I got it, I was raving about the book as much as the reviews.  It is jam packed with illustrations of all kinds of things.

Here’s the official trailer:

Crabtree loves to collect things.  The problem is that he has so much stuff he can’t find anything.  He begins to organize his collections of stuff in order to find his false teeth.  Each object on the page is labeled with its name, so kids are introduced to all kinds of tools and gadgets that they’ve probably never heard of.  It’s a great books just for the sorting, vocabulary, and potential research opportunities.  However, the humor and gadgets of the book are what really make it so much fun to read over and over again.  Even the dust jacket of the book has a collection of gadgets and unfolds into a poster.  At the end of the book, there’s a game where you can go back through the book finding various objects.  You need to order a copy of this book today.  It’s so much fun.

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When Rachel introduced me to the book, she told me that she was friends with the co-creator, Jon Nichols.  She offered to reach out to him to see if he would Skype with us.  He agreed, so we got to work preparing for our visit.  All of the 1st grade classes read the book in advance and pulled in some categorizing and math standards along the way.  Students also spent some time writing out questions for Jon.

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Today, the whole 1st grade came to the library and we connected with Jon in California.  He was a fantastic Skype author full of energy.  He told the kids a bit about how he and his brother made the book together.  Both of them were involved in the writing and illustrating process, and it was their first book.

Then, Jon showed the kids how he draws Crabtree.

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The students loved it when Jon let them ask him some questions.  When authors do this, the teachers help me a lot.  They start choosing students from the audience to start forming a line to the side of the screen and camera.

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As they get in line, we try to check to make sure the questions are all different and are actually questions.  I move the camera down to student-level.  Then, students take turns speaking to the author directly into the camera.

Today, students asked Jon questions like:

  • What kind of paint did you use?  He showed us the pens used to draw the illustrations and we learned that the colors were created by computer at the publisher because they didn’t like how real paint looked on the paper.

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  • Why did you call him Crabtree?  We learned that it was a mixture of a favorite place to visit but also the idea of 2 things that don’t really go together: crabs and trees.
  • Can 1st graders write books?  Jon was so enthusiastic in his answer and told them that they could absolutely write books.  He ran through the whole writing process and got them excited about their ideas for stories.

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There were many more wonderful questions.  I was really surprised by how well 1st graders asked questions.  The teachers did a wonderful job giving students time to think and write their questions down before they came.

We are so thankful to Jon for taking time out of his busy day to connect with us.  If you haven’t read Crabtree yet, we highly recommend it.

 

Our Student Book Budget Order from Capstone Has Arrived!

IMG_3014Each year when students participate in the student book budget group, the most exciting day for them is the day that we unpack the boxes when they arrive.  It’s the day that all of their hard work and tough decisions pays off.  After surveying almost the entire school, setting goals, meeting with vendors, creating wish lists, cutting books from the lists to fit the budget, and placing the order, the students finally get to hold books  in their hands.

Today our order from Capstone came.  We love buying books from Capstone each year for many reasons.  One reason is that their books are popular with our students.  We also love their customer service.  Our sales representative, Jim Boon, always comes in and helps students with the book selection process.  We also love how Capstone stretches our budget.  This year’s order from Capstone was $1750, and with Capstone’s current promotion, we earned an additional $525 in books.  When we were unpacking the order today, a student said, “Capstone Rewards sure does help us get a lot of extra books.”  I love that this project really pushes students each year to think about fiscal responsibility and how to stretch a dollar.

Just like every other step of the way, the students are involved in every step of unpacking the books.  We basically form an assembly line.

Some students pull books out of the boxes and inspect them for any damage.  There’s usually not any, but we always check.

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Another student takes these books and highlights each one on the packing slip to make sure they are all accounted for.  Today, I helped with the highlighting process because there were so many books to take through the entire process in only 45 minutes.

These books then go to a student who stamps them with our library stamp.

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From there, a group of students takes pictures of the covers to put into an Animoto to show on our morning broadcast.

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When all pictures are taken, the pictures are uploaded to Animoto by another group of students.

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Then, all of the students work on setting up a display at the front of the library.

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The students all got to check out one of the books before they were really revealed to the rest of the school.

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Then they watched their Animoto and had a little dance party to celebrate new books.

Usually, students start coming in to check out the books before we even get them all setup.  Today was no different.  Some of the DC comics and sports immediately got checked out by 2 eager boys.  I love how one student’s shirt says, “best day ever”.  It sure feels like a great day when we see so many smiling faces for books.

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It was also a little sad to see our project for the year come to an end.  These students have been so dedicated by coming in during their recess time to work.  I smiled when one of them said, “I think I want to grow up to become a library media specialist”.  Other students said, “Please let us do this again next year.”

When I asked them why they like being in the student book budget group, they said things like:

  • who wouldn’t want to buy books for the library
  • we loved making decisions
  • it was fun to spend money for the library
  • people are reading the books that we chose

This process is so empowering for students.  The project has proven again and again that students know how to buy books for other students.  Their books are checked out rapidly and stay among the most popular books in the library.

Thank you Capstone for supporting our project each year.  Your promotions, great selection of high interest books, and book swag gifts, made the students feel like rock stars.

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Unpacking Our Student Book Budget Order from Gumdrop

IMG_2827Today, the student book budget group came to the library to unpack our first order.  Most of our books that we ordered will come from Capstone, but there were a few books that they found from Gumdrop.  Gret Hechenbleikner is our Gumdrop rep who brought in several book samples for students to look at.  One of our goals for purchasing books was World Records.  We have several Guinness World Record books, but Gumdrop had some Ripley’s books that were much smaller in size that the students loved.  They also found some haunted history books that I’m sure will be extremely popular.  We are trying to increase the number of books we have about making things, so they found a series of books about making graphic novels as well as making crafts out of various materials.

To save a bit of money, we did not purchase shelf ready books.  We did order the barcodes and protectors, though.  Students came in during their recess and worked through several steps.

Step 1 was to unpack the box, check off the packing slip, and check the books for damage.

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Step 2 was to put the labels and label protectors on each book.

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Step 3 was stamping each book with our library stamp.

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Step 4 was to download the MARC records into Destiny.

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Step 5 was to think of how to advertise the books to the school.  Students decided on 2 things.  They wanted an Animoto of all of the books and the unpacking process on our morning news show for Monday.  They also wanted to create a display at the front of the library.  One group of students worked on taking pictures.  Another group worked on making the Animoto.  A final group worked on creating the display.

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It was fun to watch them celebrate when their Animoto was made.

The books haven’t even been officially advertised to the school yet, and already several of the books have been checked out.  I won’t be surprised on Monday when there is a stampede to the library to check out what is left.

These students will meet again next Friday, when they will unpack a large order from Capstone and repeat the same process.