Monday, January 2, 2017

Taking Half Chances for Our Students

     The English Premier League (EPL) is the best soccer/futbol league on earth.  It pits the best defenders against the finest attacking players from around the world.  Because the stakes are so high, players are forced to take "half chances" at the goal.  At any moment, even a brief opening can lead to a goal.  I believe we have to approach our jobs as Media Specialists like we are EPL strikers to seek out and take these half chances for our students and teachers to benefit their instruction and learning.

     This year, the Lakeside Book Club (L.B.C) opened during lunch.  Students sign a voluntary contract to read a section of a popular YA novel each week and discuss the novel during lunch time.  In return, students get to keep a copy of the book for their own to build their personal library or share with friends/family. Our goal this year is to read 4 novels in this fashion.

     Before the L.B.C. reads a novel, we visit with a guest expert to get steeped in the vocabulary and terminology related to the topics discussed in the novel.  Sometimes, we visit with a local expert, and sometimes we meet with an expert through a Skype visit, or Google Hangout.
     To line up a guest expert for our first novel, I took one of those half chances.  The first novel we are reading for book club this year called the Rule of Three by Eric Walters.  I was listening to National Public Radio's show called Fresh Air.  The speaker that night happened to be an anthropology professor from McGill University in Canada named Dr. Gretchen Bakke.

     Although her background is anthropology, she was being interviewed on the program about her new book about the power grid issues/crisis. The content of the Rule of Three was a perfect match for Dr. Bakke's area of expertise! It is a dystopian thriller where the power grid fails all the power goes out across the global causing all sorts of unthinkable disasters to arise.

     So I took a half chance and emailed Dr. Bakke to see if she would video conference with us. Conveniently, she has her Wednesdays free from teaching obligations.  We just so happened to be meeting for book club on ....Wednesdays.  So because I took a half chance, 40 students in the book club got to become steeped in the issues of our current power grid and are now better prepared to discuss and read the Rule of Three, a novel about when the power grid is no more!

     I have been looking for ways to make library programming more student centered. Meeting with Dr. Bakke via Skype helped to make this a reality.   During our first book club meeting the week before, I asked students to post questions on a Padlet that they had about the power grid and its issues.  These questions were sent to Dr. Bakke ahead of our Skype visit and were used to drive the discussion.

     Taking this half chance and contacting Dr. Bakke turned into a golden opportunity for my students.  Not only did they learn the vocabulary and terminology related to the electrical power grid failing,  they also were empowered to share and have their questions answered by a world renowned expert on the topic.

     They also got to see the Growth Mindset in action.  What if as media specialists this year we made it our goal to consistently model/embrace taking these "half chances" for our students and asking important "what ifs" about instruction and delivering our content?  What kinds of incredible opportunities it could lead to for our students!

May that be our goal as this new year of 2017 begins!

Please share with me about how you are taking half chances for your students in 2017 and beyond!

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

No Bridge/Hangout too Far

     In the aftermath of this year's United States presidential election, my students have come across a great learning opportunity.   When I opened my email the morning after the election, I was pleasantly surprised to see a message from Lorena's class in Mexico inquiring as to when we could visit about the United States election results on Hangout.
     That same morning, I also had a message from my colleague Pernilla and her students in Sweden.  They recorded a video message filled with questions about how my students in Arkansas thought the election would change things in America.  It contained questions such as "will the wall really be built between Mexico and the United States?" , "what will happen to relations between the US and Russia?"

     In the past, our ability to connect with classes around the world has been limited to those classrooms that are about 6 time zones ahead or behind where we are located in Arkansas (our school is located in the GMT-6 zone).  We are limited to the hours where our school day(s) intersect, unless a class is from a boarding school, or willing to come back after their school day is over.

    The election results have opened up a new frontier in our Hangouts.  I am excited to partner with Jamie Stallings our Human Geography teacher on this.  We have worked together in the past to connect with our peers in South America, Europe and the Caribbean through Hangouts. to show students how to respond to their peers' in Sweden's video message using the Let's Recap app, and YouTube connect.   We look forward to hearing/visiting with Pernilla's class again soon!

    By moving into this new frontier for connecting with our international peers, we have expanded our students options to truly connect on a global scale.  No longer are we limited to a few time zones ahead or behind of where our school is physically located.  No longer are we limited by different school/bell schedules. Through exploring these video options, our students can take advantage of the time differences to connect with their peers literally around the world!

    In effect, no class is too far.... no Hangout is too far away.  I am excited to see where this new option takes our students!

    Are you interested in connecting with our classes at Lakeside Junior High School through these apps, or Google Hangouts/Skype?  Contact me at

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Raising the Next Generation of Librarians

    This past spring,  I had a unique opportunity.  One of my middle school colleagues contacted me about having one of her 7th grade students come over and shadow me.  He has an interest in being a librarian for his career.  I jumped at this chance to have a student shadow me.

     This opportunity got me thinking about what we are doing to help raise up the next generation of librarians.  In this day and age when education programs are seeing fewer students enroll and by extension the number of candidates for teaching positions is shrinking (especially in areas of science math and technology) it is even more paramount.  What will that mean for a specialized field such as school librarianship? Will there be enough qualified candidates to continue the important work of 21st century librarianship we have begun?

    The 7th grader was on my campus for about 2 hours in the middle of the morning.  I made it my goal to show him as many different aspects of the job of a school librarian as I could in that short time in order to paint as clear of a picture as I could of what it means to be a 21st Century school librarian.  He got to see how to collaborate, connect, administrate, publicize, and learn in the context of the LJHS library program.

     The morning opened with a Skype with a class of high school students from Transylvania, Romania.  The topics discussed ranged from how students in Eastern Europe view the influx of Syrian refugees into Europe, to current presidential candidates in the United States and our cultural similarities.

     I also worked with this student to teach him some basics of coding in Snap and he practiced writing a program to make the one of the Finch robots we have on loan this year move across the carpet in several directions.

     We also visited with teachers in the hall and in their classrooms about upcoming collaborations.  We talked with the home economics teacher about judging the Cupcake Wars contest she invited me to participate in and discussed an upcoming lesson with one of the 8th grade science teachers where they will be writing code in the library to move a Finch robot through  student created mazes.

     So how exactly to we raise up the next generation of school librarians?  I think it means employing some of the methods we already use to publicize our programs with our constituents.

Here are a few practical steps:

Present our profession to future administrators and instructional facilitators in the college classes/workshops so many of us teach at night.

Promote/publicize our careers as librarians to our students-what do they see us modeling?  Is it just flashy programming? Do they see us thinking outside of the box?  Do they see us succeeding and failing at times with new ideas and technologies?

Stay in Touch.
I gave this student my email address and encouraged him to send me questions he has about entering the field, and to set up another time to shadow me in the library.

Cultivate Potential.
When we see potential in our students and teachers as future media specialists, we need to tell them!  Think back to why you became a librarian.  Did it have something to do with a particularly inspiring experience in the library, or the relationship you had with a librarian growing up, or in the building(s) you taught in before becoming a librarian?  Let us all be that same inspiration to our students going forward!

     When we take these conscious steps, we will already be moving in the right direction to raise up the next generation of librarians!

Contact me:

Follow me on Twitter:@brian_librarian

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Exploring the Possibilities of Open Education Resources

     One of the other fascinating sessions I attended at the Emints National Conference was about curation and Open Source Resources.  Prior to the session, I was aware of several Open Source resources such as Wikimedia Commons and But the session's presenter shared several options that were new to me including the list below:

     Merlot- from California State University
           -will allow you to search for content which is device specific (iPad, iPhone, Andriod tablet, etc.)
     Orange Grove-Florida's Open Education Resources Repository
      -sortable by K-12, Collegiate resources and institutional collections.
     CK-12-features premade online Flex-Textbooks

     This session also discussed options for curating including LiveBinders and a curation option that was new to me called Lesson Paths.  Since the session, I have done some work with Lesson Paths and was glad to learn that it meshes well with Google Classroom which most of the teachers I work with use as a course management system.

     This session got me thinking about my role in curation as a media specialist.  In the past, I have developed pathfinders of print and online resources to support the instructional units my teachers presenting, but this session opened up several new possibilities for curation:
  •  Open Education Resources could be used to develop online, customizable textbook
  •  Open Education Resource offerings mentioned in this session could improve pathfinders by incorporating more resources including videos, lesson plans, and other materials.  
  • Open Source Resources could also provided needed support for blended learning initiatives
In effect, OER opens up a whole new world of options for better teaching and learning!

I created a Symbaloo featuring these resources. Click here to access it.

Just think of the possibilities!

Contact me:

Follow me on Twitter:@brian_librarian

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