Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 5 Blog Posts of 2015

   As I reflect on 2015, it was a great year of learning, growth and new opportunities.  Thank you to all of my colleagues who took time to collaborate with me, shared ideas and helped me to grow this past year.

Here is a summary of the top 5 most viewed blog posts from the Golden Eagle Library Book Blog:

Value Added Hashtags 367 page views

Telenovellas Hangout 350 page views

Diving into Makerspaces with Both Feet 339 page views

Edcamping Out 266 page views

Maker Challenges 246 page views


Looking forward to another year of growth and learning in 2016!

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Email me: bjohnson3@sdale.org
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Edcamping Out!

      A couple weekends ago, I attended my first ever Edcamp.  It was held at a local high school both in the cafeteria and a handful of classrooms.  Compared to a traditional conference, there are quite a few things that were different.  In an Edcamp, much of the formality of a typical conference is eliminated.  Sessions are set up on the spot and are free flowing so that if you attend a presentation you are welcome to switch to a different one even right in the middle of a session.  

      Literally 20 minutes before the sessions begin, there are white board markers left out so that participants can write up on the window what topic the session will be about.  Presenters also often act more as facilitators.  The preparation can be as simple as asking the first question, (What issues are you running into with Project Based Learning in your building?), leading a discussion, all the way up to more structured presentations with slides and preparation.  

    I found that in the opening, there was a greater emphasis on networking at the conference as compared toa traditional conference.  From the start, we were asked to write our Twitter handle on our nametag.  Doing this gave me some additional Twitter follows and helped to developed a connected vibe for the presentations.

    As an Edcamp newbie, I found that the conference was structured to help first timers to acclimate to the different expectations.  After some meet and greet time, we met with all the other attendees to discuss how to participate in an Edcamp.  They reviewed with us the free flowing expectations in a large group setting letting us know it was the norm to change sessions at will. 

     After participating in some sessions, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and facilitate a Edcamp session.  My session topic was the concept of "App Slamming Research."  I shared for about 10 minutes about the Google A Week trivia contest I run at my school and how I had added a Google Earth element to it for the Google A Week championships I hold each spring between the winners of the contest throughout the year.  For my session, I tried to have a hybrid approach featuring a little more than a question to get things started, without going so far as a full blown presentation.  
     As I had heard, there was complete turnover in the participants.  At the start, there were about 8 participants, and by the middle of the session, all 8 of the original participants had been replaced by 8 new ones.  

     One thing I learned from this opportunity is to have other introduce themselves at the start. This can help to guide the discussion and customize it for the audience.I also learned from this opportunity is how important it is to have some follow up questions ready.  Next time, I hope to have some on hand-this                                                                                     will help the discussion to keep moving! 

     Attending this Edcamp got me thinking about what an event like this would look like on my campus. My school has a number of very tech savvy teachers would I think would be willing to participate.

     But what if teachers and students collaborated to show off their technology skills and facilitate sessions together? (Thanks to Stony Evans for modeling this idea) Attending this event also got me thinking about ways this event might need to be structured differently for students to experience success in it. Would students need more structure/training about how/when to leave a presentation as compared to professional educators?

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Monopolizing the Library

     As a junior high media specialist, I have tremendous respect for my elementary colleagues and the great work they do.  I have found that many "elementary" ideas also are effective with my junior high school students.  One of these is creating a yearly theme in the Media Center.

     This year, I selected Monopoly as the theme.  In support of the theme, I utilized several components of the game for displays and library procedures.  I use a Google form to document student free flow visits.  To encourage students to follow this procedure, I made a sign that borrowed the themed of the "do not pass go, do not collect $200."  Instead it reads Sign in on the Computer, Now Go Enjoy your Library."


     I also created large Monopoly styled signs above different sections such as Fiction Place, Non
Fiction Avenue and Biography Boulevard.  Having these large signs above the sections has helped my students to more easily find the materials they are looking for.

     Another way I have utilized the Monopoly theme is to develop a display based on Chance Cards.  Similar to the way those cards play in the game, students are taking a small risk by checking out a book that is wrapped up and has a brief phrase hinting about the theme of the book.  Students have the opportunity to check out one of these books and write a short review.  If they do so, they can earn a small chocolate treat as a reward and their reviews are posted on the display.

     I selected titles from the library that have yet to be checked out.  This display has been a great way to encourage students to read from different genres they might not otherwise select.  Another benefit has been that it has increased our circulation and interest in these titles.








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Monday, September 14, 2015

Maker Challenges

   I am developing a Maker Space in the Library this year.  I will also be co-leading a Maker Club with another teacher that will be held on alternating Fridays.  My administration has encouraged me to seek out ways to tie Maker activities to the curriculum.

   To build up interest in the Maker Space, I held a Maker Challenge last Friday in the Library during both of our lunch periods.  Since the toys for the new Star Wars Movie came out on that day, I selected  a Star Wars related challenge.  Participants were to pick a Star Wars character or ship to construct. For the challenge, I borrowed my children's Lego bricks and printed off several images of Star Wars ships and characters.

   The session was a hit!  About fifteen students in each lunch attend as well as two teachers.  The teachers and students created Darth Vader as well as a Tie Fighter, an AT-ST Walker, an Imperial Star Destroyer, two AT-AT Walkers, and a Speeder bike.

     I handed out prizes for the best ship in each lunch as well as best character created.  Into the next week, several teachers and students have stopped by the library inquiring about when the next Maker Challenge will be held.

     Another part of the success of the first Challenge was that our broadcast teacher used it as an opportunity to train one of his students in video production.  The student attended the second session of the Maker Challenge, and turned his footage into a video about the Maker Challenge.  This video gave the library Maker Space some great publicity and appeared on the all school broadcast announcements the following week.



       I look forward to holding another Maker Challenge next month.  Some buzz has been created about the Makerspace, the challenge now is to build on that and connect it with some curricular projects!

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Diving into Maker Spaces with Both Feet

    With the opening of the new school year, I took the plunge into the world of maker spaces.  My school has a tradition of making our first back to school meeting a fun one.  Last year, we held a zombie scavenger hunt around the building with GPSs.  This past June when I met with the administration for my yearly evaluation, I proposed opening a maker space in my library workroom.  During that meeting, they encouraged me to pursue the maker space and also to consider how maker concepts could be incorporated into the curriculum and within our academic teams.

     With this challenge as a backdrop, I worked with a colleague to set up a two hour professional development session for my teachers where they would learn what the maker movement is and understand the possibilities it holds.   My assistant principal and I then surveyed our options and made plans for how we could empower teachers to create their first maker projects.

     Although my interior decorating skills are negligible, I had the idea the night before to layout maker "center pieces" on all of the tables where staff were seated.  This proved to be an effective way to show my colleagues the broad range of materials and possibilities that fit under the maker umbrella.
   
     One of the session goals was to have our academic teams create a project that was related to a goal their team had, their team name (which they were selecting at the first part of the session), or a part of the vision for their team.  Since some of the teams had not met together before, we had to plan in some extra time in the session so that they could get to know one another and collaborate towards this goal.  This ended up being one of the best part of the session and helped to set our teams up to succeed in creating some pretty impressive maker projects in a short period of time.

    After a short review of several of the sessions' maker project options which included duct tape projects, Legos, action figures, crafts, green screen and stop action video productions, our teachers got to work.  As in most maker projects, time was the enemy.  Nonetheless, the projects developed by the staff were impressive!  There were several videos including a stop action, and  a green screen production, as well as a presentation where an Ironman doll was repurposed as an poster advertisement for the goals of one academic team.  Our session concluded with a chance for each team to present their projects and tie in the goals and vision of their teams.

    There were several takeaways from this two hour session.  First,  as one teacher new to our staff comment that this was " the most fun" he had ever had at an opening staff meeting.  Having fun was also a catalyst for doing the work of teaming and clarified each team's vision and goals for the year.   My teachers also saw the "can do" spirit of the maker movement first hand and now see its possibilities for their students. As one teacher put it, maker projects are "so practical, (we) can do them in my classroom." (with the supplies on hand) In terms of what I would do different, I would seek to make more direct connections with teachers' content.  I had a few maker projects on hand to show teachers and briefly referred to how they might fit in with different content disciplines, but I wish there had been more time in the session to flesh this out.
   
    The challenges from here are to build on the momentum of this session as the school year begins.   Several teachers have already donated materials and connected me with community resources to obtain supplies for our maker space.  I hope to be able to blog more in the future about how I have worked with teachers and students this year to incorporate maker projects directly into their curriculum and their lives.





Monday, July 13, 2015

Is School Hard Enough?

    My wife is currently in graduate school to become an instructional facilitator.  As she has pursued her studies, we have had great conversations about instructional technology.  I have also come across several "hey honey, you really need to read this" texts from her coursework.  One of the most intriguing is a book called Mindset by Carol Dweck.

    If you are not familiar with Mindset, it is a fascinating work about how we mentally frame what we are capable of accomplishing.  Typically, people either fall into one of two categories: fixed mindset-i.e. my abilities are fixed and my life challenges can profoundly limit my capabilities, or a growth mindset: my abilities are not fixed and the sky is the limit for what I might do with those abilities.
I recently saw the growth mindset at work in this year's Google A Week Championships, or G.A.W.Cha (Gotcha).

     Two years ago I attended the Google Conference in Conway, Arkansas.  One of the ideas that was shared there was a Google A Week contest.  Since returning from that conference, I have held a Google A Week Contest for my students.In this contest, a question is posted in the library each week and on the school wide video broadcast for students to develop their research skills.  Often these questions come from current events and require students to research a question using Google, locate the correct answer and the web address where it came from, and turn in the fruits of their research on a piece of paper.    Each Friday right before I go home for the weekend, I sort through student answers and randomly select one of the students who submitted a correct response to win a chocolate bar.

     This is the second year in a row that we have hosted the Google A Week Championship (or G.A.W. Cha-Gotcha) in the library near the end of the school year.  There is an open invitation for any of the Google A Week Contest winners to come in at lunch and compete against the other winners to be the overall Google Champion at Lakeside.  Last year, I selected about 5 pretty challenging questions and about 10 students participated.

     This spring, I heard about a way to combine multiple Google Apps for Education from my colleague Brooke Higgins.  She mentioned learning about this on a technology podcast that I never did locate that had a presenter from Australia. (Sorry, Brooke :) )   I decided to try out this Multiple Google App approach for this year's Google A Week Championships.

     To accomplish this, I created a series of questions where students had to identify a landmark or location on Google Earth and then conduct further research with the Google Search engine to find the answers. I hooked up a laptop with Google Earth on it to each of the 7 screens in the library and gave the students a Chromebook with which to complete further research and submit their answers.

     This opportunity was better attended then last year as we had 13 participants.  With some help from my assistant, about 30 students were recruited to watch the Championships during both lunches.



     In a word, this year's Google A Week Championships were fascinating to watch.  They were fascinating because of the diversty of student participants.  There were students whose schedules are filled with advanced courses, average students, as well as ESOL learners and one student from the self contained special education classroom.

video
    Another point of fascination was the way students worked to answer the questions.  It was silent and they were all completely focused.  In fact, they were so focused, that when the bell rang for the end of lunch, no one moved!  Finally, after about 10 minutes, I told the student partcipants that they would have 5 more minutes and then I would write them a pass on to their next class.


    At one point during the contest, one of the spectators got up and asked me if he could join in because as he put it:  "it looks hard."   That's right, it was of interest to him because it looked difficult! So I gave him the opportunity to participate.

     My experiences and the feedback I got from students during G.A.W. Cha this year got me thinking about what changes we may need to make to the types of extension activities we plan for our students.  I am not advocating that as teachers we need to add extensions in the form of supplemental problems, or paragraphs-that is simply not very motivating.

     What if instead we planned more activities that were both very challenging, and motivating at the same time?  Admittedly, the questions in this year's G.A.W. Cha were hard; and maybe too difficult. (the highest overall student score was 7/10)  But inspite of that, not one student complained that it was too hard or made excuses and no one gave up.  As I mentioned before, a spectator actually asked to join up for that very reason-it looked like a difficult task, so they were motivated to try.

     The level of difficulty did not stop the students in the Championships from getting into such a flow with the activity that when the bell rang, they did not want to leave!  Instead it inspired them.
   
     What if we started with this question for developing extension/enrichment activities:  how can I inspire my students to want to learn/do more with their learning through this activity/experience?  I believe that would go a long way to fostering a growth mindset in our students, give them more, deep learning experiences with our curriculum and push their desire to become lifelong learners to the next level.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Book Review: Death Coming Up the Hill


DCUTH.jpg Admittedly, I was intrigued by the premise of Death Coming Up the Hill before I picked it up.  After all, it is a novel in verse-haiku actually, that has the exact number of syllables of the United States’ casualties from the Vietnam War in 1968.  


I was also skeptical about whether the author could tell a full story operating within the constraints of haiku poetry.  The answer is emphatically yes: instead of limiting the power of the story, writing in such a format, Death Coming  Up the Hill’s sparse prose packs true emotional power.  


Death Coming Up the Hill tells the story of Ashe, a 17 year old junior who sees his senior classmates being drafted into the Vietnam conflict.  His history teacher opens up the bitter realities of the war to him through class discussions that ultimately help him to better understand the conflicts in his own life. This novel contrasts the Vietnam War with the ongoing battles between Ashe’s parents at home.  Their conflict stems from the family’s beginnings. Ashe’s parents had him out of wedlock during his father’s senior season of football at the University of Arizona.  His birth builds resentment in his father who believes Ashe’s birth cost him a shot at a promising football career in the NFL.  


Ashe’s parents have decided to stay together only because of their mutual love for him. Their resentment for one another is only exacerbated by her mother’s decidedly anti war stance.  Her father is a staunch supporter of the war, while her mother fills her time with antiwar rallies and protests.  


Much like the guerilla conflict across the globe in Vietnam, Ashe’s home life is full of landmines, ambushes, grenades and other wartime hazards that explode as his parents’ relationship continues to disintegrate.  When Ashe’s mother becomes pregnant with an anti war protestor’s child, it ends any possibility of a peaceful resolution to their conflict.      


Divided into chapters by the weeks of 1968, with the number of casualties each week matching the number of syllables in the chapter, Death Coming Up the Hill is a stark, poignant tale that accurately captures the tension and despair of the Vietnam period and its impact on one family.    


Death Coming up the Hill is a good fit for middle grades and above.  The subject matter is intense, but this easy to read novel in verse will resonate with reluctant readers and those interested in historical fiction and the Vietnam War time period.  

(Cover used with the permission of the author) 

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Value Added Hashtags?

    This year, I have dabbled in using social media to promote the library program.  While I have set up a Lakeside Junior High School Library Twitter page (@GoldenEagleLMC), a Library Facebook account as well as a library Instagram account, I have experienced very limited success in getting my students to integrate these library accounts into their social media diet.  In fact, the number of teacher followers on this platforms has generally dwarfed the number of student followers!

   Two Fridays ago, I took a great leap forward in using social media to promote the library through hashtags.  Previously, I have participated regularly in the variety of tweet chats. (If you are not familiar with tweetchats,  the way they work is that you post out to the questions posed by the moderator with a hashtag (#arkedchat for example) at the end of each tweet- it is a great way to grow your PLN!)

   This move forward with hashtags, all started when I got an email from one of the Spanish teachers asking if she would mind if the library was included in a photo scavenger hunt she had designed for her students in honor of Cinco de Mayo.  Of course I emailed her back that I would gladly participate!

     As I read the email, it got me thinking about how I might use hashtags to promote the library through this activity.  I proposed that we add a social media component to encourage students to share the photos they took during the scavenger hunt on Twitter and Instragram with the hashtag #cincodemayoljhs.  The teacher agreed to share the hashtag with her students for this activity.

     I created a few signs around the high traffic areas of the scavenger hunt around the school that featured the hashtag #cincodemayoljhs.  While no students posted to Twitter, students did add several photos on Instagram-12 in fact, with that hashtag throughout the day.  While a dozen might not seem like a lot, it meant that in each of the 7 hours of the school day, student groups were posting photos using hashtags as a part of the library program for the first time!


     The success of using hashtags in this scavenger hunt got me thinking about how hashtags could instantaneously improve student interactions with the library.  What if I publicized upcoming library events on Instagram with a library hashtag? (#GoldenEagleLMC)  What if I used the library hashtag to promote new books/services in the library? Would this encourage previously less interested students to participate in programs increasing our student attendance at these events, or increase circulation of library materials?  A question for my fellow library/media specialists-how have you best employed hashtags to promote your libraries?  I look forward to exploring these possibilities next year!

    My experiences getting students to use hashtags reminded me of when cell phones first entered into schools.  One of my favorite quotes about this was: "students have them, so we might as well put them to good use!".  I think that phrase definitely applies here: "if students are using hashtags on Instagram, we might as well put them to good use to promote the LJHS library program!"

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Telenovellas Hangout

    My adminstrator asked the teacher leaders in a meeting the other day what was going on in our classrooms as the school year comes to a close.  I responded that as media specialist, I was working to "tiptoe around the testing schedule", and fit as much library programming in as possible for my students before the school year ends.

    One of my favorite (and unfortunately last) programming events of the 2014-15 year was our latest Lakeside Squared Hangout with students from 4 Spanish classes, 2 from Lakeside JHS Springdale where I work, and 2 from Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  This Hangout was kind of a one year anniversary Hangout from when Stony Evans, media specialist at Lakeside Hot Springs, and I began the Lakeside Squared Hangouts tradition last May with a book club Hangout about Veronica Roth's popular novel Divergent.

   Not only was this the first time we had held a Squared Hangout with 4 classes at once, but it was also one with a number of other "firsts".  This Hangout was our first working with our foreign language departments, and also the first one that was conducted almost completely in a language other than English. This Squared Hangout was also our first one where students presented dramatic works they had created themselves. Student groups from both schools presented the telenovelas-short and often violent Mexican soap operas for each other through Hangout.  Students also had the opportunity to practice their Spanish skills by asking and responding to questions posed by their peers after the telenovela presentations.

   I am excited about the new ground that has been broken with this Squared Hangout.  Expanding into a new academic department, Spanish will give our students new possibilities.  Getting the Spanish department to participate gives us opportunities for ongoing Spanish language skill practice between classes/schools and has potential to be expanded to include more native Spanish speaking classes/schools from around the world to join future Hangouts through the Google Arkansas Network Group, (G.A.N.G.)

   

   If you are interested in having your students participate in the Google Arkansas Network Group Hangout Community, click here to sign up and join the Google Arkansas Networking Group (G.A.N.G.) today!

@Brian_librarian
@GoldenEagleLMC
@Stony1220




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Building the G.A.N.G.

     Last month, Stony Evans, the Media Specialist at Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, Arkansas and I presented about our Lakeside Squared Google Hangout program at the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media Conference.  We also promoted our new Google + community the Google Arkansas Networking Group. (G.A.N.G.) at the conference and added about a dozen new members.

     This past Wednesday, I held our first G.A.N.G. Hangout with two of my elementary library colleagues at Young and Shaw Elementary schools in Springdale.  In celebration of School Library Month, about 20, 8th and 9th grade students from Lakeside Junior High School where I am the media specialist, met to share picture books through a Google Hangout with first grade students at the two schools.

    The event was a huge hit.  Several students read stories ranging from Dr. Seuss' The Return of the Cat in the Hat, to We're Going on a Bear Hunt, Henny Penny and Silly Sally.  The Lakeside students read with confidence and enthusiasm, adjusting their volume and pitch for the different voices in the stories.  The also managed the technology well so that each story's pictures could easily be seen by the first graders through the web cam.

video
    There was a high level of engagement in all three groups evidenced by the smiles, laughter and applause at the end of the storytime.  One elementary student also gleefully commented, "hey, I know that story!" Even the day after the event, Lakeside students came back to view pictures and video clips from the Virtual Storytime.  After the pictures/videos were shared, the student readers were applauded by their peers.

    There were some slight issues with volume and locating each other at the start of the Hangout, but overall it went well.  We are already in discussion about holiding our next Virtual Story time.  In honor of Poetry Month, we are looking into holding a Poetry Slam.  This type of event will promote more interactivity and two way communication between the different classes that partcipate.

    It is just a matter of setting up the time and date!

   If you are interested in having your student participate, in this Hangout Community, click here to sign up and join the Google Arkansas Networking Group (G.A.N.G.) today!

@Brian_librarian
@GoldenEagleLMC




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

AAIM Reflection(s)

    It is hard to know where to begin the discussion of the highlights from this year's Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference:

   There was connecting with friends old and new at meals and in between sessions.

   There was getting to meet and talk writing with author/hero Jordan Sonnenblick.  I am excited to read his upcoming novels which will be released in 2016 and 2017.

    There was the 4 mile run I got to take Monday morning up to the top of Hot Springs Mountain as the sun was peaking around the hills.  The view was breathtaking-a great way to start the day at a tremendous conference!

   There was getting to see practical do-it yourself projects and makerspace ideas in action from Tonia McMillan.  She had the projects ready for us to try out at each table!  Leaving that session I feel much more prepared to launch Lakeside's makerspace next fall.

   There was getting to co lead a session with Stony Evans, the Media Specialist at Lakeside Hot Springs High School about our Lakeside Squared Hangout program.  We were able to share about the power of connecting students through Google Hangouts across geographical boundaries through this ongoing program.

   One of the key questions that emerged from our session was: "what if?".  As in, what if we connected the musical programs at our two schools over Hangouts to broaden the audience for their music?  What if we used Hangouts to broaden our students appreciation of literature and banned books by holding a virtual readout?  What if we collaborated to share our enjoyment of Divergent by holding a virtual meeting of our book clubs about that novel?  What if there were no limit to the educational possibilities of Google Hangouts for our students?

   I look forward to the future possibilities of ongoing Lakeside Squared Hangouts as plans for events with our foriegn language classses around next fall's Day of the Dead take shape.  Stony and I are also discussing plans to hold Hangouts on Air.  Hangouts on Air allow users to record Hangouts to share with other classes/schools that were not participants at the time of the original Hangout.  Using the Hangouts on Air platform will help to overcome the challenges of matching our school's bell schedules and will help Hangouts reach more of our students.

   During the session, we also promoted our new Google + community the Google Arkansas Networking Group. (G.A.N.G.)  It is our hope that through this G+ community we will be able to expand the Lakeside Squared Google Hangouts concept to include more schools and students throughout our state and the world.  The response at the session was very positive as we have already added about a dozen members to the G.A.N.G.

   Even since the session, I have been contacted by some elementary librarians who are interested in trying Google Hangouts.  Tomorrow, we are meeting for our first practice Hangout.  In the coming weeks, we will be holding literacy Hangouts where junior high students at Lakeside will read picture books to their elementary peers.  I cannot wait to see the learning opportunities that will unfold as we continue to build this community!

   Join the Google Arkansas Networking Group (G.A.N.G) today!

   Stay tuned!


@brian_librarian

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coding Opportunities-the Sky is the Limit!

      This is the second in a series of entries about the Emints conference I recently returned from and the possibilities the conference presented.

     Overall, the Emints conference was great, but there was no topic I was more interested in learning about than coding.  At the conference, I attended 2 session on this topic.  In the past, I have held a Student Digital Diner using the Hour of Code, and am currently working on designing a session for Digital Learning Day (March 13) as a follow up to the first session on coding.  The two sessions I attended at this conference were perfect stepping stones for building a coding program at Lakeside.

     The first presentation was a 2 hour session which incorporated Agent Sheets to teach more advanced coding techniques compared to Scratch and the Hour of Code.  During the session, we were given instruction to actually create a working version of the 80's classic video game Frogger.  We also reviewed the computation thinking patterns which are reinforced through game design. The session had computers around the room with Agent Sheets downloaded on to them for use to use to create our games.

     After some initial instruction on the terminology of Agent Sheets and the basics, participants were split up into small groups to craft our own version of Frogger.  This setup was ideal, and allowing us to learn from each other, and get further support from several of the presenters as needed.  Over the course of the next hour, I worked with 2 colleagues from Missouri to create a working replica of Frogger complete with moving trucks, logs and tunnels!  Besides being fun, Agent Sheets was fairly easy to learn and appears to be something that my 21st century learners at Lakeside could easily take to for the purpose of creating working games!  I left this session inspired with a "can do" approach to coding and creating games that I look forward to sharing with my students!

     The second session I attended on coding focused more on the curricular applications and theory of game design.  It was a perfect compliment to the "nuts and bolts" approach of the first coding session I attended. We delved more deeply into crafting the story of the game by writing out the agents or characters and actions of the game.  This was done by identifying the nouns (agents) and verbs (actions) of the characters.  We also got to brainstorm and gallery walk to room to add post it notes of our best ideas for the applications of game design to the  various curricular areas represented by the teachers in the room.  The presenters also gave us a chance to vote on which ideas were the best, and gave prizes to the ideas that garnered the most votes.

     I also signed up to have my students at Lakeside participate in the Scalable Game Design program through the University of Colorado. (http://www.agentsheets.com/) Through the program, my students will have access to Agent Sheets for free which will allow them to build their own games and share their handiwork through the program's arcade section.  I cannot wait to work with my students and teachers to employ the easy to use and powerful gaming design platform. Truly the sky is the limit for what students can create with Agent Sheets!

Follow Brian Johnson on Twitter @GoldenEagleLMC and @brian_librarian

Monday, March 2, 2015

Emints Presentation Opportunity

    I just returned from the Emints National Conference over the weekend in Columbia, Missouri.  Over the next few weeks, I hope to post about the many wonderful learning opportunties the conference presented and the possibilities they opened up for the future of Lakeside Junior High and the LJHS Library.

    The conference was one of firsts.  It was the first time I had been to the Emints National Conference, and also the first time I had the chance to copresent with my colleagues at such an event.  I collaborated with Chrystal Lieutard, one of our ESOL teachers, and Evelyn Villarreal, one of our math teachers on the topic of Using Graphics to Tell a Story: Visual Literacy Techniques for the presentation.  This was also my first experience with using a back channel for participants to communicate with us.  I used Today's Meet and checked it on my Ipad throughout the session. It provided us with some good feedback about the session in the early part of the presentation, although it was not used as frequently as the session went along.  I would like to use it with greater effect in future presentations.

    One of our goals of the session was to give the participants lots of opportunities to see and experience technologies and strategies which support the goal of improved visual literacy instruction. We opened the session with a Padlet asking teachers to post the first thing that came to mind when they thought of visual literacy.  The session also included a review of current research on visual literacy including the differences in decoding and encoding skills among elementary and secondary learners-younger students tend to look at a visual section by section while older learners tend to interpret images as a whole.  My colleagues and I shared a variety of strategies and apps to support visual literacy including Piclits, Szoter, and Easel.ly.

    One of the best parts of the presentation was the work samples my colleagues brought with them which were on display on tables and around the room.  Ms. Lieutard brought along some of her visuals she uses to build vocabulary with ELLs. For the activity, students add "the first word that comes to mind" to each image as a means to develop context for their comprehension of terms such as the Great Depression.   Mrs. Villarreal brought along several anchor charts and shared a great activity related to piecing togeher the Pythagorean Theorem. (To view these and other visual literacy activies and apps, visit the website I constructed for the session: https://sites.google.com/a/sdale.org/visual-literacy-resources/)

    We also had a number of truly amazing visual literacy ideas shared with us from other teachers in our building.   Among them were Justin Hart's amazing diction chart which was constructed out of paint chips. For this activity, more bland vocabulary words such as nice, good, happy and sad were featured on lighter colors.  As students improved their diction, darker paint chips were added with more descriptive vocabulary. For example, underneath sad, you would find paint chips labeled with terms such as forlorn and distraught.
    Another tremendous example of encoding was a slide show Shane Carey sent along that his ninth graders had created showing examples of how atomic theory has changed over the centuries constructed out of M & M candies.  For the assignment, students had to learn about the different ideas about what an atom looked like, construct a model of it using M&Ms, take pictures using their Chromebook cameras, construct a Google Slide presentation and share them with their classmates.

   Overall, my first experience presenting at a national conference was a great one.  It would be great to be back at the Emints National Conference next year. I look forward to the next time I get the privilege to attend and present at a conference again soon!

Follow me on Twitter: @brian_librarian      @GoldenEagleLMC
 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Golden Eagle Monthly Media Report for December 2014-January 2015 is now available!

Check out some of the great things going on @ your Lakeside Library Media Center

@brian_librarian
@GoldeneagleLMC

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Student Digital Diner Inagural Session
 
   I lead a series of tech trainings for the teachers in my building called the Digital Diner. The goal of the sessions is to provide teachers with practical experience using technology in a fun way with the goal that through the experience, they will take it back with them to use with their students.

  This past year, I expanded the offerings to include a Student Digital Diner.  These sessions are held in the media center at lunch and students who sign up are allowed to bring their lunch in for the sessions (which they usually are not allowed to do). My assistant and I also end up supplying some type of holiday themed candy treat as a part of the festivities.

  Our first session was last week and focused on how to access the electronic books and audiobookresources available 24/7 on the library website.  Although we are a very technology oriented school, historically our electronic book circulation has been relatively low. Our best month ever had just over 100 ebooks circulated, inspite of our ebook collection growing to more than 400 titles in the last year.  It has been hard to determine whether this is due to a lack of publicity, a lack of available titles, or just that few students knew how to access them.

  I chose to hold this session to make more student aware of the great electronic book resources we have available at Lakeside.  There were more than 20 students who attended the session over the course of both lunch periods.  For many attendees, it was the first time they had attended a lunchtime library event.

   At this edition of the Student Digital Diner, students learned how to add electronic books to computers as well as tablets, phones and iPods.  In hindsight, I wish we would have spent more time focused on how to put electronic books on students' devices.  Specifically so they could have learned about how to put both audiobooks and ebooks on their tablets and phones.  The instruction about how to put them on computers took more time than I anticipated, and I think it would have improved student ownership to have more time to experience putting the ebooks right on to their own devices.

   One of the best things about the session was
the addition of door prizes to the Digital Diner.
At both sessions, we held a drawing, and
gave away some Valentine's Day themed
 candy to students who brought their invitation to the event with them. I would definitely include door prizes in the future.  After all, who does like a good door prize!
 
  I do think that the session did develop a new "colony" of electronic book users at Lakeside that I look forward to growing in the future!  To help continue to build interest in the electronic books at Lakeside, I am sending a follow up survey to the participants to get their feedback about this session as well as their interest in future sessions.  I am also including an opportunity in the survey itself for them to select an electronic book which they would recommend as an addition to our library collection.  I am optimistic about the potential future increases in ebook circulation at Lakeside.  We'll see how it goes-maybe it will be a topic of a future blog post.

@brian_librarian
@goldeneaglelmc





Thursday, January 22, 2015

Digital Diner Idea Explosion

   I lead a series of training for my faculty called the Digital Diner.  The sessions are held throughout the year and focus on a different technology application.  Topic get selected based on the conversations I have with teachers throughout the year about their technology interests as well as survey data I collect.  Teachers are invited to attend on their prep hour and earn professional development credit for their participation.  The "diner" element of the trainings is that my wife cooks a home made treat for each session.  There is always a joking question if teachers attend the trainings because the instruction is so good; or if it is because of the food.


   Recently I led a Digital Diner session on screencasting during December with my faculty.  The session had nine teachers attend throughout the day, including three teachers who attended a Diner for the first time.  We used the video capture features of Tech Smith Snagit as our platform for the session.  

  
   During the session, I modeled how the Tech Smith Snag it extension worked and showed them the options to save/post them online through Google Drive or YouTube.  Then teachers were asked to a create a practice screen cast presentation and  share it. We also looked briefly at how to combine presentations with Educannon and add assessment questions throughout their video creations.

   My original goal with the session was to teach the teachers how to create brief screencast presentations which could be used to assist absent students in getting caught up or to faciliate learning. opportunities during snow days.  (This was why the diner treat for this session was snowcones) However, throughout the day, teachers continued to offer great ideas of ways screencasts could help their students that went way beyond helping students to stay caught up.  Among their ideas, were to allow students who master content earlier than their peers to create screencasts of concepts and to have students who serve as tutors in a new peer tutoring program at Lakeside to develop them for the students they are assisting.          


   Another great idea that came out during the day was to use screencasting as a parent involvement piece.  Teachers who create these screen casts and post them online could help our parents to "learn" the content their students are working with in class each day.  This could put parents in a better position to assist, and also to have a clearer picture of what their students are learning.    


   In many ways this was one of the most successful Digital Diners yet.  Several teachers attended the Diner for the first time.  But it was also a great success because of the explosion of possible classroom applications that the attendees generated. I look forward to seeing where my teachers will take the concept of screencasting and how it will benefit our learning community!



Sunday, January 4, 2015

Books vs. Movies... That Age Old Debate

  My wife and I had a rare night out with some friends this past week.  We got to see the film version of Laura Hillenbrand's fantastic work, Unbroken.  I read Unbroken, over the summer and it made my top 5 list of books over the summer out of the 25 or so I read.  Admittedly, I enjoyed the movie version of Unbroken, although I have to say that the movie certainly does not measure up to the book.

   Although the movie itself clocks in at 137 minutes, in that 2 hour plus span, it fails to plumb the depths of the original work on several accounts.  At it's core, Unbroken is a tale of redemption, but in watching the opening scenes of Louis Zamperini's life, it paints him as a typical kid who gets himself in some minor spots of trouble; not as the youth tottering on the edge of reform school portrayed in the book who has his life literally saved by his brother's insistence that he join the school track team.

   The film version of the book also inadequately captures the tension and fears of bomber pilots hopscotching between various island outposts on bombing runs in the South Pacific.  There is no footage of the looming temptation pilots shot down in the ocean faced to attempt to quench their thirst in vain by drinking salt water.  There are also only a few shark attacks in the script, and the movie does not capture the desperation of being shot down literally thousands of miles from the nearest atoll without food.

   Even the main relationship of the film between Zamperini and the Japanese prison guard Watanabe receives short shrift.  While in the book, "the Bird" as Watanabe is known, literally seems to be following Zamperini from prison camp to prison camp across the South Pacific, the movie features only 2 occasions where the are in the same camp at the same time.  This fact somewhat limits the scope of the desparation Zamperini must have felt thinking he was finally rid of his tormentor the Bird only to seem him again and again.

   Director Angelina Jolie also cuts the movie short without addressing what life was like after Louis Zamperini returned home.  There seems to be a suggestion that he returned home and lived happily ever after. According to the book, those first few years back in the United States were anything but fairy tale, since Louis dealt with alcoholism and the scars of war through nightmares and other traumas.  Jolie may have been concerned about having to include a religious element in the story-since Zamperini's life changed after attending a Billy Graham crusade in the late 1940's.  If Jolie had chosen to include these details in the script, it would have only added more power to the film.

   Inspite of its deficiencies and glossing over of some of the important details of Zamperini's story, Unbroken is still a movie worth seeing. I was struck by the fact that my wife and I were the youngest by at least a decade of the partons in the theater that day.  Unbroken is a movie that the younger generation needs to see.

  Albeit incompletely, the film Unbroken still tells the story of a true American hero.   It is my hope that more of the teenage students I teach will go see the movie Unbroken.  Hopefully along the way, they will be inspired to wander back to the library to get the rest of this great story by checking out the book version of Unbroken!