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.

    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!


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!