Students and Skype as Catalysts for Learning: Ms. Salas’s Students Skype and Learn @ The Unquiet Library

We’ve started off 2012 on an energizing and positive note at The Unquiet Library with two Skype interviews of experts related to architectural design.  What is super cool is that both of these Skype sessions were born out of students reaching out to experts about topics they’re curious and passionate about in Ms. Melanie Salas’s Architectural Drawing and Design II course.

Our first interview was Thursday, January 12 with Lisa Roth of Montgomery Roth Architecture & Interior Design, L.L.C.   Meet the brainchild behind this Skype session and her insights on the value of Skype in the classroom:

Other student insights included:

  • learning about how to select a college and qualities to look for in program related to the field of architecture
  • pathways to careers in architecture
  • what kinds of learning experiences to expect in a program of study for architecture
  • the field of interior design and how study in this area might enhance or shape a career as an architect
  • the importance of learning the culture of a geographic area before embarking on a design
  • Ms. Roth’s approach to the process of architectural design
  • details about specific design projects Ms. Roth’s firm has completed (a student favorite)
  • the cost and security of structures have a diverse range depending on the needs of the client
  • the importance of designing an effective sales pitch or sales presentation for a project
  • applications of what has been learned in class to “real world” architecture

Our second interview was with Danny Abshire of Newton Running.   Students got to ask questions about the design process and learned not only about the logistics of shoe design and Abshire’s story of co-founding his business, but they also received sound advice on dealing with the highs and lows of following one’s passions and dreams.  Students were truly impressed and engaged with Abshire’s energy and love for what he does; many commented it was a valuable and memorable learning experience.

Like last week’s Skype session, the catalyst for this conversation was learning was rooted in a student’s desire to connect with an expert.  Duncan shares how his study in Ms. Salas’s class intersected with his Senior Project and his reflections on how today’s learning experiences have impacted him as a student.  His joy and delight are infectious!

I’d like to thank our students, Ms. Salas, and our experts for their time and willingness to engage in a conversation for learning through Skype and our library.   I’m especially happy that students have not only gained new content related knowledge, but that they have also felt the power of interviewing an expert and that the Skype experience has fueled their passion and curiosity for learning!

Guest Post: GAME ON…@your library

It is always a joy to put the spotlight on my colleagues who are doing innovative and original programming and instruction.  I’m honored and pleased to feature this special guest post from my Cherokee County School District colleague Wendy Cope!

When I think about gamers, I think about slack-jawed adolescents, hands glued to controllers, faces lit blue from the television screen. Wasting time. Not reading books. But I also know there was something significant to the culture of gaming that we needed to acknowledge in our fledgling library program.  When my partner Keara Rubin and I brought the idea of celebrating ALA’s National Gaming Day before Knight’s Tale (our advocacy/literacy club) and they got excited, we knew we had hit on something big.  Two of our boys, Jesse and JD, really took ownership of the event, securing the games and gaming systems from teachers and friends (we labeled EVERYTHING including cords).  Especially for this first event, we chose games that were multiplayer and (relatively) non-violent; Mario Krash Kart, Dance Dance Revolution, Madden 12, and Rock Band were HUGE hits. We explicitly said no to Halo and to Modern Warfare. At first, students griped that the event wouldn’t be any good without FPS (first person shooter) games, but when they realized we wanted to make this an inclusive and non-controversial event, they understood.

We shut down the MC for lunches and sold wristbands for admission ($3 ahead of time and $4 at lunch, with a discount for students who wanted to contribute games, systems, or controllers to the event).

Despite two weeks of promotional posters and general announcements followed by a couple of days of explicit announcements, we got a little flak on that day from kids working on projects, but we sent them to our counseling office, which has several computers and welcomes kids during lunch.

We used the 2 SMARTboards in the media center and set up an additional 3 screens/projectors/speakers.  With their parents’ permission, students brought in a plethora of systems:  PS2, PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360. Jesse and JD looked at the games and systems and determined which position in the library would be best for which games.  For instance, Beatles Rock Band needed good speakers AND enough floor space for players and their instruments, so that went to a screen with access to the sound system.  Madden ’12 needed a high resolution screen, so they went to the SMARTboard.  Their knowledge of how to optimize the games’ effectiveness contributed heavily to the positive gaming experience.

For community outreach, we invited a representative from Play N Trade, a local gaming store.  He brought “Warriors of Rock” and tons of guitars so that more kids could play.  He interacted brilliantly with students, giving pointers along with gaming coupons.  Since he was used to dressing up like Mario and being mauled by elementary school students, he was grateful for the chance to work with potential customers who shared his passion.  He even stayed through the tornado watch, talking gaming with the kids huddled in the hall. Good community relations.

One PTSA member came to help, and Knight’s Tale kids stationed themselves at each game system for security and “fairness”, but neither presented an issue.  At each station, the rules of play seemed to emerge organically with little negotiation. We also asked the teachers to come down to play with the kids (and to provide a little supervision), and that perhaps turned out to be the biggest hit.  The kids loved gaming against their teachers and schooling THEM.

In fact, the amount of problem-solving, teaching, and collaboration going on between the intense (slack-jawed) bursts of gaming surprised me. One group in the computer lab even commandeered the whiteboards for brainstorming tips and shortcuts.

All told, we had thirty kids gaming in the library over three lunches.  Since we regularly have at least 50 kids in our library during each of the three lunches, this event could have been viewed as a failure.  I don’t see it that way.  I stayed outside the media center selling wristbands to last minute-takers and to take in the scene from the outside. What I loved was that, even though event wasn’t well-attended, kids were peeking in the windows and saying, “They had MADDEN? Man, I wish I had gone. That was cool.” For some reason, the posters and the two weeks of announcements just didn’t register.  Our student body is not composed of early adopters or innovators, so they’re only beginning to understand that when we launch a program, it’s going to be good. Next time, their response will be even better.

Our version of National Gaming Day provided an opportunity to game at school with new friends and to make a little money with no financial outlay.  The real prize?  It cemented us as a cool place to be.

To view an Animoto video with highlights of the event, please visit this link.

Wendy Cope is one of the librarians at River Ridge High School in Cherokee County, Georgia.  Her email address is Twitter: @rrhslibrary

Video: The Librarian as a Catalyst and Learning Specialist in K12

English teacher Lisa Kennedy and librarian Buffy Hamilton discuss partnerships for learning between the librarian and classroom teacher; they also share how this partnership between librarian and teacher influences Lisa’s evolution as a teacher and her instructional design and in turn, Buffy’s practice as a librarian.


Harada, V. H., & Zmuda, A. (2008, April). Reframing the library media specialist as a learning specialist. School Library Monthly, 24(8). Retrieved from‌articles/‌Zmuda&Harada2008v24nn8p42.html

Scenes from the Unquiet Library: Four Classes Researching, Learning, and Collaborating

I’m always amazed by how beautifully classes co-exist in our learning space when we max out with four classes.  I thought it would be fun this morning to capture a quick snapshot of what learning looks like at The Unquiet Library—moments like this are the happiest for me here in the library and validate the vision of a learning-centered library.

Your School Library 6th Annual Online Conference–School Library Advocacy: Evidence & Image 

Your School Library via kwout

I’m honored to be one of the virtual presenters for the Your School Library 6th Annual Online Conference!  This virtual conference, which runs March 4-18, 2011, focuses on school library advocacy and ways to make your practice more effective and visible in your learning community.  My session focuses on framing your practice with a lens of participatory librarianship and how that translates into conversations for learning, community building, and ongoing program advocacy.  You can learn more about this virtual learning opportunity and see the outstanding list of presenters (I’m honored to be part of the team!) by clicking on the course information link.