Sign Up to Present at the AASL 2009 Bloggers’ Café

Are you attending the 2009 AASL National Conference in Charlotte, NC?  If so, please consider being part of  the bloggers’ café!

What is a bloggers’ café?

Have something to share, but for whatever reason you are not scheduled for a concurrent session? Consider signing up to present your stuff at our Bloggers’ Café! Presentation equipment and Internet connection will be available.

Want to take a comfortable break from the conference hubbub? Stop by and listen as your colleagues share their ideas at the Bloggers’ Café.

Use the time to:

  • Host a discussion
  • Create a Birds of a Feather session
  • Present your best ideas
  • Expand on your Exploratorium poster
  • Expand on your concurrent session
  • Teach a skill
  • Other?

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“Small Steps, Small Steps”

cc licensed flickr photo by Radhika Bhagwat:
cc licensed flickr photo by Radhika Bhagwat:

“Small steps, Ellie, small steps….”

Ted Arroway, Contact

During my week off, I have been trying to reflect on the Media 21 project implementation.    Throughout the course of this project, I’m trying to follow the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau:  “I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”  However, my confidence wavered earlier this week as I looked back at the last six weeks.  I have been questioning if I have taken the best route in approaching my learning goals and learning activities with the students; this is natural for any teacher, but it tends to happen more when you are piloting a new unit for the first time.   I can already think of some things I will do differently next time, but I’m also trying to glean wisdom from these reflections as we enter the next phase of the project (which I will blog about more later today), which will have the students actually applying a good bit of what we have explored so far to literature circles study and an accompanying research projects.   While I’m incredibly excited about lies ahead, I worry if my plan and design is working and think about tweaks I want to make to create truly memorable and meaningful learning experiences for my Media 21 students.

Last night, I spent time reading student reflections and reflecting on what their feedback meant for them as well as us, their teachers.   I felt much  more encouraged after reading their feedback that they ARE getting something out of the unit, but I am even more determined that the upcoming literature circle/research project (which I can’t wait to tell you about later today) be a positive experience that will truly make a difference for them as students.

In checking my work email this morning, I was a little astonished to find an email sent last night from Lindy, one of my M21 students; after all, it IS our week of vacation!  While most students would be enjoying the time off, Lindy has been thinking a lot about the floods at Clarkdale Elementary, her alma mater.  Lindy, whose grandparents’ basement was flooded, has been helping her family clean up and has seen the flood damage firsthand.  In her email, she wrote to tell me she is keeping an eye out for any blogathons that may be happening to help the school.   Tears came to my eyes as she recalled how our class participated in the blogathon for the flooded Louisville Free Public Library back on August 31 as part of our exploration of “Social Media for Social Good”.  She could have been thinking about a million other things, but Lindy was thinking of how people could help the students and teachers of Clarkdale—and she recalled the blogathon experience.

Many groups around Atlanta are organizing collections for donations and supplies for the students and teachers who are now being displaced to two other schools since the school will not be rebuilt anytime soon (it is too damaged to reopen), but if the students are interested, I am going to help them organize a possible blogathon if officials with the Cobb County School District still see a need for supplies; if not, perhaps a blogathon for the new Clarkdale Elementary library might be in order.

I am a person who likes to dream big and take bold steps; consequently, I sometimes feel change is not happening as fast as I’d like to see.  I constantly have to work on patience, which may be surprising to those of you who know me.    However, Lindy’s email has shown me that the Media 21 project IS making a positive impression and that small steps will get us to the end goal of creating students who not only are information literate and connected learners, but also students who can see how to take what they are learning in school and apply it to the “real world”.   THIS is why school libraries matter—we DO organize, design, and create learning experiences that make a difference in the lives of our students, and hopefully, beyond our community.

I don’t think they have a standardized test that can measure that.

Media 21 Student and Media Specialist MidSemester (Almost) Reflections

cc licensed flickr photo by istargazer:
cc licensed flickr photo by istargazer:

Last week, Ms. Lester and I asked students to take some time to reflect on their learning experience of the first six weeks of the semester.    I have spent the evening compiling a master list of student reflections that were submitted by the deadline of 3:30 PM on Friday, September 18 (we worked on them in class on Wednesday and Friday) and reading the reflections.  Here are my own reflections/observations based on the student feedback/comments I read.

What They Loved

  • Nearly every student of the 39 responses I had received indicated that they loved the ease and organizational features (as well as chat) of Gmail.
  • This love extended to Google Docs—many stated they liked it better than Word and loved how easy it was to use.  They also cited it as an organizational tool, and they love not having to depend on email or a flash drive for moving work.
  • Most also are feeling the love for Google Sites for hosting and creating professional looking work.
  • Most also love and are proud of the fact that they can blog!
  • Most indicated they enjoyed our group activities:  the book tasting we did last week as well as the “speed dating” article interviews were deemed as positive learning experiences.
  • Learning new Google search techniques.
  • Learning how social media can be used for research and educational uses, not just personal networking.

Love/Hate Relationship

  • The class Wetpaint Wiki:  some indicated they really like this tool, but many indicated the structure was confusing.  I’m wondering if I should move the class wikis to Wikispaces—the structure is already in place.  I find Wetpaint pretty easy to navigate, but then again, I’m a more experienced user!  Perhaps it is too overwhelming for new users?  I will have them vote next week via PollDaddy.
  • The Schaeffer Method Shaping Sheet Writing organizer:  some love it, some feel they don’t need it; however, may indicated they found it confusing and felt as though they were repeating themselves.   I will need to brainstorm with Ms. Lester if it is possible to modify this school required template to perhaps give students a comparable but different option that is the same content wise but perhaps visually more appealing?  While we want to scaffold their writing and know some are still learning the school required Schaeffer writing method, perhaps we need to share with them the goal is to ween them off it as we move forward.  Maybe some are ready now?

Muddy Points

  • Some are confused by the multiple web tools we are using.  I need to stress to them to memorize one, and they should be able to navigate their way to the other pages with ease
  • Most indicated they still feel confused about citing sources—depending on who they had, some of these students had more time intensive help/experience with NoodleTools last year than others.  I am hoping to make NoodleTools easier to use for them and to help them feel more confident citing their sources

Possible Topics for Triage

  • The Shaping Sheet—many are still confused
  • Grammar:  Sentence Structure
  • General Organizational Skills for some—many felt the Google tools helped in this area, but others are still struggling
  • Clarify purpose of the class wiki—I think this will become more apparent as we use it more for our literature circles activities
  • Writing Mini-Lessons:  word choice (diction), organization

Notable Quotes

When I blog I feel like I have a voice and that people are listening. Even if my blog doesn’t have a high rating I still know it is mine and my words. To think of my self a a resource is an awesome idea. Blogging can be a bit challenging, but I think that is what makes it fun. If there is not a challenge then it takes the fun out of learning. Also, I think it helps my only study and research skills. I can use a personal blog to put together a study guide or outline for a test. No matter what, I always find a new way to use my blog.

Jennifer S.

I have learned from the blogs, because I have to type the information and think about it rather then mindlessly transferring information from paper to paper as I have done in every other class. I enjoy the blogs because they are quick and easy to review, edit, or read. The wikis are helpful and easy to post to, and it is helpful to see everybody’s input on a subject matter. Google Docs and Sites are a major advancement because I don’t have to keep up with a flash-drive, or worry about converting a Word document for e-mailing. All of these new learning tools are relieving a lot of stress in school, and making it significantly easier to learn. I am looking forward to putting them to further more in depth use as we move on this year.

Nolan W.

You would never think that posting a blog, or updating your profile would help you get organized, but it has. When i am looking for something that I complete several weeks ago I look back to my blog post and back to my Google Sites, and there it is. The Google Docs really has help me also. I use that instead of Microsoft Word, and it helps me keep everything right there on my e mail. It also saves by itself so you never have to worry about all your work being gone.

Cori D.

I have improved so much on the information I can collect in the time allotted, writing blog responses, staying on task, and keeping caught up with all the work that needs to be done. The thing I am most proud of is how much my writing has improved just by writing one persuasive essay and many blogs posts and responses. Not only can I tell that my writing has had great progress in my English course, but also in my other classes too. My performance in writing, comprehending, and socializing has been greatly influenced by learning the many tools these past 2 months.

Lindy S.

I have learned about the usefulness of wikis and how they can be used to share information as a group. It helped me understand how Wikipedia and other wikis actually work and function as learning tools. The introduction of learning through blogging on the site WordPress, was also a new experience to me. I was interested to find that some blogs actually contain credible information and not just opinion based articles.

Loren T.

More Research Pathfinder 2.0 and Social Media: Travel Across the USA

My latest research pathfinder, Travel Across America USA, came together rather quickly, but it is one of my favorites to date.  Although I did not get to collaborate as much as I had hoped with the teacher on the project as of this evening, I feel confident we will conference next week and make any adjustments that may be needed since we have worked together, and he is really enthusiastic about using Google Docs and now moving on to Google Sites.

In this project, the students essentially must research and collect information about travel destinations between Juneau, Alaska and Key West , Florida.   You can see the requirements on the pathfinder page, but students are responsible for collecting multiple forms of data and representing it in an interesting and meaningful way.   I think the use of Google Docs (the presentation and spreadsheet tools) , Google Sites, and Google Maps can be instrumental in this project!  I am hopeful that I can confirm we will be using all three sets of tools to embed content and showcase the student projects.

This research pathfinder incorporates some of my favorite forms of social media:

  • A widget featuring a travel guide via Google Books
  • RSS feeds from Frommer’s and Lonely Planet Twitter accounts
  • RSS feeds for blogs from these two travel powerhouses
  • RSS feeds for travel podcasts and vodcasts
  • Widgets featuring Flickr photo group pools sponsored from Frommer’s and Lonely Planet
  • The use of “kwout” to highlight key websites that can be helpful for the assignment
  • A Google Map I created to show some of the travel destinations I would choose if I were doing the assignment to model how students might use Google Maps; in addition, I have provided links to tutorials although students will have to use some of the instructional videos at home since they are embedded from YouTube
  • An iTunes iMix of “travel music” created by National Geographic music (fun!)

I find it incredibly exciting to create a pathfinder that integrates so much social media to help students see how helpful and fun these resources can be.    What else would you add to this pathfinder?  Your suggestions are welcome!