Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Our Students Traveled the World Today

Today our students swam with sharks, walked on the moon, stood at the base of the Statue of Liberty, visited Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, traveled to the Galapagos Islands and viewed many landforms around the world. They were excited, energetic and amazed that they were able to do all of these trips without stepping foot outside of our school! 

Our school was selected to take part in Google Expeditions, a new product from Google that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips. Google provided all of the equipment, we provided the students! The day began with the teachers being oriented to the devices and learning how to take their students on the virtual trips. As classes came down to the library and community room throughout the day, each teacher facilitated a virtual field trip for their students. They immersed their students in experiences that brought abstract concepts to life and a deeper understanding of the world beyond their classroom.

Although nothing beats taking a real field trip, a virtual field trip is the next best thing! As students traveled around the world they oohed and aahed over every new site. They loved how the trips made them feel like they were really there. Learning came alive for our students today and it was great fun for everyone!

This was a great site to see in the morning!
Google brought everything we needed for the day!
Teachers learned how to use Google Expeditions first thing in the morning!
Students traveled around the world (virtually).
The students swam in the ocean with sharks!
Standing on the moon and looking at earth.
Visiting the Galapagos Islands!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

It All Started With One Question

How can we improve the learning space in our library? That was the question posed to my students last spring. Little did I know at the time how many ideas they would have and how busy the next few months would be implementing their ideas. I have to be honest, until that moment, it had never really occurred to me to ask the students how to redesign the library even though it was their learning space. Their ideas were well thought out and creative. They spent a lot of time brainstorming in small groups and sharing ideas. I spent a lot of time listening. It was truly one of the most invigorating experiences as an educator to see students so excited and empowered to make changes to the library that would benefit themselves and future students. We were able to get some of their ideas in place before school let out for the summer, but the rest was completed over the summer. We then waited in anticipation for students to return in September to see their inspired redesigned library! The pictures below showcase some before and after pictures!

Le Cafe Cooper
Book Nook
Literacy Lounge
Easy Fiction
New Tables
At a Glance
Student Approved

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Students Redesign the Library

Although we are in the 21st century, most classes are still using the same desks and chairs that I sat in as a child. Curriculum has changed, pedagogy has changed, technology has changed, our students have changed, but our learning spaces for the most part have remained the same over the years. When I reflect on the spaces where I do my own best learning, a hard uncomfortable chair and desk does not come to mind. I also don't stay in the same spot for extended periods of time. In my home, I tend to shift between chairs and rooms depending on my mood and what it is that I have to do. Outside of my home, I tend to go to Panera or Barnes and Noble where the atmosphere is cozy, the seats are comfortable, and I can have a soft drink if I'd like.

As I reflect on how I learn best, I started thinking of the learning space in the library media center for my students. What I realized is that over the years I have made a lot of changes to the wall decor, but I have not made any significant changes to the physical learning space. The tables and bookcases are in the same places that they were in when I inherited the library media center ten years ago. My guess is that they are in the original location that they were placed when the school first opened and no thought has been given to them ever since. The learning space has to be conducive to how students want to learn, not how teachers want to teach. Therefore, I decided to ask the students to redesign our learning space to fit their needs. Their only parameters were that walls couldn't be knocked down and the computers couldn't be moved due to the drops on the floor. Everything else was fair game!

The kids worked in small groups to discuss the library learning space. Some groups sat at their tables to discuss and others got up and walked around the room to visual the changes. We then came back as a group to discuss their ideas and I was blown away! Some of their ideas included the following:
  • Replace rectangle tables with round tables to promote a calm and cool atmosphere. They also thought it would be easier to have group conversations.
  • Get comfortable chairs and bean bag chairs 
  • Get some chairs with higher backs, so the smaller kids will feel more confident
  • Add more bright colors
  • Rotate the book shelves to make longer rows, which will help make it easier to find books
  • Move the reference and biography books
  • Move all of the books out of the middle area and make that the classroom area
  • Add more lamps
  • Add more quotes
  • Add cushion seats
  • Add a fish tank to help calm students
  • Add more chairs around the library to give kids more areas to read
Wow! They thought of so many things that I hadn't thought to do! To get things started, I emailed our K-6 schools to see if anyone was interested in trading our rectangle tables for their round tables and I got a volunteer. Redesigning the learning space had begun! It is definitely a work in progress to implement their ideas, but it has been so exciting to see their faces when they come into the library and see the changes they suggested. As student leaders, their voices have been heard and the library will be a better learning space for everyone!

Students used Google Draw to design the Literacy Lounge area of the library.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Time to Tweet

Twitter has been around for years, but until fairly recently, educators have equated it more with the social life of a teenager as opposed to a professional development tool for themselves. As with any tool, digital or not, there needs to be a purpose. To be honest, my Twitter account was set up in 2008, and I’ve only actively been using it the last year and a half. Why? Because I had no purpose. Now that I’ve been using is as a professional development tool, a way to connect with educators around the world, and a means to telling a story, I have found my purpose. Everyone's purpose for using Twitter will be different, but whether you use Twitter or not, it is important to know the basics because our students and parents are using it daily as their means of communication. Your purpose for using this tool may grow and change over time, but once you find your purpose, you will find Twitter to be an indispensable tool.

Using sticky notes to "tweet" our  #superpowers.

Setting up Twitter accounts.

Learning how to thread a conversation using hashtags.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Developing Digital Citizens

We teach our children about having good manners by reminding them to say please and thank you. We teach them to be kind and respectful to others. We teach them that it’s not what we say, but how we say it that can affect the message being conveyed. We help our children work through the ups and downs of developing friendships. We keep them safe by reminding them to put on their seatbelts when we are in the car and only let them go to the homes of others that we know and are comfortable with. We believe that it takes a village to raise our children, but have you noticed that your child’s village has spilled over into the digital community? Do you know who is in this village? Do you know what your child is posting online and to whom? Do you know what trail of information your child is leaving behind? Do you know that once something is posted online, it never goes away? You are very much a part of your child’s real world, but are you also a part of your child’s digital world? If not, you should be.

Most adults did not grow up with technology and are often referred to as digital immigrants because we can remember the days of no computers, cell phones, tablets, etc. Today’s children on the other hand can’t imagine a world without this technology. They do not fear it and embrace every opportunity to use it for communication, entertainment and information. There is no doubt that technology is a powerful tool, but in the words of Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Our students may be growing up in a world of technology, but that doesn’t mean that they have the life skills to effectively and responsibly use it. Technology is a great tool for learning, conducting research, and communicating. Unfortunately, however, we often hear how students use digital tools inappropriately for plagiarizing, cyberbullying, cheating, sexting, oversharing personal information, and meeting online strangers in person. As parents and educators, we have a responsibility to train and guide them on how technology fits into their lives. They need to learn that decisions they make online today can have long-term implications tomorrow. We want our students to be safe and to be positive members of the digital community, but they aren’t going to get there by themselves. We need to take an active role in their digital life by being aware of what they’re doing online, monitoring their online activities, and most importantly serving as positive role models.

Have you ever Googled yourself before? If not, you might be surprised to see what your virtual identity looks like because everything you do online is collected into a digital dossier, otherwise known as your digital footprint. This footprint is traceable by others and is virtually impossible to eliminate.  Our students must become aware of their digital identity, so that they can learn how to manage and develop it into a positive one. It is imperative that they keep themselves and their personal information safe as the lines between the digital and real world have become blurred.

Our digital reality is that technology is very much a part of all our lives and it is here to stay.  For our students, they are interacting digitally more and more everyday with content, one another, and in various communities. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are but a few of the tools they are using to conduct their interactions. The tools they use tomorrow may change, but what won’t change is the need for our students to be educated on digital responsibility, citizenship and creating a positive online footprint. Together as parents, teachers and community members, we must be the village that works together to raise our students into digital leaders.

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