How To Be Innovative Inside The Box #1

*Series of posts in my year of change of how to be innovative inside the box*

This was a year of change with new curriculum in intermediate grade levels, new leadership in many areas and a new library schedule. With any change, you can either innovate to embrace it or deny, deny, deny or resist the change.

With all these changes, one new expectation that became part of my daily schedule was to run a daily RTI (response to intervention) group with a mixture of 5th and 6th graders. The group would run for an hour each morning, 8:40-9:40.

When I first heard this news back in May 2017, I panicked. I understood that we teach all students, but interventions, RTI, Tier 2/3 instruction? I was not qualified as an AIS reading or literacy teacher. After some meetings and more listening, the panic lessened. Grade-level teachers would be responsible for Tier 1 instruction, and my group would be designed as an ELA extension hour each day. OK, less panic, but still no vision or direction was given. So what does anyone do in my position? Take ownership and make it work with what I’m given.

Coming into September 2017 after planning in the summer, here were some more reality checkpoints thrown my way during the new adventure:

  • Up to 35 students would be in my group with no teacher aide or assistance. (My library aide managed open library for book exchange, research questions and field technology questions. One of our busiest times is between 830-10, right smack dab in the middle of the RTI group). This also proved to not have enough space in the library that seats 28
  • In 2017-18, grades 5/6 do not have 1:1 devices, but will in 2018-19
  • No targets or curriculum provided by grade-level or content teachers; I was on my own for targets and to determine the groups’ needs between two grade levels and varying strengths and abilities

OK. At this point, my head was spinning, but thinking, “Hey, we will make this work.”

Students walked in the first day and were confused. They did not know why they were here with me and why there was a mixture of grade levels. The first thing we had to do was explain our purpose here, our expectations and have a direction for the year. After that, we had to become a family based on mutual respect and trust. That first month, we spent so much time team building, talking with each other and reflecting.

Without that first month of building the community dynamic, it would not have been a successful year. I am so proud of these students that took the challenge to try something different and run with it, not sure what the end result would be. Yes, there are times that students get annoyed with each other or something occurs, but in the end, respect and understanding shine through. Some days we have collaborative activities small group or whole group, other days its independent-based.

Each Monday, we start of whole group with conversations or a different team-building activity. We also start of as whole group the other days, simply to say “good morning,” do you need us for anything today? What’s going on with you? I have to remember I am the first face students might see each day, and this is an immense responsibility. I like to start the day of with some “mindfulness” activities. We acknowledge and celebrate achievements of all or give shout-outs of appreciation.

Heading into May and week 35 out of 40, it has been exciting to see the students grow into a family and community this year with the group. We did not begin that way, but it took time and trust to build these relationships; we are constantly communicating with one another. Students have had private conversations with me about how they now have friends, someone who gets them. Students in different grade levels and classes are talking to others who have never talked before.

No matter the change or initiative you implement, you have to know and celebrate your people, communicate and build relationships. It takes time and patience, but the effort put in is well worth it.

Next post: How to address lack of resources, space and curriculum direction.



Thing 12: Final Reflection

What did you learn? What an excellent year of learning again with Cool Tools. This year, I feel I focused more on refining my practice. There is a strong foundation, but everything can always be improved and tweaked. There was also a lot of reflection on my current practices, library program and physical space. I focused more on creating resource guides to curate, collaborate and share with colleagues. This will be a huge project in the upcoming months, but I found a format I want to use for curation: Destiny Collections. I plan to build on this project this summer and next year and meet with grade-level PLCs to promote and gather input for the Collections digitally and face-to-face. Google Drive as a digital portfolio for student-led conferences and sharing of ENL resources were my successes, and finding a new note-taking tool did not go well.

What’s next? I want to add more to the Destiny Collections guides, but advocate for the collaboration piece. I plan to add this to my digital signature and make it more visible on my library’s website. Also, the LMS team at my district has decided to collaborate on a summer reading website using Google Sites. We have so much information to provide, we want a more streamlined one-stop-shop updated site for this. We are also planning to add a digital piece for social reading and are brainstorming a Fulton reading hash tag. Moving forward, I want to dig more into the AASL standards and select one or two areas to improve for the 2018-19 school year through reflection. In addition, I have begun to redesign the library space. Furniture has been moved, and we in the process to move a few more things around by spring break. The changes have been met with positive responses so far.

Did you like learning this way? I appreciate this PD each year and the fact it is online as my schedule has been busy going back to school for my CAS admin degree. I can work at my own pace and select topics that interest me. There have been some topics I have revisited this year, and am building on that knowledge-base. I would absolutely participate in this program again as everything is constantly relevant and updated. This is some of most meaningful PD I have all year because it’s based off choice and my needs. Thank you, again.

Thing 50: New AASL Standards

This year, the county’s school library system has offered an online study group with the new AASL standards book. Fortunately, I have been able to gain exposure and understanding of the new standards.

Upon first looking at the standards last fall, I was overwhelmed. Another new set of standards to an already-growing list? After looking at the standards, I realized I meet many of these, yet there are a few areas that can always be improved. I cannot become perfect in every standard, but have a goal to work on one or two each year to grow and improve.

The areas that resonate with me the most are inquire and include as these are my strongest. I have pride in my program that it encourages respect and openness for diversity and building curiosity and problem-solving skills. I have spent much time on my collection development policy and building a collection that includes everyone. Each lesson delivered has time for students to ask questions and reflect on learning.

One area I need to strengthen is curate. With Cool Tools, I have begun to improve this practice. I’ve been using Destiny Collections to share instructional resources collaboratively with teachers, and promoting SNAP media channels more with teachers. I have had success promoting databases and Overdrive this year.

With my school becoming 1:1 next year and steps toward moving paperless, digital curation is more important than ever. I feel I have a good foundation, but can always build and change. I do have to remember these curated lists are living documents that are meant to be change to meet the instructional needs of students, so it will be important to constantly reflect and review what sources are there.

Thing 49: Connecting, Collaborating and Sharing

Google Drive: The LMS team at my district meets monthly. We use Google Drive to store all of our documents, PLC agendas and curriculum information. I love the flexibility and collaboration aspects of Google Drive. We create the draft agendas for our monthly PLC meetings and are able to share ideas with each other through the minutes. This year, the whole team presented at a conference together, and it was wonderful to collaborate on a Google Slide for our presentation as obtaining release time is difficult. In addition, the team began to pull essential standards for IFC and ISTE standards. When we had curriculum meetings, it was helpful to share these documents with coaches to help facilitate the process of pulling essential standards. The team will continue to use Google Drive as our main collaboration tool next year.

Google Calendar: I have my schedule posted on a Google Doc, but each day can be different. What I would like to do for next year is embed the Google Calendar of my schedule on the library’s website, as well as put this in my email signature. This information can also serve as a piece of data as to what happens in the library each day, making us more visible to administrators and teachers.

Padlet: I used Padlet with my students to respond to discussion questions recently. This tool was useful because it gave quieter students a voice and students were engaged and loved to see what other classmates posted. Padlet has now become a norm with some of my grade levels as we discuss texts or key concepts. I do plan to use this tool next year for my lessons. Students picked up on the tool quickly, thought we did have to review netiquette heavily in the beginning.

Thing 26: Note-taking Tools

In the NY Times article for the lesson, I was surprised how it was stated that students who use laptops during lectures/classes are not as effective in assessments as students who do not use these tools. Yes, using a laptop might influence a student to explore other social media sites instead of listening to a professor, but doesn’t it depend on the student?

I type faster than I write with a pen. When at a meeting or a class, I prefer to type notes as they are more thorough. I tried to write with pen/paper for a meeting and found myself frustrated. The speaker spoke quickly, and I could not keep up with notes.

Recently, I went digital for all my notes. It was a smooth transition from pen and paper, and I use Google Drive as my base. In the past, I’ve attempted to use Evernote. However, that tool did not stick because it was yet another tool to use when there are so used for personal reasons.

For this lesson, I delved more into Google Keep. This tool reminds me of Padlet, and it was simple to use. I tried to use it for a few meetings in the last week, but I still prefer to use a Google Doc. I can appreciate the simple, organized method thought of Google Keep and hope to introduce this tool in lesson soon.

As our school becomes fully integrated with 1:1 Chromebooks for grades 3-12 next year, Google Keep could be a helpful tool to use in the classroom. Students could use this tool to write down questions they have about a lesson or type key points to reference later. With this lesson I’ve realized that each person has their own method for note taking, but it’s good to explore different tools and step outside my comfort zone. Sometimes it is OK to not fix what was broken.


February 2018 Wrap Up & March 2018 TBR

February 2018 Wrap Up

January 2018 had many mediocre or excellent reads. For February, I finished 15 books. That is way more than I thought I would finish. A long drive to work allows me to listen to audio books for about an hour each day.  The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Blue Coat and The Cruel Prince have the possibility to be in my top 10 favorite books this year.

  • Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse – 5/5
  • March Book 1 by John Robert Lewis – 5/5
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – 5/5
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling – 5/5
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – 5/5
  • March 2 by John Robert Lewis – 4/5
  • The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden 4/5
  • Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare – 4/5
  • Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story by Debbie Tung – 4/5
  • Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed – 4/5
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy – 4/5
  • American Panda by Gloria Chao – 4/5
  • Everless by Sara Holland – 3/5
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – 3/5
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis – 3/5

March 2018 TBR

Some books I would like to try and get in March include:

  • March Book 3
  • Daugther of a Pirate King
  • Daughter of the Siren Queen
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Everland
  • As Bright As Heaven
  • Pashmina
  • Spinning
  • The Light We Lost
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker
  • Lincoln in the Bardo

Thing 3: Twitter and Other Online Communities

For this lesson, I wanted to revisit and reflect on my professional use of Twitter. Since the creation of my account, Twitter has been a professional, not a personal, network for me. I’ve always used it to gather and share resources regarding librarianship, education, books and technology. However, I needed to do something new this school year with Twitter.

To begin, I overhauled my profile description. Since it was a professional account, I had to focus on what means most to me as a professional. I also added a new section: My current read is … to share what books or articles I am currently reading. These edits make me feel more cohesive and organized with my online presence. I also updated my Tweetdeck account to follow different hashtags.

Although I am late to the game, I have started to participate in the #12daystwitter. Why not? I’ve sifted through some of the tweets to follow other handles and gather resources.

Lastly, earlier this year I debated whether to create a separate Twitter account to promote and brand the school library. I wanted to share more resources and happenings through Twitter this year, but not sure about the format. A pro and con list was created, and in the end, I decided to create a hashtag (#granbylibrary) versus a separate account. Because my Twitter account is a professional account, I felt OK doing this and I do have an established, active presence. Every few days, I gather photos or highlights of happenings in the library to Tweet out. This is a new process for me, and I find myself appreciating that resources are shared, but more importantly, I am advocating the library’s story. This simple change has proved to be a powerful new way to continue to advocate for my library.

Thing 20: Creating a Resource Guide

Step 1: Pick an Audience

I would like to target teachers in my building for this project. Teachers are constantly bombarded by emails, countless data and everything else. From a library and tech perspective, there are excellent resources to share that can support instruction and curriculum.

Step 2: Tools for Curating and Sharing

In the past, I have used Pinterest boards and LibGuides to curate resources for colleagues. The links on Pinterest do not work anymore, and I do not like LibGuides, which is not user-friendly. It also has cost our district a lot of money for minimal usage. We will not purchase a license for this tool next year.

However, I do want to try Destiny Collections. The district uses Follett Destiny as the library automation system, and this resource comes at no extra cost to us. Last summer, I attended a training on using the Collections resource, a collaborative site that allows resources to be curated and shared. Collections is easy to use and collaborative; anyone can add resources as long as they have the permissions. The elementary librarians and myself in the district began to gather resources to support curriculum in ELA, social studies and science.

Step 3: Gather Resources

For the past few weeks, I created two Collections guides: Primary and Secondary resources and Copyright & Plagiarism resources. I added links from other websites that sounded helpful. Destiny Collections also has a database of open educational resources, so I was able add more resources from there I plan to add a few more as links become known to me.

In the future, I want to create guides for Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy and invite the other librarians to add to this collection. As the district becomes fully 1:1 in grades 3-12 next year, it will be helpful for all teachers to have access to helpful information regarding safety and respect with this initiative.

Step 4: Share, Promote, Maintain!

So far, I’ve added the Collections made to the library’s website, and cleaned up the Teacher Resource page. Teachers use this page frequently, so they will not have to go to a new area. Also, I want to promote the Collections pages with the #granbylibrary hashtag. Maybe other people might have other ideas to add or use them to help others. Once the guides are more solid, I want to add a line to my email signature to promote a guide each week.

I do need to do a better job to maintain the guides. The Pinterest one I made years ago was outdated and links were rotten. To help this, I want to add other collaborators to the Collections guides I make. Also, I want to use the #granbylibrary hashtag to promote resources for others to use. The maintenance will be the biggest challenge for me, but I hope to do better this time around.

Thing 22: Emerging Tech and Scanning the Horizon

A characteristic of a librarian with a growth-mindset includes looking into the future to better meet the needs of the community. I have to anticipate change and be willing to try something new, even if it fails. If it does, I learn from the experience and try again.

After looking at the articles for this lesson, I feel overwhelmed. What was new last year is not new this year. There are so many trends and emerging initiatives to be aware of and implement. I had to take a step back from the articles for a few days to reflect on what I read and put emerging trends into categories that I plan to tackle:

Redesigning learning spaces

The library does have an effective makerspace, but other parts of my library need to be adjusted. I appreciated the articles that mentioned “unplugged spaces.” At times, students do need a place to relax and reflect; they don’t always need to be collaborative. The library does have collaborative spaces, but it needs a more reflective space. There is one corner of the library designated as a reading area, but that area can be improved. In that space, there are also 4 desktop computers used for the Destiny catalog. Next year, students in grades 3-6 will have access to 1:1 Chromebook devices and there is an ipad cart in the library, so students in K-2 will have access to mobile technology. I want to remove the catalog station and table in order to expand the book nook area with area rugs and more flexible seating. Our school implemented a daily social emotional learning time during with a program called Second Step Program. I hope this new area will be an extension of the program. Already, some students use the library during recess because the cafeteria and gym are too busy and crowded. I hope this space will provide more students with a reflective atmosphere.

Leadership and teacher-leadership

How can I be more of a leader to curate and share resources? Here are some ways I want to try:

  • Our library automation system has a collaborative piece called Destiny Collections. I would like to add more resources to this platform, but invite teachers to collaborate with me, as well. I want to share more resources about media literacy, coding sites and more. My team began this process last year, but it took the backburner. I want to make this initiative a priority this spring so it will be ready for fall
  • Be more active on Twitter to share resources and ideas. I go in spurts of using Twitter to share and connect; I use it more to lurk and gather ideas but that needs to change. Once I get into a habit, it will become natural

Redefining digital citizenship & flipped learning

Students in grades 3-6 will each have a Google Chromebook in 2018-19. Grade 4 has them now, and I have collaborated with the team to provide flipped learning digital-citizenship lessons for students to complete. However, it is not solely the librarian’s responsibility to teach digital citizenship lessons. Students will have these devices in every part of their day, and any teacher can teach these lessons. That is a gap to bridge, and we are beginning small now with hope to bring this to more grade levels soon. Also, students need the opportunity to connect in a global world, and I found the website ePals, where students can connect with students from a different part of the world; they can learn about other cultures and communicate in a safe, positive manner. My fifth and sixth-graders will complete this project after winter break, and I hope it goes well.

Thing 44: Social Reading and Book Stuff

A few years ago, I completed this post about social reading and book stuff. Since then, there have been updates of my usage of this topic:

  • What am I reading? I like to post my current read in my profile on Twitter and email signature.
  • Goodreads: I use this for a personal network. Before buying books, I like to see what reviews they have. Though I do not post reviews of my own, there is a TRB shelf and more to help me keep track of my reading
  • NYPL library card: Last fall, I signed up for this card. Since then, it has been my main source of audio book checkouts. The selection is vastly larger than my local public library, and I do not have to be put on a hold list often
  • Twitter book chats: I have participated in on of the #2jennsbookclub, and hope to do more in the future. This helps me connect with newer YA books that are published. I also try to participate in a monthly Twitter chat called #owlbabble from the company OwlCrate, a bookish subscription box I receive each month. It is exciting to connect with big-name authors
  • Summer reading bingo board: I saw the template for this, and would like to try it for summer 2018. I would like to modify the board into primary versus secondary. To make it a “social” book talk, I plan to include the library’s hash tag #granbylibrary and maybe students or parents will connect with each other and myself to show what they read this summer

Recently, my district received a grant from an organization called Read To Them. They will provide a copy of the book “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate to each student in K-6 in each elementary school. The goal is to have families and the community involved in reading this book that our committee selected. After talking with the instructional coach at my school, I would like to facilitate a Facebook book discussion group after the program launches in March. It would include discussion questions people could respond to or reflections about the reading experience.