Saturday, April 1, 2017

Computers in Libraries 2017


Introduction

Back in the fall of 2016, my friend Tracey Wong asked me to present a session with her at the Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington, D.C. Tracey is a school librarian in New York. I was very excited about this opportunity since I had never attended an out of state library conference. This was a chance to attend a national library/ technology conference and share our best practices!

Preparation

Tracey had her session, "Game Design as a Catalyst for Learning", accepted by the conference. We both applied for the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEExpert) travel program and were accepted. (Read this earlier blog article I wrote about being an MIEExpert if you want to know more.) With the travel program, Microsoft would send us to the conference and provide for our travel and room accommodations. Now we were ready to start creating our content.



Brainstorming Content

Both of us had cool tools we wanted to share. Tracey had been using VR Quest as a way to teach her students about virtual reality game creation. She and I had also both been using Minecraft with students in our school libraries. We decided to focus on both VR Quest and Minecraft in our presentation.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my first experiences with Minecraft with students in summer school. I also wrote a post about how several of our learners took the lead with Minecraft. This was one of my favorite articles to share because a few of the students created screenshot videos of them describing why they like Minecraft as a learning tool. I decided I would focus on a few of these examples from the current school year. Tracey and I also thought it would be great to Skype with one of my students during the session. We began to create and curate our slides and other content for the presentation.

Flying to DC


The jet that took me to Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport
In my lifetime, I've only flown a few times. While serving in the 106th Army Band in the Arkansas Army National Guard, I flew on the big C-130 aircraft a few times during our summer annual training missions. Flying has always been a bit scary for me. I knew I wanted this opportunity to share our student's stories more than the fear of flying, so I hopped on a plane at the Clinton National Airport that took me to Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport. From there, I flew to Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C. The two flights took half of the day, but it was a pleasant experience.

Meeting New Friends


Upon arriving at the hotel, I had a chance to finally meet Shannon Miller and her husband Eric Fitzgerald. This meant the world to me since Shannon had inspired me to create this blog in 2014 when she spoke at our state Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference! We had a pleasant visit. I was also able to visit with another important mentor to me, Joyce Valenza. The next day, I had the privilege of meeting another teacher-librarian I follow on social media, Michelle Luhtala. I love attending professional conferences where I can meet important school library thought leaders face to face (even if it is only for a brief time).

Our Session

On the day of our session, we arrived early to check that all our technology was working. We weren't sure how many might come to the session. 20 minutes before starting time the room began to fill up.
Approximately 110 people attended the session. We were excited about the turnout since there were about 1300 attending the conference! Tracey started the presentation by talking about VR Quest and the potential for deeper student learning through the creation of games. She brought her VR setup and asked for a member of the audience to assist. To our good fortune, there happened to be a young person in the session named Alex. He jumped at the chance to demonstrate the VR Quest device. The audience could see on the projector screen what Alex was viewing through the VR headset.

Tracey helped Alex with the VR Quest headset
 After this, Tracey gave a brief overview of Minecraft. She described the basics of the game and provided some additional resources and tutorials for attendees. Following her part of the presentation, I shared about our first experiences with Minecraft last summer and how two students (Jared and Shawn) built the library in Minecraft. Later this led to both of them presenting to our entire faculty prior to school starting! I also shared about how a student created a puzzle based on the Plymouth colony for the history department. (This was part of a student-led BreakoutEDU session.) I couldn't pass up talking about LHS 8th grader, Jordan, and his castle built in Minecraft. Each example showed the possibilities of using Minecraft to teach math, science, electronics, problem-solving, and more.

Jordan presented via Skype!

During the final 10 minutes, we Skyped with Jordan back home in Arkansas. I'm very grateful to my colleague, Kaitlyn Price (@Kait_Price11), for helping set this up for us. He and the attendees exchanged waves and greeted one another. Jordan seemed so fearless as he shared why he liked using Minecraft as a learning tool in the classroom. After a few moments of sharing, it was time to begin wrapping up our 45-minute session. The crowd gave Jordan a wonderful round of applause! After this, we answered a few questions and allowed attendees to try on the VR headset.

Highlights of Other Sessions 

I attended many sessions during the conference and learned many new concepts from each. These were some of my favorite sessions:

Smithsonian Museum in a Box

I attended a session shared by Sara Cardello, Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, D.C. She shared that the libraries have been working with a company called Museum in a Box. She shared that the pilot program intends to allow photos and artifacts to be sent to schools anywhere. Students can hold the artifacts near a box with a computer in it. The computer inside the box would then play audio that provides more information about the specific artifact to the users. She showed us several examples! I hope this program becomes a reality soon. Our students and teachers would love it! Watch the sample video on the Museum in a Box website. (They are the London-based company that the Smithsonian Libraries are using for this program.) I also noticed that Shannon Miller wrote about this session on her blog.

Evolving With Evidence

I attended a session by Joyce Valenza, Michelle Luhtala, and Shannon Miller. They showed us a variety of ways to collect and share evidence with library stakeholders. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that simply showing our classroom use statistics or circulation numbers are not enough. We must strive to show how library use is impacting student learning and ways it is changing the learning community! I'll share more thoughts on this in a future newsletter.




Transformation & Community Engagement


I attended a session by Dr. Tod Colgrove, Head, DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library, University of Nevada, Reno. I frequently wonder about makerspaces in public school libraries and what that can look like beyond the K-12 environment. Dr. Colgrove gave us a glimpse into his world through a science and engineering lens. He shared how the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library has numerous innovation tools that students are constantly using. He told a story about a learner that taught himself how to create things with the 3D printers. He also learned how to solder connections and code. Over time this student built a fully functional robotic arm and hand while using innovation tools in the university library. The student has now launched his own business and builds such innovations for his living! This is what I hope our school library innovation spaces will help students create... a bright future! I'm so glad to see we are on the right track in public school librarianship by supporting student innovations.

Conclusion

A pic I took over Dallas/ Fort Worth
This trip allowed me to see what it is like to travel to distant conferences! Many thanks to Tracey Wong for inviting me to collaborate with her on this session. Thank you to Microsoft for sending me on this journey to share our students' work with Minecraft at a national conference. Thank you to my administration and co-workers for allowing me to attend. Tracey and I have already been approved to present at the ISTE conference in June 2017. I can't wait for this next opportunity to share our students' stories!







Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Our Civil War adventures in the library.

How our students took the mic at a TLChat webinar.

My table of contents for the blog is here!




I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!



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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Civil War Adventures in the Library



Introduction

Being a school librarian provides countless opportunities to support the curriculum in our buildings. We had been discussing how we might incorporate a collaborative program to introduce the Civil War to 8th grade social studies classes this spring. Coach April Lawson and Mr. Brooks Lee were on board for such an event. What happened next was actually two wonderful programs that provided their students with a variety of experiences to introduce the period. We also realized that these programs could easily be expanded in the future to further enhance the experiences!

Skype With The Virginia Historical Society

In a previous blog article, I discussed how we use Skype in the Classroom to connect with other places for virtual field trips, Skype lessons, and guest speakers. While searching for ideas to complement the social studies classes, I ran upon a Skype program through the Virginia Historical Society called "The Civil War: An American Turning Point." We were able to connect with a wonderful intern named Ben. He talked about the economic and industrial differences between the North and South. He also showed us artifacts that soldiers might have carried. Our students enjoyed the 50-minute program and went back to class telling the teachers about their experience!

Ben showed our students various items carried by soldiers

Library Collaboration


We decided to put together a library collaboration to further introduce students to the Civil War period. We chose to have 5 learning stations that included a medical tent, music, and art. Coach Lawson asked if we might possibly have a BreakoutEDU component. After working together for a few days, we came up with several puzzles to embed in the experience. Below are brief descriptions of each learning station.

1. Bill of Rights Display

We were provided a wonderful Bill of Rights display by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Archives and Records Administration. We decided to incorporate it into one of our rotations. Students were asked to analyze the Bill of Rights to determine which amendments were added after the Civil War and what this meant for former slaves.




2. Appomattox Courthouse Surrender Video

Students watched a video on the library laptop computers about General Lee's surrender at Appomattox. They were asked to answer questions based on the video.




3. Civil War Era Music

At this station students listened to the popular Civil War era song called "John Brown's Body". They were provided the lyrics to the song at the station. They were asked to respond to questions about the song after a period of listening was provided.



4. Medical Tent

Mrs. Peggy Schaeffer, one of our assistants, created a medical tent station in the library by using an old food service tent. She put white bulletin board paper all around the tent to give it an appearance from the era. She also posted various photos in the tent. Students were told a wounded soldier had dropped an important clue in the tent. They discovered a locked pencil box and envelope containing directions. The envelope clue led groups to another room where they had to read an article to discover the three digit number to unlock the box. Inside the box was a map, ruler, and additional clue. They had to use map reading skills to find how many miles soldiers had to travel to Fredericksburg. This knowledge would help them solve one of the final puzzles after all rotations were completed.




Students enjoyed searching for the clues in the lockbox at this station


5. Thomas Nast Art Selection

Mrs. Schaeffer found "Emancipation" by Thomas Nast. We decided to use this piece for an art station during the rotations. Students had to look at the artwork and write down four significant points that stood out to them.



6. BreakoutEDU Challenge

After all of the rotations were complete, we brought out BreakoutEDU boxes for each of the 5 groups. Students had to solve two puzzles to successfully break out. Teachers wanted to make this a final challenge to see which groups could win by finishing first. All students were very engaged during this last "mission".





Student Reflections

"This Civil War activity in the library for Mr. Lee's class was a lot of fun and a great experience. The most fun I had was the lock boxes. This is something I (would like) to do again."  - Amberly G.


"Yesterday my class did a breakout session during our social studies period. I really enjoyed being able to get out of our classroom and being able to interact with another class. It definitely was a challenge to breakout (of) the clues in the locked box. It was really fun in Station 4 when we had to find the classroom that had the clues in it. One way you could improve this breakout session is giving us more time. I don't think 7 minutes was enough to find our clues. Overall, this was a really great experience." - Jordan S.

Teacher Reflections


Coach Lawson's Reflection



We began brainstorming this type of activity several months ago on ways to bring the Civil War to life. With the help of all of our Library Staff ( Mr. Evans, Mr. Borel, Mrs. Kaitlyn Price, and Mrs. Peggy Schaffer along with Mr. Brooks Lee, and myself) we reached the idea of using our breakout edu resources. The process all starts with creating puzzles and activities that the student are given an essential question or a set of instructions to follow and they must work together to solve the data.



We developed 5 different stations ranging from a medical tent, search and find map coordinates (having to use cardinal directions), to music and video representations of that era. The students were provided their orders and set loose to work and learn together. These stations may have used primary sources via hands on or technical components to aide the students in solving their clues or puzzles.


To finish the process the student groups completed their orders and came back to main camp to receive their breakout trunk to solve and see which troops would be successful opening the trunk to be declared the troop that broke out and won the activity. This is our BreakoutEDU resources and the kids love them.


I believe the students and the instructors enjoyed watching and participating in the activity. Many students walked away a leader and feeling the success of leading their brigade to a successful mission. I believe there were key informational details on the topic learned by all students as well as some other staff that came by to see the progress.


Using this type of activity allows students to take on the role of learning in a much more active and fun manner. It’s a chance to bring history alive into the present day for them to better understand the connections of what the past has done or is doing within the present. I also believe students that are active in their learning are able to retain and understand the content as well as the skills and procedures that will help them be successful in their future educational journeys. I love being a project based instructor allowing my students to take on the role to guide their own educational experience and the unity of working together to collaborate and solve the issues. These skills will empower students to become stronger minded, more open and free willed adults and leaders of tomorrow.

We as educators involved in this activity have already started the brainstorming process to take this activity to the next level and really design a learning center that is alive and active as well as informational and fun for our future students. We have a GREAT team of educators working for the futures of our prospective eager and successful students.


Next Steps

As Coach Lawson indicated in her reflection, we are already brainstorming potential additional material for next year. We have talked to our school nurse and a community volunteer to add them to the medical tent station. The school nurse has even offered to dress in a Civil War era costume. We have all discussed the possibility of creating a "camp" scene outside the library and bringing in food selections from the period. All of us involved want to wear Civil War costumes and uniforms! If you can think of ways we might improve this program in the future, please, add your suggestions to the comments below or email me!

In addition, I plan to share many of the resources we found for this program in my April 2017 newsletter (be sure to subscribe below to receive these!)


Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

How we broke the language barrier in the library.

Adventures with OER and Google Groups.

My table of contents for the blog is here!




I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!



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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Students Take The Mic At TLChat


Many thanks to Ray Borel for this wonderful advertisement!

During a planning meeting in January for the TLChat webinar series, I offered to lead a session for the month of March. Rather than me serving as the main presenter, we thought it would be great to allow our student leaders to speak. We have had a very motivated group of student speakers at school this year. They have had the opportunity to share their library makerspace innovations with teachers, students, and businesses many times during 2016-2017.

We wanted these learners to lead the hour-long webinar and share their voices. This was a great change to show how students can take the lead doing virtually anything in the school library. Our hope was to inspire teacher librarians (or teachers and administrators) to empower student leadership! Mrs. Kaitlyn Price (also a teacher librarian at Lakeside High School) and I wanted to serve as facilitators for the event. We selected 5 of our student leaders to take the role of presenters. I emailed their parents to let them know about the event. To help students prepare for the session, we asked them to create up to 10 slides that covered the following information:


  • What they presented this year (3D printing, BreakoutEDU, Robotics, etc)
  • Who they presented to (Other schools, Follett company, Microsoft, etc)
  • How having a voice impacted them personally
  • Next steps: what they plan or hope to do next

We asked all students to keep their presentations to about 8 minutes. It didn't take long for them to start sending me their slides for the webinar. Kaitlyn and I heard all the presenters go through their outlines and presentations prior to the event. We let them practice using the Blackboard Collaborate interface (the platform used to deliver the TLChat webinars). Look at the bottom of this page for a link to the Blackboard recording of the webinar!

On the evening of the event the following students presented:

Jordan (8th grade) Minecraft 

Jordan shared his passion for Minecraft during his session. He explained the basics of the tool, ideas for how it can be used in the classroom, and suggestions for empowering students to lead the way. We discussed how teachers and librarians should not feel they have to know everything about Minecraft since it is so popular with students. Jordan pointed out that there are "student experts" everywhere since thousands of kids are playing Minecraft. He also shared how being a presenter impacted him. Earlier this year, Jordan and other students helped me create a blog article about Minecraft. He was gracious enough to create a screenshot video walk through of a project he created using the software.

Gavin and Drew (10th grade) 3D Scanning & Printing

Gavin and Drew shared how they have presented their EAST 3D Scanning & Printing Project in the library this year. They discussed the specifics of the project and each piece of equipment they use to scan and create models in EAST. They shared how being presenters has changed their thinking this year. The two also talked about how they enjoy inspiring students and teachers to create!



Nathan (11th grade) BreakoutEDU

Nathan talked about how he has been given leadership opportunities in the library since his 9th grade year. This student has led numerous book clubs and has even presented at a state library conference with me! He shared about how he became interested in BreakoutEDU last summer after visiting a local escape room. We gave Nathan the opportunity to present BreakoutEDU to our history department at Lakeside during their summer professional development meeting. Nathan discussed the process he went through creating the BreakoutEDU puzzles and he reflected on the entire experience. This session allowed me (and webinar participants) to hear the impact leadership roles can have on students.


Krystyna (10th grade) Robotics

Krystyna has been presenting robotics and technology in the library since her 9th-grade year. For her part of the session, she talked about why she likes to present and how the library has been an important place for her to discover her love of sharing with others. She also reflected on the impact of how speaking with Microsoft leadership during the Skype-a-thon during the fall of 2016 allowed her to see that anything was possible for her future. We have seen Krystyna present to students and teachers numerous times this year. I'm so glad that we were able to empower her with opportunities to speak and connect!

My Reflections

I was so proud of all our student presenters during and after the webinar. We speak about student voice frequently as educators. Kaitlyn and I couldn't think of a better way to show the impact of student voice than to hand students the mic! Judging from the comments in the Blackboard chat window and Twitter, the students inspired many teacher librarians around the country. I want to thank my friends in TLChat leadership (Colette Cassinelli, Renee Cunningham, and Jill Sonnenberg) for giving us the green light to proceed with this session. I also want to thank Joyce Valenza, Tiffany Whitehead, and Nikki D. Robertson for giving me the opportunity to serve on the TLChat team. 

On the night of the event, a few parents showed up to watch their students present. One parent even entered the webinar from home to listen to the event. Think for a moment how this presentation may have changed how they view the high school library media center. I asked parents to reflect on what they experienced. The paragraph below is one that was submitted to me.

Parent Reflection

"As the Mom of a student who loves technology more than sports, I have to say that Stony Evans has tapped into something that I feel educators have been missing for years. Technology is these students' sport. So many times technology students go overlooked and do not get the recognition that other students on sports teams get.  This is not the case at Lakeside High School. There is a cohesion between technology students and they love being recognized for their efforts in changing the world around them. Mr. Evans has found a way for them to build self-esteem by presenting their ideas to other people across the world. The media specialists in the library make a point to make these students feel just as important as any other student at the school. My son has presented his ideas to educators, Microsoft, people in Scotland and Africa, and others across the world. I tell him he is famous! Thank you Mr. Evans and the other media specialists and educators at Lakeside High School for addressing the needs of our "hidden" students."- Jordan's mom.

Link To Blackboard Recording/ TLChat Archive

If you would like to experience the webinar (or any others in the TLChat archives), be sure to visit this link for all the archives. If you want to view the student webinar, visit this link. This is a link to their slideshow presentation. Be sure to download Blackboard Collaborate first to view the recorded webinar. I hope our learners will inspire you to start empowering students to lead in the school library!



Connect your library with Skype.

My table of contents for the blog is here!




I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!



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Sunday, February 12, 2017

8th Grade Intro To Research Using Chromebooks

For many years, I have taught research skills to high school students. I have always wanted to make it a more interactive experience for learners when teachers bring classes to the library. This year, Mrs. Mari Simmons requested to bring her 8th grade ELA class to the library to begin their World War II research project. She asked if we could teach them about some of our many resources in the library. Mrs. Simmons had recently received a Chromebook cart for her class to use. This was an added bonus since I had been anxious to incorporate devices into such a lesson. In this article, I want to share how we designed a research lesson around the Chromebooks and Google Classroom.


HyperDoc in Google Classroom

I brainstormed during the weekend prior to the lesson. I kept thinking back to the HyperDoc session I attended at the Google Summit during summer 2016. It seemed an interactive document like this might be a nice way to keep Mrs. Simmons' learners engaged all through our research project lessons. I decided to use a HyperDoc that contained links and brief information to the resources the students would be using. Mrs. Simmons also allowed Kaitlyn Price (partner teacher librarian) and myself to join her Google Classroom. I thought this was a great opportunity to become "embedded librarians" so students could message us at any time if they had questions. This is a link to the HyperDoc we used. It seemed very helpful for the learners to see an outline of what we covered in their classes on this document. In addition, if they required explanations, we could insert brief definitions. The document was posted in Google Classroom, so at any point during the project the document was accessible. We also used Padlet.com as an added method for students to ask questions.


These students found the books they needed!
OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)

I shared the basics of searching in our OPAC. I showed students how to find the call number and also how to tell the difference between fiction/ non-fiction materials. We looked at a few examples of the contents of books while using the OPAC. By having the link to the catalog on the HyperDoc, students were much more engaged than in years past!

Britannica School

I showed them how to login to Britannica School and how to search by using different keywords for their topics. Students seemed to like that Britannica School's cite tool creates a nice MLA citation automatically for them. We also looked at the "Web's Best Sites" tool for websites that have been approved by Britannica editors.

Mrs. Price and Mrs. Simmons introduce citations
EasyBib

On the fourth day of research, Mrs. Price showed students how to access EasyBib. She also showed them how to create their works cited page using the tool. They were highly engaged for this activity since they had already found several sources by this point in the week.

Google Advanced Search

Many students did not know how to utilize Google Advanced Search. I showed them how to access it and also how to specify .edu or .gov domains for more credible sources. One of the things I always like to do is compare the number of sites found between a normal Google search and a Google Advanced search by filtering out the .com and .org. This presents results that showing only the .edu (or .gov) domain links. This always turns up significantly fewer results for students to choose from.

This class took advantage of Padlet for asking questions!
Padlet

Since the students had Chromebooks, we decided to create a Padlet (padlet.com) for each class period. We encouraged students to ask questions on the Padlet. We found that this empowered many students since some may not want to ask a question in front of the entire class. One period filled up the screen with relevant questions. It was a wonderful addition to the lesson!

Student Feedback

We created a short survey using Google Forms to get feedback on the research lessons and tools that were presented all week. Below are some of the student responses:

"Really enjoyed EasyBib, makes citing a whole lot easier."

"It was great! I liked the new question website (Padlet) so you don't have to wait on a teacher."

"This really helped me and made it a lot easier to do my project."

"One of my favorite websites for research is the Britannica School website. BY FAR!!"

"Everything was really good but next time maybe you could do an example of taking notes on a notecard."

"I thought that it helped us find trusted sites to use."


Click on the video above to hear our reflections after the first lessons.


Teacher Reflection (Mrs. Mari Simmons)

This week in the Lakeside High School Media Center, my six 8th English classes have been learning the process of writing a research paper.  The topics are based on people and events during World War II.  Students chose topics in class before meeting in the library.  Mr. Evans snd Mrs. Price introduced the lesson by joining Google Classrooms and posting links to OPAC and Encyclopedia Britannica for finding sources. Mr. Evans and Mrs. Price modeled the information on the big screen for students.  There was also a Padlet posted on Google Classroom which allowed students to ask questions about the lesson or sources.  The questions were answered in a timely fashion, and sometimes addressed to the whole group.  Mrs. Price explained Easybib.com for students to create the Works Cited page.  Once students found sources, she demonstrated how to create citations for books, encyclopedia articles, and websites.  Students then submitted the Google Document to their individual Google Classrooms for me to grade online.  One of the improvements this year was students followed instruction by using an individual Chromebook, which I brought from my room.  Students learned quickly, as it was a hands-on experience instead of a listen and learn lecture.  The expertise of Mr. Evans and Mrs. Price with research greatly added to the student learning experience.  It was an extremely successful week, and a great introduction for writing a research paper!

Next Steps

Now that we have had a successful integration of these interactive tools in the research lessons, we want to do more. We are already brainstorming what this might look like in upper grades and also other subjects. We hope that students will take advantage of our "embedded librarian" status in their Google Classroom by messaging us if they have research questions. Perhaps we can try embedding ourselves in other teacher's Google Classrooms in a similar way during research projects. This provides excellent evidence to our stakeholders of the value of the library program. We cannot simply wait for students (and teachers) to come to us, we must find them and serve them where they are (even if that means asking to join Google Classrooms)! I can't wait to see Mrs. Simmons' finished student research products!



Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Connect your library with Skype!

Collaboration sharing research tools with 8th grade English classes in 2015.

My table of contents for the blog is here!




I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!



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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Krystyna's Connection Reflection

Krystyna visits with Robyn Hrivnatz via Skype
The 2016-2017 school year has been the most powerful for connections using Skype in the library. Several classes have utilized our services to Mystery Skype or just to connect and collaborate. I have noticed a change in our learning community since these connections have become more frequent. First of all, students always seem to want more. They frequently ask, "When will we Skype again?" In addition, teachers are beginning to think beyond our state to connect their classes to far away states or countries.




Presentations and Skype-a-Thon

Earlier this year, I wrote about student makerspace presentations in the library for two education cooperatives that had visited us. Our learners did such a wonderful job, we started arranging for them to share their presentations with schools in other states via Skype. These students even had opportunities to present their innovations to the Follett Corporation and Microsoft. During the Skype-a-Thon, students had the chance to present to Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft. On a separate Skype connection, students visited with Robyn Hrivnatz, Marketing and Educator Programs Manager, US Education at Microsoft. During that session, Krystyna, one of our high school students, asked several questions about the potential career paths to work for a major technology company. I remember she was clearly empowered by these connections during the Skype-a-Thon. She talked about the experiences for weeks following the events.I was curious to hear more about these experiences through the lens of a high school student. I decided to ask Krystyna to write a reflection so I could share it on this blog. She finally completed it this week. It was wonderful to learn about the impact of connecting through her voice. Her narrative follows in the space below:

How Meeting with Microsoft Changed My Life
Krystyna presents her robots to visiting teachers
A few months ago I had a life-changing moment along with other students from Lakeside. The library joined a Skype-a-Thon with Microsoft. I got to present my robots to Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft. He virtually traveled more than 9 million miles around the world to answer questions that students like myself had. I would like to thank everyone that put the Skype-a-Thon together on the other end and my educators who help me find opportunities to expand my experience and share knowledge with others. I was completely amazed by the effort of the whole Microsoft community and I’m excited to see what comes next.
The 2016 Skype-a-Thon with Microsoft blew my mind. I was able to talk to a big time company that has done many amazing things for people. I never thought that I, a 15 year old girl, would be able to present my robot friends to Mr. Salcito. It made me feel significant and made me realize that distance is no reason not to connect. The Skype-a-Thon event really expressed the idea that connecting schools is important because it lets kids see outside of their own school. There are so many creative events that Microsoft comes up. These events make them a community of inspiring people who are willing to teach kids from around the world. Microsoft is a huge education sponsor that goes way past products. They make programs like Onenote, hold Skype-a-Thons, and sponsor school events for students to be able to be educated. The people at Microsoft come up with amazing ways to show how beautiful the minds of students are.
I love the idea of spreading the message across the world that connection and education is important. They dream big at Microsoft and I love the ideas they have to spread technology and knowledge. A few days after the Skype-a-Thon I Skyped with Robin Hrivnatz who also works at Microsoft. I asked her what the standards are to get a job at Microsoft. Mrs. Hrivnatz told me that there are so many branches in Microsoft that I would be able to get a job there even if I didn't go to college, though I am still going to college. It gave me a huge confidence boost to know that there are many more dreamers like me in the world and that I could connect with them. I knew for a long time that I wanted to work with innovative technology and program robots to help others, but now I have an idea who I want to work with and where I want to do it.

I hope that I get more amazing opportunities to share my voice. Thanks to amazing educators and opportunities like this, kids have a chance to have a powerful voice in this world, and I hope that never goes away. They really did change the lives of many students and showed them what they are capable of including myself. I, along with many other students, got a confidence boost from talking to such encouraging people who show us the possibilities of working hard and following our passions.Thanks to this event I learned that I love presenting to people about technology and the advantages of innovation. I am so glad that I could share my passion with Microsoft, and I am very thankful that they took time to listen to kids around the world and encouraged kids to continue sharing their works with others.

Next Steps
I have shared many times how connecting with other educators has enriched my practices and changed me professionally. Krystyna's account gives us all a glimpse into the potential power that awaits our libraries and classrooms. I want to give more learners the opportunity to present and connect to new distant school friends. Perhaps, one of the most important things we can do is invite students to share about the impact of
Krystyna with the library team
their experiences. How many other students might be willing to write a reflection I could publish here?


Libraries are wonderful places to connect people with information and technology. A new goal for me will be to seek out students that have connected with resources that interest them in the library (technology, books, and more). I want to give students a voice when they connect in the school library. There are so many valuable stories waiting to be told. I can't wait to share them here.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Connect your library with Skype!

A recent graduate shares her library story.

My table of contents for the blog is here!




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