Saturday, June 27, 2015

How Learning About Walt Disney Changed My Life This Summer

Whatever career you have chosen, it is important to rest and recharge. For most teachers, down time in the summer is key! I try to get away every summer for at least a week even if I just have a stay at home vacation. I always try to do some of the things I enjoy doing or visit places that are recreational. Any place or activity can be inspiring to a teacher. It might be a museum, a state park, a great movie, a concert, a novel or professional book.

For me, the inspiring place this summer was Walt Disney World! It was good to get away and relive the things that inspired me as a kid. This is a great practice since we all teach young people! It was good for me to go back and remember what it was like to be a teenager again for a few days. I enjoyed seeing Mickey Mouse, C-3PO, Kermit the Frog, and even Indiana Jones! It was also great to learn about Walt Disney’s life and his innovations to the entertainment industry.

Too often we tend to think that success just happens instantly. It was good for me to see how Walt Disney started out as a simple cartoonist. Through many years of hard work and even some failures, he developed the Mickey Mouse character. I enjoyed learning how he built a team of animators over the years and later a complete movie/ animation production studio. He consistently communicated his vision, and that vision became a reality with each project.

During this trip, I discovered that many of Walt’s childhood interests came out in his works. He loved fairy tales. He was inspired by Snow White as a youth and later made a now famous animated adaptation of this story (along with many other fairy tale adaptations).  He was interested in Abraham Lincoln as a young person. Later he would develop the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln attraction which led to the current Hall of Presidents at Disney World. Both of these shows feature a mechanized version of Lincoln playing an important role.  Walt was a dreamer, and he tried to make those dreams become a reality by constantly trying new methods to improve entertainment. It is important to note that while Walt was in grade school, he dressed up like Lincoln and delivered the Gettysburg Address from memory. The Walt Disney Family Museum website reports that it was so well received that he was asked to perform it for other classes at the school. This success stayed with Walt into his adulthood and was part of his inspiration. This is an excellent example of the impact successful experiences in the classroom can have on students even later in life.

What if Walt Disney had been a classroom teacher? What might his classroom have looked like? How would he have reached his students? What innovations would he have created in the classroom?

While the library media center is not an amusement park or an animated movie, it is an important place to reach the learning community. The school library is a place for sharing and teaching information, literacy, and technology. The library is also a place for connecting people near and far. It is a place for creating new projects and educational products.

After my visit to Walt Disney’s world this past week, I want to strive to “dream big” for students and teachers. Disney constantly thought outside of the norm. That is what I want to do as an educator. I want to seek new and innovative ways to make information and literacy come to life.

I challenge you to get away this summer for a few days. Seek the things that excited your imagination as a young person. Begin to combine some of those things you were passionate about with your current curriculum when possible.  If you are passionate, it will be contagious; and you will be more creative.

Of all the quotes I read while at Disney World, this one was my favorite: 

"Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.” – Walter Elias Disney

This is my mission for 2015-2016: To find new innovative ways to connect people, information, and technology in the library media center.

Thank you, Mr. Disney.

Go here to learn how we used Twitter to inspire students!

Go here to read about Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln on The Walt Disney Family Museum Blog!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Students Taking The Lead: Two Students Help Me Present A 3D Printing Session At A State Conference

Through the magic of social media and this blog, others in our state have found out about our 3D printing antics in the library media center. About two months ago, our technology director (Mrs. Melinda Dodd) and Hot Springs Technology Institute (HSTI) director (Mr. Don Benton) approached me about teaching 3D printing basics at the upcoming HSTI pre-conference in June 2015. I was very excited about this opportunity, especially for our students. One of the items I have worked on this year is student led presentations. I saw this as a great opportunity to include a few of our EAST students that have become knowledgeable about 3D printing this year!

Melinda and Don were both very supportive of including the students in the presentation! I decided to use two upcoming sophomores for this project. They had spent the most time working with our MakerBot Replicator and they had also presented successfully many times during our library lunch programs. They both agreed to join the presentation team! We immediately began brainstorming what our 6 hour session should look like. After many weeks of planning, we finally decided on the following schedule:

9:00-10:00           Introductions And Set up
10:00-11:00         MakerBot Desktop Basics/ Print Your First Object
11:00-12:00         Lunch
12:00-1:00           Troubleshooting/ MakerBot Desktop/ Thingiverse
1:00-2:00             Lesson Integration Activity
2:00-3:00             Sketchup Make/ Extension Warehouse
3:00-4:00             Work On Your Own/ Set Up Remaining Printers

We decided to meet on the Saturday prior to the actual event to do a complete run through. This was a good idea, especially since the students had been away from school on summer vacation for nearly two weeks. 
Practicing our session.

On the day of the actual event, we were confident that we had a good lineup of material and skills to share with the attendees. A few days prior to the session, I had emailed all 19 attendees to briefly tell them about the session. I also asked them to bring a laptop if possible. I sent links for them to download and install both the MakerBot Desktop software and SketchUp Make.

There are few things that are more exciting than walking into a room full of 3D printers that are still boxed up! We set the printers out on the tables for the attendees to pick up. We counted 19 printers still in the boxes. The cost of all this equipment comes to over $30,000!

MakerBot Replicator Minis Still In The Box

We decided to start the session by breaking the attendees into groups of 4-5 and having them assemble one MakerBot printer. This made the session much more manageable for us to assist everyone. It didn't take long for us to get the printers all set up and ready to print. Everyone was very excited, including the presenters.

When every group's printer was ready to go, I turned the session over to the students. Skylar took the lead and shared about MakerBot Desktop. He and Austin showed the basics of finding files, saving them, and preparing them to print. After half an hour had passed, everyone had selected an item and started the printing process!

Skylar presents MakerBot Desktop to our attendees.

Austin and Skylar answer questions about 3D Printing
This entire process took a few hours, but by lunch every group had printed successfully! After lunch we came back and shared some resources for 3D Printing. I created a Wiki to share URLs of video clips and interesting websites including some of our own blog entries. That Wiki is located here. After viewing some of the video links to show ways 3D Printing is used, we gave the groups an hour to find an object in the MakerBot Thingiverse, print the object, and discuss how it could be used in the classroom. With 19 educators and technology specialists in one place, we knew there would be some creative ideas! This activity turned out great with many practical applications for science, art, and career exploration.

After this exercise, Skylar presented SketchUp Make software. He showed attendees how to create 3D objects using the free version of this software. He then showed them how to export those files to MakerBot Desktop, so they can be printed. Following this, we allowed attendees to assemble their remaining printers and/ or experiment while we were there to help them.

It was a truly wonderful activity for all involved. I was especially proud of our students. They performed like professionals. It reminded me that I need to seek additional opportunities for students to present and teach. What impact would an activity like this have had on me as a 15 year old student? I know it would have made a great difference in my self-confidence and presentation skills. I look forward to the next opportunity to see our students shine in front of educators from around the state! I challenge you to do the same.

Go here to see how we shared the stage with students at a different state conference this year!

A popular article about our student led 3D printing library session is here!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Are Libraries Still Relevant?

I have started another educational adventure this summer. I have wanted to start an American Library Association (ALA) accredited Master of Library Science degree for several years. I finally took the plunge to return to graduate school since our high school will begin offering an associate's degree program this fall. I thought it might be interesting to pursue the training of an academic librarian to better serve our students at Lakeside High School. I began study at the University of North Texas today in my first graduate course since 2009. One of the first discussion topics the professor brought up in the Web Institute class was "Why are libraries still needed?"

This is not a topic I generally ponder in my daily mission as a school library media specialist. It is one we all need to consider since there are many people that think technology and the Internet have made the library an outdated resource. Because of this threat, we should strive to make our library programs indispensable.

Think of the services and expertise that professional librarians offer. There are so many things librarians do on a daily basis that we (and others) may take for granted. Consider for a moment the myriad of jobs librarians are tasked to do:

  • Connect patrons to print and electronic resources. 
  • Teach a variety of skills to patrons, from using an OPAC to utilizing search techniques on databases and search engines. 
  • Help patrons find answers to questions. 
  • Manage libraries and library staff (both paid and volunteer). 
  • Create webpages and content with users in mind. 
  • Collaborate with teachers, patrons, and other guests. 
  • Program a variety of sessions and events to draw people inside the physical library. 
  • Advertise on social media. 
  • Serve as technology support and consultants. 

The list of jobs goes on.

The importance of libraries has never been greater due to the increasing number of resources. Libraries connect people, technology, and information. Libraries add value to our patrons. Libraries matter.

Go here to see how one of our students described the school library.

Go here for an example of a way I shared technology with teachers last summer.

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