Monday, November 23, 2015

Schools Without Walls 2015 Changed My Thinking...

I attended the Schools Without Walls (SWOW) annual conference just a few weeks ago. The conference was held in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I enjoy attending the conference each year to learn the latest about educational technology! The sessions always challenge my thinking.

This year, I was excited to hear a presentation by keynote speaker Ginger Lewman (follow her on Twitter @GingerLewman). Ginger asked great questions:

"Are we transforming curriculum with technology or are we substituting digital worksheets for paper worksheets?" This helped me reflect about my role as a library media specialist and technology consultant. I can help teachers enhance curriculum in their classroom with technology... In what ways am I doing this? (something we should all ponder as school librarians)

"How do we ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn outside of our walls?"

My three biggest takeaways from SWOW:

Genius Hour

Ginger explained that this comes from Google's 20% time for their employees. Students can use designated "Genius Hour" time to explore/ create projects of their choosing. The library is a great place to try this since we have so many resources for students to utilize. I love the idea of encouraging learners to come up with solutions to problems. The school library is a perfect spot to research and experiment! I want to try this soon!

Educational Video Games

I attended a session by Chad Freeman on this topic. Chad is a teacher at Ashdown High School in Ashdown, Arkansas. He challenged my thinking on gaming by discussing why people game. The main reasons being that the best games are complex and engaging. Video gamers also receive instant feedback and are encouraged to try again (something we should adopt in all aspects of education). Chad provided names of some excellent games for classroom use:

Minecraft EDU
Cities Skylines

I have forwarded information about Cities Skylines to our Civics teachers. This game looks like an excellent opportunity to have learners develop a virtual local government and build/ maintain a city. I will have to examine the other games as time permits! This is an ever emerging way to engage our learners in a video game environment.

Photo found at

Live Internet Radio and Podcasting

I really enjoyed the session about Internet Broadcasting led by Arkansas educators Jeff Madlock and David Henderson (on Twitter @edutechguys)! They discussed the many ways that teachers can broadcast from their classroom. Jeff and David presented many different possibilities for podcasting in the classroom. Among these were class reviews, class discussions, class presentations, school news, and interviews. Jeff (@jmadlock) and David (@davidinark) have a regular podcast where they interview educators. You can listen to their previous broadcasts here.

Some of the websites with free options (with the opportunity for expanded paid plans) they presented:

Photo found at (users can broadcast 1 hour sessions for free, longer periods require paid plan)  (users can broadcast 1 hour sessions for free, longer periods require paid plan)

Both of these sites are wonderful options to reach students where they are (almost every learner has a device of some type that can access digital audio/ podcasts). I'm already interested in this since two of our Lakeside High School history teachers (Mr. Kevin Pumphrey and Mr. Ron Franklin) have just started podcasting from their classrooms. They have been using a YouTube channel (History After Hours Podcast) to post their episodes. I attended one of their combined class discussions one day and was very impressed with how engaged their students were! It's a great day when we can engage students using technology that models digital citizenship!

I hope my three takeaways from the SWOW conference have inspired you!

Take a moment to read a few of our most popular blog articles:

Our first Mysteryskype is described here

We describe our first Makerspace Day in the library here.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

When Things Fall Apart Again...

Lakeside High School Library Media Specialist, Misti Bell, presents this article about a recent library collaboration program:

On October 29th, our library hosted Africa Day for the third time (go here to see how this event started in 2012).  Once again the library staff, tenth grade English teachers, and Chartwells collaborated to make this year’s Africa Day the best yet!  The tenth grade students are reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and this event was developed to help the students have a better understanding of the Igbo people of Nigeria in the late 1800’s. 


This year we focused on giving students more time at each station.  Students participated in four learning stations:  food, art, music, and games.   Students spent twelve minutes at each station; this provided them an opportunity to go more in depth and have a more meaningful experience.  
Taste of Africa was our food station; Chartwells (our food services) prepared a goat and yam stew, fufu, and wine (grape juice).  The students ate the stew with great reluctance; however, they soon realized that it, in fact, tasted like chicken!  The fufu acted as a type of “cornbread” to dip into the stew.  This station provided the students an opportunity to actually taste a meal that would be prepared in Africa.  One student shared, “The spices were absolutely perfect and I wish I could do it again and again!”

The art station consisted of African masks, art, and face painting.  This station was 100% student led; the art students made the masks and presented how and why the masks are used in Africa.  A popular part of this station was face painting.  Students chose a particular design and color; the designs were symbolic of various traits: strength, masculinity, courage, honor, etc.

Our video station encouraged students to not only hear rhythms but to also see that rhythm is a part of the African experience.  One student commented that, “It was really interesting seeing how rhythm was a part of their daily life.”  In addition to the video, our students were able to beat out some rhythms of their own on a djembe drum!

This year we introduced a game station; this station will definitely be a permanent part of Africa Day!  A symbolism matching game and two authentic African children games were a fun addition to this collaboration.  The symbolism game was added to emphasize the importance of symbolism in the novel.  The African games were Ekak and Nanpe.  The object of Ekak is to find a ring that has been buried in a pile of sand or sawdust;  once the ring has been hidden, children take turns by inserting a stick into the pile.  The person who finds the ring will be named king and allowed to hide the ring for the next players.  This game was rather messy, but the students really enjoyed this hands-on activity!  Nanpe is much like a dice game, but instead of throwing dice you throw sticks.  Players will form a circle and have four sticks; the sticks are brown on one side and white on the other.  The players will take turns and throw the sticks into the air and earn points based on how the sticks land.  If two colors land up, the player earns two points and if four colors land up, the player earns four points.  The first person to reach eight points wins the game! 


We also added a post collaboration survey.  Students were asked a series of questions to determine what worked and what didn’t work!  We will use this data to better prepare for our future collaborations.  Our goal for Africa Day was to expose students to a new culture and in turn help them better understand the setting of the novel, Things Fall Apart.   When asked if the Africa Day experience helped them to better understand the novel:  54% of students surveyed answered yes, 43% answered somewhat and only 3% answered no.  Students answering no were either not present for the event or felt that they had no understanding of the book.  Our most exciting data was that 89% of students surveyed would like to see more collaborative projects in the future! 


Based on our student feedback, I feel that we are moving in the right direction!  Students want to be engaged; collaborations are a way for the learning community to tap into resources and discover innovative ways for students to learn.

Go here to read about our collaboration based on The Crucible!

Read about my first International Google Hangout here!

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My First International Hangout!

On a Saturday in late September, one of our Lakeside High School Assistant Principals, Mr. Mathew Thornton, (@Mat_Thornton) mentioned me in a Tweet. The message was from Dina Moati (@dinamoati) who is a Professor of Education in Ontario, Canada.

After seeing that Dina was looking for volunteers to speak to her class of aspiring educators, I Tweeted a message to her immediately! I love sharing about how Twitter has changed me professionally! I have also been looking for opportunities to connect our learning community to educators outside of the United States.

Dina Moati leads the Virtual Experts Panel
I knew this could be a first step to lead the way to more international collaboration! Dina messaged me back and the date was set. 
Stephan Hughes
This event took place for two of Dina's classes as a Google Hangout forum with two other educators: Stephan Hughes from Rio de Janeiro (@stephwurking) and Tammy G. Neil from Florida (@TG_Neil). 

Tammy G. Neil
We started the two sessions by introducing ourselves and telling about what we do. Dina would turn her camera to the class so we could see them on our screens and we would all wave greetings to each other. We then discussed ways that we use social media in the profession of education. We took turns answering some of these questions and topics: 
  • "What is a connected educator?" 
  • "Discuss how you use technology in the 21st century classroom" 
  • "What are your favorite hashtags to follow?"
I had never participated in a discussion on webcam like this before. It was so much fun to connect with new friends in Canada, Florida, and Rio de Janeiro simultaneously! I began thinking of what an impact this demonstration must have had on Dina's students. She was modeling a wonderful practice for her college students. 

Dina's class in Canada
Furthermore, I considered what this could look like in a high school classroom. We have such wonderful tools for connecting our students to other places, yet our time is limited. I plan to encourage our teachers to make time for these activities! I want to encourage them to be risk takers by stepping out of their comfort zones to connect their students to other classrooms outside of our town, state, and country. I hope they will use the school library whenever possible to embark on their educational journeys. The adventure is only just beginning! What happens next?... Whatever we decide! How will you model social media and being connected to your learning community?

Check out our Google Hangout with 4 Spanish classes here!

Read about our first #MysterySkype here!

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