Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fresh Digital Tools For February!

In my still somewhat new role at Digital Literacy Specialist, I have been trying to supply and support our staff with a steady stream of options to keep student digital learning fresh and interesting. Overusing one tool can cause students to become less engaged. They like to learn using a variety of tools and content! My February Newsletter will hopefully spark some ideas for students and teachers!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Small Changes Bring Big Results - Finding New Ways to Enhance Our OHE Library!

Like most librarians, I am always looking for ways to improve our library. I genrified the fiction a little over a year ago, so I feel like the collection is arranged to help students find what they want to read. But I also want our library to be a place where students not only find books, but also discover their love of reading. (Nothing beats finding a place to curl up with the book!) In keeping with trends in library spaces, I would also like students to find the space appealing for other discoveries as well...a place for group collaboration, a place to spread out and work on projects, a place to create, and a place where students and teachers can find inspiration.  Slowly, as my small budget has allowed, I have begun to find ways to update and improve the space. My inspiration has come from a multitude of sources.

Several of my colleagues were inspired to make iPad catalog search stations. They look cool and modern, while also not taking up much floor space! I already had the iPads, all I needed were the iPad stands! After several failed orders that didn't yield quite the right thing, I finally found the perfect stands...low enough for my students (my first attempt wasn't height adjustable) and ones that allow me to easily take the iPads in and out for charging.  I don't have a source of power close enough to the stands to charge them. The new stands are perfect!

For years I have wanted to create an alternate seating area to inspire students to get comfortable and read. Little did I know that I had what I needed already in the form of lounging cushions I bought when I opened the building 18 years ago. For years I kept moving them around, stacking them in out of the way places because they were more of a nuisance than anything else.  It took our district's newest Digital Learning Specialist, Hilary Moorlach, to bring a fresh approach and create the perfect cozy space using the cushions she had in her library. So I purchased an inexpensive throw rug, pushed around a few tables, and voila - new flexible seating area! Students and teachers love love love it! My only disappointment is that I didn't do it sooner!

Finally, I wanted to give students and teachers additional opportunities for learning in the library. Earlier this year I went to our PTO for funding for a new "MakerSpace". For those who aren't acquainted with the term, a makerspace is a collaborative work space for making, learning, exploring and sharing. Our OHE PTO graciously gave me $1000 to begin.  Despite my excitement and appreciation for the funding, I knew I would have to be very judicious to stretch the dollars as far as they would go. Rather than buy enough for a whole class maker activity, I decided to go with a plan to buy 5 of each makerspace tool so that students would have a choice of projects. I also wanted a variety of high and low tech options for students. I decided to purchase Makedo Tools (for cardboard construction), Robot Mice (coding), Ozobots (robots), Straws & Connectors (inexpensive design & construction), and Bloxels (video game designing).  This is only the beginning as there are several more tools that will help me expand our options for students, but these make a great beginning!

Monday, February 13, 2017

3rd Graders Create Digital Timelines With Google Drawing!

February is such a great month for students to learn about our country's history!  Among the celebrations are Black History Month & President's Day. In an effort to bring these topics to life, Mrs. McCollough wanted her students to create a timeline of the major events in Abraham Lincoln's life. She asked for my help in finding the right digital tool for her students to use. (MN Benchmark: SS. Create timelines of important events... & SS. Examine historical records, maps and artifacts to answer basic questions about times and events in history)

After a great deal of digging, I found quite a few options. I settled on the web app Google Drawings. I used several criteria in choosing this one.  First, I wanted students to be able to add images to their timeline. Images from this time period are so interesting as it was the early years of photography. It also gave students a chance to use historical records and artifacts from the period. Several of the online timeline creators don't allow images to be included in the timeline, so they didn't seem right for this job. In addition, students are used to using Google tools. Having them use the drawing app would add to their knowledge of using a digital drawing app and enhance their knowledge of the options within Google. Finally, when students inserted an image from within Google Drawings, they were able to search the web without having to leave the app. Since classroom time is always limited, I saw this as a real advantage. The search tool within Google Drawing offered up images that were public domain, thus giving us an opportunity to discuss copyright. (Always a plus!)

In addition to learning about Abraham Lincoln's life and contributions to our nation, students learned to use the line tool (with & without arrows), change line weight, text boxes, font size,  and image sizing (pulling from the corners not the sides). They enthusiastically shared their timelines with each other and with their teacher! A fun way to learn about history!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

OHE Students Are Excited To Share Their Creative Stories With Storybird!

All over our school, students are excited to share their creative writing because of the fantastic web app, Storybird.

Students are often given time in school to write. They write paragraphs and essays to answer questions, they write nonfiction reports, and they write to evaluate their reading. These opportunities to write are vital for our students to become good readers and writers. Unfortunately, students are given less time to make up their own stories. Storybird has been inspiring our students to explore their creativity and the results are amazing!

Storybird helps students resolve the age old question - What should I write about? Within the web app, students are given a huge library of original digital art to select for their stories. This artwork not only serves as illustrations for their stories, but also the spark for their creativity! One of my favorite features in Storybird is the teacher management. It allows the teacher to create and manage student writing as well as create assignments to help guide student writing.

Once students have published their stories, their eBook can be shared with others by simply sharing the link. Students can even co-author stories if they want to collaborate with a classmate. Each published eBook also has an embed code so students can add their eBook to their blog!

Check out these two examples!