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“What Worked” Wednesday: Keeping Books Visible on Library Shelves February 11, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Library Space, What Worked.
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What Worked Wednesdays | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in TechI’m starting a new series based on several of the “ideas that worked” that I’ve previously blogged about, such as Cheap and Easy Library Decorations, our Library Treasure Store program for K-2 students, and the Whole Number Dewey modified library classification for elementary students.  Each post will include an idea that worked in my school library and how it makes my life less stressful, more organized, and/or more manageable.

Today’s idea that worked is:

Use shallow cardboard boxes to keep books
forward on library shelves.

How this idea lowers my stress level:

Books pushed back into the shadows of a shelf are one of my librarian pet peeves.  Elementary students probably think they’re being helpful when they do this, and I have no desire to spend valuable instruction time teaching them to leave the books where they are. 

"What Worked" Wednesday: How to Keep Books Visible on Library Shelves | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in TechTo keep my sanity, I collect small, shallow boxes and put them behind chapter books so they can’t be pushed back.  So far, I have about 25 shelves completed, and to my eyes it does make the books more visible.  It’s especially helpful for “first chapter books” aka easy readers, fiction novels, and our easy nonfiction books.

I plan to add more boxes as I find or get them until I complete the rest of the first chapter books section and the fiction section.  I haven’t compared circulation stats yet, but I’m wondering if they will increase or not with more light shining on the book spines.

Try it out, and see if you like the brighter look of your library shelves!


Makerspace Mishaps: Fixing and Replacing Broken Parts February 7, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Makerspace!, Tech Tips.
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When you start a makerspace and begin letting students build things that move, light up, and generally do cool things, eventually something will go wrong.  Of course, because Murphy’s Law of Education is always in effect, that’s usually when an administrator walks in.

Makerspace Mishaps: Fixing and Replacing Broken Parts | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

When that happens, you just have to smile and ask students, “Now what did we learn from this?” and hope that the observing administrator will see the learning along with the so-called “failure” of the project.  Also, you should always have some bandages, gauze, and no-latex gloves on hand, just in case.  Thankfully, I have yet to use my stash of first-aid supplies for a makerspace accident.

If nothing else, parts will occasionally need to be replaced, and that’s something I’ve learned the hard way that you need to include in your budget.  If you can buy a gift card with your budget funds, it comes in really handy for replacing parts as needed.

For instance, since starting our makerspace with about 100 littleBits™, these parts have broken:

  • 2 fans (a wire broke in both cases) – Both replaced.
  • 1 roller switch (repaired 3x with varying levels of success) – Too fragile to replace if/when it breaks for good
  • 1 vibration motor (temporarily fixed with solder) – Replaced
  • 1 wire Bit – Still looking for a replacement wire to fix it (the Bit parts are fine)
  • 1 pressure sensor – Not replaced; we have extras
  • 1 bend sensor (probably from bending the wrong way) – Not replaced, too fragile
  • Every single battery cable that connects the 9-volt batteries to the power Bits – Replaced with these from Adafruit; no problems since then.

To be clear, most of these parts are already fragile, and I think littleBits™ generally makes high quality products.  Wires snap pretty easily, but occasionally can be soldered back together.  I still haven’t learned to solder yet, but fortunately my husband has saved a Bit or two this way.

Besides learning to solder yourself, Super Glue® or any other plastic glue is a great material for fixing.  I’ve also heard of, but haven’t yet tried, using Sugru™, a non-conductive putty that hardens into rubber.  Since I have very limited instructional time with students, I usually end up doing repairs myself, but older students could certainly learn to fix parts too.  Especially if you are lucky enough to have a flexible schedule with time for a Maker Club.

It might seem like a lot of budget funds to allocate for your makerspace, and you might be thinking it’s not worth it with tight budgets.  For comparison, track the cost and amount of print books replaced simply because the binding wears out, the cover falls off, or it’s worn beyond circulation.

When I did this, I found that I spend WAY more on replacing damaged and worn out books than I do on replacing makerspace materials and fixes.  My professional opinion is that if we want to move forward and provide ALL of the types of resources students need to be successful today, we need to invest some of our budget in new programs and ideas, like a makerspace.

If you have a makerspace, I’d love to hear how you fix your components, and how often you need to replace parts.  Do you know any tips or tricks?  Share them in the comments!

Welcoming New Students to the Library Mid-Year January 17, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in PSLA, Tech Tips, What Worked.
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Welcome to Our Library: Introducing New Students to the Library Mid-Year | Mrs. J in the Library at A Wrinkle in TechFor many students, January brings not only a new year, but also a new teacher and a new school.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to teach just-moved-in students about our library procedures without interrupting the routine and momentum of the rest of the class.  What I came up with is an Orientation Welcome Center that new students complete before choosing other library centers.

The inspiration for this center came from Judy Moreillon‘s presentation at PSLA 2013.  She suggested that to “flip” the library in a way that is effective and feasible, librarians should create video tutorials that are available 24/7 for students, parents, and community members on the library website.  Of course, video creation and editing is *INCREDIBLY* time-consuming, but once you have a good-quality tutorial, it hopefully won’t need to be updated for a couple of years.

With that idea in mind, I made an orientation video on one of the library Nexus 10 tablets.  It took about 10-12 takes, but I finally managed to create a coherent video touring the library, explaining library policies, and demonstrating how to find books and check out.  One of my next goals is to make a second video showing how to search Destiny Quest, but that will have to wait.

Once I had the video done, it was pretty simple.  I uploaded the video to the library Dropbox account that syncs with the tablets and made the link into a QR code on Kaywa.  At this center, students use a library tablet to watch the video on the Dropbox app or scan a QR code to watch it online via Dropbox or YouTube. If you’d like to make your own orientation center, you can download the free Microsoft Word file below and create your own video for students to get acquainted with the library (or your classroom).

Welcome move-in students to your library or classroom with a video tour to introduce routines | Mrs. J in the Library at A Wrinkle in Tech

Right-click the image and click “Save Link As” to download this FREE center for your library or classroom!

Do you have a technique for introducing move-in students to the library?  Share it in the comments!

Full Disclosure: This post contains a referral link to Dropbox.

Makerspaces Without a Space: Circulating Maker Kits for the School Library December 21, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in How to Be Brave, Makerspace!.
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GoldieBlox Circulating Maker Kits | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine set – Image from Amazon, no affiliate links

This fall in our school library, I tried something new: I decided to make some circulating craft or maker kits for students in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades to check out and take home.  I started with GoldieBlox™ sets, because they are already sold as a “kit,” much like our book/audiobook bundle kits.  Instead of an audiobook on CD, however, the maker kits include a bag of building materials.  Admittedly, GoldieBlox™ has been ridiculously over-hyped, and to put it nicely, the books aren’t exactly quality literature.  Still, the read-and-build format can make engineering more accessible to students who may not think that they like STEM subjects.

Q-BA-Maze Circulating Maker Kits | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Q-BA-Maze 2.0 set – Image from Amazon, no affiliate links

Then, I did the same thing with Q-BA-Maze™ marble run blocks.  I used 1 “cool colors” set and 1 “warm colors” set to create 4 circulating maker kits.  These aren’t as well-known and might be considered more of a “toy,” but there is still potential for learning about physics when using the blocks to create marble mazes.  Every maze created is different, and there are endless possibilities even within the same design.

Both GoldieBlox™ and Q-BA-Maze™ sets are affordable (all under $25.00 on Amazon), which I think makes them particularly suited for school libraries.  Most hardcover picture books are in that price range, so it’s not going to break a school library’s budget.  Additionally, it isn’t difficult or expensive to get parts to replace lost or broken pieces.  One extra GoldieBlox™ set can supply spare parts, and the Q-BA-Maze™ set has extra marbles.  If a few Q-BA-Maze™ blocks go missing, that won’t hinder maze creation, and a teacher-librarian could keep a few in the library office specifically for replacing lost parts.

Those features, combined with the sad fact that many elementary schools share a librarian with other buildings, makes circulating kits a practical way for busy, overwhelmed librarians to inspire “maker thinking.”  By circulating maker kits, the time and space needed for creating is moved from the school space to the home.  Potentially, a maker kit could not only connect learning at school with learning at home, but it could also advocate the library program to parents and caregivers.  In each kit, I included a small card inviting parents to send in photos of what students create.  With permission, I could then post those pictures on our library’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

So far, the students are enjoying the kits, and GoldieBlox™ is the clear favorite.  I’ve been wondering if that’s because they are more familiar to students from library centers last year.  The Q-BA-Maze™ kits are still getting checked out, but just not as much.  I’m interested to see if they become more popular as more students try them out.

From a library management perspective, an essential part of circulating anything is a MARC record, or MAchine Readable Catalog record.  MARC records make any item searchable in the online library catalog.  Creating MARC records from scratch, however, is time-consuming and tedious, so I’m sharing the ones I created for our library’s maker kits.  If you are interested in circulating maker kits in your school library, you can download them below.

FREE MARC Records for Circulating Maker Kits | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Click the image to download MARC records for your library’s craft / maker kits.

Also, if you would like to add circulating maker kits to your school library, you can check out my GoldieBlox™ circulating maker kit product in the Mrs. J in the Library TpT store.  The Q-BA-Maze circulating kit materials are coming soon.

GoldieBlox Circulating Maker Kits | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

GoldieBlox Circulating Maker Kits by Mrs. J in the Library

Later this year, I plan to expand the circulating maker kits to include new kits with consumable materials.  Paper circuits and e-textile projects will be my first attempts with this model.  While these kits will be more expensive to support, I want to extend students’ creation opportunities during library centers to create and making at home.  I’m excited to see how it plays out as the school year continues. 

Also, if you’ve ever tried circulating objects or artifacts for student learning, I’d love to hear about how it’s going in the comments.  Let’s learn from each others’ experiences!

Review: “Making Makers” by AnnMarie Thomas December 20, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Makerspace!, Reflections, Reviews.
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Book Review: "Making Makers" by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Cover image from Amazon

After reading “Invent to Learn” by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez, I learned about LOTS of great makers and the kits they make/sell to encourage students to create and to learn.  One of those kits is AnnMarie Thomas’s Squishy Circuits kit that uses salt dough (like Play-Doh™) for electronic wires.  Last year, I bought a Squishy Circuits kit to try out, and though I don’t find suitable for our library’s makerspace, my young niece and nephew (ages 4 and 7) got endless enjoyment from it as they “made a party” on my living room tableSo when I saw Dr. Thomas’s new book, “Making Makers,” about how to introduce the children in my life, whether they are my students or my relatives, to the maker movement, I was excited to read it.

“Making Makers” is a slim book, only 145 pages.  Each chapter focuses on a certain aspect of makers and the maker movement; that aspect is then demonstrated with anecdotes of funny, often dangerous, childhood escapades of prominent makers.  As a primer to the larger maker movement, I think this book is an excellent place to start, and for educators, “Making Makers” may be a way to introduce faculty to the maker movement before reading “Invent to Learn.”

Dr. Thomas uses a narrative, laid-back style to tell the story of how the maker movement’s participants grew up.  She has interviewed over 35 makers and engineers in addition to reflecting on her own experiences as a maker and a mother of 2 daughters.  The result is a thorough, albeit not comprehensive, roll call of the “movers and shakers” of the maker movement.  What I found most refreshing and completely AWESOME, however, is that her interviewees represent a wide variety of racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds.  There is also a balanced number of male and female makers, though I didn’t count as I read.  This fact is especially noteworthy after the recent discussion of diversity (or the lack thereof) in children’s and YA literature, and Leah Beuchley’s poignant speech at the Eyeo conference on how the de facto “voice” of the maker movement, MAKE:™ magazine, isn’t really as diverse as they and their Maker Education Initiative claim to be.

In light of Dr. Beuchley’s speech and the related school library discussion of diversity, it was nice to read a book published by Maker Media (MAKE:™ magazine’s parent company) that represented makers and people from so many different backgrounds and life experiences.  We need more of those stories told, and I hope “Making Makers” is the start of a trend towards greater diversity in Maker Media’s products.  I also hope this book begins to broaden the definition of “making” to replace the current perception that it only includes electronics, programming, and 3D printing.

Finally, I appreciated the constant tension that Dr. Thomas talks about in her reflections on raising 2 daughters to be makers. The line between performing dangerous stunt experiments with foolish risks, and excited engagement in a learning activity with acceptable risks is often a precarious line to walk.  And it’s even more precarious for teachers.  Parents have a large amount of control over the amount of risk they introduce to their child.  As a teacher with 22-30 students in my care and potential lawsuits weighing on my mind, my comfort level with student risk-taking drops significantly. 

Still, I get the sense from reading that it’s perfectly normal to feel the tension between those two places.  Learning can, and should, be exciting and a little risky.  When did we stop teaching like that, anyway?  I’m just not sure our current education system and the wider society has caught up with those ideas yet.  Still, Dr. Thomas’s empowering message to parents and teachers is this:

We don’t get to pick our children’s interests, but we do get to influence how broad an array of experiences they are exposed to….[And] we get to choose how we encourage the endeavors and interests that they choose for themselves. ~Dr. AnnMarie Thomas in Making Makers

All in all, if you’re a teacher or librarian interested in the maker movement, I think “Making Makers” is required reading, and well worth adding to your professional literature collection.  And I’m not being paid to say that.  If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments. 

Merry Christmas, and to my teacher readers, I hope you have a restful break!


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