Tags: Android tablets, budget, iPads, tablets
In the 8 years that I’ve worked at my current school library, I’ve made some very intentional purchases to make the library and my teaching practice more efficient and student-centered. It didn’t happen all at once due to budget and time limits, but little by little, I’ve managed to build a collection of technology and management solutions that work together to make my life easier (and help me stay sane).
Though no single item is going to radically change a library (or school for that matter), the following list has some of the things that have profoundly improved our library because of how I’ve implemented their use:
1. Android tablets or iPads for in-library use – I know iPads are the favorite in education, but they are also very expensive. I recommend buying a few Nexus 7’s if you can still find them, or other small-screen Android tablets, and ditch the huge desktops for catalog searching. If you buy another small-screen tablet model, try one of the Google for Education models (except skip the Google “management license,” which costs extra and isn’t really necessary). Destiny Quest works just as well on Android as on Apple devices, and there are LOTS of great Android apps that my students and I use every day.
2. Belkin headphone splitters and a class set of decent headphones – Headphone splitters are excellent for sharing the Android tablets so that 2 or more students can listen at once, though the volume needs to be turned up as more headphones are plugged in. This is great for interactive ebooks and flipped videos (see below). I like these headphones, and I use zip-ties to shorten their ridiculously long wires.
3. Mini laptops if your school doesn’t have 1:1 devices – I have a set of 30 Dell Latitude 2100 “netbooks” from a grant I wrote 6 years ago, but now that we have some tablets, we probably use about 10 of them each day. A real keyboard is helpful sometimes, as is the full web-browsing experience. For example, when writing reviews in the Destiny Quest app, one tap outside the review box deletes everything you’ve written so far. In a browser, you have to either click the X or save your review…so the physical keyboard is much less frustrating for students with limited keyboarding practice.
4. Stackable, nesting plastic storage bins from Gratnells/Demco – These were new last year, and I adore them! They make it SO much easier to stash my library centers out of sight when the library is needed for other uses (i.e. faculty meetings). They also come in handy when a teacher needs a pile of books, but not enough to lend out a bookcart.
5. BIG signage on magazine file boxes – Large, more colorful, image-centric signage is important because we teach elementary students under the age of 12…some of whom are just learning their letters, or don’t speak/read English, or forget/don’t have/won’t wear their glasses yet.
6. A dedicated library Dropbox account – Though this item is free, implementation can involve a lot of time investment. To save time (and my voice), I filmed and edited a video for orientation, another one about how to find everybody/fiction books, and another about how to find nonfiction books. I uploaded those 3 videos to a “library use only” Dropbox account, and put the Dropbox app on all 12 library tablets. Voila! Instant tutorials for the units I teach every year, for new students, and for reviewing! For more information about how I use Dropbox, see my previous post on flipping your library instruction.
Do you have a can’t-live-without-it piece of equipment, technology, or organizational tool? Share it with us and why you love it!
Welcoming New Students to the Library Mid-Year January 17, 2015Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in PSLA, Tech Tips, What Worked.
Tags: Android tablets, apps, library centers, orientation
For 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).
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.
Android Lollipop Update and an App Surprise December 5, 2014Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Tablets & Apps, Tech Tips.
Tags: Android tablets, apps, Google, tablets
The Nexus 7 and 10 tablets in our library are still some of the most used tools for information literacy, and one of their features that I like best is the automatic updates, direct from Google. Because they are “native” Google devices, several of them have already updated to the new Android 5.0 operation system, nicknamed “Lollipop.”
After excitedly installing the update, however, I noticed something that I think educators will want to know. There is no longer a Gallery app for viewing and managing media on the tablet. Instead, there is a new Photos app with a pin wheel icon, and Google is trying hard to force the user to sign up for and use Google+ in order to use the app. It’s possible to use it without Google+, but the Photos app also isn’t very intuitive or easy-to-use. Obviously, this poses a problem for elementary students, who are legally too young to use Google+ and who need an easy way to upload, edit, and delete photos from a device.
So the solution I found is to disable the Photos app entirely, and use a different photo viewer/manager. For elementary tablets, and especially ones that are shared in a school library, I recommend QuickPic. It’s simple, intuitive, has fabulous reviews, and it looks a bit like the old Gallery app I liked so much. Plus, it’s not automatically hooked up to any social media (unless you want it to be), so it fits our library’s needs perfectly!
Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments!
State Award Voting Contest FREEBIES! November 15, 2014Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in PSLA, Tablets & Apps.
Tags: Android tablets, centers, library centers, PSLA, QR codes
It’s Freebie Friday! Okay, it’s Saturday, but I’ve got 2 things to give away, and I like alliteration as much as the next teacher blogger. I wrote last month about using book tastings to promote books in the upper grades, and for the younger grades, I introduce the Pennsylvania School Librarian Association (or PSLA) voting contest. I read a selection of books from an annually updated list, and then students get to vote for their favorite one. There are 4 lists of nominations, divided by grade level: Kindergarten to 3rd, 3rd to 6th, 6th to 8th, and Young Adult. Many other states have similar contests, so check the Mackin Booktalks website and look up your state.
Each year, I read aloud the books on the K-3 list to the students in kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade. Though I don’t have time to read every book on the list to every grade level, I do read more than half of them so that every student is eligible to vote. After listening to the book, students check out books, and with any extra time, they have a reading response activity to do in their booklet. They also record the number of stars (out of 5) they want to give a book. Click on the image to get the FREE PA Young Readers’ Choice Voting Unit with the K-2 lesson plan!
For older elementary students, I promote the voting contest at a library center by linking to the Mackin Booktalks website and giving students time to explore the different books on their grade level’s list. Students only need to read 3 or more books from the list to vote for their favorite book.
Click the image to get the FREE State Awards Book Voting Contest Library Center with the Grades 3-5 lesson plan.
Even though both of these products are made with Pennsylvania in mind, they are completely editable so you can change them for your state’s contest. Enjoy!
TL Blogging Challenge #12 – Changes and Reflections June 8, 2014Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, How to Be Brave, Makerspace!, Reflections, Tablets & Apps.
Tags: Android tablets, books, cataloging, centers, change, checkout, Dewey decimal system, library centers, makerspace, signage, technology
TL Blogging Challenge #12 – What is one thing you have changed in your library to meet your patrons needs? What spurred this change? What would you do different?
This school year has felt tumultuous with the number of changes I’ve made in our library. Was it really only 10 months ago? I’ve tried to keep the changes focused on improving services and instruction to students, and the end of the year is an excellent time to look back, celebrate successes, and think about what changes to make for next year.
Change #1: The 5-Book Checkout
This was by far the biggest change for the day-to-day running of the library. I wanted our students to get more access to books. So instead of limiting them to 2 books at a time (with notable extra books for reports, projects, and book clubs anyway), I raised the limit to 5 items total. What a hit! Don’t get me wrong, the shelving was and is craziness. If we didn’t have a fantastic and reliable volunteer twice a week, we would have drowned…but the students were reading voraciously! Isn’t that the purpose of the library (or one of them at least?) I think it’s time that raising the book-checkout limit becomes common and best practice for elementary librarians, especially for K-2 elementary students.
Change #2: Ditching the Dewey Decimals
Another time-consuming change, I’m glad I did it. As a library department, none of us wanted to go METIS. But in most modern math programs, students are only introduced to decimals in 3rd grade or higher. So I started thinking about making Dewey easier to use and browse for younger students. With that purpose in mind, I set out to eliminate the decimals in the Dewey decimal system.
In October, I re-uploaded the edited MARC records and started the long, tedious process of changing the spine labels on every nonfiction book. Over 35% of our entire collection. Again, volunteers were vital to project completion. Even with help, though, we only finished a week ago.
This whole process has made me think critically and reflect on how librarians catalog and organize information, and how my students seek information. My conclusion is that we should be buying MARC records from practicing elementary librarians, not catalogers with little or no interaction with children. And someone time and business sense should start a business to allows elementary librarians to earn some extra money on the side creating those MARC records.
That thought process and reflection also led to changing the pets books to 599 (or 598 for pet birds), and spot-changing about 50 books as we changed the spine labels. And it led to…
Change #3: Pictorial Nonfiction Signage
Along with the “ditching decimals” change, I needed some major signage updates. I knew I’d need some for the 796 and 590’s sections, especially with the 599’s. Without decimals, rodents, marsupials, dolphins, and wild cats are all intermixed. So I made some VERY simplified categories within the 599. I realize some may see this as “re-doing” the decimals anyway, but it makes that organization invisible to students. I created signage attached to magazine file boxes. I had inherited a multitude of them from the previous librarian, so I didn’t think I’d need to order anything. It turns out that once I got started, I wanted MORE picture signage. I loved how it looked up-to-date and made it easier to browse. Teachers noticed first, but I found it was also easier to direct students to the correct section when the call number didn’t always “match” the online catalog. Now that the online catalog matches the spine labels, only time will tell if this change leads to more nonfiction interest and circulation.
Change #4: Android Tablets for Library Instruction
At the beginning of the school year, I purchased Android tablets for in-library use, specifically three Nexus 10 tablets and nine Nexus 7 tablets. Best. Decision. EVER! The tablets made using the online catalog so easy and accessible to students, not to mention let students quickly access the Internet and excellent apps for research, inquiry, and learning in general.
Change #5: Centers for Grades 3-5
Library management aside, I took a pedagogical leap to try “library centers” as an instructional model. Truthfully, I thought this would work better than it did. From what I’ve read of Cari Young’s ground-breaking work, she intended the centers to be used when a librarian works alone. With no assistant and potentially few or no volunteers, the centers model keeps your sanity. And no one is probably looking too closely at how academic your center content is.
For me, however, who is blessed enough to have a part-time library tech assistant, I believe I should expect more of myself and my teaching. A puzzle center or Word Jenga or math blocks or listening center just isn’t going to cut it. My district administrators wants some sort of proof (or “data”) that I’m teach information literacy more explicitly. I’m expected to do more “rigorous” content. So I ended up making many of my own centers. That was fine, and led to some really great ideas.
One positive effect of centers was the ability to give students choice in HOW they learn and practice information literacy skills. Using self-inking stamps, I tracked students center attendance in booklets that they took with them as they traveled to different library centers week after week. For instance, students could practice research by looking up the answer to a Question of the Week, or observing and researching ladybugs in an enclosed terrarium. Next year, I want to expand those choices, while building in more structure for students that need extra guidance and scaffolding. At the same time, I don’t want to hold back the students who are independent learners.
Change #6: littleBits™ for a Library Makerspace
After buying a Classroom Set of littleBits™, I set up a mini-makerspace as one of my library centers. Though we don’t use the raw materials like Arduino boards and LED lights favored by middle school and high school makerspaces, the littleBits™ do allow me to introduce engineering concepts with creativity and student choice. I found that project storage and 30-40 minute class times were HUGE concerns and challenges for starters.
Also, while I’m certified to teach K-6 elementary subjects, I have no desire to become a science or computer science teacher. I’m hesitant to expand the makerspace for fear of being asked to take on responsibilities that should fall to a certified computer science teacher. So while I love the makerspace concept for libraries, I think we should be careful as professionals not to take on extra teaching duties. Heaven knows, we already have enough to do keeping a 21st century library up and running and teaching information literacy. Circulating “kits” of makerspace materials might be a more feasible solution for busy elementary librarians.
So overall, it’s been a wild year. I’ve learned SO MUCH, I have some great ideas for next year, and the above list is just part of it. There’s also this earlier post of ideas and to-do’s. For my esteemed colleagues who are limping towards the last day of school, go read Vicki Davis’s blog post and stay strong!
The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet. I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week. Follow and learn with us! The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.