The Learning Librarian

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Wikispaces

I was looking forward to learning more about Wikispaces this week. I have rarely used Wikis in the past, only once or twice for a class. The website, http://www.wikispaces.com, is extremely easy to read and understand. I like how it is categorized so nicely – you can choose whether you want a Wiki for Education, Business or Personal and choose from more categories within those categories. The home page answers some FAQs and explains how Wikis work by showing several icons and what they mean. When I went to create my own Wiki (http://abbycooper.wikispaces.com), I liked how a box immediately popped up that welcomed me and offered to give me a tour around the page. Using this tour feature, I was quickly able to learn how to edit my Wiki and manage the content. Since I do not really need a Wiki for anything right now, I did not add members or content. However, I played around with the layout and found one I really like. Though my 4-year-old students are way too young to be using a Wiki, I can definitely see myself using this page with older students in the future.

I really like how easy to use this tool is. The site is organized well and creating my Wiki was no headache at all. I also appreciated the tutorial at the beginning; it answered all of my questions by introducing every aspect of the Wiki one at a time. I feel like I have a very clear understanding of the tool after reading the tutorial and following the suggestions and directions it gave. The only thing I did not like was the fact that there were very limited options for backgrounds. I like the one I chose but it is not very unique. It looks like there are more to choose from if you pay a fee of $5. I appreciate tools like this, but I am not willing to pay for them!

I think this would be a fantastic tool to use with middle or high school students. It is a sophisticated way to combine and share information, and it goes more in-depth than a blog or Google Doc. Students can write, edit, share, upload documents, add movies, videos, etc. I believe this is as good as it gets when it comes to synthesizing information, and it teaches and uses all types of literacy. This resource would be especially helpful in developing digital literacy, which requires students to manipulate media and adapt it to new forms. As students create documents, videos, images, etc, they will need to be able to export them to the Wiki. This transfer of information is very beneficial for students to learn, and using a Wiki will allow them to practice presenting information in different ways.

 

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The Neverending Search

This week, I read a blog called The Neverending Search (http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/) written by teacher librarian Joyce Valenza. I am extremely interested in reading blogs by teacher librarians – since I hope to become one, I enjoy learning what those already in the field are learning, teaching and sharing. The blogs I have read so far have given me wonderful insight into the profession, and this one was no exception. I really like how the blog is laid out – there are categories with the following headings: Teacher Librarians, Instruction, Information Literacy, Google, Search Tools, Research and Contact. These headings make it very easy to select a topic you’d like to learn more about and be immediately directed to all blog posts within that subject.

I decided to read a blog post under the Search Tools category. I feel that I do not know as much about search tools (besides the typical Google and Yahoo) as I should, and I would like to learn more about different tools so I am able to share that information with my future students. The article I read – http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2013/02/09/whats-izik-introducing-a-swipier-slashier-search/ – discusses Izik, a search engined designed specifically with tablets in mind. According to Valenza, Izik is a good search engine because it gathers results quickly and efficiently. It also categorizes them for you by the following: quick answers, top results, images, books or latest. To focus your search, she suggests adding a “slashtag” which is, essentially, using a slash to separate your search terms and add additional words. At the end of her article, she provides a link to Blekko (http://blekko.com/) a spam-free search engine that she recommends if your device is not in the form of a tablet.

I thought this blog post – as well as the Search Tools section of her blog in general – was extremely helpful. I had never heard of Izik or Blekko, but her post made me excited to try them out. I would be curious to know what other teacher librarians think about these search engines, and I plan to research other blogs and resources to find out. This also makes me wonder what other search engines are out there that I have never heard of, and whether any of them could yield results that are more reliable or more valid than some of the more common search engines I use on a daily basis.

I definitely plan to revisit this blog in the future. It is geared towards teacher librarians, so I do not think I would have students visit it. However, I would absolutely incorporate lessons and/or new information and resources I learn from the site into my teaching. It would be fun to do a project with students based off the information I discovered about the new search engines. I could have the students search for the same term on several different search engines and see what kinds of results they found. A lesson like this would teach students that they need to use multiple resources to ensure they’ve gathered the most accurate information. Opening their minds to new ways of searching will help develop student’s media and information literacy skills.

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Del.icio.us

This week, I decided to look into Del.icio.us, a social bookmarking site I have heard a lot about lately. I was excited to finally be “in the know” about Delicious and to truly understand what a social bookmarking site is used for. My initial reaction was that the site looked a lot like Facebook. Since Facebook has been so successful, it is definitely a good site to use as a model. I created an account on the site which you can view by visiting https://delicious.com/arcoops.

As I just mentioned, the page looked a lot like Facebook. At first I thought this was a little unoriginal, but then I remembered that I use Facebook quite a bit, and that Facebook is familiar to me. The familiarity made me feel more confident about using Delicious, even though I had no idea what it was. I easily found some links to add to my page – dozens of results come up through simply typing a word or phrase in the search box. The website seems very easy to use, and fairly uncomplicated and straightforward. That being said, after exploring for awhile and enjoying what the page had to offer, I couldn’t help but wonder why do I need this? Like I wrote in my post on Google Reader a few weeks ago, (the same Google Reader that is now no longer going to exist, I believe) I believe that time is precious, especially to teachers and librarians. With so much to plan, read and do, it is crucial that the websites we use for organization and professional development allow us to be as efficient and productive as possible. I like this page – the resources are great, it’s nice how you can tag things and leave comments – but I simply feel that it is not necessary. As far as social sharing/networking goes, I have both Twitter and Facebook, and that helps me keep track of what my friends are reading/thinking and lets me share my thoughts with them. Usually when I encounter a great article or link, I post it on Facebook to share. Similarly, I feel that when I come across important links that I would like to refer back to, I simply add them to my bookmarks bar – I do not need a whole website just to list my important links. The website is well put-together and nice, but I do not feel that it offers me anything new, different or better than what I already have access to. While I am eager to learn about and incorporate new technology into my life and career, I don’t want to incorporate it solely for the sake of incorporating it. I want technology that will enhance my organization, learning and teaching in unique, creative ways.

That being said, I do not think I would be overly eager to share this website with students. While it might work for an activity where older students share an article or a link they have read and find interesting, they could just as easily do a similar activity using a Wiki, blog or class Twitter account. I am extremely interested in sharing new, innovative technology with students, but I would prefer that they become extremely proficient with a few forms of technology rather than being just okay with dozens of technology tools. Just as the Common Core is shifting to a curriculum that spans deeper instead of wider, it is more important to me that students know how to use technology well as opposed to only knowing the basics about every single tool. Part of learning information literacy is learning when it is okay to decide not to use a source. By looking at what already exists and pinpointing exactly what kind of information they would like to find – and how they would like to organize it – students will be able to differentiate tools that are necessary from tools that are not. Being able to examine websites with a critical eye will promote higher order thinking skills and information literacy.

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Van Meter Library Voice

This week, I decided to explore Van Meter Library Voice, a library/technology blog, which can be found at http://vanmeterlibraryvoice.blogspot.com/. I had never heard of this blog before, so I did not know what to expect from the site. I was pleasantly surprised – the blog is extremely user-friendly, creative, engaging and fun to read. The author, Shannon Miller, includes dozens of photos with every entry that actively detail what her students do in their daily library activities.

I decided to read her blog entry from February 17th, when she chronicled a visit from authors Marybelle and Tom Harris. Miller posts a picture of the book being discussed, as well as photos of students reading the book and participating in discussion with the authors. In another post on that page, Miller describes a Skype visit from illustrator Mercer Mayer. She talks about how students really wanted Mr. Mayer to speak with them and wanted to create something that would show him how much they love his work. The students created http://littlebirdtales.com/, an ebook where students recorded their voices while sharing their own illustrations. Miller posted it on Mayer’s Facebook page, and he agreed to Skype with the students. Miller then shares several pictures and videos from the chat. The videos were so much fun for me to watch – as a lifelong Mercer Mayer fan, it was exciting to see him speak and look on as he drew a Little Critter live for the students. I felt like I was there!

Of all the readings I have done so far, I think this is the blog I will return to the most. It might be because I am more of a visual learner (according to http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=questionnaire)  and this blog includes wonderful amounts of photos, videos, and other interactive media in every entry, so I felt I was able to really gain a lot from it. The blog was also incredibly inspirational to me. I was excited to read what she was posting about, but it also made me excited to have events of my own to blog about. When I become a librarian, I would love to develop a similar blog that chronicles special events and projects in my school library. This would be a wonderful publicity tool and would help to keep students, teachers, parents and community members in the know of what’s going on in their school library. The Van Meter Library Voice would be a great blog to share with students as well. Even though it is geared towards teachers and librarians, I would like to show students what another school library is doing. Students should have input in their own learning, so as a librarian, I would show my students a few things on the Van Meter website and ask if they might like to try one of those things in our library. The possibilities are endless!

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Google Docs

 

For this week’s technology journal, I decided to look into Google Docs. I have never created one before, but I am beginning to understand how important they can be. Google Docs allows multiple people to read and edit one document without having to e-mail it back and forth. I think Google Docs would be a great way for librarians to collaborate with teachers. It seems that a common problem is that teachers and librarians would like to collaborate but neither one has the free time to meet and discuss lessons. The librarian and the teacher could simultaneously work on a Google Doc about a given lesson and collaborate without actually meeting face-to-face. While I prefer the face-to-face method whenever possible, sometimes there just isn’t the time. Google Docs can make it happen.

 

A friend of mine is in the process of creating a non-profit organization. She knows that I am learning how to be a librarian, so she asked me to be in charge of organizing the articles and other resources she and her colleagues are compiling. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn how to use Google Docs, because I wanted to create a document that anyone could edit and work on. After hours of hard work, I finished listing the articles she had provided me with. You can visit my Google Doc here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Av4JBjtLhIFSdDFZb3VTVXZpdG5PLTZya2xxQUdTcWc#gid=0

 

I was pleased to discover that the process of creating a Google Doc was very simple. It was easy to select spreadsheet and to type in the information. Google Docs is extremely user-friendly; when I accidentally deleted a row, navigating how to put it back was no big deal. Likewise, when I wanted to organize the information alphabetically, I simply clicked “data”, then “sort sheet A-Z”. You can select which column you’d like to alphabetize, which is also nice. I prefer it to be alphabetized by article topic, but others may prefer it to be alphabetized by article title or author. Google Docs will let people change it to accommodate their preferences.

 

Now that I’ve finished creating my document, I have had some confusion regarding how to share it. I e-mailed it to my friend who leads the organization, so I know she has the document, but I’m still figuring out how to make it available to all the members of the group. Luckily I found some fantastic resources to help me figure it out: https://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2494822&topic=2816927&rd=1 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wsvhIQj-3E&noredirect=1. Both the article and video are extremely helpful. The video is geared towards students and teachers, so along with solving my current problem, it also gave me some ideas for using this in the library.

 

I have no doubt that I would like to use Google Docs with students. I think it would work best for students in older grades, though it could also work for younger grades if students were closely supervised. Google Docs strikes me as a tool that could be very beneficial for collaboration. This collaboration could happen between groups of students, between students and teachers, and between librarians and teachers. I think it would be great for student group projects – students could work on the projects at home and then come together to edit them during school. It would be a great exercise in compromise and teamwork, as one student may want to make a change that they don’t all agree on.

 

Personally, I’m excited to see how my document goes over with this non-profit group. I left a column for comments and I’m hoping members will take a minute to contribute their thoughts on the various articles and videos. In doing so, my mini-library of resources will become an interactive forum – I am not simply telling them “here are the articles, go read them” but rather encouraging their input and ideas and providing them with sources to inspire the aforementioned input and ideas. Hopefully being able to participate will create more excitement and interest in this project. I think it would have the same effect in a school as well.

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The Horn Book

For this week’s reading, I decided to look into The Horn Book (www.hbook.com), a resource I’ve been hearing about time and time again but haven’t yet read in depth. From what I’ve heard, this sounds like a phenomenal professional resource for librarians, and I was instantly impressed (though slightly overwhelmed) upon my initial visit to the website. With so many categories and headings, I didn’t know what to click on first. However, after an hour or so of browsing, it became much more manageable, and I discovered resources that were extremely valuable.

My favorite part of The Horn Book is the “App Review” section, and I think this section is crucial for all librarians, whether they’re just starting out or have been in the field for decades. Since there are so many apps available – with new ones being constantly added to the mix  – it is very important for teachers and librarians to stay current and know which are most educational and beneficial to use with students. Even though I consider myself to be fairly up-to-date with modern technology, I know I’m nowhere near being familiar with every educational app, so I was excited to read about some I’ve never heard of before. One review I read discussed the “Goodnight Moon App”-http://www.hbook.com/2012/11/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/goodnight-moon-app-review/. This instantly caught my attention as I am a huge Goodnight Moon fan and have many fellow fans in the pre-school class that I teach. Since we have been starting to use iPads lately, I thought reading this review could be helpful in determining if I should download that app to use with my students. The review gave a thorough description of the app, talking about everything from visuals and sounds to whether it’s appropriate for ‘before bed’ or not (it isn’t.) The review discussed that the app is interactive (but not TOO interactive – there is a mix between activity and simply listening). The app allows children to further explore the room in the story by using a magnifying glass to see objects more in-depth. The author mentions that the app has several user-friendly options as well – children can choose whether to hear the story read to them or to read it themselves, to listen to soft background music or not to, and return anytime to pages they’d like to see again. The article provides a link to where you can buy the app. It also includes “related posts” so you can easily jump to something similar.

I was really impressed with the quality of this app review – it is clear that the author really studied everything it includes. I feel that I have a good understanding of the app even though I have never used it myself. I think all of the reviews and information on The Horn Book would be helpful when I become a school librarian, but the app reviews would be particularly helpful because the concept of an “app review” is so unique. I haven’t seen them on many other library-related websites. With so many apps available to us, this resource would really help me get a feel for new options and easily select what would be appropriate for use with students. Finding the best apps is important so that students are able to make the most of their limited iPad time. The best apps will encourage and utilize good reading, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. I like the sound of this app because it allows students to gain information in different ways – they can listen to the story, read it themselves, or use the illustrations to understand the meaning. Apps like this encourage multiple learning styles, which I think is very important.

Overall, I think The Horn Book is a fantastic resource for educators. I like how it is both a website and a magazine, and I definitely want to subscribe! It’s nice that there are multiple ways you can follow along with new and interesting information. I like how there are so many author interviews; the “obituary” section is fascinating as well. At first I was confused by it – what are obituaries doing on a family-friendly website? However, the obituaries are amazing – they pay tribute to some of the most prominent and influential authors of our time. The obituaries could be used to help students learn more about the lives and writing of these respected authors. As a librarian, I can definitely see myself referring to The Horn Book often.

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