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Audiobooks and iPod shuffles April 28, 2010

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Below is a letter I wrote today to my school staff with information about the school library’s newly acquired audiobook collection and newly acquired iPod shuffles for playing the audiobooks. I am optimistic that the options provided by these new resources will have positive results for many students!

Dear IAMS Staff:
I have begun creating a digital audio library. To date I have 26 audiobooks stored in my computer that can be loaded onto nine iPod shuffles for checkout by teachers and students. Attached is a spreadsheet detailing the titles, languages, and the number of print copies of those works in the library.
Please take a look at it and consider ways to utilize these resources in your classroom.
Also, please offer suggestions for other specific titles you would like to use in the future. Only a fraction of books have audio versions, but I will do my best to find recordings of books you request.
The iPod shuffles can be played on headphones, on speakers, or with listening centers (with the right connectors). Please show me your listening center equipment, and I will purchase the needed accessories for them to work together.
I will also be making the nine iPod shuffles available for check-out by individual students, but I wanted to give you the first chance at using them before the year ends. I will create a form which parents can sign to give their students permission to use the iPods and to commit to paying the replacement cost if the unit is lost.
Below is a portion of the text of the grant proposal I wrote to obtain the grant for the iPods from DonorsChoose.org
The iPod shuffles are VERY basic. They have no screen and none of the usual “flash” of more high powered iPods. I think they represent a great option for exposing kids to great literature and to great language models.
Research has demonstrated that listening to audiobooks fosters reading comprehension, fluency, language acquisition, vocabulary development, and improved achievement. Moreover, students can benefit from opportunities to listen independently, encouraging the enjoyment of literature so critical to literacy development. For proficient readers, audiobooks present opportunities to develop comprehension skills and strategies in critical and creative thinking.
Fran Feeley
Bibliotecario Escolar/School Librarian


ISLMA, Wikis, and Google Forms. Oh, my! April 28, 2010

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Tonight I submitted the following proposal to present at the Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA) Conference in the fall.

Here is the proposal…

Web 2.0: Have no fear!

5th-8th grades

Successful curriculum projects using online tools will be showcased with student work products. Web 2.0 tools featured include Voicethread (digital storytelling), Glogster (interactive digital posters), Wallwisher (online bulletin boards), Wikispaces (wikis), and online data collection (Google Forms). Connect these tools to your curriculum. Find out how easy it all is!

I have made some progress on my school library wiki. Check it out here: http://iamslibrary.wikispaces.com/

It’s a work in progress. Wikispaces is a great tool! In under an hour I was using it with ease.

I also tried my hand at Google Forms tonight. Very easy! The following took me about ten minutes:


This week I will be working on my wiki and maybe a few more Google Forms. My 6th graders are just about ready to start creating their Voicethreads based on their research on famous women in history.

In the next couple of weeks I will begin work with 8th graders using Voicethread and Glogster.

Wiki time April 21, 2010

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We are in the middle of  an assignment to create wikis about our libraries. I want to make it immediately useful as well as flexible.

One of my last library school classes at Dominican University in the summer of 2005 was a web design class. By the time the class started I was already hired to work at King Lab Magnet School in Evanston in the fall. So I created a great big web page for the school library. We did all of our web design projects the “old fashioned way” using html. It was slow and painstaking but I acquired a good appreciation for what’s going on “behind the scenes” on websites. The website I created for King Lag School was used during the year I worked there and at least one year after I left. Since coming on board at Inter-American Magnet School I have not created a library web page. The school itself didn’t even have a page for more than two years after the school relocated to a new building. Relocating a school is very, very difficult, and it takes a few years for everything to settle down. I had so many balls in the air, and I didn’t want to take ownership of the school website for many reasons, including the fact that I would be spending a lot of my time translating any and all text that is posted on the site (into English or Spanish). Now seems to be the perfect time for me to finally build a site for a few reasons: 1.) I have been in my school library long enough to know exactly what content will have the most impact; 2.) I can act independently of the school website and arrange for a tab or a link on the official school site to link to my site; and 3.) Wikispaces is a very easy tool to use and provides free storage on its server.

I am going to work on my wiki and will have something to show in a few days. Given the numerous categories of content and the need for everything to be in Spanish and English, I plan to get started this spring and really flesh it out over the summer.

Safari Live, Wallwisher, and Technology Withdrawal South of the Border April 6, 2010

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Our latest virtual meeting took place on Safari Live, a service provided by the Chicago Public Schools which provides videoconferencing. I was a little disappointed that I “showed up late” as a result of difficulties joining the group that I believe are due to Windows 7. After building my day around that 7:30 PM meeting I struggled and struggled to get into the environment. Eventually I gave up and started up my old computer, knowing that it would probably be able to access the site and operate my webcam. During the 15 minutes or so that it takes to start up that antique of a computer, my partner arrived home. I immediately relieved him of his laptop and was chatting and webcamming with my classmates like a pro in no time! This tool has great potential. We managed to have five or six of us using it at once. For small group meetings it provides the closest thing to an actual meeting or seminar possible in the virtual world. It lacked many cool options of second life (like cool graphics and the ability to “fly” and “teleport”). But it’s much more personal because you can actually see the real-life faces of the people involved talking, moving, smiling, etc.

During my spring break vacation I experienced tech withdrawal! A group of us met up in Tucscon and drove down to spend a few days on the beach of Puerto Peñasco in the State of Sonora, Mexico. None of us made the effort to get international service for the days in Mexico, and we were collectively curious about what it would be like to be cut off from phone service, instant messaging, e-mail, and Internet data for a few days. On the second day almost everybody but me went into town in the morning to shop at the fish market for dinner and do some sightseeing. I stayed behind to read and nap. About three hours after the others departed I began to think, “Gee, they have been gone a while,” which quickly turned into, “There is no way on earth to reach them, and I won’t have any way of reaching them even if they don’t come back for ten more hours!” Fortunately they returned very shortly after my irrational thinking took over. I fully expected to feel a bit anxious to use my iPhone after a few days, but this moment came after only 24 hours of being unplugged. I am happy to say that after that I really forgot about all those communication options until we returned to the U.S.

Here’s a photo of us hiking in Sabino Canyon in Tucson:

There are some other photos from this trip on my FLICKR page (accessible on the right hand side of this blog).

Our assignment this week was to create a “wall” on Wallwisher.com. This tool allows you to create a wall on which members of a community of any size can post “sticky notes” to answer a question or contribute to a discussion.  Sticky notes can contain text (up to 120 characters per sticky note) and/or an image, audio, or video link. The person who creates the wall moderates the content by approving or disapproving any “sticky note” comments – an important consideration for classroom use. Individuals who post comments can identify themselves, create a name, or simply post anonymously.

I decided to create a Wallwisher wall to support a project I began today with three classes of 6th grade. They are working on a women’s biography project that is a collaborative project involving myself, the English teacher, and the technology teacher. In the context of the Big6, they will select and research a biography subject; write a “script” about that person’s life within parameters set by the English teacher; create a PowerPoint presentation (heavy on images, light on text); convert their PowerPoint slides into JPG files and import them into Voicethread.com; record themselves reading their “scripts” to accompany their Voicethread images; create a bibliography; and include 3 reflections about this research experience using Big6 terminology correctly. I have provided them a list of approved resources, step-by-step instructions, and a grading rubric – all of it posted in a folder on FirstClass so the students can click easily to the links of approved resources. Because of the complexity, I expect some difficulties. So I added a link to my Wallwisher “wall” for the students to post questions about the project. The link to it is included on the list of approved resources. Each week at the outset of class I will review the posted questions and address them.

Here is my “wall”: 6th Grade Women’s History Project

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