Thursday, April 19, 2018

Common Sense Media District Certification

Remember the days when you took off on your bike, your mom yelling out the back door: “Where are you going?” “What will you be doing?” “Who will you be with?”

They always wanted to know that we were being safe and making good decisions...and, I’m guessing that most of us sometimes were safe and also sometimes made questionable decisions, but because our parents asked, we were thinking about it.

 It can be scary raising, coaching, and teaching the next generation from across the digital divide, but parents still ask these questions: “Where are you going?” “Who will you be with?” “What will you be doing?” Except now we add “online” to the end of each.

 We know that every one of our students might not always make the best choices, but providing them a safe environment in which to learn is one of our biggest responsibilities whether it is online or offline education we’re talking about. With this in mind, BPS is working hard to help our students have positive answers to those questions.

 This fall, the Library Media Department committed to a substantial goal of becoming a Common Sense Media district. This quest required library media specialists and classroom teachers to collaborate to offer consistent and timely lessons on digital citizenship: cyberbullying awareness, privacy and security, and creative credit.

 At the elementary level, students compared different forms of cyberbullying and identified ways to be an upstander when cyberbullying occurs. Elementary students began to learn about privacy on the internet which included defining personal information and understanding why personal information should never be shared online without parental permission.

 Academic integrity begins in elementary school where teachers and library media specialists taught about giving credit where credit is due through lessons on copyright, plagiarism, and creative commons. Library Media Specialists have found fun and engaging ways to teach this content. From online quests through Digital Passport from Common Sense Media, to interactive videos and activities on BrainPop, students interacted with digital citizenship content across the grades.

 At the middle school level, library media specialists focused on appropriate online interactions. Students tracked their online media use in order to understand how their digital footprint can be seen by a large, invisible audience. Students gained an understanding of how their digital lives can paint an incomplete picture of themselves that can affect how others view them.

 All high school students are required to take an online learning module each year of their high school career. Students take four courses throughout their high school years covering topics such as digital media use and copyright, cyberbullying awareness, digital footprint, news literacy, local support resources, and the district Responsible Use Policy.

 Bismarck Public Schools collaborated with the Bismarck Police Youth Bureau to hold a parent night discussing trends in social media and their effect on our students. Hundreds of community parents attended one of the three sessions held this fall. You can check out a parent handout here. Additional parent outreach occurred during parent teacher conferences and school open houses.

 The online world offers an abundant playground to learn and explore but all students need to learn to navigate this world safely and ethically. Through our Common Sense Media district certification, we are guaranteeing that our students and families have the most current and up-to-date knowledge on the ins and outs of digital life. Sharing these resources with students and families can help everyone feel more comfortable when answering the questions that all parents should be asking about online usage: “Where are you going?” “Who will you be with?” “What will you be doing?”

 Twitter Questions:
1. How can we make learning about digital etiquette more relevant to our students?
2. How can we ensure that we as educators and parents stay up to date on the current trends and issues surrounding our digital/online life?
3. What are some innovative ways to teach the bountiful, creative opportunities available online while ensuring safety and appropriate use?
4. Describe a digital etiquette based activity (cyberbullying, privacy, oversharing, etc) that worked well for you this school year.
5. What new trends are you seeing in your students in regard to digital and online social activities?

Monday, April 16, 2018

To Genre-fy or Not To Genre-fy?

Is it a good idea to “genre-fy” your collection? Should you consider it only for fiction? Has the Dewey Decimal Classification system run its course and no longer relevant in the twenty-first century? Or is it still the best alternative? These are questions I have been asking myself over the past couple of years.

The Dewey Decimal Classification system has been used in U.S. libraries since the 1870s when Melvil Dewey developed it and put his name on it. But there is an effort in libraries across the country to move away from the longtime system we learned as elementary school students.

The longevity of Melvil Dewey’s Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC) is a key concept that not only is embedded in the history of school librarianship and school library programs, but is still an important part of today’s 21st Century library. Since Dewey developed this system in 1873, the DDC has been edited and expanded 23 times, with the most resent abridged version’s 2012 publication.

So we ask…“Is Dewey and the curriculum focus that it demands leaving us behind in the 21st century?” “Why are we using decimals in a children’s library, when they don’t learn that until fourth-grade math? And why are our picture books arranged by author, when most children are more interested in the content than in who wrote the book?”

One other complaint against the system is that its focus is on numbers, is impersonal and unengaging. In short, the Dewey Decimal does not get people excited to read.

What Should We Do?

Is Genrefication the Answer?? School librarians around the country have been intrigued (or horrified) by recent trends in school library classification and organization. Some librarians have ditched Dewey in favor of a "book store" model, adopting a practice known as "genrefication." 

This is a model of classification in which shelf location is determined by genres, a style used by booksellers. Some critics have declared the new system a nightmare, while supporters love the browsability of the shelves.

Library classification and arranging books by genres or “genrefication,” are hot topics among librarians.

Many librarians are reluctant to genrefy their libraries because of the amount of time and effort required to restructure the library’s classification system.

In recent years, some librarians, in an effort to address the needs of their patrons, have experimented with genrefication. Because there is no centralized commonly acknowledged organizational approach to this new phenomenon, librarians interested in genrefying their stacks are using a variety of approaches. Some are blending their fiction and nonfiction by genre; some are using established databases that organize books by subjects; and others are only genrefying their fiction shelves.

Whatever system you prefer, it has led to in depth discussion among the library professionals. In the end, it would be up the librarian and staff if ditching Dewey and the amount of time involved would be ideal for their library setting.

Written by Lynda ~ BPS LMS at Will-Moore and Pioneer Elementaries 

Twitter Tuesday Questions:

Q1:  What are your thoughts on the library genrefied system for school libraries?      

Q2:  What are your thoughts if just the fiction sections were genre and the nonfiction kept as Dewey?  

Q3:  What system is in place at your school and do you like it or would you like to see it changed?    

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Coding with Ozobots

Coding / Ozobots 

I believe tech skills by themselves don’t prompt big ideas – creative visions do.

I am amazed by the fearlessness of students when it comes to technology. Working with students using coding is like watching a child exploring a new toy.  They are always willing to try anything to see what happens. They experiment to determine what works and what doesn’t, and then are willing to fix it and try again. 

Using the Ozobots is one way for students to be creative. It can kick start creativity by sparking students to ask questions that lead them to improve upon their ideas.  In addition, coding leads to critical thinking and problem solving; skills that are vital to 21st Century learning.

I am just beginning to use Ozobots with the 4th and 5th grade students here at Lincoln. We started by exploring how to create different codes to have Ozobots do various movements.  With the 4th graders, we will then evolve our learning into application of using coding to create different landmarks of North Dakota.  The 5th graders will apply coding to using Ozobots to lay out the thirteen colonies.  

Twitter Tuesdays
Q1: What is the importance of coding?
Q2: How are you integrating coding into current or developing projects at your school?
Q3: Without using technology, what skills can we teach that would help develop coding?

By Rhonda Bothwell with the help of Alicia Overbeck

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Virtual Reality in Education

"Virtual reality can transport students to the farthest corners of the observable universe in the blink of an eye and immerse them in a deep and engaging educational environment" Michael Tresor @ eLearning Trends.

As I am always on the prowl for new ways to “wow” my LEGO & Maker Club, I decided to dip my toes into VR. After doing lots of research, I purchased a few of the “Premium Virtual Reality VR Headsets w/ Magnetic Button Trigger” by Sytros on Amazon. The $20 price was right and the headset has many of the recommended features for student use: adjustable strap and viewer tabs (pupil/focal distance and ability to wear with glasses on or off); no remote required (magnetic button allows you to pause and interact with any Google Cardboard supported VR apps); equipped with slots for headphones/earbuds and compatible with almost any size and type of smartphone.

I consider myself fairly tech-savvy, but this was definitely a learning curve for me. Luckily, my Clubbies were willing to jump right into the deep end! I had found VR videos on Best YouTube 360 Channels for Educational Content and Virtual Reality for Education which were high-quality, safe starting points. We also explored VR videos on YouTube, with some guidelines, of course. We had so much fun exploring that I decided to splurge and buy enough for a class set (30 headsets). I decided to build my own so that I would always have them available for class or individual student checkout at a moment's notice. I also wanted the freedom to create my own "VR library", based on student & teacher requests. My ultimate goal is to "transport students to the farthest corners of the observable universe in the blink of an eye and immerse them in a deep and engaging educational environment". Whether I succeed or FAIL in this endeavor remains to be seen.

Completed VR Tours

  • AVID: students took virtual tours of college campuses.
  • 7th grade ELA students explored their Reader’s Theater topics: historical homes; museums; national parks, etc.
  • 6-8th grade student walk-ins during NDSA Testing explored Best YouTube 360 Channels for Educational Content.

Upcoming VR Tours (by request)

  • 7th grade earth science: students will check out bacteria and take a tour inside the human body (so cool and disgusting, at the same time!).
  • 8th grade natural science: students will check out astronomy sites. (Over 10,000 astronomy VR sites on YouTube (falling into the YouTube video rabbit hole) so we are working together to narrow down the topic.)
  • I am considering letting individual students check VR headsets out during the school day.

During the 7th grade ELA VR Field Trip, I told students that they were our VR pioneers and asked
them to fill out a “Feedback Wall” with their “likes, dislikes, and wonders”. Students said that
the experience was “amazing” “really cool” and “it really does immerse you in the activity”.
Some students also said that there were “too many steps” to get everything to work (on all of
the different phones) and that there should be an easier way to access subject/topic lists of
VR videos (right now, we are using Google Drive). A few students said that it made them “dizzy”.
They all wondered if the experience would be enhanced if we added headphones or earbuds.

Based on their feedback and the problem-solving we have done along the way, I have created
simplified directions: Getting Started with Virtual Reality. It seems that every make and model of smartphone has its own quirks with VR (and some students don’t have a
smartphone at all or aren’t allowed to install Google Cardboard). So, I am looking for ways for
every student to be able to experience VR, as it is truly “amazing”, “really cool” and
“really does immerse you in the activity”. Please let me know if you would like to
work with me to create a “Shared Resource” curriculum folder with quality VR videos.
I am looking forward to many more VR adventures and I promise you won’t regret taking the plunge!

Twitter Chat:

Q1: HOW have you used VR with students or staff? If not, what is preventing you from doing so?

Q2: WHAT are some tips and tricks that you have found helpful when using VR? (Did you use Google Expeditions or did you build your own kit?) If you haven’t used VR before; what would be
most helpful for you?

Q3: WHAT are some pros and cons that you foresee using VR with your students and staff?

Q4: DREAM big: how could you see yourself integrating VR into your curriculum in authentic,
meaningful ways?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Libraries: They sure don't look like they used to!

Someone once told me that if I needed an “outside the box” solution to a problem, ask a child. So I did! What do you like about the library? What do you wish were different about libraries? What does the library of the future look like? Aside from the pool, ice cream machine, and go karts (even though they would all make a memorable trip to the library), the children have lots of great ideas that helped me look at the library with a fresh set of eyes.

What Does the Library Need?
  1. Space: we need more room. This was the number one answer. More room is needed for all the activities that take place in the library. Reading, studying, collaborating, building/making, researching, web-surfing, learning, creating… they all take space.
  2. Stuff: we need more stuff. Computers and robotics were on the top of the “stuff” list. Students excitedly shared what they had used and what they had seen that they have not had a chance to use yet. 3-D printers and drones were also high on the list.
  3. Books: we need more books. I was very happy when so many children discussed adding more and more bookshelves, floor to ceiling, or even adding a second story to the library for more books.
What Does the Library of the Future Look Like?
  1. Many places for reading: Crawling into nooks, sofas, pillows, hammocks, and sound proof pods were all posed as ideas for reading spaces in the library.
  2. Book Automation: After picking a book from the online catalog, with the push of a button, the book glows or is picked up by a delivery drone to help patrons find what they are looking for.
  3. Food and Drink: Several said that they liked being able to pick up a hot chocolate or cookie at their local book store and thought it would be great to have this in the school library.
  4. Nature: Bringing in plants, trees, even animals like butterflies or fish ponds, was suggested to make it feel like they are reading outside.
  5. Virtual Tours: With the help of virtual reality bodysuits, being able to visit any museum, national park, or even the moon all from the library would be “insane”.
  6. Showcase: Large screens, video screens, video games, and even hologram projectors were offered as suggestions to show off student learning in the library.

So, the student idea of a library has many traits of a learning commons.  A learning commons is a physical and virtual space for learning. It is open and flexible and offers spaces for comfort as well as practical areas for work. The commons is a space of exploration, creation, collaboration, and fun.
Learning Commons at LHS

“While a library’s core purpose has remained the same – providing access to information – what has changed is how students access it and what they do with it when they get it.” Lavonne Boutcher -8 essential ingredients for your learning commons”

The information is still there for students to obtain, but the space itself fosters 21st century learning skills. The learning commons is a space with a focus not on consuming information, but rather a center for creating knowledge. So should all libraries make renovations and create a learning commons instead? Maggie Townsend, the LMS at Legacy High School stated, “They're both important. I just think that Learning Commons is a different mindset or philosophy.  A Learning Commons focuses on collaboration and creation.”  

Legacy has a learning commons, with traditional library materials such as books, magazines and computers. It also offers more non-traditional materials such as a 3-D printer, vinyl cutter, green screens, cameras, etc. When asked what makes the Legacy space more of a learning commons rather than a library, Maggie replied,

“I think it's a Learning Commons because the focus is on what the students are doing instead of the physical resources (books, magazines, etc.). Kids always ask, "Why can't we call it a library?" And my response is, "Does it look like a library? Does it feel like a library?" Their answer is always no.”
Learning Commons at LHS

Many libraries in the district are adding makerspaces within the library walls as well as spaces for collaboration and creation. It is amazing to walk in to libraries across the district and see some kids reading and researching, others creating Lego projects or using robots. Our libraries are helping create future ready trailblazers ready to change the world.

As for my library, I think it’s still a mix of library and learning commons with plans for more collaborative spaces and makerspace areas. I must say though that the student suggestions of a hot tub and cheeseburger vending machine do sound nice...

Thanks to Maggie Townsend, LMS at Legacy High School.

Twitter Questions

1. How can learning commons spaces help support PBL/classroom learning? 
2. What are ways to create collaborative spaces in current school libraries (on a budget)?
3. What zones could be added to a learning commons/library to support student learning?
4. What are ways to ensure that the space remains flexible and allows change over time?