It’s always helpful to have new and useful resources if you are an educator working with technology! Big Deal Media has started a blog called “Teaching 4 Tomorrow: Ed Tech Ideas and Strategies Worth Sharing” to discover new platforms and resources for tech educators.
This article shares the top five resources that educators used the most in the month of February. Some of these resources include:
Siemens STEM Day: For students grades K – 12, “STEM Day offers a variety of tools and resources that will help you reinvent your STEM curriculum. You’ll find new, original hands-on activities, a teacher support center, and our Possibility Grant Sweepstakes”
RobotBASIC: This platform incorporates programming language with a robot simulator. The program “enables users to simulate a robot with many types of sensors, control a real robot using the wireless protocol, create animated simulations and video games, handle complex engineering problems, motivate students to learn, and create contests for robotics clubs.”
“Oversharing” Rap Video: This video is all about social media, and about responsibly posting and sharing content. The site has quizzes and activities to help students learn about appropriate social media behavior.
Can you believe it’s that time again? School is back! With all the planning and preparation that goes into a school year, you may be looking for some additional inspiration for activities.
This article from the School Library Journal features 26 ideas from innovative library folk all over the country, preparing to start the school year off right. The topics featured are Reading, Tech, Passive and Participatory Programming, ELL Environments, and Research Support. See below for a few of the ideas featured in the article:
In order to get his students engaged in election season, media specialist Travis Jonker in Michigan will have his students read a children’s book and then vote to elect their favorite character.
School Librarian IdaMae Craddock in Virginia wants to take her Makerspace activities to the next step, by allowing her students to figure out ways to create and experiment without use of the kits’ instructions.
To help teens cope with stress and learn different ways to relax, Texas librarian Maggie Knapp will feature activities that are not technology based, like coloring books and puzzles.
The reading buddies program started by librarian Alla Umanskaya in New York gives ELL students an opportunity to develop their English skills while keeping their native language abilities. Middle school and elementary students read together in both English and their families’ native languages.
A new program that Oregon School Corps librarian Jacqui Partch helped introduce isaimed at helping middle and high school educators teach their students about digital citizenship, cyberbullying, and password safety.
Even if you don’t incorporate any of the ideas from the article, it’s fun to hear about what is happening in school libraries and media centers around the country!
CMLE recognizes that change is afoot in schools and media centers. CMLE’s strategic plan includes a refined focus on serving school media centers. Because of this, it’s a great time for CMLE staff to reach out and connect with our K-12 media centers. During our school visits, we hope to learn more about school media centers and the services they provide. We also hope to describe the type of services CMLE can offer, and explore additional ways that CMLE might be of service. We strive to make these visits a mutually beneficial experience, so both individuals come away with new awareness of available resources and greater understanding of pressing needs in the field too.
It was a cool, rainy, spring day when I visited the Dassel-Cokato High School (DCHS) in late April 2014. Being new to the CMLE organization, a school visit was a perfect opportunity for me to learn more about school libraries. With a large piece of CMLE’s strategic focus on K-12 school Media Centers, the more exposure to this environment the better.
At DCHS, I met with Paul Beckermann, former CMLE Board President and 2012 MEMO Media Specialist of the Year. First as an English teacher, and now as the Media and Digital Learning Specialist, Paul has worked in the district for 26 years. I arrived before school started and was escorted back to the Media Center. Walking in, I was presented with a welcoming media center that was already bustling with students and staff. I met Paul in his office where we planned out the morning. First, we would devote some time to talking about the Dassel-Cokato (D-C) digital integration project. Next, he wanted to take me over to see a classroom. Then we would have some time to talk in his office about the tools used in the Dassel-Cokato (D-C) digital integration project. Finally, he thought it would be nice for me to see the Middle School and its Media Center.
Digital Integration: A phased approach: After leaving his office, Paul introduced me to an English teacher, Amy Schultz. The three of us were able to talk about the recent digital integration and its effects on learning. Amy explained that they are currently on the 2nd year of digital integration. D-C chose to stagger the integration, choosing roughly one department each year for three years, with completion in 4 years when the entire high school would be 1:1. Rather than the immediate satisfaction of having everyone on a device, Paul felt D-C’s method is working well for them. “It allows us to focus on truly integrating the device with the curriculum,” Paul said. “Each year has gotten easier,” he added. Amy, whose English department was the first to transition, admitted that the first trimester was hard. Curriculum changes also added to the workload, but Amy said, “Now I can’t imagine going back.” Paul said that prior to the English department’s 1:1 integration, teachers couldn’t depend on a device to be there. Previously, teachers had to request computer lab time. “Now,” Paul said, “teachers can utilize the device all the time and really count on it being there. That’s the key. They need to be able to count on it being available every day.” It’s like the real world; when we need information, we have the ability to seek it out at that moment. We don’t need to wait until our reserved computer lab time. Amy shared a story about a recent student that had to miss school due to shoulder surgery. Amy would record her lectures via screencast and the student was able to watch them at home and keep up with her school work.
Leaving Amy’s classroom, Paul reflected how the digital integration and curriculum changes also positively affected the English department. “They’re the tightest department I’ve ever seen,” he said. “The task of integrating technology together and writing digital textbooks for their department really brought an already strong group even closer together.
Typical Classroom: We left Amy’s classroom for an empty one down the hall. Paul wanted to show me what a typical D-C high school classroom looked like. Surprisingly it looked much like a high school classroom that I remember, but Paul quickly pointed out some of the differences. The first was a large cart, about the size of a large grocery cart, full of laptops.
At the time the laptops were all inside, being charged for the start of school. Next he pointed out the smart board on the wall, with its projector wall mounted above it. On the ceiling, Paul pointed out an extra speaker that was added to each classroom so students could hear videos or audio from the teacher’s workstation. Also on the ceiling was a wireless access point to allow all those laptops access the network. Finally, he showed me the teacher’s workstation. It looked like a simple computer, but Paul explained that from here teachers can really control the classroom. With software like LanSchool, teachers can control all the laptops in the room. This means teachers can see all the laptops’ screens, they can limit access to certain applications, or even lock the students out of the laptop. He also explained that teachers use screencasting software like Camstudio or Screencast-o-matic to record their lecture which can then be posted online for students to view later.
Digital Integration Toolkit: Back in his office, Paul shared a bit of the inner workings and behind the scenes of the digital integration. D-C uses Moodle for their LMS (Learning Management System). It serves as the teachers’ online classroom for content sharing, online activities, and assignment collection. These websites are secured behind individual logins on the school’s network and heavily used by teachers for posting course work. He said they used to have Adobe Photoshop software for photo editing and Pinnacle Studio for video editing, but it got too expensive for the district to license this software on every laptop, so they have since moved to a similar product produced by Serif. With tight budgets, “we have to work smarter,” Paul said. Google Apps was another recent way D-C has been working smarter. It’s a free service for schools that has email, calendar, forms, documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. “At the end of last school year we surveyed students,” Paul said, “and only 7% had used it at school.” In the fall of this year, the building media and digital learning specialists officially introduced the service and trained all staff on its use. “I think 100% of students and staff use it now,” he said. A free service that gets this much use seems like a real win for the school. Paul added that with add-ons like gclassfolders, a tool for managing student assignments within Google Apps, it has been the quickest adoption of a software application he has seen in the district.
When asked about the decision to use laptops vs. tablets, Paul said that laptops were a better choice for them because the school had software that already worked with them, and that any device needed to be able to replace the computer labs and accommodate state testing. “But it’s really not about a specific device,” he was quick to add. “You need to focus less on the device and more what it allows you to do.” It was a common theme he stressed a few times during the day. “It’s not about the laptop, but what we can do in the classroom now that we have that device.”
Middle School Media Center: After a great discussion about the digital integration, we realized that my time was growing short, so we made a quick trip to the Middle School. On the way I saw it was only 10am! I felt drained and ready for a nap! I wondered how Paul kept his energy level up for a full day?
In the Middle School I met Pam Beckermann the D-C Middle School Media and Digital Learning Specialist. If the last names didn’t give it away, Pam and Paul are married. Pam filled me in on the state of the Middle School. Grades 7-8 have laptops available for about a third of the students at any one time, and this access will be expanded to grades 5 and 6 in the next two years. Teachers move them from class to class on carts but also still have some stationary computer labs. Recently, they transitioned from the Dewey Decimal classification system in the library to a Book Store model. Pam said that the kids haven’t had a problem with the change. They both also shared that circulation has continued to rise in their district. It seems that the digital integration hasn’t had a detrimental effect on reading.
1:1, the starting line: What worries Paul? Besides the usual teacher/media specialist concerns? They still have 2 more years on their digital integration and that will be the point when every student has a laptop in the high school. Paul was quick to point out that “1:1 is not the end game, but really the starting line. Once the 1:1 program is in place, teachers can change the entire classroom not just one lesson when a computer lab is open,” he said. In order to get to that point, there will be many challenges and some bumps in the road. Paul regularly teaches media lessons in collaboration with content area teachers, and he works with a group of DCTV students every day in the media center. “Continuing to teach in the classroom helps me be a better Media Specialist, and being a Media Specialist has helped me be a better teacher,” Paul said.
With a glance at his computer I knew Paul was anxious to get back to work. Emails were piling up and his phone had rung 4 times during my visit. I appreciated him sharing his morning with me, but it was time for me to go.
Reflections: On the drive home, I reflected that D-C is really succeeding with their digital integration. They had strong support from administration, but ultimately they had strong leadership from their media specialists too. They worked with staff to help and aid them in integrating technology into their curriculum. They have become the point persons for the district and work extremely hard to ensure the integration’s success. Paul Beckermann is a modern school librarian – using the tools of the time to help students learn the skills they will need when they graduate.
Many schools are laying plans now for some sort of staff development activities over the summer, many dealing with tech integration. School media specialists can play an important role in helping teachers understand how technology can enrich their subject expertise, and help plan and provide learning activities that engage students. The linked article discusses the right balance between teaching and tech integration, and also shares three (not 30) valued, multifaceted tech tools. Edutopia provides the details and finer points at Finding the Right Balance with Technology in the Classroom