Saturday, January 28, 2017

Connect Your Library With Skype

Last week, I received a message from Iro Stefopoulou (@iro_st) asking if I could connect with her via Skype. Iro is a Skype Master Teacher and she lives in the United Kingdom. After a few quick exchanges via email and Skype messaging, we finally met using our webcams. What happened next totally opened up a number of possibilities for us to connect our school using programs that Skype and Microsoft are providing to educators! I want to share some of the highlights that you might want to check out.

Microsoft Educator Community

The links and resources that Iro shared with me are located on the Microsoft Educator Community website. If you haven't visited this site before, you are missing out on some great opportunities. I'm so glad Iro reminded me of this resource in our Skype session. I get so busy in my job that I forget to check it for the latest offerings. For this article, I will focus on activities that feature Skype in the Classroom. It has been so powerful to help teachers connect their students to classrooms all over the nation and world!

Skype in the Classroom

From the Microsoft Educator Community page, you will notice that there are many resources listed on the left side of the screen. If you select Skype in the Classroom, you will be taken to their community page. Here you will find links to Virtual Field Trips, Skype Lessons, Skype Collaborations, Mystery Skype, and Guest Speakers. In our connection, Iro shared that February would be their Literacy Month and I immediately wanted to know more!

Virtual Valentines 2017

One of the current Skype Collaborations Iro told me about is called Virtual Valentines 2017: Melting the Miles between Classrooms. This seasonal event allows students to learn about geography while sharing Virtual Valentines or even connecting via Skype with a partner school! You can find this collaboration and many more in the Skype Collaboration portion of the site.

Read Across America

Iro also showed me a link in the Skype Collaboration area that focused on the upcoming Read Across America event on March 2, 2017. This is a great opportunity to connect classrooms all over the United States to celebrate literacy. In 2016,  one of our seniors read a Dr. Seuss book to students in another state for this event!  That student still talks about her experience, and she has been an alumnus for nearly a year!

Skype Lessons

A few of the most interesting Skype possibilities that Iro shared with me were Skype Lessons. The first was called Beyond the Blocks: Minecraft Literacy with The Elementia Chronicles. This lesson is a Skype connection with author, Sean Fay-Wolfe. Educators can simply select the "Register for this Skype Lesson" link at the bottom of the page and then view the presenter's available times for a connection.

Another interesting Skype lesson was called Writing Books For Minecrafters. The author is Danica Davidson, and she discusses the steps that she takes while writing her novels. There are also links to purchase her Minecraft books on this site. I showed both of these lesson advertisements to students that visit the library during lunch, and they already want me to connect to both Minecraft authors!

Webinars and Courses

Did you know that there are webinars and courses on the Microsoft  Educator community site? Iro shared a few Skype webinars with me on the page so I could show our teachers. A great beginning Skype course you might consider showing educators is Introduction to Skype in the Classroom. I also was interested in the webinar called Getting Started With Mystery Skype.


I'm so glad that Iro reached out to me to share these great resources for our learning community. Connecting students is so important as we work to help them prepare for the future. Using these tools will help you and your teachers connect with other schools and places. One of the questions I always get from teacher librarians is "how do you find schools to do Mystery Skype?" Up until now, I have relied on my Twitter PLN. This site makes it easier by having one place to find classes to connect.

Thank you, Iro!

I hope you will consider using Skype to connect your library (or classroom) and students to the world. If you don't feel comfortable with Mystery Skype, try a virtual field trip or guest speaker. If you try just one, your students and teachers will want more!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Our First Mystery Skype in the Library.

Cool Connections in October 2016!

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Physics Project Rolls Into The Library

Back in December, our Physics teacher, Mrs. Linda Self, asked me if her students could display their paper roller coaster projects in the library. I was very excited by this request. After visiting her classroom and seeing their work, I couldn't wait to share them with the learning community in the library! It has been a challenge for us to collaborate with mathematics and science classes. This was a perfect opportunity to allow the library to be a public viewing space for student work. I'm thrilled to be joined by Mrs. Self in this post as she shares her thoughts on the project.

Mrs. Self's Reflection 

Roller Coaster Physics:
Roller coasters are often used as a real world application for the Physics of Motion.  Change of location, changing speeds and changing heights are the very basics for motion studies.  Then, there are the turns!  My class built paper roller coasters during the unit on Circular Motion.  The classes learn about the forces that create circular motion, the imaginary force called centrifugal, and how much speed is necessary for an object to complete a loop.  The rubric for the students is to build a free-standing roller coaster that correctly uses all of the parts, using kits designed by Andrew Gatt (  The challenge is to run the marble for the longest amount of time--bonus points to the winner!  A sense of competition really brings out the best in kids.  This year I had an exceptional group and the results were fantastic!
Since Physics works hand in hand with engineering disciplines there are many design challenges that we have throughout the year.  We start with a rocket.  This is a basic introduction that simply requires the students to follow blueprints.  Next is an egg-drop apparatus.  The purpose is to build a device that allows an egg to fall from a height of 10m and not break on impact. Students do a lot of research to help them decide on a feasible design.  Then comes the roller coaster.  It takes about two weeks of design and building.  Students are allowed a great deal more freedom and they use trial and error to learn the dos and don'ts in construction.  Gravity is NOT their friend.  We are currently designing and building boats as part of our unit on Fluid Dynamics.  In this challenge, students must build a boat that floats the most pennies.  They must create a blueprint for their design and stay within a budget for their materials.  We also design and build kites and Rube-Goldberg machines.  In my class, we value the learning that comes from making mistakes and then fixing them.  These special projects provide a fun and safe atmosphere for students to learn.

Reception in the Library

After the learners set up their roller coasters, our library visitors took notice instantly. They were full of questions about the projects, and they wanted to roll marbles in them to watch how each worked. I even posted pictures of the roller coasters on Twitter and quickly received many inquiries from around the country! Imagine how this must have made Mrs. Self and her students feel! The interest generated by their products in the library was a perfect opportunity to encourage visiting students to create their own innovations in our makerspace area.

Two Students Make Comments On Video

Next Steps

When we returned to school after our winter break, Mrs. Self asked other librarians on our campus if the rollercoasters could be displayed in their schools. A few days later, I received photos from teacher librarians at both the primary and intermediate schools at Lakeside. Tammy Catlett, teacher librarian at Lakeside Primary School, shared this brief reflection.

"I had two classes that dragged their teachers into the library to make sure they saw the roller coasters and to tell them about it.  This morning one of our kindergarteners said he wished he could come to the library one hundred million days so he could play with them!" 

This shows that school libraries can be excellent places to display student work no matter the grade level. Perhaps we should consider sharing the work of learners from all schools. In addition, by inviting science and/ or math classes to display their projects provides an opportunity to get them into the library. It is possible to develop such activities to include students presenting their projects or even leading maker sessions that empower others to build such things. We can also share our books on similar projects and information.

I'm so glad that Mrs. Self decided to reach out to us for this partnership. Her students have inspired our learning community and school district in new ways. They have also mentored younger students by modeling these skills. I hope we can find ways to continue supporting such class projects. Hopefully, this "ride" has only just begun!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Elvis in the library!

Have a Future Ready New Year.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Elvis In The Library!

I have always loved the music of Elvis Presley. When I was a child, my parents frequently played Elvis records at our home. This music was a major influence on me when I became a musician as a teenager. From a library and programming perspective, Elvis is an important artist to share with the entire learning community since his influence made rock and roll music popular on an international scale.

A Spontaneous Idea Hits Big

Several years ago in January, we decided to put on an "Elvis Week" program in the library when I was the Jr. High librarian at Lakeside. I remember it being a success since most learners didn't really know much about Elvis (other than recognizing his image and some of his music). I have been wanting to bring this program back but wasn't sure how our high school learners would respond. We brainstormed the idea for this January (as a way to celebrate his birthday). We decided to have an Elvis "lip curl" photo activity. We thought we could get the younger students to attempt the iconic Elvis look as a fun activity. We also thought we could show a portion of one of his concert videos and have students answer essential questions about the performance (how the concert relates to modern performances, how the music relates to music of the present, etc). We decided to try the program!

The School Was All Shook Up

Peggy Schaeffer, one of our amazing assistants, decorated the library with Elvis cardboard models and a rock and roll theme. She also pulled our many Elvis books and displayed them around the library. Students immediately began asking about all the decorations. These made a great conversation piece for everyone. Students would get excited and share that their parents or grandparents had Elvis recordings or videos. Some shared that they had visited Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee.

One lunch period, we decided to start asking students to show us their best Elvis "lip curl". We couldn't believe how students got into this activity! We all took photos of students attempting to look like the King of Rock and Roll. Ray Borel, our other creative library assistant, began taking photos and video of teachers and students in the hall. The activity quickly became a popular draw to the library. Ray even got administrators to pose! He created a video that was shown on all of the televisions in the school. Students and teachers quickly came to us and talked about the activity!

Check out the video that Ray made above! (It's fun watching students & teachers try the Elvis "lip curl".)

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Impersonation, Please

A student performs an Elvis song during lunch!
Through all the excitement over Elvis, one 9th grade student told me that he did an Elvis impersonation! He showed our staff a video of his amazing performances. He also showed us a video of a Blues Brothers act he and his brother performed. We immediately asked him if they could perform for us in the library during lunch. They agreed and put on a fantastic performance on our stage a few days later! One of the assistant superintendents and the high school principal even attended the performance.

The Library Is Always On Their Mind

Lakeside Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Bruce Orr, poses with Elvis
This all started as a spontaneous thought for a simple library program and activity. As a result, it has opened up countless opportunities for conversations with students and teachers. I wonder how activities like this help change both student and teacher perspectives of the library program? I wonder how parents and administrators are impacted by seeing videos and photos of such events on library and school social media? Our hope is that the library stays on their mind as not only a fun place for a variety of programming but also as a place of information and literacy. We have decided to keep the Elvis theme for a few more weeks. We plan to show a portion of an Elvis concert and let students answer some essential questions (as mentioned in an earlier section). We want them to talk about how the music compares to the music of today. They can also identify differences in video techniques and clothing. There are endless possibilities!

I hope this reflection inspires you to try something new in your library programming this year! You never know what will hit big with students and teachers. With a library program, anything is possible since we have materials and information on all subjects. Start thinking out of the box and reaching out to the learning community in new ways.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Adventures with OER and Google Groups.

Our Disability Awareness lunch program.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Have A Future Ready New Year

A New Year With New Goals

It is always exciting to return to school after the start of the new year. The rollover of the calendar represents an opportunity to change and evolve as we work to improve our craft in education.

Pick Future Ready Components To Target

We all have different strengths as teacher librarians. Perhaps we should resolve to focus on Future Ready components that promote our strengths as the new year begins. The components I want to explore as we return to school follow below:

Empower Students As Creators

In recent years, I have witnessed the power of encouraging students to create. Many times, teacher librarians might be the only adults providing opportunities for learners to innovate in designated school spaces. This doesn't only mean in a makerspace. I frequently have students that bring me stories they have written. They also tell me about manga fiction they are wanting to write and draw. These are perfect chances for us to show interest in student work in the same ways we observe and encourage their makerspace innovations. The library is the perfect space and environment for students to create anything new! When we show interest, we empower them. The halls are full of creations waiting to happen. How can we better encourage learners? We never know what future author or engineer is waiting for a positive word. Encouragement and empowerment can change a student's life!

Build Instructional Partnerships

Building Instructional Partnerships is an area I want to continue developing in our learning community. Supporting instruction is one of the school library's most valuable functions. We have a wealth of

resources and skills for assisting teachers and students in learning. I love helping teachers bring their class novels to life through our many collaborative programs. Some of my favorites are based on The Great Gatsby and Out Of The Dust.  I want to continue using  Open Educational Resources (OER) to help teachers enhance their digital lessons this year. I also want to partner with ELA, math, science, and other subject teachers. (Even if I have to go to their classrooms!)

Facilitate Professional Learning

As we add more devices into our school, the need for more professional learning rises. We have 
already teamed up with tech savvy teachers in our building to provide support for new digital classroom tools. We became a Google school in August so we decided to create a Google Classroom with tips and tricks for our learning community as they learn to use these new tools. Perhaps we can also invite some of our student innovators to help us provide professional learning opportunities for our faculty during lunch. A few years ago, we invited two students to present Prezi, and it was a success! Earlier this
year, we had students present Breakout EDU. There are countless possibilities!

Share Your Journey With Your Learning Community

Whatever we do in the library, we should consider promoting our journey. Remember, if we don't share what we are doing, many people will never know (including administrators and other stakeholders). Send emails, post photos and video clips on social media, and write short blog posts to inform others of library activities.

Sharing the journey of your Future Ready activities will change how others perceive the library. You may have teacher colleagues and administrators that have a dated idea about what a school library should be. These actions will help transform those opinions!

Engage In The Community

Recently, Shannon Miller has been promoting the Future Ready Librarians Facebook Group. This has been a great place to read the conversations happening about all things Future Ready. In addition, remember there is a #FutureReady Twitter hashtag. This year, post your Future Ready activities and take part in the conversations!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Are We Future Ready Librarians?

Future Ready Libraries Change Lives.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

Contact Me/ Follow Me

Are you on Twitter?

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