The Gift of No Devices

Thank you to Anne Marie Doyle for co-authoring this post with me!

This summer my sister, also a school library media-specialist, and I discussed getting our own children Chromebooks for Christmas. We both work in public schools with one-to-one initiatives. My sister and I are both very techie. We love finding new tools and ways to engage and enhance student learning and creativity with technology. We are both are passionate about making sure our students and our own children use technology responsibly and ethically. 

It seems that we would want our own children ages 6, 8, and 11 (my sister's kids are the two older ones) to have device to learn on. However, we both quickly changed our minds.  
In both our homes, we have computers, iPads, Kindles and smartphones. We allow our children to use them but make no mistake, they are OUR devices, not our children's. Allowing them to use technology is a privilege, not a right. My sister has a chart where her children must do chores, read for an allotted amount of time, and play/color/ride bikes/etc before earning a set time on a device. That tech time they work towards includes watching YouTube videos, playing on Xbox, or using the iPad. I have a timer to limit my son's iPad usage. 

Our children use the devices in family rooms so we can monitor, assist and encourage them. They are not allowed to use in their bedrooms. Could I monitor, encourage and assist my child on his own device? Yes but he is 6, does he really need a device? Does he really need a piece of technology he can call his own? My sister's children are older and are great kids but does that mean they should have their own laptop? Like all kids, they are curious and impulsive, a combination that could be a recipe for disaster. Yes, those disasters allow us to teach life lessons but sometimes those life lessons are not age appropriate. It has been hard enough trying to explain what they hear about on the news and see in the newspaper these days.

Technology is addictive. We know that. Giving a child a device before they are ready assumes they already know how to use it responsibly. It assumes that the child is psychologically ready and the the child has supportive adults to assist and guide students. 

"My eight year old daughter has been using an old iPod touch we found when cleaning the house. It is not an understatement when I state that in the 48 hours since we discovered it, the iPod has been by her side. Part of the problem I notice is many of my children’s friends have their own devices and my children feel pressure to have their own. Every family has to make the best choice for their children. I know my children are not ready for the enormity of having their own device. Weekly my son and daughter ask “how old do I have to be to get my own phone?”  When my children begin to spend more time out with friends, especially when they are old enough for those times are unsupervised, I want them to have the ability to contact me.  But since mine are not at that point yet we will wait.  I believe that we need to model responsible use first as adults and hope that that will become intrinsic in our own kids.   That means restraint and technology free times at home with the family. No phone message, social media notification, text message or tweet should be more important than my children." 
-Anne Marie Doyle

Sitting in church last week we witnessed a mother with three elementary aged children check and reply to messages on her phone multiple times. Across the aisle a cell phone rang, another ones text alerts went off. What lessons are our children learning from us? Church, playgrounds, beach, library, parent teacher conferences, restaurants, sporting events, concerts, theater productions, and driving...no where is sacred. Instead, we treat our phones like they are the most important and sacred thing as they garner our full attention no matter what the circumstance.

I always have my phone or tablet close by. I say it's in case someone (my son's teacher, my aging parents) need to get in touch with me. But it truly is the fear of missing out. I try not to respond like Pavlov's dog each time it dings but I am not always successful. My sister is the same way. However, we make a point of talking to our children about our behavior and make sure they see us leaving our phones in the car when we are at church or a movie. Within our own families we have rules that we give our children permission to help enforce - no phones at the dinner table, no phones in the bedrooms*. We want them to understand balance and restraint. We want them to see life is what is happening around them and not what is happening on a screen.  

What will be the right age to give our children their own devices? I truly do not know. Right now I am thinking 8th or 9th grade. We need to see how our children's personalities develop, gauge their maturity and their sense of responsibility. My sister just allowed my nephew to get his own email address, that was a huge milestone...he was so excited! He will be using

Is the ability to use technology an important life skill? Absolutely! But there are a lot more important things that we want our children to prioritize and learn before giving them a personal device.  


Developing the Love of Reading

I am a school librarian and I have a son who doesn't love to read.

How did this happen?

Ever since I can remember I dreamed of having a child who would nestle next to me at night excited to read together. Some of my dearest memories from my own childhood were cozed up under a blanket with my sister listening to my mother read the adventures of Laura Ingalls, Ramona Quimby, the Five Little Peppers and so many more.

I know that passionate readers are created. I have that have read to M every night since he has been born. It was so easy when he was a baby. Not being able to talk meant he could not argue with me about putting on pajamas, brushing his teeth, reading books, and going to bed. In the last couple years I confess I more than occasionally would substitute a tv show before bed because I was too exhausted to fight with a child who did not want to read. (Note: We always watch television with closed captioning turned on...not exactly reading but at least shows the importance of the printed word.)

I tried not to worry because M knew his letters and sounds. However, he showed no interest in learning how to read words. As a librarian, a mom, and an avid reader, I feel like a failure. We took trips to the library, I let him choose whatever books he wanted, despite my own lack of enthusiasm for another Avenger book. I let him check out chapter books that I knew were over his head because I know that saying "no" to a book further dampers any flicker of interest in reading and books. Together we would choose a few books that I knew would be appropriate for reading together. When we got home, we would unpack them and maybe read a couple but it was a struggle, far from the serene mother and son reading experience I dreamed about.

And then we discovered Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie and things started to look up. Oh how we both LOVED the characters and stories. The simplicity of the story and ability to act out the character allowed us to read together (I whispered the words to him because he could not read them). We talked about empathy and how facial expressions and body language show emotions. We them again and again and again. We scoured the library and bought our favorites. Matthew even got to meet Elephant & Piggie with his preschool class. 
Two of M's favorite characters.

When Mo Willems ended the series, we branched out and enjoyed the Pigeon books, but my son's interest was waning again. Part of this was due to us being displaced from our home for several months so our routines were out of whack, the other was that we were living with his older cousins. The cousins LOVED to read out loud to him but my son preferred to play with them and did not sit still well, especially with other kids around. Then I blamed transitioning back to our house. Through it all I kept offering books and always had plenty of books available around the house. 


My husband and I also model reading as an enjoyable activity.  We both always have a book within reach. We talk about books with family and friends and my son witnesses these moments.

My son is 6 now. He just started kindergarten so I have hope that his love of reading will grow. He is learning site words through movement and gets excited when he recognizes one. He is so proud when he can read a site word book. I see a flicker of reading love starting. 

My sister recently gave M a gift card to the local book shop for his birthday. Again, I held my opinions and let M choose what he wanted. Because of his new interest in football he chose The Football Fumble by David A. Kelly. It is a chapter book that I knew he could not read himself. When we got home, M was so excited about the book HE picked out and purchased, he nestled in to my side and we read for two hours. I used my finger as I read pointing to each word, and his eyes followed, excited when he recognized one of his site words! What is even better is that this is part of a series which we have now been devouring. 

Would M prefer to play Legos, use the iPad, or run around outside over reading? Absolutely! But I know that "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents" (Emilie Buchwald). 

It would be easy to give up and hand M the ipad and turn on an ebook but an app will not replace the experience of reading together. I will not give up because the love of reading is too important. Not just the ability to read, but the desire to devour books. I want M to want to read for fun, for intellectual gains, to develop empathy, to understand the world. I want M to be filled with excitement each time he opens a book.  

Creating a reader is not something that happens overnight, it takes a lot of work with some children, M is one of those children. 

I am a school librarian and I have a son who doesn't love to read...YET.  
I am committed to the YET!



LEDtech Evaluation

In my last post I discussed the planning of our first district LEDtech professional day which we held this past Tuesday, November 7th. 

The day was well received by over 99% of the attendees, the data is listed below. 

I ran 3 different sessions that day.  Below are my links and reflections on each.

EDpuzzle
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I began by asking the teachers to view EDpuzzle as a student. They joined the Google Classroom I created for the day and they followed the announcement to the EDpuzzle assignment. They proceeded to watch and answer the questions I had created. 

I used the smart board to project the teacher side of EDpuzzle where teachers can see student progress, their answers, the multiple choice grades and how to grade the free answer.   

Before continuing on we discussed how EDpuzzle can be used in class. I provided this hyperdoc to participants with the list of idea and steps to create an EDpuzzle.

I then gave them an EDpuzzle tour, teaching participants to connect Google Classroom student lists; search the EDpuzzle libraries; and create, assign and post  an EDpuzzle.
Teachers, who ranged from elementary to high school, were given time to find and/or create their own so I could help individuals with any questions.

NoodleTools

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My NoodleTools group learned how to use the tool as a student and teacher. NoodleTools did provide me with a great slideshow presentation but I took a more hands-on approach, asking participants to create a project. Teachers from subject areas beyond humanities who attended found it helpful to know what students were doing in other areas. The middle school teachers who attended thought there was a lot going on for some of their students.  So we talked about how to use Google Slides in a similar fashion. I also made sure everyone knew about the resources on our school LibGuides for research.

Video Creation Tools
Flipgrid
Screencastify
Touchcast

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This was an advanced group and also a very eclectic group - ranging from preschool to high school teachers and with 3 administrators. While each one of the tools I introduced could have been a standalone session, I chose I chose to give 10 minute overview of each because of the wide range of participants. I shared this handout  I planned the last 20 minutes for teachers to choose the one they think would be most useful in their class to play with and ask more questions about.  

By this third session, I could tell participants were exhausted. So much new learning in so little time. I also noticed while my first two sessions, the participants wanted to play with the tools, this session, although "advanced" did not jump on and start playing. I encouraged participants to focus on ONE thing they learned in the course of the morning to implement in their classroom.  

A couple participants thought there was too much content and while I agree I also know my reasoning behind the multiple tools. I think if I had tried to showcase 3 tools in a first session it would have not seemed so overwhelming. I also know for next time, this session would be specific to elementary, middle or high school. 

We will be doing an official de-brief with the LEDtech committee and start planning for 2018!'

Planning the First "LEDtech" - District Technology Day


The Ledyard school district will be hosting the first Ledyard Technology (LEDtech) event where district educators will be teaching fellow educators how to use a variety of apps and tools.

Last school year our district began transitioning to a Google School. Students and staff were provided Google accounts and several grade levels received Chromebooks as we began the first phase of the district's 1:1 initiative. Many of the high school and middle school teachers I work with began incorporating Google Classroom and Google Apps, most of them having little or no formal training. I know the same is true at the elementary level. Educators would learn apps on their own, learn about tools from their own professional learning networks and incorporate them in to their curriculum to enhance student learning. 

In December 2016, our school district sent about a dozen teachers to the EdTechTeam summit in Boston. (Note: if you EVER have an opportunity to attend an EdTechTeam event I absolutely recommend!!) Those of us who attended the event, excitedly returned to school with so many ideas. We incorporated aspects of our new learning with our students and informally shared ideas with colleagues. We also discussed our learning with our assistant superintendent, Jennifer P. Byars, EdD. The idea for our own district day of technology arose from those conversations.

In the fall 2017, a committee of teachers was formed to begin planning the LEDtech Event. We brainstormed a list of technology tools and apps we would each be willing to teach and surveyed the teachers via Google Forms to find out what they would want to learn. We also created levels of sessions ranging from beginner to expert.  

Dr. Byars took the lead on creating the survey, analyzing the results, organizing the registration process and creating the schedule for the day. A LEDtech webpage with the catalog of offerings was created and teachers were required to sign up for 3 sessions prior to the event on November 7th. In the meantime teacher presenters are working on the resources they will present. 

Stay tuned - next week I will be posting reflections for the LEDtech event!!


Taking a Risk with TouchCast

Teachers are constantly asking students to take risks in their learning. How often do students see us, their teachers, take risks, make mistakes, learn through play, (and sometimes look ridiculous) in our own learning? 

I have been wanting to learn TouchCast for a long time. It is an awesome tool for video creation that I learned about through Laura Gardner. I have been dabbling with the iPad app and bought a green screen and lights that I left in the bag for a good month before deciding just to jump in and start creating. 

I imagined creating the perfect tutorial video that I would share with teachers so teachers and students knew about it as a possible tool to use for presentations. I would  describe the app, showcase its features, and appear poised and confident the entire time. 

I had a lot of fun playing with it as I created my first TouchCast. It is far from poised, seamless and perfect. I could have done a lot more retakes and done a better job editing but I wanted students to see my rough cut, my willingness to take a risk and put myself out there to learn and teach them about a new technology. 

I am very excited that teachers and students have already reached out and want me to work with them to create TouchCasts for their own projects. There are so many ideas - student skits, newscasts, talk shows, teacher sub plans, interviews (mock or real), advertisements and more. Creating videos is also a great opportunity to incorporate media literacy. Students can analyze media messages and discuss about how and why certain media messages are created.

A big THANK YOU to Laura Gardner for generously sharing her knowledge about TouchCast!

September....phew it's almost over

I love the start of the school year - the energy, the excitement, the clean slate. But man does September exhaust me.

Getting back into the routine, preparing lessons, attending endless meetings, getting to know students, and open houses are just a few of the work related balls being juggled. Add to that a son starting kindergarten, his fall sports and activity schedule and moving back in to my home after a five month construction project has left me feeling exhausted and stressed.

Students feel the same way.  They have just as many, and sometimes even more, balls in the air and stressors in their lives. The students at my school recognize they need and want to learn techniques to manage anxiety and stress.  

Because of my yoga experience, the committee that plans the activities for our Advisory blocks, asked me to help with ideas and resources to discuss mindfulness with students.  The following doc is a list of resources I put together to help teachers discuss and work with students in their groups. I do choose my words carefully as meditation and yoga can have a spiritual connotation and some families may (and have expressed concern). When I do use those terms I am clear with students that I am not here to guide them spiritually, that religion and spirituality is something discussed at home.  I am just trying to teach them skills to manage stress, nerveousness and anxiety.  Here are my suggestions:


Refreshing the Library for the New School Year

Guest blog post by Anne Marie Doyle, a elementary school library media specialist in Westerly, Rhode Island. And also my sister!

I love the beginning of the school year, but this year I am particularly excited. I have been job sharing at my school for 8 years and this school year marks my return to full time!

I have been thinking about the layout of my library for few years but have been hesitant to change too much because I have been sharing the space with other librarians. Now, that I am the sole librarian at the school, I decided to re-organize the library to create an environment more conducive to learning, the supervision of students and ultimately more inviting to both students and staff.

I asked my sister who is also a school librarian to help out with the project. We decided to move every section of the library to create a layout that had a better flow and allowed more access to the children for supervision during book selection time.

I had several issues with the way the library was arranged:
  • My lessons were constantly being interrupted by teachers and students coming and going in to the offices and storage closets.  
  • I could not see the younger students who were checking out books from the circulation desk.
  • The Fiction section was smooshed into a very small area with series books pulled out and distributed randomly on the tops of the shelves. 
  • There were books on top of every single bookshelf, even the tallest that students could not reach.
  • The collection had not been weeded in years. 
    OLD LAYOUT

THE NEW AND IMPROVED SCHOOL LIBRARY!!!

The work was long, tedious and sweaty, but the effort was worth it in the end.
  • I added shelving from a school that closed in our district which gave me the privacy I was looking for from the offices. 
  • I moved the Everybody Picture books to these shelves and the adjacent shelves, so that I could better supervise our smaller students as they selected books.
  • The Nonfiction and Biography Books were relocated to the far side of the room. 
  • I spread out the Fiction books so students had room to spread out and browse. I also put the series book back in the Fiction section under the author's name to help students more easily locate them.
  • I also created a section of transitional chapter books for our younger students to access (and I can still see them from the circulation desk) but they are near the Fiction section so older, less skilled readers do not feel like they are in the "little kid section."
  • I weeded enough books that the tops of all shelves were now clear and could be used for display only.
  • We weeded so much that it looks like our shelves are filled with brand new books.    
    AWESOME NEW LAYOUT!!


    I removed 15-20 year old signage that was was caked with dust. I created new visual signage and added vinyl stickers to spruce up the cinder block walls. The art teacher helped me create movable signage for sections.



 I made the signage on Canva and the frames came from Ikea.
I purchased a cloth wardrobe closet to use as a Fligrid space so students can have privacy while creating video responses.

The best part was seeing the kids reactions when they walked in. 
It is going to be a great year in our fresh new library space!





The Gift of No Devices

Thank you to Anne Marie Doyle for co-authoring this post with me! This summer my sister, also a school library media-specialist, and I di...