Tag Archives: teachers

To GAFE? Or not to GAFE?

GAFE:  Google Apps for Education

Many school districts are jumping onto this bandwagon.  They want to be a part of the technological evolution that is occurring across the world.  Google, as anyone who is even remotely in the know already uses, began as a search engine, but now, is SO much more!  They are Microsoft’s arch nemesis–a competition among suites.

GAFE has so many features:  classroom, sheets, slides, forms…the list goes on for a bit!  But they are also user friendly and compatible with pretty much any electronic device and other popular tools out there, such as YouTube.  And, if you already have a gmail account, you have access!

I, myself, have been a gmail account holder for over a decade, and I’ve never wanted to part.  Gmail is easy to use, never has never issues, and I’ve never been hacked.  It simply makes sense.  And with access to so many of Google’s services, the deal is sweetened up a bit more.  So when my district offered workshops on GAFE, I did not hesitate to sign up.

We spent three long days doing a lightning introduction and review of everything, and today, we are given the opportunity to take the certification exam.  If my experiences and (short) training did its part, then I will be a Google Certified Teacher by the end of today!

Honestly, in terms of tactile rewards, the certification doesn’t give much.  (You can print out the digital certificate they email you.)  But, it does allow you a lot as an educator in this tech-driven world.  As we spent our days practicing, I was brainstorming lesson ideas in my mind.  I feel energized and excited to tackle the school year ahead!

My district is lucky enough go one-to-one with Chromebooks this school year, so we are most definitely supported to infuse as much technology as possible into our lessons.  And slowly, but surely, I am feeling equipped to take on that challenge!


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Book Club Meets Movie Night

For my final Book Club title of the school year, I had selected Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You.  I thought our end-of-May meeting would correspond perfectly with the June release date for the movie.  Not only did this get my “loyal members” a little more excitement than usual for our discussion, but it also had new students gravitate towards the club.  I even have some of them asking if we can all see the movie together!

Some die-hard book lovers argue that the movie almost always ruins the book and completely alters the story.  Now, that may just be the case, however, I say use that movie to your advantage.  Our students, especially teenagers, generally enjoy going to the movies.  So why not use that to propel them to read?  Why not use the new release as a tool to inspire a student to pick up a book and read for leisure?

I am thrilled to see that all of my Book Club members, both old and new, are excited to read the book and then compare it to the movie.  It will be enjoyable for all, and the best part is that it inspires literacy!

In addition to our monthly Book Club meetings, I also host a Page-to-Screen monthly movie night in the library.  Since the beginning of the school year, once a month I selected a movie that was based off of a book, and I invited students to purchase a ticket (only $2!).  I would pull out my projector screen, pop in the DVD to my projector, and make some popcorn.  Then we would all sit around and enjoy the film depiction of a beloved book.  This, too, is a form of literacy.  Quite a few times I’ve had a student want to read the book AFTER watching the movie!

Sometimes as educators it is easy to grumble and point fingers at something or someone else for the apathy our students feel towards reading.  But why not DO SOMETHING to fight against it?  Use something that already interests them to inspire them to pick up a book.  Even if only a couple students out of a huge group start to read, it is a victory!

I once saw a cartoon that had the caption, “Why did you become a school librarian?” and the answer read, “To avenge the decline of literacy.”  Even though it gave me a chuckle, I couldn’t agree more–whether you call yourself a librarian, a media specialist, a cybarian, et cetera,  one of your main duties is promoting literacy.  And, I believe you must do anything you can to ensure that.

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Our district, like many across the state, is preparing for the new standardized test that is going to rule and dictate how we teach and what we teach.  PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) is the newest exam that is being wheeled out for the following school year, and it has many (if not all!) of us going through a loop trying to figure it all out.

What is most drastic about PARCC is that it now effects all subjects,whereas, the HSPA exam tended to focus on just English and Math classes.  Also, students will be expected now more than ever before to truly understand how to comprehend and decipher nonfiction information in its many forms:  articles, periodicals, maps, photographs, charts, etc…  This brings a HUGE shift in what education needs to do and teachers and administrators are planning on making the necessary adjustments to prepare our students for what they are up against.

With this, my role in the school–as the librarian–has drastically shifted.  I am happily welcoming more and more staff members with their various questions and inquiries for information and information sources.  What I am finding to be very successful in my school is NewsELA.com.  Teachers are struggling with finding news articles that their students (of varying reading levels) will be able to engage and discuss.  NewsELA is wonderful in that not only does it provide current events articles of various subjects, it allows the teacher to ‘level’ the reading so that they can have their stronger and weaker students all understanding the same piece.  And even more, many of the articles come with ready-made quizzes (and answer keys!) that are displayed alongside the articles.  Upon presentation of this resource, I have heard amazing feedback!  The teachers are truly happy to have an easy-to-use website that provides valuable resources for their classes.

Resources like NewsELA help alleviate the stress and struggle behind preparing for the various changes and shifts in education.  PARCC is just one of many hurdles that we all have to jump in education.

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January 9, 2014 · 2:42 pm

Reading and Social Media: Both In and Outside of the Classroom

Reading and Social Media:  Both In and Outside of the Classroom

Social media has taken over so many aspects of life. There are news reports about what is happening on sites such as Facebook and Twitter–it is nearly inescapable!
So how to books fit into this? How does the tactile written word, which seems archaic as technology sweeps by, stay relevant?
Well, sites such as GoodReads and The Copia help make books ‘tech savvy.’ GoodReads, as I like to affectionately refer to as the “Facebook for Books,” is wonderful, and has the same sickeningly addictive effect as other social media sources. GoodReads is rather user-friendly and easy to use. You pretty much set up an account and start adding books and friends. You can create an entire network on GoodReads based off of your readings interests alone. If you are absolutely obsessed with Beautiful Creatures (or YAL in general) you can not only ‘add’ and ‘review’ the book, you can create an entire page dedicated to how much you love that particular novel or the genre entirely! It’s great and I think it has a lot of untapped potential.
The Copia is something I have recently discovered. It is similar to GoodReads, in that you can add books and comment and review, while creating a network of ‘friends.’ But, The Copia seems to have more features. You can create chatrooms and have literary discussions on a more advanced level through this website. You can take a hightlighted section from a book (of your choice), and start an analytic group review of it all at your fingertips!
Now, as a school librarian, I like to think about the educational possibilities of literary social media such as these. What can we do to place a finger on the pulse with the younger generations, and make literature a part of there highly tech-savvy world? I think sites such as GoodReads and The Copia help answer this question.
I can see a school, especially with access to tablets and/or eReaders, adopting a section of their curriculum strictly dedicated to technological dialogue. Educators can download a classic piece of literature (which is what most school curricula consists of) onto eReaders and tablets and have their students read them digitally. Then, they [students] can go onto literary social media, and create online classrooms. They can create chat rooms, highlight text, have debates, and so much more all online. These types of activities can be small homework or classwork assignments or they can expand into culminating projects–the possibilities are endless!
I think, we as educators, need to not shy away from technology, but rather EMBRACE it all! Our students are always young, but let’s face it, we are getting older. They will always be a step ahead of us in terms of the ‘next big thing,’ but we can stay relevant and run along with them. I think these types of steps will not only engage students through a technological forum (that they are becoming more and more comfortable in), but also allowing education to be available around the clock.

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September 11, 2013 · 2:33 pm