AASL Best Websites for Teaching & Learning

LSB - AASL WebsitesHi friends! We’re in the final stretch of the semester.

Every year the American Association of School Librarians posts a list of the best websites and tools for use in the library or classroom. It made my heart hurt a little bit to see Google Reader listed for 2009, but I was pretty excited to see that I had been exposed to a handful of the best of the best!

Here are three new-to-me websites that I’m looking forward to using this year.

Listenwise: You know how excited I get about podcasts, so this is the first site I chose to explore and it ended up being one of my favorites. A lot of the premium features look awesome, especially the interactive transcripts and ELL supports. However, most educators will be satisfied with the free version – it supplies the podcast paired with listening comprehension questions, class discussion questions, and an assessment on Socrative. The topics are interesting. A few classroom suggestions:

The options aren’t limited to science, there are plenty of options for social studies, government, and English classes too!

ClassHook: This is amazing! ClassHook finds interesting videos clips that are relevant to what you are teaching.

You can use them as an interest builder, discussion starter, or just to clarify a topic. You can search by topic or browse your content area. To get an idea, check out this clip from American Dad! on Iran Contra or a clip from Shrek to introduce Logic.

Cite This for Me: Yes! While websites that create accurate citations for you are not new, the design on Cite This for Me is clean and very user friendly with a Word – like layout. You choose your citation method and get to work. It even lets you add quotes and shows you exactly how to cite the source in-text.

CTFM snip

This website will be useful in so many classrooms and I think students will like it because there’s very little room for error and the site is so user friendly and familiar.

I’ve already bookmarked the AASL resource and can’t wait to spend a little time in August discovering more great websites. I do think it’s worth noting that I was surprised at the number of websites mentioned on the AASL list that are no longer functioning. It really shows just how quickly this game is changing and how as educators, we have to work hard to keep up!

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Reflections: Summer Institute 2017

LSB - Reflections (1)

I think I’ve finally recovered from Summer Institute! What an amazing whirlwind of an experience. I met some truly beautiful human beings, in particular I met and spent most of my time with a group of ladies from a previous group project. They were friendly, intelligent, witty, and inspiring. They made all the difference in my experience, because I was actually pretty  nervous heading down to Norfolk. If there was any lingering doubt in my mind that I’d made the right decision, they helped me to realize that I am in the right program, with the right people, at the right school.

The theme for summer institute was Open Spaces. Open spaces builds on the idea of makerspace. But it’s more than a physical space, colored coded containers of materials, or cool (and sometimes expensive) technology. It’s a mindset. It’s freedom. It’s making use of the tiny computers students walk around with every day to connect to innumerable and immeasurable resources. It’s allowing students the time and space to explore in a less directed manner.

Although we’ve been working with some really fantastic and new-to-me tools in this course, my mental image of a library stayed fairly consistent: the traditional library. While there’s nothing wrong with that, there is so much room to expand and the fact is, libraries are changing – and should be changing. I encourage you to read the article that we all read before institute: The School Librarian as Learning Alchemist.

When we wrapped up on Wednesday afternoon with a World Cafe, we rotated through groups discussing our thoughts on open spaces – including ideals, advantages, disadvantages and obstacles. While almost everyone agreed that the advantages of open spaces are immeasurable, and there aren’t many (or any) disadvantages, I realized that everyone has a unique vision – their own version of the perfect library and that’s exactly how it should be. All of us have a particular school or set of students in mind, and meeting their needs in the best way possible should always be our goal.

If you’re looking for some lovely current and future librarians to follow on twitter, or just want to see a little more of Summer Institute, head on over to twitter and browse through #oduopenspaces.

I can’t wait to see everyone next year!

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Reflections: Technology Exploration

LSB - Tech Exp - Follow Up

I have returned (and recovered) from Summer Institute 2017! I had such an amazing time, and I’ll be reflecting further in my next post. For now, I want to talk about our technology exploration Tuesday afternoon!

Before institute, I posted an overview of the 10 technology tools we’d get to experience and they were all new for me. The three I wanted to get to know most were: Google Expeditions, littleBits, and Aurasma.

Before I revisit the questions I had before my technology exploration, I want to mention that as impressed as I was with all of these expensive high tech tools, I was equally impressed with the other hands on and interactive activities that were available and my favorite activity was a pixelated post-it note lion. I’ll touch on this more in my reflection.

As always, keep reading for more!

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Exploring: QR Codes

LSB - QR Codes

Happy Monday, friends! Just a quick post on QR codes before I head off to Norfolk!

I’ll be honest, when QR codes started appearing I thought they were kind of neat, but the novelty wore off quickly and my general response since then has been a slight eye roll. However, after revisiting the idea of QR codes in the classroom, I’m kind of jazzed about using them!

I chose QRCode Monkey to create my own QR Code that links to my Twitter – which is perfect since we’ll be using twitter over the next few days at Summer Institute.

qr-code-9575ae80f99dd610e352209c4c4e5ed8

There are so many things to love about QRCode Monkey. You can customize colors, shape, and even add a logo.

Ideas for QR Codes in the Classroom:

  • Create QR codes for audio versions of books (or assessments)
  • Assign group roles via QR codes
  • Create a dynamic QR code for daily warm ups or homework assignments
  • QR codes with answer keys so students can check their work

At my school, there are QR codes to help identify the large variety of trees we have on campus created by a Biology II class.

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Technology Exploration

LSB - Tech Expl.Hi all! I’m getting really excited. Tomorrow I head to Norfolk for Summer Institute. Before I get there, I have a handful of tech tools to explore: Ozbots, Spheros, Makey-Makey, littleBits, Google Expeditions, paper circuits, Aurasma, green screens, and memes – yes, memes!

Below, I’ve written a few ideas about each tool with links to resources so you can explore with me. I’ve chosen 3 tools to explore a little more in depth at Summer Institute.

Note: These are just my initial ideas, and I will definitely return with further thoughts once I get some hands on time!

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Ed Tech: Hour of Code + Computational Thinking

LSB - Hour of Code

For the past several years, I’ve participated in school-wide Hour of Code events with several of my Geometry and Algebra classes. We’ve done beginner lessons using blocks with Minecraft and Frozen. Generally, the students enjoy it. I’m excited to look at it from a more technical point of view and see how it fits with the four components of computational thinking.

According to Jeannette Wing, “computational thinking is a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior by drawing on the concepts of computer science.”

Wow. That sounds intense and a little overwhelming, but when you break it down into the four main components, it’s a lot easier to digest and apply to problem solving in everyday life. I think most educators would agree, problem solving is a skill that is underdeveloped in many of our students.

I headed over to code.org to hoping to find an activity I could use for the upcoming school year. I ended up choosing the Recoloring the Universe activity since I’ll be picking up an Earth Science class in the Fall. First, I think it’s important to understand the four components of computational thinking: 

Algorithmic Thinking: When “students create or use a well-defined series of steps to achieve a desired outcome.” (Sheldon).

Pattern Recognition: Students use pattern recognition when they “analyze trends in data and use that information to work out solutions.” (Sheldon). The ability to generalize information and both solve problems and apply that knowledge to novel situations is crucial.

Decomposition: Decomposition is “breaking down a complicated problem into its components and working on one component at a time. (Sheldon). This is something that comes up in my classes ALL the time. Do I call it decomposition? No. But how many times have you said to a frustrated student, “Okay, let’s break this down together.” Imagine empowering a student to be able to do that on their own. Fantastic.

Abstraction: According to Sheldon, “Abstraction refers to stripping away unnecessary details to develop a generic solution, or representing a complicated system with a simple model or visualization.” (Sheldon).

If you’d like to see how my Hour (and a half) of Code fits into the idea of computational thinking, keep reading! If not, I understand – but I would encourage you to check out Recoloring the Universe. I learned so much about coding, but even more about stars. It was fascinating.

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Exploring: Library Websites

LSB - Websites (1)Where have I been? Well, sometimes I take my little stacks of books with me to the beach. I had an amazing time, but I’m back and working on my next assignment: create (the beginnings of) a school library website.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little overwhelmed but I’m really enjoying the process. I made the decision to use Weebly because I’ve never used it before and it seems to be a really common resource in education. I can’t wait to show you the final product, but you’ll have to wait about a week.

Until then, allow me to introduce you to two very cool school library sites I found…

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