Google Doodle Coding

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So last week my former colleague and recent winner of the NYSCATE Technology Leader of the Year Award, Rocco Varuolo, asked me what the high school was doing for Hour of Code.  I started to lamely answer that I don’t really get the classes to come for that since I’m on a flexible schedule and teachers that sign up and come are doing research projects and on a tight timeline. But then I caught myself and asked, ” Why can’t  I get the kids to code? I can if I really try.”

So this week my mission has been to implement a quick Google Doodle coding fun. Scholars come in and watch a quick tutorial how to and then begin to drop, drag and rotate until they come up with their own Google Doodle.

Now I did have some kids that as soon as I said the word “code” they almost immediately shut down and flatly said they couldn’t do it. But with a little urging and some impromptu support from other scholars, they quickly tried it and succeeded.

After viewing the finished products, I think we have some super coders and graphic artists here!

 

 

 

 

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Library Happenings

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The month of November has quickly come and gone. Many things have happened in the library and much too quickly to keep up with blogging. Tiffany (pictured below) is our resident book folding artist. She took up the project of using a weeded book to create book art, or a folded turkey.

Just in time for the holidays, other middle schoolers watched as she dedicated each free minute , lunch and activity period, to folding and curling turkey tails. Tiffany was inspired to splatter some water color paint on it as well. Her dedication made book art popular. Suddenly lots of middle schoolers wanted to go to the library and “tear up books.” A teacher in the hallway heard a student shouting this and came running to ensure there was not chaos occurring in the library.

Now I know many librarians weed books and secretly throw them out at night. They fear the backlash of stakeholders that  do not understand the concept of weeding. Weeding books that are unused, outdated or just plain worn out makes rooms for new books patrons request and read. Astutely, we are repurposing weeded books for our makerspace.

The digital arts teacher, Andre Soto, scheduled and came into the library with three classes. The classes played games of Mystery Skype with other schools. The students did not know who they were playing against. The object of the game was to guess where the other team was from by asking yes or no questions. Each student had a specific job like researching, communicating, documenting, questioning, etc. Children used maps, computers, whiteboard markers to collaborate. In the end, our classes both lost and won. However, the true winning was in online collaboration with other youth. One opposing team used their phone to video and walk our kids through their schools as they discussed the differences in education.

The LMC has been working on making the space more collaborative and youth friendly. An unused area was cleared out  of technology boxes. The boxes were put away under a computer table and chairs from Chairigami were purchased. If you do not know, Chairigami is an amazing company from Connecticut. They construct furniture out of three ply cardboard.

Students read and assembled the chairs, thus taking  ownership of their space. Additionally, a reclaimed table was obtained specifically for the space. This area facilitates a different feel and since food is not allowed in the library, scholars are able to sit in the lounge chairs and quickly eat before heading to their studies.

Several design students used the chairs as a template to recreate another one from big pieces of cardboard that were sitting around. As they assembled it in the library, many other students were interested in what they were making. As the library has evolved into makerspace heaven, it is also beginning to inspire others.

For Focus, the school’s newspaper, a guest speaker was brought in to teach scholars how to interview. After discovering many of our journalists do not feel comfortable or know the protocol for conducting interviews, the library asked a guest in that had attended and graduated from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism to provide tips, techniques and tricks for interview procedures.

To spark creativity, the LMC asked our custodian, Luis, to build a Lego wall. He graciously assisted us and is an excellent example of how makerspaces build community and bring experts into the fold for others to rely upon as a resource.

The Lego wall fosters a reprieve from all the stress and studying for scholars. A few kids were shy about using it until they saw others were on board. But one high school scholar was so excited that he was not bashful at all. He flatly stated, ” I love legos. I will be in here everyday!”

Recently, the LMC obtained chess sets, puzzle cubes and robots. With the idea of encouraging learning through stimulation , scholars are being engaged through non-traditional methods.  To the untrained eye, they appear to be just remote controlled gizmos. However, the robots are an entry way into coding. I have quite frequently heard students remark that they are “not that smart” or the laser printer is not for everyone, but special kids. Scholars are just getting familiar with them and little do they know it, but they will soon be moving the robots through coding. Coding is not just an activity done during the month of December, but a skill that can open many doors for them. And they will also see that they really are “that smart!”

Naysayers may think these are games or toys, but that is far from the truth. Children , like adults, learn best through play and by doing. Noticing scholars playing on their phones or watching their snaps and reading IG posts, the LMC decided to promote critical thinking and problem solving through active learning. Scholars were not actually interacting with each other, but were instead playing with their phones. Another adult in the library remarked it is great to see the camaraderie and kids socializing in a constructive way, rather than just in their own worlds on their phones. They now are becoming more collaborative, communicative and creative. Taking risks and failing are some of the best things people can do to learn and grow.

Student Service Learning Through Earrings

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The second week in October the school library hosted Joan Lylod, a retired teacher and a lifetime Yorktown resident. Joan spends all her time teaching kids how to make earrings from scratch with wires, beads and small hand tools. She goes to scouts, public libraries and schools with a mission. The earring creation is not just the basis of a maker activity or to promote design, creativity and time away from electronic devices, but a means to instill student service learning.

Scholars are asked to make earrings to donate to My Sister’s Place. The earrings specially created for total strangers in need truly do put a smile on someone’s face. While participants are able to  keep a pair for every pair they make and donate, many people instead opt to donate all the pairs they make.

In the Library Media Center, both middle school and high school students participated. Many boys demonstrated a great deal of patience as they quickly mastered the art of construction with quick twists, turns and created beautiful little, wearable art masterpieces.

Look for Joan and book a workshop! You will be glad you did as scholars  learn to better understand service learning when they are able to be active contributors.

 

Graphic Author / Illustrator Visit With Dave Roman

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The PTA generously funded a special author visit for both middle school and high school students. Dave Roman, graphic author and illustrator, came to the Library Media Center and presented two sessions.

He discussed the creative process and how important it is to follow through with ideas, dreams and plans. Dave inspired scholars to think outside the box. He highlighted how some of the most bizarre ideas went on to become best selling, multi-million dollar ideas like the Ninja Turtles, which started as a graphic novel, too.

Through hard work, consistency and belief in himself, Dave told kids he laid the pathway to success. He continued by stating that failure breeds success and we often learn more when we don’t get to where we want easily.

Thank you, Mr. Roman, for a wonderful and inspirational visit.

What Can We Makey Makey ?

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I have always wanted to use makey makey, but it was too complicated for me. So I had an ingenious idea. I got a makey makey and called on some members of the computer club to help me out. The school’s computer club is an award winning team. They won a Westchester County competition among high schools for best app developed ( http://bit.ly/2wWpqE1 ). Surprisingly, none of the scholars had ever used a make make or knew what it was. However, they quickly figured it out and set it up.

The boys found there were drums or keyboard make make options. Other scholars in the library were intrigued seeing them play bananas and having musical sounds emit.Some scholars determined rather than bananas, human arms could be used to emit musical sounds when touched by the student holding the main wire. They said as long as it conducts electricity it will work!

Since I am trying to instill a culture of innovation and creativeness in the library, I left the makey makey attached to my laptop on the first table in the library. I ask all scholars to sign in (for an advocacy report) when they arrive and the makey makey is the next thing they see after sign in.

Word travels quickly. The makey makey quickly became an object of interest and even though I don’t put it out every day, I do have students come in asking me for the banana keyboard. They just want to try it out.

One of the best things about the library is many different scholars come through its doors. Having something new and experimental facilitates children learning or trying something they might normally have not tried because it was not a class they would take or their friends might not be in a certain club that does it.

Virtual Field Trips Via Skype

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Skype is something every educator should have in their tool box. Recently, a high school environmental science class came into the library for a Skype visit. We called into our contact, who answered on the sixth attempt. Scholars quickly learned since he was on the west coast that it was barely 7AM for our guest.

Park Ranger Daniel from Los Lobos State Park Reserve in California visited with Blind Brook scholars. They were able to see  him in action at his job in the wild. To hear the wonder and excitement in their voices surprised me as I figured Skype was old hat for these tech teenagers.

Daniel explained the duties of his job and the importance in protecting nature from trash. He pulled out plastic bags from the water and discussed at length how they kill water organisms. Scholars watched as he canoed through the water pulling up slugs, mammals as ripples of water jetted out. Often he would flip the camera so we were able to see the sun rising and also a seal sitting 10 feet away on a rock.

The seniors were so engrossed that a Q & A time was opened up so they could ask questions about things of interest. One student asked about the pathway to follow to be an animal worker in a state park or a vet. Daniel’s visit was truly inspirational as it brought learning into the school without us having to leave the physical constraints of the building. Daniel emphasized following your vision, working hard and giving life your best shot.

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As other library patrons came into the library, they would stop and stare across the room listening to the guest speaker and looking up from their work. Students in the library were extremely respectful and did not make any noise at all.

In conclusion, Skype was an amazing way to bring an expert into the school. There were no costs and no education time was lost. It was interactive, engaging and truly helped prepare our children to be future ready learners.

Japan, An Undiscovered Jewel

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Thought I would bring some smiles your way. Student work is always a joy to see. As a teacher, you get a better idea as to how scholars internalize learning. And I love giving them a change to create!

Happy reading!!!

Scholar’s Prezi on Japan

Scholar’s Storybird on Japan

2nd Scholar’s Storybird on Japan

3rd Scholar’s Storybird on Japan

4th Scholar’s Storybird on Japan

5th Scholar’s Storybird on Japan

6th Scholar’s Storybird on Japan

 

7th Scholar’s Storybird on Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan – The Hidden Jewel

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The school library media center was fortunate to receive a grant from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership ( http://www.cgp.org ) to promote cultural awareness and education. The majority of 3rd graders at our school participated in library research lessons. Scholars learned how to use databases, authenticate websites, determine main idea and supporting details and take notes.

On the creative side, Harumi Ori, a visiting Japanese artist came in every week to conduct lessons in Japanese art creation. Harumi taught scholars the importance of paper in Japanese art and children learned how to make paper from toilet paper and water. She facilitated a technique modeling to children how to create a marble looking effect with paper, ink and paint. Then, scholars used different multimedia formats to create a digital story illustrating what they learned in a storytelling format to be later presented in a showcase learning fair open to the community.

The school was thrilled that executives from Japan Foundation were able to visit and observe both the library research lessons and the Japanese visiting teacher artist in her art classes. Children were able to meet and interact with the executives and that made the grant funding even more special. As a culminating activity, scholars participated in a learning showcase where they presented their digital projects to the learning community. By scaffolding teaching to younger students, parents, staff and community members, Highview’s 3rd graders really internalized learning and it truly became a transliteracy project to remember!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#ISTE2017

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I was incredibly excited to finally be able to attend ISTE in San Antonio, TX. To add upon that, I was honored to be asked to present Game Design As A Catalyst with my colleague, Stony Evans in Arkansas.

 

 

The mug you see pictured, Stony was so kind to gift it to me to bring back to administration. (Thank you, Stony!!! ) I am now blessed to work for a school district that fosters my professional learning. In their endeavors to become world class, they have supported my presentations to various conferences as well as attendance at PDs to grow and develop.

A few summers ago, I wrote an advocacy article for LMC (Library Media Connection) that Stony Evans read.  He was so inspired by it that he emailed and befriended me. Shortly thereafter, I suggested he apply for a MIE (Microsoft Innovative Educator ) Expert and he was accepted. Recently, we both implemented Minecraft in our libraries and I wrote a proposal for us to present at ISTE as a team. I was ecstatic when it was accepted since presenting at ISTE was but a distant dream.

 

As the dream started to really played out, ISTE was initially a little overwhelming. There were 20,000 attendees, the layout was confusing, popular sessions were closed out. You needed tickets or had to preregister for them – all things I had never experienced at a conference.  So the first day I attended the makerspace playground and poster sessions to learn in small collaborative groups. I then was able to figure out the trick to getting into the popular sessions …….as the rooms filled up and the line disappeared, there was always a single seat in the corner somewhere.

ISTE was a blast. I learned more about learning commons and redefining the library. I learned about new technology products to test and use. And most importantly, I was able to spend time with my MIE cohorts and continue to grow with Microsoft in this wonderful journey called education. Thank you, Greenburgh CSD, for supporting professional development and thinking outside the box. Thank you, ISTE, for promoting edtech. And   a huge thank you to Microsoft for always pushing me outside my comfort zone and promoting a growth disposition and an innovative mindset. Learning is a constant struggle and process and I’m loving every minute of it.

Lemelson-MIT Excite Award

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When you think life cannot get any better, it does. This year I was so fortunate to be able to work with an amazing technology director, Rocco Varuolo, who inspired me and pushed me outside my comfort zone. I sought Rocco’ s help and advice when I needed to enter the school library in a contest for STEM. Having recently established a makerspace in the school library, I knew I wanted the kids to be exposed to STEM opportunities even though I have no experience in it. Rocco immediately identified ways children can learn and become better community members at the same time. Please click on the above link to read more about the Lemelson-MIT news release.