#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.

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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.

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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.

Collaborate, Communicate, Create

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In making the school library a true learning common, Highview has transitioned from a traditional setting of wooden tables and chairs to comfortable beanbags and whiteboard tables. The table tops allow children to take notes or write vocabulary words as stories are being read. They can jot down key ideas which is excellent practice for NYS ELA that are routinely given starting in 3rd grade. To begin,  ground rules were set and children learned the tables are for scholars collaborating, note taking and using mind maps. They love working, learning and writing visual aids.

Thank you Kinder Morgan for your generous donation to establishing library learning commons!!!

Dr. Thayer, Vet And Community Helper

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Ten 2nd and 3rd graders made a field trip to the local vet, Dr. Thayer. Dr. Thayer set aside time in his schedule before pet surgeries to answer questions about how scholars can design a working limb for a pet in need. Students came with written questions and furiously scribbled answers on their clipboards.

“How can we attach the leg?”

“Do you know a dog or cat that needs a leg?”

“Should the leg have a wheel to roll the foot?”

“How can we make the leg bend? Do we need two pieces?”

Dr. Thayer patiently answered all questions and used a stuff dog to model points of consideration. When the children go back to the drawing board to create this 3D limb, they truly have their work cut out for them. Not only are they learning to use Tinkercad, a 3D modeling program, but students have to make sure the leg fits specific measurements. Several times they have turned away frustrated

 

Thank you, Dr. Thayer, for your time and expertise!

 

 

Library All Day Everyday

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So many happenings have been transpiring in the library that it has been difficult keeping up with the blog. Children have been clamoring the door to get into makerspace at lunch. It is amazing that this is so popular. We started with small sessions testing everything out and as a collaboration with Ms. Martin, a 2nd grade teacher. Then a second lunch period opened up where children have access to recycled material that they are able to do whatever they can imagine with. It never fails to amaze me how creative scholars can be.

A few weeks ago, the library was so fortunate to have had children’s author, Robin Newman in. Children had purchased her book, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, and had a ton of questions to ask. Robin spoke about her writing process, what inspires her and how children can get started with their own stories. Author visits are great ways to connect the curriculum. They give meaning to literacy as children can make text to self connections with their own lives as students, and practice what good readers and good writers do.

In conjunction with a unit study on Japan and also an IB 3rd grade unit on the significance and role of water worldwide, scholars have been researching various pathfinders. For last week’s library session, children were able to weave miniature water baskets similar to what farmers used to saturate the rice fields in traditional Japan. It is so refreshing to see children utterly absorbed in mastering and finishing this project. Hands on learning is truly the best way to solidify learning connections.

Find Your Creativity

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Recently inspired by the drive, motivation and innovation of my neighboring coworker, I have decided to blog about her innovation. Victoria Bolton, the tech rep. at my school is also a published author. She has written three books and has had them receive positive reviews on several prominent and well known review lists all while working full-time . Laying the groundwork for her movie, which is in the works, Victoria has organized a virtual reality art gallery tour of her book characters.

Reaching out in collaboration with artists worldwide, Victoria has sought interpretative pictures of her characters and synthesized them into an art show. All artists read her novels and use descriptions from the text with their own views on how the characters look.  We all know many people talk about their dreams, though few actually follow through. Not only has Victoria made her dreams a reality, but she relentless works through projects till completion and has an added creative twist.

While this post has no pictures, take a look at the virtual reality art gallery. You won’t want to leave!!!

Computers in Libraries 2017 – Washington D.C.

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My cohort and school librarian partner in crime, Stony Evans, met me in Washington D.C. to present our collaborative piece, Game Design As A Catalyst For Learning. Sometime back in September, we discussed how our libraries were building upon student choice and student voice to empower and propel their learning. At the MIE Expert Conference in Colorado Summer 2016, we learned how to use Minecraft as a tool to not only engage scholars, but also to create transdisciplinary learning opportunities in all subject areas.

In my school library, scholars research nonfiction – people, places and artifacts – to place within their games. Sometimes they use storyboards and they always have a learning objective. Though the objective may appear to be creative, during Minecraft creation children are actively learning, unbeknownst to them, things like area, perimeter, science and social studies , as well as citizenship, social activism and environmentalism.

Librarians in public libraries, colleges and K-12th grades came to listen and learn. And there was even a child who was presenting in a makerspace session that came to ensure we knew what we were talking about as he informed us he was a Minecraft expert. At various points, he took keen interest and volunteered to come test out the virtual reality goggles we brought along.

Minecraft is an incredible Future Ready resource that stimulates children and excites learners of all ages. Minecraft is a unique way to marry curriculum and creation, while  building communication, collaboration and curiosity in scholars. These are all skills they need to be college and career ready. In addition, by problem solving through failures and building resilience, persistence and the ability to follow things through to completion, scholars are being set up for success in academics and in life. So many librarians came up to us afterwards indicating how interested they are in bringing game design to their libraries. They were inspired by our session.

Microsoft is truly a key player and partner in education. Unlike other tech giants who bestow educators with the title of being certified, Microsoft puts a great deal of resources, time and commitment into authentically growing educators and providing them with professional development and learning opportunities to expand their professional learning network. Thank you, Microsoft Education for this amazing opportunity to teach others about the power of learning when you use Minecraft and reach children in their world on their terms.

Imagination

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With the exception of the two snow days we were closed and not in school, this week I have been reading to the children a book titled on St. Patrick’s Day – A Day of Irish Pride. Before almost every holiday or special day,  I like to give scholars the history behind why we do what we do.

As I was conducting the read aloud Thursday, a little girl from a Monday class came up behind me and left a small gift. Two pictures of the gift are below. The first is a front view and the second is a side view.  I will let you digest these photos before I continue. What do you think it is?

Now being the unimaginative adult I am, I thought the student was just inspired by St. Patrick’s Day coming and had extra time at home from the snow days. So I left it on the entry library table where I do my lessons from and didn’t give it much thought.

Yesterday as two 2nd grade boys were looking for books ,I hear a squeal and turn as the boys come running over to me.

“Ms. Wong! Ms. Wong, did you catch it,” they ask excitedly.

“Catch what,” I reply.

“The leprachaun – did you catch the leprachaun? We saw your leprachaun trap,” the boys answer.

“Leprachaun trap?” I say rather feebly as I look over at the gift. “Oh, a student made that for me.”

Later, as I was cleaning the library for the weekend, I studied this self initiated project. It is very cleverly done and has makerspace screaming all over it. The child decorated a tissue box, used straws to make a ladder up towards the rainbow and has a trap to capture a leprchaun right in front of a pot of gold (bottle cap filled with pennies and gold pipe cleaners). Over the pot of gold, she has straws recreating scenes typical of holders above a pot used for fires.

Slowly, it dawns on me how I prompted the accountable talk with the discussion of my niece and nephew finding leprachaun evidence ( green milk and green footsteps) all over their house last year. Students were fascinated with the talk of fairies and leprachauns. They asked each other if leprachauns were real. As I picked up the project and really looked at it,  I suddenly felt this child’s energy and a strong sense of how teachers can really inspire or dampen a child’s curiosity.

Children have an incredible power to think outside of the box. Their imaginations are strong and desire opportunities to be innovative. Be sure that you provide them learning experiences that are unparalleled. Give them the power to create, explore and do not ignore the wonder and excitement through which they see life. So many teachers dominate the classroom, assign the same projects year after year and do not yield, change or grow.  Though school is an institution, you do not have to institutionalize your teaching. If you want to truly improve your practice, then you need to give scholars choice and voice, which will ultimately empower them to be the next inventor, artist, creator, designer and the list goes on. When people ask me what I do for a living, I always tell them I am grooming the next Steve Jobs.

Read Across America

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Read Across American was celebrated by inviting five classes into the library to hear a special guest reader. The Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino, came into the library for an inspirational read aloud. Mr. Astorino emphasized the importance of working hard in school and reading  in the library.He indicated his successes in life are due to being diligent, reading and listening well.

When asked what exactly it is he does, he replied he helps take care of the county and Mr. Astorino told the crowd the most enjoyable part of his job was being able to interact with the public and spend time with kids.

After the read aloud and a bunch of questions, Mr. Astorino took time to speak with individuals that approached him and take pictures with classes.

There is something special and truly valuable to the learning community when community heroes take the time to give back. This was a happy. inspirational and fun day at Highview School.

 

Play Time Is Important For Growth

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Having gotten a grant from BOCES to help start a makerspace, I decided to further expand the concept and focus on one class of 2nd graders. Eight children were selected to come into the library once or twice a week to tinker, play and explore in the makerspace. The children were not given any directives or an assignment. Instead,  I just explained the concept of makerspace and told the children they could do whatever they wanted to as long as they clean up.

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With an abundance of boxes, cardboard and toilet paper rolls, children were quick to look on Microsoft’s Bing search engine for ideas of what to do. The boys focused on making parking garages for their matchbox racing cars. Carter focused on making a driveway and scenery. He used duct tape to decorate.

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Meanwhile, Justin and Carlos stacked lots and lots of toilet paper rolls from the top to bottom of their shoe boxes so they could get as many car into their garage as possible.

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The girls made abstract art structures as they learned to fine tune the art of duct tape. One roll at a time, the girls began to work with each other to hold and tape rather they try to cut off long strips. They quickly found that collaboration makes the work so much faster and fluid.

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After a couple of sessions, all participants had a chance to take home their projects born of ingenuity and repurposed products.