Saturday, November 22, 2014

School Librarian Connection - A Brief Reflection

Today I got to spend the day with a group of amazing librarians from Hong Kong and various other places around South East Asia as we all came together at School Librarian Connection. The organizers, Dianne McKenzie (Renaissance College, Hong Kong) and Katie Day (United World College, Singapore), two extremely knowledgeable and passionate librarians, did a fantastic job in organizing the event. I enjoyed the short presentations on a variety of topics under the main themes curriculum support, digital resource management, visual literacy and research skills and tools. As always after a conference or workshop, my head is buzzing. So much to ponder about, so many new thoughts and ideas! Here just a few, that will be at the forefront of my thinking, in no particular order:

Maker spaces – Both Nadine Bailey and Kurt Wittig spoke in their presentation about maker spaces in the library. Nadine brought up the idea within her presentation on digital storytelling, providing an example what this might look like. Kurt introduced the Collaboration, Innovation, Creativity Club (CIC) he started in his library, where students can choose from a selection of seven domains: electronics, engineering, fashion, gaming, robotics, materials, and virtual environments. Especially the materials domain got me thinking as students create origami on the entrance level and work up their way to creating pop-up books. I think, both ideas, a digital storytelling maker space as well as a materials maker space, might be an opportunity to move our first attempts with a maker space in our library (simply a table with origami books and origami paper) to the next level without requiring much additional materials or funds.

iPads in the library – While I have already made use of iPads in the library for various purposes, such as reading, information seeking, creating and video recording, Tabitha Johnson’s presentation gave me additional ideas. After her presentation I was thinking that iPads are a great tool to use also at the beginning of the school year, for example, as students explore the library and reacquaint themselves with the organization of materials and the overall set-up of the library. Younger students could simply take pictures of what they see around the library to gain understanding of the purpose of a library, the resources available and so on.

“Making the invisible visible” – Katie Day, Barbara Reid and Nadine Bailey shared some great ideas on how to make patrons aware of a library’s digital resources, my favorites being books on walls and wheels (posters of teachers’ book shelves on hangers for easy browsing), amplified shelves (through QR codes links are provided to author or series information), and placeholders (through QR codes patrons get linked to the catalog to see whether there might be additional copies elsewhere available).
I also loved the idea of attaching student book talks (or other digital content) to book posters with the help of Aurasma. Once we have iPads in our library, we will have the opportunity to make more and better use of QR codes around the library.

COETAIL (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy) – I had heard about this program already from others but checked it out for the first time today after Dianne introduced it. I had known that it was a program around educational technology but hadn’t been aware of the information literacy component – and these are the courses that I would be especially interested in: Information Literacy and Ourselves as Learners, 21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues, and Visual Literacy: Effective Communicators and Creators. Will have to check whether it is possible to take individual courses.

EasyBib & Diigo – While I was familiar with these resources, having used both already, I knew little about what these resources can do besides the basic citation and book marking features. Dianne McKenzie demonstrated how both can help students during the research process, in annotating and organizing their notes, creating citations and reference lists and even take advantage of them EasyBib as an add-on in Google Documents. I would love to get a subscription to EasyBib for our libraries, no doubt!

TRAILS – I had trialed using TRAILS in Ghana as a pre-assessment tool of G3-5 students’ information literacy skills at the beginning of the school year to guide me in which skill area the emphasis needed to be. I remember finding it extremely helpful and relatively easy to administer. Fiona Collins’ presentation was a good reminder to make use of this assessment tool again.

Visual literacy through powerful picture books – Megan Lindsay’s presentation gave me ideas on how to move our picture book explorations forward. And the timing couldn’t have been better as I just began looking at picture books with our fourth graders last week. Megan gives her students a visual literacy check list as they explore the books so that students become aware of all the features. I will definitely incorporate this in our picture book explorations.

Visual notetaking – I loved Shirley Chan’s presentation on visual note-taking for all ages, as she demonstrated how she uses it with her primary school students. Recently, I have heard and seen quite a bit on visual note-taking, especially from my friend Nicki Hambleton (check out her blog). Through images, students make their thinking visible while at the same time retaining key information more easily. I am keen on finding out and learning more about it, especially on how to use it with younger students. Therefore today’s presentation was just perfect, getting me even more excited about the idea of introducing it to our students. I have already downloaded one of the recommended titles: The Sketchnote Handbook, which was available in Kindle format. As Shirley recommended, learn it first yourself (there is a large number of online tutorials available), and then introduce it to your students, focusing on the three main elements: text, images and structure. Since she stressed several times that the focus here is on simple images, I feel I can give it a try even though I can’t draw.

(If you would like to explore the individual presentations, they are all available through the School Librarian Connection website.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

10 Things I Took Away From the Google Apps Summit

I find going to a conference always very inspiring and motivating, coming across new ideas and getting a chance to trying out things I have heard about but never gotten into. The Google Apps Summit last weekend did exactly this and so, before the everyday craziness is taking over again, I quickly want to share a few things I have taken away from this conference. To get this post onto my blog (and not just draft it in my head as I most often end up doing), I will limit it to just 10 things, even though there was a lot more. So here they are, 10 things I took away from the Google Apps Summit, in no particular order:

(Image source: )

1. Google Classroom is Google’s answer to Blackboard, Moodle and other online platforms that help teachers organize their classes and courses.

2. Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook and Twitter, maybe a clever combination of features from both of these and a few other social media sites. For now, since I am very attached to my Facebook and Twitter accounts, the biggest potential I see is as a PLN platform within our school – or any other school using Google Apps.

3. Google Drive on my iPhone – It’s really as easy to use as on the computer: creating new folders, adding documents, photos, videos and other files to your Drive on the go, which you can later access on your computer. I could imagine it to be a great tool for recording learning in the library and classroom in the form of pictures and videos, filing them immediately in a location where they can remain. Having no additional uploading or importing to a computer will save so much time. The only downside, if you want to add a Google Doc, you need to download an additional app, which in its use is not as powerful as when you create a Google Doc on your computer (for example, you cannot insert images).

4. Other mobile Google Apps to explore: Google Capture (easy tool to make, edit and upload videos to YouTube quickly), Google Search (comes with voice recognition which can be very handy on the go), Photo Sphere (360 views that can be placed into Google maps), Google Translate, just to mention a few. As Lee Webster said in his keynote, “Google Apps [is] a treasure trove of applications” – definitely something the conference highlighted. It also showed me that so far, I have merely scratched the surface.

5. Google Books ( ) This may sound strange coming from a librarian but I did not know what a fantastic resource Google Books is. I have to admit that I always thought that it was just a search engine bringing up titles of books, which ultimately had to be bought to get read. Discovering the wealth of books available at our finger tips, and all for free, simply made my day! It was very handy too, to get shown how to search for books by particular authors, publishers etc. (e.g. if you want to search for all available Michael Morpurgo books, simply type into the search box: inauthor:Michael Morpurgo – for a particular topic: subject:"hypnosis” )

6. Google Advanced Search – I finally got to have a closer look at some of the features of Google Advanced Search, loving especially the option to narrow the search down by reading level. But even though it’s a great tool, I will remain an advocate for using subscription databases like our online catalog and World Book Encyclopedia as the first places for Primary School students to make searches. It’s a great way to start learning the basics of searches (especially the importance of using keywords) and finding the appropriate resources among a manageable number of hits. Then when students move into Secondary School, they can built on these skills, adding Google as a search engine to the online catalog and other databases.

7. Adding a few more educators to my PLN on Twitter – learning from the best J @brookhouser @richtheteach @Cleave21 @stulowe80 @Apps1events

8. Google Educator and Google Certified Teacher
Getting a quick overview over the certification process and required exams was really helpful. I will definitely follow up, since it's a great opportunity to get more familiar with the many great applications in Google - and as the presenter Dan Taylor said, it's a quick way to advance your professional development. I appreciated the tips and advice he shared for preparing and taking the exams.

9. GameSalad – Even though this was the most challenging session for me to attend, on how to make games and apps, I was totally intrigued by it, especially when the presenter Stu Lowe shared an example of an app he put together to help students explore Kowloon’s Walled City Park while on a field trip there. I just loved the idea of having a customized app to support inquiry and explorations. Here is a 10min tutorial, check it out!

10. World Tour Builder This had the biggest WOW factor for me. The World Tour Builder is such an easy-to-use tool with so much potential in education. For the library, for example, it can help getting students interested in particular authors or genres. I could imagine creating tours taking students to the original locations where stories are taking place. I actually began creating a tour right there in the session (that’s another factor I liked, that many of the sessions I had chosen to attend allowed for time to try out the apps right then and there) – loved it! While it’s pretty self-explanatory, here is a quick tutorial from the presenter Jason Prohaska:

Overall, a great conference! Thanks to everyone involved in organizing and presenting!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Where to Find Me... Part 2

Those of you who check into my blog once in a while might have seen my last post in which I linked to my library blog where currently most of my blogging is happening. Recently, I however also had the opportunity to share a post on two other websites. Both of these websites mean a lot to me and I am therefore thrilled that I was able to contribute a small piece of writing to each.

1. Kirby's Lane: A Place for Readers and Writers: From the Office of the Future of Reading
"The Joys of Sharing (Recommending) Books"

Kirby Larson is an amazing children's and young adult author (I love Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After), who promotes reading and writing in so many ways. On her blog, Kirby's Lane, she invites librarians, teachers and other authors to share how they help to instil a love for reading and/or writing in young people. There are so many wonderful ideas to discover - I hope you will check it out.

2. Golden Baobab Literary Award - Resources:
"Stories That African Children Will Love"

While still living in Ghana, I got involved with this wonderful organisation that aims at promoting the writing of African children's literature. I have been a reader and a judge for the award program in the past and was thrilled (but at first also worried) when I got invited to write a post to share on their newly set up resource page. The organisation not only encourages African writers through their annual award but also provides support and guidance through workshops and the mentioned resource page.

I hope you will check out both articles and spend some time exploring the websites if you aren't familiar with them yet.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Where to find me...

Those of you checking into this blog from time to time, must have been wondering what's happened to me. Another year in which my good intentions to blog more didn't materialise? Well, yes and no, depending at what blog you are looking. Once again I have neglected this personal blog badly. But the good news is, I have been blogging frequently on my library blog page, sharing all the exciting things happening in HKA's Primary Library. Since I only have a page on the HKA Primary Specialists website, I unfortunately can't set up automatic updates, but decided that I might try to link to it from time to time, sharing the highlights.

Here some posts that have received much interest recently:

A memorable author visit by Ying Chang Compestine

Chatting with the talented author and illustrator Niki Daly

A Skype session with author Grace Lin

Another Skype session with the amazing Kate DiCamillo

A visit by the lovely Ellen Leou, author of Lulu, the Hong Kong Cat

And a special highlight from our Literacy Week, The Continuous Reading Chair

I hope you stop by the HKA Primary Library Blog, check out some of the exciting events and maybe even leave a comment with your thoughts and ideas :)