May 24, 2016

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Tech Tidbits from the Guybrarian: How Big Is Your Toolbox?

It may start this way: you’ve just finished the first lunch period, and because of today’s snow, there are massive amounts of students in your library—and a surprising number of them are on task. You’re just now welcoming a social studies class that’s here to work on a research project and use the laptop cart and many of your book club students are bursting through the door excitedly.

Right behind them is a digital photography teacher who’s exclaiming that his class next hour is ready to use Voicethread for their monochromatic color review section. But it won’t work, since Voicethread has recently been upgraded and now he can’t post to it privately without paying a fee. What’s he going to use instead?

Of course, like you, I’d do the sensible thing: sit down with my book club and talk about books, teen angst, and literature conferences—all the while wondering what else is out there to use for digital photography when the teacher comes back in 20 minutes with his class, as I’ve asked him to do.

It all comes down to what tools you have in your toolbox that can be effectively infused into the classroom—tools that assist students (and teachers!) to have meaningful conversations and get them to deeper levels of understanding and achievement.

As teacher librarians, our task is to teach right alongside our staff. Technology resources are among the major tools we use to push our staff and students to strengthen their 21st-century learning skills. I need your help, as we all need one another, to find and share learning activities that help teachers and students thrive!

You share with other librarians in your district, you attend conferences and workshops, you learn from email, Facebook, and Twitter. You have where you pick up new ideas. My advice to you is to share everything—tweak what you find and then fit it into some meaningful chunks that your teachers and students need. That’s a big part of what we librarians already do so well, but we can do even more.

For example, face-to-face time can be extremely fruitful. I just held a district library shindig at my school where I invited six smart, resourceful, and imaginative librarian geniuses to share great things they’re doing in their libraries. They demonstrated resources, displayed tools, and told tales of collaboration and leadership which inspired my very own elementary and secondary district librarians to do the same. Some learners came intimidated, but left full of energy, support, and ideas.

We all need to be intentional and deliberate as we work hard to share our successes with each other. My face-to-face time is supplemented by the #tlchat Google+ community, attending the TL Virtual Cafe presentations held the first Monday of every month, and finally, #tlchat LIVE events held on the second Monday of each month.

So what did I do 20 minutes later when my desperate digital photo teacher came back? I listened. He explained the assignment. I quickly did some research, and we got very creative. We tried Wallwisher (now called Padlet) and discovered that students could drag and drop their digital photo assignments there, share the link to their pages in Google docs, post peer evaluations right on the page, and do it all in one class period. When we debriefed, the teacher said it turned out wonderfully—it was very simple to use, the thumbnails could expand to full-sized images with better graphic quality than they had before, and his students were more focused and energized with extremely constructive peer comments and discussions. I’d never used Wallwisher for that type of event before, and I never would have had the idea if someone hadn’t shown it to me in a workshop I had attended. My peers make me look so smart. Thanks, genius librarians!

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Dodie Ownes About Dodie Ownes

Dodie Ownes left the glamorous world of retrospective conversion and disco to jump on the library vendor train. Since then, she has been learning at the feet of the masters about all things library. Dodie lives in Golden, Colorado, where even the sign which arches the main street says "Howdy."

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