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Making Reading Accessible for Learners with Dyslexia June 22, 2017

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks, Online Teaching, Reflections, Tech Tips.
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Though my sabbatical classes are over for the semester, I still have a lot of information to process and apply to our library program.  I hope to post some of my presentations and other resources over the next couple months leading up to the back-to-school season.

Online Teaching Program, Spring 2017, Week 15 - Reflections, Thoughts, and Questions

My second class was called “Responding to Individual Learners,” and it was about personalizing online and face-to-face instruction for students, particularly students with special needs.  The culminating project was to choose a characteristic/disability/trait to study, write a paper on a peer-reviewed research article, and then present the research findings to the class.

I chose to research how different online reading experiences affect learners with dyslexia.  Through my research, I learned that it’s relatively easy and not very time-consuming to modify documents to make them easier to read.  Furthermore, offering modified reading materials can help not only students with dyslexia, but also students with other reading disabilities or challenges.

From my research and the many resources I came across, The British Dyslexia Association’s Style Guide and other resources for educators was especially helpful, and they are worth checking out.

You can read my paper on Google Docs, and view my screencasted video presentation on YouTube.  The Google Slides presentation is also embedded below.

One of my takeaways from the research article was that I think more teachers would take the time to modify their reading assignments to make them more readable if they had a template to use.  So I created one on Google Docs so teachers can copy and paste a text into it and share it with students as one reading option.  You get your own template by clicking the image below, going to “File” then “Make a copy” in the Google Docs menu.Dyslexia-friendly Google Doc | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Another takeaway from this project was that the technology we have today, even very simple PDF readers and ebook apps, often have some accessibility tools built-in.  For instance, the apps I highlighted in my presentation allow student to change the background and text color of reading documents.  As part of reading instruction at the beginning of the year, I think we should be teaching all students, not just our students with special needs, how to customize these tools to what works for them.  Knowing how to “hack” their tech tools empowers students to take a more active role in their own education.

If you have a tip for accommodating reading assignments for students, or if you have a recommended app or program for online reading, please share it with us in the comments!  And stay tuned for more research-based ideas and reflections from my Online Teaching classes.  Happy summer!

Library Centers Tracking with QR Code Check-in March 29, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Tablets & Apps, Tech Tips, What Worked.
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Building my PLN, or Professional Learning Network, has been one of the best decisions I’ve made since I started teaching!  Being connected with fabulous educators through blogs and Twitter means I have an excellent network of colleagues and resources to inspire me to improve my instruction.  And last week, I experienced a wonderful, problem-solving PLN win!

The challenge:

I spent WAY too much time tracking which library centers students were at, and not enough time facilitating the learning that was happening.  I kept a record of student center choices on a Google spreadsheet, and I also stamped each student’s center tracking booklet so that they can visualize their learning.

Ideally, I recorded where each students was (that “all-important” data), AND had time to encourage/scaffold students who were struggling, re-direct students who were off-task, and challenge students who were coasting.  In reality, the data collection took almost every second of my time during the 25-ish minutes of library centers.  I still “checked in” with students when I stamped their booklets, but only for about 5 seconds.

The solution!

In the past year, I had read this blog post on QR codes for tracking library visits by Ms. O Reads Books, and her follow-up blog posts explaining how to do it  Then, I remembered this blog post by Vicki Davis about using every last instructional moment.  I wanted to use every minute as efficiently as possible, and cram as much (fun) learning as possible into a 40-minute library class.

Even though those two posts don’t seem to relate, I had a magical flash of inspiration and found my solution: Library Center Check-in with QR codes!

How it works:

Ms. O’s idea of using QR codes to “sign in” at the library has been floating around my brain for months.  It takes some tech tricks to set up, but basically, several Google forms collect their responses in a single spreadsheet.

So I made a different Google Form for each library center and color-coded them according to their category:

  • RED = Reading Promotion – Independent Reading, Destiny Online Book Review Writing, and PA Young Readers’ Choice Voting.
  • BLUE = Research Skills – Question of the Week, Independent Research Choices, and the Ladybugs Observation & Research.
  • GREEN = Creation &  Tech (aka our makerspace) – littleBits™, Paper Circuits, Electric Sewing, Learning to Code, Goldie Blox™, and Puzzle Apps.

Library Centers Check-in and Tracking with Google Forms and QR Codes | Mrs. J in they Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Each form asks for the student’s name and teacher’s name.  Some forms have one additional question such as, “What are you working on today?” for the makerspace centers.  I tried to keep it very short, because one tablet is shared among several students. 

I created a QR code for each form, printed the codes on Avery QR stickers, and stuck the code onto the center signage with a large “Check in” sticker (printed on address labels/barcode labels).  The stickers hide some of the clipart on my center directions signs, but they are functional nonetheless.

I tried it with each class in grades 3-5, and it was a HUGE success!  I’m relying on students to report their center choice honestly, but I also have the “double-check” of the booklet stamps. I’m thrilled with the results because now I’m able to do more teaching/facilitating/scaffolding and less data collection during classes. 

As an added bonus, I showed one of our district tech coaches to get some feedback, and she liked the idea, too.  Yay for advocacy!!

Have you used QR codes in your library or classroom?  If so, please share your experience and any tech tricks you learned in the comments!

TL Blogging Challenge #16 – Text Wrapping Matters June 18, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Fun Stuff, Tech Tips.
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TL Blogging Challenge #16 – Share a tech tip for your fellow teachers or librarians.  How do you use this tech tip?  How does it simplify your life?

I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Word when making my TpT products and teaching resources.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cloud-based tools like Google Drive, but if I’m going to share my work with others, then I want it to work for any teacher or librarian, regardless of how tech savvy he or she is.  And I don’t think it’s too big of an assumption to say that every teacher knows how to use Microsoft Word (or Pages or Open Office Writer or some kind of word-processing program).

The problem with Microsoft Word is that making images and graphics look nice and *stay put* is a pain.  So I discovered a simple trick to make any image stay where you want it.  Just set the “text wrapping” to “In Front of Text” OR if it’s a digital paper, background, or border, set it to “Behind Text.”

TextWrappingScreenshot

Using “In Front of Text” and “Behind Text” text wrapping makes it easier to add graphics to Word documents.

You can even set the Microsoft Word program to automatically use “in front” or “behind” wrapping when you add an image, but that’s really up to you.  To set up the default text wrapping, go to:
File –> Options –> Advanced –> Scroll down to the Copy-Paste defaults.

The only caveat for using this trick is that by placing images in front of text, you may have to adjust your margins for a specific part of your text.  Just highlight the text you want to pull from under the image, then move the page margins on the ruler at the top.  For me, however, this is easier than adjusting a clipart graphic one pixel at a time, then cursing the computer when the movement shoves all of my text across the page.

Do you have a go-to program or tool that you are most comfortable with when you make teaching resources?  Share it in the comments!

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

TL Blogging Challenge #13 – Twitter Chats for Personalized PD June 9, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Makerspace!, PSLA, Reflections, Tech Tips.
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TL Blogging Challenge #13 – Share all of your professional social media contact info and links.  How do you engage in social media for professional learning?

TweetToLearnFor all of my social media contact information, just look at all of those buttons on the sidebar of this blog.  That’s how to connect with me.

Even though I use Pinterest, LinkedIn, Feedly, and this WordPress blog as professional tools to connect with other librarians and educators, I’ve been hesitant about Twitter.  I knew it could be a professional development tool, but it came down to time.

I knew about the #TLChat and #TLElem weekly chats, but they were always in the evening.  My evening time is strictly for family and friends, and that’s one of my best strategies for balancing home and work.  So I originally discounted extensive Twitter use because I thought I couldn’t participate in the conversations in real-time.

As I’ve explored more of Twitters features and what a hashtag actually means, however, I’ve discovered (again) the beauty of asynchronous learning. I don’t actually have to be around on Monday nights to participate in the #TLChat, though I’m sure the experience is different in real-time.  Anyone can still learn from the TLChat or TLElem chats by reading them afterwards.

TwitterGuide

Amber Coggin has generously shared this excellent resource for Twitter newbies.

Still…I mess up a good deal.  Twitter has its own language, jargon, and etiquette.  If you haven’t used Twitter before, it’s confusing and utterly overwhelming.  I just learned today that the accepted number of hashtags per tweet is only 3.  Oops!  For newbies like me, there are lots of blog posts and “beginner guides” for teachers, but my favorite is Amber Coggin’s Twitter for Educators: A Beginner’s Guide.  It’s a short 11-page PDF document that packed with helpful hints and tips!

It’s hard to get used to formulating my thoughts in short 140-character blips, AND remember to include the right hashtags (# symbol) and reply to’s (@ symbol).  I often tweet something and 2 seconds later, I realize that I forgot a hashtag all together, or I forgot to include an @ symbol so it would get to the person I want to have a conversation with.  It’s a learning curve, that’s for sure.

TeacherHashtags

EdTech Magazine’s infographic of Twitter hastags

But…I really have learned SO much!  I started with seeking out maker educators in the #MakerEd conversation.  What a kind, generous, and helpful bunch they are!  As the makerspace movement starts to really take hold in education, it’s exciting to connect with the people who have experience, so I don’t repeat the same novice mistakes they learned from.  Interestingly, most are in private and charter schools.  I still haven’t found too many makerspaces in public schools, and even fewer in elementary public schools.  It’s still a growing movement, I suppose.

The tipping point for me going all-in on Twitter chats and conversations was Joyce Valenza’s comments at PSLA this year.  At the Unconference on Friday night, she made the excellent point that Twitter is now the de facto place to connect and share online.  It’s not email list-servs or blogs or Facebook.  It’s Twitter.  So you have to be on there to be part of the conversation.  Realizing that I was missing out on important happenings in the school library world convinced me that I had to up my game on Twitter and start paying attention.

My favorite hashtags right now:

  • #TLchat – Teacher-librarians and related discussions
  • #TLelem – Elementary teacher-librarians and related discussions
  • #TLhack – Joyce Valenza started this with her blog post last month
  • #PSLAchat – PA School Librarian Association’s newly created hashtag to discuss PA school libraries
  • #MakerEd – Makerspaces in education, and teachers who advocate for them
  • #LibMaker – Makerspace in libraries (any kind of library)

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

Bird image adapted from Pixabay.

TL Blogging Challenge #12 – Changes and Reflections June 8, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, How to Be Brave, Makerspace!, Reflections, Tablets & Apps.
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TL Blogging Challenge #12 – What is one thing you have changed in your library to meet your patrons needs?  What spurred this change? What would you do different?

This school year has felt tumultuous with the number of changes I’ve made in our library.  Was it really only 10 months ago?  I’ve tried to keep the changes focused on improving services and instruction to students, and the end of the year is an excellent time to look back, celebrate successes, and think about what changes to make for next year.

Change #1: The 5-Book Checkout

This was by far the biggest change for the day-to-day running of the library.  I wanted our students to get more access to books.  So instead of limiting them to 2 books at a BookStacktime (with notable extra books for reports, projects, and book clubs anyway), I raised the limit to 5 items total.  What a hit!  Don’t get me wrong, the shelving was and is craziness.  If we didn’t have a fantastic and reliable volunteer twice a week, we would have drowned…but the students were reading voraciously!  Isn’t that the purpose of the library (or one of them at least?)  I think it’s time that raising the book-checkout limit becomes common and best practice for elementary librarians, especially for K-2 elementary students.

Change #2: Ditching the Dewey Decimals

Another time-consuming change, I’m glad I did it.  As a library department, none of us wanted to go METIS.  But in most modern math programs, students are only introduced to decimals in 3rd grade or higher.  So I started thinking about making Dewey easier to use and browse for younger students.  With that purpose in mind, I set out to eliminate the decimals in the Dewey decimal system.

In October, I re-uploaded the edited MARC records and started the long, tedious process of changing the spine labels on every nonfiction book. Over 35% of our entire collection.  Again, volunteers were vital to project completion.  Even with help, though, we only finished a week ago.

This whole process has made me think critically and reflect on how librarians catalog and organize information, and how my students seek information.  My conclusion is that we should be buying MARC records from practicing elementary librarians, not catalogers with little or no interaction with children.  And someone time and business sense should start a business to allows elementary librarians to earn some extra money on the side creating those MARC records.

That thought process and reflection also led to changing the pets books to 599 (or 598 for pet birds), and spot-changing about 50 books as we changed the spine labels.  And it led to…

Change #3: Pictorial Nonfiction Signagenonfiction sections

Along with the “ditching decimals” change, I needed some major signage updates.  I knew I’d need some for the 796 and 590’s sections, especially with the 599’s.  Without decimals, rodents, marsupials, dolphins, and wild cats are all intermixed.  So I made some VERY simplified categories within the 599.  I realize some may see this as “re-doing” the decimals anyway, but it makes that organization invisible to students.  I created signage attached to magazine file boxes.  I had inherited a multitude of them from the previous librarian, so I didn’t think I’d need to order anything.  It turns out that once I got started, I wanted MORE picture signage.  I loved how it looked up-to-date and made it easier to browse.  Teachers noticed first, but I found it was also easier to direct students to the correct section when the call number didn’t always “match” the online catalog.  Now that the online catalog matches the spine labels, only time will tell if this change leads to more nonfiction interest and circulation.

Change #4: Android Tablets for Library Instruction

nexus7At the beginning of the school year, I purchased Android tablets for in-library use, specifically three Nexus 10 tablets and nine Nexus 7 tabletsBest. Decision. EVER!  The tablets made using the online catalog so easy and accessible to students, not to mention let students quickly access the Internet and excellent apps for research, inquiry, and learning in general.

Change #5: Centers for Grades 3-5

Library management aside, I took a pedagogical leap to try “library centers” as an instructional model.  Truthfully, I thought this would work better than it did.  From what I’ve read of Cari Young’s ground-breaking work, she intended the centers to be used when a librarian works alone.  With no assistant and potentially few or no volunteers, the centers model keeps your sanity.  And no one is probably looking too closely at how academic your center content is.

For me, however, who is blessed enough to have a part-time library tech assistant, I believe I should expect more of myself and my teaching.  A puzzle center or Word Jenga or math blocks or listening center just isn’t going to cut it.  My district administrators wants some sort of proof (or “data”) that I’m teach information literacy more explicitly.  I’m expected to do more “rigorous” content.  So I ended up making many of my own centers.  That was fine, and led to some really great ideas. 

One positive effect of centers was the ability to give students choice in HOW they learn and practice information literacy skills.  Using self-inking stamps, I tracked students center attendance in booklets that they took with them as they traveled to different library centers week after week.  For instance, students could practice research by looking up the answer to a Question of the Week, or observing and researching ladybugs in an enclosed terrarium.  Next year, I want to expand those choices, while building in more structure for students that need extra guidance and scaffolding.  At the same time, I don’t want to hold back the students who are independent learners.

Change #6: littleBits™ for a Library Makerspace

After buying a Classroom Set of littleBits™, I set up a mini-makerspace as one of my library centers.  Though we don’t use the raw materials like Arduino boards and LED librarycenterlights favored by middle school and high school makerspaces, the littleBits™ do allow me to introduce engineering concepts with creativity and student choice.  I found that project storage and 30-40 minute class times were HUGE concerns and challenges for starters.
Also, while I’m certified to teach K-6 elementary subjects, I have no desire to become a science or computer science teacher.  I’m hesitant to expand the makerspace for fear of being asked to take on responsibilities that should fall to a certified computer science teacher.  So while I love the makerspace concept for libraries, I think we should be careful as professionals not to take on extra teaching duties.  Heaven knows, we already have enough to do keeping a 21st century library up and running and teaching information literacy.  Circulating “kits” of makerspace materials might be a more feasible solution for busy elementary librarians.

So overall, it’s been a wild year.  I’ve learned SO MUCH, I have some great ideas for next year, and the above list is just part of it.  There’s also this earlier post of ideas and to-do’s.  For my esteemed colleagues who are limping towards the last day of school, go read Vicki Davis’s blog post and stay strong!

 

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

Images from Pixabay, Google Play Store, and Mrs. J in the Library

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