Gimme a C (For Collaboration!): Coding, Collaboration & Community

Earlier this year, the Westerville Public Library was awarded a LSTA Summer Library Program Grant through the State Library of Ohio that allowed us to purchase robots (Kibo, Dash & Dot, and Sphero SPRK+) to extend our already popular in-house technology programs. But we also wanted to reach children who might never make it to the public library. During June and July of 2017, we collaborated with the Westerville City Schools Summer Intervention program to visit 3rd and 4th graders–many of whom had never been to a public library– to introduce students to basic coding with our new robot partners.

Experience

The intrinsic appeal of learning with robots instantly captured students’ attention. We met one of the main goals–increasing interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math)–right away, as most students had no prior hands-on experiences with robotics. We emphasized basic coding concepts and the engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, test and improve, then share results. We encouraged children to practice problem solving skills, discussing what worked and what didn’t, and making changes if time allowed.

We introduced the concept of coding by having students program adults to complete a familiar task: making a jelly sandwich. This classic demonstration of following step-by-step instructions was very effective, if occasionally a bit messy. The activity also reinforced the idea that the children are in control. They are the programmers; capable and smarter than the robot, which can only do what they instruct it to do — no more, no less.

Tips 

Allow time for free play. Robots are exciting! It’s natural for kids to want to play, so allow time for non-directed experimentation.

Social exchange — learning to take turns, ask questions, and try another person’s ideas —  IS learning.

Repeat sessions with the same group allows for deeper learning. We had to balance repetition with keeping classes small  to allow for hands-on experience. Repeat classes allow you to go beyond the initial playful period to more directed tasks and deeper understanding.

Expect the unexpected. Be prepared by experimenting ahead of time, but accept that children will try different things . . . and this is okay. You don’t have to know all the answers! Ask how they got to this point, and have them ask each other for ideas. It’s all part of the learning process.

End each class with a summary. Save time to gather together and share their thoughts if at all possible. Some children didn’t think they were learning because they were having fun! All were eager to demonstrate something they had programmed on the robot.

What if you don’t have robots? We began our coding instruction using the free resources on the Hour of Code website. Many “unplugged” activities can also be used to teach basic coding concepts. Our variant of Simon Says– “The Programmer Says”–was so popular it was requested by children in subsequent programs. Don’t be afraid to dive into coding!

Robin L. Gibson is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation and Assistant Coordinator of Youth Services at the Fairfield County District Library in Lancaster, Ohio.

Photo Credit: Robin L. Gibson

Teen Read Week @ Buckfield Junior Senior High School

A recovering “core subject is best and what matters most” English Teacher, I am relatively new to the library scene.  After being chosen for this grant, I began to consider how it really is not just me or the library or even the school that received this award, but each individual student that attends this school.  I have the privilege of teaching Library Skills and Digital Citizenship to all of the 7th and 8th grade students.  Like many High School Librarians, I have no assigned teaching time with the students.  I see them when they come from Freshman English to check out outside readings for class, and sporadically from Science and History classes when students have research projects to complete.   So how was I to get information to achieve my goals and complete the programs I developed for Teen Read Week?  I would accomplish this through our school’s Advisory Program.

To prepare for Teen Read Week all students in their advisories have completed a twenty-six question Interest Inventory.  For the purposes of Teen Read Week and the programming that will occur, eight of the questions will be scrutinized and data is being gathered. 

The following is the letter I attached to the surveys:

Advisors:

 

Please have your advisees fill out the Interest Inventory that I have included here.

 

This survey is part of an effort to increase student involvement in LMC (Library Media Center) acquisitions.  As a result of this survey and related Teen Read Week library programming that will occur October 8-14, our LMC will be able to purchase books that student groups have selected in the amount of about $900.  Please let students know that their participation makes this donation of money for book purchases possible. 

 

Surveys need to be completed and returned to me by Friday, September 8, 2017.  If any students are absent please have them complete the survey on Monday, September 11, 2017.

 

Please also ask students interested in becoming part of a Teen Reader’s Advisory Group to see me for more information.

 

Thank you to all of the faculty and students.  I look forward to working with you throughout the year!

Mrs. Reinstein, Librarian

 

With special thanks to: Dollar General and YALSA

  

I was very pleased that students were excited to know that their participation in the survey meant that we could have some new books in our library and not only would there be new books, but books that were based on their interests and suggestions.

I am looking forward to aggregating the data to continue my implementation of programming and sharing how it goes. 

 

Maria Reinstein is the Library Media Specialist at Buckfield Junior Senior High School, in Buckfield, Maine. Maria has shared her love of literature, rhetoric, drama, and writing through teaching and co-curricular activities since 1995.  She began teaching as a University Faculty member at the Komi State Pedagogical Institute in Syktyvkar, Russia before returning home to Maine and before becoming a full time High School English Teacher.  She has developed two Advanced Placement English courses, is a state certified mentor for new teachers, has completed a national program in Trails to Every Classroom, and has recently finished her second master’s degree, this time in Library and Information Science.

Maria’s interests beyond the classroom include writing, playing music, gardening, cooking, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, and nordic and alpine skiing. Maria lives with her husband, their three children, and their two dogs in Turner, Maine.

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Integrating School & Public Library Systems in Nashville, Tennessee

As a new school year begins in Tennessee, Nashville Public Library (NPL) and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) are entering the next phase of our partnership. The Limitless Libraries program has long acted as a bridge between the two organizations, offering MNPS educators and students in grades 3-12 access to NPL’s materials. NPL and MNPS migrated to a shared ILS in July 2017, creating a technical bridge to further support this relationship. Doing so created cost savings for the city and public library access for all MNPS students, including those in grades PreK-2.  This ILS merger has been in process for over a year, and it has been exciting to see the culmination of so much time and thought.

Since no existing ILS was functional for both school and public libraries, teams at NPL and MNPS worked with TLC’s Carl-X team to create a custom solution for Nashville. We determined that we could align on many parameters, including the check-out period for educators, and log-ins for students and educators. Other parameters needed to be set up differently for MNPS and NPL locations. The loan rules for student accounts provided a particular challenge, with school and public librarians accustomed to circulating different types of materials for different periods of time. We’re fortunate that we already had strong relationships with our MNPS colleagues in place, so that we could work through issues as honestly and efficiently as possible.

We worked out some solutions readily, but others required quite a bit of brainstorming and further ILS development to resolve.  Student-friendly self-checkout, for example, was not available in Carl-X or their web client, Carl Connect. TLC worked with school librarians to create a new web-based self-checkout option, specifically with schools in mind, to be rolled out in the near future.

Merging systems has been a huge undertaking. Surprises and challenges will continue to arise over the course of the school year, and MNPS, NPL, and TLC teams will continue to work together to meet them.  MNPS and NPL now understand the ways that Nashville’s school and public libraries differ and align on a very granular level. In this way, tackling such a complicated project has made out partnership much more meaningful and effective.  We’ve also been able to provide our patrons with an unprecedented level of access to library materials, which certainly makes all of the work worthwhile.

Allison Barney is the coordinator of Nashville’s Limitless Libraries program, a partnership between Nashville Public Library and Metro Nashville Public Schools.  She currently chairs the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Photo Credit: Nashville Public Library

YALSA/Dollar General Grant Provides for Unforgettable “Meet the Author Night,” With Jennifer Latham!

It all started with a grant received by McKinley Elementary, a Title 1, Tulsa Public School, in Oklahoma. The idea was to pull our neighborhood young adults and recent McKinley Elementary graduates in and keep them reading throughout the summer, thus preventing the “summer slide!”

The unfortunate reality of the situation, in retrospect, was that we really had no way to reach these kids. We had a marquee, which advertised the school’s “Summer Cafe,” support and our volunteer based summer camps for our school’s youngest students and we had a telephone. We enthusiastically approached the all call, reaching out to our 5th and 6th graders, but the result was negligible, at best. In addition,if the young adults wanted breakfast, I’m certain they slept right through it and likely lunch as well.

The positive to all of this was that Jennifer Latham, a local Tulsa writer, but not a lifelong Tulsan, had a recently released young adult out, entitled “Dreamland Burning.” The book was a fictionalized account of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots. The young adult novel, published by Little Brown was not only engrossing, but it was assigned to the 9th graders at Tulsa Public School’s leading high school, Booker T. Washington, which was actually in the novel.

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Summer Outreach & Building Library Collaborations

At Penn State, we have a summer program for students starting school as first-years in the fall. This program is known on campus as LEAP, Learning Edge Academic Program. Students move to campus, are paired up with a mentor, and take two classes. Generally, one of the classes will be a general education requirement class and the other will be an entry level major class.

The library has been involved with this program, mainly coordinating instruction sections and getting students introduced to their subject librarians. This summer, with a new coordinator in charge of the program, we decided to test out some new outreach ideas. Our hope was to increase the library’s exposure and encourage these soon-to-be first-year students to take advantage of our services before everyone came back for the fall.

Our first outreach item was to create an escape room experience as an orientation to the library. My colleague was inspired by a session she attended at LOEX 2017 where a library talked about how they had created one of their own. While we cannot lock students in a room, we can lock a box they have to unlock. This project took some work to create; we experienced our own escape room in State College, to get a better understanding of how this game works, we read books from others who had set up their own low tech escape room experience, and we created goals for the experience (students will find a book in the stacks using our library catalog, use one database, explore one of our LibGuides, and become more familiar with navigating the physical space of our building). With those goals we mind, we then had to write a story that would frame the adventure.

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Field Trip for Literacy! Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to YALSA and The General Dollar Literacy Foundation English, fifty students were able to increase their ability to read, develop an interest in books, and become more comfortable using school library services. As a high school librarian and the recipient of a Summer Learning Resources Grant, I created a summer program that would provide funds for students to select books THEY WANTED to read as part of a field trip experience to the local bookstore.  Looking online or through catalogs to select a book does not get the student as involved as actually seeing, touching, smelling and perusing thousands of books—that is a much more engaging experience for developing booklovers! Also, witnessing other bibliophiles outside the school in the real world provides students with a new and refreshing perspective on reading, the love of books, information and the freedom to choose. 

Our school is fortunate to have a store within walking distance of our school, and the field trip took place on a beautiful, sunny day which only increased the pleasure and privilege of the experience for the students. Participants are English Language Learners (ELL) who come from families facing language and socio-economic challenges. Many do not have the resources or family support to purchase books for reading other than what is provided by the school. As grant facilitator, I was able to build relationships with the students, and draw them into the library, building their confidence in not only reading, but utilizing the library space and resources as a beneficial support system for future academic success.  Collaboration with ELL teachers provided additional supervision, support and enthusiasm for the project, as well as encouraged future use of library services for their students. Since the students reviewed and donated their book back to the library, it increased the library collection with high-interest student selected books. Additionally, the grant provided funds to purchase culturally relevant lit circle books for reading and discussion that the students look forward to reading next.  Here is a simplified project itinerary: Continue reading

Apply Now for the Libraries Ready to Code Grant!

Libraries Ready to Code

The application for Phase III of the Libraries Ready to Code Grant is open now through August 31, 2017.

The grant program, sponsored generously by Google, will fund a cohort of school and public libraries to design computational thinking and computer science programs for and with youth, including underrepresented youth. A total of 25-50 grants up to $25,000 each are available.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Public or school library (you do not need to be an ALA member to apply, but members will be given preference during the review process)
  • Library must be located in the United States or U.S. Territories
  • Program must be focused on computational thinking or computer science
  • Program must be completely free of cost to youth and their families, including deposits
  • Program must serve youth (anywhere on the Pre-K to grade 12 spectrum)
  • Must have prior approval from your library administration to implement the program (if grant funds are provided). Verification may be required upon request

Please note, you must meet all of the above eligibility requirements in order to apply for the grant. If you do not, your application will be disqualified.

A virtual information session about the grant program and application process will be held on Aug. 1 at 2:30pm EST. Reserve your seat here.  The recording of the session will be made available to those who can’t attend it live.  Additionally, before submitting an application, we encourage you to read the Request for Proposal and use it as a guide to filling out the application).  In addition, an FAQ, and list of resources including sample programs are on the Libraries Ready to Code site to inform your work as you prepare your grant application. Questions? Contact us.

Apply now through August 31, 2017.

Grant Funding for Computer Science & Computational Thinking Programs

ALA has announced a competitive grant program, sponsored by Google, that will fund a cohort of 25-50 school and public libraries to design computational thinking and computer science programs for and with youth, including underrepresented youth.  The grant application will open in late July.  If you’d like to get notification when the application is open, sign up via this online form.  The $500,000 program is part of Phase III of Libraries Ready to Code, an ongoing collaboration between ALA and Google to ensure library staff are prepared to develop and deliver programming that promotes computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) among youth, two skills that will be required for challenges and jobs of the future. YALSA is partnering with ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, AASL, and ALSC to implement this program.  Learn more.

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Transforming Teen Services: Making in the Library While Learning to Fail

Makerspaces, making, and the maker movement have become frequent conversation topics among librarians. We’ve encouraged making in the library through programming focused on writing, drawing, designing, building, coding, and more. As informal learning and gathering spaces, libraries are by nature situated to invite collaboration and discovery. In many cases, making has been associated with makerspaces — independent spaces that provide tools, materials, and support to youth and adults with an interest in creating (Educause, 2013). Sometimes makerspaces are flexible, subscription-based environments, sometimes they are hosts to structured programs and classes with an attached fee. Some have a technology prominence with 3D printers and laser cutters, while others lend an artistic attention  by supplying sewing machines and design software (Moorefield-Lang, 2015). No two makerspaces are the same, just as no two makers are the same.

Source: http://www.clubcyberia.org/

I first became interested in library makerspaces while touring Chicago Public Library’s not yet open to the public Maker Lab and its already thriving YOU Media during ALA Annual 2013. I love the playful atmosphere of learning and opportunity for exploration that these spaces offer teens. Then I dug into some publications. There is a significant amount of research about how youth learn as a result of participation in making and makerspaces (Sheridan et al., 2014; Slatter & Howard, 2013). Likewise, there is a wealth of blog posts, magazine articles, social media blurbs, TED talks, etc. on makerspaces, STEM learning programs, and the maker mindset (Fallows, 2016; Teusch, 2013). It can be difficult to separate the hype from the substance, but there’s still much to explore, discuss, and figure out.

There are many positive aspects of youth involvement with making such as fostering inventiveness, introducing STEAM learning outside of the classroom, and promoting learning as play. But in this post, I will focus on (what I think are) two major benefits of youth making in libraries that may not be quite as obvious: cultivating a capacity to create and learning to fail.

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YALS Spring 2017 Resources – Creating a Unique Brand for Your School Library

In the Spring 2017 issue of YALS, (digital edition available now to members & subscribers via the Members Only section of the YALSA website) Kelsey Barker’s article on creating a unique brand for your school library explains why a brand is an important part of advocacy. Her article includes references and resources that shouldn’t be missed. The full list of those resources follows:

“What Is Advocacy?” American Association of School Librarians. December 15, 2015. Accessed February 04, 2017. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/definitions.

Young Adult Library Services Association,. 2017. YALSA Advocacy Toolkit 2017. PDF. Young Adult Library Services. http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/2017%20Advocacy%20Toolkit.pdf.