Tag Archives: teaching

Free On-Line Video Learning at the Khan Academy

The Khan Academy has over 3000 videos on K-12 math, science and a few on the humanities. There are also practice exercises as well as activity tracking and other teacher resources.

How it works for students

Students can make use of our extensive video library, practice exercises, and assessments from any computer with access to the web.

  1. Complete custom self-paced learning tool
  2. A dynamic system for getting help
  3. A custom profile, points, and badges to measure progress

Coaches, parents, and teachers

Coaches, parents, and teachers have unprecedented visibility into what their students are learning and doing on the Khan Academy.

  1. Ability to see any student in detail
  2. A real-time class report for all students
  3. Better intelligence for doing targeted interventions

This resource is new to me. If you have any experience with it, please share.

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A School Library Transformed – Part 2: Why Would I Do Such a Thing?

Yesterday I told you about my ‘new’ library, which is arranged on a modified bookstore model. In this segment I will describe the circumstances that led up to my breaking with tradition and redesigning my library from a functioning repository for books to what is quickly becoming a vibrant learning commons.

Nudge #1: Unsuccessful Browsing

See anything you like?

My initial motivation was prompted by a combination of many factors. As the sole person in the library, I deal with the everyday challenges of such a position, the most frustrating of which is the knowledge that a student has gone away unsatisfied. I can’t always help each student in a class, either because there are too many students in line ahead of them, or because they didn’t try to ask.

Students don’t always know what they want. Often they have a vague interest in mind: possibly a book they’ve read previously and enjoyed, or a hobby they would like to know more about. I could see them in the stacks wandering up and down, or fooling around with each other because, despite my attempts to leave a book face-out on the crowded shelf-ends, nothing was catching their eye. Busy helping other students navigate the online catalog, locate books or check them out, I was often unable to spend the time chatting with these wanderers to help them find something that interested them. I started to realize that my library was just not very user-friendly.

 Nudge #2: No More Library Skills Instruction

Adding to the problem was the growing lack of understanding about common library arrangements. Nowhere in our curriculum does it specifically state that children must learn the skills required to access material in a traditional library. For several years after I first took over from the last teacher-librarian in our district, I tried to carry on her (increasingly infrequent, because of changing assignments) attempts to instill this knowledge in our students. I failed. I am not a teacher and was not able to provide adequate activities to instill any real understanding of the Dewey Decimal System in the elementary classes, which still visit on a weekly basis. The students understand that books are arranged, but never really understood how. It didn’t help that I often could not answer questions like, “Why are knights and castles in different aisles?” to their satisfaction.

 Nudge #3: Repetitive Labour

Then there was the repeated assembling of books pulled from various parts of the library for annually required book displays and curriculum support materials. I began to threaten (myself) that I was going to just keep these themes permanently assembled on shelves of their own so I didn’t have to continually feel like I was living the year-long version of Groundhog Day. I was always looking for ways to promote books that were unjustifiably underused because they were hidden within others that were basically unrelated just because Dewey (and his successors) put them there. If you only have a couple of books about money for elementary students, they can be completely lost within high school level books on politics and government.

 Nudge #4: Changing Needs

The last factor had to do with the changing of the times that all libraries have had to adjust to. I could no longer consider most of my collection relevant. With much more current and varied resources online, it was a waste of money and time to attempt to support much of the curriculum from Grades 6 and up with print materials.  If I was going to keep the library relevant, I needed to build a collection that appealed to an increasingly visual, highly trend conscious student population, and arrange it appealingly.

 The Stars Begin to Align

A general frustration was setting in. I had spent twelve years sneakily re-classifying books so they would suddenly appear in popular sections where I knew they would go out;  giving up on the always faint hope that before I retired, a professional librarian would be hired whom I could assist rather than trying to figure it all out for myself. Suddenly, I realized that I knew my students and I knew my library. The two were drifting further and further apart and I was the only one would could or would do anything about it before it became completely obsolete.

The old library looking very dated

There were four other elements that came together around this time that prompted me to begin to completely re-think the whole set up of my library. First, our Parent Action Committee completed their fundraising project for new library shelving. I had been looking forward to this new shelving and until now had assumed I would simply replace the rickety nonfiction ranges in their existing configuration.

Secondly, I had been following the progress of Alberta Education’s School Library Services Initiative that was looking at school libraries in the province for the first time since 1985. Their findings had been postponed several times, but what I came to understand was that whatever the final report was going to say, the shift was not going to be towards reinstating teacher-librarians as I had hoped. A new buzzword was going to be an important part of it. School libraries or Media Centres were going to be asked to transform into something called the Learning Commons.

I felt that my library could do more to support Alberta Education’s inquiry method of learning embedded in the curriculum in 2004 and described in the Focus on Inquiry document. This method encourages an “integrated, cross-disciplinary approach” to learning and “capitalizes on student curiosity”. The document also prescribes students taking ownership of their learning and describes how learning should involve the unexpected. A reorganization of the library along broad themes and a move toward the learning commons model seemed to be a step in the right direction.

As I was trying to wrap myself around what this new breed of library would look like, I ran across some articles on the Internet about some radical public libraries that were doing away with Dewey and adopting the bookstore model to increase patron satisfaction. And it seemed that it was working.

Jumping in With Both Feet

I tried, but couldn’t find any school libraries that had gone this way or at least any that had described the project. I was beginning to warm to what I understood about the Learning Commons concept and felt that the book store model could help this kind of atmosphere evolve. By nature, I am a (sometimes regrettably) impulsive person and as all this came together I made the decision. If my principal would continue my pay over the summer and allow me to hire an assistant I would transform my library to be one that students would want to be in and once there would find all kinds of inspiration, challenge and motivation to read and discover.

I tried to stop myself. Did I really want to give up my summer? And truly, what right did I have to mess with a time-honoured system when I’m not really qualified? Never mind, (I told myself), I still have more than ten years to retirement  – ample time to clean up any mess I create.

Enthusiastic Support Where it Mattered

Photo by Agnieszka Bernacka

I was lucky.  My principal went for it whole-heartedly. He is a modern thinker and loved the idea that his school would model a whole new concept in libraries. I regretted the use of the word bookstore, however, since his first thought was of a cappuccino machine…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I approached my administration team and the staff, I had to have a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it. I’ll cover those many initial considerations in Part 3 tomorrow. I welcome your thoughts and experience to the comments section below so that the dialogue can be relevant to anyone thinking about changing arrangements in their school library.

Part 3: What do I need to do and know before I pop the question?

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Filed under Library Management, Rethinking My Library

A Great List of December Holiday Links for Last Minute Time Fillers

Thanks to the Edublog Awards, I just discovered The Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet, where I found the following lists within a larger collection of “Resources for all the holidays celebrated from September to June”. Great stuff here!

CHANUKAH (December)
AtoZ Teacher Stuff– coloring pages and crafts; sorted by grade level
Awesome Library– recipes, worksheets, activities
Billy Bear 4 Kids
– crafts and games
Class Brain
– coloring pages
Internet 4 Classrooms
– games, songs, stories
Kids’ Domain
– coloring pages
Teachers First
– traditions, learn about the menorah, games
Teacher Planet
– lessons and worksheets
Teachnology
-worksheets, songs, writing paper, workbooks
Yahoo! Kids
– cards, recipes, history, stories, poems, games

CHRISTMAS (December)
A to Z Teacher Stuff– sort resources by age level
Christmas Around the World
– long list of countries
Christmas Lessons and Teacher Resources
– from the Lesson Plans Page
Christmas Teacher Resources
– from TeacherVision
K-12 Teacher Resources
– nice listing includes lesson plans, worksheets, interactive online activities
Online Christmas Games

Puzzles and Word Searches

Super Teacher Worksheets
– includes puzzles and Christmas math worksheets
Teacher’s Guide to Christmas Holidays
– from TeAchnology
Teacher Planet
-lessons, worksheets, clip art
The Teacher’s Corner
-how Christmas is celebrated around the world

KWANZAA (December)
Apples 4 the Teacher– coloring pages
A toZ Teacher Stuff

Class Brain
-coloring pages
DLTK Kids
-coloring pages (posters)
Internet 4 Classrooms

Kids’ Domain
– coloring pages
Teachers First
– planning materials, fun, games
Teacher Planet
– lessons, worksheets

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Christmas Resources and More – Recommended Site For Educators

One of the things I do a lot of is to forward on to teachers via email internet sites that I think might be useful to them. I found this one recently through though the LM_Net listserve and will pass it on to teachers.

Vicki Blackwell’s Internet Guide for Educators has a plethora of resources for teachers to use in the classroom. It is updated seasonally with games, lessons and activities appropriate to the season. At the moment there is a fabulous clearing house of links under the “Christmas Around the World”, “Gingerbread”, “Christmas” and “December Days” images on the front page.

The purpose of this website is to provide a resource for the teachers of Tangipahoa Parish School System and teachers all around the world, as they continue to incorporate the use of technology into the curriculum. You will find my favorite links in the”Blackwell’s Best” section. “The Classroom” has links to staff development materials and technology integration activities as well as tutorials for some of my favorite software. The “Tech Tips” page includes hints to help you become a more efficient technology-using educator, and the “TangiTech” section is devoted to our professional development programs for integration of technology into the curriculum.

There are many wonderful resources and activities here for all year ’round. Some that I will be referring to myself or  passing on to my teachers are: 100th Day of School, Children’s Literature and Authors, Just for Kids, and a great collection of Printables.

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