Saturday, 28 May 2016

Awesome ideas from #EducampTheTron

Today I joined a bunch of teachers at EducampTheTron.  If you're not familiar with educamps, you can find more info here.

I've been working my way through some of the slides from the SmackDown, (a SmackDown involves people sharing ideas and tools with each other in a short amount of time).  First up, I had a play with a couple of resources Dave Winter suggested.  There was Story Builder, a tool I've played with before but now I have a creative writing group, the Ninja Unicorns in Uniforms, and I think they would have a blast with it.  Here's my quick test.  

I also had a look at Background Burner, which is an online tool that removes backgrounds from images in seconds.  I used a photo without a cluttered background for my test:

Then I transported my Book Fridge to Egypt, using their stock photos.

I'm not sure what I might need this for at the moment, but it will probably percolate in my brain and I'll wake up at 2am with a crazy idea!

There was a slide about Creative Commons which had several sites I knew about and one I didn't -  Images are filtered so they are appropriate for school, and when they are downloaded they automatically cite the author and image license terms - awesome!

Moving on, I had a look at Breakout EDU.  Thanks to Kim Tautari-Scott I actually got a chance to play this game today.  It was another idea I'd seen on Twitter, but I couldn't get my head around it until I saw it in action.  I can't say I was very good at it; I imagine I'd be better second time up having got the general gist of it.  It doesn't fit into what I'm doing at the moment so I'll put it aside for now.

Over to a slide about Blendspace.  It is an interesting curation tool that lets you add in images, documents, Youtube clips and quizzes.  It looks great but I have no need for this one yet either.

Alex Le Long provided some great links to genius hour resources - Youtube playlists and a Google Drive folder from the GAFE summit.  I will share these with our Year 5 & 6 teachers as I am sure they will be interested in these.  I also noticed her Slam Poetry playlist and then searched for some done by primary school kids.  

Here is the back story to this - yesterday, Ryan, one of our teachers, came into the library and asked what I thought about students doing slam poetry in our Reading Wonderland.  I said 'awesome, as long as you do it!'.  I had thought about having the students put on short plays in there, because the tiered seating makes it perfect for performances.  But it would have taken a lot of organisation.  So, I'm thrilled that Ryan's going to get that going and now I can suggest some great YouTube clips.  Perhaps my writing group will be interested in trying out writing slam poetry.  Actually, I've just gone back into Blendspace and downloaded a couple of lessons on slam poetry shared by teachers on there.  Some of it is on performance, which I can share with Ryan, and the rest is about how to write them.  Ooh, lots of great things for the Ninja Unicorns in Uniforms on Tuesday!

And...this is how you lose hours online!  It's way past my bedtime and my laptop's battery is dying, which is a sign I should wrap this up.  If you get a chance to attend an educamp I would highly recommend them.  They are free and full of really interesting people and can lead you on new adventures!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Introducing our Reading Wonderland

Last week we opened our new library space and our students got VERY excited!  Here's proof:

A neat feature is the little creatures, hidden doors and adorable bugs that can be found in the room if you look hard enough.  Spotting these was the reason for a lot of the extra noise!  Here's a few of them...


For a long time I lamented over the lack of space in our library.  Considering we have 750-800+ students, our 89m2 library was often jam packed.  "It's like a club" was a teacher's comment after venturing in one lunchtime.  

In January 2014, I made a proposal to the Board of Trustees to enclose the library courtyard area.  I was given the go ahead to get some quotes but my happiness was short-lived as incorrect concrete had been laid and therefore walls could not be erected on it.  The cost of digging up the old concrete and then laying new concrete made the project unaffordable.

For some reason this area wasn't very popular!

I considered taking over a bit of our adjoining resource room, but a giant air conditioning unit would have to have been moved.  In the end I looked at enclosing the courtyard with an outdoor screen, much like cafes often have, in order to weatherproof it and be able to lay carpet.  This revised proposal was accepted late last year and all systems were go!

Esther, our library assistant, suggested I put tiered seating in the room and then she found an apprentice builder who could do it for us.  I love the different dynamic this creates in the space.

My vision for the area was to have a theme so that students feel they are in a special spot, quite different from the rest of the library.  I ended up asking our very creative teacher aide, Jenna, to make a meadow/forest mural that went around every wall in the space.  Considering the walls are made of corrugated iron, glass, and wooden slats, I asked Jenna to go with quirky and whimsical art that incorporated the different surfaces, and then I showed her some art I liked that I'd saved in Pinterest.  I also asked for a blue sky ceiling where students could see different shapes in the clouds.  Because I like to be difficult!  And then I left Jenna to it because I knew that what she came up with would be way cooler than I could imagine.  And it was!

Naming the Room

I wanted the room to have its own identity so it needed to have its own name.  We held a competition last week to see what the students could come up with.  We had 379 entries; here are some of the key words that kept appearing: forest, garden, reading, nature, magic, enchanted, paradise, mystery, secret, fantasy, dreamland, wonderland, kingdom, peaceful, beautiful.  Aren't they lovely words to have associated with the library?  The winning entry was 'Reading Wonderland'.

The Opening Ceremony

My enthusiastic library advisory group, the Mighty Magical Moustache Girls, helped organise an official opening ceremony, which took place during morning tea on Tuesday.  I invited the staff involved with transforming the courtyard, our senior management and our Board of Trustees (although unfortunately, apart from our principal and DP, none of the Board could make it).  We also had some reporters from the Te Totara Times and we invited our book club, the Ferocious Bookworms, because the Moustache Girls felt we needed more of an audience!

We had a shared morning tea of the very sugary variety and then I thanked the Board of Trustees for their support and some of the Mighty Magical Moustache Girls thanked key staff and talked about our future plans for the room.  I announced the winner of the naming competition and then she cut the ribbon and declared the Reading Wonderland open.  Esther and I had blown up lots of balloons and put them in the room so everyone had a bit of fun with those.  It was short and sweet, which is how I like my ceremonies!  Here is the report from the Te Totara Times (also short and sweet!).

Communicating with the Community

Throughout the creation of the mural I posted photos to our library Facebook page.  These had positive responses, with many of our community knowing our artist Jenna, as she is also a parent of children in the school, and a teacher aide here.

I also shot the video of the children's reactions to the Reading Wonderland and shared this with our community on our school website and our school and library Facebook pages.  I don't think photographs would have done justice to the noise levels and extreme levels of excitement!

I invited parents to come in and view the Reading Wonderland and we saw some new faces, which was great. 

Plans for the Reading Wonderland

I am looking forward to the Reading Wonderland being a place where our classes are read to, where students can read with each other, and where we can also run some special activities.  At present it hosts the Mighty Magical Moustache Girls, the Ferocious Bookworms and the Ninja Unicorns in Uniforms (our creative writing group).  I have plans for a crochet group and we also want to do occasional craft activities and have reader's theatre sessions.  

I'm so happy to have such a great room.  It was definitely worth the time and effort involved with making it happen.  One of our Year 2 teachers told me that a reluctant reader in her class asked if the room would be open again at lunchtime.  Music to my ears!