Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Continued Tumble Through Tumblr

Over the past couple of weeks, I, along with Lisa (@nobleknits2) and Diana (@MZMollyTL), have been undergoing an inquiry concerning Tumblr. In my first blog about this all I had done was browse through Tumblr to try to get some ideas about if and how Tumblr could be useful in ensuring student success. After browsing the site on our own, Lisa, Diana and I each blogged about our experience. This was a really great learning experience for me. I had been exploring Tumblr from a personal perspective and how it could help me, and reading both Lisa and Diana's blogs helped me to see it from other perspectives.

Reading Lisa's blog made me think about who was using Tumblr. In her words,  "it quickly became clear to me that the kids who really loved Tumblr were my visual kids – the ones who are always sketching or doing something creative with their photos – but also some of my storytellers."  What a great insight. I hadn't thought about which students would most benefit from Tumblr, but it is a key questions, and having thought about it, I started thinking of it as another tool that could engage students in the library.The interactivity of Tumblr is a great way to encourage communication in the library. So often, communication is a one way street, but for students to be engaged, they need to feel that their voices are actually being heard, and being able to respond to Tumblr posts is one way for students to let the library staff know what the students both want and need.

Diana's thoughtful blog about her process helped me to consider my process and how I learn best. I especially liked her comment about diving right in.
  • By being reluctant to dive in thoroughly and join Tumblr, I denied myself some ways of knowing it that just browsing cannot provide. I'd dismiss a gaming expert who had never played a video game before (and there are people out there like that) and the same principle applies to me - I should've tried it directly, even if it meant deleting my account after a week.

My next step is to dive right in. It's time to decide how to use Tumblr. I already have Pinterest, and Twitter and this blog, so what is the purpose of Tumblr? Why do I need it? How will it help my students? Where to go next?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Encouraging Each Other

A couple of weeks ago I was on Twitter when @MzMollyTL asked a question about Tumblr. I responded, as did @nobleknits2 and before I knew it, we were agreeing to a mini PLN to discover the world of Tumblr which was new to all of us. I am so glad that I had these wonderful ladies with me to keep me going. I must admit, there were times when I just wanted to say "I don't get it" and walk away. I really understand how the students feel.

Every time I felt like that, though, something would come across my feed from either Diana or Lisa and I would be inspired again. The term Tumblr sherpa is now a part of my vocabulary. When I first logged into Tumblr I was quickly overwhelmed, and it was not a feeling I was comfortable with. I wanted to give up and say that Tumblr was not for me. I knew that it was a popular platform with my students, but I couldn't seem to navigate it; I was completely lost. Tumblr itself offered suggestions of blogs I might want to follow, but none of them really seemed to be what I was looking for. I tried searching for topics like "education", but still, nothing really seemed to fit.

It was at about this point that I totally went down the rabbit hole and discovered that there was an entire blog dedicated to animals riding on capybaras. Who knew that there are over one hundred pictures of animals riding on capybaras. I knew at this point that I needed to focus on something very particular or else this learning process was doomed to failure.  I reached out to my friends on Facebook to ask them who used Tumblr and how they used it, and the responses were quite interesting. Most of my friends who used Tumblr were using it to keep up with television and movies - was Tumblr the new Twitter for entertainment news? While I found that interesting, I was still struggling to understand how it could be used in a library or educational setting.

As I continued browing, I did discover a couple of blogs relating to YA literature and hope was restored. Here was something that I could actually use.The visual appeal of Tumbr, and the short length of most posts, make it very attractive to teenage users, and this is an important discovery to keep up with. If I, as a librarian, want to attract teenage users, I have to understand what appeals to them, and the format of Tumblr, although it is difficult for me to understand, really seems to speak to them.

I began browsing Tumbr a little more and finding things here and there that were interesting. I was not at the point of jumping in and starting my own Tumblr. Then, Lisa jumped in again - this time from Goodreads when she asked if a book I had just finished would make a good Tumblr - and it hit me. Tumblr would be a great platform to review books for a high school library.

I still have a long way to go before I really understand Tumblr, but with the encouragement of both Diana and Lisa, I can finally see its potential. I am now looking forward to seeing how I can incorporate this new learning, and what I learned about HOW I learned, into my life as a librarian.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Another Year Down

As the year winds down, and I reflect on what the 2012-2013 school year brought me, I know that it was an exceptionally difficult year for me professionally, but that in turn led to a lot of growth. I am not going to get into the details of why it was so difficult because I would rather focus on what I can do to continue to grow as a librarian. There are always so many ways to grow and to learn professionally, and this June has most definitely been a time of reflection for me.

Given that nothing is changing in terms of staffing, or how things are working, or how much control over I have over things, I need to change how I manage things. In September, things were so bad that my doctor placed me on stress leave for three weeks. I know that letting things that I can't control affect me that strongly is not good for me in any way, shape, or form, and it is not good for those around me. If I am stressing myself out to that extreme, then my husband suffers and our relationship suffers. If I am that stressed, then I am not an effective teacher and my students suffer. If I am t hat stressed out then I suffer, and I am not helping myself at all.

This mean that I have to learn to control what I can control and let go of things that I can't control. One thing that I can control is how I continue to grow as a librarian, even when I am given fewer library periods in which to work and no say in how the library is actually run. I can control how I interact with other librarians, and how I continue to move forward in become a better school librarian.

I am going to take the summer to decide how to continue to grow as a librarian, what aspects to focus on, and how to help the students as best I can - even in my limited capacity.

Have a wonderful summer, everyone.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

And She's Back!

This has not been the easiest year for me, and as a result, I have sorely neglected my blog. I let other things get in the way, but I'm going to try again. My goal will be one blog post per week. I do apologize for not being around, but let's see if I can't turn it around.  Today's post is going to be dedicated to a topic I know almost nothing about - Manga.

First, what I do know about Manga. It is a Japanese style of drawing; there is Manga that is designed for male readers and Manga that is designed for female readers; even when translated to English, Manga is read from right to left.  Ok, that's about it. Oh, one other thing that I know about Manga - it is wildly popular with teenage readers.

My students can not get enough of Manga. It is impossible to keep up. There are so many series that we could spend our entire budget on Manga and still not keep up. Even our weak readers will read two or three Manga books in a day. I wish we had an unlimited budget, but we don't, which means that we need to make decisions about what will be bought. I wish that more Manga were being purchased this year, but, at least for now, it doesn't seem to be a priority. I hope that changes in the near future. The number of students who have started off by reading "Maximum Ride: The Manga" by James Patterson and have then wanted to read the novels, is quite large. I haven't got the statistics, but I know of quite a few students who read the Manga and then, because they have started to care for the characters, also want to read the novel. What a fabulous gateway into reading.

The problem I tend to run into with Manga is that there is still such a stigma against graphic novels. I know librarians who want to hide the manga, or avoid buying it, because it doesn't fit the idea they have of what students "should" be reading. I really hate the word should. Why not meet the students where they are? Students of all ages and all ability levels enjoy Manga, so it should be a valuable part of any school library's collection.

I admit, I struggle to read Manga. It is a type of literacy with which I am not fluent. I see this as an opportunity to let the students teach me something. I we, as librarians, demonstrate that we are still learning, and that we value the knowledge the students can bring us, we create bonds with the students. This means that the students will come to us to ask for suggestions because they will know that they can trust us.

My advice to librarians? Embrace Manga. Try reading it, ask students to tell you about it and stock it on your shelves.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Social Media Journey

My social media journey began with Facebook. Back in 2007, I finally accepted an invitation to join Facebook. I had no real idea of what it was, but  I thought I might as well check it out. I admit it, I like Facebook. I keep it for personal interactions, and to date, I haven't had any bad experiences with it. Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with old friends and to make new new friends from around the world.  For a long time, this was my only connection with social media.

In the last year or so though, I have become much more involved in social media and I have really started to see its use in my professional life as well as just for fun. My first step was to begin blogging. I had thought about blogging for awhile, but I could never think of anything to blog about. I just didn't think my life was that interesting :) I then thought that I could write about books, so I started to do that. It is a small blog, but I liked figuring out how to blog and learning that I did have something to say. I don't really expect many people to read my blogs; it is a way to get my thoughts out and to reflect on what is going on in my life - personally and professionally.  My next step was linked to my blog on books. I discovered that there are sites out there where people gather to talk about books! How amazing is that! I now expanded my social media life to include Goodreads. This was still all on a personal level; I had yet to realize the power of social media to help me in my professional life. That all changed when I discovered Twitter.

For the longest time I avoided Twitter because I don't really care what Justin Bieber has for breakfast or even where he's going on tour next. I also didn't think that anyone would care what I have for breakfast. Then, another teacher at school showed me how Twitter could be used for professional development. It was like a whole new world was opened to me. I now use Twitter regularly to learn about new trends in digital literacy, how other librarians are doing things, what new books are being released, and so many other things.  Twitter has completely changed my professional development. I am not responsible for my own learning and I have changed so much as a teacher and a librarian because of Twitter.

I have been an active user of Twitter for over a year now, and I highly recommend it. I now also recommend Pinterest. When I first heard about Pinterest I thought it was just a place to post cute pictures, but it is so much more than that. There are thousands of pins on education, and so many excellent ideas. It was through Pinterest that I learned how to create a QR Code and how I can use them to move my teaching forward.

Although there are still many teachers who are uncertain about the benefits of technology and social media, but I have become a big fan. There is still a lot out there for me to learn, but I can really see how all these sites and tools can help me, and other teachers, to move forward and to be able to meet students where they are. Maybe we'll even be able to teach the students something new. Wouldn't that be exciting!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars Review

Caveat: I did not intend this blog to be a place for me to write book reviews; I have another blog for that, but given the quality of the book and the age for which it is written, I am including it here as well.

Although I love YA literature, I was not familiar with John Green's work until this year. I was actually looking to add some LGBTQ friendly literature to the school library, and someone mentioned that I should add Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I bought the book and read it, and immediately knew that I wanted to read more books by John Green. However, when I started reading advance reviews of The Fault in Our Stars, I had no desire to read it at all. Even though the reviewers were all raving about it, I took one look at the subject matter - teens with cancer - and decided that it wasn't for me.

Although I was determined that I wasn't going to read it, I did buy a copy of the book for the school library. Five or six students had all submitted a suggestion sheet for it to be bought, so I knew it would be popular; and it really was. It was in and out of the library constantly.  I hardly ever saw it. When I would ask students about it, they all told me how amazing it was. I was still determined to avoid it. Nothing was going to make me read a book about teens with cancer. I mean, really, how cliched is that? It was going to be full of "inspirational moments" that would make me want to vomit. I couldn't understand all the fuss.

Then something happened. My book club decided that The Fault in Our Stars would be the selection for the month of May. Now I was stuck. I always try to read the books that we're discussing, so I took a deep breath and went and bought the book. I would have taken it out of the library, but the students were still reading it. It was actually the day before my book club meeting when I finally picked it up and started to read it.

John Green, I owe you a major apology. I am so sorry for pre-judging your book. I was wrong. I may not have judged a book by it's cover, but I did judge it based on the idea of teens with cancer. That was wrong of me.

I started reading at the beginning of the day (quiet day in the library) and I couldn't put the book down. Now, I was constantly being interrupted by people commenting on what an amazing book it was, but that was about it. As I started reading the book, I was immediately drawn in by the writing. It was just superb. I really believed what Hazel and Augustus were saying. Was the vocabulary slightly above a typical teen? Sure, but it was still believable. As I continued reading, I found myself laughing out loud. I mean that literally; I was sitting at my desk laughing. I can't remember a time that a book actually had me laughing out loud.

As a got deeper in the book, I really started to admire John Green's brilliance. He took all these typical YA tropes and just tweaked them enough that they were all original. The inspirational author is actually a bitter, alcoholic misanthrope? Wonderful. Augustus' favourite book is based on a video game? Amazing. I really enjoyed seeing all these little tweaks.  Then it all changed. I was loving everything that I was reading; I was laughing; I was thrilled that I was reading it and then ... then the tears started.

Yes, it's true. Just as the earlier parts of the book had me sitting at my desk laughing, the later parts of the book had me sitting at my desk and crying. Damn you, John Green for making me break down! Again, I don't usually cry when I read a novel. The last time was at Dumbledore's funeral. Now, here I am, crying again.

I cannot recommend this book enough. If you haven't read it yet, go and get it. Stop reading this blog and go buy or borrow the book. I would suggest buying it because you will want to read it more than once.

Final review: The Fault in Our Stars is perfection.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What's My Job?

I am a teacher-librarian. I know this. I love this. But, what exactly does this mean? What is my job?

I am a teacher. What does a teacher do? A teacher teachers, a teacher prepares lessons, a teacher supports students, a teacher contacts parents when needed and many other things.

I am a librarian. What does a librarian do? A librarian develops the collection to suit the population, a librarian suggests books to meet the needs of specific students, a librarian weeds the collection and maintains the collection. A librarian collects fines and checks books in and out and does shelf reading and shelving and straightening.

How do I put these two things together? To me, I have to do it all. I'm a teacher-librarian, which means that I have to focus on both parts of the job equally. I cannot be only a teacher. It's not fair for me to leave the collection in disarray while I spend all my time preparing lessons for teachers who are bringing their classes to the library. It's also not fair for me to spend all my time shelving books and reading books and neglecting the staff and students who need my help. It is a juggling act.

This set of musings came about because of a rather heated discussion I had with someone else who is a teacher librarian. She had been asked to shelve some books and to put some notices in teachers' mailboxes and this infuriated her. She strongly believed that she was being asked to be a secretary and that it was not her job to do clerical things. When I heard this, I was flabbergasted. How on earth is shelving not one of a librarian's jobs? Of course it isn't the only job, and if checking books in and out and shelving books were the only thing a librarian did then there is no need for librarians, but surely shelving is at least part of the job, isn't it?

I posed this question on Twitter, and the most important response I had was that a teacher librarian must highlight the professional aspects of the job. I understand that completely. If we cannot demonstrate our worth, why should there be teacher librarians? However, highlighting the professional aspects does not mean ignoring the other aspects. Classroom teachers do lots of clerical work. I've never heard a classroom teacher argue that they should not have to photocopy their own handouts; to me, a librarian arguing that they should not shelve books is just about as silly.

As teacher librarians, as my principal put it, our job is to maintain the library. That means doing whatever is necessary when it is necessary.

Your thoughts?