Sunday, January 17, 2016

And the journey begins anew...

"Passion is the energy that fuels success." - from Minnesota Sports and Entertainment

And just like that, it's the middle of January 2016 and I haven't posted to this blog since January of 2015.  It's  definitely time for a reboot and to re-ignite my love of writing to chronicle my journey to re-imagining the school library as a school library professional.

I am on this incredible journey to rethinking our school library spaces at Chaska High School.  This is an invigorating and challenging yet daunting task, but I am loving the experiences along the journey as I share it with other school librarians and the student and staff we serve.  My #oneword for 2016 is RE-IMAGINE!

I feel like I've been changing school libraries for many years as the journey really did start when I began my job as Media Specialist at Chaska Middle School East in 2000.  I walked into a library that was maintained by a well-liked techie gentleman who had been with the district for over 30 years.  He was handy at repairing just about anything in the district, but there was no reading promotion or collection weeding done during the time I had been working as a paraprofessional and English teacher at the school.  In 2000, he retired and I stepped forward to make a career change that I am so glad I made now. 

At the time, I wondered if I had truly made the best decision.

I bravely took on a library that had changed very little since it was built in 1976. There were five different colors of carpeting where patches had been made and bare floor where some repairs went undone.  The open concept room was dark with bookshelves that stacked books too high for 6th graders to reach, and some of the books even contained flecks of mold inside them, a result of a leaky ceiling and the humidity from the only district indoor pool located right down the hall.  I packed up that library twice during my time there from 2000 to 2011, once for the replacement of the HVAC system and ceiling tiles and once for new carpet installation.  With the help of the principal's capital fund allotment, a gift from the student council, the PTO volunteering to help with MANY book fairs and fundraisers, we were able to get to a point where we could acquire new bookshelves, tables and chairs, and even new books, ebooks, and audiobooks that tweens would actually enjoy.

Yet another retirement opened up the door for another opportunity within the district to go back to my training in working with high school students.  My love of the research process and young adult lit lured me to the open position at Chaska High School, and I am so very fortunate to have been there since 2011 through the present.  I am also fortunate to work for a principal who is a lifelong learner and reader who allows me to think in possibilities and act on this thinking!

In the following posts, I will chronicle the journey we've been on in RE-IMAGINING what the school library of the future looks like for our particular situation, as I believe each school's journey is different according to the needs of its students and staff.  Years of observation, student input, site visits, and research have gone into this transformation, leading to a passion that makes the majority of my work days seem more like an adventure than work.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Inspired by Art: Thoughts

"Art is always at its best when serving a cause
greater than the artist."
- Arnold Friberg

I never used to understand how someone could look at a painting and demise what the artist was trying to convey, staring intently at the piece and voicing their thoughts as they staaaaared... Then, the day came when I was overtaken by the way the painting, The Prayer at Valley Forge, by Arnold Friberg grabbed a hold of me while visiting the Mount Vernon Museum.  The sheer size of the original painting alone grabs attention, but the subject pulled me in and I couldn't help but begin to notice the details that had me questioning the artist's inspiration to create this thought-provoking painting. It made an immediate impact on me. Take a peek for yourself here: Arnold Friberg Fine Art

I've admired this piece for some time, but working with our Chaska HS English 12 hybrid students prompted me to further investigate the story behind the creation of it and to write about it along with the students.  Instructor, Tina Johnson, and I collaborated to explore different methods for students to use to express their thoughts about what inspires art and artists.  We introduced several tools to use in our exploration: Google Art Project, blogs, the Library of Congress website, and art database Camio.  A goal of the project was the writing piece, answering the following questions after investigating 6-8 art pieces ranging from jewelry to literature to sculpture to film:

a.      What is love?
b.      In what ways does a piece of art inspire others to create art?
c.      How does art create connections among peoples?
d.      How does art show the human experience?
e.      How are love and art connected?

Upon investigation, I discovered The Prayer at Valley Forge was inspired by a true account given by Isaac Potts, a man who happened upon the pre-Presidential George Washington knelt alone in prayer in the woods as the fate of our country hung in the balance during the Revolutionary War. Arnold Friberg conducted personal research by visiting the woods near Valley Forge during the winter, experiencing for himself the bone-chilling cold that greatly affected the soldiers who fought there.  For me, Washington's passionate vision of freedom for a country that was yet to be embodies a type of love that is portrayed in this painting. I believe Washington's ideal of a world where he and fellow countrymen could live in peace and his regard and hope for like-minded human beings who sought the same creates a connection between this art piece and its observers. Washington's posture, kneeling in prayer while beseeching a power higher than even himself, leads the viewer beyond the human experience in the belief that only a higher power has ultimate control over the human experience.

If you were to visit the Mount Vernon Estate and become educated by the excellent narratives they offer through their guided tours, you may be surprised as I was to find out how very much a family man was George Washington. I admired this about him and found further admiration for him when I found that he was also a writer and avid reader. My love for reading and writing forged a connection with Washington the man and the figure featured in the Friberg painting.  When our family's genealogy research revealed my husband's great grandfather x8 was part of the group of soldiers who crossed the Delaware River with George Washington during the same fateful time period as was represented in the Friberg painting, the love, the art, and human experience became intertwined as our entire family connected with this painting. On several entries we explored on, this painting appeared along with my husband's family entries: Washington Crossing the Delaware.

I was pleased to find that this painting also inspired Friberg to create an companion painting, The Winter at Valley Forge. Research did not confirm this but I wondered if Friberg's inclination to create paintings of U.S. historical moments had something to do with the fact that he spent time training with master illustrator, Harvey Dunn, an artist who attended the same college I did - South Dakota State University - establishing yet another connection I had made to this artist and his work. There are some similarities in their work, and I remember being an admirer of Dunn's work long before I discovered Friberg's work.  The connections between these two artists and the people they have touched with their work has enhanced my experience as a human being who appreciates and loves art, inspiring me to create this piece of writing. Art begets art?

Research for this post includes information discerned from the following sources:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thing 23: Evaluate 23 Things

I was so looking forward to the 23 Mobile Things program, I could hardly wait to get started.  There are many thing I plan to go back and explore even further throughout the summer;  I wish the deadline could have been extended out a bit more into the summer.  Just when I thought I would have plenty of time to thoroughly explore each and every item, the school year got busier than ever and I just couldn't get to the fun stuff like this program.

I am so grateful this program was offered for free.  I have spent a lot of money out of pocket for training this year, so this program was a welcome addition to my lifelong learning quest. So much of the practical on-the-job training I need is not available inside the district.  In many ways I am still and analog teacher trying to operate efficiently in a digital school environment and world.

After embarking on this program, I am more certain than ever that mobile devices have a place in our classrooms.  I think one of the main roadblocks to this happening is the lack of guidance out there for teacher classroom management when it comes to using devices with students.  I know this program was designed for all types of library folks, but maybe there could be some additional training modules built around the classroom management side.

If there was another program like the 23 Things offered, I would participate without hesitation.  I loved the format and content, and I loved that there was a variety of things to explore and try without there being too much to overwhelm you.  If I participate again, I hope to be able to make more connections with other people who are participating.  I just didn't get/make the time for it this time around.  Maybe we could do this as a group within our district. 

If I had to describe my learning experience in one word or sentence, I would say, "My toolbox runneth over!"

Thank you to all of the folks who worked so hard to bring this program to us.  I am hoping you will give us wings to fly and pass this program on to our school staffs, as well.

Thing 22: Discovering Apps

I remember when LeAnn Suchy told me about Quixey at one of our Appy Hour gatherings.  I have been using it ever since and have a link to it on my Media Center web page.  I was amazed at all of the options Quixey can find for you.  I needed an app that could scan barcodes on grocery items to tell me if they are gluten-free; sure enough, there were several to choose from.

Apps Gone Free was intriguing to me, so I decided to check this out, too.  Many times I receive alerts through Twitter when apps are free, but this app will give me a backup system.  I am always looking for free apps for my daughter, too, so Apps Gone Free will come in handy.  I liked being able to look at the archive of which apps had already come and gone for free.

Thing 21: Free-for-all

If you haven't installed DocScan yet on your mobile device, you don't know what you are missing!  No more clunky scanners connected to a desktop computer, requiring a million steps to complete a simple scan!  DocScan is available for Apple devices.  Using DocScan is as easy as using your phone or iPad camera.  Once you take the photo of the document, you have quite a few editing options to make the scan as legible as possible. The scan can be sent to an email address, airprinted, uploaded to an album or FaceBook, DropBox, Evernote, and the best - Google Drive.  My school is a Google apps school, so the Google Drive option is wonderful.  The scnas can be put into folders and sorted by title or date. 

Many times we have students aides who need to do scanning for teachers, and they love it when I show them the DocScan app.  I think it's a great example of a positive use for cell phones in the classroom.

Thing 20: Games

This probably is not a popular thing to make public, but I am not a gamer nor do I enjoy online games.  I do appreciate the skills kids can gain from gaming, and my daughter has become very proficient with Minecraft and has installed many of the games listed on the 23 Things site on her phone and our iPad. This prompted me to check out the Game Ratings for Age & Content by Entertainment Software Rating Board app.  This app was very easy to use, and the ratings described matchedt he ratings used online and on the games that you can purchase in stores.  The reviews of the app itself by kids didn't seem as favorable as the reviews from adults.  Hmmmmm....

Thing 19: Hobbies

I just happened to stop at a graduation party where the graduate's friend was serving as deejay for the party. As I visited with the graduate's friend, I asked him about his equipment, and he showed me how he was using Spotify to create his playlists.  I returned home and installed Spotify on my iPhone, and I am loving it.  I learned in a class about ADHD that baroque music is supposed to be good for children to listen to for concentration.  I found an entire playlist of baroque music almost instantly in the Spotify genre lists.  There were also some Holiday playlists and great playlists for kids.

Next up for exploration: Vivino Wine Scanner and Wine Info. :)