Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Introducing #LibChatNZ!

I have blogged about my love of Twitter before but now I find myself the founder of a NZ Twitter chat for librarians.  That's what happens when you ponder aloud on Twitter about whether there is such a thing!

I'd already decided to hold the chat monthly and, based on the results from a survey of interested librarians, it is going to be on the first Monday of the month at 8pm (except January, let's enjoy our holidays then!).  

For the first chat, on Monday 3 August, we are going to talk about Makerspaces.  These are the hot topic in American libraries right now.  The NMC Horizon Report for 2015 talks about important developments in educational technology.  In their "one year or less" timeframe it lists two developments - BYOD and Makerspaces.  So let's see whose interested in these, if anyone already has a Makerspace and how we can get started if we want one.

Back to the topic of Twitter, I got to thinking about one of the comments on the survey, which was that "perhaps some guidelines would be a good idea".  I searched for some basic information I could share about Twitter but couldn't find anything that said exactly what I wanted it to.  So I am now thinking that I should make a little guide for newbies to Twitter...

Newbies' Guide to Twitter

First off, if you have some reservations about Twitter Ned Potter will answer all your concerns.  But here's my two cents worth - I know we have the listserv and Google+ and Facebook but Twitter has some unique benefits.  It can connect you to a broad range of people who have interesting ideas and experiences, and by getting involved with a Twitter chat you can have a real time conversation about a particular topic.  

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Obviously the first step is to sign up with Twitter.  If you don't want Twitter texting you with notifications (I prefer to check my app), I'd recommend you sign up with your email address and not your phone number, although you can change that later anyway.
  • You will need to choose a username that hasn't already been taken.  A lot of NZ tweeters, myself included, put NZ at the end of their Twitter handle (username) and that usually does the trick. 
  • You also need to upload a photo or cartoon or else Twitter will give you an egg as a default.  Speaking from experience the downside of having a cartoon picture is that if you do meet fellow tweeters they don't know who you are!
  • Make sure you put something in your profile too.  People will use that to  learn what your interests are and to decide whether to follow you back.
  • **Update - I just had to add this in, an excellent resource from Kay Oddone that helps you get to know the Twitter interface.
  • Send out your first tweet by typing in the "What's happening?" box on your computer or tapping the box with the quill in it in the top right-hand corner of the Twitter app.  It doesn't have to be amazing, if you get stuck you could just say "Hi @MSimmsNZ, I am sending my first tweet!".  By including @MSimmsNZ I'll be notified about your tweet and I'll reply to you.
  • Then try searching Twitter for @LibChatNZ by using the magnifying glass at the top. Scroll to the bottom of the results page and you should see the account for @LibChatNZ.  If you click/tap on that then you can follow @LibChatNZ and then click/tap on the followers button to see all of the followers of @LibChatNZ..  These are your fellow NZ librarians so you might like to follow them too.  
  • Once you follow people you will get their tweets in your Twitter feed.  They may also follow you back.  I panicked a bit when that happened as I felt people might be expecting me to be tweeting a lot - don't worry, they don't!  You can watch what other people are tweeting without having to join in.
  • If you do see something of interest in your timeline then you can retweet it, or reply to it and start a conversation.
  • If you have followed quite a few people your Twitter feed will fill up quickly.  I have been on Twitter for four years and after a while I found I couldn't read all of the individual tweets that were coming through.  And then I realised that I didn't have to!  It was very liberating.  Now I just swish through the timeline a bit and stop at random to read interesting tweets.  If people really want me to see their tweet then they will include my Twitter handle in the tweet and I will be notified about it.
  • If you're feeling confident try searching for #tlchat or #edchatnz to see what U.S. librarians or NZ teachers are sharing on Twitter.  And of course our new hashtag for NZ librarians - #libchatnz.
  • Once you're ready to join in the #libchatnz chat, you need to be on Twitter at 8pm on the first Monday of the month, and you need to have searched for #libchatnz. #edchatNZ has some great advice about how to participate in a chat.
  • For the more confident user, @mrkempnz has some good tips for following a fast Twitter chat.

I hope this all makes sense.  I've been trying to see it from a beginner's perspective and be as clear as possible but I didn't want to make it too long either.  Hopefully you'll manage to get set up and then if you need anything else clarified just tweet me (unless you can't work out how to tweet, then we have a problem!).

Thanks to @ariaporo22 and @ReidTeachNZ for their help and advice about this (and where else but Twitter would a librarian in Hamilton have found help from teachers in Rotorua and Auckland?!).

Update 5 August 2015

I connected with @MissDtheTeacher who was very generous with her time and sharing her experience as moderator of the very busy and successful #edchatnz.

Then I survived moderating my first chat!  And what a great chat it was too.  There were so many interesting people posting their thoughts.  We had primary and secondary librarians and teachers and public librarians too.  That meant a good range of views and experiences to draw from.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Leasing new iPad minis using DEP and Meraki

Last term we had 100 iPads come off lease and we replaced them with 150 iPad minis.  I posted about the decision to switch to minis here.  Things did not go as smoothly as they could have so here's a few tips if you're about to do something similar:

  • If devices are coming off lease, make sure you give yourself enough time to choose what you are replacing them with and to get the finances signed off.
  • Give teachers enough time to get all their photos/videos off their current devices.
  • If you are wiping your leased iPads to return them or sell them DO NOT USE MERAKI!!!!! Within Meraki's client screen there is an "erase device" button but this does not work properly if you are using "Find my iPad".  It looks like it has erased the device but it won't let you set it up as new.  Instead it demands the Apple ID password for the device.  We sold 40 of our 100 iPads to staff, and fortunately gave out about ten early because those staff came back and told us about the problem.  We then had to set up all 100 iPads again, read the tiny serial numbers at the back of the iPad so we could work out which password went with which device, log on to iCloud, turn off 'Find my iPad' and then log out again.  We were on a tight deadline to return the devices and this added hours to the process.
  • Make sure your supplier adds your new devices' serial numbers to DEP asap as they can take 24 hours to appear (in our case we had a hiccup that delayed deployment by a week.  This is the email you don't want to receive "The DEP transaction is suspended with Apple right now as there was an issue with it. It has needed to be pushed through manually at Apple’s end".  I never really found out what the "issue" was, only that the head of Apple NZ got involved and then it went up the chain in the U.S. too.  I'm hoping that this was just teething issues, as we were the first of our supplier's clients to use DEP).

Once our iPads finally appeared on DEP it was very simple to set up the devices wirelessly and a nice improvement over Configurator.  The only drawback is that we can no longer assign a name to the lock screen, instead I've advised teachers to add different wallpapers to each of their devices.  We also had to manually add the name of the device after set-up.

I've always found Meraki fiddly when installing a lot of apps on a device.  Our senior school's devices have 49 apps on them and they didn't all go through immediately.  However we seem to have got off lightly because the last 16 devices had certain apps that would not go through at all.  They were stuck 'waiting' or loading and it was very frustrating.  I ended up taking them home as our IT guru seems to think the problem lies with our connection with N4L (he's doing some techie things to sort that out).  The apps did load up fine at home but it wasn't what I had planned for my evenings!

So that was what I got up to in the latter part of Term 2.  Fortunately I had an assistant to help with the fiddly app-loading process.  We also leased 24 new Apple TVs so they needed to be swapped over as well.  While I was installing them I took the opportunity to enable restrictions so that I could hide the movies from the main menu.  This removes the cringe factor of seeing "Sex Tape" or "50 Shades of Grey" advertised!

Term 3 sees us introduce optional BYOD (iPads) to our Year 5 & 6 students.  I'm sure this will be a learning process as well but I am keen to get started.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Analysis of a Book Club: What Went Wrong

At the beginning of last term I was full of enthusiasm for my new Ninja Readers and Storytellers Club.  With Esther supervising the library at lunchtime it meant I could hold my book club over a longer period of time, and I could combine my book and comic clubs (my great reasons for that are here).  I had to recruit younger students (Year 4's) but I didn't see a problem with that, and I found a room we could use so we didn't disturb the students using the library.

It didn't take long however, before I realised that things weren't going according to plan.  Despite the fact that the students themselves enjoyed the club it didn't meet my expectations and here's why:

  • Combining the two clubs led to the book portion of the club being rushed.  I was acutely aware when we were discussing books that we had a number of other storytelling things to do after that and I found it hard to stay in the moment.
  • Holding the club outside the library changed the vibe in a way that I hadn't expected.  There's something about discussing books while being surrounded by them that is very special.
  • There is a BIG difference between Year 4 and Year 6 students.  Both groups are lovely to work with but I prefer the more challenging books that the Year 6's read and their more mature reflections about them.
  • I had planned to set interesting storytelling tasks and have the students work on them at home and then share them with each other.  This did not work as most of the Year 4 students didn't seem self-motivated enough to do independent activities at home.

No books in sight but great storytelling fun!

Where to from here?

In Term 3 I'll be moving back to holding my book club at morning tea, in the library.  It is for Year 6's and I have about twenty signed up.

In addition to a book club I also want to have a promotional group whose job it is to help me promote books and the library to other students, staff and the community.  I have learned my lesson about combining activities so this will take place on a different morning tea time!

I've been reading a lot about the importance of giving students a voice and allowing them to collaborate and make decisions together.  I want to incorporate that more into my clubs and for that reason I will be encouraging the students to set their own goals for both the book and promo clubs.  They will pick the names and decide how the clubs will run and what they will focus on.  I have a LOT of ideas about things we could do, for example I'm very keen to Skype with another book club.  Hopefully I can share these ideas but leave the final word up to the students (who will love my ideas and do them anyway!).

I don't regret trying something new with the book club.  I had thought it through and it was worth seeing what would happen.  The students involved were very enthusiastic; it was only my grand vision that didn't pan out.  At the end of the day I would rather try lots of new things and have some work and some not, than keep doing things the way they have always been done and risk missing opportunities.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Stop Motion Animation - Go on, do it!

I've been meaning to write about stop motion animation for a while now, because it turns out it is very quick and easy to learn and a lot of fun to do.  I had been thinking about trying it so was very pleased when I was contacted by Hamilton City Libraries late last year.  They asked me if I wanted them to come over for a couple of lunchtimes and teach some students how to make stop motion animation to promote their summer reading programme.  The theme was the Waikato river.

I immediately thought of my Moustache Potatoes Comic Club (10-11 year olds); they were all very keen to participate.  I downloaded the free Stop Motion Studio app onto some of our school iPads and then the team from Hamilton City Libraries came round and showed us how it works.  Here is a short video I found today that explains it well (I admit we didn't even use the timer - it looks like a good idea!).  

The students picked it up straight away and were so enthusiastic and engaged with what they were doing.  The Hamilton City Library team had brought with them felt tips, coloured paper, pipe cleaners, Lego, and Playdoh.  For the first session the students had a chance to experiment with how animating worked and then in the next two sessions they made their animations.

This is what they came up with (we added the music once we'd uploaded the animations to YouTube):

For the last couple of weeks of Term 2 this year I went solo and taught members of my Ninja Readers & Storytellers Club how to do stop motion animation.  These were Year 4 students (8 year olds) but they too only required a couple of minutes' instruction before they were off and animating.  I brought in my own children's old toys and they used them to animate with.  We also used paper and whiteboards and one enterprising fellow simply animated himself!  

I loved watching both groups of kids get heavily involved with their creations.  Some found that viewers didn't understand the story they were trying to tell.  I thought this was a valuable lesson for them to think about how to get their ideas across clearly.   Next up I aim to use students' stop motion animations to promote reading and the library.  

Now that you've finished this post why don't you go off and give stop motion animation a go yourself?  It will only take half an hour (unless you get totally addicted, it is a possibility!).  Better yet, find some kids and get them to have go with you.  I guarantee you'll all enjoy it!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

ICT in Primary Education - Week Six Reflection

Woo! Hoo!  I've handed my last assignment in and just come back from lunch and a movie with my friend and our boys.  So a very pleasant afternoon accompanied by that happy feeling that you have when something that kept you busy is completed.  I can now get on to the other things on my list, including some more blog posts based on what I got up to last term.  But first, here's the best bits from this week:

"Many computer-supported TPD projects focus on technical concerns, to the exclusion of all others.  Underlying these projects is the assumption that learning how to use computers equals knowing how to teach with computers".  This point has been brought up in the readings before and I think it is one to keep in mind in order to properly integrate ICT in a school.  Just showing teachers how to use a new tool is not enough, there also needs to be suggestions on how to use the tool with students. 
And one more:
"Like their students, teachers learn by doing—by collaborating with peers, reflecting, planning classroom activities—not by sitting and listening to a facilitator or following along in directed technology instruction". 
  • The above article also discussed what is meant by technology integration.  It should not be a separate subject that you study by itself.  Instead students should use computers regularly and learn computer skills as part of their study of other content areas. 
    • ICTs and Teacher Competencies - I had no idea how many really interesting UNESCO publications there were.  This one discusses the fact that students today have grown up with technology and expect that their education will have "the same authentic, relevant and interactive characteristics" as they have at home.  Unfortunately in a lot of classrooms this is not the case.  Here's a good quote:
    "The literature is clear that among other factors, high-quality professional development for teachers is critical, yet often lacking in education reform efforts. This lack of effective professional development for teachers is often considered a root cause of the divide between what learners could potentially achieve and the reality they actually face in classrooms throughout the world". 
    • Here are some great last words:  "Our challenge, then, is to use effective professional development to scale up from successful “pockets” to large-scale, systemic change".