Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pokemon Go QR Code Library Scavenger Hunt

I've been Tweeting about this idea for a few weeks now, promising to post about it,  but I've been just a wee bit busy with the start of school this year. (This year? Every year! LOL) 

Oh, and this is NOT an apology for not posting!  I've always said about blogging, and went into greater detail in 11 Reflective Blogging Tips & Ideas - post when you can and never apologize. Real life and family is important, blogs can wait. But you're important, too - so let's get going!

Aww, aren't my students adorable?

OK!  I wanted to engage my kiddos with a new kind of
QR Code scavenger hunt involving, of course, PokémonGo! First, I took pictures of 10 different locations around our Library Media Center, then using a Photoshop template I super-imposed 10  Pokémon (some VERY RARE!) as if they were crouching, hiding, or sleeping there, and then created a QR code using Google URL Shortener that linked to that photo on Flickr that they would scan and "capture" with their BYOD devices and five of my own.  

Objective: Capitalizing on the engagement of the PokemonGo App game, students will use digital devices and QR Codes to explore the Library Media Center and discover important sections, features, and resources and reveal hidden and very rare Pokémon.  

You can grab, make a copy, and modify for yourself on my Google Drive, download the Photoshop Elements PSD template or the PDF on my Wiki. Includes 3 printable worksheets, QR codes in 2 different sizes, and more! 
Here's the first Tweet I shared about this:

Feel free to take, use, & share this lesson. It would be nice if you kept my name at the bottom, but this is all Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike Attribution and I’m not really going to lose sleep any over it! But, if you do adapt it and change it, I’d LOVE if you would share your version with me and the world! That would be super cool! W00t!  @GwynethJones 

Printable Pokemon scavenger hunt worksheets are below. 3 versions: One blank for kids to discover the Pokemon and write down their names & CP points, one with the names listed already for faster playing, and one just a checklist of the location clues for a super quick activity.

When doing the lesson with the kiddos, I found out that, with all the orientation information I had to share with my kiddos and only 45 min, I was short on time to do the whole sheet activity so I made a quick checklist of location clues that was still fun, had the kiddos running around the library on task, and worked great! 

Modifications: You can add the names of the Pokemon at the bottom of the blank list if you’re worried kiddos would have trouble spelling them. 
NON QR Code or Mobile Device Variation:  You could print out the Pokémons from my Flickr gallery, laminate them,  and hide them around the Library Media Center with the CP points written on the front or back.  
You could also forgo all the Photoshop and add the Pokémon name and CP points onto the Pokémon using my favorite FREE photo editing website Picmonkey. Kiddos search for the hidden Pokémons, write the name and CP points down on their worksheet and voila! 

Here are the photos I took from the activity with my awesome kids!

Pokemon Go Scavenger Hunt

Resources & Related Posts:

QR Code Quest Scavenger Hunt- Part Deux!

10 Things to do with QR Codes On Back to School Night

QR Code Scanning for Parents



Can You Catch Pikachu In "Pokemon Go"? Only If You Have The Know How 

This is what happens when I can't decide on a header graphic! Bless my dithering heeart! 




Thursday, August 18, 2016

6 Super Geeky Tech Tips for the New School Year

(A version of this post was published in NEA Today Magazine - 5 Super Geeky Tips -So honored to have been invited to write again for them! But here you get one tip extra!) Booya!

As I mentioned in my last blog post 5 Ways to Reflect, & Not Regret, Teaching OR... Summer Thoughts for Fall Success, one of the BEST things about being a teacher is that every year is a do-over! This post will provide some easy tips and examples of how up your ed tech game and get ready for a super new school year. Don’t feel pressured to do all 6 - just pick one for this year! If that works out for you, try another and go on from there. 

1. Get Cloudy  

Goodbye flash drives and external drives - the future of data storage and hosting is in the cloud. At first, I was skeptical of the cloud (and a little scared) but 5 years later and using it every day - I’m convinced! Most school systems have some version of Google Apps for Education (GAfE), available for teachers; I recommend uploading and converting your important documents, presentations, and spreadsheets to the cloud for easy editing, sharing, and storage. Another great resource is Dropbox. What sold me on it?  A trusted ed tech leader friend of mine, Gina Hartman, told me back in 2011 "because of Dropbox I don't care if my laptop crashes." That was a cartoon eyes bugging out, dropped jaw, and going “Awooga” kinda moment in my tech life. No fear of crashing. Ever. WOW!  


2. Get Linked

Now, more than ever, educators must be visible and transparent in what they do for their students, school, and community. Today, that’s easier than ever! Start with a free educator Wikispaces page. Click edit, type, and save. Done.

Why LinkedIn when you’re not looking for a new job? Because our parents and community are there and it shows we’re professionals, too! I’m on LinkedIn but I don’t do much there—it’s just another way for the world to find me and my main Web sites. It’s like a cactus plant because it grows but you don’t have to “water” it very often. A professional profile takes about 30 minutes to create. Just add a photo, your education and work history, awards and qualifications, and call it a day. If you want to go deeper with LinkedIn discussions and groups, and build a personal learning network that connects with other educators, you can! But it’s not a must.


3. Get Polished

Your social network profile is your best and most read professional bio on the web—so keep it polished, up-to-date, and consistent across all of your accounts. In a professional profile, I recommend including your school, location, subject area, teaching level, and an award or certification.

Consider adding a quirky hobby or interesting fact. Most Web sites don’t provide a lot of room to list everything in your profile description—so keep it short. Also, on the topic of profile pics or avatars, for six years I used a favorite avatar but I’ve lately had a change of heart. I realized people didn’t recognize me for me! So now I use my best recent selfie, jazzed up a bit with PicMonkey, and voila! The real me.



4. Get Making

Get your hands on the Makerspace movement that is sweeping the globe. Makerspace combines STEM, or as I prefer STEAM (adding art), with a constructivist and constructionist self-directed approach to education. The idea is to allow kids to get their hands involved, DIY-style, in project-based learning.

Whether you spend $300 or $3,000, you can add a Makerspace component, cart, or corner to any classroom or school library. Start small by creating a rolling Makerspace cart. Include bins of Legos, a batch of coloring books and colored pencils, paper for origami, and a couple of Makey Makey kits.


5. Get Social 

I use social media only in a professional sense— to share the cool things going on every day in my school and library, to celebrate my amazing students, and to connect with my parents, and our local and global community. Twitter and Scoopit are my preferred tools and I recently added Instagram—because that’s where my kiddos are! When sharing on social media, remember to be passionate, positive, and always professional. Never vent about administrators or students via social media! Don’t tweet yourself out of a job. On social media you can push the positive and change the world, grow professionally by leaps and bounds…or you could get in really big trouble. Share thoughtfully, wisely, and well.


6. Get Global

Technology can make the world smaller and our professional lives richer and more diverse.  It's great to build a global PLN, to reach beyond your borders and to seek out ideas that reflect a global perspective. Sometimes I follow people back just because they're in a different state, country, and as far from me as possible, because I want to be as diversified in the voices I listen to as possible. You can do this easily by using Skype for Education, Skype an Author, Mystery Skype, and Google Hangouts.

Check out the #MysterySkype Twitter Hashtag
Play Mystery Skype - Microsoft in Education
How to Set Up and Run a Mystery Skype Session from the amazing @MrSolarz

And remember, you don't have to choose ALL 6 of these tips, you can just choose one!  If this post looks familiar, it's because I've done a version of it around the new year and have gotten great feedback from it. However, one teacher emailed me saying that she could have really used it at the beginning of the school year not mid-year - so here it is! Cheers, dears!

Now, it's your turn! What did I forget? Which one are you going to choose? Which one is the easiest to do or try? Please feel free to hit up and add your thoughts to the comments! 

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a really AWESOME school year!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

5 Ways to Reflect, & Not Regret, Teaching!

5 Ways to Reflect, & Not Regret, Teaching
Summer Thoughts for Fall Success!

I love teaching! I love being a School Librarian & Technology Specialist. I love my practice, my profession, my school, my library, my students, my families, and my community! I can't imagine doing anything else that feeds my soul like being an educator. I love the seasons and the time and tide of it. *

Every new school year is a do-over. Any and all the mistakes or things you didn't get to do the year before can be corrected the next year. It's like an on-going karmic gift that keeps on giving year after year! I can't think of any other profession that gives you such a clear start and stop and a time to reflect.

The great thing about summers off (other than that they are made of awesome) is the ability to step back and reflect about the past school year. 

So here are my 5 R's to help with your reflective journey.

1. Relax 

Before you can truly reflect you gotta relax. And it doesn't have to
be a week at the beach, in a hammock, or in a Coastal Cottage (but that helps!) but it should be a seeking of solace. 

Quieting your mind, read (of course!), breathe, sleep, (I do a lot of that) heal (it seems like I often get a cold at breaks & holidays - like my body says "Oh, you have time you go!) putter, get a massage, swim, run, walk, nap, garden - whatever it is that is relaxing to you, is a good thing to do! 

You can't give if you're tapped out.

Disconnecting from social media is also helpful - going off the grid - consider taking a Digital Detox. I have a hard time with that sometimes, but it's lovely. I'm doing better this summer. Sorry (not sorry) for my lack of blog posts, Tweets, and Social Media posts. Did I mention it was lovely?

2. Reflect

Once you're relaxed, reflect on the things that went well last school year. Lessons that inspired, projects that showed promise, and programs that popped!

Also, think about the things that didn't go so well and how you could make improvements.  Make a list if that works for you!

Last year I decided to ditch the duct tape craft cubby in my Makerspace because of how much tape was wasted and several little spats that it caused. Fail!  I replaced it with a Coloring Corner and WIN! 

Stay the Course, or Change it!

Sometimes, you can't change a situation but you have to learn to graciously accept it - and then work around it. 

Once again, this year our library was standardized testing central. I supported testing 157 days out of 180 days of school. That's...a lot.  I also lost my full time Media Assistant, the amazing Kathi Bell.

But, committed to being a positive school team member, I (constantly) reminded myself that we weren't the only school in my district or state MAP, PARCC, and standardized testing and we weren't the only school to lose a Library Media Assistant (ALL Middle & High Schools lost their assistant last year - there was no fighting it, it was a done deal :-(. Sometimes things happen in school or life that sucks. I believe it's the measure of one's character and who you are how you react, cope, and recover from bad situations. With seething anger and hostility or professionalism and positivity? I also really like my paycheck and I'd like to someday retire with a pension. More importantly, being a bitter angry person about situations you can't change really doesn't feel so good.  So, we've decided to adopt a Tim Gunn, "Make it Work" Project Runway kinda attitude. It's optimistic, not delusional, I swear!

Finding acceptance that this was not-optional helped, and also finding Ninja ways around it helped, too! Visiting the classrooms with carts of books - making my teaching "to go" or "on delivery" quelled my need for that teaching fix, our daily show on our MHTV station, and 8th grade recess bonding fun in the library, kept me connected to my kids. Kathi kindly came in an hour early most days to help in the Media Center and our Principal Mr. W allowed Ms. Bell work in the Library Media Center a period a day. 

Got great ideas & a positive attitude for this next school year? 
GREAT!  But...

Though your school may be different (I hope so!) it has been my experience in 24 years of teaching that most Teacher's Lounges and
Staff Rooms are hotbeds of malcontent, vitriolic venting, kid & parent complaining, and people who can't wait to squash your bright eyed optimistic attitude. Why not create your own positive lunch bunch & eat in the library or classroom? Me? I usually eat my lunch alone in our TV studio reading TV recaps, BRAVO blogs, and celebrity gossip. That centers me. I NEED quiet for at least 30 min in the middle of the day to be centered. Don't judge me. ;-) Why not seek out the virtual teachers lounge that is Twitter? And bonus!... it's a global positive place! But the Teacher's Lounge? Stay clear, Padawan...stay clear!

Whatever challenges you face in your school - coolly reflect on it, find the positive, an alternative, and keep moving on.

3. Revise

Think about ways to effect real change and revise what you did
from last year to the coming new school year. Remember, one of the BEST things about teaching, as I mentioned above, is that every school year is a do-over! Every new school year was a fresh start. Don't dwell on the past look to the future! 

to focus on next year. 

Why not: 

Don't make it impossible, make it do-able! Set a reasonable goal for your profession and practice next year and keep it. If you achieve it, awesome! Why not make another goal? And remember, for everything new you choose - you don't have to marry it! Post-it wall optional! 

4. Rededicate
Tough love time. Really think about WHY you are in this profession. Do you have a true calling? Do you speak enthusiastically about what you do? Do you like, admire, believe in, and cheer for your students?  
Or, are you a Debbie downer or a whiny William? Are you a constant complainer? Do people avoid you in the hallways because they know you will always have something to moan about? Do people hesitate before asking "How are you?" Yeah, that sucks. Time to fix it! Turn it around. Rededicate yourself!

I know that when writing, I use a LOT of exclamation points! That's because I'm (annoyingly) unapologetically enthusiastic,
positive, and passionate about my profession. (Alliteration addicted, too!)  Even though some days, you gotta fake it till you make it, students can tell when you've mentally given up or checked out. They can also REALLY tell when you secretly (or maybe not so secretly) dislike them. Stop it!

So, if you're not more positive than negative about teaching ....please, LEAVE.  Bye Felicia!

Go consult, go corporate, go work at Macy's, join the Peace Corps, whatever, GET OUT or GET BETTER! Because, our kiddos deserve only our BEST! They deserve our passion and genuine enthusiasm about what we do.

One of the things that helps me keep my positive attitude going is a Happy Folder. Create a manila or digital photo folder of thank you notes, pictures of gifts, screenshots of Tweets, or emails from students, former students, and colleagues that can keep you going when you need a pick me up! It's a soul refresh! 

Works every time!  

Living an authentic life with joy, choosing happiness, and a being in a profession with continual reflection, rededication, and without regrets is the way to go! If you're not feeling it, then you're doing yourself and our students a disservice.

Our profession and our kiddos are so precious, and our responsibility to our students is so great, that if you don’t have the proper enthusiasm and optimism for it then maybe some serious soul searching needs to happen – STAT!

 5. Rejoice!

Celebrate your year! It's over.....and I'm sure you had some high points and some low ones. You taught, and most importantly, you LEARNED! Celebrate your successes and accept your failures. We all have them, and frankly, my failures teach me SO MUCH more than my successes. We have the BEST job ever! Rejoice & Enjoy!

*PS.  I know the beginning paragraph of this post was a bit much but I really don't care if I sound like some kind of effin Pollyanna. So there, haters. [grins wryly]

What do you think? 
Join the conversation in the comments to either mock my persistently positive Pollyanna personality and over use of alliteration! OR agree with the ideas... OR add your own ways to reflect and not regret! We're all in this together - let's help each other out!  

Resources: Here's a few related blog posts!

Rewrite the Story You Tell Yourself About Teaching &

How to Stop Yelling at Your Students

Monday, May 30, 2016

Got Charge? Inside My BYOD Charging Lockers

Using The Magic Words "Pilot Test!" 
Last year I mentioned at the bottom of my Amazon Echo blog post that I was trying something NEW in our library, a BYOD Charging station. 

It consisted of a tall AV cart with 2 USB charging hubs and I bought a bunch of multi-ended charging cords. It was on the honor system - come into the Media Center, plug in your device, check out a book or read, and charge while you were here. Still had my disclaimer, though!

Your device, Your Responsibility

It worked like a dream for months! Until one kid had a beef with another and a tablet, left on it's own over many class periods, went missing. Le sigh.

Unbowed, undeterred, and stubborn as all get out, I went back to the drawing board! 
Three years ago, while still on the ISTE Board of Directors, I was touring the fabulous Hillwood High School Library  in Nashville, and I saw this amazing bank of lockers in a school library that had electrical outlets in them! WOW! It blew my mind!
Fellow ginger Librarian Julie Strickland generously and delightfully showed off her state of the art facility and the seed was planted! I must have one someday!

Not being able to afford a whole wall full of charging lockers, I convinced my wonderful principal to let me pilot test the lockers and just bought a 5 LockNCharge locker bank for about $1400 edu price with a locking mechanism that's just like a hotel safe, where you can set your own combination each time. And they are expandable! Inside, they have 2 USB ports and a power plug. The generous size is great for cell phones, tablets, even laptops one day!

I can buy 5 more lockers next year & stack 'em, if they work out. Wanting to save a few hundred bucks, I didn't buy a floor base and I just placed them on top of the tall AV cart. They weigh 75lbs and I'm not afraid that someone will steal the whole thing. I can't live like that. Besides, it's HEAVY steel!

When you get it, you have to take off the left side panel, to release and thread through the AC cord. After that, I let my super clever 8th grader Miss A (above) figure out how to master the locking mechanism - then teach me! (I HATE to RTFM* unless I must) 

Two of the lockers didn't work and I finally broke down and called customer support where the nice chap named Jason in Wisconsin at LockNCharge walked me through how to take off the metal lock casing and re-connect the battery pack to the locking mechanism. 

Tiny Phillips Head screwdriver (and patience) required. 

Tip: If you don't already have a Library Toolbox - now is the time to buy one! Over the last 20 years since I've had mine, it's come in handy so many times. Hammer, screwdrivers, wire-cutters, shuriken, nails, pliers, etc.

Charging Tips:
Of course, you know I had to use my beloved Comic Life to make Visual Directions, Signage and Guidelines for my kiddos! As always, feel free to Take, Use, Share - all my work is Creative Commons!
Sneaky Tip: Write "Don't Read This" on any sign and it doubles the chance of kiddos reading it every time! LOL  

How To's:

Do They All Read the Directions? 
NO WAY! LOL But, I'm always happy to walk kids through it (I make sure they lock, unlock, then lock again to practice) and I recommend they use the last 4 digits of their school ID or cell phone # - OR write it on their hand! I don't encourage sharing lockers, but it happens. I only have 5 right now. I gently discourage teachers from using it (and am putting one of the high powered USB chargers in the teachers lounge for them to use) this locker is for the kiddos!

Warnings & Tips:
WARNING: Locking mechanisms can dislodge when you move the cart around or when the kiddos slam the locker doors. Keep that screwdriver handy! Don't lose the screws! Next time I fix it, I'll made sure to have a flat magnet handy so the little buggers don't roll away - they're TINY! Err... tiny!

ZIP It! 
One thing that was a total fail. When we moved the charging locker out of the Library Media Center and into the hallway outside
(because of standardized PARCC testing - see yellow signs on doors above), almost all my charging cords were...umm "borrowed." [smh]

So, again...cussedly stubbornly and undeterred, I bought bright ORANGE ZIP TIES and anchored those cords in there...and three weeks later - so far, so good! Muuwaa! You mad bro?
Buy Extra Keys!

When you buy this LockNCharge system - ask to purchase a couple extra battery operated over-ride keys. These are NEEDED when kids forget their pass code #, or to check to make sure there is a device inside. (See pic above: and yes, my handwriting stinks! LOL but you gotta love a silver sharpie, right?)

One of the annoying things that has happened more now that the lockers were moved OUT of the Library - kids are occasionally locking the lockers with nothing in them. Empty.

I don't know if they're doing it just to be funny, or if they're "holding" a locker for later, or if they're just practicing putting in the pass code. 

BUT....I do NOT mention this on any of my signage! I just unlock them, and swing em open.

Why? I don't want to give them ideas or show that it bothers me - they would invariably do it more! LOL I know my kids. Or, I know how an immature mind thinks. (natch!)

Read more about LockNCharge - Ask questions on Twitter, they're very responsive! When I had 2 of the 5 not work, I submitted an online service call back request which said could take 3 days, but ever impatient, I also Tweeted out my problem and within 20 min they said for me to DM my phone number! W00t! The guy was very patient and walked me through fixing the dislodged mechanism AND programming that electric override key!

The best price I could find on the locker system was from Touchboards and their EDU price - but shop around and bargain, shmooze, beg for a better price or free shipping if you can! They were really nice, but their email after the fact is getting a little spammy. Hate that.

Watch the video:
FUYL Cell - Laptop charging locker. by LocknCharge Technologies from PC Locs - LocknCharge on Vimeo.

Final thoughts: 
It's been great. It's been a pain. Kids love it. It takes some babysitting. It's cool.  Will it be like the duct tape fail? Or more like the Coloring Book win?  I don't know right now if I'm going to buy another set, but time will tell.

Another new thing I'm trying and not sure if I'm going to keep going. Snapchat! 

I don't get it. 2 of my 8th grade girls are trying to teach me but I still....just don't see how I can use it to connect with the community as easily as I do with Instagram and Vine! I've been sharing as many resources to help out with this as possible, but honestly - I haven't read them all carefully. Why? Umm... Did I mention that I don't like to RTFM!* 

*RTFM = read the flippin manual! 

And here's me not being happy with my blog header graphic - I made 3! LOL


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