Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Year Of Connections In The Library

A Year of Connections in the Library: Reflecting on How Skype and Google Hangouts Changed Our Thinking

Before this school year, we mainly used Google Hangouts to connect with our friends at Lakeside Junior High in Springdale, Arkansas. Brian Johnson, their teacher librarian, and I have had several different lunch programs for our students over the past two years. Then I discovered Mystery Skype while participating in various Twitter chats during the 2014-2015 school year. It didn't take long for a Twitter educator friend to invite us to try this fairly new educational activity.

After we held our first Mystery Skype with a school in Maine during April of 2015, everything changed. We began to see the power of making connections with other schools around the country and having our students be a part of these activities. As the 2015-2016 school year draws to a close, I would like to share some of our most memorable connections in the library using these tools.


Mystery Skype with Maine

My friend, Heidi Harris (@Heidibobeidi), in Lincoln, Maine was the first teacher to invite me to participate in Mystery Skype. She helped us to understand how to set up the room for a successful session. I'm so grateful that we had the opportunity to connect with her class again last fall via Mystery Skype. LHS Social Studies teacher, Brooks Lee (@MrLeeLHS), had a new group of students for the school year and so did Heidi. During the spring semester, Heidi and Brooks connected again. This time his students had a Mystery Skype session with Heidi's teachers as they tried the activity for the first time! These were great events to experience, and I hope we get to do it again in 2016-2017!

Our second Mystery Skype with Lincoln, ME
Author Skype

During the fall of 2015, we had the privilege of a Skype connection with Laurie Stolarz (@lauriestolarz). Laurie is a YA Fiction author (The Dark House Series, The Touch Series, and The Blue is for Nightmare Series). It was a pleasure to have her connect with our 10th-12th graders during lunch to discuss her books. Our students enjoyed asking her questions! It was a priceless event!

Skype session with Laurie Stolarz

Anna Lear Reads to Other States!

I really enjoyed seeing Anna Lear (@annalear24), one of our seniors at LHS, read to schools in other states for World Read Aloud Day and Read Across America! We used Skype for the Read Across America event to connect with my friend, Lynn Kleinmeyer and her classes in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Seeing one of our students take the lead in these events was one of the highlights of my year!

Anna reads to students at Titan Hill Intermediate in Iowa!

Skype with a Freedom Writer

Another highlight from this year happened when Kimberly VanMeter's (@kimberlyshea65) English students connected with Tiffany Jacobs in California. Tiffany is one of the original Freedom Writers! What a great way to utilize technology to make a difference for our students. I'm so glad she allowed us to host this event in the school library!

Skype with a Freedom Writer!
Student Led Professional Development

My friend, Justin Neel (@JustinNeel2), asked me to present 3D printing basics to some of his teachers at Caddo Hills High School earlier this year. They were preparing to purchase a printer, and they wanted to know what we were using. Justin asked if I could Skype with them for a few minutes. I decided to invite one of our students, Austin Whitney, to join me for the after school Skype session. Austin and one of his friends had helped me present 3D printer basics at a state conference last summer. I wanted to showcase Austin's experience and knowledge. It is always good to have students share their voice, especially when they are proficient at a skill! He did a wonderful job sharing about our 3D printer to our new teacher friends at Caddo Hills!

Austin presents to teachers at Caddo Hills High School

Visits with Elizabeth Hutchinson

I have had several conversations via Skype with my teacher librarian friend, Elizabeth Hutchinson (@Elizabethutch). Elizabeth is located on the Island of Guernsey which is located in the English Channel. We connected on Twitter back in January of this year. We are already planning several book clubs with our students next year. Skype has made our wonderful conversations possible even on Saturday mornings as pictured below. What a great international partnership!

A Saturday morning overseas visit with Elizabeth!

Google Hangouts

I love using Skype for our many school connections, but not all schools can use Microsoft products easily. We have also used Google Hangouts to connect with many friends both national and international! Below are some of the most memorable from 2015-2016.

My First International Hangout

I am still so thankful that Dina Moati (@dinamoati) invited me to participate in a panel discussion with her education students via Google Hangouts back in September of 2015. Dina is a Professor of Education in Ontario, Canada. I had the privilege of joining fellow educators Stephan Hughes from Rio de Janerio and Tammy Neil from Florida. It was so great to visit with Dina's class and share about being a connected educator!

A screenshot of the college students in Ontario, Canada

Our Holiday Hangouts

Brian Johnson (@brian_librarian), my teacher librarian friend at Lakeside Junior High in Springdale, Arkansas helped me get started with Google Hangouts back in 2014. For the past two years, we have connected our students for a "Holiday Hangout" in December. The Lakeside Junior High choir performed for us in 2014 and in 2015. This year, we invited one of our students, Kristina Valdivia, to perform Christmas songs for their students on her electric violin. Brian has read a holiday themed book to all students both years! It is a great exchange for our two schools.

Kristina performs Christmas songs for students in Springdale, AR

Our First International Mystery Hangout

Elizabeth Hutchinson, the librarian from Guernsey I mentioned earlier, was instrumental in helping us host our first International Mystery Hangout in the school library this year. She arranged for us to connect with new friends on the island of Alderney back in February. It was awesome to see our students interacting with students at a distant school while doing the Mystery Hangout activity! We plan to connect with Alderney again before the school year ends.

Our students visit with students from Alderney

Library Professional Development via Google Hangouts 

Our administrators provided us 3 hours for a district teacher librarian meeting in February. One of our assistant superintendents asked me to present Mystery Skype/ Mystery Hangouts. Rather than just talking about it with them, I invited my teacher librarian friends, Lynn Kleinmeyer (@THLibrariZen) and Elizabeth Hutchinson, to join us via Google Hangouts. It was great for all of us to visit with Lynn in Iowa and Elizabeth on the island of Guernsey. We discussed best practices during this time. As a result of these sessions, our primary school teacher librarian, Tammy Catlett, had an international Google Hangout for her students with Elizabeth!

Lynn Kleinmeyer presents during our meeting

Looking back at 2015-2016, I'm grateful for these many experiences. I'm not sure words can express how my friends Brian Johnson, Lynn Kleinmeyer, Elizabeth Hutchinson, and Heidi Harris have helped me grow over the past two years. They have each been instrumental in connecting our students outside of the school and library walls more than ever during this school year. I want to thank author Laurie Stolarz for connecting with our students this year. I also want to thank Dina Moati for giving me my first international connection experience over the webcam; this gave me confidence to attempt more! As I look at these photos and see evidence that we have become a connected school library, I wonder what will happen next? These photos represent our learning community's first steps into a much larger world. Bring on 2016-2017!

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  1. It was a pleasure to be part of your school year! I look forward to our future planned collaborations and thank the wonders of the Internet to make this happen. So often we hear about the scary and dark side of the Internet so it is wonderful how you are demonstrating the powerful good that it can do too. Elizabeth

    1. I'm so glad we have connected our schools together, Elizabeth! You have helped me grow this year, friend!