Tag Archives: Library Learning Commons

To eRead or not to eRead, that is the question?

This year our PAC bought us 7 Kobo Arcs for the Learning Commons. These beautiful colour tablets were purchased the weekend of Black Friday for $99 – not bad! The leather covers were ordered online from Amazon for $8 each, and the plastic pouches were ordered from a dollar store for under $5 each.  With the Follett and Overdrive apps installed, the students can easily download books from our database or from the Surrey Public Library. An app lock was also installed so student would not download other unwanted apps onto the device, and a permission form must be signed and on file before a loan takes place.  Now our students now have the opportunity to try an eReader and many of them are excited, yet others have the preconceived notion that they won’t like using one.

There are many arguments around the pros and cons of using eReaders, but the bottom line is this: give the students the opportunity to try one and let them make up their own mind! It’s all about choice; it’s all about personal preference.

Love them or hate them an eReader can offer us:

  • Selection – ereaders provide a library on the go with a great selection of e-books, and some have special features like built in dictionaries to decipher hard words
  • Convenience – they are extremely portable and lightweight – easy to carry, hold, or pack
  • Affordability – e-books are cost effective and it’s often cheaper to purchase ePubs than hard copies, and access to free e-book downloads are available from school libraries, public libraries, and apps

As a teacher, I love having more copies of the Classics available when the senior students are doing their big unit. As a traveler, I will never travel with a hard copy again. With that said, I do like to hold a real book in my hand while sitting at home on a lazy afternoon. So how do you feel about eReaders? Do you Love them, hate them, or are you on the fence? I’d love to hear!

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It’s a Snap in the Learning Commons!

Snapguide is a great app for the iPad! View hundreds of  “how-to” guides from numerous subject areas like:  arts/crafts, foods, sports/fitness, technology, etc. But the real fun is in making your own simple to use guide, and they are easily shared with your friends on Twitter or Facebook. I had no idea how popular snapguides were until we made them – 160 likes, 1000 views, 35 Facebook shares, and 5 tweets – Wow! My students were amazed and excited!

Check out How to: Steps for a Zigzag Friendship Bracelet by JHSS Library on Snapguide.


I started by making a free account in Snapguide calling it JHSS Library. I then had some students learn how to make different types of friendship bracelets by watching YouTube videos.  Next, they made their own bracelets taking pictures with an iPad every step of the way. They then uploaded their pictures to snapguide and added text instructions. Their first guide was called “How to make a simple Friendship Bracelet“, and their second guide was  called “How to: Steps to make a Zigzag Friendship Bracelet“.

We then offered lunch hour lessons on making Friendship Bracelets using our iPad tutorials and student volunteers. It was a lot of fun, and I discovered some really talented bracelet making machines in our school!
For supplies I used some donated embroidery thread, but I did buy a few supplies from Walmart (minimal expense). I also had a few mini clip boards that students could use to clip or tape their bracelets to while working, but most taped them to our tables. At clean-up time if they were not finished they transferred and taped them to cardboard squares with their names attached .
This activity gave students a chance to connect with each other and have fun during lunch hour. After all, the Learning Commons it is a fun place to be!

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A virtual tour of our Learning Commons

Every time we try a new unit in the Learning Commons I don’t hold my breath hoping it works, because If I did I would have passed out too many times to mention!

Some days I almost hate to say I’m a teacher, because I feel like I’m more of a facilitator that offers ideas, suggestions, and support. Of course I try to scaffold student learning where I can, but we are a team, and the students end up helping each other, teaching each other, supporting each other, and teaching me! Isn’t that what true collaboration is all about?

I have read that the number one reason an employer will let someone go isn’t because they aren’t capable, but because they can’t work well as a team. If that is true, then the Learning Commons will help to mold an entire generation any employer would love to have on his/her team!

Take a look at our Learning Journey, it is young, evolving, exciting, exhausting, and it sometimes makes me nervous!!

The road may be bumpy at times, but when we get stuck in those pot holes the students will push us out, I know because I have hit a few  😉

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Never make assumptions – Game on!

Last week, I advertised (via announcements and posts on the Learning Commons Facebook page) that Bookmark Bingo would be taking place in the Learning Commons on Friday during lunch. It would be a fun way for students to spend a rainy lunch hour with their friends, and maybe even win a scratch & sniff bookmark, or gift card to Black Bond books.

Sounds simple enough, right?

I had purchased a bingo game from a local toy store for $12.99. The game came with a cage to spin the numbers, and a set of 34 cards. I photocopied the master set of cards and put the masters aside. Next, I had some students cut out the photocopies and laminate them on bright coloured card. I also went to a dollar store and bought four bags of big green beads to use as markers. We had enough for 34 students to play, and I didn’t expect more than that. I also didn’t expect that the day before, and morning of, I would be approached by so many students asking me what Bingo was? Not just one or two students asked, but almost a dozen asked.

Seriously, what is Bingo? Like you never played a fun game of Bingo before, not ever? You never sang “B-I-N-G-O and Bingo was his name-o?” Really?? I was speechless, but I shouldn’t have been so surprised. It just never occurred to me a student would not know the game of Bingo. I assumed that everyone has had the thrill of jumping out of their chair and screaming BINGO!! (at least once in their life.)

In a way, it was just as shocking as when I had taught Home Ec, and I found out three quarters of my Foods 9 class had never eaten a grilled cheese sandwich. That just blew my mind! On numerous occasions I’m sure I would have died of starvation without having that staple in my diet.

Our school has approx. 1,450 students, and over 10% of those students are ELL  (English Language Learners). We have many students from Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Poland, and Spain, we also have over 50 different cultural groups. I am so fortunate to work in such a diverse cultural melting mosaic. However, not all of these students have gone through our Elementary school system, and some have only been in our country a few years. So, from now on I will make no more assumptions!

By the way – the game was a big success! We played straight line Bingo (any direction vertical, horizontal, or diagonal), make an X corner to corner, and black out Bingo (cover your card). Yup, it was a rainy lunch hour well spent!

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Drop Everything and Collaborate!!

Collaboration: working together for a common purpose, sharing, participating, and hopefully engaging. Sounds simple, but not always as easy as we would like.

The problem: teachers are busy, students are busy, and interrupting classes can make you feel like a pest! But… when teachers are willing to collaborate with each other and with our students, then magic can happen! The doors to classrooms open,  students get creative, and teachers get inspired! Some teachers even give up hours of prep-time because their having so much fun! #mrbeggrocks
Daryl, you may be the next young Steven Spielberg, and young Monica you sing like a bird – so be loud, be proud!
This tune may not be original, but the spirit is one of a kind! Eagle Spirit all the way!
Drop Everything and Read!
National School Library Day – Monday October 21st, 2012

 

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Grade 8s in action: QR Codes in the Learning Commons

This year was my first time trying a Scavenger Hunt and using QR Codes for clues. The incredible Gwyneth A. Jones inspired me thedaringlibrarian.com. She is a creative dynamo in the world of teacher-librarians!

After a brief introduction to our Learning Commons, we took time together looking at our blog. It was important the students became familiar with the resources and links available to them on the blog. The bracelets were a nice reminder of our blog address, and a reminder of our name change (from Library to Learning Commons.) We also discussed the benefits of joining our virtual book club “The JH Readers’ Cafe.”

Then the real fun began!

The students had 10 stations to work through, and they could work in pairs or teams of three. I had them download an app that scans barcodes before they came to the Learning Commons, although some downloaded upon arrival.

Next, using their phones they scanned the QR Codes for clues or answers to questions about our Learning Commons. The scavenger hunt eventually took them to our database. There they became reacquainted with our search system and finished their assignments.

It’s easy to see from the photos that the kids were fully engaged and having fun. The point of the exercise was to have the students become familiar with their new high school Learning Commons, but more important than that, I wanted them to be comfortable enough to return and not feel intimidated or overwhelmed when they did.

I am here to help and we will have fun learning together 🙂 

Hallelujah to that!!

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From Library to Learning Commons

Here at Johnston Heights Secondary, we are happy to share our journey as we transform from a traditional library to a Learning Commons. Over the summer months, much moving, boxing, organizing and restructuring has taken place, and you can watch the photo documentation of our transformation via our Flickr photostream. The new carpeting has just arrived, and over the next month the physical space will be reorganized, and new furniture will be delivered.

Our Learning Commons will be zoned with spacious, comfortable, and flexible areas; these areas will be purposefully zoned to encourage participatory learning and student exploration.  The zones will comprise of a reading lounge and a hands-on “petting zoo” (where students can play or experiment with technology), a global learning studio (where students can access Skype, connect with ePals, or create a Podcast), a multimedia presentation area, an independent study area, an instruction area, and a film/video studio. The Learning Commons will be a flexible space with adjustable and portable furniture, and the areas have been designed to encourage collaborations. We hope this new learning environment will invite curiosity, risk taking, and creativity.

In our Learning Commons, the learning will take place beyond the walls of our school, as our students will have access to current technology and digital resources. Our goal is to provide a more enriching virtual learning experience, and we are excited to work with our students as they become a generation of digitally knowledgeable and responsible citizens, and creative communicators and presenters.

That said, the Learning Commons at Johnston Heights will be user centered, not technology centered. Technology is only a part of our learning environment and not the focus or driving force. Our new physical space will soon become the heart or hub of our school, bringing students and staff together, and creating a participatory and collaborative culture and sense of community.  As always, our main focus at Johnston Heights is student learning; however, building relationships is always a priority in our teaching practice. Nothing is more important than relationships with our students, and they need to know they are valued, accepted, and important to us.

Throughout the year on my blog, I will be sharing and celebrating our students’ learning with you.  Mrs. Hall

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