Practicum Week 10: MACUL

This week I got to attend the MACUL (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) conference, which several media specialists I know here highly recommended for me to attend since such a big portion of the job now involves technology — using it to improve instruction, teaching it to kids, etc.  Two of the talks were of particular interest to me — using Google Classroom and Google Forms.  I know from my elementary and middle-school placements that the district have adopted Google Education for all schools, and teachers/media specialists were having a hard time figuring how to incorporate all the different apps and functionalities that Google has to offer.  I already use Google Forms quite a bit, so the talk was a little disappointing.  That said, I still managed to learn a couple of new tricks that I plan on using during the practicum and in the future.  The Google Classroom talk was more informative because this area seems to be the most challenging for teachers/media specialists I have spoken to.  Unfortunately because I don’t have a Google Educator account, I couldn’t play with any of the information I’ve learned.  It does seem to be quite useful though!  Another talk I went to had to do with becoming a certified Google Educator (  Again, because the school district I am hoping to work in is heavily using Google Education Apps, this might be a great professional development idea for me.  I started on a lesson just to see how it is, and I’ve already learned a few really cool things about Google Calendars (of all things!) that I am going to use and share with teachers.  Another important session was the student showcases — where students show off what they’ve been doing/learning using technology.  I got lots of ideas for project based learning for elementary school libraries.

I realized this week how valuable conferences like this are to those already practicing or those who are working to get into the profession.  Not only can you learn from speakers in and out of your community, you learn a lot from networking/collaborating with other educators too.  Even an informal conversation might spark a great idea for a future projects.


Practicum Week 9: Bullying Incident

(This post was written in March…yup, I am just really LATE in these practicum updates.)

I was subbing for one of my mentors yesterday when a parent volunteer approached me with a boy behind her.  She said she’s been witnessing him verbally bullying two other kids in the media center and was wondering if I would kick him out.  He was of course very defensive and argued that he did not bully the students and that he should not get in trouble for what he said.  I felt like I was in a hard spot because I wasn’t within earshot when this happened and therefore didn’t feel like I’d have the authority to take any action (plus I hate these types of confrontations).  The parent said she’d give him another chance if he apologized, so he reluctantly went off to find the students.  After he sat back down at the computer I went over and asked to take down his name, so I can leave a note for my mentor.  At first he wouldn’t give it to me, saying he really shouldn’t get in trouble for what he did.  (I was a little shock that he wouldn’t just give it to me…that he would talk back to an adult in charge.)  I said I wasn’t out to get him in trouble, but as the sub I had to report the incident so the media specialists can address it when they come back.  I also reminded him that he was in the media center because he had a lunch pass, which was a privilege, not a right, and that the media specialists have sometimes taken passes away from students who were abusing them.  He scoffed and talked back some more (mainly about how he didn’t understand why his words would be considered a “bullying” act), but I again said this was something that the media specialists would address when they are back.

When I finally got his name (and confirmed it with one of his friends), I emailed my mentors and briefly filled them in.  I then found out that they’d had issues with this boy before, so they went ahead and forwarded my report to the principal and the counselor.  Later, at a staff meeting, teachers were reminded to use office referral forms when they are sending kids to the office or reporting an incident.  I’ve seen forms like this before at other schools and I like the idea of something formal for the teachers to submit and the parents to read and sign.  Otherwise, it ends up just being a he said, she said type situation, or the students might not take the incident as seriously.  I am waiting to hear what the administration decides to do with this particular boy, but since he’s a repeat offender I am guessing some of his privileges will be reduced.

Update: Before I left this portion of my practicum, the same boy got into trouble at least one more time, this time for altering his grades on the school district’s student portal, then printing out a copy for his parents.  He lost media center and computer privileges for 2 weeks (I think), but I am not sure if he suffered more serious consequences at home.  Incidents like this make me think hard about what I would do as a parent, if my children got involved in activities like this.  And, what would I do if I were the teacher/media specialist?  What would be some consequences that would lead to actual behavior change???


Practicum Week 8: Copyright & Fair Use

(This practicum reflection was written in March, 2015.)

This week my mentors and I continued to work on March Reading Madness and Scholastic Book Fair-related tasks.  Today was the last day of the book fair, and we very happily packed up everything and printed out necessary sales reports.  Next week we’ll have one last thing to juggle!  I got a chance to direct parent volunteers as they came in to help with various aspects of MRM (decorate raffle prize case, hang up posters, deliver program kits to teachers, etc.), and was finally able to finish our display for the book bracket and get the online voting form going.

A couple of interesting things happened this week:

  1. My mentor warned me this might happen, but I actually caught a few kids trying to shoplift from the book fair!  I hate being the “bad guy” — especially since I am a new face in the media center — so I pointed the kids out to my mentor when I suspected something was happening.  She said that usually, the problem is easily solved when she walks over and asks — in a friendly way — whether they need help, or simply ask, “Are you buying that?  If not, try not to play with it too much.”  Sure enough, when she did this, the kids stopped what they were doing and left.  I guess one thing I need to do between now and getting a real job in the library is to grow a thicker skin…or rather, shed the side of me that is afraid of confrontation/needs to be liked by everyone.
  2. On Dr. Seuss Day, one of the parapros came in and asked if we could play “Horton Hears a Who” on the TV in the cafeteria during the students’ lunch hour.  We didn’t think anything of it, created the request form, and let them play the video.  At the end of the day though, my mentor received an email from the school’s tech facilitator, who had heard about this and questioned whether she had violated a copyright/fair use rule.  When my mentor turned to me for my opinion, my first instinct was that no, this wasn’t a violation, but an instance of fair use (I was just studying this for my Comps!).  However, because I am a huge nerd, I decided to do a bit more research (also in case the tech facilitator asks for “proof” that we were right).  Apparently, while showing a movie (or a clip of a movie) in a classroom or similar instructional setting is considered fair use — it has instructional purpose — showing it in the cafeteria as a celebration makes the showing an instance of “public performance” and therefore a violation of copyright laws.  I am assuming, then, that even showing a movie inside a classroom, if it’s not for “education”, but for “entertainment” (e.g. during class parties, etc.), is also a violation of copyright/fair use?  Am I understanding it correctly?

According to my mentor, showing movies during celebrations/parties has always been a sore spot for the tech facilitator in this district, and in the past the teachers/media specialists have always played ignorant.  I know from my kids being in school that movies are played all the time during parties or celebrations.  What would you do if you were approached (by teachers, principals, etc.) about playing a movie in such circumstances (non-educational) and you were aware of the copyright/fair use rule against such activities?  Would you stick to the rule books, or turn a blind eye since this is something that’s done everywhere???

Practicum Week 7: Into the Classroom!

(This post was written back in February/March.  I am a bit behind on the practicum updates but hope to catch up this week!)

This week at Hart was a perfect storm of March Reading Madness (a month-long reading program), a 1 1/2 week long Scholastic Book Fair, preparations for Authors in April, digital citizenship classes, and the 8th grader’s research gallery walk (where parents are invited to see students present their research papers).  The media specialists and I were all juggling multiple projects during the day and communicating through Google Docs by night.  I am starting to see that I prefer interacting and teaching students, even though the busy work of putting together different programs (making posters, raffle tickets, book brackets, setting up for the bookfair, selling books, calling vendors for donations, etc.) is in some ways easier/less stressful.  (When I have a lot to get done in a short amount of time, to-do lists comfort me.  They are great visual reminders to take one step at a time, that everything will get done, that there’s an end goal in sight, etc.)

I really enjoyed getting to teach digital citizenship classes to four 6th grade classes and 2 7th grade classes.  Some I taught by myself, some I taught with the media specialist, and one I taught with the health teacher.  I really liked teaching solo and with the media specialist, but not so much with the health teacher, mainly because I had to teach his material.  It was really hard to go through someone’s slides, because the health teacher had different stories that he wanted to share with the students that I couldn’t possibly know about, so he kept interrupting me to add his points.  Though he did this politely, I thought it made me looked unprepared in front of the students.  I felt that it would’ve gone better if he let me insert my own anecdotes when I was speaking, because ultimately we were both giving students examples of online safety, netiquette, etc. and it shouldn’t matter whether they heard his specific stories or not.

When I co-taught with the media specialist, we used a presentation I had put together, but she and I had sat down a couple of times to discuss each point, and together we added or took out information that we thought were important or redundant.  We collaborated well, and in the classroom, when she was speaking she’d ask me if I wanted to add anything, and I’d do the same when I was speaking.  The process seemed easier with her…possibly because I have been working with her now for two weeks, whereas the health teacher and I have never crossed paths before the first class.

In our sessions with the 6th graders we also decided to let the students talk instead of us lecturing them about the topic.  For the most part, the students enjoyed the interaction…they had many stories to tell!  We also decided to use a simple exit ticket to assess whether they were paying attention to our presentation, whether they learned anything new, had any concerns or questions, or had suggestions for topics we didn’t cover.  I was impressed by some of the students’ feedback, and concerned too that so many of them (still babies in my mind!) were worried about being bullied, or having to stand up to bullies, etc.

Overall, this was a great week.  I’d heard many horror stories about middle-schoolers, but they were actually pretty cool to work with!

Practicum Week 6: Middle School

(This post was written back in February.  I am a bit behind on my practicum updates will try to catch up this week!)

This week I started my placement at Hart Middle.  The media specialist position is shared by two librarians — Audrey S. (Monday/Tuesday) and Kristi T. (Wedneday through Friday) — who are known in the school community for being highly effective and enthusiastic, and I am looking forward to learning from them.

One of the biggest differences between elementary and middle school is that middle school media specialists are on a flex schedule.  One of the last things I did at Hampton was attend a district wide media specialist meeting where the director hinted at the possibility of elementary media specialists going to a flex schedule starting next year (the “library” special would be replaced by a “foreign language” special), and many LMS present were understandably concerned — not just for their job security, but how they would be able to effectively carry out the goals of the ILS program if they aren’t seeing classes regularly.  I promised my mentor there that I would pay attention to how flexible schedule is done at Hart and report back anything they might find useful at an elementary school level.

What I learned during my first week about flex scheduling at the middle school level…

  • You can go a long time without going into a class or have a class come see you.
  • It’s up to you to seek out opportunities to collaborate with teachers.  Even though many of them probably could use the help, they are usually too busy to seek it out.  Some might think you don’t have anything to offer to them.  Some are so afraid of new technology they are unwilling to have you show them how it can be incorporated in the class.
  • Even when there’s obvious areas where LMS can insert themselves, some opportunities seem to be lost.  There are classes being taught at Hart on digital citizenship, internet safety, and something called “tools for success”, where students learn about different web tools/apps and research skills that will help them in their middle school years.  However, one of these classes is being regularly offered by the Health teacher, and one is taught by rotating teachers (who are put on the rotation for no specific reason other than they have a free period on a certain day).  I asked why these aren’t taught by LMS, or at least co-taught.  The health teacher, I was told, has a really great PowerPoint that he’s been adding to for the last couple of years, and since internet safety/digital citizenship are related to personal safety, the administration feels like the health teacher is the natural person to teach it.  I wonder why they wouldn’t at least collaborate though, since these topics are also standards that should be taught in the media center.
  • I was asked to put together a presentation on digital citizenship/cyberbullying for 6th graders next week, which I started working on, using resources found on, etc.  We are planning a teaching portion, whole group activity (where we will watch a video, then discuss what we saw), and then break out into small groups.  I am looking forward to doing this with 6th graders because it’s such an important topic, but I wonder again why the LMS are not doing this more often.  This could also be a great opportunity to collaborate with the health teacher, who already HAS a great presentation we could use and build upon.  A lot of time and energy could be saved if they recognize that they are teaching the same thing and find a way to share these resources.
  • Because we didn’t see any classes this week, most of my tasks were focused on some big events/projects that are coming up: Scholastic Book Fair next week (Feb 25-March 6), March Reading Madness, and Authors In April.  MRM is a BIG deal and so I spent a few days creating displays, reading logs, raffle tickets, posters, etc., and brainstorming with Audrey and Kristi how everything will work.  We also had to contact different local vendors to see if they’d donate coupons that we could use as prizes.  I might help them create a website and digital book bracket that the students can vote on.

My big question this week is about fixed vs. flex scheduling.  It seems like flex scheduling works better for middle/high schools (if only because there is no way you could see all the students in a week) but what are some ways to ensure that you are still seen as necessary and effective?  Is flex scheduling better or worse in terms of job security?