Taking A Deep Breath: Course 5 Ideas

 Course Five, you’re making me queasy.

 Photo by Flickr user cutglassdecanter under CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Flickr user cutglassdecanter under CC BY-SA 2.0

There are so many things that are awesome about being a librarian (I have a huge “classroom”; I get to spend thousands of dollars on books; I help kids and teachers find stuff of all kinds; I work with EVERYONE!) but this is the first time I’ve thought, “I wish I was still a classroom teacher”.

Course 5 would be easier if I had complete control over my own classroom and units and could just decide what I’m going to do and when.  However, one of the other “best things” about being a librarian is that we are the ultimate collaborator.  Therefore, the biggest roadblock I’m going to face in Course 5 is find someone who willing to commit to a collaboration that is just as important to my learning as it is to the students’ learning.

On a more positive note, if I can get someone to jump on this train with me, Course 5 can be pretty exciting. After my exploration of the Course 5 examples, I am reflecting on the importance of this unit redesign not just being about one tool but being about leveraging technology to truly transform the way students are learning.  The most effective sample  Course Five projects I saw did this through the use of multiple tools, like Bringing Life to Poetry and Enhancing Book Clubs.

Techno-Gamifying LIS Reads – LIS Lê

lisreadsnormalblueLIS Reads is my biggest initiative right now, and the first three and a half months were an interesting journey. You can learn more about it on our library blog and in my previous COETAIL posts: A #ChooseKind MashUp and  Coming to a Screen Near You: LIS Reads – LIS Le.  Some aspects have been fantastic!  Sometimes it’s felt a little lackluster. The first month I had an activity in the library once a week.  In October and November I traveled quite a bit (professionally and personally) and I wasn’t able to host as many activities.  I would like to see if the use of technology can take some of the pressure off of my physical presence to make things happen.


Photo Credit: susivinh via Compfight cc

As I posted earlier, I think I can leverage our house system to use gamification and reading to enhance the impact of LIS Reads throughout the school.  Also, my last LIS Reads celebration of the year was tied to the monthly book selections, but it moved beyond into reading in general because the break was coming and I wanted to encourage any kind of reading over the break, not just LIS Reads books.  Here are a few things I am pondering:

  • Author Visits via Skype (I was quite impressed by the Skype-a-Creator project Madeline Cox did for Course 5.  At first glance, it seems simple: have some experts Skype in.  After looking more closely at her unit, it’s such a powerful example of completely changing a study in multiple ways.)
  • Virtual Book Club discussion using Google Hangout
  • LIS Reads – LIS Lê tumblr to submit Quotetastic Friday style quotes from the montly books
  • Sharing related quotes and thoughts on Twitter with #lisreads
  • Use WattPad to encourage fan-fiction pieces related to our LIS Reads – LIS Lê texts
  • Have Battle of the Books style competitions between the houses on the books at the end of the year
  • Vine Reviews of Books

Of course, a challenge of doing this through the reading program instead of through a classroom unit is that I don’t have the same students all the time.  Also, I will need to work pretty hard to ensure continuity and connection between all of these activities so that it doesn’t just become a series of unrelated tech activities. Students would end up working on a variety of skills depending on the tools they use and the activities they engage in. Obviously this idea is still in the percolating phase, but I think it has potential if I plan it out well.  LIS Reads – LIS Lê won’t kick back into high gear until February, so I’ll have some wiggle room when I get back.  In the end, I want to connect students beyond the walls of LIS, strengthen the ties to our community through our house system, and have students think about reading as more than just the act of moving from left to right and top to bottom (depending on your language and culture of course!).

Making it happen with Minecraft

Minecraft!  So excited about it!  We’ve got MinecraftEDU on 25 of our library computers, we’ve got enthusiastic teachers, and we’ve got students who are chomping at the bit to use it.  Rebekah Madrid’s post on 7th Graders (and one teacher) learning with Minecraft (as well as her offer to share her Build a City project resources with me- Rebekah, I accept!) has me pumped up to give this a try.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons contributor Adam J.W.C. under CC BY-SA 2.5

Photo by Wikimedia Commons contributor Adam J.W.C. under CC BY-SA 2.5

Our lower MYP humanities students study cities and dwellings and in the past they designed an ideal city on paper for their final product: BORING!  We wanted to give designing their ideal city in Minecraft a try last year, but it just didn’t come together in time. I know that this year’s Year 8 team is up for it, but this unit also traditionally takes place near the end of the school year. This won’t fit into our COETAIL timeline, but I noticed in Alex Gunther’s Minecraft Mania video reflection that his students hadn’t completed their unit by the COETAIL deadline either.

If I can get past the timing issue, I think this idea has the most potential because I will get to work closely with other teachers, there are clear models of other schools using this tool, and it fits well into the COETAIL course 5 format and requirements.  My students will learn to use a tool many of them enjoy in a different way; I’ll need to give up control in the sense that I am not as skilled with Minecraft as many of my students.  I am particularly pleased about the potential for focusing on collaboration and communication skills like the ones that came up in Alex’s Minecraft Mania video reflection.

Minecraft teacher avatar by deviantART user CoreFire1528 under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Minecraft Teacher avatar by deviantART user CoreFire1528 under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Also, there’s a growing community of LIS teachers who are very interested in using Minecraft in their classrooms.  As the librarian, I could potentially lead this as a professional learning opportunity and document the learning process of teachers as well as students.

 On the back, back burner

  • Professional Learning: I’m on our professional learning team, and the whole reason I joined was to work on growing the PLNs of our faculty.  If I want to go from the angle of librarian as professional learning leader, there’s a lot of opportunity for a Course 5 project here… if I can get teachers on board!
  • Tech Tuesday: I’m thinking about flipped classrooms and teachers and educational technology.  Tech Tuesday is great.  It’s also exhausting.  I tried alternating Tuesdays, but that wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.  I wonder if I can conduct some kind of Tech Tuesday renovation by redefining it through the use of instead of just the study and sharing of technology…
Image by deviantART user Karen Bloodstone under CC BY-ND 3.0

Image by deviantART user Karen Bloodstone under CC BY-ND 3.0

  • World Poetry Day & March LIS Reads: Perhaps instead of attacking all of LIS Reads – LIS Lê, I should focus in on one month and transform it through technology. World Poetry Day is March 21st, and our LIS Reads – LIS Lê books are all in verse for the month of March.  Bringing Life to Poetry got me inspired, and I think I might be able to be more effective if I addressed one month as a “redefined unit” instead of trying to work on my COETAIL project from February to June.

The thing is,educational technology has been impacting how I teach and, I hope, how my students learn ever since leaving library school.  The key to a successful Course 5 project for me will be growing beyond tool by tool integration into true, long-term transformation.  I am looking forward to having the next month to ponder where I want to buckle down and make something awesome happen.

11 thoughts on “Taking A Deep Breath: Course 5 Ideas

  1. So many good ideas here! I think as a librarian you can have an embarrassment of riches, as you do get to collaborate with so many other people and you yourself have so many different roles within a school. And hope getting people on board is easy!

    I’ve talked loads about Minecraft (and I’ll share the links ASAP!), so just talking about gamifing the library is a new and interesting idea for me. I think your ideas are excellent (I love the idea of a hashtag!) and the struggle will be making sure it’s sustainable and engaging. And don’t underestimate the authors who would be willing to Skype in and how you get actually allow students to take ownership of this type of event.

    I’m very geeked to see what you chose to do and how it goes. I hope you keep blogging and sharing during the process. Good luck!

    • Hi Rebekah,

      Well, that is a much more positive way to look at it! I DO have an embarrassment of riches as a librarian! I am very interested in the gamification of my LIS Reads, and at least it would mean that I was in control of my project without having to depend on others (a very anti-librarian thing to say!). The interesting part for me will be as you said: figuring out how to make it sustainable and all connected. I am letting my brain have a good think over the break, and I will have all of January to work it out when I get back as LIS Reads won’t start again officially until February. Of course, I will have a “What did you read?” celebration in January, and that might be a good time to test out some of my ideas to see what catches on and what won’t work.

      Thanks for your feedback, as always.

  2. Hi Katie,

    You have a crazy amount of ideas floating about which is exciting for you and the lucky students involved. Like you have already identified, there are loads of students to work with, and knowing some of the teaching crewing, finding another colleague fully committed to the shift shouldn’t be too hard!

    Reading through your blog two things helped clarify possibilities for me.
    Skyping- We have an innovators and inventors unit coming up and the idea of connecting with one or more sounds pretty awesome!
    Minecraft – I have been toying at this for about a year and couldn’t implement it here because the netbooks don’t have enough grunt. Since then, I have found some desktops that might just do the job, so I am looking into that and getting the full support of the tech network boys and girls here to set it up. Initially, I want to run it as an ASA/ECA and see how that goes before introducing fully next when we get some more hardware!! Let me know if you or anyone else there is keen.

    Happy holidays and I am looking forward to seeing where you decide to go.

    • Hi Donovan,

      You are so right in that at LIS we have a staff ready to jump into tasks like these with gusto.

      Speaking of Skyping, did you visit the link I included above to the Skype a Creator project? If not, definitely give it a visit. It would be an excellent structure for your inventors and innovators unit. The other resource to look at is Skype for Education: link to education.skype.com.

      I am spending my holiday trying to master Minecraft in survival mode. It’s an interesting task, as I am realizing that it’s harder than I had given it credit for. I am not saying I thought it would be easy, but I truly didn’t realize it would be this hard. I think it’s going to be important for me to think about how we can support non-Minecrafters in being successful in pursuing this project. Of course, I am also aware that part of the reason why it’s hard for me is could be because the last video game I engaged with was the original Super Mario Brothers 3. I think we’ll run our humanities unit in an offline Creative mode, but I would be interested in doing an online multiplayer world between our two schools in either survival or creative mode. For me it would have to happen during Term 3. I think that would be starting in April and ending in June. Let’s chat more about this. It would be really fun to connect our two schools. Also, I bet Adam would be up for it, making it easier to connect similar age groups, since he’s in year 6 now.

      Always so nice to see you in the COETAIL-sphere! Please tell your lovely ladies that Ju and I say hi! 🙂 Happy Holidays to you all.


  3. Hi Katy,
    I love a brain that works like mine… so many ideas, so little time!

    You have so many great ideas here, I’m wondering if you’ve come to any decisions while you’ve been on break. I like your Minecraft thoughts. I think it will be easy to collaborate with classes on this. Watching my six year old mess around with the Minecraft app on a long train ride this vacation was fascinating. It’s interesting how much they can figure out with no instruction.

    I do love your ideas on expanding your LIS Reads project through technology. I think that you can “techify” different components of it to make deeper connections for your students – like Skype Chats with authors, hashtagging, Vine reviews, virtual book clubs (I’d join!), etc. As an avid reader, I am more drawn to those ideas, as I think it has the potential to make kids more engaged with reading.

    Those are my thoughts for now. I look forward to checking in on your blog to see your progress on your Final Project!

    Happy New Year,

    • Hey Julie,

      Well, I suppose the somanyideassolittletime disorder has its benefits: we’re never bored! 🙂

      I messed with MineCraft quite a bit over this vacation, and I really enjoyed myself, which was a pleasant surprise since I am not much of a gamer. I don’t think I will do this as my COETAIL project though, for two reasons. One, it’s been done by so many before! I feel like I would be doing a pale imitation of Rebekah’s Course 5 project. We will integrate MineCraft anyways, and I’ll probably post about the experience here. But I feel a little bit like it’s taking the easy or obvious way out.

      So I believe I’m going to go with techni-gamifying my LIS Reads program. In the end, my goal is to make deeper connections to the texts, build skills in our students and develop our community. I think this will be the perfect way to do it. Sunday is going to be a work day for me as I figure out just how to make all of that happen! It will be interesting since it’s not traditional unit, but libraries today aren’t so traditional, at least the good ones. 😉

      Here’s to Course 5,

  4. hey katy, the skype a creator idea is awesome…thank you madeline cox…I started running a list of people my classes could call for different units as soon as I read about this….I will have to write to madeline and ask for some tips…I am super interested in how your project works out as minecraft is discussed pretty regularly at LIS…I like the idea of working with a tool students are more familiar with than teachers…kids will dig this…maybe the chance for lots of peer to peer coaching here for students that have not yet played mine craft…I wonder if you are going to hit parents that do not know about mine craft and do not allow their kids to play digital “games”…probably…should be fun…see you later

    • Hey tim,

      Yeah, that Skype-a-creator project is fantastic. I am a little concerned about our Internet connection here, but Ali skypes in university representatives all the time so it’s not impossible.

      While I’m not going to do Minecraft as my official COETAIL project because of timing, I am really looking forward to diving into later this school year. I like the peer-to-peer coaching element you mentioned. That would be great to work it into their experience as an official part- how are you helping others? What resources are you sharing? I think building this sort of community element into their project would help prevent some of the “S/he lit my house on fire!” problem.

      It would be interesting to host a parent Minecraft night…. I know there are definitely going to be many who think it’s a waste of time. The coolest part would be having the students teach them and have them explore the cities they built as part of their project… I’ll have to think about this more, bring it up with Sheila and her Humanities colleagues.

      Thanks for stopping by friend,

      • Hi Katy and Tim,

        A parent Minecraft night is super interesting Tim, thanks for the suggestion! It will definitely be something to think about for next year, although it is such a shame that we won’t be able to rope Germain in for a demonstration, because, man, is that kid awesome in the virtual world!

        Peer-coaching is definitely the way forward when using Minecraft in the classroom… if only Katy and I can convince those Year 8 boys that you can help someone without touching their mouse!

        Thanks for the great suggestions everyone!

  5. Hi Katie,

    I too have difficulties with Skype due to connection but if I time it right, preferably in the morning I might get lucky!

    Regarding Minecraft, has the tech team got back to you about the possibility of setting it up on the servers? I am still waiting to hear back from mine and hopefully, all things going well, I will run it with my Year 5-6 students as an ECA in conjunction with a teacher is using Scratch to run a Code club. I can see some pretty strong links within an Explorers unit that we did earlier on in the year so hopefully this possible ECA can help me learn about Minecraft, (alongside the students) in preparation for possible UOI integration.

    • Hi Donovan,

      Sorry, just saw this comment. Hey, we just had our first Skype visit! I am working on a mini-movie about it right now. 🙂 The author, John Corey Whaley, was in Los Angeles in the USA, so he got up SUPER early, and it worked out great. He was wonderful.

      Right now, the way students are accessing Minecraft is they log in to the computer using a Minecraft specific log in and the icon is on the desktop. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, access across the server is not happening. Mike, Tom and Adam have really gone Minecraft nuts over the last two months. They’ll be presenting about it at Tech Tuesday in two weeks.

      That’s pretty exciting that you’ll be running it as an ECA. I am thinking about it for Term 3. The kids really want it, and I was thinking it would be cool to ask them to do some redesign of our current campus work in Creative mode… How will you combine it with coding?

      Thanks for stopping in,


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