Hi Friends, I hope you enjoyed last month’s guest posts on the theme of gratitude. Some of those have continued to trickle in, and I will be sharing them here. However, today’s post is going to bless your socks off. It comes from my friend and Georgia State Media Specialist of the Year, Jennifer Lewis. She is sharing her best ideas for when you are a solo librarian, but even if you’re not, you will get some great tips here. She previously shared this information in my first online conference, The Efficient Teacher. Enjoy, share, comment, and be sure to follow Jennifer on Twitter.
“Hello! My name is Jennifer Lewis, and I am the media specialist at Indian Knoll Elementary School in Canton, Georgia. Being a librarian is the best job in public education! It’s the perfect combination of literature, technology, and of course, kids.
But being a solo librarian is a huge job! My first few years in the media center, I spent twelve or more hours a day working. I realized that if I didn’t find ways to make the job manageable for me, I would burn out quickly. Today I’m going to share with you a few of the tools I use to help me work smarter, not harder!
The first tool that I use is OneNote. I created a OneNote notebook that I call my Media Center Task List. I created a section for each month of the year. Each section has a list of tasks that I need to complete that month. Some of the items are things that I do every month, like “schedule volunteers.” Some are specific to the month, like “order cardstock for end of the year awards.” As I complete the task, I change the color of the words from black to red to mark it done. Or, if it’s something I decided not to do this year but want to keep it on the list for next year, I change the words to purple.
I also have sections for celebrating the Georgia Children’s Book Award nominees, author visits, and the book fair as well as a list of projects that I would love to get to if I ever have any extra time. I have the OneNote app on my phone and iPad. I love the app because I can go over my to do lists while I’m standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to pick up my kids from baseball practice.
Another tool that I use is my Outlook calendar. My media center operates on a mostly flexible schedule, so I don’t see the same class at the same time each week. When I collaborate with a teacher on a lesson, I create an invite on my Outlook calendar. I include the topic of the lesson and any notes about the lesson in the body of the invite and then send it to the teacher so that it’s on her calendar as well.
There are several features that make Outlook my favorite scheduling tool. In Outlook, I can add a link to a Skype meeting, create a repeating event (like a weekly event for my kindergarten classes or a yearly event for my staff members’ birthdays), and search for events that happened in the past, which is helpful for remembering which lessons I have taught in previous years. I can also give access to my calendar to others at my school. I give full calendar access to my administrators and also to my teachers so that they can see when I am available for lessons. In Outlook, I can also create multiple calendars. I have one calendar where I track lessons and school events. And I have a separate calendar for my volunteers.
A lot of my job is helping teachers and students find the best resources to teach standards or for research projects. In the past, I haven’t had a place to house the resources for students to retrieve easily. Destiny Collections is a new component within Destiny Discover, our library catalog. It allows users to collect resources, such as websites, ebooks, documents, images, and physical resources all in one easy-to-access location! We can use Collections to curate resources for our students that correspond with the standards they are learning. It helps streamline their research time. Instead of spending days just looking for the right resources, I can provide the resources and have my students spend their time reading and learning the content.
The first Collection I made was to support a project designed by our fifth grade ELA teacher. The students were researching two historical figures and writing a comparison/contrast of them. I knew Collections was going to be popular when I went into a classroom to deliver a book a few days after introducing it to the fifth graders and saw students using the Collection I made. After that, I continued to develop Collections each time I collaborated with a teacher. Soon teachers were requesting Collections for each unit of study. Collections has saved me so much time because I can create them so quickly, and the resources included are exactly what my teachers and students need.
Another great time saving tool is Flipgrid. This summer, Flipgrid was acquired by Microsoft and now it’s completely free! Flipgrid is a website or app that allows teachers to create “grids” of short discussion questions that students respond to through recorded videos. Each grid is a little message board where teachers pose a question and their students can post 90 second video responses that appear in a tiled “grid” display. Students can also respond to each other. Each grid generates a link (we post the links in our learning management system).
The students in this picture are responding to a discussion question I posted after a lesson on digital citizenship and website privacy policies. We have also used Flipgrid to have students share the books they are reading. If a book is recommended by a classmate, they are more likely to read the book. It’s a great way to get responses from all students. Even students who would never raise their hand to participate in a class discussion love adding their videos to Flipgrid.
Flipgrid saves me time as a media specialist because I can use it as a quick formative assessment tool to inform instruction. Instead of going through a stack of tickets out the door, I can pull up the grid on my laptop, iPad, or phone to view student responses. Working with the classroom teacher, we decide if an individual student or even the majority of the class need reteaching.
Another tool that my students and I love that is a great timesaver for me is Microsoft Forms. I use Microsoft Forms anytime I need to collect responses. For example, I created a Microsoft form for a mock election during the last presidential election. Occasionally, I like to have a quick way to check for comprehension of the books my students read for book club. We use this data to select our reading bowl team. So I create a ten question quiz for each of the books in Forms. During our meetings, I email a link to the quiz to the students who read the book. Microsoft Forms grades the quiz for me and offers instant feedback.
Participating in the Georgia Children’s Book Award voting is one of my favorite things to do every year. I love how having a shared list of books promotes kids discussing books, arguing over their favorites, and it also leads to kids checking out these books and other books by the same author. I announce our voting day early so that teachers and I have plenty of time to read the books to our students. When voting day arrives, they come to the media center and watch a short slideshow to review all of the choices. Then students go to a voting booth. In years past, tallying the results from hundreds of ballots has taken me forever! So this past year, I created a Microsoft Form set up on a laptop for the students to make their choice. The students love this because many of them have seen their parents vote and our set up is similar to that. After students vote, they head over to a Dr. Seuss-themed photo booth where the classroom teacher takes pictures of the students and uploads them to Seesaw. And the students get an “I voted!” sticker just like mom and dad get when they vote. This is easily one of my favorite days of the school year. And the Microsoft form makes the day easy to manage.
If you have any questions about how I have used these technology tools to become a more efficient media specialist, please contact me! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I blog when I can at missliberryteacher.blogspot.com. My Twitter handle is @librarylew and my Instagram user name is @ikesmediacenter.”