Friday, October 30, 2009

Cool 2.0: Visit 1 with Brendan Halpin

"Things don't stop being funny because they're serious."
Brendan Halpin
So Thursday morning's Skype visit with Brendan Halpin was going along amazingly well. The students all had come prepared with mostly thoughtful questions, Skype was working fine, and we were really enjoying hearing Brendan's funny, honest answers. And then (oh no, the awful and then . . ), about halfway into the visit, OUR network crashed. No Internet, no Skype, no Brendan. Grrrr.

Folks, not only is Brendan Halpin a wonderful author (buy his books!), he's also a great guy who enjoys connecting with teenagers. He agreed to let me send him the remaining student questions, and, as a simulated Skype completion of the visit, he created a video of the answers, complete with simulated student interaction (thank you, Rowen). Oh, and Weezie is short for Helyn Louise.

Virtual Class Visit #1 from Brendan Halpin on Vimeo.

Based on half of a virtual author visit, I'd say that it's a really effective way to bring writing and writers into the classroom. It's relatively easy on the author (an hour of a day from a home office, rather than a whole day at minimum of airplanes, transportation, crazy scheduling) and oddly enough, a very personal experience for the students (maybe it's the larger-than-life head on the whiteboard?).

This was very different from an in-person author visit, which usually starts with a prepared talk by the author, followed by a shorter Q&A from the audience. Mindful of the author's time, we jumped right in with the student questions, and because we were all in their regular classroom space, I think the students felt a lot of "ownership" of the time (by that I mean, freedom to participate).

Tips for a Successful Skype
  1. Invite a really neat visitor
  2. Communicate in advance.
  3. Do a technology run-through in advance.
  4. Make sure the students are prepared with relevant questions.
  5. Inform your technology department of the event so they don't schedule maintenance during the visit.
  6. Be on time.
  7. Cross your fingers and hope for the best --
    technology does sometimes fail us, without notice :-(
  8. Follow up with students and your visitor with feedback and thanks.
Luckily, we get another try in a couple of weeks when Brendan returns to vist Greg's Junior High class. This time, I'm going to consult in advance with the invisible Internet sprites, to make sure the network stays with us for the whole visit.

11/7/09 - Comment from a participating teacher after showing Brendan's video to her class:
This was AWESOME! I showed it to my kids this week, and they loved it. What a great guy.


We Vant to Rrread Your Booooks!

From the Paideia Library team,

Happy Halloween!

from Anna, Natalie, Aamir (Library Assistant),
Anselm the Wise, & Margaret (aka Screech)

Thanks to JibJab Sendables® eCards.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Learning 1-2-3

I do love Big Huge Labs' Flickr Toys, especially the Motivator poster template. I use it to create the regular Reader of the Month posters, I've used it to make cute poster of my kids & their friends, and occasionally other projects pop up. Sure, similar posters could be created with a draw program or Photoshop (if I could ever learn to deal with Photoshop . . .), but Motivator's just so easy and good-looking.

Inspired by a long research-based blog post, yesterday I created a new little poster. I'd never before thought about the learning process as a three-step, and I wanted to share. It just makes so much sense.

Even though this is just in black and white, it looks so much better printed on a color laser printer. If you're interested in having a higher resolution jpg (it's still not super, but better than what you'll get from the above image), please leave me a comment with e-mail and I'll be happy to send you the file.

The stick figure clip art is licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on, which has lots of nifty school-related clips art free to use for non-commercial purposes. Go check it out.

Creative Commons License

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cool 2.0: Author Visit with Brendan Halpin

This week we are having a "virtual author visit" in the Junior High, and it's going to be really cool. A year or so ago some teachers had expressed interest in bringing Award-Winning YA Author to school, and I contacted her with the possibility of doing the visit via 'video conferencing,' using a Web 2.0 tool like Skype. Award-Winning Author wasn't familiar with this tool, said she might look into it, but our communication (and the idea) never went anywhere.

Early this school year, a School Library Journal article on author visits via Skype popped up in my RSS reader. Along with the article was a list of "authors who Skype," and among them were some familiar names, including Brendan Halpin, author of Losing My Faculties, How Ya' Like Me Now, and the Alex Award-winning Donorboy. Yippee! Donorboy, detailing the angry, hilarious and touching relationship between 15-year-old Rosalind and her suddenly-met, rather young biological father, has been an 8th grade Reading Bowl book for a number of years -- what if the 8th graders could meet with the author? Even better -- I e-mailed him, he replied the same day, and we're set!

I didn't reveal that this is a first for me as librarian, and for this group of Junior High kids. Brendan didn't reveal that this is the first time he's Skyped with a class. We came clean last week, and this morning we had a test run in the JH class we'll be using. Wow! The technology worked like a dream, the students got a taste of what we'll be doing later in the week, and I think the teachers are pretty impressed. I am really looking forward to the full-length visit. Thanks so much, Brendan! And, by the way, you don't really need to wear a tie for Paideia.

ps -- Kate Messner's updated Authors Who Skype list can be found here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Burning, Literally Speaking

The Mother Goose
October 2, 2009

Photo curtesy of Moriah Freed

Anyone who watches Atlanta news will know that a week ago last Friday, four still-uncaught teenagers set one of Paideia's original school buildings on fire, built in the 1920s, the hangout of our 9th graders and home to 4 classrooms and 1 administrative office. It's sad and terrifying and mind-spinning and infuriating, but with all that, our sense of humor remains intact. It's one of the (many) things I love about this school.

Our annual Barbeque, Square Dance & Library Book Sale went on as planned the following evening, at which six families bought and donated books to the library in memory of the Goose. On Monday morning, the high school schedule was switched to hold the weekly Monday Morning Meeting first thing. Because of water in the theatre, MMM was held in the gym. The Headmaster led the meeting with a silent companion, a concrete Canada Goose of the "yard art" variety, sporting a sign around its neck reading MOTHER. I wish I had a photo to show you. It was wonderful.

The Library lost a few DVDs that had been checked out to social studies teachers, but that pales in comparison to everything else those teachers lost in their classrooms, personal property which reflected who they are and what they teach. I've been pitching in to help order replacement books and videos. It's not much, but it's a task that benefits from the knowledge and connections that librarians have of wholesale sources, editions and pricing.

As far as I know, we only lost one library book in the fire. One of my best 9th grade customers, whose locker was in the Mother Goose, had been the first to check out the 'hot' new sequel to last year's bestselling The Hunger Games by Suzanne

Raianna was already in the library when I got to school on Monday morning. She looked up at me and said, "Catching Fire?? Caught fire."

I mean, how can you not love this place?!