Mapping Our Schools

by Dee Porter, Librarian at Vandegrift High School, Leander ISD

Interactive maps are powerful collaboration tools that librarians can use to support teachers and engage students. Placing data on a map provides a visual aid which helps students connect learning to their own lives and helps them find relationships between data.

High school English language learners, their two teachers and I worked together to create a map of schools they previously attended as a get to know you activity. The answers ranged from Canyon Vista Middle School in a nearby school district to Concord College of Sino Canada in Tongzhou, China. Each student placed their information on the map. When all the points were entered each student unmuted themselves one at a time and shared information about their school with the group. The map ignited student conversation filled with engaging stories about ancient Chinese musical instruments, long car rides, uniforms and cafeteria food. 

Mapping Our Schools

One early stage English acquisition student answered the questions on the form and a teacher read his answers aloud. He responded to questions via the chat. More fluent language acquisition students examined the points on the map and discussed patterns in the data and reasons for those patterns.

Student creating a map

I created the map using Survey 123 which you can learn more about here. Alternatively you can do the same lesson in Google My Maps.

  1. Use this form to collect information about one previous school

  2. Save the resulting spreadsheet as a .csv

  3. Go to google my maps and import the .csv as a layer

  4. Switch the view from satellite to street and students can talk about parks, restaurants and other landmarks they have visited. Students and teachers can also use the locations on the map to ask the presenter questions. 

So contact a teacher and create collaborative maps by asking students simple questions like name one school you have attended in the past. If you need more ideas please see the ones listed below. If you have any questions please contact me; I love to talk about maps!

  • World Geography story maps detailing Central American current events

  • Colleges teachers on one campus attended

  • Cities represented at a librarian conference

  • Student birthplaces

  • Changing setting of a character’s journey

  • Where student t-shirts were made

  • Local community helpers

Coping, Healing, & Persevering: Social-Emotional Learning with Technology

by Wenndy Pray, MLS - B. L. Gray Jr. High Librarian, Sharyland Independent School District

Humans are social creatures. Although some may argue that we can survive in solitude, we thrive on emotional connection, relationships, and company. As Viktor Maslov, Jean Piaget, and the many others who have expanded on their findings regarding social and cognitive development, librarians now find themselves at the forefront of discovery. Most importantly, we’re equipped with 21st Century tools that can help preserve this critical component for our students’ social and emotional development.
The current pandemic has placed limitations on an integral part of our experience on this earth: our social lives. This concern fills our minds and hearts with questions. How will our students survive this? How will our secondary students expand their interpersonal skills? How will our middle grade and elementary students learn what meaningful interaction looks like when they can only do it through a screen? How will our littles experience social-emotional growth at such an impressionable age? It would be comforting to have the answers to these questions. Humans are resilient creatures. We are overcomers. I can tell you that our students can. And they will. As their librarians, we are part of what will help them use this experience for good.
Librarians know the importance of telling our stories. Not only can reading, telling, or listening to a story inspire empathy, it can also be cathartic. Wakelet and Flipgrid are two web tools that can provide a safe, secure, and creative outlet for students. Students can learn about digital etiquette, or netiquette, connect through responding or collaborating, and by providing a place to tell their story.
If you haven’t heard about Wakelet, today is your lucky day. This visually-appealing, collaboration-infused, digital organizing tool is a platform where students can learn to create collections by uploading links to their favorite sites, type text, import tweets and YouTube videos, and even record live shorts using the Flipgrid integration. Students can use Wakelet to chronicle their experience distancing during the pandemic. This opportunity inspires creativity as well as supplies an outlet. It’s privacy options provide a safe environment for students to express themselves, share what interests them, or remember a loved one they’ve lost during the pandemic. 
Librarians can use Wakelet to showcase their latest programming, create newsletters for community outreach, and connect with other librarians as well.  Here is a collection titled School Librarians to follow on Wakelet. Connect with librarians across the world. You can find collections they’ve created with additional resources for social-emotional learning too. Students are not the only ones yearning for connection and filled with thoughts of what will be. You too can use Wakelet to express what you’re going through, share your thoughts through a video journal, or keep an introspective chronicle of time during COVID-19. Personal or professional social and emotional learning are both important. The “Only Me” privacy setting can keep those insightful and personal collections of thoughts and musings for your eyes only.
Flipgrid has also pushed several upgrades that enhance the user experience. Privacy, among many other features, has confirmed that as we move into a learning space that will demand more digital interaction, we need to remain conscious of how vulnerable our students are during this time. Providing a safe place in the digital classroom is just as important as it is in the traditional one. The Power of Flipgrid for Social-Emotional Learning by Martha Bongiorno describes five ways you can create content in Flipgrid to support social-emotional learning and development. Librarians share a bond with our students that no other faculty or staff member shares. We are a blend of educator, counselor, confidant, and advisor. As librarians, we can seize the opportunity for digital relationship building.  If students don’t want to type about what they’re feeling and observing, they can share their stories with video recordings. You can create a grid and control its posting capabilities by keeping posts private at the student’s request. Students now have the option to only record audio. These upgrades provide more options for comfort with expression and creativity. As mentioned earlier, Wakelet has a Flipgrid integration with shorts that can record up to ten minutes. Sharing encouragement, saying hello, or reaching out by sharing your favorite memory can help strengthen our students’ hearts and minds.
Wakelet and Flipgrid offer flexibility to assess our students’ social and cognitive development outside of an “assessment” environment. They provide a human touch that perhaps a bell-to-bell instruction setting wouldn’t. They provide more than a multiple-choice test could. Using these fun, engaging avenues to connect and help our students find their social roles in life may prove to be more meaningful than one may think. Although much uncertainty still looms on the horizon, we can establish digital avenues that will equip our students with what they need to cope, heal, and persevere. 

Now We Need to Promote Libraries More Than Ever

by Brooke King, Librarian at Atascocita Middle School, Humble ISD, TASL Legislative & Advocacy

The "Let's Promote Libraries!" social media campaign is more important than ever this year as we show how librarians support learning no matter what the school environment looks like.

This social media campaign encourages school librarians to show off what happens in their school libraries to stakeholders. The campaign began with the TxASL Legislative & Advocacy Committee with the hopes of encouraging school librarians to promote themselves, their programs, and their instruction. TxASL is continuing the campaign this school year as we chart into librarianship like we have never seen before.

Each month’s topic is still framed as a question organized around the revised Texas Library Standards. It begins with, “Did you know that school libraries…,” followed by one of the standards. I’m certain the standards may look a little different this year in how they are approached, but that will just show how innovative librarians are.

We will still tweet on the 1st of each month, and I will try my best to remember to tweet reminders! You can post on any social media outlet or even send an email to a stakeholder. We want to focus on local stakeholders first, and then at the state and national levels. This year is also important because we are approaching a legislative year in our state in 2021. We always want to be as proactive as possible.

Please use #TxASLTalks so it is easy for all of us school librarians to find and help share our messages. Then use #Txlege to share our message of the important role school libraries have with students and learning with our state legislators.

It’s easy to participate!

Step 1: Look at the current month’s question.

Step 2: Snap a photo and write your message showing how your library shows that standard.

Step 3: Post your message and photo on any/all platforms of social media.

Step 4: Be sure to use the hashtags #TxASLTalks and #Txlege along with other key hashtags.

Step 5: Repost/retweet/share

There are two infographics to guide you. One explains the full campaign. The other shows only the monthly topics.

Thank you for participating in this campaign and advocating for the work librarians do that contributes to the success of students and schools!