Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 Elementary Literacy Conference: Part 2

I wanted to share information about another session I was able to attend on Friday. Again, I am appreciative of these speakers taking their time to help us educators make our classrooms more technologically-enhanced!

"Transcending Your Classroom Library to the 21st Century"
The second technology-related session I attended at the conference was "Transcending Your Classroom Library to the 21st Century" by Kelli Westmoreland. As we were talking about the technology she uses in her classroom, my aunt Rachael (see earlier post) sent me an email with the flyer for this session! Rachael said that she uses Classroom Organizer, the technology Kelli would be presenting, in her class. Therefore, this session was already on my radar when I entered the conference!

Kelli works at Booksource and was at the literacy conference to primarily talk about Classroom Organizer, a feature of Booksource. Classroom Organizer is a tool used by teachers to organize their classroom libraries. When teachers set up a Classroom Organizer account, they can begin filling their inventory. After downloading an app, teachers can scan the books from their classroom library into their account, or they can manually add the ISBN of each book they have. Once all of the books have been inventoried, the teacher now has an online list of all of the books in the classroom library. Once the teacher creates accounts for each of the students, he or she now has an efficient, easy way for students to check out books.

There are a lot of interesting features of Classroom Organizer that Kelli presented to us. The first is the student checkout system. When the teacher creates the Classroom Organizer account for the class, he or she identifies the settings that will apply to the class. (For example, the teacher can vary how long students will be able to check out books for, how many books can be checked out at once, whether or not the students receive email reminders of when the books are due, etc.) The students can check out books easily once all of these procedures are in place. Say, for example, the classroom has an iPad that is used for the library. Once a student finds a book to check out, all he or she has to do is click his or her name, scan the book, and bam! The Classroom Organizer account now recognizes that this book has been checked out. The Classroom Organizer can be used to search for books (by genre, lexile level, content, etc.). Once a student has checked out books, the Classroom Organizer can also make recommendations for each student based on what he or she has previously checked out. The really nice things about this expedited checkout process are (1) the teacher does not have to take time out of their day to check out books for the students, (2) the electronic checkout system is more organized and faster than writing the information out on paper, (3) the students are kept accountable for the books they have checked out through email reminders, and (4) the checkout process is really easy and user-friendly.

Though Classroom Organizer is very simple from the student perspective, the teacher has many more features through his or her account. First, the teacher can run assessment reports on the library or each individual student. The teacher can find out which books have been checked out the most, which books haven't been checked out at all, the average lexile level of the books checked out, etc. He or she can see which books are checked out and by which student; if a book is needed for a lesson, the teacher can contact that student and ask him or her to bring it back right away. In addition, the teacher can keep track of the reading of each individual student. If kids are taking too long to get through books, the teacher can ask if the book is too difficult or why the student isn't taking time to read. The teacher can also see the levels of the books the students check out, and even print out progress reports of each student to show to parents during conferences.

Teachers who use Classroom Organizer also have access to information about all of the classrooms using it. For example, teachers can see what the library of the average teacher in each grade contains. They can see at which lexile level most students in each grade are checking out books, as well as the most frequently checked out books are across the Classroom Organizer users. A really neat thing about Classroom Organizer is that, since it is run through Booksource, teachers can even order these frequently-read books through the application. This connection to Booksource also allows teacher an additional resource: lesson plans. There are many previously-created lesson plans in the Booksource database, and for a limited time, teachers can access these for free. All they have to do is look up a book; if it has lesson plans associated with it, an icon will appear, and teachers can be redirected to the lesson plan options for that book.

If multiple teachers in a school set up Classroom Organizers for their own libraries, the information can be consolidated through the book room. This feature allows any teacher to see all of the books available throughout the school. That way, if a teacher needs a specific book for a lesson, he or she can search for it in the book room and see which classrooms have it available in the school. Additionally, accounts can be made for literacy coaches and other curriculum specialists so that they can see the information from all of the classrooms' Classroom Organizers. These accounts allow the user to run assessment reports on the whole school or just specific classrooms, see how individual students who need additional help are doing, etc. Through these accounts, most of the teacher features can simply be applied to the entire school instead of one specific classroom.

There are a couple of additional things I should mention that Kelli said about Classroom Organizer. First, it can be used for school libraries as well; though it would take much longer to upload all of those books into the database, it can be done. There is no limit to the number of books that can be contained in one Classroom Organizer. Second, Classroom Organizer does not have to be used for books. Though it is easy to scan books into the database and this is the way the app is used most frequently, teachers can manually log whatever materials they would like into their Classroom Organizers. An art teacher could log all of the art materials he or she has and ask the students to check them out when they use them. A PE teacher could log all of the equipment he or she has in a closet and have a faster way of looking through the materials on the database than through searching that inventory. Math manipulatives in a resource room can be logged in Classroom Organizer. The possibilities are endless. Though the inventory and checkout processes would take longer, and some of the features (such as the lexile level of the books checked out) would no longer apply, this ability makes Classroom Organizer a useful tool for any educator. Lastly, all of this is free! Everything that Kelli talked about can be used by anyone; it is just most used by teachers for the classroom library purpose. It is always exciting to find out that teacher resources are free!

After hearing Rachael talk about the ease of using the Classroom Organizer, as well as learning more about it through Kelli's presentation, I am convinced that I will want to somehow incorporate this into my classroom someday. I think it would be very useful for logging the books in my classroom, especially if I have a classroom library through which students can check out books. I can also log the additional materials in my possession and have a quick way to check whether or not I have pipe cleaners or unit square manipulatives, for example. I believe that how much I allow the students to interact with it will depend on their age; we did not see the students' side of the checkout process, so if it is much more elaborate than clicking your name and scanning the book, I may not use it with kindergarteners or first graders. However, overall I think Classroom Organizer is a fantastic tool for any teacher, and this presentation made me very excited to start a classroom library of my own.

(If you want to learn more about Classroom Organizer, or set up an account of your own, click here!)

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