Monday, May 30, 2016

The #SWVBC: Connecting Library Clubs Across the Country

[Cross-posted from my May 23 posting on Transform Your School Library]

For five years now, my school library club at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, CA, and I have had the pleasure of participating in the “Somewhat Virtual Book Club” (#SWVBC) founded in Fall of 2011 by Joyce Valenza and Shannon Miller. Here’s a link to Joyce’s original post. So, what is the Somewhat Virtual Book Club? It’s a network of high school library clubs from around the country that participate in monthly book discussions using Google Hangouts on Air. For a while, we were even international with two schools in Japan, but, alas, the time differences proved too difficult from them to continue.

Each month, one of the schools volunteers to moderate, set up the hangout, and select the book to discuss. And, on occasion, we have been able to have the author of the book join us. Here, for example, is a recording of the amazing discussion with Elizabeth Wein in January when we read Code Name Verity:

Elizabeth Wein actually lives in Scotland, but was still willing to join us at 11 PM her time, and she couldn’t have been more generous, friendly, and open in discussing her craft as a writer.

The greatest feature of the club is how we are able to connect our students with other students in other places so they can both see what they have in common and learn about regional differences. It also means that, even if just a handful of students from one school show up, the presence of students from other schools together form a large enough group to generate a lively discussion. And, using Google Hangouts on Air, we are able to easily network in people from home and record our sessions so that those who can’t make the meeting can watch later.  At the same time, students are experiencing what it is like - with all the potential tech glitches - to participate in a virtual meeting. Finally, we librarians love it, too! Several of us have attended the meetings even when we didn’t have students able to participate. We’ve even had other teachers participate. I had an English teacher attend regularly last year, and Shoshannah Turgel’s group at James Caldwell High School in New Jersey has includes two regular teacher participants. We librarians also end up doing a lot of networking on all sorts of school library topics as a result of our meetings.

In the past, we have tried different software for our meeting platform. We settled on Google Hangouts a couple of years ago since it allows us to easily see each other while people are talking, and is a practical tool to introduce our students to with the possibility that they will use it on their own for other activities in which they want to connect. We wanted to empower them to be able to “run the show” themselves. I have been especially proud when I’ve been away at conferences a couple of times and my students still were able to get together and login to the hangout.

One of the potential drawbacks of Google Hangouts is that there are only 10 participation spots. (GAFE accounts allow for more, but haven’t worked for us since we are not in the same domain.) We have sometimes thought we would exceed the 10 available spots, but that has never actually happened. If we should, our “backup” plan is having the extra people watch via the live stream link and submit questions to the Q & A.

The club also has experimented with various social media. Here are some of our connections:

There’s always more to do than time in which to do it, and all these social media platforms could use some more attention. Perhaps next year!

The Somewhat Virtual Book Club welcomes new members. If you are a high school librarian, consider having your school join the group!

I write this with some nostalgia, since I will be retiring next month, and will thus become a group “alum.” I will really miss this network of students and librarians. Feel free, though to contact me with questions. You can also contact Shoshannah Turgel, who has volunteered to coordinate the group next year, and Michelle Luhtala from New Canaan High School in Connecticut, and Cathy Jo Nelson from Dorman High School in South Carolina, two regular participants who have been with the group since we began in 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Projecting your iPhone Through Your Mac

Just recently, I needed to do a demo for a class on how to use several apps on an iPhone. While there are some other ways to display your iPhone screen on a projector, here's a really easy solution that worked for me. It does require that you have a Mac with the Yosemite, or version 10.10, operating system or later.

Here's what you do:
  1. Attach your Mac to a projector. 

  2. Attach your iPhone to your computer with your lightning-to-USB cable.

  3. Open QuickTime Player. You can find it through Finder in your Applications Folder.

  4. If Photos or other applications open that want to sync your iPhone with your computer, just close them.

  5. With QuickTime Player open, select File -> New Movie Recording.

  6. From the QuickTime Player Movie display that opens, click the small down arrow to the right of the red recording button. You will see your iPhone listed as an option. Select it. 

  7. Your iPhone will now display on your Mac screen so it can be displayed on your projector screen:

And, of course, if you want to actually record what is displayed, just press the red record button.

You can use this same method to display any iOS device with a Lightning port and iOS 8 or later.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Free Summer Audiobooks from SYNC

One of the things I love about summer is Sync's free program of audiobooks for teens. And, summer starts early at Sync: this week. From now through August 17, you and your teens can download two free audiobooks per week. For example, until May 11, you can download Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (Dreamscape Media) and L.A. Theatre Works productions of The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial by Peter Goodchild. Each of the weekly selections pair a YA (young adult) title with a classic title on a related theme.

You can download the titles either to your computer or to a mobile device. There are instructions on how to do both on the site. The important thing to note is that you must download and install the titles during the designated week or you will miss the opportunity for those titles. You don't need to listen to them right away - they are yours forever once you install them. Here's a link to the complete list. I take advantage of the site's text service to be reminded of the weekly titles available and try to download them right away for later listening. I prefer the listening interface when I download directly to my phone, but the computer download option is best if you want to keep the books long-term. Just know that if you download to your computer and then transfer to a mobile device, it will come through as a music file, so won't have chapter bookmarks for easy navigation. 

I'm afraid I'm posting this late for Week one, so go to the site TODAY to get the first two books. They will be available until 4am PT on May 12. Then, the selection will switch to Week 2 books, which are The Sin Eater's Daughter  by Melinda Salisbury (Scholastic Audio) and Divine Collision: An African Boy, an American Lawyer, and Their Remarkable Battle for Freedom  by Jim Gash (Oasis Audio).

Please note that your downloads cannot be shared or added to your collection. I download copies for myself because, of course, I frequently decide to purchase the books (if I don't already have them) and promote them at my library, but they are intended for individual listening by teens. The site includes a whole toolkit of promotional materials to share at your library with your students. 

Happy listening!