Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Brook Forest librarian brings down walls with technology" article from

Daniel Petrucelli laughs after recording his voice while making a podcast Friday at Brook Forest Elementary.
Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Librarian John Schumacher shows students how to use a microphone Friday at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook.
Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Hamza Tahir works on making a podcast at Brook Forest Elementary Friday in Oak Brook.
Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Morgan Carlson fills out information before making a podcast Friday at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook. Librarian John Schumacher runs a technology exchange program with a school in Iowa and the students are producing podcasts with the other school.
Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media

Van Meter Elementary in Van Meter, Iowa is 335 miles away, but for students at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook, their peers are no more than a click away.

Recently, students at both schools connected through Edmodo, a secure social network that allows the kids to communicate with each other.

"Once a week, our kids would log in and they would have online book discussions," Brook Forest Librarian John Schumacher said. "They started off by talking about the towns they live in and what differences and similarities the two schools had."

The connection between the two schools can be traced back to October, when the School Library Summit was in Chicago. Schumacher met Van Meter Elementary Librarian Shannon Miller there.

After the leadership conference, the two brainstormed ideas to link their libraries. Eventually, the fourth graders at both schools began connecting through Edmodo.

"In their first complete conversations, they introduced themselves and talked about where they are from," Miller said. "The students love commenting about sports they play, books they read and their families. Before Christmas, (Schumacher's) kids made a top 10 list and my kids loved commenting on it."

Edmodo may look like Facebook, but Schumacher said it's very different. The teachers can control what is written and the site is mainly for academic purposes.

"Literacy is our primary focus," Schumacher said. "At the high school and college level, this kind of relationship is common, but not so much at the elementary level. We wanted to connect the libraries and the students' book experiences through technology."

The schools previously celebrated Ivy and Bean day together and a classroom Skype visit may be in the future.

"They love it and were really excited," Miller said. "To them, Chicago is a long ways away. They view it as someplace very different from Iowa. There are differences, but they see we have a lot in common, as well."

In addition to showing off Brook Forest to new students, Schumacher has also used technology to keep in touch with a former one.

"We have a student who moved to Singapore and he's been able to stay in our book club because of Edmodo," he said. "He was able to log on and discuss December's books."

For future projects, Schumacher sees a "Libraries Around the World" trip to keep technology in the students' hands. He also has first graders experiencing Garageband, a music program they are using to create podcasts about a Caldecott award-winning book.

He also said the Edmodo project will not be the last link between the two schools. He exposes his students to a variety of Web programs.

"When I hear of a new technology, I think of how I can introduce it at the elementary level," Schumacher said. "By connecting with Van Meter, I've been able to bring down the walls of the library."


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