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."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Making Classroom Connections from the Edmodo Blog

This was posted on the Edmodo blog on December 20, 2010.

I love finding examples of teachers “who get it”. The teachers who, when you learn that your child is going to be in their class next year, cause you to breathe an audible sigh of relief – because you know the year will be filled with breathless stories of new projects, great adventures, and “Oh! and then we did this!!” brain cell explosions. Having a great teacher is life-changing. Being a great teacher is awe-inspiring.

So when I ran across Shannon Miller’s blog this weekend I wanted to share it with the Edmodo community (hope that’s okay Ms. Miller!). She writes about connecting her class at Van Meter Elementary in Des Moines, Iowa with John Schu’s class at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook, IL to start an inter-classroom book group. The idea is simple enough — connect the classrooms so students can share ideas about what they are learning and learn a little bit about the world outside their classroom. Even across two states you can see that the students have already taken their ideas to a higher order of thinking –and seem to be having a blast doing it.

I love this idea — and I especially love the video she made to go with it:)

Imagine the educational potential of this idea if we connect classrooms around the world? What would a conversation be like between a classroom in Iowa and Australia? Imagine how much students could learn from each other by making connections across geographic, socio-economic and cultural boundaries? Trying to teach your students about the impact of Katrina? Why not connect directly with students in New Orleans who lived through it? Connecting your students to the world is a powerful way to encourage them to think beyond their own societal and cultural norms and consider the world from another perspective.

Check out Ms. Miller’s blog for tips on how to get started creating classroom connections — and then pop into one of the Subject Area Communities and let other members know you are looking for a Buddy Classroom.

Thanks Ms. Miller and Mr. Schu for going the extra mile to inspire your students — you’ve inspired us too!

Connecting with our Friends Using Edmodo!

Shannon posted this on the Van Meter Library Voice on December 17, 2010.

On November 24th I wrote about connecting with John Schu and his amazing students at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook, Illinois. Ever since I met John at the School Library Journal Summit in Chicago this last fall we have thought of fun ways to connect our students in the library.

In this project we focused on the 4th graders at Brook Forest and Van Meter. We both have two sections of 4th grade in our school so it worked out perfect having two groups....Fourth Grade Reads 1 and Fourth Grade Reads 2.

The students started out by introducing themselves and posting something of their choice about school, their town, what they liked to read, favorite authors, and more.

The next time they came to library it was fun to see them read about their new friends and reply to comments. They were excited when they read about similar interests and hobbies.

Today in the computer lab, I loved watching them also respond to their classmates at Van Meter. The conversations are growing in our two groups and this is becoming exciting and challenging to the students to think about what they are writing. The connections they are making mean something to them and give them a VOICE in their learning.

We created this Animoto video as a THANK YOU to Mr. Schu and all of the 4th graders at Brook Forest Elementary. We wish you a very happy holiday season and cannot wait to connect again in 2011.

Celebrating Ivy + Bean Day Together!

Shannon posted this on her blog The Van Meter Elementary Voice on November 24, 2010.

This month in the Van Meter Elementary Library the second graders celebrated Ivy + Bean Day! Ivy + Bean are two wonderful characters in a series of books by Annie Barrows.

To make the celebration even more exciting we connected to Brook Forest Elementary Library in Oak Brook, Illinois. Mrs. Miller met their librarian, Mr. John Shue when they attended the School Library Journal Summit in Chicago at the end of October. They just knew that all of the students would have a GREAT time connecting and sharing their celebrations with one another.

During the celebration, we created Double Dare Cootie Catches, designed Ivy's bedroom just like we wanted, dressed Ivy + Bean in awesome clothes, and shared the seven books with one another. As a special surprise, Ivy + Bean even left us tiny cupcakes in the library for us to eat. Everyone had an awesome time and it was so much fun getting to know more about Brook Creek Elementary too!

You can find out more about Ivy + Bean on the Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech Voice Google site at on the Second Grade page.

And don't forget to check out the library for all of the Ivy + Bean books!

Once Upon a Time....

Once upon a time, two librarians met at the School Library Journal Summit in Chicago. They became instant friends and knew from the start that their students would love connecting too!

Ever since that day, John Schu the teacher librarian at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook, Illinois and Shannon Miller the teacher librarian at Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa have been creating innovative and exciting ways to connect their students in the library and computer lab.

Two Libraries One Voice will tell the story of their journey and hopefully give others ideas and encouragement to connect their students to others outside of the school walls.