23 September 2014

On the Ethics of Lost Book Fines in a Self-Checkout, Volunteer Check-in Library

"I turned that book in." 

I'm sure we've all heard it a million times. 

Just about all of my students have said this regarding books listed as overdue on their accounts. But the thing that bugs is me is that I'm certain some (or perhaps, many) of them did return those missing books. Any degree of certainty about account accuracy was lost when library assistants were cut three years ago. Even then, things might not have been 100% accurate. I've caught two students returning checked-out books to shelves this year. How many have I missed? As a result, I've been conflicted about charging students for lost books for the past several years. 

I have several volunteers who help in the library; I honestly don't know how the library could run without them. They check-in and shelf books, help with processing, change bulletin boards, and perform a million other tasks every week. I also have three fifth grade student volunteers who are part of our Star Power group. These students come in first thing in the morning (and sometimes during their recess) to help check-in books, shelf books, or put out iPads. I can't imagine even a day without all of this extra help. 

Three years ago, there was a library assistant in our library. She checked-in all of our books, shelved all of our books, did just about all of our processing, managed our leveled readers room, ran the laminator, and wore a dozen other hats too. With one person responsible for managing most of our circulating materials, especially a person with years of experience, I had a high degree of confidence in our records. It's impossible to have that same degree of confidence now. 

Starting in second grade, students check-out their own books. This allows me to assist other students in browsing, but it also opens the door for mistakes. It's a balance I accept, because I think it's more important for me to help students than to hover over our check-out stations. For the most part, this system works well, but there are sometimes mistakes. Occasionally, a student mistypes her id#, or scans the publisher's barcode instead of ours, or forgets to hit the "reset" button when she's done. Sometimes I catch these mistakes before the student leaves the check-out station; I'm sure I sometimes don't.

Lately, when a student looks at me worriedly and says, "But I turned that book in," I tell her not to worry about it. Students know that there are fines associated with books and other consequences if books aren't returned or paid for. The thought of a student paying for a book she returned bothers me, so I tell them we'll take a look on the shelves or wait a week or two and see if someone else turns it in. 

So now, the question is what should I do at the end of year? I'm thinking about some sort of incentive for classrooms with all materials returned. This will allow me to encourage students to return books without an axe hanging over their heads. I'm interesting in hearing from other librarians in similar situations. What do you do about missing books at the end of the year? 

20 September 2014

3D Printing Shapes

Last week, students in kindergarten, first, and second grades did lessons on two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes. We made a list of 2D and 3D shapes that we knew, then used Cubify Draw and Blokify to draw as many of them as we could. Each of these apps allow users to design a 3D model and export it to a 3D printer. 

It was awesome to watch how quickly the students learned how to use the apps and started discovering tricks and pushing the boundaries of what these apps are designed to do. Many students chose to draw more complicated shapes after finishing the shapes we were learning about. 

This was the first exposure to our 3D printer for the younger grades. The students were fascinated as they watched shapes slowly materialize before their eyes. Many students took to combining printed shapes to create new shapes (another standard we weren't even technically addressing last week). We're looking forward to utilizing our 3D printer for more lessons throughout the year. 

11 September 2014

Questions from a Cardboard Challenge Newbie

It's been several years since I first heard about Caine's Arcade and the Global Cardboard Challenge from my good friend and coworker, Andy Plemmons. But this is my first year actually participating, in part because a truckload of cardboard fell into my lap and also because I have sort of a perfect scenario in terms of students and time. 

This is our first full year of having a S.T.E.M. class during our ELT time. I'll be seeing a group of about sixty 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students several times a week. We kick off our S.T.E.M. class this coming week and we're going to start by taking part in the Global Cardboard Challenge. This is also our first year of students taking their laptops home, so we've just acquired hundreds of cases, and therefore hundreds of cardboard boxes. How could I not join in the fun? 

But now that the first day is quickly approaching, I'm suddenly full of questions. 
  1. What sort of supplies do I need to have for my students other than a mountain of cardboard?
  2. Should I have them submit ideas before they start working? 
  3. How much cardboard should I give each student? 
  4. Should I provide them with guidance (beyond watching Caine's Arcade)? OR Should I just let them run free?
  5. What other questions should I be worried about?