Here we go again!  Another summer, another exciting RYSAG camp!  We are just a week and two days away from counselor orientation and then on Monday, July 19, about 60 middle and high school students from the Rochester City School District (RCSD) will descend upon SUNY Geneseo‘s campus.  This is the time of the summer when my organizational efforts really hit mach speed.

Thanks to the diligence and consciensciousness of one of our outstanding counselors, currently home for the summer and away from the hustle and bustle of confirming plans for the camp organization and storyline, I’ve been (positively) pushed to focus on finalizing schedules and google docs so that everyone involved will have the necessary information before arriving on campus.  Last night, I spent time refining the camp storyline in a google doc, adding notes from a previous meeting with the Camp Director as well as new ideas developed in a recent meeting with the camp’s faculty planning group.

Potential volunteer interviewees (faculty and staff from all different academic disciplines) have been contacted and most have responded with their availability to meet with our students to discuss personal experiences with conflict, difference and/or adaptation.  One more reminder should hopefully push the lagging interviewees along.  The hope is to have a nearly finalized interview schedule before our Monday (7/12) meeting with all camp volunteers.  At this meeting, everyone will be informed of the general camp plan, goals and expectations, putting us all on the same page.  We arranged for a similar meeting two years ago and that really helped for a smooth transition into the camp’s “theater.”

This year’s camp, whose theme focuses on peacekeeping and conflict negotiation, should be interesting with two teams consisting of brand new (to RYSAG) RCSD students entering seventh and eighth grades in the fall.  For the past two years, we’ve seen a lot of repeat students, many of whom have participated in every camp experience since the 2007 inception.  Our numbers for four-peaters are dwindling but we have still retained nine of the original RYSAG CSI candidates.  Understandable considering these students are likely to be entering the tenth grade this fall, where scholastic expectations and requirements are heightened and students are now at an age where they can begin working full-time summer jobs.

Our four-peaters, and even a handful of three-peaters, form one of our four camp teams and serve as CITs – counselors-in-training – where leadership skills and roles are stressed, placing the students in good stead for future counselor positions.  How amazing will it be if/when these students return in their pre-senior and even post-senior/college summers to assist with the running of the camp!!!!  Our first introduction to these students was when they were entering seventh grade!  How quickly time passes.

But I digress . . . the reasoning behind the title of this post refers to a recent SUNYLA conference presentation I offered.  I had two main reasons for developing the presentation.  First, to highlight the amazing RYSAG camp experience, which I’ve been wanting to boast about for a few years now.  The second reason was to encourage librarians, especially those new to the field, to identify their strengths and interests – both personal and professional – and promote them by joining campus projects and committees where librarian talents are seriously needed.

The strengths and interests I identified within myself at the presentation include:

  • organizational skills, especially where logic and scheduling are involved
  • technological knowledge and ability to make practical use of technological tools to bring people together
  • creativity
  • risk taking
  • pedagogical knowledge
  • team player, wanting to bring people together in meaningful and fun ways
  • mediator, using my contacts and knowledge among various academic departments

All of these attributes have come in handy when putting together the RYSAG camp infrastructure.  From creating rotating schedules for campers, instructors, counselors and interviewees to using a variety of social networking tools for the good of document and idea sharing (i.e., google docs, wikis, blogs), camper communication and training (i.e., gmail accounts, blogs, Truveo multimedia searching, interactive web scavenger hunt), and tracking volunteers’ availability (i.e., Doodle) to suggesting key players to the camp storyline based on a wide range of contacts in different departments due to library instruction efforts and other campus-wide committee participation.

As mentioned in the SUNYLA presentation, while I am well aware of the amazing skills and special talents librarians bring to the table, especially in campus-wide forums, I become downright giddy when I hear of stories where librarians lead the faculty/staff pack and offer a sense of unity, focus, organization, creativity and expertise.  It is these stories that remind me what a valuable service we provide to the campus community.

And again, I encourage all librarians to realize the unique attributes they have to offer, to get involved in campus projects and to promote the good that our librarian superpowers can foster.

Wow,  7 months have past since my last post.  I need to get better at this blogging thing.  I keep telling myself . . .  just a short paragraph a day will keep this blog alive.  The unfortunate (or fortunate, based on how you look at it) thing is that once I start writing, I can’t stop, so to me, there is no such thing as a short paragraph.  🙂

I’ve been busy though.  The most recent time-consuming activity has been the third RYSAG summer camp.  Once again, it was a success, although there was doubt at the beginning.  Would the students be interested in “saving the environment”?  Was the topic “sexy” enough for them?  In the end, the students came to campus already aware of and concerned with issues of global warming and the need to change the way we all treat the environment.  While there was no real element of discovery or suspicion, as there was in the last two camps, and students didn’t seem super motivated in class, the final presentations impressed us all, as they have always done.

The typical subject collaborations existed as they have in the past – science/chemistry, math, research, public speaking/communication and technology.  In addition, we invited a few “green experts” from campus to each teach one day on their specialized topic.  An Anthropology professor took students back 1000’s of years to introduce the idea of those people’s “waste,” to make the point of how much that waste has grown into modern times.  She had students calculate their individual carbon footprint. Two Geology professors discussed water runoff and global warming/climate change, respectively. A History professor introduced students to the campus’ community garden and talked about sustainable agriculture, including the creation of  compost piles.  Finally, a Chemistry professor engaged our students in the harnessing of solar power based on blueberries as a source of energy.

Small student groups within each of our four camp teams were assigned to particular interviewees that would lend their perspective on sustainability issues and efforts.  Interviewees ranged from the middle-aged curmudgeon professor who’s only motivation to recycle was to recoup 5 cents from each plastic bottle returned to the sports enthusiast Geneseo alum who didn’t care how the new stadium was designed as long as he could attend his favorite sports events to administrative officials of our campus food service who introduced students to the idea of biodegradable cups and other “plastic ware” and the push to purchase food from local farmers.  Additionally, students designed 8-question surveys that they administered to anyone on campus that would take the survey.  All of these ideas and data were incorporated into each team’s final presentation – a formal plea to college administration to “green-up” our future athletic stadium by implementing the suggestions made by our students.  As mentioned above, the delivery, data and teamwork employed in each presentation was incredibly impressive.  Our youngest team consisted of 15 11-year olds (incoming sixth graders) and they did a fantastic job!

The ppt presentations will be loaded to the GREEN-UP camp website soon, but in the meantime, enjoy the public service announcements that our students created while on campus (found on the right hand page of the GREEN-UP webpage).

Wow! I just looked at the date of my last post (besides the one I just posted about Julie Grob’s collaborative work) and more than a month has gone by with no news from me.  Not a surprise at all.

If you haven’t already heard, I ruptured my right calf muscle on July 1playing in a soccer game.  Nothing dramatic at all, as far as how it happened.  I just started to run and SNAP, my calf sprung like a worn-out, old rubber band.  I spent three hours that night in the ER with the only recommendation being to ice, elevate, and take some pain medication (vicodin was not my friend).  There’s nothing the doctor could do for me.  😦  And he felt my pain, considering he had had the same injury once or twice.

So, a week and a half in bed with the summer camp coming down the pike.  I spent some time at home literally crawling on my knees since I hate, hate, hate walking with crutches.  They are exhausting and uncomfortable.  I have to say that I became quite adept using them though, by the time the ordeal was over.  And they provided the perfect guise as we instructed our middle school students to be careful while at the dig site.  I told them that I had twisted my ankle at the site because I fell into one of the holes.  Not one student left camp injured from the dig site.  🙂  In the end, I finally came clean with a few of the students since the story would have seemed absurd to me, considering I was constantly on crutches for the full two weeks (because of a simple sprained ankle?).  A bruised and swollen ankle, due to fluid draining from the calf muscle, lent credibility to the story of my injury.

Physical therapy is working wonders, and a month after the injury (to the day), I am walking without crutches and can place my heel on the ground.  This was a BIG step.  I will see the Sports Medicine Specialist on Tuesday so he can gauge my progress.

I don’t know how I made it through, but the summer camp was a huge success.  Two news crews came to report on the camp and share the story of our students’ amazing discoveries (arrowheads, flakes, and fire-cracked rock from 5,000 years ago!).  The students were able to name the newly found archaeological site – Roc City – a name that will forever be attached to their work.  Any further excavations done within a certain number of miles from Geneseo, NY will be required by law to cite Roc City.  The dig location will be added permanently to a map of New York State.

Following are the news stories (and video) of our students’ camp experience.  I will write more on the many collaborations that took place during the camp in the next few days.

Students at SUNY Geneseo Camp Really Digging Archaeology

Digging History . . . and Making It! (Look for the yellow icon to view the video)

Many more pictures and video to come . . .

Sean Cordes, Assistant Professor, Instruction Services Coordinator, Western Illinois University

Brian Clark, Assistant Professor, Library Faculty Instructor, Western Illinois University

Amy Harris, First-Year Instruction Coordinator and Reference Librarian, The University of North Carolina – Greensboro

Okay, back to summarizing LOEX sessions. I want to write about Game on (and on) at this particular time as I will be using some of the information (hopefully) to create an interactive tutorial scavenger hunt for our young archaeologists who will be on campus in July. My goal is to follow-up on the “town hall” meeting of July 14 – the introduction to the camp where we set the stage and present different perspectives on the stadium vs cultural preservation debate – and have students come to Research & Rhetoric (R&R) class the following day prepared with some historical information on the Seneca in the Genesee Valley. If all works as planned, students will learn how to use our OPAC, find books and maps in the library, use newspaper indexes and microfilm machines to find primary documents, and sufficiently search the web for other relevant information. If anyone knows off hand of any great digitized collections on the Seneca (Iroquois) in NYS, please forward those links on. I can always do the background work, but it will save a lot more time to have ready-made recommended sites.

So, Game on (and on) . . .

In this session, three speakers presented the value of virtual gaming to teach ACRL IL standards. Amy Harris (UNCG) co-created the Information Literacy Game with Scott Rice (Appalachian State University), and Cordes and Clark followed-up on Amy’s demonstration of the IL Game with their own iteration. The original goal of game creation was to extend learning beyond the one-shot session and the games are primarily intended for students at the first-year level.

Amy gave a good demonstration of her game, and I could explain the in’s and out’s here but it may be best to just try to game out for yourself. Here are a few easy tips related to the game for a faster read on how it applies to ACRL’s IL standards:

Color coding and icons are used for the type of questions students will be asked:

  • · green=searching databases
  • · blue=citing sources (MLA and APA) & avoiding plagiarism
  • · red=wildcard
  • · purple=books
  • · light bulbs=website evaluation
  • · !=gameboard piece (move forward, bckward, skip, etc.)
  • · ?=information about the game

Students move around the game board and answer questions, working against the clock. They can work independently or with others. The game is driven either by keyboard strokes or with a mouse.

The beauty of what Harris and Rice have constructed is that the game is easily adaptable for any other library who are free to “make it their own” with downloadable sound and visuals and library-specific questions and directions. The system is designed for the non-techie so just about anyone can adapt the game. The Information Literacy Game has become so popular that 2300 rounds were played within the last 2 years and it will appear first on a Google list with the search phrase “information literacy games.”

Cordes and Clark stepped in next to discuss how they adapted the game to make it unique to Western Illinois University (WIU) and to demonstrate how easy it is to do so. A few modifications that were made at WIU:

  • · Addition of questions related to media, visual, and multicultural literacies
  • · Employment of AT&T 21st century literacies. Start w/question, identify & collect information, evaluate, make sense, reflect & refine, using information and assess
  • · Transformation of as many 2D objects into 3D as possible (i.e., bullets were updated)
  • · Change of color and graphics (i.e, college logo) to brand the game as one belonging to WIU (be sure to cover all related pages as well as the top level website)
  • · Addition of more colorful graphics (i.e., MS clipart) laid over originals
  • · Change of title to represent library’s newly modified game
  • · Implemented sorry! and roll on! when students answer incorrectly. Reasons are always given for why the answer is wrong so that student continue to learn, even from their mistakes.
  • · Game emulates Trivial Pursuit where students try to collect one of each color on the board

A few tips for those wanting to transform the IL Game:

  • · Become friends w/bgame.css (Dreamweaver properties provide new styles to choose from)
  • · <div class=”game” id=”main”> very important since not everything is provided in the game files (I’ll have to actually try to modify the game to know what all of this means)
  • · clipart.com – for $15, download as many clipart images as possible in a week (many 3D images to choose from)

o choose icons that students will relate to

o re-use icons as much as possible. They are helpful for the game but can be used in many other projects.

The session ended with a live demonstration of Clark and Cordes’ game. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to easily find a link to the game, and there haven’t been any links added to the LOEX 2008 site.

Cordes and Clark plan to take the idea of IL gaming one step further and develop a complete game arcade. They caution, however, that librarians pick and choose games very carefully, giving considerable thought to what students will really learn from the game(s). If librarians can successfully prove that students are indeed learning from the interactive tools, this could be a very powerful sell to faculty.

Currently, there is another game based on a mouse trap that involves critical thinking & problem solving. Based on answers provided by students, a path is drawn, and the goal is to reach the designated final destination. Definitely worth seeking out online.

In the end, I’m not sure if a game board activity is right for what I have in mind for our middle school students. I have been thinking about diving into Camtasia or Captivate, and a colleague has also informed me of Jing. I talked with a librarian from SUNY Plattsburgh at the SUNYLA Conference who has created tutorials in Camtasia and I’m not so sure I have the time for the required learning curve. So much to do, so little time. Perhaps my end goals for this scavenger hunt are a little lofty given my time constraints. We’ll see.

Yay, the LOEX powerpoints are finally online! Susan Norman and I presented “Summer Sleuths in the Library” (name eventually changed to “The Multicultural Classroom: Plan, Build, Renew – Librarian as Constructivist Architect”) at this year’s LOEX conference in Oak Brook, Illinois. We had a small audience but those who attended really seemed excited about our summer camp program. Here are the powerpoints – one that works better in Office 2007 (although the video doesn’t not seem to be loading, at least not on my slow laptop) and the other that’s better suited for Office 2003. The handout consists of acronyms used in our presentation and a bibliography. The slides obviously cannot represent all that we discussed in our presentation, but the video fills in a lot of gaps. If you are interested in learning more about our program, please don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message.

If you cannot easily get to the video, look for it at http://rysag.geneseo.edu.

I am thrilled to report that the entire ppt is playing in our library’s lobby on one of the large plasma screens. Hopefully, it will attract the attention of prospective students and their families while on campus tours and of the few students, staff, faculty, and community members using the library this summer. The adventure of the summer camp will begin again on July 14.

A communication professor and I met earlier this morning  to develop a general set of lesson plans to be used in this summer’s D.I.G. camp.  It was really an amazing experience, working together and seeing how many of the NYS standards our new curriculum, Research & Rhetoric (R&R – formerly C.T.U. for Critical Thinking Unit), hit.  And when you combine our curriculum to that of our teaching partners (Chemistry, Anthropology, Digital Arts, and Math), we really do touch upon all of the intermediate standards as a whole.  The standards addressed in R&R include:

  • English Language Arts, standards 1-4 (Listening & Reading and Speaking & Writing)
  • Social Studies, standards 1-3, 5 (History of US & NY, World History, Geography, and Civics, Citizenship & Government)
  • Math, Science and Technology, standards 2, 5-7 (Information Systems, Engineering Design, Tools, Resources & Technical Processes, Computer Technology, Management of Technology, Systems Thinking, and Strategies)

Meredith and I talked about how, at the college level, we aren’t used to preparing formal lesson plans to guide our teaching practices.  We agreed, however, what a useful tool these completed plans will be when July hits and we start preparing for the students’ arrival on campus.  Where student or novice teachers may begin looking at educational standards and develop lessons and activities around them, we preferred to dive into the lesson planning first and then align our activities to the standards.  From last year’s camp experience, I knew that Meredith and I would work well together, but now that we’ve joined forces, I am thrilled to be brainstorming with her.  Although our current lesson plans are fairly general and will be tweaked as July approaches and while the students are on campus, we have a really good start, including some very specific ideas about how each class will be run.  We agree that ice breaker and self-esteem boosters are essential for the beginning of each class session.  I think Meredith and I make a natural teaching team.

I was expecting to write more of an opening post to my new blog, but considering that I am in the midst of sifting through the NYS standards in order to design lesson plans for the D.I.G. summer program, it seems appropriate that I launch right into librarian-faculty collaboration.  This program has been the epitome of educational collaboration.  Last year, the camp focused on CSI techniques under the premises of a series of fictitious art thefts that happened on SUNY Geneseo’s campus.  Each of the disciplines was dependent on each other, especially in the lessons provided by the Critical Thinking Unit (CTU) – a mixture of sociology, ethnographical and library research, and overall critical thinking.  In the CTU curriculum, students put the pieces of the puzzle together working with interview transcripts, forensic evidence, information found from the web, and tips and additional pieces of evidence left by a secret admirer.  Story boards were used to visually tie the different disciplinary information together in one place.  With this information, a communication professor and a graphic arts specialist worked with the student teams to develop an oral and pictorial presentation to be delivered to a “grand jury.”  Depending on how compelling each team’s case was presented, a panel of three judges ordered an indictment for our four criminals

I never would have been involved in such a fantastic program had it not been for the Sociology professor with whom I had been working in her semester courses.  Because she saw that I was able to weave in research skills to cover the content of her designated lessons, she knew we could work well together to deliver a fun and meaningful curriculum to our middle school students.  You never know what good things will come out of your everyday work responsibilities.

Anyway . . . back to those standards . . . This year’s mystery – an archaeological dig where we hope to find Seneca artifacts – goes even further as far as seamlessly merging academic disciplines.  Archaeology, chemistry, history, math, english language arts, technology, art – each subject will rely heavily on the other in the hope of providing another enriching experience for our young scholars bound for college . . . in about 4 or 5 years.