[Note: This is the first in a series.]
As rumors of school closures and transition to remote learning began to circulate in Maine, my Voxer chat started blowing up with voice and text messages from my fellow MASL (Maine Association of School Libraries) board members. How could we support not just our members but our community of Maine school library staff in this uncertain time of need? Our president-elect Jennifer Stanbro (Skillin Elementary School Learning Commons, South Portland Schools) proposed a Zoom meet-up: a “pop-up” webinar style as an open forum for sharing. Initially we planned this for a weeknight, but as more schools were announcing closures over the weekend, we made the decision to move the date to a Sunday afternoon.
We promoted this event through e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook, and had over sixty attendees at the event from all over the state, including staff from the Department of Education as well as the Maine State Library. In terms of logistics, we had a host/moderator, as well as a note-taker, and a few board members who were prepared in advance to share. Sixty folks may not seem like a lot for some readers, but for our organization this was a really good showing, and included people from some of the distant corners of our state.
Resource Curation – Because That’s Our Jam!
So what do you think happens when you get 60+ library staff people together? We start sharing resources with each other! Our MASL President Amanda Kozaka (Cape Elizabeth Middle School Library and Learning Commons, Cape Elizabeth) was diligent about capturing the many resources we were speaking about as well as those shared in the Zoom chat.
Below are just a few of the highlights that got our participants excited:
- Tips for Transitioning to Remote Learning: A graphic was created by Jen Bishop, assistant director of information technology at Saco School District. This graphic visualizes the core messages from her district about remote learning, “after being inundated with so many tools and ideas and seeing similar types of messages” from many sources.
- “Publishers Adapt Policies to Help Educators:” School Library Journal will continue to update this page with current information from publishers. Publishers are adapting copyright guidelines to support educators and librarians who wish to read and record texts.
- TEDEd Video Resources, Organized by Academic Topic: Quick and alphabetized list with titles of TED talks that pertain to each subject.
- Virtual Field Trips: Links to virtual field trips through museums and public organizations.
- Mystery Science School Closure Planning: K-5 lessons with shorter engagement activities (5 minutes) to full-length lessons (45+ minutes), with offline viewing available.
- Scholastic Learn-at-Home: “20 days’ worth of active learning journeys designed to reinforce and sustain educational opportunities for those students who are unable to attend school” with “day by day projects to keep kids (from PreK-9th) reading, thinking and growing.”
This virtual meet-up was the boost that many of us needed to face the unknown during the week ahead. I left the meeting feeling proud of our organization’s leadership and the school library community in Maine. MASL hosted a second meet-up the following Wednesday evening, and we plan to continue these gatherings in the weeks ahead.
District Leadership – Remote School
My own district–FiveTown CSD (high school) and MSAD#28 (elementary and middle schools)–is in our second year of using Remote School Days (RSDs) to replace up to two snow days per year (recap after our first RSD in 2019). Having some experience with RSDs placed our teachers at an advantage for adapting more quickly to the unprecedented situation we are currently faced with.
- Schoology – At the high school, we are in year five of using this as our online learning platform. Teachers and students are comfortable with this as a way to deliver and receive content materials, engage, share content, and interact with each other.
- Kajeet – In an effort to provide digital equity for our students, we identified those families without WiFi at home, and provided them with Kajeets for working at home.
The RSD expectations during a snow event is for asynchronous instruction. However, what was new for us, in the COVID-19 era, was that we were being asked by our district to provide synchronous instruction, with a modified schedule at the middle and high school levels. Stay tuned for the next installment of this series!
Author: Iris Eichenlaub
Iris Eichenlaub is the Librarian/Technology Integrator at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport, Maine. She is the 2017 Knox County Teacher of the Year, and was named an Inspiring Educator in 2017 by the Maine Education Association. Iris serves on the board of the Maine Association of School Libraries as the chair of professional development. Follow the story of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Library via Facebook (@ESVMLibrary or https://www.facebook.com/ESVMLibrary) or Instagram (@ESVM_Library or https://www.instagram.com/esvm_library).