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Featured Teacher:  Sue Kowalski

Sue Kowalski
Library Media Specialist
East Syracuse Minoa Central School District

Sue currently works as the Library Media Specialist at Pine Grove Middle School,  grades 6-8, in the East Syracuse Minoa Central School District.  Her teaching career began in 1991 when she worked as a 7th and 8th grade Reading and ELA teacher in the Syracuse City School District.  She received her Master of Library Science degree from Syracuse University in 2003 and has served as the librarian at Frazer School in the Syracuse City School District, as well as Minoa Elementary School and Pine Grove Middle School at ESM.

What are some of the innovative ways you are integrating technology into your curriculum?

"Make an impact" is our tagline for the Pine Grove Middle School Library in the East Syracuse Minoa School District. We pride ourselves on facilitating connections between our customers and the information they need to be successful. Our services range from basic (access to printers, connecting students to a book they request, or providing a place to word process their assignments) to issues that require a more intense collaboration.
One of the cornerstones of our program that increases engagement AND helps us tackle a myriad of tasks is our iStaff program. This is a student workforce (all volunteers!) who follow a "real life" application process to become part of the team. The focus of this team is to develop a group of student stakeholders who develop their ability to be self-directed and support teaching and learning in the library and throughout the entire school. We have had approximately 75 applicants since applications went "live" on September 17. Qualified applicants are being hired in waves so that iStaff members can provide "turnkey training" for new hires. The iStaff team provides support for teachers with technology and instruction in and out of the library, they manage delivery and set up of mobile equipment, coordinate advertising via virtual and print campaigns, manage serial books and a graphic novel collection, contribute to ordering of books, and serve as the public relations team for the library and our programs. More information can be found at PG Library iStaff
We are always looking for meaningful ways to connect to our stakeholders. The library is one of the many groups at ESM that uses Textmarks to get information out via a text to a list of subscribers. We promote arrival of new books, special events, and club announcements and shout outs to students for unique accomplishments connected to the library program. If you would like to subscribe to our list, text pglibrary to the number 41411
Inquiry learning will continue to be a key component to the instruction that happens through collaboration with the library. This year we are beginning to use Easy Bib to continue our emphasis on the process of reading for information and understanding while paying close attention to the quality and credibility of the sources we choose. This web-based tool provides students with the opportunity to manage their own learning. We have added our subscription databases to the EASY BIB page so students and teachers have 24/7 access to this resources. We are recently making the transition to EASY BIB and integrating this tool at scaffolded levels from grades 6-8.

TRAILS is an assessment tool we are using to help shape our understanding of what students know and are able to do in the area of information literacy. Through pre and post tests, we can continue to modify instruction to increase student learning.

How have students benefitted from your technology integration initiatives?
We make a conscious effort to integrate our technology tools so that students can gather information more efficiently. Through the use of Pine Grove Destiny Quest, students can again manage their own learning. With personalized student accounts, they can search for books and web-based resources using a feature called ONE SEARCH. Not only can they access their resources this way, but they can store information in their account, print citations from their chosen resources, listen to audiobooks, read ebooks, and manage their entire library account. There is even a social media component called MYQUEST that allows students to engage in conversations with other students about books, resources, and projects.

Through partnerships with amazing student leaders, creative teachers, competent student teachers, and limitless connections via my virtual professional learning network (follow me on Twitter @spkowalski, we continue to explore web 2.0 tools and their potential for teaching and learning at Pine Grove.  We are learning about AASL's 25 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning and seeing which ones fit best where.  We have explored Glogster, Photostory, Voicethread, Animoto, and many many other tools to find the perfect tool for the job!  Sometimes we succeed and other times we realize we haven't found the best strategy yet!  Collectively, however, we continue to forge ahead to ensure that our library program is connecting our customers with the best possible resources to get the job done to quality.
Pine Grove Library is committed to making an impact and we hope you are, too!

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