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I’m holed up in my fancy hotel, cramming for my presentation tomorrow. All of the work has been done, now it’s all about finesse and timing.

I get really nervous speaking to peers. Someone in the audience probably knows more about my subject than I do. Middle school taunts loom large in the back of my brain. It’s not logical, it’s just there.

So I’ve been working on it. I’ve signed up to talk about our new Service Learning model to the library world at large. I spoke at the Young Adult Services conference in November and will be speaking at the Washington Library Association Conference tomorrow.

I’ve made some realizations. Having a partner is key. One person droning on is never as exciting as two. It takes the pressure of all of those eyes off of me to have another person up there and allows me to take a breath when I need one.

I deliberately procrastinate on practicing my slides until within a day of my presentation. It keeps me from getting nervous leading up and keeps everything fresh in my mind, what I want to say and how I want to say it. Why torture myself sooner than necessary? The trick is to make sure to leave time in what can be a busy conference schedule to practice on my own, and then at least go over timing with my partner.

Having really wonderful friends doesn’t hurt either. I’ve had support from several people who have helped me see past my boogie men to the heart of the matter, and offered to be there for me at my presentation to cheer me on.

The presentation in November went great. I won’t pretend that I am suddenly a rock star–I have coworkers who provide celebrity grade performances when on stage; I don’t have that skill and I probably never will. Part of getting over my anxiety is letting things like that go. However, if my subject is interesting and I can present on it in a steady and interesting way, I’ll be happy.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep practicing in this luxurious cage.

davenport

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Like many libraries, ours has been shifting attention to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), with a bit of art thrown in for fun and creativity (STEAM). We hired Juan Rubio about a year ago to join our Youth and Family Learning team. He is amazing and procures cool gadgets and funding for work hours to cover us learning about the cool gadgets. A few of the things he’s brought us are Geolocative Games, 3D Printing Programming, Little Bits, and Finch Robots.

So far I’ve had training on the Finch robots. We use Samsung Chromebooks with the Snap Extension. You can use the Snap without the Finch and program a Sprite to move around, so it’s worth checking out if you are interested in really basic programming. There are 4 levels of difficulty in Snap, which is useful in teaching. The picture below is level 3, which I find to have the most functionality and easier to use than level 4.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 at 9.08.26 PM

Here’s where I warn you that I have no background in programming aside from a little HTML, CSS and XML. I do understand that the Snap commands represent a more complicated coding language underneath. I’ve even learned how to have the program show some of that language, but I don’t know what it means.

You can still teach Snap/Finches without knowing coding languages. It’s mostly logic once you get the hang of where everything is. You need a Control and a motion command in order to make the Finch do something. You can add operators and sensors and use variables to do more complicated sequences, as you can see above.

Some things were frustrating for me and the students. The Finches didn’t always behave as they should, even when the program was perfect. Sometimes the problem was that a student would have 2 or more programs running at once and they would interfere with each other. Other times the traction on the floor or table wasn’t good for the Finch’s wheels. Sometimes it just didn’t do what you told it to. Especially when it came to the sensors. I was able to turn this into a learning experience where we tried many different things to get the Finch to do what we wanted, trying different inputs and environments. The students learned that sometimes the environment is going to get in the way of what you want to happen.

I’ve had 2 groups of students so far. I do outreach at a local family housing community center, where families are transitioning out of homelessness. It’s long term housing, so they’re fairly stable, at least in having a place to live. The teens that I work with there are mostly girls from ages 11-14. For these classes, I went once a week for 3 weeks and had an hour each time. An hour was not enough and the teens have a lot of things on their plates, but we had a good time and they learned a lot. We’ll have our party in early May and students will be challenged to make their Finches dance, make music and do a light show.

outreach

The other program I’ve had was at our branch over Spring Break. It was 3 days long with a party at the end of the 3rd day where they showed off the tricks they’d learned. This group was mostly boys, ages 8-12. They’d all had Scratch before, so understood most of the Snap programming basics. I had to modify the first few curriculum for them, then move quickly to the more advanced workshops.

My next training will be on the Geolocative Games. With that, we’ll create a game that is a digital scavenger hunt. There are a lot of ways to make this game beneficial to the community. One of my colleagues did a project with her service learning group where they researched the history of their neighborhood, then put locations named after iconic people into their game, with information to teach the gamer about the history.

It was a really fun and sometimes frustrating experience. Totally worthwhile. I wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t had a very wonderful coworker at my branch who could help me with the more technical stuff. He is also a very patient and intuitive teacher and I learned a lot having him there to help with the outreach programs.

 

I had the weirdest dream last night. I don’t remember all of it, but I was on a supported ride, and I was riding alone. There was someone I was competing with, who was fairly evenly matched with me. We were racing along, taking turns at the front. At some point I lost him. Then I lost the ride itself. I ended up in sand. It was bright and sunny and I could see everyone up above, on a pathway that was paved and I was riding in sand along the bottom of a cliff.

I felt something go wonky with my bike, so I looked down. Suddenly parts of my bike were gone. The front wheel, my handlebars. I was left holding the stem. I didn’t crash, but I lost momentum and set her down gently. Suddenly I was in an urban area, climbing around an industrial building. I found a Mad Max style bike shop, thinking I could bring the parts of my bike there to get it fixed. I had to hurry though, I was loosing my nemesis.

no_handlebars_by_theacidreign

Then I woke up.

I was so invigorated after riding in the Emerald City Ride (a 20 mile course across the new 520 bridge, up the express lanes of I-5 then along the west side of the Lake Washington loop) that I signed up for Flying Wheels century in June. Below is most of my Wooleaters group on the Emerald City Ride. We’re standing on the new 520 Bridge. I’m holding my shoe, as I’ve just figured out that my cleat is horribly loose.

wooleaters

I’ve ridden Flying Wheels twice before, both times with very little training. It hurts to ride like that, but not for very long, which is probably why I haven’t learned my lesson. This year, I’m going to try training though. A friend of mine reminds me that I need to do it every week, so I’m more likely to get out there and ride the distance.

I’m not in bad shape for it anyway. I ride around 100 miles a week with my regular commute and errands, then I sometimes pick up a 40 mile ride with friends on my Friday off. I know I can do better, though, and I recently hurt my knee. It doesn’t hurt when I ride, just when I run and sit around too much. I guess that tells me what I need to know.

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Above: I was looking for a good picture from the 2015 Gallery that Woodinville Bicycle took, but this is what caught my eye. You’re welcome. In his defense, there were some intense hills.

Last week I did a 55 mile ride with a Wooleater friend. We meant to do 40 miles, but missed a turn. It turned out fine and was actually closer to what our goal should have been anyhow.

Chris and I are going to ride to Vashon tomorrow to meet some boating friends who have been sailing the South Sound for the last week. It’s a 28 mile ride, and while I should be doing twice that for my training, I’ll be fine with that. Sailing with friends is worth it. So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m training when it fits, and otherwise I’m getting miles where I can.

I’m just returning to the boat after a week house sitting for friends. I missed it!