Librarians using Twitter will be familiar with Andy Plemmons (@plemmonsa), a school library media specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA. His library program is grounded in transliteracy, participatory culture, and students as creators of content shared with the global community. Andy’s students are often seen skyping with authors, guest speakers, and the developers of the tools that they use in class. Besides Twitter, you can keep up with Andy and the students of Barrow Elementary at Expect the Miraculous blog. We had a chance to catch up with Andy and ask him the following questions…
Name: Andy Plemmons
Location: Athens, Georgia
Current job(s): School Library Media Specialist
Current computer: Dell XPS 13
Current mobile device(s): Iphone 6 and Nexus 7
One word that best describes how you teach or work: Connected
If you had $1,000 to spend on classroom tools and wanted to make the greatest impact on student learning, how would you spend it?
Through my student book budget project, I’ve seen what a powerful experience it can be to give students total control over a portion of a budget. By developing surveys, conversing with peers, analyzing data, setting goals, meeting with vendors, making wish lists, and debating a final decision, students become committed to the task and their decisions are respected by the school community. Anytime that students lead the decisions it will have a greater impact on student learning.
What are you currently reading?
Who are your influences in the education community?
Through social media, I’ve met so many dynamic educators whose ideas have inspired me, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of these awesome people in person. Even though I have a core group of people that I turn to, I truly never know where my next idea will come from. By engaging in social media through hashtags and chats, I’m pushed and inspired to try new things. I love that on social media we can all contribute and support one another regardless of where we are in our own education stories.
What browser do you use regularly? Google Chrome.
What app or web service, not currently in existence, do you wish someone would develop?
We need a matching service for educators around the world who want to connect their students for meaningful collaboration beyond borders. There are many communities online and many tools for connecting, but it takes a lot of time and planning to make global connections work. The amount of time it takes to find someone who matches well with you and your students takes away time and energy that could be put into the actual planning and collaboration toward something meaningful.
Flexible! When we designed our library, my main word that I kept bringing back to the architects was that I wanted a space that could change shape and purpose at a moment’s notice. What resulted is a space with very few fixed pieces of furniture and most everything on wheels. Our library is a space to dream, tinker, create, and share and the space allows us to work together in many different ways.
What apps/software/tools can you not live without?
I’m a huge fan of all of the Google tools. It seems crazy that it really hasn’t been that long that we’ve had these collaboration tools at our fingertips. I’m still amazed when I see students from multiple locations come together in a Google Hangout to chat, draw together in a Google Drawing, or write a poem together in a Google doc. When we share a link to a collaborative doc on Twitter and instantly have an audience of viewers, our students are immediately published authors. Beyond Google, I love any tool that allows student voices to come together in one place regardless of real-time connections. Flipgrid is one of the tools that I constantly find new ways of using. I love hearing the many different voices that come together around a common question and the ability to instantly share those responses with the world.
People often ask how I find the time to blog. To me, I can’t imagine not finding the time to blog. It is my best way of reflecting on what I do, sharing with others, and looking back at my portfolio over time. To help myself, I’m constantly documenting what we do. I’m never without my phone, and I quickly snap moments in time throughout the day and post them to Twitter and Instagram. When I sit down to write a post, I really have a lot of material ready to use. It’s just a matter of pulling the links from social media and pasting them into the blog.
Share with us a time when you failed in your teaching or learning pursuits. How did you persevere?
Failure stories are so important to me because they put you in check and remind you that you don’t always have the answers the first time you try something. Although failure is important, it’s really more about what you do with the failure. I love to tell about how I was not accepted into library school for my specialist degree in college. I had my heart set on a career path and I was rejected because of a few points on an entrance test. Even though I was sick about what happened, I picked myself up and asked if I could have a second chance. After lots of studying how to take a test, I took the test again and picked up enough points to get in. I think about all of the learning that has happened in our library in the last 8 years that I’ve been a part of it, and I’m so thankful that I didn’t give up. My story also reminds me of how much potential is within each of our students that goes far beyond a number we see on a test.
Any parting thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
People often ask if I ever sleep or say something like, “I just don’t know how you do it all.” The truth is that I do sleep and I don’t do it all. There’s always more ideas than what I can actually accomplish. On those days when I feel like I’m not doing enough, I can look back at my blog and my tweets and remind myself of all of the things that have been happening. I encourage all of us to share our stories, even if it’s just one small thing a day. That documentation serves as a portfolio to look back on, but it also defines for the world what your classroom is really about.
Andy will part of the Teacher-Librarian Summit, Wednesday, February 24 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Andy will also be leading the following sessions:
Becoming A Global Educator
Thursday, February 25 | 11:30 AM – 12:20 PM | Room: Tahoma 5
What does a global educator and a globally connected classroom and library look like? There are some steps you can take to connect yourself and your students with the world. See how the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center has used social media, Google docs, Skype, and Google hangouts to connect with other educators around the world for events like International Dot Day and World Read Aloud Day. Learn how these events have expanded to global reader’s advisory events such as the Picture Book Smackdown via Google Hangouts. See how students are taking action after participating in connections with classrooms around the country for America Recycles Day. These schoolwide events have been the beginnings of the global culture that continues to grow in our school.
Creating Goals That Matter
Thursday, February 25 | 3:00 PM – 3:50 PM | Room: Tahoma 5
What educational goals really matter to you? What inspires your goals to be a next generation educator? Learn what inspired the four goals of the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center. See how those four goals are taken into every collaborative planning session with educators as well as examples of how the goals shape learning throughout the year.
Friday, February 26 | 10:30 AM – 11:20 AM | Room: Tahoma 2
What is a makerspace? What does it look like within a school? Where do you start? Hear the story of the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center’s makerspace and how it evolved from a single robot to an ever-changing makerspace full of opportunities for dreaming, tinkering, and creating. See examples of how the makerspace is connected with curriculum as well as how it gives students a space to explore their interests.