Voices, a Podcast from the Seneca Valley School District

Episode 46 - The Age of Information: How SV is Keeping up with the Times with Ms. Kelly McDonald

October 04, 2021 Seneca Valley School District Season 2 Episode 46
Voices, a Podcast from the Seneca Valley School District
Episode 46 - The Age of Information: How SV is Keeping up with the Times with Ms. Kelly McDonald
Show Notes Transcript

The Age of Information: How SV is Keeping up with the Times with Ms. Kelly McDonald

Ms. Kelly McDonald, Rowan Elementary CIRC Teacher 

Kelly McDonald is in her thirty-third year of teaching, with thirty of those years at Seneca Valley. She previously taught kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, but has been a K-4 Creativity, Innovation & Research Center (CIRC) teacher at Rowan for the past twenty-nine years. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Indiana University of PA and a Master of Library Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Kelly currently serves on the English Language Arts (ELA) Curriculum Committee within the District.  


  • How to find reliable resources in this day of technology 
  • How to teach students to combat the world of misinformation
  • How much has the library changed because of technology
  • How social media influences the library 
  • What parents and students would be surprised to know about the library today 


 File Name: Voices E46 Kelly McDonald.mp3

File Length: 00:12:08


FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)


00:00:02:27 - 00:00:10:06

Introduction: Welcome to Voices, a National award-winning podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District. 


00:00:11:21 - 00:00:19:20

Jeff Krakoff: This is Jeff Krakoff. Today, I'm talking with Kelly McDonald, who is a CIRC teacher at Rowan Elementary. Welcome. Thanks for joining us today. 


00:00:20:06 - 00:00:21:27

Kelly McDonald: Thank you so much for having me. 


00:00:22:06 - 00:00:50:00

Jeff Krakoff: So, you know, everyone talks about fake news, misinformation. I think it's important, especially dealing with elementary students, to have a good basis for both they and their parents. How do you find good sources? So let me just ask you in today's day of so many sources out there, some legit, some illegitimate. How do you find reliable sources for your students? 


00:00:50:14 - 00:01:28:08

Kelly McDonald: Well, both our teachers, and students are very lucky to be a part of the Seneca Valley School District because they offer many incredible resources. So my first piece of advice to my students or my teachers is to always start with our resources here. Most of our databases provide a multitude of websites that have been vetted and deemed to be appropriate, and accurate. So I always tell the students that there's no need to reinvent the wheel when an expert has already done that for them. So we have resources such as Pebble Go and Science, Flix, True Flix, Encyclopedia Britannica and Scholastic Go. 


00:01:28:20 - 00:01:57:13

Kelly McDonald: In most of those resources always list websites to go online that are safe for the students to go to. Also, all of the resources have a read aloud feature to so that students can use them regardless of their reading ability, which is very important. Teachers can also add websites like their students to go to to the TEAMS page, or to Clever. So students can easily access websites that are not available through the Seneca Valley Resources.  


00:01:58:09 - 00:02:14:07

Jeff Krakoff: Mm-Hmm. All right. So again, lots of resources available to all students and their parents through the district. But do you And if you do, how do you teach students, elementary students, to combat this whole new world of misinformation? 


00:02:15:18 - 00:03:08:21

Kelly McDonald: Well, I give them some helpful hints to look for. The first one is to look at the source of the website or the source of the information. Is it an expert or a well-known organization like National Geographic or PBS kids or even NASA? Or is it just Joe Schmo's website? And I apologize if there are any Joe Schmo's out there. The kids love it when I use that name as my example. And they always ask me, What about Joe Schmo? They also need to look to see if it's been updated recently or is information old? Are there mistakes like misspelled words or even incorrect information? It's also important to note if the website has ads or is selling something, because that can definitely prove to be a bias and a red flag for students and teachers and parents alike. 


00:03:09:10 - 00:03:23:26

Kelly McDonald: Also, it's a good idea to find more than one source of information and then compare them to make sure that you're getting the same facts. And to check for inconsistencies. And these are all helpful hints that would be beneficial for even adults or parents that are listening. 


00:03:24:05 - 00:03:38:17

Jeff Krakoff: Yeah. So I think even for parents, what's the first step? Typically, let's go to Google, right? Let's see what we find. How does that make you feel when elementary students are starting your search there and they get all kinds of stuff right? 


00:03:39:08 - 00:04:06:09

Kelly McDonald: I usually like, as I said before, I always start them out with Seneca Valley Resources first, and if I have a teacher comes me asking for some ideas for a unit he or she is teaching. That's the first place I go to look for resources that are easily available, and they can actually find them easily on our Destiny web page, which is where we search for library books also. And then they can access that using their school laptop, even at home. 


00:04:06:25 - 00:04:14:25

Jeff Krakoff: OK. So in this world of ever-changing technology, just just how much has the library changed due to technology? 


00:04:15:26 - 00:04:54:09

Kelly McDonald: I could talk for hours on this topic, believe it or not. My first year when I started here, twenty nine years ago, I believe in the library. They had just finished putting the books online. So I spent the first couple of weeks having the kids sign out cards with their name and their room number until we could get them all loaded in the computer. And then we started signing out with the computer. So from not using at all my first couple of weeks to now, it is a part of every single thing I do in the library from running the library like book checkout or adding books to the system. 


00:04:54:16 - 00:05:31:21

Kelly McDonald: Of course, we have no more card catalog. Everything is online. Students can sit at home and see what books we have and see what books are available, which is fantastic. The students can search for books and read ebooks. I use virtual classrooms a lot. Seneca Valley databases. Literally the world at their fingertips. As far as teaching goes, even my use of technology has changed greatly since the beginning of the pandemic from last year, which happens every day to using Flipgrid, which is an amazing resource that allows kids to make their own videos and submit them. 


00:05:32:06 - 00:06:06:03

Kelly McDonald: We use Flipgrid jokes for the morning announcements so the kids can submit a joke and be a part of the morning announcements. And we even have a Flipgrid talent show and the talent is one of the favorite things that we do all year. Miss Koch, the tech facilitator and I usually run that. And we were really obviously struggling with the pandemic. How are we going to be able to do this so the kids can now submit their videos on Fipgrid? The most amazing thing about it is that we can showcase some talents that we could not when the kids were sitting on the floor in the cafeteria. 


00:06:06:09 - 00:06:39:28

Kelly McDonald: We have kids outside on their trampoline doing all kinds of things. Just we added one student to a drawing video and he and his dad actually have a YouTube channel. And so he showed us how they make their videos, and he gave us an example of one of the drawings which we couldn't really easily do here at school. So from lesson plans to using Nearpod for self-directed lessons, or I can record my own voice reading each slide. I don't teach a single lesson that does not involve some kind of technology. 


00:06:40:07 - 00:06:49:27

Kelly McDonald: Even it's just my document camera so that my little kindergarten kids in the back of the class can see the book. So technology is literally a part of everything that I do.  


00:06:49:29 - 00:06:54:27

Jeff Krakoff: Right. So it's changed a whole lot over the years. I'm sure it's going to change a whole lot down the road. 


00:06:55:07 - 00:06:56:08

Kelly McDonald: Absolutely. 


00:06:56:16 - 00:07:02:22

Jeff Krakoff: How about social media? What kind of influence does that have on the library and and on your role? 


00:07:04:00 - 00:07:39:24

Kelly McDonald: Well, I will admit in the beginning, I was a little nervous about using social media for school. We do have a Twitter account and we use it to promote the things that we do in CIRC. Once I did it a couple of times, I felt much more comfortable. It's so great to be able to promote the amazing things that we are doing here. And we also get lots of inspiration from other educators, both within and outside of the district. We can stay up to date with educational trends and follow experts in the field and see what they are thinking and doing in real time. 


00:07:40:02 - 00:07:48:09

Kelly McDonald: So I use Twitter a lot and I really do enjoy sharing the things that we do so that others can see too. 


00:07:50:09 - 00:07:58:24

Jeff Krakoff: OK.  So are there any things that you think parents and students would be surprised to know about today's library at Seneca Valley? 


00:07:59:28 - 00:08:37:15

Kelly McDonald: Well, it isn't even called a library anymore, and it usually isn't quiet the way it was when they were in school. It's controlled chaos. A lot of times I'm working on some kind of a project. Our space in our program are both called CIRC, which stands for Creativity and Innovation Research Center, and our space is actually a huge pirate ship, which is the best theme ever. We have so much fun doing pirate themed things. CIRC is a combination of technology and library science, and I share this space with our amazing tech facilitator, Bria Koch. 


00:08:38:16 - 00:09:14:11

Kelly McDonald: I still circulate books, but we also have a maker space. We do engineering challenges and use many types of robotics and electronics equipment, including those Beebots and snap circuits and Ozbots. It's been a real challenge since the pandemic to figure out how to do these things safely, and it was a lot there was a lot of brainstorming and a lot of trying something, and it didn't work and trying something else. But we figured out some really great ways to still have our program be so meaningful to the kids. 


00:09:14:25 - 00:09:56:18

Kelly McDonald: So when we do make our activities, I'll give the students a list of material so that they're not rooting through all the boxes. I collect the materials and put them in some kind of a bag or on Styrofoam plate, and then when they come in the next day, the materials are ready for them. I've also developed some units that allow students to have their own materials, but to still collaborate as a classroom. And that conversation that we have when we do the maker and STEM Challenge is just so amazing. I wish you could hear these little first graders saying, I really like your idea, but I was wondering because we talked to them a lot about questioning and how to ask the right kinds of questions. 


00:09:56:28 - 00:10:27:07

Kelly McDonald: Totally amazing. Also, when the students were learning from home and they had a maker project, which we still did, we were not allowed to go out and purchase any materials and they would create their project and they would use flip grids to make a recording of it. And then at the very end, we could share the videos, and I felt that's to be a really exciting way to do major projects too, because they had things at home that I never could have used here at school and they were so creative. 


00:10:27:15 - 00:11:02:07

Kelly McDonald: Now the parents were freaking out because I think they feel like it's a regular project in school and this is not a regular project. If you try it and you keep trying it and your rollercoaster marble does not stay on your rollercoaster hill, that's OK. What did you learn from the project? So I think once parents realized that it was just whatever they had at home and let the kids try to do some problem-solving if it didn't work out. I think their minds were eased a lot, and it was so great to see all of the kids amazing and flip grid, even though they weren't here at school. 


00:11:02:13 - 00:11:07:28

Kelly McDonald: Yeah. So I think parents would be shocked if they saw the kinds of things that we do nowadays. 


00:11:08:00 - 00:11:31:03

Jeff Krakoff: And I'm always amazed by all the teachers we talked to on this podcast. How many good things have come out of the COVID 19 pandemic from using technology, thinking outside the box and differently and I'm sure a lot of the things you're talking about, you're going to continue to use technology, maybe in a different way than you would have thought of without the pandemic. So. 


00:11:31:05 - 00:11:47:28

Kelly McDonald: Oh, absolutely. And now any time I'm planning something, I think, wow, I might have a student live streaming. So how is that going to look like? What is that going to look like at home for them? So how can I play my lessons so that it's a good lesson for the kids at school and for the kids that are at home also. 


00:11:48:18 - 00:11:58:26

Jeff Krakoff: Awesome. Lots of good information. Thanks for joining us again. That was Kelly McDonald, who is a CIRC teacher at Rowan Elementary. Have a good rest of your day. 


00:11:59:06 - 00:12:01:01

Kelly McDonald: Thank you so much. You, too. 


00:12:01:11 - 00:12:02:00

Jeff Krakoff: Take care. 


00:12:02:13 - 00:12:03:04

Kelly McDonald: You too.