Thursday, September 18, 2014

Technology & Student Authors

What do you do with student-authored books?

The Problem

I used to cringe when students brought in their treasures to share.  It wasn't that I didn't enjoy reading their creations.  Students write wonderful stories.  I love them!  The problem was that I didn't have a good place to store their books or a system for circulation.

Student authored books are generally thin paperbacks, and they disappear into the stacks if shelved among hard cover editions.

Another problem was that I didn't know whether to actually let them circulate.  How would other students treat these books?  What if a little sibling tore or wrote on it?

At my current school, students LOVE to write.  Many students write books as part of their action for the PYP Exhibition, and our collection is growing.  When I first arrived there were a few titles on the shelves, and by the end of the first year we had nearly a dozen books written by students.  The collection continued to grow, but no one (beyond the author, his/her parents, and teacher) knew they existed.

Our Solution

Seeing the cover is critical for circulating student-authored books, so they now have their own acrylic display stand.  It is located in a prominent location, on a low shelf, just as you enter the Media Centre.  It is at eye level for most primary students.

The Procedure

When a student has a book they would like circulated through the library, they can either bring in a hard copy or email a soft-copy.  Hard copies are first scanned into a PDF version and then the pages are bound with a comb binding and clear cover (to show off the student's artwork); soft-copies are printed and bound. The cover is saved as a jpg.  Then the books are barcoded and added to our catalog.  After changing it several times, we settled on STUDENT AUTHORS as the call number.  This allows us to move the display around.

As part of our processing, most books are uploaded to our library's ISSUU account.

Within the record is a link to the ebook version:

Of the 13 titles on ISSUU, statistics show they have been read 87 times!  That beats the print copy stats fourfold.

One of the things I love best is how the students treat each other's work.  Reverent is the word that comes to mind. Students almost always ask if they may borrow them and take the books home - no assumptions are made - and they all seem to treat this as a special gift.  Thus far, all books have come back intact and on time.

Friday, August 8, 2014

EBOLA Infographic - Yikes

The EBOLA outbreak has been on my mind lately since a dear friend has her daughter in Africa working at a hospital.  She is a PreMed student at Brown University and was thrilled to work in Africa for a second time.  She is in the middle of infected areas. Infographics like this help break the information down for everyone.

by Raj Kamal.

Monday, June 16, 2014

50 Tech Tools every Teacher-Librarian Should Know

Are you looking for some web tools to investigate this summer?  Take a look at the 50 tech tools listed below to get started. If you click on the button, it will take you to the website or app.  If there is a picture, you can click there to get an example of what some of the tools do.  Please note: not all pictures have an example!

Monday, May 5, 2014

UbD - Putting it All Together

I completed my online class Design for Understanding Meets the 21st Century Librarian, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It has been both exciting and humbling to learn so much at this point in my career, but I must say it has transformed my teaching.  I am now seeing the kind of learning I have always aspired to inspire.  

The fourth (and final) step was to look at the Big Ideas I had identified at the beginning, the evidence that will prove the Big Ideas were learned (step 3), and then - finally - after identifying the skills and knowledge students will need to complete the performance task, design the lessons. I had to evaluate what my students already know how to do and think, decide what they still need to learn, and determine how they will learn it.  This was a fun step, yet also more challenging than I anticipated. I brainstormed a list and pared it down into the number of lessons time allowed.

Here is my final product:

There were a couple of things I hated to cut, but they fell more under the "fun" activity category. My time with students is so limited that I feel a lot of pressure to be effective and efficient - no time to waste!  Yet, I recognized that I do occasionally do things just for fun.... because I want students to know that reading and learning are enjoyable activities.  However, for this unit, I chose to plan through a lens of efficiency.  It sounds terribly sterile, but it was actually delightful.

The big fun came at the end through the performance task. Students pretended they were designing a library.  They had the power.  They made the decisions.  They explained their rationale.... with no wrong answers.

This whole unit was something I had never covered before, and I now see it as essential.  Ironically, I had all the books and resources I needed to support it.  I had just never figured out how to make them relevant or appealing.

Now the world has three classes of students running around with the Big Idea that libraries are a need and the resources in the library are reflective of their needs.  

What could be more rewarding?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Appy Friday - GLOSSI

Create an interactive online magazine that can be viewed on any device.  Take a look at the Glossi site and Glossi App.

Monday, April 21, 2014

UbD - How Do You Know?

It's week three of Design for Understanding Meets the 21st Century School Librarian and time to complete Step Two.

Step One was to identify the Big Ideas that I wanted students to take away from the unit I am planning.  I chose to write a unit for Grade 2 based on the big idea "Libraries are organized based on the needs and wants of its patrons".

Next I needed to identify HOW I would assess that they understand this big ideas.  Not just know the big idea.  Not repeat it back to me.  But understand it.

What does it means to understand?  When student understands a concept, they are able to transfer their skills or knowledge, they know when and how to apply it in a new situation.

I realized this week that I teach this way to a great degree already.  I may not always formally plan it, but I am always looking for the transfer of learning.  I don't want students to memorize Dewey Decimal numbers, I want them to understand there is a system in place, that similar items are grouped together, that this system is found in many libraries and they can transfer their knowledge when visiting a different library.

I realized this week that this is also why I am so frustrated when a teacher proposes I teach a 15 minute lesson on in-text citations to a class that is not currently working on an essay or term paper.  Teaching out of context almost guarantees there will be no transfer!

How can one assess learning of information literacies?  Formative assessments can be in the form of exit tickets, checklists, or responses to writing prompts. These are great, quick ways of checking progress, but I admit I am guilty of not always assessing what students are learning in the library. I do a lot of informal assessments, such as watching to see if they apply what I just taught about using the OPAC or checking to see if students have logged into databases rather than reverting to Google, but I know I can do more.

For the unit for this course, I came up to with two possible performance tasks that would serve as summative assessments.  In the first one, students redesign our existing library (on paper), rearranging resources and explaining what they moved and why.  In the second, students serve as various members of a "library board" and decide how to spend a ficticious grant we just received.  Both are engaging.  Both require students to understand the resources and services a library can offer as well as the wants and needs of the users.  They both require higher level thinking, and - that most precious commodity - time.

After writing up these tasks, I decided they were not all that different from some of the work I did for my graduate classes.  And again I am struck by what an opportunity this is to teach children what I wish more administrators understood.  It gives me hope for the future of libraries.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

When you're an island...

With whom do you network?

When I first became a librarian, I was part of a district with 19 school libraries.  The librarians met monthly with the district coordinator, who planned the time so that she covered business for the first half and then left the second half of the meetings for us to ask questions and share ideas.  Pat Johnson was a genius with this planning, as it resulted in many things being approached in a unified manner across the district without her having to issue orders, and some really amazing ideas were shared in these meetings.  She also met with the new librarians once a month to ensure we were familiar with selection/deselection, copyright, cataloging and those other things the veterans took for granted.  I am so grateful for all of those meetings and all that I learned.

The next district I worked in had one certified librarian working in a library---- me.  There were a couple of other librarians in administrative positions, but I had no colleagues with whom to discuss district policies and procedures, best practices, or simply run an idea pasy.  Listservs like LM_Net and the monthly regional meetings for coordinators became my lifeline.

And now I am the lone librarian at an international school in a foreign country.  I had to relearn everything... from ordering to copyright rules to who to network with.  LM_Net and the TLA groups continue to provide support, but I found there are situations unique to international schools that require the experience and expertise of other international school librarians, such as resources for cataloging books in Portuguese or where to buy book tape!

Recently I received an email from Chris Hayes, a fellow member of the AGIS (Association of German International Schools) Librarians Group.  Chris organized a virtual round table for the librarians using Google Hangouts.  You can watch our discussion on YouTube.

The video starts after our introductions with me sharing ways I promote the library.  Following me are other librarians from around the country, speaking on topics such as primary and secondary curriculum and ways to promote reading in the secondary grades.

I urge you to find ways to connect with others - join associations, attend conferences, add to listserv discussions, or organize a hangout like Chris did.  We have so much to learn from one another!

Monday, April 7, 2014

UbD - What is a Library?

I'm well into the second week of my AASL online course, and I now have to begin planning a unit using what I have learned thus far.  Fortunately, I was given a relevant, exciting idea by the grade 2 teachers who recently requested I tie library instruction into their current unit of inquiry "Communities are organised based on the needs and wants of people".  I am supposed to guide students in examining the roles libraries play in communities, perhaps looking at different libraries around the world.

Immediately my thoughts jumped to making lists of wants and needs, watching the Biblioburro, learning about library arrangement, reading My Librarian is a Camel.... Yes, I was full of all kinds of activities.  I have to STOP this habit and think ... what is the big idea that I want students to carry with them?  

I've identified the Enduring Understanding (or big idea) as "Libraries are organized based on the needs and wants of their patrons" and our guiding questions are What does a library need? and What is the role of a library within a community?

I'm sure these will undergo some revision, but I have to start somewhere.

Unfortunately, I am just getting started writing the unit, and I am supposed to already start teaching... so I am already ignoring what I am learning about designing the end first and I jumped into the pre-assessment.   I figure it will make for some good reflection fodder.

This week I asked each grade 2 class to answer the question "What is a library?"

I tried this in small groups on sticky notes.  
I tried it with larger groups and half sheets of beautifully colored paper. 
And then I tried creating a mind map with a whole class on a flip chart.  

Each time I saw the same results.  

Hands-down, without fail, each class answered the question the same:
  A library is a place to check out books.  

A few students added, without prompting, it could be a quiet place to read.  

That was it.  

I really had to work to get anyone to look deeper, to think about other resources, to see other uses for the space.  I couldn't believe these children, who visit this fabulous, well-resourced facility, had such a limited definition.  But we have only just begun...

I've worked for administrators who operated under the same limited definition that a library was just a place to check out books.  No matter what I said or did, their views did not broaden.

But this time I'm armed with BIG IDEAS.  And I'm working with children who are used to thinking deeply.  They expect to have their understandings expand.

The idea of educating a new generation of thinkers on the full potential of a library is exhilarating.   Let's get started! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

UbD - What's the Big Idea?

Week one of my AASL online class "Design for Understanding Meets the 21st Century School Librarian" focused on understanding big ideas and involved a little reflection upon my own teaching styles.

The first discussion opened with a question asking students to share if we tended to fall into the coverage trap or the activity trap.  Do we plan lessons to hit a number of objectives or standards, or do we do things that are fun or entertaining or seem worthwhile regardless of objectives?  Several of us stated that we start with the end in the mind, planning activities based on objectives, but I'm beginning to see that this is just the beginning.  Teaching by design is not just about establishing objectives and knowing what you want students to learn.  No.  It's bigger than that.  We have to go deeper.   We have to ask............

What's the BIG IDEA?

What are students going to take from this lesson (or unit) that they can use in 20 years?

My take on big ideas is that I can address them year after year with new resources and deeper thinking and never exhaust them.  If you haven't read the article I cited in my last post by Jean Donham, I urge you to do so...

By framing teaching and learning around big ideas, such as "Information can be organized in many ways", I can address sections of the library, shelf order, parts of a book, OPAC, databases, note-taking and more, always referring to our big idea so that students begin to make connections themselves, begin to think about how they organize their own information, begin to look for order in an unfamiliar system.  I'm looking forward to posting my big ideas where students can see them as they enter this space.

Another powerful - and challenging - aspect of thinking ahead 20 years is technology.  What can I teach today that will outlast the changes in technology that are occurring faster and faster?  What will students learn that will outlast desktop computers or a particular app?  This is where ethical use, strategic evaluation, and responsible sharing all come in to play.

All of this learning is going into a unit planner.  But first, it's time to understand more about understanding....

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Amy Burvall - One Woman’s Impact on EdTech

I am a huge #SXSW fan and was bummed that I wasn't able to attend this year's #SXSWedu conference this year.  However, I did stay abreast via twitter - my avenue to everything trending.  One of the people that I have become intrigued with is Amy Burvall.  She was part of a group hosted by EdTech Women Founder Sehreen Noor Ali.

Amy was one of twelve women that shared at the SXSWedu Lightning Talk Series - At The Helm: Women's Impact in EdTech.  Margaret Roth's blog shared bios on all twelve women.  When she introduced Amy Burvall, she wrote, "A Humanities teacher for 20 years in several of Oahu's private schools, Amy is a leader in educational technology professional development programs.  She is currently teaching Theory of Knowledge at Le Jardin Academy International Baccalaureate World School.  Her work in the History for Music Lovers project YouTube channel, which features history-based parody music videos with almost 10 million views, has appeared in Wired Magazine, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Honolulu Magazine, CBC, NPR, and international blogs and media.  She was privileged to present at the TEDxHonolulu 2011 and serve as co-curator for  TEDxHonolulu 2013.  She has presented at Ignite Honolulu, The Association for Advanced Computing in Education, EdTech Teacher, iPad Summit, and in Vancouver at the British Columbia Social Studies Teachers Association Conference.  Amy has been an active participant-learner in several MOOCS (#etmooc, #edcmooc, and #teachtheweb), named a Webmaker Fellow by Mozilla, and is a firm believer in radical transparency, open ed, and remix culture."  People like Amy are inspiring to educators and students.   Take a look at her amazing products and ideas.

Here is a ThingLink with Everything Amy and some of her amazing videos about history.  Her students have produced amazing products too, take some time to see how she has impacted them.

Click here to view her student's work:

Her wonderful history videos!

People like Amy inspire me to want to be a better educator.  I love that she doesn't mind to #DARETOSHARE.

Follow her on twitter:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

AASL eAcademy Invite

My school recently hosted Bill and Ochan Powell for a professional development day.  
Photo from
In preparation of this event, multiple copies of their book, Making the Difference: Differentiation in International Schools, were purchased for staff to read. 
Photo from
I highly recommend their work, whether you are at an international school or not.  Many of their strategies are applicable for ELL students anywhere. And every classroom is populated with students whose needs vary. 

But I am especially pleased with the chapter on the role of the library.  It was written by a librarian and clearly outlines the role of the modern library.  And I have to admit, I am rather proud of the fact that one of our teachers, after completing that particular chapter, came up to the library to share what he had read and tell us that it described what was happening in our library.  (Yes!)

In Making the Difference, reference is made to some of the teaching books that I have checked out to teachers in recent years... including some I have carried home with the intention of reading in my "spare time".  One section that really jumped out to me referred to the text Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe.  

Way back when, I was taught to write lesson plans using backwards design, and I still begin with the end in mind.  But I was struggling to update my thinking to using Enduring Understandings to guide my lessons.  I watched classroom teachers do this, for example, guiding students to understand WHY people explore rather than just memorize the dates and locations that are associated with James Cook or Lewis & Clark.  But I just couldn't seem to make a satisfactory connection with that process and information skills students learn in the library.

I know part of the problem is time.  Finding Making time to write out complete lesson plans and then reflect later can be difficult if you are unable to find a quiet place to work.  My door is always open and interruptions are frequent, so this task often gets pushed to "later" on my to-do list.  

But I really wanted to document the curriculum framework I use, not just carry it around in my head.  I hadn't been able to get it onto paper until I finally understood how Enduring Understanding applied to the library.

One key to Enduring Understandings is that one should be able to answer the question "How will this matter to the learner in 20 years?"  Rather than making students memorize Dewey Decimal numbers, we can help them learn that "Information can be organized in different ways".  This allows for their contributions to the concept as well provides a basis for understanding how the parts of books are organized, how alphabetical order can help us organize books on the shelves, the Dewey Decimal system, etc.  I was so excited to see how I could take what I had been teaching and create a usable structure for it.  

In doing a little searching, I found an article on Enduring Understandings for the Library by Jean Donham. Donham wrote 9 Essential Questions based on AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner Beliefs. I used her suggestions to draft my big picture, and then I began to craft Guiding Questions that would drive the learning at each grade level.  

So there I was, brainstorming and writing.

And that's when the invitation from AASL arrived in my inbox.  

The AASL eAcademy is offering a course, Design for Understanding Meets the 21st Century School Librarian, starting March 21.  

I have registered, and I am super-excited to proceed with a network of librarians.   And looking over the syllabus, I see that I will finally read some of those books I have on my nightstand. 

Anyone out there want to join me in the course?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Matt De La Pena at the Region One Spring Librarian's Conference

Matt De La Pena at the Region One Spring Librarian's Conference

Matt De La Pena spoke to about 160+ librarians at Region One on February 14th, an appropriate Valentine's gift for all of us.  Authors are always a joy to listen to, but when you have one that really moves you, then it just makes it that more special.

My biggest take away from his talk was this.  Teachers and librarians can make a difference.  His junior year, Matt had his 11th grade teacher encourage him by telling him that for the exam she had already given him an A, she just wanted him to write for 2 hours about anything he wanted to.  She knew it would be magic, Matt just didn't understand that yet.  Then, while in college, he had a librarian that paired him up with a book.  He had never had anyone do that before.  He wasn't really interested in the book at the beginning, but later found that he needed to finish it.  He couldn't understand why she felt this book would mean something to him.  Then, when he got to the end, he got teary eyed.  He stressed that no tears actually came out, but I have read the book he was talking about and I can't imagine that he didn't.  Ultimately, his message was loud and clear.  Make a difference, not just with kids that are always involved in the lessons, but seek out the kid in the back.  The one who isn't sure what his/her gift is.  Maybe, just maybe, you will see what they can't see just yet.

Loved his talk and can't wait to read his newest book, The Living.  You can learn a little bit about it right here:

Appy Friday - Remind101

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Changing the FAVICON on your Class and Library GOOGLE SITES

Have you ever wondered how to get your site favicon changed?  It drives me crazy that on Google Sites all my web pages are the generic site icon.  So, I have finally figured out how to change that.  The first thing you will need to do is have the picture you want to designate as your favicon.  Next, you will need to find a favicon generator.  I used this one.

Next, the generator will ask you to upload your file.....

After you upload your file, you will need to save your favicon - making sure it has the .ico extension at the end.

Now you will need to get into your Google Site and click More to get the drop down screen.  When you get the drop down screen, choose Manage Site.

Once you get in the Manage Site option, select Attachments.    Once you select attachments, you will get a menu - you need to select Upload.

When you are ready to Upload your file, make sure to choose the favicon you created.  Make sure it has the extension .ico.

Once you have your file uploaded, you will select Move.  You then command that the file be moved to the Site Title icon.

The end result is your custom icon on the tab and bookmarks bar. 

I have a favicon widget on my blog, but my uploads haven't changed the blogger icon.  I will let you know when I figure that one out!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars Movie Trailer

I blogged about The Fault in Our Stars back in January of 2012 on a student blog I was writing.  I have read this book four times and I am hoping the movie is everything that the books is.  The trailer is out now and it looks like it is going to be a great one.  If a movie trailer can bring tears to your eyes, then they did something right.

If you haven't read The Fault in Our Stars - you really should make a point to do so before the movie comes out!  John Green NEVER disappoints!

If you haven't read the book - get a glimpse here:

Monday, January 20, 2014

I have my Google Glass, now what?

First of all, let me say that my Google Glass headset is pretty darn awesome. The fact that I can see this little screen that offers me so much information is incredibly amazing.  I can call, text, Google, take pictures and videos all hands free.  This little computer  has an earpiece that records your voice and transmits audio through the skull.  Glass is definitely revolutionary in every way.  The tasks aren't all fun, they are functional too.  I even have Evernote installed so that if I am walking around and don't want to forget an idea, I just say,"Go Glass, note," and it writes what I say and sends it to Evernote.

 I feel very fortunate to be able to test and work with glass, but my first intention has always been, how can I (and others) use it for learning purposes.  I follow Two Guys and Some iPads and  their last blog post mentioned  how some educators are using Google Glass right now.

They quoted Stacey Goodman who wrote a great piece saying "Google Glass provides the educator a means for "making learning visible" (MLV), and can assist with the "observation and documentation in deepening and extending children's and adults' learning" that the Project Zero researches from Harvard and Reggio Emilia, who developed MLV, identified as key to effective teaching. The paradox of MLV is that documenting one's process within the workflow must itself be invisible if it is to be seamless and not "get in the way" of the actual work." (Goodman Dec. 6)

The Guardian had on article talking about how some doctors are using Google Glasses.   "I immediately thought Google Glass can transform how we perform surgery, " Shah said. "One immediate advantage is I can constantly keep my eyes on my patient.  I don't have to constantly have to move my head up and down looking at an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or X-Ray or a 'before and after' in my viewer." He continues, "Another advantage is I can communicate directly from the operating room with a patient's friends or family and tell them what is going on."  Furthermore, Shah says he believes the device will enable surgeons to document critical moments during a procedure.  For example, in surgery, both surgeons and colleagues will be able to see the exact position and size of a patient's tumor.  (Editor Jan. 20)

Ellyssa Kroski had some great ideas on how Google Glass can be used in libraries.  1. Enhance library tours 2. Record author talks and events 3. Enhance Maker Spaces  4. Record hands-on video tutorials 5. Provide real time OCR (optical character recognition speech) and text-to-speech 6. Real time translations of foreign text  and 7. Speak to patrons in their own language.  (Kroski April 18)

T          I absolutely love this infographic loaded with ideas.....

Here are some video examples of how things look through Glass:

STEMbite: Bone Conduction Speakers - First Person Video Explanations

I am not sure how many of you out there have had the opportunity to use Google Glasses, but they are definitely the wave of the future.  We need to discover how this tool can help kids and adults learn and transform lives.  I am excited to be part of a group testing different ways on  how use Google Glasses in a productive way.

Editor, The. N.p.. Web. 20 Jan 2014. <>.

Goodman, Stacey. "Google Glass: Making Learning Visible with Wearable Technology." Edutopia. (2013): Dec. 6. Print.

Kroski, Ellyssa. "7 Things Libraries Can Do with Google Glass." Open Education Database. OEDB, 18 04 2013. Web. 20 Jan. 2014. <>.