Tooting Our Own Horns

Teaching Today’s Students (and their teachers) to be Smart Searchers from Cathy Nelson on Vimeo.

Advocating Advocacy

Budget cuts. Title changes. Both have sent shock waves through the school library community.  Numerous posts have been written calling us to action.  Having recently graduated from the SLIS program at the University of South Carolina, I am well aware of the need to be a strong advocate for my program.

I enjoy reading about the successes of other school library programs; I glean many tidbits from them to incorporate into my own program.  But sharing our successes with each other is not enough:  we must toot our own horn in our school communities.  This is often hard to do for many reasons, but two that come to mind concerning my own situation:  1) lack of time, and 2) fear of sounding like a braggart.

Overcoming Obstacles

How do I overcome these obstacles?  First, adopt the mindset that if I don’t, funding to my program and my very job may be in jeopardy.  Second, gather data. Third, turn to my PLN.  The people in my professional learning network value  school libraries, whether they are teachers, administrators, information technology specialists, school librarians, or consultants.  They challenge me daily as I read their tweets and blog posts.

And, finally, plan.  Plan  in specific detail.  This past week, I challenged myself to proactively spread the successes of my school library’s program.  Once a week, I will share snippets of success with members of my school community.

This past week, I began with an email to my principal, superintendent, and PR district liasion sharing the fall semester results of READissance, our voluntary reading program.  Very quickly, I received positive feedback from both my superintendent and principal which alleviated my fear of sounding like a braggart.

Next, I need to share the results with my school board members.  I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t already created a group in Outlook with their email addresses.  So, guess what is on tomorrow’s agenda?

Emails, newsletters, and phone calls are all means to spread the good news.  But in today’s visual society, photographs and videos provide more impact.  How can I effectively incorporate those into my Advocacy Plan?

My PLN to the Rescue

Joyce Valenza of Springfield Township High in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, recently  began a new online community, School Library InfoTech Programs: Tapestry of Effective Practice. Here, members are urged to create and share videos that focus on the effectiveness of various components of their school library programs in order to demonstrate the vital need of our programs.  Check out the first entry from Cathy Nelson of Dorman High School in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at the top of this post.  By focusing on specific components of their programs in this manner, they provide a clearer view of their impact on student achievement.

Buffy Hamilton of Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, spiced up her school library monthly reports by creating Animoto videos. This upbeat method of sharing her program’s successes in no way feels like bragging as the students take center stage.

Involve your students in creating mini documentaries of your program and share them via your library’s website.  Ensure your school community’s awareness:  send links to your shareholders, including the education reporters for your local paper and television station.


Advocacy. Marketing. Branding.  By incorporating these into our long term plans, we are also building accountability into our programs.

At Boiling  Springs High School, I feel an even more imperative need to establish the validity of my program.  Within weeks, we will be packing up and moving into a nearly-completed new facility.  When plans began for the building over two years ago, my fellow media specialist Jay Campbell and I used our input to make several requests to meet the needs of our growing student population:

  • thirty student computers surrounding the circulation desk (twelve has been the standard in our district.  The seventeen in our current facility have been insufficient to accommodate the needs of classes, prompting our request.)
  • two computer labs (There is currently only one lab in the building for class sign up.  The district planned on adding more in the future;  however, we saw the urgent need to not only have them sooner, but to incorporate them into the research and learning center of the school.)
  • two teaching areas complete with Promethean boards (Current space only allows for one teaching area with a Promethean board.)

I am grateful that our school board agreed with our vision and provided the funds to add our requests to the plans.  I can hardly await the opening of the new facility and am excited beyond words at the teaching and learning opportunities it will provide for our teachers and students.

United We Stand

What advocacy efforts have you enacted lately to demonstrate the value of your program?  What efforts have you read about and want to enact?  Please share – together, we can ensure the lasting successes of our programs.

The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest

Some days you can spend hours surfing the ‘net and find nothing of value to share with others, but then other days you can’t believe your luck!  Today is such a day.

The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest is a FREE reading promotion contest open to public and school libraries.  Author Kay Cassidy has created a site worthy of your time to explore.  Her premise:

“I know it’s hard being a librarian in a rough economy. You’re strapped for time and cash, but still want to create fun programs to keep your kids and teens reading week after week. Not because they have to, but because they want to.

The Great Scavenger Hunt ContestTM is here to help you do just that.”

According to the site, over 150 authors for tweens and teens have created sheets on individual books  with ten trivia questions and a personalized message (see the example for Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth).

The available books cover the gamut of genres.  According to the site:

“If you’ve been looking for a way to get kids reading a variety of books, look no further. You’ll find nearly every kind of book you can imagine: fantasies, historicals, mysteries, romantic comedies, sweeping literary novels… you name it. The Great Scavenger Hunt ContestTM authors include many New York Times bestselling authors and winners or finalists of the Newbery Medal, Printz Award, National Book Award and Edgar Award. There truly is something for every reader.”

The books have been divided into two lists:  Middle Grades/Tweens and Young Adult.   You can see the trivia sheets for each book without registering, but to get the answers, you’ll need to register.

You will find a list of librarian resources, including a ready to print promotional flyer for the contest (don’t you love it when things are easy?), easy administration tools (printable checklists by author and by title), and tips and tricks.

AASL Conference: Concurrent Sessions “2.0 Learning Tools Smackdown”

Photo by Brenda D. Anderson

Posted at:

Hot Ticket

This session was one of the hottest tickets on Friday.  I left the Exhibition Hall, still a bit dazed from meeting James Patterson, and headed to Room 207AB early to try and get a front row seat – only to find a crowd already awaiting entrance to the session. So, no front row seat, but I was still able to snag seats for Heather Loy and myself.  I’m sure many were not as fortunate, so I’ll share links to information posted about the session below.

Organized and lead by Joyce Valenza and Robin Williams, the session was divided into “timed” sharing sessions in the following categories:

  • Reading Promotion
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Information Fluency
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Audience Sharing

As always, being in a room with educators wanting to share ways to enhance student learning through the use of Web 2.0 tools was energizing.   I still haven’t had time to check out all of the new tools and sites that were shared.  AND plenty more are on the AASL Smackdown Wiki.  Bookmark this site because it is one you will want to revisit.

One of the shared sites that I have had time to explore is  Morgue File.  “Where photo reference lives” is the tagline of this site.  Great source of free photos for students (and teachers!) to use in projects.  I have now been recommending this one in conjunction with Creative Commons.


The Learning Tools Smackdown is now something of a tradition at library and technology conferences.

Links to “2.0 Learning Tools Smackdown” from AASL Charlotte

  • If you have a “b There” Virtual Track Pass, you can listen to a podcast of the session. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for the podcast.)

AASL Reflections: Opening Keynote

Earlier this month, I was among one of over 2800 school librarians attending the AASL Conference in Charlotte, NC. From the moment I picked up my nametag and conference information until the moment I left the closing celebration, I was totally captivated by the experience. It has taken weeks to try and sort out all that I learned and all the goodies I picked up from the vendors. I will try to share some of what I learned here through a series of posts.

Opening Keynote

danah boyd delivered the opening keynote address at AASL’s Rev Up Learning national conference.  According to Boyd, social networking sites play a strong role in teen culture.  Teens use social networking much differently than do adults.  Teens use sites such as MySpace and Facebook to share their creations as well as keep track of their favorite celebrities.

When we go online, we are by default just an IP address. Teens want to share themselves with their intended audience so they write themselves into being through the  profiles, comments, and creations they share.  Teens do lie about themselves online, but they have been told to do so by adults in order to protect themselves.

Adults often wonder about the inane comments teens (and others) make online.  Why would anyone share what they had for breakfast with the world?  Boyd says this is a form of social grooming.  Through status updates, teens can see the patterns of life in their world.  What is important to those important to them?  Just as adults of my generation would get together to hang out and “shoot the breeze,” today’s teens  do so but often do not have the mobility they would like to hang out face-to-face.  Social networks have become a place to hang out with friends.

Boyd describes three categories of teens using social networking sites based on the number of “friends” they had:

1.  Teens with 40-50 identified friends are using social networking sites to stay in touch with face-to-face friends

2.  Teens with 400-500 identified friends are using the sites to keep up with school classmates

3.  Teens with more than 500 friends are considered “Collectors”

Teens actually use social networking sites as a form of social hierarchy.  Many social networking sites allow you to identify your top friends.  Because your online popularity can depend upon how many others identify you as a top friend, teens might say or do things to ensure their staying power as a top friend.

Teens need an online space to be with their friends, but because they don’t often understand how online information is organized nor the repercussions of their online actions, media specialists need to assist teens in learning the skills they need to operate in their online worlds.

Boyd’s keynote address was riveting and included so much information that it was impossible to take notes on it all.  You can read more about her research in her dissertation.  Boyd’s keynote underscored the importance of media specialists taking responsibility for their professional development in the area of technology (as Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson discussed in “Things That Keep Us Up at Night.”)

Want to read others’ thoughts on Danah Boyd’s keynote?  Check out:

Buffy Hamilton’s Cover It Live Blogging

Joyce Valenza’s Danah Boyd on the Importance of Being Present in Kids’ Lives Online

South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2009-2010

I’ve been reading some of these titles this summer and wanted to introduce them to the students in a way that would grab their interest.  I hope this Animoto video does it!

What Do I Read Next?

Summer time.  A delicious respite from the hectic bell schedule we library media specialists and teachers must adhere to during the rest of the year.  Time to relax and read.  I have a “To Read” list that I occasionally add to, but often don’t see anything on it that tickles my fancy when I am in-between books.  Here are several  free Web 2.0 Readers’ Advisory tools that I’ll use and recommend to my faculty and students.

The Book Seer

Type in the title and author of a book you recently read on The Book Seer site and get recommendations from Amazon and LibraryThing (although I received no recommendations from LibraryThing with several different books including Twilight – gasp!).

screen capture of suggested reading site












Teacher Book Wizard

Scholastic has created a site that offers multiple options.  The Teacher Book Wizard’s Book Alike helps you locate similar books based on reading level.  Great for creating those Readers’ Advisory lists.  The List Exchange page provides lists of books in many categories including awards, grade level, author recommended, and themed. 


teacher book wizard screen capture











To learn more about this teacher created site for teachers, take the tour.

What Should I Read Next?

What Should I Read Next asks you to enter the title and author of a book you recently enjoyed.  The results returned are from a database created by the users of the site. 

what should i read next screen capture

Hawk Library BookRap Contest



   Check out this awesome video and contest created by Cheryl Laucher, media specialist at Springs Woods Middle School in Houston, Texas.  

   Cheryl is the author of the blog La Bibliotecaria Loca and one creative lady!  Can’t wait to see what her students create.

   As Cheryl says, “Check out your ‘brary ’cause your visit’s overdue!”



My friend Cathy Nelson recently wrote a post entitled “If An Assignment Can Be Plagairized.” We attended the same pre-conference session at the recent South Carolina Association of School Librarians Conference in Greenville, South Carolina. Doug Johnson‘s session was entitled “Designing Research Projects that Kids (and Teachers) Love!”

Doug shared how to try to plagiarize-proof assignments:

     One way to prevent plagiarism is to require students to use primary sources such as interviews, surveys, and experiments.

     Another way to prevent plagiarism is to allow students choice and creativity. The use of technology allows creativity.  Even      if the teacher has assigned a PowerPoint project and specified the number and content of the slides, the students still gets to choose the color, font, clip art, etc.

That last line was a “light-bulb” moment for me.  Students are given (not allowed to choose) an assignment.  Their final product is the beat-to-a pulp-dead-horse PowerPoint slideshow.  Students are told they have to have X number of slides.  So, they come to the media center, head for the computers, and ….what….begin to research? Not quite. 

No…they open PowerPoint and start a slideshow before they have any research to put in it! They design the first slide with a title, their names, and the date due….and then play with design and look for pictures, and try different font. 

I tell them, “You need to research first.  Don’t worry what it will look like yet – that comes at the end.”

Do they listen? Uh…no.  And why?  Because this (the design, colors, font, pictures) is the ONLY thing they have control over.  It’s the only choice they are given in the whole assignment.

When they finally do get around to “reseaching,” they end up copying and pasting (and putting way too much text on a slide – but that’s another post).

Instead, we need to plagiarize-proof the assignments as Doug and others have suggested.

Now, my brain is fried after doing true research and working on a paper for a grad class today, so forgive the departure here from anything remotely relating to plagiarize-proofing assignments.

Instead, I offer for your viewing pleasure a video that was shared by Holly Foster, a fellow grad student in my Master’s of Library and Information Science program at the University of South Carolina. 



Image attribution:

Quality Garanteed

“Oh, it’s so Ning to be with you”

“Oh, it’s so nice to be with you, I love all the things you say and do…” Gallery   Eid+Mubarak+-+%D8%B9%DB%8C%D8%AF+%D9%81%D8%B7%D8%B1+%D9%85%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%DA%A9

I was first introduced to Nings through Joyce Valenza’s TeacherLibrarianNing (2430 members). I have to confess that I found the interface quite confusing for a while.  However, since joining that Ning, I have joined several others and have become accustomed to the way Nings work.

The Ning that has excited me the most recently is the SCASL Ning.  I’ve attended three SCASL (South Carolina Association of School Librarians) conferences in the past and have been impressed with the enthusiasm and creativity of other media specialists in South Carolina.  The current leadership of SCASL has made intensive efforts to involve our association with Web 2.0 through blogging, podcasts, and even a webcast. 

Now, thanks to Julie Putnam, South Carolina library media specialists have their own social network.  As of today, 235 people have joined the Ning.  Great ideas are being shared and new friendships are being formed. 

I want my teachers to experience the professional development that Nings offer, so I thought I would find several to recommend.  The numbers in parentheses after the title of each Ning are the number of members in the Ning as of the date of this post.

English Companion: Where English teachers meet to help each other (594)       This Ning  was created by Jim Burke, author of many books including the namesake of this site, The English Teacher’s Companion. 

Classroom 2.0  (15,559) Winner of the 2008 Edublog’s Award for Best Use of Social Networking. This Ning focuses on introducing teachers to Web 2.0 tools and how they are being used to enhance instruction. 

Smart Board Revolution (750)      The members of this Ning share tips, ideas, and lessons for using Smart Boards in the classroom.

VoiceThread for Educators  (248)      The members here are participating “to create, build, and keep resources” for those using VoiceThread in the classroom.

So, You Want to Start Your Own Ning?

Ning in Education (3229)      This is a Ning on how to use Nings in education.  It’s a great starting point for anyone considering developing their own Ning.  If you want to start a Ning for your secondary classroom, be sure to investigate the offer for an ad-free site.

Image attribution:

SC EdTech


After voting on November 4th, I drove down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in order to attend SC EdTech for the first time. I looked forward to learning more about instructional uses of technology and Web 2.0 tools and was not disappointed!

Wednesday, Nov. 5th

Here is a break down of the sessions I attended:

  • Cathy Nelson’s Your 2.0 Sandbox: Come Play and Learn”  Cathy covered many Web 2.0 tools including RSS feeds, Twitter, wikis, and blogs. She created a informative wiki for attendees which provides links to these and many more tools.
  • Lorie Cafarella’s “Digital Storytelling”  Lorie defined digital storytelling and focused on using Windows Movie Maker to showcase student work. She gave a four step process for creating a digital story.  Two sites mentioned during the presentation for sound effects were and
  • Kevin Merritt’s “Elvis Found Hiding in a Megacache! Geocaching Rocks On!” Kevin gave a concise overview of GPS devices and and pointed out features of  Then we went on a field trip to find a nearby geocache.  (This was my first time out of the Sheraton since arriving on the previous damp night in Myrtle Beach.)  

Thursday, Nov. 6th

Another full day!

  • CayLen Whitesides’s “Encouraging Reading through Technology” CayLen Whitesides is one of two media specialists from York Comprehensive High School.  Their incorporation of technology into promoting reading is inspiring. Heather Loy has already written a blog post about this presentation that is worth checking out.
  • Chris Craft’s “Don’t Read to Me:  A Presentation on Presentations” Chris’s enthusiasm for his topic is evident.  I have been souring on PowerPoint presentations for quite some time now, so was ready to hear what Chris had to say.  According to Chris, too many people use PowerPoint as their notecards and/or overload their presentation with too many cutesy graphics. Chris used his understanding of the cognitive load theory to explain why this is BAD.  (An older version of his presentation can be found here.)
  • Jeff McCoy’s “Googlicious – Maps, Space, Earth, and Oceans” Jeff demonstrated Google Earth and the new flight simulator (with some virtual tragic results!).
  • MaryAnn Sansonetti’s “iPod-ibilities in the Classroom 2.0″  MaryAnn wowed me with this presentation!  I had no idea of the multitude of instructional uses of iPods in the classroom. She has created a wiki to share many of these.

Thursday evening

Not only did I learn many new ways to enhance instruction through technology today, but I also had the pleasure of spending some “down time” with several other educators.  Cathy Nelson, Heather Loy, Chris Craft, Jessica Donaldson and I went to Broadway at the Beach this evening.  We walked the “boardwalk,” fed the huge fish (who got into fighting matches with the ducks over the food), and ate dinner at the Liberty Steakhouse. 

This was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me.  It is such a treat to spend time with others who share the same passion for improving how our students learn.

Banner image from


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,172 other followers