Gearing Up for the New Year: Terrific Finds to Share with Teachers

Mining for Gold

Summer time….time to mine for those golden curriculum resources!  But, where to begin?

Of course, you can enter your own search terms and visit sites hoping to find a gem.

But why not use the collective brain of your PLN?  Each week, I get an email digest from several Diigo groups.  Members of these groups share links to resources  they found “bookmark worthy.”  To determine which resources will fit my needs and the needs of my school, I check many of these links.  The following  are a few I will share with our faculty:

Authentic Assessment Toolbox Jan Mueller shares the hows and whys of authentic assessment.  Follow the step-by-step process to ensure success in creating assessments based on standards.

The Learning Network The N.Y. Times‘ collection of links on often taught subjects.

DocsTeach Resources from The National Archives to bring history to life for students.  Create your own interactive learning activity.

EduHound Provides collections of topic- based links for education.  Some topics included in their sets:  Global Warming, Cyberbullying, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Research paper strategies, Measurement, Visual Arts, Oceanography, and Forsenic Science.

Villainy, Inc. Great interactive game for teaching middle school mathematics.  Dr. Eugene Wick and his sidekick Platypus have plans for taking over the world – but the plans just don’t add up.  Your students become Dr. Wick’s advisor in an effort to stop his evil plans.

Viper This free plagiarism checker is designed to assist students find possible problems in their papers.

Ready to Pick Up Your Mining Pan?

You, too, can be a miner of information resources!  Use the collective work of your fellow educators to uncover those information and curriculum treasures.

Two social bookmarking sites to try are Diigo and Delicious.  Not only is your life simplified by keeping your bookmarks in the cloud, but enriched if you join groups at these sites to help you uncover fantastic resources you may not have found on your own.

You’ll discover a plethora of groups on these sites to assist you.  I am a member of the following (among others): (312 members as of this post’s writing) (1340 members as of this post’s writing) (4668 members as of this post’s writing)

Taking It One Step Further

After you have created your own social bookmarking account, why not create one for your classroom or library?  Visit Creekview High School’s Delicious site to see how their media specialist, Buffy Hamilton harnesses the power of social bookmarking.

Readers, how do you use social bookmarking in your personal and/or professional lives?

Image Attribution:  This image is a work of the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

“How You Doin’?” or “How You Doing It All?”

Matt LeBlanc

Photo by Alan Light, used with permission under a Creative Commons license

Joey Tribianni from the sitcom Friends is known for his line, “How you doin’?”  But if he were to seriously address today’s  school librarians, Joey would ask,  “How you doing it all?”

Where Does the Time Go?

At times, I wish there were a camera on me during the school day to record the life of a school librarian.  As a classroom teacher, I had a better grasp on what I did with my time:  for ninety minutes at a time, I was in a classroom being guided by my written lesson plans.  I would pencil in notes on my lesson plan book to help me remember where I left off, what worked well and what didn’t, and thoughts for improving the lesson the next time around.

But as a a school librarian on a flexible schedule, my work day doesn’t follow a written plan.  Yes, you can look at our library’s scheduling calendar to see what classes I worked with and look at the Class Visit Request forms to determine what information literacy skills I taught those classes.  But those capture just a short time in my day.

The First Wave

The busiest parts of my day are usually those that don’t involve teaching classes.  When the library opens at 7:30, the whirlwind of activity begins.  Students and teachers must get ready for the day by working on projects, checking out equipment or materials, and scheduling classes to use the library teaching areas or computer rooms. When the bell rings for first block to begin, I have a moment or two before a class arrives to try to read email, sort through the stacks of paper that have accumulated on my desk(s), and tackle one of the items on my ever-growing “to do” list.

The Tide Rolls In

Before I know it, scheduled classes arrive and other students begin to trickle in from classes to return, renew, or check out books or to use a computer to work on an assignment.  Teachers stop by to look at the scheduling calendar during their planning periods and discuss how they will be using the library facilities.  Other teachers call to request help troubleshooting  misbehaving  equipment.  Students often approach me  to say they enjoyed the last book I recommended and would like help in finding another one like it.

Multitasking to the Max

So, on any normal day, a school librarian is often pulled in multiple directions during a given moment:

  • A class to teach
  • An individual student’s needs to be addressed (checking out books, requesting computer use, requesting help with an assignment or locating  a book) – multiply this need by five or six (an average number of students who visit the library on their own)
  • A teacher who needs to discuss scheduling a class to use the library’s facilities
  • A teacher who needs help to get equipment running smoothly

Notice that the list does NOT include any of the librarian’s work that must be accomplished:

  • reading reviews and creating a materials order (or a collection wish list)
  • working with student staff to insure tasks are accomplished (shelving, processing magazines)
  • updating web site
  • processing materials
  • inventory
  • weeding
  • repairing books
  • creating/editing catalog records
  • reading professional journals/blogs
  • recommending new resources to teachers
  • working with vendors
  • running reading promotion programs
  • preparing and presenting staff development
  • creating, assembling, and putting up new bulletin boards
  • creating displays
  • reading children’s/YA lit to recommend to students
  • creating advocacy opportunities/reports
  • planning and creating information literacy lessons
  • compiling statistics
  • planning and holding book club meetings

Words of Wisdom

During my school library internship, I was able to visit several high school libraries in the upstate of South Carolina.  One of the questions I asked each librarian was, “How do you do it all?”  Their answers varied, but they all were proceeded by a knowing smile –  implying that we must accept that it can’t all be done as we would like.

I was told to prioritize.  I was told to focus on the program component that was nearest and dearest to my heart.  I was told to learn to accept that it wouldn’t all get done.

As an idealist, I want to believe that I can do it all – and do it all effectively.  As a realist, I know that it is impossible to do without the help of others.

What words of wisdom do you have?  How do you do it all?

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.

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!

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!”

“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

Ranting: School Internet Filtering

My district has a new filtering program and I guess they are trying to get their money’s worth because they continue to block sites – not just daily, but hourly.  While working on READissance forms this morning, I had to find the number of pages in several books our library does not own.  Our public library didn’t have one of the titles, so I decided to rely on one of my best cataloging friends, Amazon.

I was using our generic student log in and was amazed to find that Amazon has been blocked for students.   Same with Barnes and Noble.  Yes, students are supposed to use the Internet for school work only, but don’t students sometimes have questions about books that can’t be answered by their OPAC or media specialist?

Okay, fast forward a bit in my day to 3rd block.  A class had come in to continue researching The Canterbury Tales.  When I walked by one computer, I noticed the Fortiguard (I think that is the company) warning that a user had tried to access a blocked site.  The site?  One that is the home page of every LMC computer – our library media center’s web site! 

To say that I was angry is an understatement.  To say that I was frustrated is an understatement.  To say that I wanted to pitch a flaming hissy in the LMC and use words that the *!#@*^#! filtering program would filter out is an understatement.  To say that I used enormous self-control is NOT an understatement. 

Yes, my library media web site was created in Googlepages.  It was created this past summer as an assignment for a graduate class and was the best way I had available to me at the time to create a site and post it to the Internet.  Yes, there may be some Googlepages sites that are questionable.  But this is not reason enough to me to block out any and all pages that are hosted by Google.

As an educator, my job is to prepare students to function in the real world.  The real world doesn’t filter web sites. This seems to be a bit of a problem to me. 

But what do I know?  I have only taught for 31 years, am only Nationally Board Certified, have only one Master’s degree plus fifty-seven more graduate hours, and lack only three graduate courses to hold a second Master’s degree (which I am now pursuing). 

While earning all those graduate hours, I also managed to raise two daughters who make me burst with pride for many reasons.  But I always tell them that I am most proud of the fine young women they have become.  And guess where they attended school?  In the same district in which I teach  – which did not have this *@#!*#! filtering program while they were students.  So, golly gee, how in the world did they manage to not grow into psychopathic, homocidal, warped maniacs? 

Ranting is done – for now.  Send blood pressure medicine.

Image Attribution: ‘Inside H Block 4

Back to School

Sure signs that a new school year is beginning?  Back to school sales fliers fill the Sunday newspapers, morning traffic quadruples, and there are fewer blog posts by my teacher and media specialist friends.  The excitement and business of a new school year have us all busier than a long tailed cat on a porch full of rocking chairs (as the old Southern saying goes).

When I have had time to work on a web site, it hasn’t been this blog.  For my SLIS 761 class this summer, I created a school library media center web site.  Since my principal is pleased with it, we are using it as our official web site and I have been working on its maintenance.  I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the site and hope that it will be beneficial to my school’s faculty and students.

Image attribution


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