Monday, April 30, 2012

Changes to Noodletools

I've talked before about how much I love Noodletools. Of all the citation generators out there, this site is the best by far because it teaches kids about citation elements instead of just doing it for them. Well, I got a video the other day showing some of the changes Noodletools is going implement this summer. They're making a good site even better! Check this out:

Friday, April 27, 2012

This too shall pass

Here is an amazing video.  A group called OK Go wanted to produce a video that would actually be distributed as a viral video for their song entitled "This Too Shall Pass."  They wanted a Rube Goldberg type of approach.  This video talks about the way the music video was put together--they had to restart it 85 times just to get a final video!  But the final one is really cool.  Check it out and see what you think.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Partnership for 21st century skills

I was a school design meeting earlier in the month and one of the websites mentioned was the Partnership for 21st century skills.  According to the website:

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national  organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. As the United States continues to compete in a global  economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs (Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation). While leading districts and schools are already doing this, P21 advocates for local, state and federal policies that support this approach for every school.

Now is this an educational organization?  or is it an outside partnership? Because I get tired of outsiders telling those of us in education how things should be run.  But until I know for sure, I'm going to withhold judgement.

I do like this graphic from the site:

That's a nice way to look at  21st century skills students need.  I especially like the fact that information, media and technology skills are given such a high priority!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Common Core standards

I keep hearing a lot about this Common Core standards being adopted across the country.  Turns out that Texas is one of only 4 states that is not partcipating.  Wonder why?  Is it because we already have such a standards driven curriculum in place for our state?  Are our standards higher than the ones in the Common Core?  Or is it because our students are already tested to death anyway, so why add to it?  I don't know.

Seems to me a nation wide standard is a good idea to a point.  There are so many variations in funding, materials, building set ups, teaching methods,etc. across the country that I'm not sure how "common" the standards can be.  Now a disclaimer-- I have not studied these standards yet so I don't know too much about them.  And again, since Texas isn't participating, I hadn't really paid attention.  Guess I should! Time to go and do some research on this topic.

So if anyone out there reading this is from another state who is participating in the Common Core, can you give me some information?  Let me know what you think about this standard curriculum implementation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

WBNA followup

Well, I wanted to give you a quick followup to our WBNA 2012 project.  The look on most of the kids' faces was priceless!  They didn't really understand that I was giving away books to them with no strings attached! It was fun for me too.  Hopefully, we'll get to participate in this event again next year!

World Book Night America

So as I am writing this, today is World Book Night in England and the US.  Supposedly one million free books will be handed out across both countries today.  The idea is to find nonreaders and get them interested in a book, especially one that is free.

I have copies of Friday Night Lights to hand out--particularly to our athletes.  Since I got a boys' book, my assistant got a copy of Jody Piccolt's book My Sister's Keeper as a girls' book. I don't quite know what to expect as a reaction.  Will the kids like the books?  Will they ignore us?  Will they appreciate them?  I'm just not sure what to expect. 

If you are interested in finding out more about World Book Night US, here's the link to their website.  They have a nice blog and I'm sure tomorrow there will lots of stories about the books.  I also follow them on Twitter and have seen some really unique ideas for distribution.  Makes my idea of giving to our students seem rather tame!

Since this time of year is so busy I tend to write these posts ahead of time so I don't miss out.  But if anything fun or exciting happens during our book distribution, I'll be sure to let you know!

Monday, April 23, 2012

TLA presentation 2011

With TLA in Houston this year and with budget issues, I wasn't able to go. So I was reminiscing and remembered our presentatio from last year's TLA conference held here in Austin. I must admit I was pretty proud of it. I did not do it alone--my friend Zandra was right there with me. We were both so nervous! But we were talking about Libguides, one of our favorite tools so that made it easier. Once we got started, we just talked and talked. I wanted to post our Slide Rocket presentation here so I can hang on to a copy of it and also share with anyone out there in Cyberland who still does not know about Libguides.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Build a Tower, build a team

Interesting video on a group activity that requires spaghetti, string, tape and marshmellows.  Kindergarten students can do this--give it a try!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Daniel Pink and motivation

Daniel Pink is one of my favorite authors. I think I've written about my admiration for his work before. This is a short video of his where he examines the facts about motivation--what works and what doesn't. You might be surprised. PS on a personal note and not having anything to do with this video...I just want to say Happy Birthday to my hubby....Love you sweetheart!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pinterest for educators

Pinterest is becoming one of the most popular websites around.  I read it was the third most popular social media site behind Facebook and Twitter.  I've seen articles about librarians using Pinterest, but this blog was the first time I've seen suggestions for teachers using Pinterest.

For example, how about putting all some of your readings for professional development on a pin board?  What a brainstorming spot?  These are just a few of the good ideas in the article.

My favorite one was the idea of using it to teach digital citizenship.  This is a great idea because I think Pinterest is a lawsuit waiting to happen.  Now I must admit, I sometime "pin" too freely on it--the ease of use of the site makes it easy to do.  But what a great opportunity to teach kids about ethical borrowing/ copying/ using pictures!

So what do teachers out there think?  Would you use Pinterest for yourself?  for your students?  And for that matter, is it available to your students?  or is it blocked since it is a social media site?  Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Evaluating Wikipedia by Noodletools

I've spoken about Noodletools before--the site is great for teaching kids citation formatting and keeping notes for research.  The site also from time to time puts out some support articles--good bits and pieces of information to help with the research process.  This article I found especially interesting-- How do I evaluate Wikipedia?

I've said before as a librarian, sometimes I'm too quick to dismiss Wikipedia and to my students, that makes me look like an old fuddy duddy.  This article helps me explain to them how Wikipedia can be a useful tool but not be the "end all, be all" for their research. 

For example, did you know this?
                         A bronze star (to the right of the article’s title) signals a polished article of higher quality.

I sure didn't know about this.  The article has several other tips and ideas to consider when using Wikipedia.  And of course, there's information on how to correctly cite any articles used for research.

As librarians and teachers, we need to teach our students to think critically about sources--Wikipedia is only one of many that kids encounter.  As adults, we need to stop being so quick to dismiss it since the kids rely so heavily on it.  But we do need to train them to evaluate--to think critically-- about any source, whether it's a wiki or published research.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Creating a portfolio with Evernote

I am just now learning about the wonders of Evernote.  This program is a great example of cloud computing.  You can store text, documents, photos, videos--what have you-- and then access the information from other sites.  There's a web based version, a Windows version and apps for Iphones and Ipads.  For example I made a grocery list for our RV on my computer then emailed it to my husband.  He had some suggestions to add to it so i opened the app on my phone and added there.  Really cool program!

Well, now I see this article on creating student portfolios with Evernote.  I can see so many possibilities here!  Students can put assignments here or take pictures of projects.  They can add to it at home or on the go with their Ipods.

I also have lots of students who need to continue working on assignments at home.  They can't access their school server files easily from home, but what if they stored the documents in Evernote?  No need for flash drives!

I think learning more about this program is going to be one of my goals this summer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Importance of libraries

As my final NLW posting, this video is from Brad Meltzer, author and honorary chairman of National Library Week for ALA. He talks about the importance of a library to him as a child.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My librarian friends in Large Ol' School District

A list of librarians I admire would be incomplete without mentioning the fabulous librarians I work with.  I've tried to be very careful about mentioning where I work--I want the freedom to express my opinions and not make my readers feel like I'm expressing district opinions.  So sufice it to say, my district--Large Ol' District, for lack of a better name--has the best librarians around!  The 35 women who work at the various campuses are some of the most dedicated, hard working people I know. 

We are trying to stay ahead of the curve in terms of digital learning.  For example, nearly every one of our schools wants to participate in funding a subscription to Overdrive even with the impact on budgets because it's the way of the future.  Our elementary schools are teaching researching through databases and using tools like Noodletools to our youngest students so they are prepared when they reach us at high school.  Our middle schools continue on with that research instruction while fostering a love of reading that sometimes gets lost as kids get older.  Our high schools cover research in subjects ranging from academics to culinary to auto to vet tech to cosmotology.  In addition we have IB classes, AP/ pre-AP classes, ESL classes, Sped classes and everything in between.

We've been hit hard with budget issues lately and everyone is coping.  The hardest hit were our middle school librarians, who lost their assistants.  But yet, they still teach research lessons, do booktalks for kids and generally keep things going, smiling all the while.  I've been a middle school librarian--I don't know how they are doing it.

At the high schools, we lost one assistant but still have one.  Things get a little hectic--for example, when I'm trying to teach a class and another comes in for checkout and yet more students walk in for help.  Two people serving 2000 students don't stretch very far.  But again, not to blow my own horn, the high school librarians are doing whatever it takes to make the library program successful. 

Our elementary librarians are some of the most cheerful, bubbly people I know.  I laughed when I attended one of their meetings because they were so animated!  A huge change from the secondary meetings!!  But their personalities and passion for reading and learning start our kids out in the right direction.  Without the foundation they give our students, our jobs would be so much harder!

So ladies--you know who you are in the Large Ol' School  District--I salute you all.  You make me proud to be a librarian.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Joyce Valenza

A list of librarians to know and follow would not be complete without mentioning Joyce Valenza. Her knowledge and sharing of information keeps most of us afloat. Her Never Ending Search blog found in School Library Journal is my inspiration--the latest news, trends and books in the world of school libraries.

Her latest post discusses a study of ereaders--giving some of the pertinant facts and statistics about the rise of ereaders.  Her concerns mirror mine--will this information be used to downplay the importance of libraries?  How do we get the word out that we are so much more?

Some of the pertinant facts about ereaders:
  • In a head-to-head competition, people prefer e-books to printed books when they want speedy access and portability, but print wins out when people are reading to children and sharing books with others.
  • E-book reading happens across an array of devices, including smartphones.
  • 30% of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now.
  • Those who own e-book reading devices stand out from other book readers and there are sometimes differences among device owners in their reading habits. Our December 2011 survey found that those age 16 and older who own tablets or e-book reading devices are more likely than others to read for every reason: for pleasure, for personal research, for current events, and for work or school.

  • All in all, interesting reading and food for thought. 

    So here's my suggestion--If you don't follow any other librarian through Twitter or blogs, follow Joyce Valenza.  Her knowledge and wisdom will vastly improve your skill as a librarian and keep you current on trends and news that affects you.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    Texas schools in the Hunger Games

    So as we continue along through National Library Week, another librarian I admire works closer to me.  Sara Stevenson is the librarian at a local middle school.  Periodically she writes opinion pieces published in our paper. Last week she had a piece comparing the testing situation in the state of Texas to the novel The Hunger Games.  It was spot on!  I am so envious--I wish I was that clever, eloquent, well-spoken.....well, you get the picture.

    I love Sara's passion for school libraries and the way she writes -- people understand the problems we face.  Not just in the library world but with education across our state in general. Too much testing, not enough instructional time--these are problems affecting all of us, not just librarians. 

    This article was especially good because of the analogy to the Hunger Games, the hot title of the moment.  She compares Gov. Perry to President Snow.

                        Instead of investing in the state's own citizens, Texas legislators, along with Gov. Rick Perry (aka "President Snow"), chose to pour $468 million in tax dollars into a British company, Pearson, for developing a new round of high-stakes tests: the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

    And the analogy continues on. She refers to the unfortunate fate of District 13 in the book--a nuclear bomb because the district did not "behave."

                 The stakes rise with each subsequent failure. Schools and districts live under the threat of the "unacceptable" label or "bomb." As a result, schools conduct their business in fear and without freedom.

     When I sent Sara an email telling her my admiration for her article, she told me that ironically, the idea came to her while she was monitoring the STAAR testing a few weeks ago.  She looked around the room and saw a student reading the popular title and the idea blossomed from there.

    All I can say is, "Good job Sara!"  And quite frankly, I'm jealous I didn't think of it first!

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    National Library Week

    This is National Library Week.  And to celebrate this week, I'm going to highlight some of my library "heroes"--librarians I admire for their dedication to our field.  Today I would like to share an article from The Unquiet Library--a blog by Buffy Hamilton.  She is an outstanding leader in the world of school librarianship and her blog posting is entitled "Do I really have to leave the role of school librarian to do the work of a school librarian?"

    She discusses an article in the current issue of School Library Journal about a librarian who leaves the library to becomes a technology coordinator. The author of the SLJ article wonders if this is what we librarians will need to do in order to insure our future survival.  As Buffy states, 
                       We’ve wondered about the future of the profession and the challenges of becoming more immersed as an instructional leader and pedagogy specialist in a current model of school librarianship that is physically limiting in the sense that one person, two at best in most places, is expected to excel in multiple roles for student populations that might vary from 850 to 2500 students and up to 100+ faculty in a building.

    But is turning into something else the answer?  Why can't we be proud of our job as librarians?

               I respectfully disagree with Linda Braun that the future of school librarianship is to walk away from our title and to try and do the same or similar work under a different title.

    And while this may not be the best response to the article, the doubts and worries I have for the future are reflected in her article so I know I'm not alone. Seems like all across the country schools are facing the same issues--too much testing, not enough budget--and libraries and librarians are ending up near the bottom of the list of priorities. 

     I just need to keep the faith--

               in my heart I  still believe in the possibilities of libraries and school librarians–but those will never come to fruition if we acquiesce and abandon the effort to elevate the library as a site of participatory culture and a cornerstone of every child’s learning experience in schools, as a partner who can support our teachers by being embedded as part of the team to give every child positive, constructive, and meaningful learning experiences...

    Read her article.  She is much more eloquent and professional than I could ever hope to be. 

    Friday, April 6, 2012

    Do schools kill creativity?

    As I tell my students, "Hoppy Easter!"  We have Monday off --a bad weather day and luckily we didn't have any bad weather this winter--yippee!!

    Here's something to think about over the long weekend. Another great TED Talks video--this one by Dr. Ken Robinson who talks about the fact that schools tend to kill creativity in students.  Words to think about...

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    Great SLJ article

    This month's edition of School Library Journal has a great cover article entitled Why Read?  The author has done a fabulous job of showing the importance of reading in terms of child development.  He addresses the link between literacy and imagination. 

    I wish I could say I had written this paragraph because it is exactly the way I feel too.

                          My greatest joy, then, as now, was to find a place away from others, to be alone and have it happen again, the renewable miracle: to feel the world I live in start to slowly recede while at the same time another, different world builds itself more and more distinctly around me.

    I don't think too many kids are feeling this way about reading any more and that saddens me. Every time a student announces, "I don't read books" I just look at them and say, "I'm sorry."  They think I'm being snarky but I'm truly sorry they are missing out on a life changing experience. They are also missing out on developing the depth of learning in favor of skimming the surface of information.

    The article also talks about the sleep disorders prevelant these days because of the lack of "down time" and disengagement from wireless devices.  Kids are using their phones all day long and all through the night because "OMG I might miss a text!"  or some other equally "important" communication.  We're losing the idea of unstructured time--time to develop deep thinking skills. 

    Another great line from the article--"What Wordsworth called the “shades of the prison-house” have not yet closed around us; there’s still time available for letting the mind go investigating."  Reading will let us do this investigating giving the focus and time to concentrate--let our brain work through ideas.  Let's hope we never lose this concept of time.  For if we do, what sort of people will we have become?

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    Flipped classrooms

    Here's a nice infographic concerning flipped classrooms. I'm still on the fence on this issue.  I see the benefits for students and this infographic has some very convincing statistics.  However, I also work with many students whose Internet access is sketchy at best.  If they didn't have access to our school library, they wouldn't have Internet access at all.  How does this idea then really benefit them?  What about the kids who aren't doing homework now--what would be the incentive for them to watch a video before class?

    And I work with enough teachers who don't have the technology skills to put together videos 3-5 times a week.  I know they need to learn this skill but I also know of many who won't, can't or just don't want to give up the time.  I guess until teachers shift their mindset to seeing the benefits of this typ of instruction, changes will not happen. 

    But take a look at this infographic.  It's got some very compelling statistics--makes one pause to think.

    Flipped Classroom

    Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Riding Shotgun

    A great book for professional reading--here's my review!

    The book Riding Shotgun addresses the topic of student-led change within a school.  The authors, Christine Simpson and Sarah Ambrus, provide anecdotal experiences as well as tools to facilitate implementation of change. 
     “Students are the drivers of change, but there has to be a passenger riding shotgun: you, the educator.” (page 5) . Students can be empowered to provide real world solutions to the problems, resulting in changes that go far beyond the typical “band aid” approach taken by most schools.    But school officials can’t just expect students to know how to move from the “Brain Hurricane” of initial ideas to a focused workable solution without a good deal of guidance.
    Each chapter is designed to help administrators navigate the fine line between providing guidance for students and dominating the entire process, providing the framework needed to guide students from the initial steps to forming solutions, acting on those ideas and then studying the results to see where further improvements can be made.  Each step is illustrated by examples of the process in action at a pilot school where the students focused on the problem of bullying. 
    Additional chapters discuss the long term effects of the student driven changes, the positive impacts on the learning environment of the school and the leadership opportunities offered to the students involved in the change process.  Again, anecdotal evidence, combined with specific tools used, offers guidance for administrators who wish to involve students in a similar process.
    Student comments are included at the end of every chapter in the book.  These insights, from the very people affected by the program, show the true power of student-led change. 
    We hear so many negative stories these days about teens in our society.  This book, however, leaves the reader filled with a profound sense of optimism and faith in our students.  As one student said, “There are so many ideas out there waiting to be heard, just waiting to be given a voice.” (pg. 46) This book provides the adults in a school the means to give students that voice.

    Monday, April 2, 2012


    I know there are passionate feelings in the library world regarding Overdrive these days.  I think libraries are trying to figure out the best way  to work in the digital world and I don't know that Overdrive is the best way.  But right now, I think it's the best way to start. 

    Our district is trying to get an Overdrive account set up for our students.  It fits into our movement to a BYOD format since Overdrive covers multiple formats.  Also, they seem to have the most options of books available--although with Penguin's pull out, that might have changed.  I know some of the issues people have with Overdrive concern the publishers and there's nothing we can do about that right now.

    I think, too, this move is something public and a highly visible way to show our district's libraries are cutting edge.  Not too many school districts are able to get into the program due to cost, but we might be able to pull it together right now.  The PR value alone is worth it in my mind.  I'm tired of feeling like people think we are an old antiquated institution.  Having an ebook subscription and promoting it relentlessly would go a long way to polish our image.

    So if anyone out there in cyberspace has experience with Overdrive, I would love to hear what you think.  Any pros? cons?  What should my district consider before signing on the dotted line?  Please leave me some comments with your opinion.