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Let’s Get Together Thursday – Becoming Part of the Campus Leadership Team December 18, 2014

Posted by Jennifer Laboon in Check this out!.
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Often, when we talk about building collaborative cultures for school librarians, we talk about the importance of being seen as a teacher peer.  But this week, let’s talk about being seen as a collaborative member of a campus leadership team.   I argue that as valuable as our teaching roles are to our campuses, what sets us apart is that we are more than teachers, and those additional roles we play are critical to the evolution of our profession.

New librarians are often caught off guard by the level of responsibility and decision-making that is expected of us.  We are used to our classroom responsibilities like daily lesson planning and assessing student learning.  But we immediately have budgetary decisions, management of sizable campus assets in the resources our libraries’ house, programing and scheduling concerns, and a need to see the big picture in ways we aren’t used to needing to do.

Other librarians may have been at their campuses for a while and have fallen into a rut of low expectations or outdated practices, and find it difficult to break out of these, and implement new approaches more aligned with empowering students to learn in a digital setting.

What can you do to develop your administrator voice and be seen as a peer of administrators?  How can you build your confidence when you’ve been beaten down and need to pull yourself up?

First, be informed and confident about what current practice looks like–develop a personal learning network and follow innovative librarians; read blogs, articles, and research about student behaviors; and participate in professional learning  about how others are transforming their practice.  You also must have a vision in mind and be able to draw from current research to support it.  If you want to be seen as a valued member of the leadership team, you must be able to speak knowledgeably about how school libraries are more crucial than ever.  If you can’t articulate this, then be prepared to have those who aren’t experts in libraries dictate your program.  Knowledge is power, or at least, confidence-building.

Second, strike a balance between being responsive and being proactive.  We are librarians, which means for the most part, we’re service-oriented people who enjoy being what people need us to be.  That is a good thing, for many reasons, but if we’re only that, we can’t ever advance our cause toward bigger and better things.  That said, if you’re only ever doing your own thing, and not looking for ways to support and participate in bigger campus initiatives, you’re not making the difference you could be, besides not being seen as a team player.  I know many of us dread department meetings, faculty meetings, whole campus professional development–things that in many ways, aren’t about us.  Take those opportunities to listen and look for opportunities–those are the places where you see how your puzzle piece fits into the campus’ design and isn’t a stand-alone (and easily eliminated) side puzzle.

Third, value yourself.  It’s the time of year when registration is open for our annual state library conference.  I cannot tell you how sad it makes me to hear librarians say, “I know the principal won’t let me go.  I’m not even going to ask.”  Let’s face it, there are those years when that does seem to be the landscape of the school.  But if you don’t ask and make a case for why you need to attend professional development, you’re devaluing yourself as a professional.  All professions must participate in continuing education.  In Texas, in fact, our certification depends on it.  If you don’t ask for time, financial support, and approval from your principal to attend these events, you are saying that you’re not worth it.  Make your case, attend, and then show your principal why sending a librarian to a conference or professional learning event is a great return on his or her investment by implementing what you learned and teaching it to others.

Fourth, be a problem solver.  Administrators are constantly bombarded with problems.  When you interact with your administrator, don’t ever come to him or her with a problem to solve when it comes to your library.  You are the administrator of your library program.  You need to evaluate the problem, determine possible solutions, choose the one that best protects the interest of the students, and then present it to your administrator, if he or she even needs to weigh in.  Your principal needs to know that you can make those decisions for yourself, or he or she will make them for you.  The principal most likely doesn’t tell the football coach how to run plays, because the coach doesn’t ask.  If you don’t make good, informed decisions about your library, you are declaring yourself open to micromanaging.  A principal will not value you as a member of campus leadership if you can’t manage your own day-to-day library program.

Finally, as one of my bosses says, “fake it ’til you make it.” It takes some time to grow into your role as a member of a leadership team and to develop the trust of the administration.  Don’t try to be the expert on everything, but when your campus begins a new initiative–even those that are not directly related to libraries–share some recent research pieces with your principal.  Admit when you don’t know the answer to something, but offer to find out.  Don’t make a hasty decision when you’re put on the spot either.  You can always say, “I need to gather the data to make an informed recommendation.  Can I get back to you by tomorrow afternoon?”

As you work to build relationships with members of the campus leadership team, realize that you bring a unique perspective to the table.  You have more hats than most of the people on your campus–teacher, administrator, media specialist.  Own those roles, and the knowledge that goes with them.  Be confident and a good problem solver, and soon you’ll find yourself a valued member of a transformational campus leadership team.

What to Read Wednesday – I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson December 17, 2014

Posted by Karin Perry in Check this out!.
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I'll give you the sun

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

My most recent YA book was I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson. It absolutely knocked my socks off. The writing is beautiful and the characters are heartbreaking.

Here are some great quotes from the book.

I'll give you the sun quote i'll give you the sun quote 3 i'll give you the sun quote 2

Read the first 55 pages HERE.

Listen to a sample of the audio. It is narrated by two people. One for Jude and the other for Noah. Both narrators do a wonderful job.

Basically, throughout the entire book this was me since I listened to most of it on audio in the car.

driving in car crying

Even when I wasn’t listening to it, the book still stayed with me.

my heart hurts

So, be prepared.  If you decide to give I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN a chance, be ready for this.


something in my eye

salty discharge seinfeld

Technology Tuesday – 4 Ways to Use Canva in your library December 16, 2014

Posted by Brooke Ahrens in Check this out!.
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This week’s guest blog post was written by Diana L. Rendina. Diana is a media specialist/teacher librarian at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL. She is passionate about creating an environment in her library for students to discover, learn, grow, create, connect and collaborate. She blogs about Makerspace, libraries and technology at www.RenovatedLearning.com. You can find her on Twitter @DianaLRendina.

Canva is an easy to use, free graphic design tool that allows users to quickly build beautiful graphics. It does have extra fancy paid elements, but it’s easy to make beautiful graphics without using them. You can customize colors and fonts, add all sorts of clip-art like elements, and even upload your own photos. It doesn’t give you as much control as a desktop publishing or photo editing program, but it’s easy to use and can save you a lot of time. Here’s some ways I’ve used Canva in my library:

Sign for post-it note display

Sign for post-it note display


Canva is amazing at quickly creating eye-catching signs for your library. Instead of a boring text only sign showing your school’s logins and passwords, why not create a sign that looks like a coffee shop menu? You can customize colors and fonts to fit in with your media center décor. It’s great for putting together displays too. I’ve used it to create displays for genres, holiday and even our interactive post-it note display (which I adapted from Tiffany Whitehead’s awesome display).

Flyer advertising our Media Center Advisory Board

Flyer advertising our Media Center Advisory Board


I create flyers to advertise library events and programs all the time. It used to take me awhile to make anything that looked good – most of the time I ended up quickly throwing something together in a word processing program. With Canva, I can quickly create attractive looking flyers that will get students’ and teachers’ attention.

Our 1st Quarter report infographic

Our 1st Quarter report infographic


I like to put out statistics and information about what’s going on in our library. I used to painstakingly create these reports in a desktop publishing program, and it would take me over an hour to get everything formatted just right. With Canva, I was able to put together this infographic in about 20 minutes. It was easy to make it visually appealing and color coordinated. Plus, since Canva creations can be downloaded as both a pdf and a jpg, I was able to print out copies to display in the media center,and create jpgs to post on our website and school Facebook page.

Fun collage I made

Fun collage I made

Digital graphics

Canva is great for easily creating beautiful graphics to be used on the web. I’ve used it to put together photo collages for my blog, create new cover photos for our school’s Facebook page, and to create graphics to use on our school website. It even has options for making business cards, Pinterest images, podcast covers and more.

Friday Finds December 12, 2014

Posted by Judy Deichman in Check this out!.
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Are you looking for a math resource to assist your math teachers in a lesson? Are you searching for an activity to engage the visual learner?  Maybe you are looking for a new anchor activity for that gifted learner that finishes the lessons in a flash.  Has a math teacher come to you asking for a math resource that is out of the box? Well, I have found a wonderful, engaging resource that can enhance a math lesson or fill extra time at the end of a period.  This resource is suited for students in grades 5 – 12.  This website is for seeing, hearing, and doing mathematics.  This website can bring math to students with real-world connections!  Word of warning: you will need Flash and Java to run these math applications, so tablet users take note.




Check it out!

Let’s Get Together Thursday – Working with Parent Groups December 11, 2014

Posted by Jennifer Laboon in Check this out!.
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Does your campus have an active parent organization?  Parent organizations are great ways to leverage the manpower of volunteers, grow advocates for your programs, and build stronger programs through collaborative partnerships.

There are a variety of ways to develop that partnership.  The first way is to join them!  Many librarians participate as officers or committee chairs of their campuses’ parent organizations.  It usually helps the parents greatly to have an insider from the faculty among their leaders.  It helps the librarian to be embedded  among some of their most active stakeholders.  If you’re at the table when they are working on initiatives, it’s very easy to speak up about how the library can be supported, and how the library serves every student by educating the whole child.

Beyond the campus level, consider how to involve the state organization in partnering with you.  Over the last several years, the Texas Library Association/Texas Association of School Librarians has nurtured a partnership with the Texas PTA.  Some of the ways we’ve worked with them include:

  • Presenting and exhibiting at each other’s conferences
  • Writing articles in each other’s publications
  • Developing an award to recognize a collaboration between a school and a PTA
  • Participating in legislative activities and promoting each other’s agendas during legislative sessions

Like any partnership, we did have to emphasize that while we were asking their support, we were offering some as well.  One of our retiring Executive Board members took a position on their Executive Board.  They were looking for volunteers for state level leadership, and the experience the librarian offered to the PTA was a huge bonus.  Having our librarian embedded among their leaders also helped to keep them focused on the value of the partnership.

One major “aha” from working with the PTA at both the state and campus level:  we still aren’t telling our stories well–most parents didn’t know we offered digital resources, they had no idea what we did, how we helped their students navigate questions of information literacy and digital citizenship, or why certified librarians should be required on every campus.

What to Read Wednesday – Getting Ready for the Youth Media Awards December 10, 2014

Posted by Karin Perry in Check this out!.
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The excitement is in the air. Finalists for the YALSA Morris Award and Nonfiction Award have been announced.

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.  The award’s namesake is William C. Morris, an influential innovator in the publishing world and an advocate for marketing books for children and young adults. Bill Morris left an impressive mark on the field of children’s and young adult literature. He was beloved in the publishing field and the library profession for his generosity and marvelous enthusiasm for promoting literature for children and teens.

The finalists are:

the strange and beautiful sorrows The Scar Boys gabi the story of owen The carnival at bray


The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 – Oct. 31 publishing year.

popular Port Chicago 50_0 ida tarbell family romanov laughing at my nightmare


The awards will be presented at ALA Midwinter in Chicago on Feb. 2, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the McCormick Place Convention Center, room W375a.

Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Media History Digital Library December 9, 2014

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Technology.
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Are you a fan of old movies? Are you curious about the early days of radio and television? Are you interested in pop culture? Are you studying Film or Media Studies? Even if you are none of the above, you will find that just a short guided tour of the Media History Digital Library (follow the link below) will entice you to delve deeper into the exploration of this vast and amazing collection of documents detailing the early days of film, television, and radio.

The Media History Digital Library is a non-profit project dedicated to digitizing collections of classic media periodicals that belong in the public domain for full public access. The current collection includes more than 1.3 million scanned pages from books and magazines relating to the history of film, radio and television. Users may read material online, download in PDF, or visit the Internet Archive, where you will also find cataloging information and additional download options.

Lantern, the search platform, is the way to visualize and explore the collections of the Media History Digital Library. This open access project,  a co-production of the Media History Digital Library and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Communication Arts, is directed by David Pierce and Eric Hoyt,  and supported by owners of materials who loan them for scanning, as well as and donors who contribute funds to cover the cost of scanning. On Lantern you can find critiques and commentary about movies, books, yearbooks and playbills, as well as many periodicals about the movie, television, and radio industries. Initial searches can be refined by date, language, and publication type. You can also browse through collections curated by MHDL.

The Media History Digital Library is an excellent way for students, film buffs and just those people curious enough to wonder about the “early days” of broadcast to access rare and previously unavailable historical materials.

Take a look…Heather Moorefield Lang, Chair of the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee will take you on a short guided tour of the Media History Digital Library.

Susan Hess
Best Websites for Teaching and Learning – Committee Member

Tuesday Tech Tips – Kahoot! December 9, 2014

Posted by Brooke Ahrens in Check this out!.
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This week’s guest blog post was written by Mary Fran Lynch. Mary Fran is a Teacher on Special Assignment in the Union School District in San Jose, California.  She taught third grade for ten years encouraging her students to use technology. Mary Fran now spends her time teaching students and coaching teachers, spreading her enthusiasm throughout the entire district.


Formative assessment can take many forms. One of the tools I use is Kahoot! a free game-based response system that can be accessed from the web. Whether you have a full set of Chromebooks, or students have brought their own devices, as long as you can access the internet, students can “play” Kahoot! I have also seen Kahoot used with just a few devices and shared in groups, with students taking turns responding.

Kahoot! awards points based on the correct answer and the speed with which the answer was entered. The leading scorers are shown at the end of each question, and the player gets personalized feedback informing them of their standing.

In some classes, students may not want their scores to be public. That is why I allow students to make up a username when they sign into Kahoot!. This way, individual students are able to remain anonymous while playing but still get their personal feedback.

Here’s one I made just for fun. You should be able to take it for a test drive in single player mode. You will, however, need to sign on, open up two screens, one that will show you teacher /presenter mode, and the other for student/participant mode.

Kahoot! is free. It is simple to create a quiz, and you can add pictures and video to the questions. Students quickly sign in using a “game pin,” no sign ups or accounts needed. The data you receive can help you tailor your lessons to target those areas your students need more instruction in.

And you don’t even need to create every Kahoot! yourself. There are nearly 600,000 Kahoots! that teachers and users have shared. Just find one, play it, and then add it to your list of favorites so you can find it easily next time.

Be warned, this is not a quiet class activity. The excitement Kahoot! generates will convince you the students are engaged and having fun, while reinforcing content.

Watch this video tutorial to learn about how to set up Kahoot! to use in your class.


Now getKahooting!

Monday Means Leadership: Feedback December 8, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Check this out!.
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According to a Forbes.com article,

Successful leaders always provide feedback and they welcome reciprocal feedback by creating trustworthy relationships with their colleagues.

How often do we solicit feedback from our students, staff, parents and administration?  We certainly receive yearly evaluations from our supervisors and principals.  Hopefully we have at least quarterly observations and reviews and we work with our administrators to formulate our professional growth plans, showing the results of our hard work, planning, and instruction.

But how often do we receive feedback from our staff?  Do we send surveys and forms about resources, technology, teaching and learning?  Do we ask our colleagues to rate our library media programs, our services, and our work with them and others?

And what about feedback from our students?  Are we actively seeking their input on resources, materials, reading and research habits, and other interests in order to better inform ourselves, our programs, and our work?

Here are some great basic survey tools to consider:

  • Survey Monkey – The free version of this online survey tool allows up to ten questions from 100 respondents and is a basic survey tool that is good for short surveys.
  • Zoomerang - Similar to Survey Monkey, this tool offers basic surveys but with options to upgrade for a price.
  • Survey Gizmo – Another low-cost option with some advanced settings for basic surveys.

For those of us already using Google Drive and Google Docs, we can create forms for surveys.  This is another free option for getting the feedback for improving our library media programs and our work with our school communities.

What survey tools are you using to gather feedback and input?


Let’s Get Together Thursday – Grab a Partner and Get Kids Coding with an “Hour of Code” December 4, 2014

Posted by Jennifer Laboon in Check this out!.
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Next week, December 8-14th, is the Hour of Code.


Billed as the largest educational event in the world, it’s a week dedicated to introducing our students to learning to code, basically how to write simple computer programs or algorithms.  If the word “algorithm” scares you, please read on anyway.  This is no-brainer stuff, made as simple as possible to be a foolproof way to get our kids ready for the jobs of the future.   I challenge you to find a collaboration partner on your campus and give it a try. If it’s already happening at your campus, join in on the fun!  Here’s what’s in it for you:

1) This is a bit daunting.  You may not be techie, you may not be a math or science person, but by doing this, you are showing you’re a risk taker.

2) By collaborating with a teacher who is already doing this, you are showing you’re a team player.  Offer your library work stations as a place where your students can work through the tutorials for an hour.  Offer your library as a place where students can do additional activities once they’ve caught the bug.

3) If no one is already doing it, you’re a visionary!  I promise you, principals want this happening at their campuses.  They want to be seen supporting STEM efforts.  They want bragging rights at their next principals’ meeting.

4) Your kids will love you for it.  Everyone can do this, and it’s fun! The tutorials are easy to follow and require very little support from the teacher.  There are great how to instructions on the code.org website.  You do need to pick a tutorial or two for kids to try, and make sure that your existing technology is compatible–or try one of the paper and pencil activities if technology is not available.  You’re empowering kids to think through the logic required to code and use their brain in new and challenging ways.

5) It’s a great return on investment of your time.  Do a little advertising: make an announcement that this is the week, and that your library is open for students to come and give it a try.  Use one of the videos to promote it on your website or social media.  Work with the after school program, the computer lab teacher, the math department.  Any of these are great collaboration partners.  Make some time available, and don’t forget to take pictures to promote what you did!

Two weeks ago, I wrote about helping teachers take risks.  This week, I encourage you to take a risk that I know will pay off.  If you’re already doing Hour of Code, please share how this is working for you.  Also, search the AASL blog for some other great posts on coding by Lucy Santos Green, Brooke Ahrens and more.