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Tuesday Tech Tips April 22, 2014

Posted by Judy Deichman in Check this out!.
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A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet

That is the title of the blog from Julie Greller.  Her blog has a wealth of information and resources for all librarians to utilize in their libraries.

Headings include:

  • K-5
  • 6-8
  • High School
  • Authors
  • ESL
  • Free!
  • Graphics
  • History
  • Language Arts
  • PE
  • Reference
  • Science
  • New Teachers
  • Teacher-Librarians
  • Web 2.0 to the MAX
  • World Languages

Right now she has a very informative post about Maker Spaces.  Please check out this awesome resource and you will see why it was voted Best Library Blog in 2013!


Friday Finds — SLM Webinar Series April 18, 2014

Posted by Susi Grissom in Check this out!.
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This Friday Find is a treasure trove of free webinars created just for the 2014 celebration of School Library Month.  As part of the national focus on school libraries and their importance to learning and literacy, AASL proudly presents a four-week webinar series which can be found in eCOLLAB, AASL’s professional development online repository.  Each webinar is pre-recorded and can be accessed through the Complimentary Content link on the eCOLLAB homepage.  The first three webinars are available for viewing now, with the April 22 session ready to access next week.  Topics for the webinar series are listed as follows:

April 1:   Brains Change @ Your Library  (Paige Jaeger, presenter)
Are you making the most of your “library time?”  Whether you are working with a fixed or flexible schedule, it is imperative to treat every opportunity as a valuable teachable moment. In this short webinar, we hope to leave you challenged to insert an element of higher level thought into your lessons. We all need to raise the rigor of our learning endeavors and train students to think, discover, and share.

April 8: Lives Change Though Collaboration (and so Does Professional Practice), (Susan Ballard, presenter)
This webinar provides a review and conversation about the need for collaboration, most specifically instructional collaboration, in our learning communities. Challenges and barriers related to collaboration and strategies to address them will be considered and presenter Susan Ballard shares practical tools that can be utilized to improve the planning process and increase the level of collaboration.

April 15:  Changing Lives through Informal Learning (Mega Subramaniam, presenter)
The dominant view is that school library programs will cease to exist if their impact on test scores is not demonstrated. But does that imply our job of impacting student learning is restricted to these outcomes? Does it mean we cannot (and should not) consider the benefits of informal learning and support students who want connected learning? Students yearn to connect their interests, needs, and cultures to every aspect of their daily lives, and seek safe and supportive environments where they can discover and make such connections. School libraries may be the only site where disadvantaged students, who lack the luxury of participating in enrichment after-school programs, can hang out, mess around and “geek out”, and explore their interests and passion. This presentation advocates that school library programs look beyond formal education measures to realize their potential as hybrid spaces for after-school informal learning, and embrace the joy of STEM and digital literacy exploration. Concrete examples of programming and how this is changing the lives of students across the country are shared.

April 22:  Turning the Switch: Everyday Advocacy  (Sara Kelly Johns, presenter)

It’s not enough to have a great program that meets the needs of your students and staff, you need to “Flip the Switch” for advocacy. Take the time to build your personal advocacy plan to have needed support by the decision makers who affect the quality of your school library program. Sara Kelly Johns will give you techniques and tools that will make it easy to promote and market your program.

Go to the eCOLLAB homepage and sign in to access this well-done and informative SLM series.  Feel free to comment on this blog about your insights from the presentations.

Let’s Get Together Thursdays – Saying “Yes, And…” Using Improv in Education April 17, 2014

Posted by Brooke Ahrens in Check this out!.
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Guest post by Margo Butera, Instructional Resource Specialist at Temple City High School in Temple City, CA

How many times have you heard the word, “no,” in an educational setting? In any school environment, there are hierarchies, purchasing and usage rules, and people who don’t share your ideals, or simply like to do things their own way. How many times have you felt discouraged when your great idea received nothing but raised eyebrows and a short laugh by your closest colleagues? Wouldn’t it be great if we could slowly change this paradigm? I propose a bit of professional development I’d like to call, “Yes, And-ing.” It hails from the dramatic and comedic art known as improvisation. In improv, there is only one rule: you never say, “no.” You never stop in the middle of an exercise or performance, or shake your head and laugh at someone’s idea or attempt, no matter how silly or ineffective it may seem. The only way to succeed at working together is by making the choice to say “Yes, And…” and not only sticking with someone’s crazy idea, but improving upon it. In this way, “Yes, And-ing” can help people work together to further their goals rather than hamper ideas at the outset. Realistically, you can’t say “Yes” all the time. However, coming at problems with a “Yes, and” mentality will help us to better support our coworkers and the collaborative school culture as a whole.

Teaching inherently requires improvisation: whether it be trying something different when an individual student requires a different mode of communication, adjusting the schedule when the day doesn’t quite go as planned, or re-teaching when an entire class shows through informal assessment that they need more support. So why not apply the rules of improvisation to education? “Yes, And-ing” could help educators broaden the workplace culture to include more collaboration, especially at a time when Common Core standards are generating more cross-curricular planning between subject areas. This method is currently being employed in the business world during corporate professional development because creativity and collaboration are highly valued in the 21st century workplace. Collaboration and Creativity are both 21st Century Skills that could be served well by this method within the classroom itself for the benefit of students. Improvisation could be used to initiate group work, as a performance-based KWL activity, or as a relaxed summative assessment. At the heart of successful improvisation lies safety and support.

I can envision a future where, instead of saying no, administrators, teachers, librarians, and counselors, etc. just said, “Yes… I’ll work with you on that idea… AND, let me see what I can do to improve upon it!” Surely, we could overcome some of the difficult challenges facing education today if we put our heads together instead of apart, if we shared our meager resources to make things better for all of our students. All it takes is a slight attitude adjustment… just consider saying “Yes, And…” the next time someone asks for your help, opinion, or shares a crazy idea… that just might work.


Tuesday Tech Tips April 15, 2014

Posted by Judy Deichman in Check this out!.
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Librarians, do you want a great search engine for your younger researchers? Well, DuckDuckGo is for you.  It is a wonderful resource that promotes internet safety and guarantees valid and reliable search results for your students.

Some of the assets of this resource:

  • Does not store IP addresses.
  • Has zero-click information boxes.
  • Does not collect or share personal information.
  • Avoids “filter bubble” of search results.
  • Emphasizes good sources versus quantity of sources.
  • Ease of use.
  • Great for younger students.
  • Internet safety.

Please give this search engine a try with your students.  You will not be disappointed.


Monday Means Advocacy: Virtual Library Legislative Day April 14, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy, Check this out!.
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National Library Legislative Day is scheduled for May 5 and 6, 2014, in Washington, D.C.  Joining a group of librarians to speak with representatives from your state is a great opportunity to advocate for support for all types of libraries.

If you cannot make the trip to our nation’s capital, you can participate right from your home.  As an alternative, ALA sponsors Virtual Library Legislative Day on May 6, 2014.  To participate in the virtual day, register for the ALA policy action alerts. 

You can always contact your representatives through their websites or via email or by calling their local offices to set up an appointment. 

To focus your message on school libraries, you can use the resources provided by ALA in their advocacy section or the resources or tools provided by AASL.

Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Blendspace April 10, 2014

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Technology.
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Blendspace, one of AASL’s 2013 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning in the Manage and Organize category, offers both teachers and librarians a very intuitive, option-rich environment for sharing content online with students and other teachers. With Blendspace, you can:

  • build a simple “playlist” of websites, videos, images, and text you can share in a presentation or live lesson

  • embed a playlist in a website or blog to share resources online

  • create flipped or blended lessons that have students watch videos, visit websites, and respond to short quizzes to monitor participation and comprehension

Blendspace first came to life in 2012 as Edcanvas, offering an easy way for educators to blend  “materials together from all over the web into beautiful lessons,” as described in the Blendspace blog.

My first exposure to this tool was at the 2013 CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference where Brian Bridges from California Learning Resources Network (CLRN) used it to share “50 free online ready reference works and web 2.0 tools for lifelong learners” (bit.ly/clrnfun).  Edcanvas served both as part of his presentation platform and as a way of providing links to the 50 tools participants could access afterwards.

In a similar way, the AASL Best Websites Committee used Edcanvas for the session announcing and showcasing the 25 best sites for 2013 at the June 2013 ALA Conference.

2013 best websites.png

It allowed the committee to include links to each of the 25 sites, as well as to images of the sites, examples, video interviews with the site creators, and more. And, once the session was over, both the live participants and others who weren’t able to attend could visit the Edcanvas playlist to easily access this series of site links and related materials.

Thanks to its attractive interface, ease of assembling through drop and drag, and embedding option, it has recently become one of my own tools of choice for curating online content for my teachers and students. For example, when I needed to provide one of my classes with a selection of sites for creating online vocabulary games and quizzes, I used it to quickly assemble site links and examples I shared during class and also embedded in a webpage for later reference:


I also used it to share digital storytelling tools, creative writing tools, and Twitter resources.

The Blendspace blog posting last August 24 explained that the creators wanted to provide more than just “a space where you put digital content.” This led to the transition from Edcanvas to Blendspace, with the goal of making the site “into a suite of tools where you can measure your students’ understanding of material and track their progress.” In addition to finding and including weblinks, it now allows teachers to set up classes and assign lessons to students in those classes, embed short quizzes in with the other digital content, and track student participation. It allows students to create lessons as well, and users can search the gallery for lessons and playlists created by others. Check the site Resources page for lots of ideas and tips on how to use Blendspace.

As with many free sites, there is also now a paid account you can upgrade to for more options. The upgraded accounts allow for real-time collaboration on lessons and voice annotations. The team is also planning a new Blendspace for Schools option, which will become available this Fall.

Do add Blendspace to your toolkit for flipped or blended lessons, curation, and more.

 Submitted by Jane Lofton: AASL Best Websites Committee Member

Let’s Get Together Thursday – Cultivating Collaboration April 10, 2014

Posted by Brooke Ahrens in Check this out!.
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A guest post by Eran DeSilva, Social Studies teacher at Notre Dame HS, San Jose and 2013 recipient of the Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grant from Facing History and Ourselves. Eran is passionate about infusing social justice themes into her instruction and integrating art to build student engagement and connections. 

DSC_0119As a peacock majestically walked by me and I heard a rooster crow on the farm, I was struck by the innovative results that collaboration with my fellow ninth grade teachers had yielded. As a teacher I ask students in my classroom to collaborate all the time — work together to solve problems, study in groups, create presentations with partners, and conduct small group discussions.  Collaboration helps to foster interpersonal, problem solving, and critical thinking skills.  In my development as a teacher, I have realized that the same collaboration I encourage my students to engage in is an invaluable tool for educators.  This collaborative approach helps to harness the collective potential of a group of diverse talents, disciplines, and experience to create an more meaningful and holistic education for students.  And my experience of teaching 176 freshmen on an urban farm can attest to this.

During an Innovative Boot Camp held last June, a group of educators from different parts of campus met for a 2 day workshop for us to consider how to best teach in the 21st century landscape in order to meet students of this millenium.  I was placed in a team of very diverse teachers, which included colleagues from the Modern Language, Science, Math and Counseling departments.  I was curious and eager to see how my Social Studies perspective would contribute to this diverse group.  Over the course of the two days our group developed an idea to have an experiential field trip to an urban farm that would be interdisciplinary in content.  It started as a pipe dream but evolved into reality with the help of many different hands.

A diverse team of educators created the logistics and curricular and co-curricular framework that would drive the field trip.  The Director of Community Service Learning Katie Kuszmar asked a local non-profit organization named Veggielution to host a visit and provide the students with volunteer farm work.   To further their understanding of the experiences of farm workers, the Modern Language department created a lesson on Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta who were advocates for migrant workers.  Tori Evashenk who is a Biology teacher worked with a Geometry teacher to develop STEM connections that connected to the food production and consumption.  I created a lesson from a geography perspective where students had to investigate the farm to see how physical and human geography had impacted the development of the farm and local community.  The English and Religious Studies departments provided space for reflection and contemplation from their respective disciplines.

Though we were diverse in specialization and talents, we all focused on the following essential questions:

How do individuals and communities make choices to support environmental sustainability and healthy development in the local community?  How do culture, language, science, technology and geography influence these decisions?

We each had workshops and assignments that allowed students to explore this topic in order to draw some conclusions.  The day ended with an alumni speaker, Laura Seaman (’03) who works at Stanford University as the Communications and External Relations Manager at Center on Food Security and the Environment.  She gave a thoughtful presentation on issues of food security, resource use, and population growth.  One project she discussed took place in Benin in West Africa.  A researcher on her team investigated the nutrition challenges a village faced due to climate change and rain patters.  Based on her research, she found that a solar powered water pump could provide water during the dry season to support the subsistence farming the community depended on.  Students saw how science and technology played an important role in the issues of hunger and justice.  And they saw how the same questions of environmental stewardship and community development are found on the other side of the world.

Rabab Karimjee summed up the day very thoughtfully.  “Pulling out weeds may not seem like a huge task, but when all of us contributed our time to help make the farming process easier, we played a part in the big picture. Veggielution sells the crops, including the ones we and other volunteers helped in, to farmer’s markets around the local area to lower income families. This is a step in the right direction for the world having more environmentally aware, healthy, and economically beneficial communities. Setting aside two days to help Veggielution made the freshman class realize this and that our small role helped contribute to the global community.”

DSC_0130Overall, the trip to the urban farm was a great experiential learning process for us educators as well as the students.  Not only did we learn how to navigate a classroom where chickens and geese roamed free, we witnessed the power of collaboration.  Together we pooled our collective knowledge and interests to create a really innovative teaching moment.  Personally I was able to work with members of our faculty that I do not have day-to-day contact which helped me to broaden my perspective and build relationships.  And throughout the day we modeled collaboration and teamwork for our students.

What to Read Wednesday – THE RIVER OF TIME SERIES by Lisa T. Bergren April 9, 2014

Posted by Karin Perry in Check this out!.
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river of time series

Gabi and Lia Betarrini are spending the summer in Italy with their mother on an archeological dig. They have spent every summer on various digs with their parents for as long as they can remember and instead of enjoying the beautiful sights, they are bored out of their minds.

While sneaking into an ancient tomb, Gabi and Lia find prints on the wall eerily simliar to their hands. When they place their hands on the imprints everything spins out of control. When Gabi finally pulls her hand away from the wall, everything is dark and she is alone.

Gabi landed in fourteenth-century Italy in the middle of a battle between two opposing armies. She hopes the side that rescues her, led by Marcello, is the right one. She knows from all her years listening to her parents talk about life in ancient Italy of the intricacies of medieval politics. She’ll have to be on top of her game if she wants to blend in with the people around her. She gets by on the story that she has been separated from her mother and sister and is welcomed to the castle and offered safety.

Gabi spends as much time as she can looking for any sign of Lia. While working on that she works her way into the daily lives of Marcello, his army, and his family. Even though Marcello is betrothed to someone else, she can’t help the feelings she has for him and sometimes, it seems he feels the same. As much as she wants her family back, Gabi continues to get involved in fourteenth-century life.

Gabi’s life, in many ways, is much fuller in medieval Italy even though she doesn’t have access to modern conveniences. WATERFALL is only the beginning of her adventures, which continues with increasingly higher stakes in CASCADE and TORRENT.

I read all three of these books back to back. I fell in love with Marcello, Greco and Luca. They have to be the sexiest fictional men in print!

If you want to read something simliar to this and don’t mind SUPER LONG books (and adult) then try The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve listened to the first five books in the series and find it just as compelling as The River of Time series. It also involves time travel, romance, and battles. The difference is in the location (Scottish Highlands) and time period (eighteenth century).

After you read WATERFALL, CASCADE, and TORRENT you’ll want to go find BOURNE, an e-novella that follows the books, and TRIBUTARY.

Check out a guest post by Lisa T. Bergren on Karin’s Book Nook today. She is talking about why she loves libraries and promoting her upcoming book, a post-apocalyptic, dystopian book titled REMNANTS.

Tuesday Tech Tips April 8, 2014

Posted by Judy Deichman in Check this out!.
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Here is one website that librarians definitely want to bookmark!  A wealth of resources, interactive elements, civics quiz material, all from government reliable sources.

This is their stated mission:


To promote government information in order to engage K-12 students in learning about history, culture, science, and government through games and other interactive activities; to assist teachers and school librarians with locating teaching aids, lesson plans, and exciting tools to enhance students’ learning, and to provide librarians with a collection of free government resources to advance their reference interview and collection development decisions. The project was conceived as a promotional tool for the value of government documents to K-12 students and teachers in addressing the requirement to integrate Constitution Day into public school curricula.

There are various contests for students that are promoted within the website, too.

Currently, there are 13 various classroom/library activities on the website.

A great website linking to many resources, in one very navigable place.



Friday Finds — the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) April 4, 2014

Posted by Susi Grissom in Check this out!.
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This Friday Finds focuses on one of AASL’s partnerships and collaborations – the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE).  Formed in 2011 through the joint efforts of the National Council of Teachers and English and the Ball Foundation, the NCLE is composed of 30 stakeholders (including AASL) which have joined forces “to identify and share the plans, practices, support systems, and assessments used by educator teams working to improve literacy learning. NCLE celebrates the work of successful school teams across the country that are achieving remarkable results in advancing literacy learning, and shares what is learned with education policymakers”  (NCLE website).

In Fall 2012, school librarians, along with more than 24,000 educators across a wide spectrum of grade levels, disciplines, and types of schools,  had the chance to participate in NCLE’s survey on professional learning, Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works. Building on a major finding that school librarians are critically involved as leaders, collaborators, and professional development providers on their campuses, AASL created an infographic (Working Together is Working Smarter) that visually captures the importance of the  librarian’s role in learning.  The March AASL Hotlinks recently highlighted NCLE’s 2013 follow-up report, Remodeling Literacy Learning Together: Paths to Standards Implementation, which focuses on the impact of teacher involvement – or lack thereof – in the Common Core implementation process.

A great professional resource for school librarians is the NCLE SmartBrief, an e-newsletter published 3 times a week that spotlights current research, successful strategies and programs, and educational trends.  While school libraries are not the sole focus of these updates, librarians who collaborate as key members of the educational team will find excellent data, strategies, and ideas to implement and share, all conveniently delivered to the email inbox.

Check out the wealth of resources that this AASL partner offers on the NCLE website!