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Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Kahoot January 13, 2015

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning.
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AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee members continue this month with ideas in how to use Best Website winners in libraries and classrooms. This month we will be featuring the student response system site Kahoot. If you have ever used Socrative (http://www.socrative.com/) then you are familiar with the student response system idea in the classroom or library. Kahoot and Socrative are both completely device agnostic. This means that whether students are using laptops in class, desktops in a lab, or hand-held devices, they can interact with the queries created by their instructors/librarians from any type of internet/wi fi based technology. If you can get on the internet, you can interact with Kahoot.


As the librarian, you can build questions with text, images, video and more. Public educational content can also be loaded into Kahoot for questions and quizzes. With this tool instructors can build quizzes, discussions, polls, and surveys which the site calls Kahoots. Students can play and answer questions competing against each other. Instructors can lead discussions while stopping periodically to ask questions using Kahoot, for online instruction this tool can be used for a more immersive atmosphere when students are at a distance. The possibilities for this tool are wide open and students really enjoy using it.

The Kahoot site (https://getkahoot.com/) comes complete with tutorials, recommendations for use, as well as idea for the classroom. This is a great tool for conferences as well, while presenting content, engage your audience with questions through Kahoot, offer a poll or ask open ended discussion topics. It’s a great tool to get classes and audiences involved.

Kahoot is a free, online student response program that keeps growing and offering more to those in education. It was an AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning winner in 2014. There are wonderful possibilities for classroom use with this site. We on the Best Websites committee are excited by this site and we hope that you will be too.

Heather Moorefield-Lang

Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee 2014

Committee Chair

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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THRpPWwzGZk]

Susan Hess
Best Websites for Teaching and Learning – Committee Member

Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Canva November 25, 2014

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Technology.
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While these days we are blessed with a variety of excellent web-based graphics tools, Canva.com, one of AASL’s Best Websites for Teaching and Learning for 2014, definitely stands out from the crowd. It has become my first choice stop when I need to create an original graphic, even with Photoshop Elements installed on my computer. You will want to use it yourself and also encourage your students and teacher colleague teachers to as well.

Here are some reasons why:

  • It’s free.
  • It is completely web-based and platform independent.
  • It is super easy to use.
  • It offers a huge collection of vibrant backgrounds, shapes, and graphics, and also allows you to upload your own.
  • Along with the free graphics, you can opt for a large collection of paid options, each of which is just $1.00.
  • It has 21 pre-sized templates – for example: presentations (1024px x 768px), Instagram (640px x 640px), and more –  but also allows you to create a custom-sized graphic. And for all graphics, you can design a single image, or multiple pages.
  • Created graphics can be shared directly to Twitter or Facebook, downloaded as pdfs or png files, or shared with either a read-only or even editable link. (The person receiving the link needs to open a Canva account to view and edit the image.) And, all your creations remain available for further editing on the Canva site.
  • The help information is extensive, and, in addition, Canva’s “Design School” includes  both lessons and interactive tutorials on principles of design you can use on your own and share with students. You can even subscribe to the tutorials and get weekly design lessons via email.

To get started using Canva, open a free account. Then, you can just dive in, start with one of the tutorials (such as this lesson, which can also serve as a class lesson), or check out this great screencast on Heather Moorefield-Lang’s TechFifteen YouTube channel recently made by Meg Coker.

A good activity for using Canva with your students might be for an assignment creating an infographic. Canva offers a ton of attractive images for infographics. Just use the Search box to search for “infographics” as a keyword. Look on the left of this screenshot to see some of the infographic symbols available:



For some examples of infographics made with Canva, watch California School Library Association’s new film, “Does Your School Have a Teacher Librarian?” All the infographics were made by Karen Morgenstern, the film producer, using Canva. The title screen was also created with Canva:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtFkeZPGRro]

You might also want to encourage students to create class slide presentations using Canva. While using this Canva, they can take advantage of the extensive built-in design elements and the design tutorial assistance to improve the visual quality of their presentations. Canva lacks the real time collaboration option of Google Slides/Presentations, but the link sharing feature will allow for asynchronous editing. Students could also create graphics in Canva and import them into Google Slides.

Just two caveats to remember when using Canva. First, it does require establishing a free account, and users must be 13 or older. And, second, If you pay for one or more $1 stock media items as part of one of your designs, you can only use that stock media in one of your Canva designs and you’re not allowed to later edit the PDFs or PNGs or give others permission to use them. I personally avoid using the paid media items for my educational creations, not because of the cost, which is so reasonable at $1 a piece, but because I can’t then assign the material containing the design a Creative Commons license to pass the rights to use it on to others.

And, some great news: Canva is now also an iPad app. Check out the either the web-based version or the app today!

Jane Lofton: AASL Best Websites Committee Member


Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Vocabulary.com October 17, 2014

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Hot Topics, Technology.
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Gone are the days of old-fashioned vocabulary flash cards!  Vocabulary.com, one of AASL’s 2014 Best Websites, combines proprietary technology and an advanced digital dictionary in this game-like learning resource. One of the factors that makes this website stand out from other digital vocabulary sites is its technology“ Adaptive Vocabulary Instruction (AVI). AVIs algorithm monitors students responses to provide words and exercises on a student’s learning level, thus avoiding spending time on words too easy or too hard. This adaptive technology supports differentiated instruction in the classroom allowing all students to learn.

Signing up to create an account is easy and free.

Vocabulary.com is comprised of three sections “ The Challenge, Dictionary, and Vocabulary Lists. After creating an account, students can immediately begin playing the Challenges interactive game to build knowledge and create a learning environment on their level. The Dictionary offers basic and advanced searches going beyond just definitions. Explanations and usage examples taken from current publications and classic literature provide a fuller context that helps fortify students understanding. Thousands of word lists are available in the Vocabulary Lists section which also lets teachers and students create their own word lists based on assignments and personal interests.

Here is a short video that shows an overview of the site and is a good tool for acquainting students with the site’s features.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZWL6lL34Uw]

The site’s gaming environment enables students to earn points as they respond with correct answers and master words. As points are accumulated, students earn achievement badges representing their levels. Also, overall achievement for each student can be seen by clicking on the My Progress tab to see various progress charts.

Show students this video to motivate them to set personal learning goals, earn achievement badges, and see how they rank with other students on the site’s leaderboards“

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv9WVAB8rC8]

School pride and competing with other schools can be great motivators for students! Be sure to have students include their school’s name on their profile pages. This way your school can compete for a cool banner awarded to the school that masters the most words each month. Also, your school can enter the site’s Vocabulary Bowl that recognizes the school that masters the most words for the year, along with the top achieving students.

There are lots of ways teachers can use Vocabulary.com in the classroom..

  • Teachers can create word lists from a designated text for a pre-reading activity using the copy and paste feature in the Vocabulary Lists section.
  • Students can curate personalized word lists based on their individual reading and interests. These words can be used in journal assignments, creative writing exercises, and class discussions.
  • The sites use of contextualized word items can help ESL students strengthen their understanding of words, better relate to words and actively use them.

Vocabulary.com recommends the site for grades 5 through college and adults. Through my experience I would highly recommend it for middle and high school students. The site also offers a subscription-based Education Edition.

Elizabeth P. Dumas

AASL Best Websites Committee member

AASL Best Websites: Coming Soon to ALA Annual! June 10, 2014

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in ALA Annual Conference, Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Technology.
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As you may know the American Association of School Librarian Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee produces a list of recognized websites every year. What you may not know is that this the committee’s sixth year and we will be presenting our 150th site this month at ALA Annual in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 28th. Follow along on Twitter with the hashtag  #aaslbestlist.

Everyone on the Best Websites Committee has been working hard throughout the year and is really excited to share this year’s list. We feel that we have a great list for you here in 2014 full of strong online tools in the categories of Media Sharing, Digital Storytelling, Social Networking and Communication, and more.

This is the committee’s last blog post until September. In the fall we will be bringing you more blog postings on how to use the AASL Best Websites in your schools, libraries, and classrooms as we have in the past. We will have a whole new list to share and will be super excited to offer up new ideas and sites. As always if there is ever a Best Websites online tool that you would like for us to write about, just comment below.

The Best Websites Committee hopes to see you at ALA. If you can’t make it follow us on Twitter or check out our website: http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/best-websites on June 28th to see all of the new sites, resources, presentations, and freebies.

Heather Moorefield-Lang: AASL Best Websites Committee Chair

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

Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Animoto and Wordle March 2, 2014

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Hot Topics, Technology.
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Have you ever wanted to breathe new life into boring, traditional assignments? Animoto and Wordle, both 2009 recipients of the BWTL, are favorite go-to ideas when I’m brainstorming with teachers for new projects. Often they are unaware of the programs, or worse, aware but don’t see the tie-in to their curriculum content. As teacher librarians we are always on the look out for activities, ideas, or projects that allow students an interesting way to demonstrate concept mastery. Tried and true paper-writing becomes mundane and boring, both for the student and the teacher. Providing teachers a tool for their teacher toolbox and giving students a unique avenue to show they have researched, read, or learned a required standard can be a catalyst for re-engaging students in the learning process.


One of my teachers each semester assigns one written book report. Often times the type of required book changes by either genre or type. In a collaborative session with her, I introduced her to Wordle and Animoto. The library has a digital frame on the circulation desk, and often we create visuals to promote ongoing initiatives, including things like contests, upcoming events, new books, what’s popular, really almost anything. Having the digital frame made me realize it was the perfect avenue to showcase student work as well. I approached my collaborating teacher with an idea that her students books reports could be improved by adding a visual route, and a digital project was born. Over the years it has taken many twists and turns, and in its current state, it has grown to students creating a book review for our Destiny Quest, a digital product for the digital frame, and that same digital product added to the Destiny Record. Because our Destiny program is open to the public via the world wide web, anyone who looks for books through our catalog may come across Animoto videos, book posters that have included wordles, and student reviews. My collaborating teacher has maintained a written portion to the project, requiring the students to write the review and citations. Citations are for pictures used in their projects and for their print book reviewed in a strict MLA format, and this is a part of the rubric we use, where students are assessed. The rubric assesses the following: MLA Review, MLA Citations, minimum of five pictures related to the story or the books content in a visual, minimum of five uses of text in visual, and an oral presentation to class using the student created visual.


The students are much more engaged in all facets of the project knowing their end product potentially has a global audience. They are also excited at the prospect of our using their work in our digital frame for promoting a print resource they used from the library. My collaborating teacher frequently tells her students the skill set they develop from these projects can be used in other classes. I know our students have done this, particularly with our Animoto Accounts because the Educator accounts we use with the students have many works finished and/or in progress in there. I used to download them and then delete them until recently a student came in the library hysterical because her project (one from some time ago) was missing. I had deleted it thinking it was so old we didn’t need to keep it. This student had actually used the embed feature, and my deleting it caused her work to be missing in another digital avenue. Lesson learned–leave the students previous or other work in my accounts.


Here are a few samples of students past projects from the class I described above. They are embedded in our Destiny catalog and used to advertise or highlight books in the library as well.

Sample Student Visual Book Reports using a mashup of pictures and an overlay of a Wordle.




Sample Animoto Student Projects


Blog Cross Post from Cathy Jo Nelson: AASL Best Websites Committee Member

Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: LitPick February 20, 2014

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Hot Topics, Technology.
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Empower Your Students with LitPick.com

This past year, the American Association of School Librarians released the 2013 list of BestWebsites for Teaching and Learning.
Among the list is a website that encourages students to read and write through a unique online book review program which offers free, newly released books for students to review….
Recently, one of LitPick’s founders visited with us via Skype and explained the program to our creative writing class and their teacher Renee Martin’s.
Initially before his presentation, we watched the following video for a brief introduction to LitPick.


LitPick’s mission is to help preteens and teens develop a lifelong love of reading by empowering young readers to share their opinions in a social community.
Here is how LitPick works:
Students can enroll as LitPick book reviewers either individually or as part of a student group sponsored by a librarian, teacher, or other educator.  Signing up groups of students as LitPick reviewers is a great way to create and manage book clubs too.
You can find the Group signup form online.
Once students complete an online application and are approved by LitPick as student book reviewers, they can login and select a book to review.
The books are primarily new and advance copies of preteen and teen books submitted by a wide variety of authors and publishers.  Each student reviewer must have an adult sponsor who will help them choose an age-appropriate book for them to review, as well as assist them with writing their reviews.
After login, students can choose a book to review from a long list of available titles.  EBooks are free to review.  For a nominal administrative fee to cover handling and postage, print books are also available for review.
A student reviews their book in 4 – 6 weeks and then logs back into LitPick where he or she submits the review online.
After a review is approved, it is posted on LitPick for the world to see!
The LitPick book review program is a fun way to encourage students to read and write using eBooks and the Internet.
Students also earn points and badges for writing book reviews, posting forum comments, providing correct answers in LitPick’s vocabulary quiz, and for writing quality book reviews.
LitPick is fun for students!
They feel empowered by the LitPick book review process and seeing their reviews online for others to reference. And since these reviews are often among the first comments on an author or publisher’s new title, the review may also appear on the book’s website or even be printed on the book cover!  How cool is that?!
To learn more about how LitPick.com works go to the website.
You won’t be disappointed if you get your students involved in this great site.
Submitted as a cross post from Shannon Miller’s Blog (AASL Best Websites Committee Member)


Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Codecademy January 21, 2014

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Hot Topics, Technology.
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Codecademy Wants to Teach the World to Code

2013 might be called “The Year of Code.” The popularity of events such as the Hour of Code campaign, part of Computer Science Education Week, encouraged school librarians and K-12 students all over the United States to explore computer programming, discovering how much fun and rewarding it is in the process.  Did you know that according to Code.org, over 1 million jobs in coding, engineering and data mining are projected to be available in the United States by 2020? Did you know that according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salaries for 2013 computer science majors averaged $65,000 and are projected to increase at a rate of 5% per year? And finally, did you know that MIT researchers identified coding as an “aspect of fluency in the 21st century” that teaches problem-solving, collaboration and communication

As an instructional technology and school library media professor, I have been able to introduce coding and basic computer programming to my students, most of whom are classroom teachers and future school librarians. At first, the idea of coding seems mysterious and overwhelming, but once they begin, many of these teachers find that coding is engaging and much easier than they expected. They also share with me that they enjoy integrating coding exercises into their classrooms and library programs. Much of the positive experience we have with coding I attribute to Codecademy, part of AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2013 list under the “Content Resources” section.

Codecademy offers full courses on a broad range of programming languages (HTML, CSS, JQuery, JavaScript, PHP, Python and Ruby) that are broken down into short, easily digestible exercises. Sign up for a free account and earn points and badges, or join groups to exchange tips, ideas and collaborate. To help students delve into real-world applications for coding, the website offers project-based coding exercises: design animations, develop mobile apps; create a website…even build your own galaxy! Now Codecademy makes it even easier for you to start coding with your students.

The website offers a free After-School Programming Kit to any K-12 educator who would like to start a coding club because “by learning to program, kids can have a say in how software shapes their world.” What a wonderful philosophy! I encourage you to explore Codecademy’s wealth of resources. Integrate coding into your school library program and help your students develop into 21st century digital citizens who shape their own future. For the latest updates and information on this resource, follow the Codecademy Blog, “like” Codecademy on Facebook and/ or follow them on Twitter.

Dr. Lucy Santos Green


2013-14 AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee

Ideas for AASL Best Websites: BiblioNasium December 30, 2013

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Technology.
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Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 12.07.42 AM

BiblioNasium….A Fun Social Network For Our Young Readers To Flex Their Reading Muscles

Being a teacher librarian and part of the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee, I spend a lot of time trying out all of wonderful websites on these lists each year.  I was especially excited to see BiblioNasium as part of the 2013 list under the “Manage & Organize” section.  My students, teachers, and families have been using BiblioNasium for over a year now and we all love what this free, safe, and secure social networking reading website has brought to the young readers within our school community.

We love how it connects young readers to their reading interests and friends; gives librarians, teachers, and parents a place to explore;  lets them share book reviews and recommendations; and  how students use BiblioNasium to “flex their reading muscles” as they connect to a large variety of good books to read.

When I first came across BiblioNasium on Twitter I went to the “About Us” page to read this quote from founder Marjan Ghara about why she created this social reading network,

“Marjan and her kids realized they needed a digital solution to organize the information, keep track of their own favorite books, and connected a new generation of digital kids.  Part kids social network, part parent’s guide, part teachers’s tool, BiblioNasium blends technology with personal connection to create a supportive, engaging space for reading success.”

What a great idea!  I couldn’t wait to get our students using BiblioNasium and even more excited about reading!

I started using it with our 3rd through 5th grade last year by introducing it as their own “virtual reading” space.  We talk a lot about social networking and digital citizneship throughout the year and by using BiblioNasium it has given us a chance to have great conversations about being resonsible and respectful online with others in these types of networks. This fall our students in grades 2nd through 6th grade are using BiblioNasium, while our younger and older ones will too second semester.

Once in BiblioNasium, students can search for books, including titles that are just the “right fit” by getting the reading level information for any title; mark, favorite, and review books; place books on their very own shelves; create reading challenges; log their reading minutes; and recommend books to others within their class.  Teachers enjoy it for many reasons, especially how they can track students reading through the logs and recommendations.  And as a parent, I really love looking at what my 8-year-old Hagan enjoys reading and what he looks forward to read too.

As part of sharing BiblioNasium , I also asked Marjan to share a few thoughts.

Marjan stated in an email to me,

“Within BiblioNasium, there are over half a million books that are shelved by our students on their virtual bookshelves and we are growing at the rate of about 1000 new students a week.  

Second, I think its so important to mention over and over that we support “independent reading” which is the best predictor of a child’s reading comprehension and reading fluency achievement. (Independent reading in our definition means reading that is usually done outside of the classroom setting, at home, on the weekends, breaks, summers …)  We are also agnostic to the format or content that they read.  We want them to track, record and get credit for reading print books as well as ebooks,  fiction books as well as comic books, what ever excites them to read.

Third, we are strong believers that when educators and parents collaborate,  the kids can get the most gains. Therefore we support and encourage the connection between the school and the home.  

Fourth , we have been very responsive to the feedback from our librarian community and they have helped shape and directed the many new features that are now on the platform.  

Finally, we want to make reading fun!!!!!  :))”

As you can see BiblioNasium is a place for students to fall in love with reading and books over and over.  It is a social network that we can encourage our little ones to connect and collaborate with others through reading and writing. I just know you and your students will love it as much as we do within my school community and home.

You can connect with BiblioNasium on Facebook and on Twitter at @BiblioNasium.

Shannon McClintock Miller  @shannonmmiller

2013-14 AASL Best Websites For Teaching and Learning Committee