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Monday Means Leadership: Supporting Academically and Intellectually Gifted Students November 24, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Check this out!.
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During the 2002-03 school year, I realized that I was frustrated with some of the instruction or lack of instruction and the lack of challenging lessons that I was witnessing with our academically and intellectually gifted students. Gifted students were being sent to our library media center with projects that amounted to no more than a regurgitation of factual information to be spit out into a PowerPoint presentation. (We had just begun our love affair with this particular presentation tool!)

Where were the how and why questions? Where were the challenges to thinking differently about the topics? How could I improve the teaching these students were receiving and challenge their learning? How could these students get the best instruction and direction in order to maximize their talents and gifts?

I conducted some informal action research.  My question: what happens when you modify the assignment for one group of gifted students?

The students’ assignment was a report on Charles Dickens. Having already read A Christmas Carol, they were to created presentations about Dickens’ life and works with X number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation. (The thought of the assignment still makes me gag!) So while students did need to know the background information about Dickens’ life, I challenged one of the two groups to focus on why he wrote the stories he did and how his being in debtors’ prison affected his writing, questions that their language arts teacher had not suggested or required of them. Just those two little questions of how and why pushed their research, their learning and their product to a deeper level. This group’s learning and presentation was more dynamic and more interesting; the other group’s research and presentation was boring and lackluster. (Yes, I feel bad that the second group didn’t get the same challenge.)

In the end, this particular assignment forced me to reassess what I as an educator wanted for our gifted students: challenging, rigorous, vigorous assignments that stretched their learning and grew them academically.

With the changes in our standards and curriculum over the last ten years, I think that all of our students have benefited from a new level of inquiry instruction. We still need to make sure that those gifted students who are “dumped” in the media center for group projects are being challenged and it’s up to us to support their growth and learning.

(For more information on Charles Dickens, check out the resources at the Charles Dickens Museum site.)

Let’s Get Together Thursday – Supporting Teachers in Taking Risks November 20, 2014

Posted by Jennifer Laboon in Check this out!.
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Have you ever wondered why some teachers are not open to collaboration?  I suspect that for some, it’s like having your mother-in-law cooking in your kitchen.

Imagine the downside:

  • What if she takes over and starts telling me how to do things in my own kitchen?
  • What if she’s a better cook than I am and my family will prefer her cooking?
  • What if she doesn’t think I keep my cooking utensils clean enough or if she doesn’t have the same standards for cleanliness that I do?
  • What if she wants me to do some cooking technique I don’t know how to do and puts me on the spot?
  • Wouldn’t it be easier to do it my own way?

It can be much the same way when a teacher considers sharing her class with you to collaborate on projects or lessons.  For some teachers, it may just seem easier to do it themselves, and not at all worth the risk of having an extra pair of hands to assist with their work.

Further consider that with new curriculum standards, we are all being stretched and pushed to take risks in the classroom.  We are changing our practice to try to implement more complex and rigorous standards and that is stress inducing in and of itself.  For some of your teachers, bringing another professional into their classrooms may be something that feels intimidating rather than the supportive partnership we want it to be.

How can we support teachers in their risk-taking?  It may be hard to show them that by collaborating and co-teaching a lesson or unit with us that there are many gains, but research shows time and again that collaboration among instructional members of the staff increases student achievement.

Remind teachers that collaboration:

  • Enables them to tag team in and out of the lesson, taking turns as lead and support team member.
  • Brings in another set of eyes and ears to observe and assess student learning during the lesson.
  • Is a way to get non-supervisory/evaluative feedback before, during, and after the lesson.
  • Leverages the effort of two to an even greater sum by allowing for complementary talents to be utilized.

And do your best to check your overbearing tendencies at the door before sitting down to collaborate with the teacher.  Respect his/her knowledge and honor that this is his/her class and you are just an invited guest.  Keep your reflections to your own actions and make suggestions without pushing your own agenda.  You definitely want to be invited to cook in that teacher’s kitchen again.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday–I’m looking forward to spending it with my own mother-in-law, but we’re skipping the cooking and eating out this year!  Among my 2014 blessings I’m counting this wonderful opportunity to work with the AASL Blog Committee to share my soapbox thoughts with you all each Thursday.  See you in December!



What to Read Wednesday – National Book Award Finalists – Young People’s Literature November 19, 2014

Posted by Karin Perry in Check this out!.
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NBA finalists

Tonight is the Live Webcast of the 2014 National Book Awards Ceremony at 7:40 p.m., Eastern.

To view the ceremony on the web visit http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2014_ceremony.html#.VGvDMSjZqa8

All five of these books are wonderful so even the four that don’t win should definitely be on your reading list.

THREATENED by Eliot Schrefer

When he was a boy, Luc’s mother would warn him about the “mock men” living in the trees by their home — chimpanzees whose cries would fill the night.

Luc is older now, his mother gone.  He lives in a house of mistreated orphans, barely getting by.  Then a man calling himself Prof comes to town with a mysterious mission.  When Luc tries to rob him, the man isn’t mad.  Instead, he offers Luc a job.

Together, Luc and Prof head into the rough, dangerous jungle in order to study the elusive chimpanzees.  There, Luc finally finds a new family — and must act when that family comes under attack.

PORT CHICAGO 50 by Steve Sheinkin

On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, killing more than 300 sailors who were at the docks, critically injuring off-duty men in their bunks, and shattering windows up to a mile away. On August 9th, 244 men refused to go back to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. When the dust settled, fifty were charged with mutiny, facing decades in jail and even execution. This is a fascinating story of the prejudice that faced black men and women in America’s armed forces during World War II, and a nuanced look at those who gave their lives in service of a country where they lacked the most basic rights.

NOGGIN by John Corey Whaley

Listen — Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.

Now he’s alive again.

Simple as that.

The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but he can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he’s still 16 and everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too.

Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, then there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice.

REVOLUTION by Deborah Wiles

It’s 1964, and Sunny’s town is being invaded.  Or at least that’s what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote.  They’re calling it Freedom Summer.

Meanwhile, Sunny can’t help but feel like her house is being invaded, too.  She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe.  And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool — where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.

As she did in her groundbreaking documentary novel COUNTDOWN, award-winning author Deborah Wiles uses stories and images to tell the riveting story of a certain time and place — and of kids who, in a world where everyone is choosing sides, must figure out how to stand up for themselves and fight for what’s right.

BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jaqueline Woodson

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

What is your prediction? Which will win?

Tuesday Tech Tips – Flow and Gaming in Education November 18, 2014

Posted by Brooke Ahrens in Check this out!.
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This week’s blog post is by Diane Main, who is the Director of Learning, Innovation and Design (9-12) at The Harker School in San Jose, California.  She also presents regionally and nationally, mentors teachers through the MERIT program, and plays MinecraftEDU with her students.  Diane lives with her husband and ten year-old son in San Jose.

When I work on family history research, whether it’s for my own tree or a friend’s, I often find I lose track of time, get totally “in the zone,” and sometimes even forget to eat and sleep enough.  That combination of little successes and new challenges that pushes me to the edge of my abilities is something that is referred to as “flow.”  If you spend a lot of time with kids, you will have seen it when they are playing video games and can’t seem to put them down.  For others, it’s reading books or engaging in some hands-on hobby.  Flow is the apex of engagement and motivation.

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi pioneered the research into this phenomenon.  He was looking into happiness, creativity, and motivation, and developed what we now refer to as flow.  Flow is doing what you love and what you’re good at, but still being challenged by the activity.  We see this in education as well, but sadly we perhaps don’t see it often enough.  It is generally thought that the integration of technology into learning environments tends to instantly increase learner motivation and engagement.  While this may be true for a short time, unless the use of technology tools builds skills while also presenting appropriate challenges, it loses its motivational value.

As seen in this image from Wikipedia, flow exists at the intersection of high skill level and high challenge level.  The emotions that exist in the other regions of the chart are not really what we’re aiming for in learning situations.  This can be where games can swoop in to the rescue, as long as their introduction is meaningful and their use well thought-out.  Sometimes, it’s great to just have gaming breaks, using games of all kinds, to “reset” the brain and ignite motivation.  A quick round of charades or five minutes with Zombie Drop can be a great way to get kids to transition from one activity in class to another.

But there are some games that are becoming the platform for the learning itself, and that are being used for entire class periods over days or even weeks.  One such example is MinecraftEDU.  Most parents and educators have at least heard of Minecraft.  The educational version MinecraftEDU is only available to schools, and it is quickly becoming THE destination for teachers and students who want to maximize learner creativity and engagement in subjects from history and literature to math and science.  I teach a computer science course that functions as a survey of the field of computer science without focusing exclusively on programming.  We use MinecraftEDU to explore concepts in computer science (such as subroutines, abstraction, conditional statements, loops, and algorithms), to engage in the design thinking process by building homes for one another, and to explore introductory level programming with in-game robots called turtles.  Instead of learning about our content, my students get the chance to be immersed in a virtual world they can manipulate and learn from.

An unexpected benefit, the first few times I used MinecraftEDU with my high school students, was the community building that seemed to occur instantly when we began to use the game in class.  Students who had formerly kept to themselves and not spoken much in class suddenly appeared comfortable with me and the rest of their peers when they started interacting within the game environment.  And since most of them had never played Minecraft before, they had a lot to learn, which they did by figuring things out and then teaching each other.   Before long, my hesitant high schoolers were losing hours in the game world, building and communicating in ways none of us thought possible.  I had stumbled upon a way to bring them to a place of flow.  And now I’m hooked too.

Monday Means Leadership: Extracurricular Connections November 17, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Check this out!.
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On top of all the connecting, learning, teaching, and leading that we do on a daily basis in our library media programs, how do we make time to improve student and staff relationships and connections outside instructional time?  We sponsor extracurricular clubs!

Sponsoring an extracurricular activity or club is a great way to connect with the school community outside the academic arena. Leading a group of enthusiastic students in a club or co-sponsoring an activity with a colleague builds relationships that eventually impact our daily work and the school library program and can lead to more advocates for literacy, media and technology.

Leading an extracurricular club lets students and staff see us outside our school librarian roles.  They get to learn more about our interests, especially if we choose to advise or co-sponsor non-library clubs like the Math Counts team, a craft club, a coding club, the yearbook, or student council.  Teaching interested students to knit or crochet or to build robots or to craft debate strategies shows off our particular talents, empowers students with new skills, and provides a social backdrop for teaching, learning and supporting our students.

Even if we’re sponsoring a Newbery club or a girls’ book club or a Battle of the Books team, something more traditional to our teaching roles, the benefits to students, staff and ourselves are great.  We are often more relaxed and passionate because there are no grades involved and we all really want to participate in the activities.  Club time gives us more opportunity to get to know our students and staff, to learn about their personal lives and interests, and to build those crucial relationships.

What extracurricular activities do you sponsor at your school?  How does supporting students outside the classroom impact their achievement and your school library program?


Friday Finds November 14, 2014

Posted by Judy Deichman in Check this out!.
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Women in IT Leadership Positions

A new study was just released about our fellow workers in the technology education field.  This study looked at K-12 Technology Leadership.  The research was conducted by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).  There were many astonishing findings.  66 percent of IT Leaders are men.  Meaning women are less represented in leadership positions.  Men earn more in leadership positions than women in the exact same job.  Women have less prestigious job titles than men.

Counter that with the following stats:

The study found that 79 percent of women in school leadership positions have graduate degrees and only 68 percent of men have advanced degrees.

Women have many more years of technology industry experience than men in the same positions.

You can read the complete report at:


Let’s help promote fair and equal positions/earnings/treatment for all school employees!



Let’s Get Together Thursday – School and Public Library Shared Catalogs November 13, 2014

Posted by Jennifer Laboon in Check this out!.
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SPCL Collaboration

Have you ever wondered about collaborating with your public library on a shared circulation system? One small school district and their local library did just that, with good results! Guest blogger Linda Weatherspoon, a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee, follows up her post from last week by sharing how this partnership worked in her community.

In my last post, I shared a few ways I have collaborated with the public library in my community.  There is another one that I would like to share because it really brought the school district libraries and the public library together to benefit the children in our town.

This collaborative project resulted in a joint catalog/circulation system which was available to all students and public library patrons in our community. Since both the school and public libraries were ready to update our programs, all the librarians along with our respective tech directors worked with a well-known company to create a system where all our catalogs (4 school and 1 public) and circulation programs were connected. This joint system allowed our students to browse all the catalogs from one site and then place holds on the resources they wanted regardless of where the material was housed. As these materials were requested each day, the public librarians would pick-up and deliver the appropriate materials to the respective schools where the students would then check them out under their school accounts. The students would then return the materials to the school, where the public librarians would then pick them up for return to the appropriate library site.

As this collaborative effort evolved, the benefits were amazing. These included:

Students were able to receive materials quickly. This was important because of project deadlines and those students who just had to have the next book in the series right now!

Students were able to get books at their reading level.  An example of this was that I had a 5th grader who was reading at a 10th grade level.  This student had trouble finding fiction reading material for book reports in our library but when the joint catalog became available, she had access to both the high school collection and the public library collection.  And, she didn’t have to go to either place to get them.  They were delivered to her at our school!  The lower level readers also benefited because they now had access to more materials via the elementary and public library’s children’s collection.

Parents were appreciative of this joint catalog too. They were able to access the catalog from their home computers and help their child find appropriate resources. This saved parents time as the resources would then be delivered to the school where their child could use it or take it home.

Through the joint catalog, all libraries were able to make better use of our dwindling budgets. Since we knew we could get certain materials from our partners, we didn’t have to keep that resource in our collection. Both school district and city administrators appreciated this leveraging of resources.

I want to give a lot of credit to the public librarians, because if it weren’t for their willingness to coordinate the deliveries/pick-ups, this program would not have been as effective.

There are so many ways that you can collaborate with your public library! If you haven’t made this connection yet, what’s stopping you? Use the suggestions from these posts to give you the incentive to get over to your public library and start working on ways public/school cooperation can benefit your students.

What to Read Wednesday – Finishing School Series by Gail Carriger November 12, 2014

Posted by Karin Perry in Check this out!.
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etiquette and espionagecurtsies and conspiracies  waistcoats and weaponry

Series website – http://finishingschoolbooks.com/

Series website on the Author’s website – http://www.gailcarriger.com/books/finishing-school-series

Blurb from Book 1: ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother’s existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea–and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right–but it’s a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

This is a wonderful series. I’ve listened to them on audio and they absolutely fantastic! Such great recordings. Check it out yourself.  Here is an audio sample from Book 1.

Click the links below to purchase your own copies.
Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School Book 1)
Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School Book 2)
Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School)

Tuesday Tech Tips – 3 Programs to be Thankful For November 11, 2014

Posted by Brooke Ahrens in Check this out!.
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This week’s guest blogger is Okle Miller, she is a library media specialist at a K-5 elementary school in sunny Tampa, FL. She loves reading, technology, and helping students make connections with the world. You can find Okle on twitter at @oklemiller. When she remembers, she blogs at oneschoollibrarian.com.

Since it is the month of Thanksgiving, I thought I would write about the apps and programs I am thankful for in my library media center.Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 12.25.08 PM (Copy)

Wink (http://www.debugmode.com/wink/): I have used this program for years toScreen Shot 2014-11-08 at 10.31.30 PM (Copy) make tutorials for teachers and students. You start the program and then click the pause button for each screen shot.Wink puts all the shots conveniently in one folder, you can then add navigation buttons, audio and call out shapes to explain further.You can export it into several formats and it prints out nicely too if you want to give your teachers a print tutorial. Even if all you want to use Wink for is to make a series of screen shots it is a great time saver. The free download version is Windows (and some Linux) only, but the author is working on a mobile version.


Nearpod (http://www.nearpod.com/how-it-works/): This is a great program/app to create multimedia presentations that IMG_1388 (Copy)students can log into on almost any device.I use it with our school iPads. Even kindergarteners love it. I like that I can direct them with the presentation and advance the slides on all the iPads at once. There are interactive features built in so I can include quizzes, short answer questions and even drawings. The drawing slide is great for my kinders who aren’t writing yet. We did a Nearpod on school goals and the students drew their answers. From the teacher login I can share a student response on all the iPads. They loved seeing their picture appear on all their friends’ iPads.With the paid version you can make the presentations self-paced. You could assign Nearpod presentations as homework, or use it to train and evaluate library helpers. Check this one out the possibilities are endless!


Movenote (http://www.movenote.com/): I only recently discovered MovenoteScreen Shot 2014-11-09 at 12.24.58 PM (Copy) and am really excited about all the different ways I can use this web based application.Movenote allows you to create a video presentation with your slides displaying next to you. This is a great product for flipping your classroom. I was also thinking about using it as a combination of VoiceThread and Flipgrid (two other great web based applications.).
I am planning on using Movenote in November to record students talking about what they are thankful for. The students will first create a drawing, which I will upload to a Movenote presentation. Since you can pause the video while recording, I can have each student come up to talk about Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 10.38.16 PM (Copy)his or her drawing. Once the Movenote presentation is done you can share it several different ways. Here’s my example: https://www.movenote.com/v/fLPmnBvzRxkHM



All three of programs make my life in the library much easier and for that I am very thankful! Here’s hoping the are helpful for you too.

Friday Finds November 7, 2014

Posted by Judy Deichman in Check this out!.
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Teacher Librarians you can create videos with a pow!  Your students can create a video with a pow!  You can create, think, share, and grow…..all in an awesome cartoon video environment.  And it is free!



Check it out!