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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

Mondays Mean Advocacy: A Call to Action! March 17, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy, Check this out!.
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action-clapboardMost dictionaries define advocacy as “the act of supporting a cause or recommendation” and we think of advocating for our cause by sharing our position, our work, our interests with others, especially those that we hope will also support our cause.

But I like Dictionary.com’s definition of advocacy the best: active espousal.

We can TALK all we want to about issues, our concerns, and our good works, but we must ACT or encourage others to ACT on behalf of our cause if we want to see real change. 

We are usually comfortable calling ourselves advocates.  We advocate for our library media programs.  We advocate for school librarians in every school.  We advocate for better resources and better budgets to purchase those resources.  But advocating often implies just talking about those items.

We have a hard time thinking of ourselves as activists.  That term sometimes implies rowdy crowds chanting and holding signs outside legislative buildings, and we don’t want to necessarily see ourselves in those overt and vulnerable positions.

But if we are going to affect real change, we have to move beyond talking: we have to move to action.  We have to be willing to take a stand for school libraries and school librarians.  We have to be willing to create the posters, the elevator speeches, and the dynamic presentations and actively seek out the right stakeholders: school boards, legislators, parent boards, community businesses.  We may even have to be willing to get rowdy!


Monday Means Advocacy: Where do you hang your hat? March 3, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy, Learning Standards.
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At my library media learning team a few years ago, we looked at the beliefs that are the cornerstone for the standards in library media programs using the book, Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action (AASL, 2009).

First, we looked at the nine common beliefs through our own eyes, as library media coordinators. If we had to hang our hat on just one of the beliefs, where would we hang it? What did we see as our focus in our library media programs?

  • Reading is the window to the world.
  • Inquiry provides a framework for learning.
  • Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught.
  • Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs.
  • Equitable access is a key component for education.
  • The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.
  • The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
  • Learning has a social context.
  • School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.

We were split between two of the beliefs: ‘Reading is a window to the world’ and ‘School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills’. Some of us felt that reading was the main focus of our programs and our work with students while others took a broader approach to seeing themselves and their programs as the place, environment, and access to all. No real surprises there.

But when we looked at the beliefs from other perspectives, we began to see how others view the library media program and how this affects our work. We asked ourselves which belief our principals would hold up as the hallmark for the media program. What would our students say is the most important belief? And what about our parents and PTA? Where would the superintendent or the school board member hang her hat on these common beliefs?

That’s when we realized that we have to consider all perspectives about library media, our influence on others, and the advocacy to promote our entire program. If a teacher views the library media program as a place for reading and that’s it, will they ever begin to incorporate instructional technologies or encourage educational and social networking with their students? If our principal sees our program as the place for students to improve their technology skills, will we ever get a budget to purchase the latest and greatest fiction? If the superintendent is most worried about and focused on ethical behavior in use of information, will he recognize the need for inquiry and critical thinking skills within the framework of learning?

We as librarians know that these are a set of beliefs and one does not necessarily outweigh another. It’s important to understand the perspectives of all our users in order to meet their needs, build influence and advocate for out total program. However, our hat rack may tell a different story if we tend to hang our own hat on only one or two of the beliefs instead of wearing the many different hats of our profession.

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

Monday Means Advocacy: Library Legislative Day February 24, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy.
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National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) - May 5-6, 2014

From the American Library Association –

National Library Legislative Day is a two-day advocacy event where hundreds of library supporters, leaders and patrons gather in Washington, D.C. to meet with their members of Congress to champion national library funding. National Library Legislative Day also includes a virtual advocacy component for library supporters who cannot attend the Washington meetings—advocates have the option to work remotely to connect with legislators via phone calls, text messages, emails and social media platforms.

Twice I’ve had the opportunity to attend Library Legislative Day, representing school librarians in North Carolina and across the country.   One of those times was during the 1999 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and one of our goals was to make sure that school librarians had a voice as teachers for their students and for school library programs.

My attending NLLD was an eye-opening experience and an introduction to how policies and laws are really created and affected in our country.  After a full day of briefing with ALA representatives, lobbyists, and consultants, we attended a reception on Capitol Hill where we informally met senators, representatives, and legislative aides who listened to our elevator speeches and stories of “down home”.

The real meetings, however, were held the following day.  Constituents grouped themselves to meet with their representatives in their offices.  While the overall message conveyed and asked for was support of libraries at all levels, I was charged with sharing the school librarians’ message.  My two-three minutes of the agenda focused on the importance of highly qualified professionals at every school and well-funded programs with appropriate access to print materials.

The message to legislators does not seem to have changed in the last fifteen years: highly qualified school librarians and well-funded school libraries are essential to the education of our children.

I encourage you to watch the video of the North Carolina delegation to last year’s event - Library Legislative Day: A North Carolina Story, 2013 - in order to get a feel for the two days.

Take time to check the resources regarding NLLD and see how you can advocate for school libraries on May 6.  Or maybe connect with your state’s coordinator and book that trip to Washington, D.C. now!


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)


Monday Means Advocacy: Parents February 17, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy, Check this out!.
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Parents can be some our greatest advocates for supporting strong school library media programs.  Traditionally school librarians have appreciated the support of parents who have shelved books, manned the circulation desk and coordinated bookfairs.  But parents can do so much more to support library programs: they can share their technology expertise, they can tutor students face-to-face or virtually, and they can assist with clubs and library events.  They can be a powerful voice for support!

But how do school librarians get parents more involved?  

  • Join the PTA and attend regular meetings so that the school library program and the school librarian are seen as integral to the whole school curriculum.
  • Invite parents to serve on school media and technology committees so that they have input and buy-in to teaching and learning.
  • Communicate with parents about the teaching and learning happening in school libraries through PTA newsletters, media and school blogs, media and school websites, and Twitter postings.
  • Facilitate parent workshops on internet safety, social media, instructional technology, great YA reads, and other topics to bring parents to the school library.
  • Organize parent or parent/child book clubs to read the books their kids are reading or to read books on parenting.
  • Print and share the parent brochure on School Library Programs Improve Student Learning

Parents who are involved in our school libraries will share their experiences  and become advocates for strong programs. 

What do you do to get parents involved in your school library program?  How are parents supporting your efforts and advocating for libraries and librarians?



Technology Tuesday – IFTTT February 4, 2014

Posted by Karin Perry in Technology.
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IFTTT LogoAre you a busy person? Would you like some shortcuts for some basic tasks you do every day? Well, do I have the tool for you. IFTTT.com is so cool!

IFTTT description

Basically, you choose Channels and Triggers and Actions to create a Recipe. For example, I couldn’t find a good way to keep track of all my Tweets that I favorite so I created a Recipe to take care of it for me.  I chose to send every Tweet that I favorite to an Evernote notebook. My Recipe looks like this:

IFTTT twitter fav to evernote

Here is what my Evernote notebook looks like with my favorite Tweets.

Evernote Twitter Favs


I had the same issue with the Tumblr posts that I like, so I created another one for it.

IFTTT tumblr fav to evernote

Here is my Evernote Tumblr Favs:

Evernote Tumblr favs

Have you ever used IFTTT? If so, what Recipes have you created?

Monday Means Advocacy – Get the Word Out February 3, 2014

Posted by Karin Perry in Advocacy.
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lady talking on megaphone

Happy Monday to all. Welcome to the first day of the new AASL blog schedule. Each day will focus on a specific topic of interest to school librarians.  Today we start with Monday Means Advocacy.

How do you get the word out about your library? In this day of diminishing budgets it is imperative you tell the school and community what you can do for them. The research is out there to back you up. Visit Keith Curry Lance’s website for information and links to his recent School Library Impact Studies.

Take a look at 3.0 Where School Is Cool! Frontline Advocacy for School Libraries Toolkit from the ALA page for some great information.

So, what are some easy things you can do right away?

1. Use a Time Management Worksheet to keep track of all the classes you teach, the students that visit the library, and the activities you do each day and provide it, along with a weekly summary, to your principal. The principal needs to know what you do!

2. Let your voice be heard. Read short book reviews on the morning announcements and ask to share information at the faculty meeting.

3. Advertise. Create book review posters to hang around the school. (Invite students to submit their own to get more student involvement – hey, what about a contest??)

What do you do? We are a large organization and can generate a lot of ideas.  Please spread the word and post your ideas in the comments section of the blog. Let’s pull together and help each other.

Stay tuned for:

Technology Tuesday
What to Read Wednesday
Let’s Get Together Thursday
Friday Finds