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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

Monday Means Leadership: Supporting the Right to Read September 15, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy, Check this out!, Intellectual Freedom.
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Banned Books Week, scheduled for September 21-27, 2014, celebrates our right to read.  Launched in 1982, this celebration of free speech finds many libraries providing information about censorship and intellectual freedom to their patrons through displays, programs and other events.

In 2013, six of the ten most challenged books were found in children’s and young adult sections of libraries.  The only way that we can continue to provide open access to all materials is through education, standing up and speaking out about our right to read and our students’ right to read.

How do you support your colleagues’ and students’ right to read?

For more resources on celebrating Banned Books Week and educating about censorship and intellectual freedom, check the links at ALA’s Banned Books website.

Monday Means Advocacy: Library Snapshot Day August 11, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy.
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From the American Library Association advocacy resources:

Library Snapshot Day 

Library Snapshot Day provides a way for libraries of all types across a state, region, system or community to show what happens in a single day in their libraries. How many books are checked out?   How many people receive help finding a job? Doing their taxes? Doing their homework? This initiative provides an easy means to collect statistics, photos and stories that will enable library advocates to prove the value of their libraries to decision-makers and increase public awareness.

School librarians can use Library Snapshot Day to provide a look into their library media programs for administrators and teachers, PTA leaders and parents, district leaders and school board members, as well as community and business partners and government officials.
How would use the Library Snapshot Day plan to advocate for your library media program and school librarians?

Monday Means Advocacy: Communicating Our Professional Goals August 4, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy.
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Each year we as school librarians set literacy, media and/or digital technology goals for our library media programs.  We set achievement goals for our students and instructional goals for ourselves to help students meet those achievement levels.  We also set goals to help us grow professionally.

But how do we communicate those professional goals to our community and stakeholders?  Are we utilizing all of our communication methods to let our school and community know our professional goals which will ultimately impact the students in our schools?

  • Staff presentations – Make sure we are on the agendas for those beginning of the year staff meetings.  Even a two-minute well-done video or PowerPoint can communicate to staff our goals for the new school year.
  • Social media – Posting that same presentation to our library media center Facebook or Twitter or blog allows folks to view at their leisure multiple times.  A well-done infographic about the year’s goals posted on social media is another great way to inform others.
  • Newsletters – Are we listing our goals in our media and technology newsletter? What about the PTA newsletter? What about other department newsletters (guidance, health/PE, etc.) where we show the collaboration with those teachers and staff and the overall impact to students?

What are other ways you choose to communicate your professional goals with students, staff, parents, and the community partners?

Monday Means Advocacy: Partnerships July 28, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy, Check this out!.
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A partnership is an arrangement in which parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. (Wikipedia)

Public library partnership – In a research study on the public library-school library connection, the successful relationship between the two partners shows the positive impact to education reform and student achievement.  Working together, the public and school libraries can form networks for resource sharing, develop complementary collections, provide information services and instruction, and encourage reading and literacy.

Civic organization partnerships – Partnerships between school libraries and civic organizations benefit students, teachers, and parents.  Many civic organizations support literacy programs with funding and through mentoring and tutoring.  Civic organizations can assist with speakers and training to support teachers and parents.

Business partnerships – Depending on the particular needs or theme (arts, STEM, technology, etc.) of your school, community business partnerships can enhance your school library program and the entire school.  For example, school libraries in STEM schools can partner with businesses such as SAS, BASF and Red Hat to provide insight into science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, supporting the school’s STEM initiatives through funding, resources, speakers, mentoring, instruction and presentations.

What partnerships have you created between your school library and businesses or community organizations?  How will forming partnerships with these groups benefit your school library?

Monday Means Advocacy: Advisory Committee July 13, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy.
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meetingDo you have an advisory committee for your library?  An advisory committee is a representative team of teachers, administrators, parents and students who review library policies and procedures, assist with library media initiatives, create  budgets, assist with library programming and events, and promote and advocate for the library program.

Your advisory committee should be made up of the following members:

  • school librarian
  • technology facilitator
  • administrator
  • teachers representing each grade level and core subject
  • teachers representing electives, specialists and administrative staff
  • parents
  • students

Your advisory committee should review and assist with the following policies, procedures, and initiatives:

  • collection development and collection policies
  • facilities management
  • budget and funding
  • literacy, media and instructional technology initiatives
  • challenges and materials reconsideration policies
  • mission, vision, and advocacy plan
  • program evaluation

How do you see an advisory committee making an impact on your work as a school librarian and your library program?

Monday Means Advocacy: Collection Development June 29, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy.
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STEM Recyle display

When students and teachers look for print and electronic resources in your school library, are they likely to find what they want?  Does your collection meet the needs of your community?  Is your collection up-to-date? Do you have copies of the latest award-winning books?

Or are patrons disappointed by the selection in your library? Do they complain about the lack of materials and the outdated resources?  Are there no popular titles on display?

Having a strong print and non-print collection that meets the needs of your school community speaks volumes. (Pun intended!) But the only way to do this is to have an appropriate collection development plan with supporting policies in place at your individual school or at the district or state level.

Under the AASL Essential Links: Resources for School Library Program Development, you can find links to resources to support your collection development work.  The bibliography suggests three strong titles by respected colleagues in school librarianship.  The links to collection mapping and collection development and selection policies will help you create a comprehensive plan to get and keep your program on track.

Photograph: Environmental resources display in the library at East Cary Middle School, a STEM school. (D.Harris)


Monday Means Advocacy: Annual Reports June 22, 2014

Posted by Deanna Harris in Advocacy.
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ECMS Media Center

As the school year ends, school librarians find themselves completing inventories, chasing down overdue books, converting our spaces to testing sites, and compiling to-do lists a mile long to wrap up projects, instruction, and other items.  Hopefully one of those items on our lists is preparing our annual reports.

My district requires that we complete a two page report providing the number of books, periodicals, etc., in our collection, noting the numbers that were weeded and purchased in the given school year, and detailing the funding sources for said resources.  My state  requires us to complete an annual media and technology report which focuses more on the technology in our schools but also highlights print and electronic resources, average publication dates, and circulation statistics.

While these are great reports to wrap up the year and provide some small insight into the media and technology in our schools, these reports do not showcase the instruction, professional development, and literacy initiatives that occurred throughout the year.  To actively advocate for school librarians and school library media programs, we must provide the best documentation possible, a comprehensive year-end or annual report, that will highlight more than circulation statistics and material counts.

Here are some examples to help us get started with our annual reports:

  • Springfield Township High School Library Annual Report – Former school librarian Joyce Valenza used her annual report to highlight curricular connections, her professional development activities, trends and patterns in usage both on- and offline,  and included issues, plans and goals for the next school year.
  • Wendell Middle Media Center Annual Report – Media coordinator Linda Dextre uses her annual report to highlight the teaching and learning, events and activities from the learning commons, budget analysis including operation losses, and quotes and pictures.
  • Durant Middle School Media Center Annual Report – Media coordinators Kristen Ziller and Janice Edwards include their SMART goal in their report, as well as a infographic to give a quick view of the year.

Jennifer LaGarde, “librarian ambassador and education road warrior” at Adventures of Library Girl, provides additional insight and information about creating annual reports in her blog, School Library Annual Reports: Connecting the Dots Between Your Library and Student Learning.   We cannot see our annual reports as one more thing to do on our already full plate. We must view these reports as the advocacy tool that they are:  promoting teaching and learning, documenting the impact to student achievement, highlighting the professional development and growth in us and our staffs, and showcasing the resources, usage trends/patterns, and literacy initiatives happening at our schools.