Monday, December 5, 2016

Thoughts on Using Twitter for Good

I have been a Twitter user and fan since 2007. I use it primarily as a key component of my personal learning network (PLN). I follow mostly people who tweet insights that can improve my work as a teacher librarian and school library advocate.  For several years now, I have even been doing presentations about Twitter and teaching mini-courses on how to use it as part of a PLN.

I am well aware, though, that there are people who don’t see the value of Twitter.  In fact, I usually start my presentations and course introductions off by saying that a lot of people don’t get Twitter; they think it is used primarily by celebrities to share what they had for breakfast. And, alas, with the recent election and aftermath, we are seeing it more and more as a vehicle for rants and even fake news. Anyone who isn’t already a keen Twitter user has quite likely been put off the idea that it has any value at all.

Just the other day, I found myself wondering if, with all this misinformation and anger clogging the Twitter feed, I should still be promoting it as a valuable tool. Well, after some pondering, I concluded that yes, I should. I reminded myself of the advice I have always given new Tweeters: Twitter is all about how you use it. Let’s not let a tool that has value for keeping educators be better informed and helping students be co-opted by people using it to spread negativity.

So, please:

  • Don’t let sensationalist ranters clog your feed. You can unfollow people who rant, and when/if rants or misinformation sneaks in, just scroll on, or reply and correct it. 
  • Contribute good to Twitter by sharing your own good ideas, links to good ideas you’ve read, and positive thinking. Remember that positive thinking is contagious!

“Evaluating Information: the Cornerstone of Civic OnlineReasoning,” a study just issued by the Stanford History Research Education Group, found that 6-12 and college students’ ability to judge the credibility of online information was disturbingly poor.  We clearly need to be teaching students these skills. If you are a teacher librarian or classroom teacher, also consider including Twitter in these lessons. You can share sample tweets with your students and have them determine the source and whether, in the case of celebrity accounts, the tweeter account is verified; whether the source has credentials to be trusted for information shared; and whether facts shared can be triangulated (i.e., are they in sync with other sources). The Stanford study shares tasks that can be used with students and both as formative assessments and the basis for lessons on all forms of social media, including Twitter.

If you aren’t on Twitter yet, or you haven’t been taking advantage of it to enrich your personal learning network, don't let the negative stuff you hear about keep you away. And, consider attending my concurrent session on Twitter at the CSLA Conference February 3, or my four-week Twitter class for AASL member starting March 6.




Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Open Letter to Donald Trump

An open letter to President-elect Donald Trump,

I have always focused in this blog on school libraries and education, not on politics.  Right now, though, I feel that I must articulate at least some of my thoughts following last week’s election.

I have never made my political views a secret, and everyone who knows me knows that I was devastated by the presidential election results last week. It wasn’t just that my candidate didn’t win; I was also extremely troubled to see how deeply polarized our country is. Clearly, the Democratic Party has lost touch with how many Americans feel angry and left behind. And, I was shocked how many of those voters who I am confident are good, caring people who love their families and their communities, were able to overlook your racist, misogynistic, bullying rhetoric and actions both before and during the campaign.

Okay, so I have vented, and now I am ready to try to move on to the real purpose of my letter. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton have urged all of us who voted for Clinton to accept the results and to give you a chance to succeed in your new role as President-elect, and soon our President. As I try to do that, I have some requests that I believe are vital to success in your role:

1.     Mr. Trump, it is imperative that you immediately, publicly denounce the support of hate organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and denounce all of the hate statements and acts we are seeing cropping up across the nation. You need to make a definitive public statement about each one that has been reported, reminding Americans that intolerance is not acceptable in our nation.
2.     Immediately reverse your plan to appoint Stephen Bannon as chief strategist. His white supremacist, racist views and affiliations have no place in an administration that you promised, in your acceptance speech, to be for all Americans.
3.     I have a lot more things I’d like to ask for, like strong support of education,  environmental issues, and women’s right to choose, but I would be foolhardy to expect you to suddenly reverse your political views.  Please, though, remember that you were elected in good part by people who have felt left behind. Do not abandon these same people by taking away the health care benefits that many of them have acquired thanks to the Affordable Care Act. And do not put immigrants raised in this country in fear of deportation or separation from their families.
4.     Finally, you commented on how gracious President Obama has been in offering support during the transition period. It would be a statesman-like reciprocal act of courtesy on your part to both publicly and privately remind members of the Senate that it is their constitutional responsibility to act on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee before the end of this session. 


Please remember that our children – who we as educators and parents teach every day to be kind and accepting of others – are watching. The rest of the world is also watching. Begin your administration by denouncing hate, and gathering people about you who do also.

Sincerely,

Jane Lofton

Sunday, October 23, 2016

SLJ Leadership Summit 2016


(This posting is, in part, cross-posted from my posting on Mackin TYSL Blog.)

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending School Library Journal’s 12th Annual SLJ Leadership Summit in our nation’s capital. This year’s theme was “Taking Charge in the New ESSA Era.” Two of the sessions -- one of a panel of superintendents and the other of state and national education leaders --  focused specifically on ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, and ESSA talk wove throughout the weekend. The speakers all stressed that the time is NOW for school districts and states to capture federal ESSA funding; it is our job to advocate with our districts and states to take advantage of language in the act allowing funding to support school libraries. For example, Dr. Pam Moran, Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia, reminded us that librarians are connectors, curators, collaborators, resourcers of what teachers need to help their students. The summit sessions helped us to better understand the different parts of the act and funding options we can link to, such as leading and providing professional development in the use of educational technology and providing equity of access to all students.


Sara Trettin, from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, also helped us make the link between ESSA and the Future Ready Schools initiative, and the important role that school librarians can play in being the leading edge of the digital transformation of learning.


As noted at the summit, AASL provides a wealth of materials to support our ESSA efforts on its website along with sponsoring workshops in each state. School Library Journal will also be posting resources shared at the summit on the summit site.


A super high energy component of the summit was the “Hackathon” organized by Joyce Valenza and Michelle Luhtala. Participants broke into groups and brainstormed solutions to 11 selected important issues in school libraries. Each group also worked on how their challenges and solutions tie into ESSA. Check this video summary of the practical, as well as entertaining share outs. The hackathon even spawned some new vocabulary: librarians as “resourcerers” and “COLLABORACADABRA!,” a proposed web-based advocacy tool. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see these two terms enter our vernacular!

Another highlight of the summit were the author sessions. Shaun David Hutchinson, author of We Are the Ants, brought the room to tears reminding us of the vital need to support and share books that will allow students to find themselves in them and know they are not alone. But, nothing matched the visit of Congressman John Lewis and his co-author Andrew Aydin, of the March graphic novel series about the Civil Rights Movement. Lewis urged us to follow his lifelong example:  when we witness injustice, we need to find a way to get in the way and work to correct it. We need to do that in the political world, and on behalf of our students. 

Here is a photo with John Lewis, along with my summit buddy Deb Schiano, that I’ll treasure:


Many, many thanks to School Library Journal, all its staff, and the other sponsoring organizations for this gift of information and inspiration. If you missed this one, make it a priority to attend next fall!

On my home, I started reading Hutchinson's We Are the Ants. I knew from his talk that it wouldn't be easy reading. Rather, it is, as he explained, the kind of book that he needed to read to help him not feel alone when he was young. Henry, the main character, is dealing with the challenges of being gay, bullying, depression, his boyfriend's suicide, his father's abandonment of his family, his grandmother's Alzheimers, and more. On top of all that, he is repeatedly abducted by aliens who are forcing him to make a decision as to whether the world is worth saving from destruction. You can't read this book without rooting for Henry, and feeling empathy for his challenges. I really loved it! Librarians and teachers will definitely want to share it with students who will relate to Henry and come away feeling less alone in their own challenges.

Next on my list is Lewis and Aydin's March trilogy.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Leverage Library Orientations to Reach Students AND Teachers


(Cross-posted on the Mackin TYSL Blog)

If you are a teacher librarian, I know you are always learning about new ideas, skills, and ways of doing things that can enhance learning, engagement, and/or efficiency for students and teachers alike. But, it’s frequently a challenge finding the opportunities to share all we want to with either group. One way to expose both students and teachers to new concepts and skills simultaneously, thus getting double mileage from the time, is to introduce them during library orientations. Here’s an example from my high school  library.

When I attended a Google Teacher Academy in Summer 2014, I got to preview Google Classroom, which was about to be introduced that Fall. I wanted my teachers to learn about it and consider using it with their students. Also at that time, we all had access to GAFE accounts in my district, but there was no policy requiring that either students or teachers use them. Most teachers and students alike still used personal Gmail accounts, making sharing documents and communications much more challenging. I wanted to make sure both students and teachers knew about their GAFE accounts. So, I incorporated both logging into their GAFE accounts and a Google Classroom I set up into the Freshman students orientation. And, just in case some of my teachers were tempted to use the time for their own work instead of participating or paying attention, I included a “share out” at the end and made several announcements to each class that their teacher would be wanting to see their great work.

Of course, you will have your own priorities of what you want to introduce students and teachers to. But, feel free to use my orientation agenda as a template if you like. Here’s how it worked:
All the activities were set out in a Google Form, which walked students through using our library website, library catalog, and QR codes;  browsing the shelves; accessing Google Apps for Education accounts, Google Classroom, and Google Slides; and culminated with students each sharing a slide they created within a shared Google class slideshow. Their slides each shared something they were passionate about and book they found that could contribute to that interest I also incorporated validation into the Google Form so that for the couple of questions that had specific correct answers, the students would have to persist until they got them right. I provided very minimal instruction at the beginning and focused on empowering them to work together and read instructions to learn about all these tools and progress independently.

And, while some students did the minimum, many got excited about personalizing their slides and reflecting their personal interests and personalities. Their teachers then got to hear something about each of their students interests, and, at the same time, saw the power of using the GAFE accounts, Google Classroom, and Google Slides.

Here is a flowchart of how the activity worked:


If you want to use this as a template, but don’t use GAFE, you could skip the GAFE and Google Classroom sign ins and simply set a Google Slides show to be editable by “anyone with the link.”



Click this link to see the full form. For more information about this activity, see this posting on my library blog about the 2014 orientation, or this one about 2015, or, of course, contact me with any questions.

Whatever your priorities are for your library orientations, consider leveraging them to share new concepts, tools, and ideas with both your students and your teachers.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Navigating the New Google Hangouts on Air


I've been a big fan of Google Hangouts on Air since it debuted several years ago. It's been a great tool for connecting both our students and us educators in live video events that can both be streamed live for viewers and automatically recorded for later viewing. My colleagues and I have used it to:
  • Connect students with other students. I have used it for Mystery Hangouts, World Read Aloud Day, and our Somewhat Virtual Book Club. 
  • Connect students with experts in any field, authors, and more. It's often a whole lot easier to schedule a guest speaker virtually than in person.
  • Connect with other librarians and teachers for one-on-one virtual conversations, committee meetings, webinars, and the TL News Night newscast.
  • Record my conference presentations, interviews, and more.
  • Record lessons that can then serve as "rewindable instruction." (Thanks to Nikki Robertson for that term.)
Many of us were taken by surprise and concern to read headlines and articles earlier this month indicating that Google Hangouts on Air was going away. Here's an example from Venture Beat. The good news is that we - and some of the article writers, I believe - overreacted. Fortunately, it's not going away, it is simply "moving house" from Google+ to YouTube Live. Here is a link to Google's help page on the topic. If you like, you can stop reading this and just go to that link. But, for those of you interested, I wanted to share a bit more fleshed out instructions on how to set up a Hangout on Air in the new environment. So, after some testing it all out, here goes:

Set up your hangout

  1. Go to Youtube.com.
  2. Click the "hamburger" icon, select My Channel from the left-hand menu that displays, then Video Manager.
  3. On the left side menu, you will now see Live Streaming as an option. Click small arrow to the right of that to display two options under it.


  4. Click Events under Live Streaming.
  5. Click New Live Event
  6. Fill in all the details on the Live Event Page. Change Public to Unlisted if you want to restrict viewing during the live hangout to just people you share the link with. For events like the Somewhat Virtual Book Club, we always keep it unlisted until after the event is over and we are comfortable making the archive public. Choose Quick as the Type. After you select Quick, you can change TODAY and NOW to any future date and time. Then, click Create Event to create your event.
Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 2.55.05 PM.png

You will now see a screen displaying upcoming events. If you have more than one, the new event should be at the bottom. It will look like this:








    When you click the Start Hangout on Air button, the hangout will open. In the hangout, hover your cursor at the top of the window until you see this line of icons:
    Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 5.17.23 PM.png


    1. Click the left-hand “Invite People” icon. This pop-up will display:

    2. Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 5.06.32 PM.png

    3. Copy the Link to share URL into your clipboard. Send this link to people you plan to have participate in the hangout. With it, they will easily be able to join the hangout as participants at the designated time and you won’t need to rely on creating last minute invitations.
    4. Close the hangout and go back to the event listing.
    5. If you want to also invite people to view the live stream of your hangout, click the link icon:


    6. When you click the link icon, it will open up the event information page again, but it now has a View on Watch Page option at the top.
    7. Click the View on Watch Page option to open up a viewing page:

    8. Copy this URL to share as an audience viewing link. This event page also offers the option of adding comments over on the right. If you plan to have people view the live stream, be sure to keep this event window open so you can monitor comments.

    Running a Hangout on Air

    1. To return to a scheduled hangout and start your broadcast, go to YouTube.com.
    2. Click the "hamburger" icon, select My Channel from the left-hand menu that displays, then Video Manager.

    1. Choose Live StreamingEvents from the left menu, then find the hangout event in the list of Upcoming events.
    1. Click the Start Hangout On Air button in the event listing:
    1. Once you open the hangout, it will look exactly like Hangouts on Air created through Google+. All the same options are still available, with the exception of the Q & A and Showcase options. You can screen share, chat, add effects and lots more:

    Google has also just added a feature to cast your screen to a TV or other larger device. Check the announcement here. I haven't had a chance to test out this feature yet.
    1. At the scheduled time, start your video recording, by clicking the Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 5.27.00 PM.png button. (Note that you need to enter the hangout from the Events listing as described above; you won’t see it if you use the invite link you copied to share with others.)
    2. When the session is finished, click the Stop the broadcast button.

    After the Broadcast

    After you finish your broadcast, you can return to the event and change the public/unlisted/private setting if you like, get the link to share the broadcast with others, and use any of YouTube's other editing tools. To do that:

    1. Go back to YouTube, select Live Streaming -> Events again, and find the hangout in the list of Completed events. Click Edit:

    2. If you want to change from Unlisted to Public, click the Unlisted option, and select Public from the drop-down menu. Then, Save Changes, and copy the URL to share:

    1. YouTube auto-generates a thumbnail that will appear to identify the recording from one snapshot in the video, but you can change it if you want. You can select one of the other two automatically generated by YouTube, or you can screen capture another photo from the hangout and upload that for the thumbnail. You can also edit your description and add keywords on this screen.
    2. To crop out unwanted sections from your video, add annotations, and more, select the options at the top of the screen.

    Happy Hanging Out!



    Sunday, August 14, 2016

    Laguna Beach EdTechTeam Google Summit

    For a booster shot of of inspiration, use-tomorrow ideas and new skills, and great networking, check out the EdTechTeam's year round schedule of Google for Education Summits in your neighborhood and around the globe. Each of the summits last two days and include three keynote sessions and eight concurrent session slots.

    I was delighted to attend and present at the Orange County Summit in Laguna Beach last week (August 9 - 10). Roni Habib, our opening keynoter, kicked off the summit reminding us to always, always put our students' well-being first. He shared how people learn in a much deeper way when they are happy and that relationships are biggest predictor of happiness as well as longevity. He urged us to take the time for some play with our students and to attend to each of them individually. We even all took a few minutes to play during his talk, and went away in upbeat moods, more ready to learn during the rest of the day.

    I presented two sessions on Tuesday. The first was to get attendees up and running with Twitter as a must-use part of a personal learning network. Here are the slides:



    The second was on all things Google images - how to use Google to find, enhance, and create images, and guidelines on copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use to let you know what you can and can't use in classroom and published works. Here are the slides:



    My slides are never intended to be self-explanatory, so do contact me with any questions.

    I also enjoyed learning about WeVideo, a great cloud-based video editing tool, from Greg Gardner. And, Kevin Fairchild helped me learn what I can do with simple scripting in Google Sheets.

    We began Wednesday with a keynote by Jeff Heil, who asked us to consider what if every child believed s/he had the power to change the world? Like Roni Habib, he stressed the importance of building relationships. He urged us to go for moonshot thinking, not allow failure as an option for our students, and to help give the voiceless a voice to tell their stories and thereby transform their learning.

    I presented three sessions on Wednesday. The first was about Google Forms, including all the amazing ways they can be used to gather data and go paperless, how to create them, and how to take advantage of special features and add-ons. Here are my slides. Even if you weren't at the summit, you can see an example of using Forms with the great Publisher add-on if you fill out the form on Slide 2; you'll get an automatically-generated Google Doc back.



    My next session was about Google Slides, with a focus on its Research Tool feature and how to use it to easily introduce the concepts of Copyright, Creative Commons, giving credit, and respect for intellectual property with students:



    I also shared several innovative ways to use Google Slides beyond their traditional role of supporting presentations.

    In my last presentation, I shared some of the ways to take advantage of Google Hangouts and Hangouts on Air tools and the mechanics of setting them up:



    During my one free concurrent session time, I went to one by Tracy Poelzer on a wide variety of great ways to connect our students with the world. Many of her suggestions could be handled through Google Hangouts, and I urged attendees at my Hangouts session to visit her slides and resources for more help taking advantage of Hangouts.

    The summit wrapped up with a keynote by Tracy on how to overcome the imposter syndrome most of us teachers feel. She urged us to stop comparing our insides to other people's outsides, to still the voice inside us that puts ourselves down, and to be aware how contagious emotions are. We as teachers need to realize and celebrate that we are NOT "just" teachers; we are really big deals! A book she recommended as a followup, which is now on my "to read list," is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown.

    What a super way to spend two days, learning and networking with other enthusiastic educators! It's also always great fun reconnecting with old friends. Here's me with Kevin Fairchild, one of my Mountain View Google Teacher Academy (#GTAMTV14) cohort members:



    And, here I am with my teacher librarian friend, Kat Tacea.


    And, of course, I met so many new friends! Here's a tweet from one of them, Shannon Bray:





    Thanks, Shannon! I should have had the camera out more often to document so many new friends!

    Many thanks to the EdTechTeam and Master of Ceremonies Kate Petty for a terrific summit!, to see more about what the EdTechTeam is up to, follow the #gafesummit hashtag on Twitter.


    Monday, August 8, 2016

    My recent trip and other adventures


    Yikes! I've now been officially "retired" for seven weeks. It sure doesn't seem like that much time could have passed! So ... what have I been up to?

    Well, definitely my most significant activity was my husband's and my two-week trip to Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. It was an incredible experience, enjoying the rich culture, history, and people of each country; witnessing how these countries support high quality, free education, social welfare, and health care for all their people; and enjoying some of the world's most magnificent scenery. Since we were on a Stanford Travel/Study tour, we also benefited from great lectures and discussions with Professor Ed Steidle and we enjoyed making friends with the other three dozen members of our group.

    A good chunk of the rest of these seven weeks has also involved the trip. I spent much of the two weeks after school was out getting ready for the trip. You know, deciding what to take, packing, and so on. Actually, I spent quite a lot more than two weeks, since I did a lot of both fiction and nonfiction reading over the last few months related to our destinations. The two books I think I enjoyed the most were The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth, and The Redbreast by JoNesbø, translated by Dan Bartlett. In a very tongue-and-cheek style, Booth shares lots of insight into these countries and what is unique about their people. (It also made me want to go back and visit Iceland and Finland sometime soon!) Redbreast is a crime novel set partly in contemporary Oslo and partly during World War II, with the later focusing on the Norwegians who volunteered to fight with the Nazis against the Soviets and later tried as traitors. I was actually reading The Redbreast during the trip, and loved the coincidence of visiting the Akershus Fortress and its Norwegian World War II Resistance Museum on the same day that one of the book's characters goes to that same locale.

    And, what about after the trip? We all know it takes longer to recover from a long trip than to take it, right? But I have also been occupied making a Shutterfly scrapbook. I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I completed it last week, curating from over 600 photos I took with my iPhone. I can't wait to get the printed copy in the mail next week. I appreciate how rich, enjoyable, and educational the trip was all the more after reliving it in scrapbook-making mode. Here is a small selection of the photos I added to a Google Photo Album.


    If you want to see the full scrapbook, send me an email.

    I've also been busy preparing to present sessions for an EdTechTeam Google Summit in Laguna Beach, CA, starting tomorrow (August 9). I'm looking forward to sharing five different sessions tomorrow and Wednesday, on Twitter, Google Images, Google Forms, Google Slides, and Google Hangouts. I'll post my slides links in another blog entry right after I get back.

    And, finally, I've spent some time pondering my next steps: how I want to refocus this blog, what my new priorities will be with my new retirement adventure, and how to "rebrand" myself. Clearly, I need a bit more time for all this. With the summit coming up tomorrow, I did order new business cards, and decided, for now anyway, to go with Teacher Librarian now "in the wild" as my "title." I really don't think of myself as being retired; rather, I'm moving on to new ways of supporting school libraries, education, and educational technology. Here's what the cards look like:


    I guess I'll see over time if that new "title" works for me.

    I also made what was for me, a big, probably very overdue, change. I finally let my beloved avatar go on my Twitter account, changing over to a photo. I set up my Twitter account in 2007, and I really, really love the manga avatar I chose to represent me. Back then, I was still a bit wary of having my photo online. And, I was working at the middle school level, and I wanted to model to my students how having an avatar is a fun way to have an online personality while still protecting their identities. And, to be honest, I love my avatar because her hair is a much brighter red than my own, her eyes always stay wide open, and she has no wrinkles. But ... I've been teaching a number of classes and leading sessions on Twitter recently, and I always give the advice that it is best to use a photo so that, when you meet members of your PLN in person, they will easily recognize you. At long last, I've decided to practice what I preach, and am now represented by a photo on Twitter:


    As for the rest of my rebranding and refocusing, please bear with me as I take some time to work this "new adventure" all out.