Sunday, July 22, 2012

CSLA 2012 Conference - Join Us!

As current CSLA President Elect, my biggest responsibility is overseeing our 2012 Annual Conference, slated for San Jose November 16-19. I actually first started working on it about a year ago,  when I sent out a survey to our members about their preferences for locations. It's now four months away, and we just passed a big milestone when we opening registration early this month. Please visit  our conference wiki to get all the information about the schedule and how to register and book your room at the Marriott.

Also, please check out this short movie to learn about some of the highlights. I just learned this week about Powtoon this week. It has a lot of cool, fun features that makes creating animation easy, and I wanted to try it out. One of my favorite features is the hand that can be used to sweep items on and off the screen. This embed is the YouTube version. Powtoon makes exporting to YouTube very easy.  I can definitely see using this new tool for virtual lessons or library information films on my library website and blog.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Google Search Education Portal

As a Teacher Librarian, many of my class lessons focus on offering pathfinders and pointing students to the best quality sources available for their research projects. At the top of most of my pathfinders are any subscription databases (mostly those accessible to us through our county library system) that might help with their topics, since I want them to know about the best quality sources available. I am very well aware, though, that even when I am able to offer links to great databases for a given assignment, most of the students will prefer "Googling" it. I think we do a diservice to our students when we simply point to good sources and don't also teach them the best ways to ferret the information out of these sources using good search strategies and how to effectively search and evaluate information on the open web.

I was delighted this week to learn about Google's new Search Education Hub, which offers lesson plans, slides, and videos to help students and educators alike learn effective search and evaluation techniques, including:
  • Picking the right search terms
  • Understanding search results
  • Narrowing a search to get the best results
  • Searching for evidence for research tasks
  • Evaluating credibility of sources
For each of these topics, there is a beginner, intermediate, and advanced lesson option. So far, I have checked out the beginning search terms lesson, the advanced evaluating credibility lesson, and several in between. I learned some techniques I didn't know in each of them, so I know they will provide my students and classroom teachers alike with new information and skills. I definitely plan to go through each of these for my own review and new information, and to find ways to share them with students and teachers.

Here's a video introduction:

Thanks so much to Tasha Bergson-Michelson, Google Search Educator, for leading the team developing these and for sharing them with me. Those of you attending the CSLA (California School Library Association) Annual Conference in November will have the great opportunity to hear Tasha's keynote presentation on Saturday, November 17 on "Curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking: Why school libraries matter more than ever." You can also plan to arrive early on November 16 and participate in the pre-conference tour of Google along with a special Google workshop. Do put these dates on your calendar now!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why I Present and You Should Too

The first time I did a presentation for a CSLA event, during a Southern Section Workshop, I have to admit that I was extremely nervous and I promised myself on my way there that I would never put myself through that stress again. Well, I broke that promise less than a week later when I submitted a proposal to speak at the next CSLA Annual Conference. Why? Well, here are just a few of the reasons why my very first presentation at a school library professional event got me hooked:
  • I learn so much about my topic every time I prepare a presentation.  Whatever I may know about a topic before I start planning my talk, I always develop further expertise as I do more research, look for additional resources to share, and ponder how I am going  to organize what I say. If there is something you want to become an expert at, volunteer to do a presentation about it; you will grow into that expertise as you prepare.
  • I learn so much during the presentation itself. I learn which delivery techniques work, which don’t so well, and what I can change the next time. I learn from the questions members of the audience ask that may make me think about the topic in a new way. Questions also give me the validation of realizing how much I really know about my topic that others want to hear about from me.
  • I learn related new skills, such as how to better exploit the capabilities of presentation and graphics software. I first learned, which is now my favorite presentation application, because I set myself a challenge to use it for a presentation that was coming up.  
  • I meet new friends and my PLN (personal learning network) grows. There is nothing more gratifying than having people introduce themselves and tell me they enjoyed hearing my talk.
  • And, yes, I definitely get an adrenal rush from the stress beforehand, a few moments in the spotlight during it, and the satisfaction afterwards of a job well done. And, yes, I bet you will too. :)  

So, treat yourself to some fun, hard work, and a growing experience: prepare a proposal to present a concurrent session at the CSLA 2012 Conference in San Jose. Concurrent Session Chairs Ellie Goldstein-Erickson and Sandra Lane await your submissions! Proposals are due on April 14. Visit this link for information.

If you are reading this and have already had the great experience of presenting, please share a comment about why YOU choose to present.

(cross-posted to

Sunday, February 5, 2012

UC Davis Academic Literacy Summit

(If you happen to follow my Mira Costa Library blog, please excuse the cross-posting. I wanted to be sure to share this review of my experience at the UC Davis Academic Literacy Summit as widely as possible.)

I was very fortunate last Thursday to attend UC Davis’s fifth annual Academic Literacy Summit. My attendance was sponsored by Stacey Aldrich, California State Librarian, who funded participation by 10 statewide teacher librarians and 10 public librarians. The summit, with approximately 200 K-16 educators, explored the topic “What’s at the Core of Academic Literacy,” with special focus on the new Common Core Standards. A huge plus of the summit for me was the opportunity to share ideas with educators from multiple grade levels, ranging from elementary school through college.

The opening presentation of the day was a teaching demonstration by Jose Rivas, Physics and Engineering Teacher at Lennox Math, Science, and Technology Academy in Inglewood and a recipient of the Carlston Family Foundation 2011 Outstanding Teacher Award. Rivas was able to both teach us a physics lesson and articulate his techniques as he progressed. He showed us how he builds emotional connections with students to engage them and help them retain material through hands-on exploration, fun competition, self-assessments, and lively film clips. He emphasized how a short movie or song can help students retain an important concept. He spends minimal time doing direct instruction, since the students spend most of their time actively working on solving problems with other students. Our challenge was to use a collection of Styrofoam cups, paper clips, tape, wooden sticks, and rubber bands to create a catapult for a marble that would send the marble further than our other classmates’ examples. We all got into the spirit of the competition, although I am afraid my group’s product was not very successful!

I came away highly motivated to incorporate these techniques in the lessons I teach. I especially liked his effective use of film clips. An audience favorite was the film he made himself in which a picture of Isaac Newton was talking to us. He used a software product called Crazy Talk in order to animate the picture. CrazyTalk is definitely on my "have to get and use" list now! Another example he shared that I think I could implement right away was a tic-tac-toe game. Students receive a sheet of physics computation questions at different levels of difficulty. Once they choose a level with which to begin solving problems, they can find the correct answers on a tic-tac-toe board which they compete with a classmate to complete.  I think this tic-tac-toe model could be applied to problems in any subject area, including my own information literacy lessons in the library.

One of the breakout sessions I attended was led by Bill Macauley, Director of the University Writing Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. The intended focus of the session was on how we can help students make the transition from high school writing to college writing. In fact, though, our discussion was much broader, since there were educators from middle school through college participating. We discussed how the Common Core Standards provide a fairly even balance between higher order and lower order skills, and how we can balance them in writing instruction and practice. Macauley shared several handouts on designing effective writing assignments which I can, in turn share with Mira Costa teachers, and we all contributed our own ideas in small group and whole group discussions. One idea that I contributed myself to help students develop both lower order and high level skills is to alternate between structured writing assignments and more free form, creative writing such as blog postings. We also talked about how the teacher librarian can help the students focus on the structure and citation components of writing, while the subject area teacher focuses on the higher order analysis components. Another idea we discussed was the value of using Google Docs for writing assignments, allowing teachers to share comments with students online. One participant suggested taking advantage of the revision history feature and requiring students to articulate the kind of changes they make at each revision.

I attended a second breakout session on “You Can Have it All: Academic Literacy, Critical Thinking, and Student Engagement through the Common Core” led by Nicole Kukrai, Secondary Teacher on Special Assignment, San Juan Unified School District and Area 3 Writing Project. Like Rivas, Kukrai led us in a model lesson, and, at the same time, articulated the techniques or routines she uses to teach students and build a classroom culture of learning. The lesson in this case was reading and analyzing a short essay, We all came away with a number of routines for multiple readings of a text and student conversation promoting academic literacy in the classroom. Kukrai’s routines included “turn and talk” in which students pair up to discuss what they read, small group conversation, whole group sharing, and charting the discussion points. We all read the essay several different times, focusing on different types of questions for each reading. While we worked in pairs and small groups, Kukrai had time to move from group to group, assess our performance, and give help as needed. These routines are definitely good ideas I would like to use as models for my own teaching.

I came away from the summit with lots of good ideas for myself, many I can share with other Mira Costa staff, and a much better understanding of the new Common Core Standards and how I can help implement them. I am very grateful to have been able to attend this outstanding professional development day. I was also gratified that so many of the classroom teachers and other attendees seemed so pleased to have a large group of librarians in their midst and contributing to the discussions. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Support School Libraries - Sign the Petition

Carl Harvey, AASL (American Association of School Librarians) President has posted a petition on the site in support of school libraries. Here's the text:

Ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.
Every child in America deserves access to an effective school library program. We ask that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provide dedicated funding to help support effective school library programs. Such action will ensure more students have access to the resources and tools that constitute a 21st century learning environment. Reductions in school library programs are creating an ‘access gap’ between schools in wealthier communities versus those where there are high levels of poverty. All students should have an equal opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to learn, to participate, and to compete in today’s world."

I was number #190 when I signed January 5. As I write, we are at 1,874 signatures. Please add yours, and, most importantly, spread the word far and wide. We need 25,000 total signatures by February 4 for this petition to be forwarded to President Obama. We can do it if we all get out the word to colleagues, family, and friends. Our students' futures depend upon strong school libraries. Let's advocate to make it happen.

To sign, click this link to go to the petition. You do need to create an account, then sign in. Some people have had challenges getting logged in. If you have trouble, try another browser, and keep logging in until it works. I did have to log in about three times before I succeeded. The time and effort will be worth it!