Saturday, December 27, 2014

Promoting Tweeting to CSLA Members Through My Online Course

Learn 2 Tweet

I am a huge fan of using social media to interact with my peers and build my professional skills. I participate on a daily basis in a variety of social media as part of my Personal Learning Network (PLN). I feel guilty if I let a day go by without checking my blog reader for new blog postings, my Google+ feed, Twitter feed, email, and more.  While I consider all these essential tools for keeping up with the latest ideas for my practice as a teacher librarian, Twitter is definitely my Number #1 favorite PLN tool. It is also a dynamite tool for enhancing my experiences at conferences. In fact, I rarely take notes at conference sessions any more. Instead, I tweet key points I hear during sessions and follow the tweets of other attendees, and these become my notes to look back to as I process my experiences.

In order to share my enthusiasm for the value of Twitter with my fellow CSLA (California School Library Association members), I have developed and am offering a free four-week online class, “Learn 2 Tweet: Build your Twitter talent 140 characters at a time” during the month of January. It starts January 5, and will run through February 1.  I timed it with the idea of preparing CSLA members attending the Centennial Conference in February to be active tweeters during the conference and to use it as a key PLN tool after that, but the course is open to anyone who either has never been on Twitter or who wants to come up to speed on using this social networking and personal learning network tool effectively.

To enroll in the course, fill out this Google form:
Or,  use this

And, of course, be sure to register for the CSLA conference if you haven't already!

For more information about the course, visit the course site or contact me with questions. Please don’t delay signing up, as I am limiting enrollment to allow support of all participants.

I'm looking forward to getting to work with all the course enrollees in January! In the meantime, you can find me on twitter at @jane_librarian.

I'll blog about how the course is going in the coming weeks. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why I Love Canva

(Note: This posting is cross-posted from the AASL Blog.)

l love canva.png
While these days we are blessed with a variety of excellent web-based graphics tools,, 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:

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 9.20.06 AM.png

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:

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 either the web-based version or the app today!

And more news .... Just since my posting was published on the AASL Blog yesterday, I learned that Canva now allows you to customize your profile, share your favorite designs with others, and follow friends' designs. Here's a video from Canva about it:

I'm working on my profile now. :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#SLJSummit 2014

In October, I had the great opportunity to attend School Library Journal's annual Leadership Summit in St. Paul, MN. I wrote a posting about this event in my school library blog, focusing specifically on some of the many tie-ins to Common Core. You can see that post at this link.

This posting is a more personal account, a Storify collection of my Twitter tweets, favorites, and RTs, that, these days, serve as my "notes" when I attend a conference. There were so many wonderful ideas, and I know these "notes" are often very shorthand. Please contact me to better explain any of them.

And here are some photos I took to help me remember a wonderful trip:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Monday, November 10, 2014

New CSLA Advocacy Film

I have been neglecting this blog of late. I have - based on motivation from Nikki Robertson, a true TL rock star, been working hard this school year to try to document all the activities in my library in my Mira Costa Library blog, so please do check out my recent postings in there. Still, I am sorry that I haven't been posting my more personal thoughts more regularly here. I do, tonight, have something BIG to share: it's that the California School Library Advocacy film, in the works for almost a year now, is now complete! If you are on social media, you already saw it this weekend, but I still want to be sure to document it here:

Please watch it and then share it far and wide! Our administrators, parents, teachers, students, politicians, and any other stakeholders all need to see it to help them understand why our students need us teacher librarians to teach them vital information literacy skills while also nurturing their personal passions and to integrate technology into the curriculum and provide professional development to our schools and districts. The film also provides statistics about the sad state of staffing in our California school libraries.

I feel proud to have been the one to initiate the effort to make this film while I was CSLA President and was inspired by the Washington Library Media Association film, but it was Karen Morgenstern, our incredibly talented and hard-working member and producer, who made it happen. She tapped James Gleason, our cameraman, TerryKhai Ngo, his assistant and editor, and Lilly Aycud and Marc Stuart, who provided the score.

As Karen wrote on the CALIBK12 listserv this morning, "I hope this film can help increase our numbers, our influence and our visibility, as well as be an effective advocacy tool for school librarians and school libraries in other states."

I already shared the "back story" with Joyce Valenza this morning for her blog, so please check that out, and also watch and take advantage of the other excellent advocacy videos she has assembled there. And, please, spread the word for the sake of our students!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why TLs should apply to attend the next #GTA

I just saw that applications are open for the next U.S. Google Teacher Academy (#GTA). It will be in Austin December 2-3, and the applications are due October 13. Back in August, I wrote about my experience at the #GTA in Mountain View in July. If anything, I am more energized and inspired now than when I left there, as I begin to process and apply ideas I got there. It has also enriched my PLN (personal learning network) with more than 70 wonderful new connections, between the attendees and the organizers. I am, frankly, focusing this post on my Teacher Librarian friends as the audience; I want those of you who haven't yet had this experience to apply and attend. Here's a few reasons why I think you will find it valuable, followed by a few reasons why, if I had my way, the cohort would be flooded with TLs!

Here are just five of what could be many reasons why you'll find attending a Google Teacher Academy valuable:
  • You will see great examples of new and better ways to engage students, and help them explore their passions, learn to solve problems, and prepare for their futures
  • You will become part of a cohort of enthusiastic people you can network with and share ideas with, and, yes, be intimidated, but in a good way, by all their talents
  • You will be infected with Google's "can do" attitudes and teamwork models 
  • You will be inspired to share your new ideas and expertise with your colleagues, PLN, and the world
  • You'll be pushed to be a Moonshot thinker!
The Googlers and other organizers at my academy told us what they are looking for in Google Certified Teachers. They are: 
  • Outstanding educators with a passion for using innovative technologies and approaches to improve teaching and learning, 
  • Creative leaders who understand opportunities and challenges, and have a desire to help empower others in their local community and beyond, 
  • Ambassadors for change who model high expectations, life-long learning, collaboration, equity, and innovation. 
And, here's why we should have lots of teacher librarians in this next and every cohort:
  • Don't those three characteristics above sound exactly like every good teacher librarian you know? Teacher librarians are naturals for this!
  • We need Googlers, the other cohort members, and all our fellow educators to see what we TLs do and how much our expertise contributes to positive change.
  • A big theme of the academy was the value of team work. We teacher librarians are not just leaders, we are also excellent collaborators and team players. 
  • We are experts at spreading the word, both right at home and far and wide, about any new ideas and tools we find valuable. If you love Google like I do, you will learn more about what you love and then share that with the rest of of your TL and educator PLN.
  • You'll love the experience! 
And, don't worry if you don't have a lot of expertise in filmmaking. (A one-minute film is one of the requirements.) I made mine with GoAnimate and just background music, for audio so I didn't have to speak or act. :-)

So, do consider applying to the Austin Google Teacher Academy. Okay? 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Join Our #SWVBC!

Just about three years ago, Joyce Valenza shared in her Neverending Search blog the idea that she and Shannon Miller came up with to connect their school library book clubs into a “somewhat virtual book club” for joint discussions. And, she generously invited other TLs to participate. I was one of the readers who responded asking to participate. And, in October 2011, we had our first virtual event. You can read my reflection on our early meetings in my December 2011 blog posting.

We’ve experienced a variety of bumps in the road keeping this going, but I am so proud of my students and of all the students who have participated and shared their insights on reading with other students across the country. It was also especially exciting for all of us to have authors accept our invitations to talk with us. Many thanks to Libba Bray, Lauren Myracle, and Ellen Hopkins for joining us! Regular TL and student participants over the last three years have included Joyce Valenza’s Springfield Township High School in Springfield Township, PA;  Shannon Miller’s Van Meter Community Schools in Van Meter, IA; Michelle Luhtala’s New Canaan HS in New Canaan, CT; Colette Cassinelli’s La Salle Catholic College Prep in Milwaukee, OR; Cathy Jo Nelson’s Dorman HS in Roebuck, SC; and Debbie Bobolin’s James Caldwell HS in West Caldwell, NJ.

And, this year, the “Somewhat Virtual Book Club” (#SWVBC) is ready to expand, and we invite YOU to join us.

Here’s the plan so far:

  • Each monthly meeting will be hosted by a different school, and the students at that school will take ownership of both running the technology and serving as moderators. We TLs all love running things, but we want to empower our students with those skills.

  • The books selected will be for a high school audience, but middle schools are, of course, more than welcome to join discussions for any of the books that interest them.

  • As with regularly-scheduled webinars like TL Virtual Cafe, you and your students are welcome to be regular, occasional, or even just one-time participants.

  • We plan to use Google+ Hangouts as our meeting platform. For the last couple of years and a lot of experimentation, we have been on Blackboard Collaborate, and have really appreciated the stability of that platform. This year, though, we want to try software that we know students will have access to on their own. That, way they can leverage what they learn about using the software during our meetings to lead virtual meetings in other contexts. We are aware that Google+ Hangouts is limited to 10 participants. Should we exceed that number at meeting, those unable to join the Hangout can still participate by viewing the live stream and contributing to the chat. And, we are, of course, flexible, and can modify our plans if circumstances call for doing so.

  • The tentative schedule for the year thus far includes:

    • September 17, 3:30 PM PT/6:30 PM ET: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, hosted by New Canaan HS, New Canaan, CT
    • October 8, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, hosted by Mira Costa HS, Manhattan Beach, CA
    • November 5, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, hosted by Cambridge HS, Cambridge , MA
    • December 3, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: considering Butter by Erin Jade Lange or The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy, hosted by Dorman High School, Roebuck, SC
    • January 7, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD
    • February 11, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book TBA & hosted by La Salle Prep, Milwaukie, OR
    • March 11, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD
    • April 8, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD
    • May 6, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD
    • June 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD

  • If you are another librarian or club member out there reading this, please contact me if your school would like to grab one of the open sessions. Also, feel free to invite the author to join us if you can.

  • Also contact me if you simply want to join in; we’ll set you up with the links for the sessions.

  • In addition to this monthly schedule of book discussions, we have several social media platforms we hope to “grow” this year for “any time book” discussions, news, and announcements:

  • And, please don’t worry if your club, or “club trying to happen” is small. That’s the benefit of connecting virtually; it gives our students the opportunity to connect with other readers even when you only have a small group at their own school.

Hope to see you online!

MCHS Library Orientations Underway!

If you know me, you know that I am a HUGE believer in the value of blogging. I promote blogging to both teachers and students, and I have two blogs: this one, and my library blog. My Google Teacher Academy is about blogging, so you will be hearing a lot more about that from me soon.

I have two blogging problems:

  • I never seem to be able to get to posting as often as I want, and I often end up "skipping" topics because I didn't get to them in a timely fashion and then decide it's too late. :-(
  • I regularly have the dilemma of not being able to decide which of my two blogs to post to. 
So, this posting isn't about how I solved either problem, although I wish I could! It is simply to tell you that I just did a posting this morning on my library blog I hope you'll read if you are interested in how I redesigned Day 2 of my library orientation this year to go completely paperless and to include several of the concepts I came away from the Google Teacher Academy with: 
  • have students work in teams (I had been doing that part already)
  • don't over-explain how to do things, 
  • make it fast-paced by limiting the time to accomplish tasks, 
  • and have students share out what they learned or did at the end
And, yeah, it also incorporates some great Google tools, including Google's latest, Google Classroom. 

And, standby for my next posting about the Somewhat Virtual Book Club. I'm going to do that one on this blog. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 8, 2014

My #GTAMTV Google Teacher Academy Experience

Back at the Beginning of the Process

Back in May, I submitted my application to attend the July 30-31 Mountain View Google Teacher (#GTAMTV) Academy at the California Googleplex (Google's world headquarters). I was hopeful, but not overly optimistic that my application would succeed, since this was my second application attempt. One of the important parts of the application process is a one-minute film in which I was to demonstrate how I innovate in the classroom or educational community to generate positive change. I had no trouble thinking of how I reach out to my students, teachers, and other librarians locally, nationally, and even globally. Filmmaking, though, hasn't been my strong suit, and I still haven't mastered live filming, so it was a long process to decide on a tool I could handle (I finally chose GoAnimate) and creating my film:

Most applicants make their videos public and share them through Twitter and other social media (check the @gtamtv hashtag), so the excitement and nervous anticipation of a yea or nay response to my application began right after I submitted and then started watching many of the other applicants' videos. (Okay, full disclosure: I actually watched some of the early applicants before I submitted.) It was clear immediately that there were a lot of really talented, creative people out there applying, and that nearly all of them had more advanced film-making skills! You can see the videos from most of my Mountain View cohort group on this playlist compiled by Adina Sullivan, one of our members. Thanks, Adina!

So Much More Than a Two-Day Experience!

Receiving my certificate at the end of Day 1
Although the Google Teacher Academy lasts just two days, and we even got our official certificates at the end of the first day, it is definitely so much more than that. Not only are those two days packed to the gills with information about new tools, incredible models of teaching techniques, exposure to Google's teamwork and "Moonshot Thinking" culture, tons of networking, and just plain FUN, but the two-day "live" experience is clearly just a piece of the puzzle. The minute I got the acceptance letter, the networking - both formal and informal - began. My new cohorts began tweeting and blogging and we were set up in a GTAMTV Google+ community. Just about everyone was an overachiever, coming up with ways to connect and contribute through shared Google Forms, T-shirt logo ideas, and pre-academy hangouts and meetups. I'm used to being the one to raise my hand and volunteer to organize activities; this group was so enthusiastic that just about anything I could think of to offer was already done by one of my colleagues. What a super group! I wasn't able to attend any of the Google Hangouts, but I did get to meet one cohort member, David Saunders, at the American Library Association Annual Conference the end of June, and Caren MacConnell did an awesome job of organizing a happy hour the night before our academy.

In addition, the experience will clearly continue forward, both formally and informally. One of my obligations as an attendee and newly-minted "Google Certified Teacher" is to develop an action plan for a project making positive change in my school, my district, and/or the greater educational world. As new GCTs, we were also added to a Google+ community of all the previous GCTs to share questions and ideas with. This is a very active community with lots of resources and participation I know I will benefit from.

Take Aways

So, what are some of my take aways? Clearly, it is going to take me a lot of processing to even begin to compile a list. My goal in this post is simply to begin.

One of the things Becky Evans, Google Education Program Manager and one of the chief leaders of the academy, shared the first morning was what the organizers look for in GTA candidates:
  • outstanding teachers
  • creative leaders
  • ambassadors for change
I feel so very honored to have been included in a group based on this criteria. More important, though, is that the GTA experience inspired me to "up my game" in all these areas. 

Moonshot Thinking

Coming up with ways to make small positive changes with good practice and creativity is always good, of course, but it was clear to me throughout the academy that we were being asked to think beyond that, to move to the "Moonshot Thinking" concept, demonstrated in this video we watched:

From start to finish, we were challenged not to just improve our practice and make change, but to find ways to make dramatic changes. A moonshot thinking project, we learned:
  • Addresses a huge problem
  • Proposes a radical solution
  • Uses breakthrough technology
Right now, I have at least a dozen ideas for my action plan, most of which I know are very "doable." But,  the question in my head keeps being, how can I go beyond the doable, and make changes beyond what we think is possible? And, how can I model that kind of thinking for my students, teachers, library colleagues, and personal learning network (PLN) members to inspire them to think big also? That's what Google clearly challenges its employees to do and what we were asked to do as well. Stand by, as I come up with my moonshot thinking plan! One of the great benefits of attending the academy is that I now have 65 new chohort members, plus the awesome organizer "lead learners," in my PLN I can call on for help.

Preparing and Challenging Our Kids to Change the World

In addition to moonshot thinking, some other concepts that really resonated with me were Googler Jaime Casap's suggestions that we need to:
  • Prepare kids with skills for jobs that don't even exist yet
  • Stop testing and giving kids credit for information they can easily look up, but instead, help them understand things deeply
  • Challenge kids to solve the problems they want to solve, and help them find the resources they need to do that 
  • Create digital leaders, not consumers
This thinking really syncs with my philosophy as a school librarian. As a librarian, I am especially trained in how to find and evaluate information. Of course, I want to help kids by curating sources for them. But, much more important, I want them to develop the needed skills to find information and evaluate it for quality themselves, and not just to stuff their heads with facts that they can easily access through search resources when they need them. I also do everything I can to make the library a place where students get to choose to learn about what they want to learn and to solve problems they want to solve, not to just research an assigned topic. Hearing this philosophy at the academy makes me more determined than ever to share this kind of thinking with my colleague teachers. If we want to engage students, we need to allow them choice in exploring what interests them. We also need to give them assignments that require them to create, not just consume. With the tools available today, we can help our kids change the world; we have to stop simply asking them to absorb information.

Working in Teams, Pushing Beyond Our Comfort Zones

Maggie Johnson, Google Head of Education Research, one of our speakers, shared that, at Google, everyone works as a team. We as teachers all need to collaborate and we need to teach our students how to do that in preparation for real life challenges. Throughout the academy, we were challenged over and over again to work in teams. Not once were we just told how to do something; instead, in virtually every activity, we were organized in groups and asked to work together to solve a problem. All the activities served as models we could use back home with our students and colleagues. And usually, our groups were competing against each other, but always in the spirit of fun. As Jon Corippo, one of our "lead learners," shared, when you turn on the clock, it becomes a game. Frankly, I often found these activities intimidating. I like to think of myself as one of the fast learners. In this group, I frequently struggled to keep up. For example, in the "Are You a Google Iron Chef?" activity led by Corippo and JR Ginex-Orinion, each group had to fill out a slide displaying research information we gathered, a photo, and trivia fact about us at the academy. I was simply too slow to complete my slide properly. What I learned from that experience will give me a better understanding of what it is like for the students who have trouble keeping up. I also learned that everything doesn't have to be done perfectly, that the experience of trying is at least as important. I did finish the assignment; I just didn't do work at the level I normally expect of myself.

We had five different breakout group activities over the course of the two days led by "lead learners" who were former GTA attendees and rockstar GCTs. Every one of them offered teaching activity models I can take back to my school and use in my library lessons and/or share with my teachers. We also got to hear ideas from nine cohort members who shared short "inspiring ideas" with us. Sandra Chow, for example, showed how she and her colleagues use Google Presentations as a tool to have her math students share their own solutions to a math problem with their classmates. Each student types on his/her own slide hyperlinked from a main solution slide. And, because their solutions are available in real time online, their teachers can give immediate feedback.

We also had fun doing game activities like building spaghetti and marshmallow towers at our tables. I'm afraid I wasn't in a single winning group, but I sure enjoyed the competition, got to meet amazing new friends, and learned about games I can adapt to use with my students and teachers.

So many wonderful new friends I got to meet and work with at #gtamtv. Wish I had photos of all of them!

Well, here's a photo of everyone:

Lots of Information, Lots More Ideas, and Even More Questions

I read somewhere that Google has recently moved the focus of the Google Teacher Academies from tools to philosophy. That was very clear at the Mountain View Academy. We were definitely all wowed by getting to hear the latest on Google Classroom (in general release August 11!), Google Play for Education, and Google Educator Groups on Google+, but the emphasis was clearly on how to use these and other tools to innovate and make change for our colleagues and students, rather than on tool "how to's." I can't wait to apply the ideas and models for teaching practice in my own school.

Finally, I think I came away with, more than anything, lots of questions. Here are a just few of them:
  • I think I've done a good job of introducing and championing the use of Google Drive, Google Docs, and many other Google tools at my school, but I haven't promoted using them through Google Apps for Education. It is clear to me now that we can benefit both from adopting GAFE and from Google Classroom. How can I move my school to take this next step?
  • I know from my own experience how valuable blogging can be for helping students to find their voices and learn digital citizenship skills. I got lots of new ideas about how to use blogging more effectively from awesome lead learner David Theriault. How can I "market" blogging to more of my teachers?
  • How can I persuade teachers to craft assignments that let students connect to their own interests and choose what they want to learn?
  • I've been wanting to create a maker space in my library. I got some good ideas from colleagues at the academy. How can I best start this process at my school?
  • How can I turn lessons into games to make them more fun and engaging?
  • How can I better share good ideas and professional development with other teachers who are already too busy and/or are intimated by technology?
  • I know that teacher librarians are natural fits for what Google is looking for in Google Certified Teachers. What can I do to encourage more teacher librarians to apply and support their applications?
Please stand by as I process and share what I learned and move forward to:

Monday, July 14, 2014

ALA 2014 Highlights - #ALAAC14 Part 2

In my last post, I wrote about some of my personal highlights from Friday and Saturday at the American Library Association Conference in Las Vegas. In this post, I will share some take aways from Sunday and Monday.

Paul Rusebagina 

Sunday morning, I attended a breakfast generously hosted by Alexander Street Press, with guest speaker Paul Rusebagina, the hotel manager who protected over 1,200 refugees during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 and whose story is dramatized in the film "Hotel Rowanda." Here is a recording that was made at the breakfast: 

I look forward to reading and adding his autobiography, An Ordinary Man, to my library collection. It describes his background and courage during the genocide. I know, based on his talk that morning, that it will be inspiring to my students to learn about how even one person can make a difference in the face of incredible adversity.

IRRT Panel on Expanding the School Library Program

One of the sessions I attended Sunday afternoon was an International Relations Round Table panel on "Expanding the School Library Program: Connecting Students with Students, Across International Boundaries, Using Modern Technology."  Carol Brey-Casiano shared about exchange programs available through the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and ALA's sister city program. George Braez shared practical tips from his experiences connecting students at his school since 1996.

And Joyce Valenza, who constantly inspires me with new ideas and motivates me to want to do more, shared that "We are at a point where we can easily connect students from all over the world for really meaningful inquiry." Even language is no longer a barrier; she showed us a video demo in which two people were conversing online together in different languages using a real time translation tool developed by Microsoft and Skype. Here are the slides from her talk:

Global TL: Librarians without Borders from Joyce Valenza

She invited us to join a Google+ community she recently established: Global TL: Librarians without borders to make connections and create meaningful networked learning opportunities for our students. I am already a member of the group and getting lots of ideas of new ways I can build connections for my students next fall. Do join, if you haven't already, and use the #GlobalTL hashtag when you post on Twitter. She reminded us that "Librarians are the ones to hit the start button on global connections in schools. We are the scouts."

Play, Play, Learn: Games and the Common Core Library

Chris Harris's session on Monday sold me on the value of finding and sharing board games as learning tools. Chris shared a large variety of games, all tied to Common Core Standards skills. Here is a link to his presentation slides and to his new website. After seeing his talk, I was inspired to start a collection at my library. I was excited right after I returned from the conference to get a notice through the AASLForum about International Gaming Day @Your Library on November 15. I signed up indicating my plans to participate, and the signup form offered the option of requesting lots of free games from manufacturers. These will help me jumpstart my collection. I'm getting off topic here, but one of the activities for International Gaming Day I'm especially intrigued by is the Global Gossip Game that will be part of the day. Since International Gaming Day is on a Saturday, I am hoping that there will be a way to participate in the Global Gossip Game on the Friday before or Monday after. I feel pretty confident that my connections with the GlobalTL group can make that happen!

Odyssey Awards

Monday's program also included the Odyssey Awards, which recognize outstanding audiobooks for children and young adults. There was one winner, Scowler, and four Honor books. At the event, we got to listen to the narrators of the winning and honor books perform a segment of their books live. I had only listened to one of the honor books so far, Eleanor & Park, and was delighted to get to hear narrators Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra, both of whose voices I had come to love, talk about the book and then read from it.

The surprise highlight of the event was seeing Kirby Heyborne, Scowler narrator, perform a rap librarian appreciation song. Here is a recording:

The conference had so much more to offer than I have covered here. I know I will be drawing from my experiences there throughout the coming year. I will also be checking ALA's YouTube highlights video archive and the sessions with handouts in the coming weeks, and looking forward to the full-video recordings of selected sessions coming soon for conference attendees.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

ALA 2014 Highlights - #ALAAC14

with conference buddy and roommate Jessica Gillis
ALA 2014 Highlights

This year's American Library Association conference was both wonderfully-inspiring and incredibly overwhelming. So many sessions go on simultaneously, making choices pretty stressful! And, Las Vegas to me is a surreal and pretty uncomfortable place. The weather is unbearably hot, it seems that every hotel is designed to prevent you from finding your way out of the casinos to the meeting rooms, and the distances between one meeting venue and another are deceptively far. While I can't say I enjoyed the city, I do want to thank the local people for being consistently friendly. I also want to thank all the many, many ALA and divisions staff, leaders, and volunteers who worked so hard to make the conference an incredibly enriching experience for all of us who attended.

Although I know the minute I publish this, I'll fret about what I left out that was also great, but here are a few of the conference highlights for me:

21st Century Teens: Literacy in a Digital World

I spent the day Friday at a YALSA-sponsored workshop on "21st Century Teens: Literacy in a Digital World." There was lots of great material at this workshop, but the most engaging parts for me were the author talks and panels. I got to hear several authors of whom I'm alread big fan - Neal Shusterman, Scott Westerfield, and David Levithan - and I now have three-new-to-me authors at the top of my "must read" list: Lindsey Leavitt, Erin Lange, Marie Liu, and Graham Salisbury.

Kathryn Lewis, Chair of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Common Core Task Force, kicked off the day with advice and insight on Common Core implementation. Not surprisingly to any of us librarians, she shared that "students need opportunities to stretch their reading abilities but also to experience the satisfaction and pleasure of easy, fluent reading." We librarians certainly must help provide the stretch reading, but we also need to champion students' right to read what they want to read and the profound value of reading what they enjoy. She encouraged us to visit the Common Core toolkit information on the AASL site.

Authors Lindsey Leavitt, Neal Shusterman, and Scott Westerfield participated in a panel moderated by Librarian Jack Bauer on "Click Here: Teens, Technology, and Literacy" which explored the impact of social media options on how teens communicate with each other. As an example of the power of social media, Shusterman shared that he discovered teens creating Twitter accounts for his book characters and tweeting in their voices. They did such a good job that he hired them to continue doing so professionally! Westerfield noted that one of the most important things libraries do is to create safe places for teens. He shared how teens use his forums to discuss all sorts of subjects, not necessarily related to his books, since they take advantage of it as a safe place.

Author Erin Jade Lange spoke to us about the intersection of social media and bullying.  She explained that she was bullied as a child. She cited cases of Alzheimer patients who have lost the memory of who family memories, are but still remember the details of bullying. "It sticks with you forever," she explained. Today, though, she explained, kids carry their tormentors in their pockets; they can't get away from it. Explaining why she writes books that include this cruelty, she shared that reality is worse than fiction; she writes to create stories with a new edge of hope. I have her newest book, Dead Ends, right near the top of my summer reading stack.

Authors David Levithan, Marie Liu, and Graham Salisbury participated in panel moderated by Librarian Walter Mayes on "Diversity in Literature." Some takeaways from that panel included Levithan's statement that our goal should be to lead kids to books that teach them about the world, not necessarily that are about them. Salisbury shared that a key to getting more diverse literature is getting kids to read more and become writers. It's dangerous, Marie Liu stated, to talk about books with diverse elements as "special interest"; they are for everyone. To experience diversity, Levithan said, you need to read a lot of books. I couldn't resist asking David Levithan if I could have my photo taken with him since I have enjoyed so many of his books myself and seen them resonate with my students:

I usually try to "sample" authors and then move on, so that I have knowledge of as many different authors to share with my students as possible. I clearly "broke that rule" this school year when I read three different books by Levithan: Every Day, Two Boys Kissing, and Invisibility. (Invisibility was co-authored with Andrea Cremer.) I really couldn't tell you my favorite; I loved them all. 

Printz Awards

Friday also included another conference highlight for me, the Printz Awards. Marcus Sedgwick, author of Midwinterblood, the 2014 Printz Award book, shared how his local library was a safe haven for him as a child. He told us that our reading experiences as children determine not just what we read as adults, but, more importantly, whether we read at all. So helping children discover the love of reading when they are young is vital to their futures. We were also treated to a panel with Sedgwick and the four Printz Honor authors. I was delighted to get to meet Rainbow Rowell, author of two books both my students and I have loved this year, Eleanor and Park (a 2014 Printz Honor book) and Fangirl:

(So I guess I broke my "one book by an author" rule with Rainbow Rowell as well. I'm also anxiously awaiting the publication of her new adult book, Landline, in a few days.)

Donalyn Miller Speaks at the AASL President's Program

I've been a big fan of Donalyn Miller since I read her book, The Book Whisperer, several years ago, in which she shares her strategies for turning each and every one of her middle school students into avid readers through the culture of reading she builds in her classroom. She tells them at the start of school that they will read 40 books during the year, and they all meet and often exceed that goal. I was delighted to get to hear her speak at the conference. I think I took more of my Twitter "notes" at this session than any of the others I attended. Here they are:

By me, Donalyn's The Book Whisperer is a must read for every librarian and English or reading teacher. Her newest book, Reading in the Wild is on my summer "to read" list.

Best Apps and Best Websites

Saturday afternoon I attended AASL's 2014 Best Apps for Teaching and Learning session, and, as a committee member, participated in the 2014 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning session.

The 25 newly-selected apps were organized into these categories: Books; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM); Organization & Management; Social Sciences: and Content Creation

The 25 best websites were organized into these categories: Media Sharing; Digital Storytelling; Manage & Organize; Social Networking & Communication; Content Resources; and Curriculum Collaboration.

Being on the Best Websites committee meant that I got to experiment with many of the nominated sites earlier this year. I still have several I need to spend more time with, and am going to schedule some time this summer to check out those as well as all the best apps. I started using one of the apps, Duolingo (also a website), just yesterday, to fulfill a summer resolution to revive my lost Spanish-speaking skills. And, note that I used one of the best websites, Storify, for the embedded tweets above about Donalyn Miller's session. Do check out both lists for great offerings for teaching as well as for our own professional practice and productivity.

Here is a Pinterest board with the 25 best websites.

Sinner Party

Saturday night I had the fun of attending a launch party graciously hosted by Scholastic Publishing for Maggie Stiefvater's brand new book, Sinner. Maggie is not only an incredibly talented young author, she is also an artist and musician who creates trailers for all her books with original art and music. Check them out on her YouTube Channel.

At the launch party we all got copies of the book (in advance of the official July1 publication date!) and the bonus of a special book jacket created by Maggie. Here's the official book jacket:

And here's the special book jacket she created:

You'll notice a similarity between the art in this book jacket and the video she created to promote the book:

And here I sit now at home in Los Angeles, the city were Sinner is set with the book by me, with just 36 pages left and not knowing whether I want it to end or not and whether I should finish this blog posting or finish the book first. So... I'm going to conclude this posting now with plans to report about Sunday/Monday/Tuesday at ALA in another post and go finish the book. :-)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Prezi - Please, Please Fix the Image Search Feature!

Please Prezi, Fix Your Image Search!
Image created using
I have been thinking about this posting for quite a while now, and, frankly, kept expecting that Prezi would soon add enhancements that would make what I am writing unnecessary. That hasn't happened, so, here goes ....

First, please understand that I really love Prezi, for live and online presentations as well as for online tutorials. I first discovered Prezi while remotely following the NECC conference in 2009. I watched Steve Dembo present about the "Top 10 Free Web 2.0 Tools for Educators." (This link is dated 2011, but I think it is the updated version of that presentation.) I was completely blown away by how Prezi allowed for flexible navigation, zooming in and out, and dynamic visuals. I decided I had to start using it. Since then, while I use Google Presentations, PowerPoint, and other presentation tools, it is definitely my first choice for presentations and lesson slides. I have also encouraged students to use it and showed them the various the ins and outs.

These days, though, I stay away from teaching Prezi to students and go instead for Google Presentations/Slides. Why? Because Prezi allows users to search from within a presentation file for images and import them without filtering to copyright-friendly and without giving credit to the source. Here's a recent video tutorial from Prezi showing how easy it is to find and insert an image in a Prezi file:

As a teacher librarian, one of the important messages I work to deliver both to students and teachers is respect for intellectual property. The gist of my message is that, as good digital citizens, they should always give credit where credit is due. I also explain that, when they publish, they should be looking for copyright friendly (Creative Commons or Public Domain) images that don't require permission from the creator. (And, keep in mind that all Prezi presentations created with free accounts are public.) I definitely don't ignore Fair Use as a possible argument for using copyrighted material, but I emphasize that Fair Use considerations are complicated and subject to debate. It's better and easier, I urge them, to use Creative Commons material and not have to worry about whether they might be violating copyright. Then, I share how to find and credit Creative Commons and Public Domain material. I am a strong believer that we should all be participating in the Creative Commons community with our own licensing, so encouraging my students and teachers to use of Creative Commons materials is part of building that community. Gwyneth Jones, a true Creative Commons Queen, shared an image at the recent CUE Conference I loved and am adding here to emphasize my passionate belief in the importance of participating in and helping people understand the Creative Commons movement:

Creative Commons - It's not just a license, It's a lifestyle! Slide 37
All that can certainly be done while using Prezi. I simply use Flickr Advanced Search, Google Advanced Image search, Creative Commons Search, or other tools to find an image, then import it to my Pezi presentation and add a hyperlink url back to the source as my credit. I try to curate as many good options for finding copyright friendly image sources as I can on my library website. My personal favorite is Flickr advanced search. Here's a screencast I created showing how to do that:

I have also been jazzed by Google's recent enhancement to image search that makes filtering by license so much easier. To encourage using that, I created this screencast:

Prezi, though, allows users to search using Google images from within a Prezi file, and then import the image without supplying any link back to the source. I did write to Prezi about this feature and the lack of the appropriate credit link back when it was introduced, but did not get an answer that satisfied me. So, for myself, I continue to do my own searches outside Prezi. For students and others not as well-versed in how and why to respect intellectual property, the availability of this tool is just too tempting. Let's face it, it's easier to just search from within Prezi than to do an independent search and add the appropriate credits.

I've been very pleased by the recent enhancements to Google Presentations that allow users to easily search from within a presentation file or Google Doc for copyright friendly material and automatically supply a credit, and have started "marketing" that option to teachers and students. Here's a simple screencast I did a while back on that feature:

VoiceThread, another favorite tool I share for digital storytelling projects, deserves a lot of credit for the fact that it has always offered the equivalent of this newish Google Presentations feature. In fact, its internal search options including Flickr and the New York Public Library, search only copyright friendly images. So, I think it's time for Prezi to step up its features also!

Until Prezi provides that same credit link for an imported image, I am staying away from sharing Prezi as a tool I recommend for student use. So, Prezi, please, please follow the model of VoiceThread and Google Presentations; add a copyright-friendly filter and an automatically-supplied hyperlink credit for images found with your internal image search option. Thanks in advance for listening. :-)  And ... if I got something wrong, I'd be delighted to find that out and correct this!