Thing 40: Final Reflections & What’s Next?

Another year, another Cool Tools session to wrap up. Let’s dive right in!

What did you learn?

  • How did you put what you learned into action at school? Personally?
      • While I struggled initially with the EBP lessons that kicked off the Track 4 Cool Tools, I think they have had the biggest impact on how I do things. I’m more aware than ever of all the potential evidence I could (and should) be collecting about what I/we do in library. I’ve started using my cell phone camera to snap quick pics of student work, students working, final products etc. Then, I’ve been using the Google Drive app to upload them right to special folders I created in Drive. It really doesn’t take that long and before I knew it, I had a nice collection of examples of what we actually do in library.
      • In keeping with the goals I came up with in my EBP writeups, I’ve also stuck with my fancy new monthly infographic wrap ups I’ve been creating for my principal. Next year, I think I’d like to find a place in the library and hang them month after month so everyone who has a few minutes of time could get a better sense of what actually happens in our space.
  • Did you expand your Personal Learning Network? Make new professional connections?
      • I did the Polly recommended double dip strategy for one of my writeups and used the DIY option as an excuse to sign up for the Learn 2 Tweet class I had been wanting to check it out. Through that class, I not only learned more about how to use Twitter more effectively, I also meet some great librarians and added them to my network of people I can reach out to when I have questions! I also learned about tons of great hashtags and regular live tweet sessions I can use to expand my PLN even further!
  • What challenges did you face during the workshop?
    • As always, time is the biggest hurdle to this class. I want to read and explore all the options in each tool, then I have to decide which ones I’ll actually want to work with, explore them, try to use them with actual classes/lessons, then finally, write up the whole process! The part I struggle with the most is getting them worked into actual lessons in a timely fashion that also leaves me time to report about how it all went.

What’s next?

  • Did you start some projects that you’ll be following up on in the future?
      • I absolutely plan on continuing all the projects I started during the EBP tools (infographic summary for principal, newsletter for teachers, recording evidence). I’m also really looking forward to using Google Classroom to assist with Battle of the Books next year. Finally, I can’t wait to use SeeSaw more next year and would love to be able to use BookWidgets for student assessment.
  • Are you planning to share what you’ve learned with others?
      • I would love to put together a professional development session for one of our superintendent days on using Google Classroom for our teachers. I’ve also been thinking about putting together a proposal to lead a book study on The Together Teacher in my district.
  • What other professional development projects will you be pursuing?
    • In part, because of what I’ve learned in this class over the years, and as part of my overall goals, I’ll be starting to pursue my goal of someday becoming National Board Certified next year. I’ll also be taking a one credit class in the fall through UB on being a leader in your building community!

Did you like learning this way?

  • For some of you, this might have been your first experience with this kind of independent, self-driven learning. Did this work for you?
      • I’ve always found it fairly easy to be an independent, self-driven learner. As long as deadlines and guidelines are clear, I usually don’t have any problems focusing on the work I need to do when I need to do it and sticking to a self-imposed schedule. I also like the challenge of the doing something just for me, not because anyone in particular is watching or expecting it from me.  
  • What did you most value about the program? What didn’t work well?
      • Hands down, one of the things I most value is all the time and effort Polly puts into pulling together all the resources and ideas for each tool! Often, they are all things I’ve wanted to look into more at some point but, never seem to have the time to do the research on it. Thanks to Polly, I can focus on the exploration and not the hunt and gather.
      • I struggle with the same things every year, over extending myself and at the end of the school year and getting crunched for time, and taking time to connect with the other participants. This year was no different but I’ll continue to work on it.
  • Would you do it again?
    • Absolutely! This was my third time and I have never regretted the time I spent on Cool Tools.

Thing 37: Join Me for Some Professional & Personal Development?

For this tool, I thought I’d write about two things I decided to try, one a professional development, the other a personal development.

Professional Development:

I had gotten an email about an online class AASL was offering called Learn to Tweet and I was intrigued. I’ve been on Twitter for over 5 years now but I’ve always felt like I could be getting more out if. The class was only four weeks long and a reasonably priced $25, so I decided “Why not?” and signed up.

I’m halfway through the class and I’ve really been enjoying it. Even as someone who isn’t a complete Twitter novice, I’ve gotten something out of every week. The first week, I mostly just tuned up my list of people to follow by adding people from my class but, I also found some people I thought for sure I was following and wasn’t! The second week, my big discovery was Twitter lists. I had no idea you could create and manage lists for your Twitter feed much less follow other people’s lists! I’ve slowly been working on creating and managing my Twitter lists and I’m very excited about them! One of my biggest problems with Twitter is that sometimes, it just feels so unmanageable to weed through all the Tweets on my timeline. With lists, I’ll be able to select exactly which group of people I follow I want to see Tweets from at the given moment and really make the most of however much time I have to be on Twitter at that moment. Mind blown, game changed…

We’re working on Live Twitter Chats this coming week and super nervous about them-I’ve participated in them to some extent whenever I’ve gone to a conference and followed/used the conference hashtag but not to the level of a scheduled Twitter Chat like, TLChat for example. Wish me luck!

Here are some of the resources/readings that I’ve found helpful in this class so far:

  • Mashable’s Twitter etiquette guide  -appropriate etiquette is always important to understand
  • Using to shorten URLs in Tweets-I’ve always used Google’s URL shortner but a cool feature she pointed out about is that it has a Chrome extension that allows you to not only shorten the URL, but also allows you to tweet it right from the extension, without having to go to Twitter
  • Twitter Lists- I already mentioned these but here’s a link to their Help page about Twitter Lists
  • Did you know Twitter has an advanced search option? Neither did I! Here a link to their Help page about advanced searches

(Oh, and if you want, you can follow me @SerenaWaldron and see how I’m doing with my goal of more frequent tweeting-maybe some day I’ll even have to take that line about “sporadic tweeter” out of my bio)

Professional Development:

In April, we found out we’ll be losing all of our library clerks in my district. The incredible go-getter she is, my clerk had already found another job before the month was over. We’ve been fortunate that the new job offers her the flexibility to still work with me two days a week for the remainder of the school year. I’ve been trying to look at these last few weeks with her here reduced hours as a wonderful opportunity to start truly understanding how things will change next year, what challenges I will face without her, and the solutions we may utilize. I’ve only worked at this district in my short career so I’ve always had a clerk. I know many other librarians don’t have or have never had this luxury but I’m so very nervous about making it work next year.

One of my biggest worries is time/task management and staying organized. Which is why, when my most recent issue of Scholastic Teacher magazine arrived, I jumped right to the article with organization tips from top experts. The article mentioned that one of the experts featured, Maia Heyck-Merlin, had a book called The Together Teacher. Intrigued, I hopped online and found her website, The Together Group. I was inspired by the blog posts I read and impressed with free resources available, so I decided to not only order her book, I’ve also been working my way through a 6 week free MOOC course she set up to go with the book (there’s a paid option too if you want a certificate of completion but if you don’t want/need that, totally free).

I have been learning tons about myself and my organizational preferences. I’ve also learned that while I’m pretty organized in many areas (I kick butt at having a comprehensive calendar), I have definite weak points (managing my ongoing to do list) that could become a problem next year if I don’t proactively adopt some strategies.

Right now, I’m working on creating the template of my ideal week and after that, I’m going start using the weekly worksheets. It’s definitely one of those things that feels way too time consuming sometimes but I know getting in these habits now will more than pay off next year. Plus, once these things become habit and routine, the time it takes to create them will lessen and they won’t feel like yet another arduous thing to do…

So, those are the things I decided to try out with my You Pick! time-I’m enjoying them both and optimistic that they’ll be positive additions to my life! 

Cool Tools for School Thing 22: Create a Resource Guide, Part III

Pinterest Header

Wow oh wow! When I was writing up the Part II for this Cool Tool I was so confident that it would be easy to whip up a Pinterest board for the library and share it with teachers before we went on February break. I wasn’t entirely wrong, creating the library Pinterest account was a snap. Coming up with boards was pretty easy breezy as well. It wasn’t even that difficult to get started pinning to the boards. I had meet with a technology liaison from my district about an entirely different project a few weeks before starting this and she shared the link with me to the New York Model Schools Pinterest account she is helping create. I used many of their board ideas and pins to start my library Pinterest account. And that’s when I hit a wall.

Suddenly, tasked with pinning things that not only would appeal to teachers (instead of random things I liked) and would represent the library well, I froze. I’m a librarian, not a classroom teacher or a content specialist. I found myself second guessing the things I was finding and thinking of pinning to my boards. I thought this math activity looked cool and fun but would teachers think it was silly or stupid or would it be something they’d already seen a million times before?????? Slogging through all the different Pinterest search results and online search results and articles I’d saved to Pocket took what felt like FOR.EV.ER. And when I was done, I’d only pinned 5 things, tops, to each of my 24 boards. I’d had a goal of at least 10 things pinned to each of my 24 boards before I shared it with my teachers. I wanted it to seem well developed and worth their time to check out, something they could explore and discover new things through, not something they could glance at and be done with in 5 minutes. So, board by board, I set aside a little time each morning, afternoon and evening of break to reach my goal and FINALLY, the last weekend of break, I got it done.

But, before I could share my Pinterest board, I had another problem to solve. The results of my teacher survey were an almost even split between wanting a Pinterest account and a digital newsletter to keep them up to date on new resources. As such, I had decided to do both, send cool stuff to our Pinterest account whenever I found it and, every other week or so, send my teachers a digital newsletter highlighting some of the Pinterest finds. So now, I had to figure out what digital newsletter I wanted to use for monthly updates. I thought I was going to use Scoop.It but I honestly wasn’t feeling it so I keep looking and looking and looking. There are a lot of results when you search for digital newsletters but none of them were blowing me away. I wanted it to be slick looking but easy to put together, easy to add my contacts to and, easy to add my Pinterest finds.

Oh a whim, I decided to look at Our department head had recently created and sent us flyers for the district Battle of the Books competition using and I had used it in grad school for some assignments. It’s really easy to use and looks pretty great for the effort so I decided to noodle around and see if I could make a flyer work as a newsletter when I discovered the best thing EVER! When you click on “start new flyer”, one of your flyer set up options is news bulletin!!! It was exactly what I had been looking for and not finding with all the other digital newsletter options online and even easier to setup than I had hoped. I was able to add a “button” linking people directly to the library’s Pinterest page and, embed links from our Pinterest page as well. Then, I emailed the flyer to myself at work. After I opened it, I forwarded it to a custom mailing list I have saved on my work email account of all the teachers (after taking out all the obvious bits and pieces that showed I had forwarded the email to myself). WordPress doesn’t let you embed a Smore flyer into your posts but I’ve attached a link to the news bulletin I sent my teachers below. And of course, feel free to check out my Pinterest board!

I’m hoping this helps my teachers stay up to date on what’s fun and cool out there without me having to run all over the place tracking them down!

And with that, I’ve officially finished Thing 22 and have FINALLY created a resource guide….now to just keep it up and keep it fresh!

Psst, check out the long, slow journey to making my first resource guide with Part I and Part II

The 2012 Presidential Election for Kids

Another debate down, one more to go and before we all know it: ELECTION DAY will be here!

If you haven’t already started educating your students about how the election process works there’s still time. Here are some great sources to get you and them started (they even make great refreshers for those of us grownups that have trouble keeping it all straight-I’m looking at you electoral college):

1. USA Gov

USA Gov covers general education/topics about voting and elections, the electoral college, election history, elected officials and candidates, legislation and reform, organizations and agencies, and education materials for kids.

2. Scholastic Magazine Election 2012

Scholastic Magazine not only contains handy, easy to understand information about the election progress, it also contains interactive resources like The Electoral Challenge, The Electoral College Map, and On the Road to the White House that are sure to please, entertain  and educate students.

3. PBS Kids The Democracy Project

Another great, easy to understand, interactive way to learn about the election process and our democratic system. Kids can Step Inside the Voting Booth to learn more about voting, create their Own Campaign Poster, Be President for the Day, Meet the Candidates, and much more.

These are just a sampling of some of the resources available to help our students become excited, knowledgable citizens. Do you have other favorites? Share away in the comments section.

Until next time,


Let’s Get Down to Business

Friday, I finally sat down and got on some librarian-esque paperwork I’d been putting off. In addition to renewing my professional organization memberships and my School Library Journal subscription, I finally sifted through the conference/workshop paperwork I’ve accumulated and narrowed it down to the must do finalists, filled out my registrations and shipped off my payments.

On November 1st I will be attending the Library Leadership Academy Training session being hosted by Wayne Finger Lakes BOSCES.  There are three sessions over the course of the day. My first choices for the day’s sessions include:

Option B: Core Out Your Collection! with Sue Bartle- Let’s look at weeding the library collection through the lens of the Common Core. Where should you start? What qualities should you look for in your books? Do you have nonfiction on the shelf that will work? Learn the answers to all this and more in a new dynamic Common Core approach to weeding.

Option H: Research and Technology Projects for K-2 Students with Katie HerrGesell & Jennifer Waddington- You can’t do research with primary school students! Guess again! This collaborative team will share some of their research and technology projects for K-2 students from start to finish. Aligned with 21st Century Learner Standards and the ELA Common Core, these projects will show the nuts and bolts of successful learning experiences for our youngest students that lay the foundation for information literacy and technology integration.

Option I: Cataloging Tips and Tricks: What You Need to Know with Kristin Harrington- This workshop will cover the basics of cataloging, important fields in the MARC records, and how to create custom templates for easier cataloging.

My back up choice are options C, G and K.

In just four and a half weeks I will be attending my first conference EVER!!!, NYLA 2012 in Saratoga Springs, NY. I’m just attending the Saturday session but I’m still very excited to finally attend a real librarian conference. One of my (brave) classmates is even presenting during the Pecha Kucha Presentation sessions on Friday so I can’t wait to see him on Saturday and find out how it went.

Finally, I’ve already registered for the Spring NYLA/SSL conference. It will be April 25th-27th in Rochester, NY. I’ll be doing the whole three day session for this one. My student teaching mentor went last Spring (and has gone for many years) and she couldn’t say enough great things about this conference so I’m really looking forward to attending my first school librarian specific conference this Spring.

All these upcoming workshops and conferences combined with my December graduation date made me realize it’s time to get some business cards! I’m lucky enough to have a friend who actually owns her own letterpress stationary business so I’ll be working with the amazing Amy Rau of Green Girl Press on some custom business cards. Amy did our wedding stationary three years ago when she was first getting started and she was a joy to work with, more than exceeding our expectations, so I can’t wait to work with her again now that she’s even more experienced and amazing at what she does. We’ll be meeting next week to start brainstorming ideas and layout so I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on how the process goes (and of course will show off the finally product). For now, let’s look at some designs that caught me eye and I’ll be sharing with Amy as inspiration pieces:

For more details on the business cards shown, visit Bifocals & Buns on Pinterest

Anyone have any business card musts for teachers/librarians to share? Have a favorite stationary store/business card source? Don’t hold back, spill the details in the comments section.

Tomorrow, we’ll be having another Technology Tuesday. See you then.