Bonus Lesson: Making Connections

For this lesson, I ended up looking at the following blogs: Aabdul810, TechieToolsBlog, and Bri’sCoolToolsBlog.

What did I learn? So much!!! I wish I did a better job of reading other blogs during this year’s Cool Tools because in just this weekend, I got so many ideas and learned so many cool tips and tricks. I guess that will be my goal for next year…

One of the first things I learned, courtesy of Aabdul810’s Thing 2 post on Photo Fun, was that you can use your own photo to create word clouds in Tagxedo! I had no idea you could do this-I just assumed I had to use their pre-programmed options. (I really really wanted to try this out right now but, I’m out of town for the long weekend and my host’s computer says it doesn’t have the right software to create a Tagxedo.)

Over at Bri’s Cool Tools Blog, I learned about LessonPaths in her Thing 5 Curation Tools post. Not only is it another potential way for me to curate resources for students (I like that it supports a wide variety of resource tools), you can search other people’s “playlists” so you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel when looking for great resources for teachers, students, and parents.

Finally, I hit up Techie Tools Blog. In Thing 11: Coding tools, I learned about the app Cargo Bot. I’ve been celebrating coding month in December the past two years with my 1st-5th graders. I get a lot of great ideas and activities (even some unplugged activities)  from the Hour of Code website but, also like to have some coding apps for the kids to try. Right now, I only have Daisy the Dinosaur and Scratch Jr on our iPads. This app will make an excellent addition to our coding apps (can’t believe it’s free!!!) but, like Techie Tools, I’ll have to practice more with it before I introduce it to the kids! I’m stuck on one of the early tutorial levels!!

Another great idea I picked up over at Techie Tools Blog was using Google Classroom for Battle of the Books! Being a relatively new librarian, and thus fairly new to Battle of the Books, I’m still looking for ways to improve on it every year. But, I’m also looking for improvements that also make running it easier on me-this will be especially true next year when we no longer have our library clerks (a fact I’m pretty sure I’m still in deep, deep denial about…). On the surface, it might seem like setting up Battle of the Books in Google Classroom might be more work, not less, however if I use some of my summer break to set things up in Google Classroom, I think I could save myself a lot of time during the school year.

However, I didn’t just love this idea because it potentially revolutionize the way I conduct Battle of the Books in my building next year, I loved it because it finally gave me a good idea for using Google Classroom in the library. Every since they finally made Google Classroom available to us, I’ve wanted to use it with my classes but, I also didn’t want to use it just to use it. I wanted to have a good idea that made the most sense with Google Classroom instead of another option. One of my biggest holdups with Google Classroom was that, if I don’t always use it, the kids will forget how to access it. So few of my classroom teachers use our Google Apps for Education options with their classes that their Gmail credentials aren’t something they are use to needing to know. I’ve been extolling the benefits of Google Docs and slowly making some converts this year. One of the things that frequently happens though, is that the teacher makes a master template in Google Docs, shares it with the students, and then when they all open it and start working on it, everyone is overriding everyone else’s work. If I’m available, I’ve been able to show them how to have students make their own copy (the only way I knew how to combat this problem) but, when I’m not available, they often give up and just switch to Word docs. Not something that helps me make converts of everyone…

But now, thanks to Techie Tools post, I know that Google Classroom has an option that will MAKE A COPY FOR EACH STUDENT!!! This tiny detail alone might be enough for me to convince loads of teachers to join me on the Google bandwagon next year! I can’t wait to start showing and telling this little detail all over the school, maybe even the district…I think I might have an idea for my first PD session next year!

And finally, here’s the links to where I left some comments on the other blogs:

Aabdul810 Thing 37: DIY

Aabdul810 Thing 2: Photo Fun

Techietoolsblog Thing 11: Coding Tools

Techietoolsblog Thing 12: Collaborating, Connecting, and Sharing

Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 5: Curation Tools

Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 3: Online Communities and Personal Learning Networks

Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 2: Photo Fun


Thing 38: App-apalooza

After exploring several of the links for App-apalooza, I found three discoveries I’m pretty pumped about:

  • Discovery #1: Digital Dog Pound and their App Task Challenges!
    • I loved that they made their ATC available in one Google Drive folder you can add to your own Google Drive-and of course immediately added it to mine.
    • The setup and format of the ATC pages were beautiful and incredibly well down. I was impressed with how they managed to fit so much information (a picture of the app, a description of the app, ideas for integration, and an app challenge) into 1-2 pages without it ever feeling crowded or overwhelmed.
    • I’m so inspired by their ATC pages, this summer I think I’d like to try to make a few of my own for some of the apps on our iPads!
  • Discovery #2: School Library Journal App Webpage
    • This discovery was one of those that made me feel like a bad librarian-I had no idea that SLJ had a dedicated App Webpage! I loved looking through old postings and exploring their suggestions. I’ve already added them to my favorite websites on my computer and will be adding this into my weekly rotation of must check websites!
    • One of the things I discovered while poking around the website was that there were a ton of SLJ newsletters I wasn’t subscribing to. So, I subscribed to their tech newsletter as well as a few others I had somehow missed along the way.
    • While exploring their old postings on the website I can across a writeup for an intriguing tool which brings me to…
  • Discovery #3:BookWidgets!
    • BookWidgets is a service that lets you create quizzes, exit tickets, worksheets, games and more for the iPad. You can create your own completely from scratch or, use one of their templates.
    • There are couple of things I love about this idea:
      • As I learned in the Things 31 & 32 on Evidence Based Practice, I need to be collecting more pre and post assessment data with my classes and this gives me a tool to create just those
      • Since it’s a digital tool, I don’t have to worry about drowning in a sea of exit tickets and end of unit tests
      • It tracks all the student results for you, less factoring and figuring on my end
      • No more handing out and collecting of papers, instantly makes them available on student iPads
      • I have a class set of iPads just for the library and I have been trying to find more and more ways to work them into our lessons and this will help me make them a part of almost every lesson-even if they aren’t the actual learning tool!
    • The bad news is it’s $49 a year for this tool. Although, that does only come out to $5 a month (which is less than I spend on coffee-three cheers for treat yo’self Fridays) so I think I could justify it, if it worked as well as I hope it would.
    • There’s a 30 day free trial so I’ve signed up for that and I’ve been trying out the different widgets. Unfortunately, our last week of regular library classes is next week already so I wont be able to test out many of the features but, I think some of the game options would be a great way to review what they’ve learned in library this year while still keeping it fun. 

Library Leadership Academy Workshop-A Quick Recap

This was my first workshop/conference experience so you’ll have to forgive me for my somewhat incomplete notes and complete lack of pictures. I’ll do my best to recap the day and share some tips, tricks and snippets of knowledge that I picked up throughout the day.

We started our day with checkin, a light breakfast, and a morning keynote speaker. The keynote speaker, Marc Aronson, was a surprise to me since I hadn’t remembered seeing it mentioned in the brochure. I must admit, I wasn’t familiar with Marc’s work prior to the workshop but I’ve been itching to check it out since the conference. He was very engaging, funny, smart, and well-spoken. I enjoyed his presentation immensely. Here are some little nuggets of wisdom I jotted down during his presentation:

  • “School should not be passively absorbing and taking in what others know.” ~Marc Aronson
  • Resources shouldn’t stand alone in isolation from each other, they should be in conversation with each other. The example Marc used was on the number of planets in our solar system. Get out your non-fiction and fiction books out about the planets, the ones that say we have nine, they ones that say we have eight, and the new ones that advocate for an eleven planet solar system and put them on display together. Use the disagreement between the resources to spark a conversation and a curiosity in the students. Use the conversation between the resources as a teachable moment on getting information from more than one source and exploring more than one avenue to an answer.
  • He also had a great quote from Dewey that even though it was from a writing he did in 1900 could easily apply to today’s students. Unfortunately, I only noted the name and date of the quote and not the quote itself and I’m having trouble finding it for you all. If I do, I’ll update this post to include it.

Then, I attended a session on “Coring out Your Collection”. Sue Bartl taught the session and she is a dynamic personality and I’ve heard good things about her workshops from other librarians I’ve worked with in the past. She let us know we were the first group to receive this presentation and it was a little jumpy for me but still informative. Her are some of the things I noted during this session:

  • Get yourself a “Core Buddy”. Like a weeding buddy, they can help keep you motivated to move through your collection and get rid of the resources that don’t hold up to the common core standards. Your “Core Buddy” doesn’t have to be in the school or even the same state as you. As long as you keep in touch and encourage each other, you’re good.
  • Make it your mission to get to know your non-fiction section as much as your fiction section. Try to recommend non-fiction books as much as you recommend fiction books to students interested finding new books.
  • Have the kids help you evaluate your non-fiction collection. After you’ve taught them the basic parts of a non-fiction book (index, glossary, page numbers etc) pull some books you aren’t sure about keeping and have the kids look at them in groups. Ask them to find the different parts of the non-fiction book (good practice for them) and note which books are missing key elements or to which ones the students don’t respond well. Pull those on a cart and look them over later to see if they should be weeded from the collection (good for you).

The second session was about teaching research and technology skills to K-2 students. The main takeaway from this session was that, yes it is possible to start those skills, even at these young ages. The key was to keep it simple and think of it as a building block step and not feel compelled to teach them everything-that can wait until later. They should use some great, simple graphic organizers students can use to fill in information on a topic and each one had a simple line at the bottom that said, “I found this information here:_______.” Students would note the name of the website or book they found the information in and that was it. I really liked the simplicity of the act and how it will make learning about citing sources that much easier in the long run because they will be use to providing source information and will have a better concept of recognizing your sources.

Then it was time for lunch and our lunchtime key note speaker, Lee Berger. I wish I could provide you with some tidbits and nuggets from Lee’s speech but honestly, I was so entranced and enthralled with his presentation, I couldn’t stop making faces like this, much less remember to take notes:

Here are some links about Lee and his book so you can get an idea of what he talked to us about and why I was so awed by his presentation.

Finally, I attended a workshop on creating better MARC records. I was especially looking forward to this one because, I’ll level with you all here, I was not the best at my class on cataloging. It is such tedious, detail oriented work and I actually thought it might be right up my ally but alas, my brain must think differently than catalogers because I rarely identified the correct subject headings in our exercises. I digress. Things I learned from my workshop on better MARC records:

  • Consistency and uniformity are key components of good records. She gave us some worksheets we could use to figure out how we want things labeled so we and our staff/helpers can all be on the same page.
  • Only fill in what is absolutely necessary in your MARC records to make it possible for students to find books in the OPAC.
  • MARC Wizard is your best friend. If you don’t have it, figure out who you need to talk to to get it. There is no need to manually create full records in this day and age.

So that was my day. I have a folder full of handouts and a brain full of ideas to show for it. I’m already looking forward to the next workshop they host. Fingers crossed that my first NYLA experience tomorrow is just as exciting, enthralling, and informative.

Until Monday,


Old School Organization vs. New School Organization

Are you a die hard techie, completely devoted to your Google calendar, iPhone reminders etc? Are you a technophobe, fully dependent on your paper planner, calendars, and lists? Or maybe you’re like me: loving your laptop/smartphone/tablet but still, just can’t break away from doing certain things on paper. I love my big thick daily/monthly planner and I can’t get use to using an electronic device instead of my little notebooks full of to-do lists and well, notes.

Well, Moleskin and Evernote have teamed up to merge these two worlds using what else, technology.

Check out the Moleskin website where you can learn more and, if you’re so inclined, purchase one.

What do you all think? Worth the price? Not interested at all? Would you rather use your smart phone and a plain old notebook? Compare, contrast, discuss etc in the comments.



2 for 1 Special

With more and more Post Office branches shutting down and libraries looking harder than ever for ways to keep relevant, it may come as no surprise that the USPS has been reaching out to libraries (and service stations, convenience store etc) to see if they would be interested in becoming part of their Village Post Office Program.

The USPS describes the Village Post Office Program on their website as being “operated by community businesses to provide selected postal products and services, including Forever stamps and Priority Mail Flat Rate packages and envelopes” (How to Open a Village Post Office, 2012). Through the program, the USPS and the library would agree on a price the library would be paid for acting as a Village Post Office and would sign a contract for the service. Acting as a Village Post Office could be a great way for a library to make extra money, keep it a key part of the community, and just get more people in the library building (who will hopefully turn into library more frequent library users). The pairing may not be for all libraries so be sure to research the arrangement carefully before starting the process. To start looking into if it’s right for your library, check out the USPS website.

Anyone live in a town that has a Village Post Office? Where is it located? How do you feel about the library and post office being the same building?

Until next time,


It’s Hip to Be Square

A few weeks ago, Mr. Bifocals&Buns and I packed up the dog and headed off to the family cabin for a long weekend. I was flipping through an old magazine one unexpectedly rainy morning and came across a fascinating article about a company/technology called Square.

Square is a way for anyone to turn their smartphone or iPad into a register that will accept credit card payments. Square also always anyone with a Square account to automatically and simply pay for purchases at businesses set up to accept Square account payments. When you sign up for a Square account they’ll even send you the Square card reader free. Square does charge a fee for handling the transaction. You can choose to pay per transaction (2.75%) or a flat monthly rate ($275) depending on what is more economical for your business. For more information on getting and using Square hop on over to their site and have  a look around.

Okay, looks and sounds cool but what does it have to do with libraries right? Well, remember in this post when I confessed some of my dirty little secrets? One of those secrets mentioned was my inability to return library books on time ever. The other part of that confession is that I rarely have cash on me so when I go to the library spur of the moment I often don’t have even the little bit of change necessary to pay off those fines. Now, my librarians are very understanding and nice and will always tell me to worry about it next time. However, I hate having that hang over me and have often wished they would set it up so I could pay my fines online.

Well, what if they set up a Square account? If I have a Square account I could pay my fines just by walking in the library. You don’t have to stop at fines either. You could set it up so people with Square accounts could pay for other library services like copies, printing, hold fees etc. If your library has a coffee shop that could be something people pay for through Square. Square wouldn’t be able to completely replace old fashion money exchanges between librarians and patrons but how 21st century cool does your library look by using Square and making Square available to patrons?

What do you think of libraries using Square? Can you think about other ways to use Square in the library? Anyone have any thoughts on how to use it at a school library? Share away.

Tomorrow we’re discussing another library mashup. Stay tuned for the details.


Dead Drops

Whew, that was some cake hangover. I was not expecting to be out all last week but things got a bit crazy around here. Rest assured things are back to normal (all traces of cake and ice cream have been removed from the house) and I’ll be with you all this week like normal.

Now on with the show….

Have you guys heard of Dead Drops? Per the Dead Drops website, Dead Drops are “anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space” (About Dead Drops, 2012). More specifically, a Dead Drop is a USB drive installed in a public space that anyone can access. Anyone can install a Dead Drop and anyone can take or leave files on a Dead Drop. The Dead Drops website includes instructions and tips on installing one as well as a searchable list of  Dead Drops locations around the world. If you are motivated to install a Dead Drop of your own be sure to contact to the Dead Drops website so it can be added to the master lists of Dead Drops locations.

What do you guys think? The part of me that enjoys GeoCaching and scavenger hunts think they sound interesting and fun. The obsessive compulsive, type A, control freak part of me thinks it would never use something so unmonitored (“what about the VIRUSES?!?”). While not technically a Dead Drop (since they have to be publicly accessible at all times) what do you think about installing one inside a school? Software like Turn It In should make concerns about essay sharing/cheating null and void. If the idea of giving students free reign to drop and pick up files is too nerve wracking, what about setting it up with a password so only teachers can drop files but anyone can pick them up (installing it in a school has already nullified its status as a true Dead Drop so why not take it one step further if it makes everyone feel more comfortable with the idea)? Teachers could leave little extra nuggets of information all around the school for their students. Perhaps the scavenger hunt feel will appeal to students as well and get them a little more interested in what is going on in the classroom…

Anyone have any experiences with Dead Drops they’d like to share? Anyone feeling bold and willing to try one if they happen upon it? Anyone thinking the Dead Drop with training wheels I described would be a great fit at their school? Share away in the comments.

See you tomorrow for Technology Tuesday,