Cool Tools for Schools, Thing x: Flash Cards, Quiz Games and More

In addition to library centers, I currently have graphic novels and Free Comic book day on the brain. One of the things that came up at the PD I took on teaching with graphic novels and comics was that we don’t often take the time to teach kids how to read comics like we do other kinds of writing. The PD I attended had some great handouts and information on doing just that, including key vocabulary to know. With that work done for me, I thought it would a good idea to find some snazzy ways to present the vocabulary and this seemed like just the (Cool) Tool for the job!

What I looked at: I looked at three flashcard creation tools. I went with flashcard creators for a couple of reasons. I’m already familiar with things like Kahoot! and Quizizz plus, flashcards and vocabulary just seem to go together. I also liked that some of the flashcard creators had the capability to create additional games with the learning content. As always, each thing I looked at had pluses and minuses.

Click Here to check out my flashcards:


  • Liked
    • Easy to use
    • Could add pictures from their gallery of images or upload own  
    • Could share directly to Google Classroom, a class folder on Quizlet site, or via link
    • Variety of learning activities that can also be used with the flashcard content
    • Students don’t have to log in with an account to access the flashcards and other content via the link
  • Disliked
    • Limited amount of pictures available via their gallery

Study Stack

  • Liked
    • Fast and easy to set up and use
    • Even more varieties of games than Quizlett
    • Can embed the games right to a webpage
  • Disliked
    • Not as easy to add images
    • No teacher dashboard available like in Quizlett
    • Not as “flashy” looking
    • No way to share via simple link like with Quizlett
Click here to check out my flashcards:


  • Liked
    • Fast and easy to set up
    • Easy to share via a link
    • Flashcards automatically mixed up to include things like multiple choice and fill in the blank
    • Cards scaffold to help you when you get something wrong
    • No predetermined amount of cards you do, if you keep getting something wrong, it keeps coming back up in a variety of ways (often with helpers) until you get it correct
    • Could add own images
  • Disliked
    • Inability to add other games and activities automatically
    • Have to type in the fill in the blanks exactly as they appear on the card or it is wrong
    • Images were sometimes difficult to size on the cards

What I’d like to do: For the comics and graphic novels mini unit, I think I’ll use a variety of activities from each of the creation tools I tried out in library centers. I think together, they offer some great activities and ways to really get students interacting with the vocabulary without it seeming like traditional, boring memorization. In the future I can see myself using these combinations of tools do similar center based activities when we are learning new vocabulary words. I especially like that they can all be done via an iPad or a desktop computer.

What I’d like students to do with them: While I’m not sure I’ll do it with the upcoming mini unit, I can see giving students the ability to create their own accounts and make their own flashcards at the end of a unit. I like the idea of having older kids create the flashcard sets for the younger kids when we do our beginning and end of the year review units.

This tool was way easier and way more fun than I had anticipated! I’m glad I took the time to try out some flashcard creators and can’t wait to see what my students think!


Cool Tools for Schools, Thing 4: Twitter, Facebook & Personal Learning Networks

I feel like almost every year I’ve done Cool Tools, I’ve also done a Twitter related option. You’d think I’d either a) have run out of things to explore by now or b) finally have gotten “good” at this Twitter thing but alas, neither of those things seem to have happened so here I am: another year, another go at tackling Twitter via Cool Tools suggestions!

What I currently do: I have gotten better at checking in on Twitter more regularly but still sometimes go too long without opening the app and looking at it. A fact I almost always instantly regret when I finally check back in because I instantly find like, 3 new ideas and a few fascinating articles to look at! Moving my Twitter app to my main screen, right next to the Instagram app has helped me remember to check in more often. For awhile, I had instituted a rule that I couldn’t look at Instagram until I checked Twitter and I might have to renew that proclamation to get back into a more regular habit again…

What I looked at: Something I’ve wanted to do more often is participate in Twitter chats. So, I Googled around and found some articles on recommended Twitter chats for educators. I found ISTE’s round up the most useful and pulled several chats from it to explore further. Then, I dusted off my old friend TweetDeck and spent a few minutes working through those hashtags to see what there was to see. In the end, I was left with the following hashtags/Twitter Chats that I thought would be most useful for me to checkout.

  • #edchat (Thursdays, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET)

One of the first education chats, this popular chat has nine moderators and covers a broad range of topics. Find upcoming topics and read archived chats at

  • #digcit (Wednesdays, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET)

Focuses on digital citizenship. Read the chat archives on the #digcit website.

For those interested in the flipped classroom model.

  • #Read4fun (Every other Sunday, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET)

Connects passionate educators with books, and with each other.

I also found this website that catalogs all sorts of education related Twitter Chats and tells you when they happen. I think that will be fun when I’m looking for chats and/or hashtags related to specific issues or topics.

What I’d like to do with them: Well, to begin with, I’d like to set a goal of participating in a Twitter Chat at least once a month. As you can see, I could participate in a few each week but that seems a little nuts…especially for someone who can’t seem to make it to one well, ever. I’d like to work up to regularly participating in one a week but for now, once a month seems like an attainable goal. To help facilitate that goal, I’ve gone into my phone calendar and added each of these Twitter Chats into both my iPhone’s calendar and my school Google Calendar. I’ve also set recurring reminders for each of these chats as well. Hopefully, this will help me make it into at least one of them a month…

Additionally, I noticed when I was looking at the website that catalogs the educational Twitter Chats that there wasn’t any listed for librarians in New York State. I’d love to someday get to the point in my Twitter chatting experience where I felt comfortable helping facilitate one for the school librarians of, if not the entire state of NY, than at least the ones in Central New York. Maybe by this time next year?

I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I’ve “mastered” Twitter but I certainly love trying! I’m excited to spend some of my break trying out a chat or two and doing some Spring cleaning of my Twitter accounts. Since I was recently granted permission to create a Twitter account for my school library as well (@FPSLibratorium if you’re interested), I’m looking forward to not only applying this year’s goals to my personal Twitter account, I’m also looking forward to using some of the tips and tricks I learned in past years (lists, Tweet scheduling etc) to get my professional account in tip top shape as well. In the meantime, hopefully, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me out there on Twitter and happy Tweeting!

Cool Tools for Schools, Thing 19: Screencasting and Screen Sharing

I’m not a stranger to screencasting (I’ve done a few here and there over the years) but I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve on something I use and/or get new ideas for ways to use it in the classroom.

What I currently do: Right now, I primarily use screencasting for technology directions when I’m going to be out and have a sub. That way, the sub’s level of expertise on a given technology doesn’t make or break the lesson. I’ve wanted to pre-make instructional videos for commonly used tools in the library or questions we get asked often (how do I find X on the library website?) but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve also used the Apple TV in my library to share my iPad screen on the smartboard so I can demo apps to students before they use them.

What I looked at: I spent some time on the Shaking Up Learning website and looked at posts on How to Insert Super Cool GIFs in Google Docs and Slides and How to Create Screencast GIFs amongst others. I have to admit, it had never occured to me to try to insert a GIF into a Google slide instead of a static image! I had mixed results with the Gyazo GIF

Chrome extension mentioned in the 2nd link. It worked great at home but seems to be blocked at school. I could add the Chrome extension to my browser and I can launch it but, it just gets stuck at that point if I’m at work. Then, after a few weeks of experimenting with it at home, it stopped working because my laptop didn’t have the latest version of something or other.

I also loved this suggestion I found:

“when Google Slides (or any other slide software) – Take screenshots of what you want to explain. Annotate them as needed. Pop them into a Google Slides document (or powerpoint or other slides program). Put the your Slides program in Present mode and turn on your screencasting app to record your audio as you go through the slides.”

Again, it had never occured to me to do a screen cast this way! Brilliant!

What I’d like to do with them: I’d love to use the GIF creator and the tip about Google Slides to make my instructional videos for my subs even more fun and engaging (but also easier on myself)! I’d also love to create some of those quick instructional videos I mentioned earlier. Since Gyazo Gif got my hooked then quit on me, I searched around for an alternative. I found some thing called Nimbus Screenshot and Screen Video Recorder. It’s an extension you can get for Chrome and there’s a free version and a Pro version. There are a few options with the Pro version, including a one time purchase of $14.99 for an individual account. I ended up going with that option since it gave me the ability to not only turn my screen recordings into GIFs but also gives you the ability to save your videos and gifs right to Google Drive or Google Classroom!

Here’s one I made for teachers wondering how to sign up for technology using the library website (something new we started this year):

As you can see from the “How Do I…?” page, I’d still like to tutorials for:

  • Using the library’s OPAC to find books
  • Locating and using the SEARCH page to find databases
  • Finding our streaming media service

I’d also like to eventually add tutorials for:

  • Logging into Google Classroom
  • Creating classes/assignments in Google Classroom
  • Reviewing/grading assignments in Google Classroom
  • Using Google Slides
  • Logging into Typing Club

What I’d like students to do with them: Still thinking about those library centers of mine, I think it would be fun to give students a task where they use an app like Seesaw to annotate a picture and explain something. Like, label the parts of the book in this picture and tell me one piece of information you can get from each part.

Older kids could do a quick screen cast of them performing a skill and submit it as a Google Classroom assignment before moving on to the next step. For example, I recently taught my 5th graders how to use the Explore icon in Google Slides to insert a picture, rather than going directly to Google Images. How cool would it have been to have shown them that skill and then sent them to the computers to record a quick screencast of themselves showing me they knew how to do it themselves, submitting it as a Google assignment and, only being allowed to earn their “inserting images badge” and being allowed to add pictures to their slides after I graded it and they “passed”???

I’ve loved using screencasting to make my subs lives easier and now I can’t wait to add that same level of independence and ease to my teachers and students lives with all these fun new screencasting tools in my arsenal!

Cool Tools for School, Thing 28: Anything Goes Google

This is another Cool Tool topic that never disappoints! I don’t know how Google keeps coming up with new things but they do and they do it faster than I can keep up with them-thank goodness Polly does this fabulous round up every year!

What I looked at:

What I’d like to do with them:

The Primarily Google blog and website were chockful of ideas! I love their post about embedding YouTube videos into Google Forms to both avoid the YouTube website and the various issues that can come with it and, for gathering feedback and information from your students when they are done watching the video. I’m so blown away about the ideas they presented I’m seriously considering signing up for their self paced class. It’s a little pricey but I think it could be worth it…

The Control Alt Achieve blog was full I can’t wait to share with my teachers! They basically gave me enough awesome ideas to fill the “Technology Tips” section of the monthly e-newsletter I send teachers for the rest of the school year (and maybe even into next school year!). That is, if I can hold off sharing for that long-that’s how exciting I found things like:

Sidenote: I loved the idea of the Google Spell Up game but can not seem to get to work. Every link I find for it (even through the Chrome Store) just takes me back to the regular Google homepage. If you know how to get it to work, please, please share the secret with me!

In keeping with my obsession with Library Centers, I was very excited to read on the Ditch That Textbook site about YouTube Editor and being able to edit and customize other videos to better fit our needs but, that appears to no longer be an available option. However, I did learn about a fun Google Experiment I think our music teacher might enjoy using with students: A.I. Duet!

What I’d like students to try with them:

I’d love to incorporate the Primarily Google blog’s YouTube/Google Form idea into our Awards Season centers. Currently, we’re watching videos of this year’s 3 Apples books and our mock Caldecott contenders in our center rotations. I think this could be a great way to have kids think about things they liked and didn’t like about the 3 Apples books and/or the contenders in our Mock Caldecott. They could even review their responses before casting their final votes.

So I know I said I wanted to share the ideas I found on the The Control Alt Achieve blog with my teachers but I do have some ideas on how they (and I) could use them in the classroom with students. Perhaps in the future we’ll add some of these games/ideas to our library centers.  

  • Land Lines-I think it would be interesting for primary students who are just learning shapes to see how those shapes can be found in real life, in both manmade and natural forms. Plus, it would give them a chance to practice mouse control while also practicing drawing the shapes.
  • Smarty Pins-A great way to practice geography skills and work in some basic research skills as well (like identifying key words, best places to find the answer etc).
  • Google Maps-Space & Access Mars-Our 5th graders do a planet research project every year and these would make great extension activities for students who finish up early or, a fun way to drum up excitement and interest before the project starts.
  • Mystery Animal-I think this could be a fun treat when a class has a few random minutes in their day or at the end of library class. But beyond being fun, it’s also a great way to fine tune their questioning skills, deductive reasoning skills and, work on their listening comprehension.

I had so much fun working on this Cool Tool topic. It really gave me that energized, excited feeling you get when you attend a great session at a conference and you’re just buzzing with ideas. Which is nice because our state conference is still months away and this stretch between February break and April break can be just a tad…draining. But now I’ve got some fun ideas to work on and experiment with in the meantime!

Cool Tools for School, Thing 29: App-palooza!

Recently, I’ve been inspired to start bringing back library centers and more flipped classroom style learning in the library. I did library centers and more flipped classroom instructional videos earlier in my career but that style of learning in the library kind of fell off my radar when we lost our library clerks a few years ago. Now that I have a clerk again, we’re through the bulk of her training and, have settled into a smooth working routine together, it’s felt like a great time to start bringing back those centers and flipped classroom instructions again. With those goals fresh in my mind, a few apps stood out to me during this Cool Tool exploration.

What I tried:

Apple Clips

Somehow, I had never heard of Apple Clips before this tool! I love that it has just enough options to make a video look splashy but doesn’t have all the bells and whistles and options to distract and overwhelm me. It’s also simple enough that I think students could quickly get a handle on it and make short videos of their own but again, it won’t overwhelm them or give them so many choices they keep tinkering and struggle to finish their project. Another thing I loved about Apple Clips was the option to have captions display what you are saying when you record a video of yourself. This is a great, easy way to sneak in reading comprehension skills since it gives students the chance to hear and see the words at the same time! I tested it out during a few practice videos and it was surprisingly accurate!

Shadow Puppet

We already have this app on our school iPads but I had yet to use it myself. Like Apple Clips, I like that it has enough to make a video look slick and cool but not so much that it’s difficult to use or time consuming to learns the ins and outs of creating with it. I love the ability to not only do voice overs for selected images but also zoom in and out of them and add extra effects.

What I’d like to do with them:  

I’d love to app smash these two apps together! I’d love to take pictures of a book and record myself reading it with the Shadow Puppet app and then, upload that video to Apple Clips and use that app to add in a cool introduction and closing. As part of our unit on the 3 Apples Award, I’ve wanted to break the kids into groups and have one center where they watch/listen to the books on the iPads. I normally use YouTube videos for this because there are so many wonderfully produced ones out there that remind me of my Reading Rainbow days but, YouTube can be a sticky wicket. Every now and then you have a student who says they aren’t allowed to watch YouTube. It also opens up the possibility that some of the students will migrate away from the video they are suppose to be watching and find other things to watch instead. And of course, there are the issues of inappropriate content in videos aimed at children that seem to pop up every few months. Most of the YouTube issues can be circumnavigated by closely monitoring the students but, one of the things I like about doing centers is it gives me a chance to work intensively with a smaller group of students while the other two groups do a relatively self-guided lesson on their own. Having to intently monitor the YouTube viewing center takes away my chance to work hands on with the other groups. I think app smashing with these two apps will give me the ability to make my own snazzy, Reading Rainbow style videos for my students and upload them to the library websites via Google Drive and thus, cut down on the temptations to go elsewhere on YouTube! I’d also like to make some short, videos explaining library vocabulary like author, illustrator, and the parts of a book to work into library centers for next year!

What I’d like students to try with them:

Instead of using our trusty old paper grading rubric when we study the Caldecott award and do our mock Caldecott, I think it would be great to have them use Shadow Puppet to take pics of certain pages of the book and record themselves explaining things they liked and didn’t like about the illustrations. Apple Clips could be used as an assessment tool during some of our centers. Students could record themselves identifying the parts of a book or explaining what an author does (and so much more!).

I always love this Cool Tool-it’s so fun to explore new to me apps as well as find fresh, fun ideas for apps we’ve been using for years. I’m particularly excited to have found not one but two easy to use apps for myself and my students to use as we start doing more and more center based library instruction!

Cool Tools for School, Thing 12: Final Reflections

For my final reflections, I thought I’d try using Adobe Spark Video. I’ve used it once before to create a summary video about my trip to the AASL National Conference but this time, I made use of the voice recording option in addition to the pictures and text! Although the audio gets a bit wonky in spots, I think it turned out pretty well and it wasn’t too difficult to put together (once I got my thoughts in order that is).

Here’s a link to my Spark Video in case the embed doesn’t work (I seem to be able to see the video embed in edit mode but once I hit publish it’s just a link? Not sure what’s up with that…)


Cool Tools for School, Thing 50: The New AASL Standards

I was lucky enough to attend the national conference in Phoenix when the standards were unveiled and even pre-ordered my copy so I could pick it up right at registration with the rest of my conference bag goodies. I’ve participated in Webinars and Twitter chats related to the new standards, I’m even in an online book study through our local Boces. But man, oh man. That is one dense book and I’m still, all these months later trying to wrap my head around it. So, I figured why not round out my Cool Tools experience this year with even more standards talk? I mean, if wanting to know and understand these new standards is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

For my first activity, I did the one suggested in Paige’s article.


I know we’re probably harder on ourselves and our programs than others would be but, this was a bit depressing to look at! I don’t have nearly as many green highlights as I would like and far more red circles than I would have hoped. It looks like we’re strongest with the Domain Think, doing alright with the Domain Grow and have much work to do in the Domains Create and Share. Include is by far our worst Shared Foundation with Inquire being our strongest and Collaborate, Curate, Explore and, Engage being works in progress.

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Looking at the Powerverbs! Checklist Paige linked to in her article, it looks like we have trouble with:

  • reflecting
  • seeking diverse perspectives and viewpoints
  • identifying bias
  • evaluating sources
  • locating appropriate sources
  • sharing our knowledge products with genuine audiences

Some of these, like identifying bias and evaluating sources, I expect to have more difficulty within an elementary school library as they are a bit complex. Others, like sharing our knowledge products with genuine audiences, are difficult because technology, particularly social media, is quite locked down in my district. We don’t often have the ability to share our students work outside the classroom. I need to find other ways to share our students work with real-world audiences (and keep working on the IT department to loosen up a bit). Finally, others, like reflecting and locating appropriate sources, are problematic because of the way I have been doing research with our students. I often curate our list of databases to a smaller, more manageable list before we do a research project. Instead, I could be doing that with the students, at the very least talking through my choices with them and modeling my thinking so they can start to see and hear how an experienced researcher evaluates and locates appropriate sources. Reflecting on our final products often gets the short straw because we are often rushing to finish up a project so they can move on and not fall behind on the curriculum. I’ll need to keep this exercise and the list of Powerverbs! handy as I begin to rethink and plan next year’s curriculum over the summer…

After that somewhat disheartening exercise, I began looking at all the different handouts and materials available on the Standards portal. One of the first handouts I looked at was the AASL’s “Six Action Steps for Getting to Know the National School Library Standards”.


I was happy to see that, thanks to my online standards book club and other standards-based PD I’ve been engaging in, I’d made my way through steps 1-3 already. Step 4: Curate, I managed to tackle with the help of the Paige Jaeger article. Steps 5 & 6, Include and Engage, will require some thinking and planning over the summer. I like the idea of sharing the foundation words with students and seeing which ones they already know and which ones need defining for them. I’ll definitely have to start thinking about how to work those vocabulary words into our existing lessons next year…

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Next, I looked at the standards guides for Administrators, Teachers/Educators, and parents. I looked at the key talking points and began to think about how I could incorporate them into different elevator speeches for each of those key groups. Writing an elevator speech is the final assignment for my online Standards book club so I’m still working on those but I’ve found the guides to be very helpful in crafting my messages so far.

Finally, I poked around a bit more and discovered some potentially fun and useful things:

  • You can get presentation templates modeled after the new Standards formatting
  • You can download web banners modeled after the new Standards formatting
  • There’s a hashtag bank with hashtag suggestions for following and using on social media (very handy for my next Twitter lurking session)
  • You can find all the explainer videos for the new Standards there
  • THERE IS A STANDARDS-BASED CARD GAME!!! (it’s kind of like Apples to Apples but with the foundations, domains, and the personas-and I just might have printed it off and plan on bringing it to the CNYSL book club meeting at my house this summer).

All in all, this was a very eye-opening Cool Tools with which to wrap up the year. I didn’t always like what I saw but, I certainly will be a better teacher and librarian for having taken the time to see (all the many, many places) where I can improve.

Cool Tools for School, Thing 11: You Pick!

While exploring Thing 50: The New AASL Standards, I spent some time looking at the Tech Tools & Resources for the AASL Standards doc to which Polly had linked. One of the tools on it was Goosechase EDU, a tool I’d been introduced to in the past but had never gotten around to actually using. Now seemed like the perfect time to correct that.

Goosechase EDU allows you to create and run a scavenger hunt. I thought this would be a great way to shake up our end of year library review. Normally we play library review bingo but a scavenger hunt sounded like a much more fun and active way to review some of the things we learned this year!

First, you have to sign up for an account. You can even use Google to login/create an account if you’d like. Then, you create your first “game” or scavenger hunt.

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After you select “new game”, you give some details about your scavenger hunt. Since “Game Location” is optional, I left it blank for privacy and safety reasons.

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Next, you’ll need to start creating your “missions” or tasks. Missions can take multiple forms. You can have photo or video submission, text submissions or GPS based submissions. You can also create your own from scratch, re-use missions you created for other scavenger hunts, or borrow them from the existing Goosechase Mission Bank.

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I chose to make all of my missions either photo or video submissions. You give each mission a name, a points value, and a description. Mine included things like, find a book and take a picture of the front cover or, make a video of a group member demonstrating how to use a shelf marker to look for books.

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After you’ve assigned your mission an name, points value, and description, you can either save it and move on to the next one or, make a few adjustments in the advanced settings. Goosechase automatically defaults to showing all submissions in the game feed as they are submitted so everyone can see them. If you were playing this in a larger setting I can see where that would be fun for the other players and might help stir up the competition. However, in the smaller space of my library, I thought it would just cause students to copy each other in a race to get done first so I changed it to hide the submissions from the feed. Since it automatically defaults to “shown in feed” you have to do this for every mission which is a bit annoying but not the end of the world.

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After you’ve made all your missions, it’s time to decide which game mode you’d like your scavenger hunt to take. You can do individuals or teams. I opted for teams. You can have up to 5 teams per game with the free EDU account. You can create your own team names and give each team a join code or let teams create their own names. I unchecked the option for letting teams create their own names and went with the very creative Team 1, Team 2 and so on. After that, the next step is activating the game so teams can join and participate. I gave mine a date range so I can test it out sporadically before the actual students play it and so I wouldn’t forget to activate before they came to play and waste precious class time logging in to do so.

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Then, once players start completing missions, you can view them from the submission hub, if you’re logged into the account the created the scavenger hunt under.

Some things to note:

  • To join a game, students do have to create an account for Goosechase and be logged into that account to find your game and play it. I work with elementary students and wasn’t too sure about having them log in using their Gmail accounts. Instead, I created five accounts with the usernames fpslibrary1, fpslibrary2, fpslibrary3 and so on. For an email address, I entered whatever username I had just created and the system took it (even though none of those email address is real or valid).
  • To speed up the whole process, I plan on having the five iPads logged in to the fpslibrary accounts, the scavenger hunt selected and each iPad signed up as one of the 5 teams before the students arrive anyway. That way, they can just get right to playing the game after I’ve explained how it works.
  • This whole idea could also be executed without the Goosechase app if necessary. You could put the missions on index cards or a piece of paper and still have students take pictures and videos with the iPads. You would just need to save time at the end of class to review the submissions from each team’s iPad before you could see how each team actually did. I’m thinking of doing this anyway in case there are any unexpected internet issues or iPad problems the day I want to try the scavenger hunt.

In addition to this being a fun way to wrap up the year with my primary grade students, I think it could be a great review/orientation for the intermediate students when they come back in the fall. With the older kids being on a flex schedule I won’t see all of them right away for projects but I still try to see all of the 3rd-6th grade classes the first few weeks back for a welcome back orientation and book exchange. I love the idea of this fun game setting the tone of our year!

Cool Tools for School, Thing 14: eBook Creation

A few weeks ago, I got the email I expect but dread every. Single. Year: it was time to set up my observation. This year, the library department’s observations are being done by the head of the technology department. So, it seemed like a good idea to find a way to work technology into my lesson plan. But I was also in between projects with my intermediate grades (we’re on a flex schedule this year) which meant if I was going to complete my observation in the time frame I was being given, I was going to need to do my lesson with a primary class. Fortunately, we were going to be done with our current units and ready to start something new by observation time. But I didn’t want to teach them a technology lesson just to teach them a technology lesson and try to look good to the IT guy during my observation. I was a bit stumped.

Then, one night I was scrolling Instagram and saw a post about this book I am not just a Scribble by Diane Alber. It looked cute so I ordered it and when it arrived I saw that the last page encourages kids to make their own scribbles and it even comes with stickers so kids can give their scribbles eyes, arms, mouths and so on like, just like the Scribble in the story. I loved that idea but it didn’t have nearly enough stickers for even one class of students to do it much less a whole grade level. And that’s when I remembered the “Build a Snowman with Google Slides” activity by Control Alt Achieve that I had looked during Thing 43: Google Drawing and it all came together.

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Inspired by that activity, I created a new slide template called We Are Not Just Scribbles. The idea was the same as the original, my 2nd-grade students would learn how to use copy and paste to take the eyes, mouths, arms, legs and so on from the other pages of the slide template and add them to their creation. So, the class prior to my observation, we read the book and students created their own scribbles. I gave them a template I mocked up quickly that had four boxes on the front and four boxes on the back. They were told to make 8 completely different, creative scribbles and then circle the number of their favorite before they handed it in and started book exchange time. Before the next class (aka The Lesson That Was To Be Observed), I used my phone to take a picture of each of their favorite scribbles and uploaded them to Google Drive. Then, in Google Classroom, I opened each of their slide templates and added their individual scribbles to each of the templates. When they arrived for the next class, we reviewed the book, did a quick lesson on how to use the mouse or the toolbar to access the copy/paste tools and then sent them off to access their individual slide projects and personalize their scribbles. The next lesson we finished them up and the next time I see them, we’ll start typing in the “All about my scribble” box. When everyone is done, I plan on printing their scribbles and “all about my scribble” pages and binding them into one class book I can add to the library shelves. If there’s time, I’d like to make a second one to give to their classroom teachers as well.

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For my Kindergarten and 1st-grade students, we followed the same basic idea I did with 2nd-grade classes except I created a different version of the template with fewer choices for the personalization options so they all fit on the same page as the scribble. Instead of learning copy and paste they used the lesson to practice mouse skills like selecting, dragging and dropping.  

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All in all, the lesson went well. My IT guy was impressed, the kids loved it and, it not only taught them a technology skill but, I was able to connect it to something we did in library class. I will definitely be using lessons like this next year to teach basic computer skills to my primary students throughout the year!

Cool Tools for Schools, Thing 6: Curation Tools

With the release of AASL’s newest version of the standards, curation has been on my mind quite a bit this school year. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself as much of a curator. I’m a fantastic explorer and gatherer. But the extent of my curating usually involves mass deleting of links and articles after my bookmarks and favorites become too difficult to navigate and I can no longer remember why I even saved them in the first place. I am very much the sushi example in the Cult of Pedagogy blog post, Are You a Curator or Dumper? I think part of the problem is that when teachers ask for suggestions I want to be able to help them right then and there. I don’t want to miss this opportunity to show them I do have valuable information and skills to offer them. I also want to respect their busy schedules by getting them the resources they need quickly. But then, like in the sushi example, I realize after they left they I forgot about this resource and that resource so I try to get them in their hands (or at least their sphere of awareness) but, just like in the sushi example, they’ve usually decided to just go with what I gave them first and are not interested in anything new or are already done with what they needed the resource for to begin with (“maybe next year”). After reading the Cult of Pedagogy post and exploring the resources, I have a two-part plan to help me try to break my dumper habit and transition to the curator role.

Step 1: Give Myself Time to Be a Curator

The first step will require a mindset shift on my part. I need to give myself permission not to immediately “solve” teachers resource requests. I need to get comfortable saying things like, “I’m sure we have lots of great resources on that topic. Let me pull some options for you to look at. When would do you need them by?”. Not feeling the need to have an immediate answer will be tough to overcome but it will also give me time to remember all the really great resources we have and only pass along those stellar options.

Step 2: Plan Ahead for the Procrastinators

Giving myself permission not to have an immediate answer so I can be a thoughtful curator and not a haphazard dumper only works when the people who need the resources also have the ability to give me time to be thoughtful in my curating. Anyone who has worked in a school library for more than five minutes knows that inevitably, the answer to the question “When do you need them by?” will be, if you’re lucky, “tomorrow” but more likely will be something like, “by next period” or “in about 20 minutes”. So in order to still help those people but not fall back into the random resource dumping trap, I need to have some curated lists for commonly inquired about topics prepared ahead of time. This plan was not something new to me before I started this Cool Tools topic but finding the best platform with which to accomplish it had been eluding me. I wanted something that was easy to use, looked good, and could be embedded into my library website. Having experimented with a few of the tools on the list in the past, I knew they weren’t able to meet my requirements. Then, as it happened, I briefly saw in action first hand during one of my sessions at NYLA/SSL a few weekends ago and I knew I’d finally found my platform! Easy to use? Check. Looks good? Check. Can be embedded into Google Sites? Check. I’m sticking to the free basic version for now but I also like that with a paid version I could embed my creations right into Mailchimp since that’s the platform I use for my monthly teacher newsletter. So far, I’ve only used it to make a practice resource list for the Erie Canal (side note: I recently attended a PD session at the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse and it was sooooo good. If you have the opportunity to go to one I highly recommend it) but I really liked it! Once I had some websites and library books in mind, it really was as simple as copying and pasting the links into the search box and waiting for it to find what sites I was linking to. It imported a picture and even grabbed a description from the page itself but if you prefer, you can import your own image and make your own description. I did have a few odd issues when trying to add links to books from my catalog but they were easy enough to solve. The biggest problem being that the image was automatically grabbing wasn’t the actual picture of the cover that was on the catalog page for that book. I was able to fix that by downloading the cover image from the catalog and uploading it to myself. Other than that, it came together quickly and looked really sharp. After I made a Resource List page on the library website and added my Erie Canal example, I decided to also create a Google Form and embedded it on the main Resource List page so teachers can suggest other topics for which they’d like to see research lists curated. I’ve started a list of topics I commonly get asked to provide books or other resources for and I’ll be slowly working on adding them to the new Resource List page on the website but it’ll also be nice to have a quick way for teachers to suggest more topics I might not even know there’s an interest/need. 

To see my curated Erie Canal resources lists you can click here to view the or click here to see it in action on my library website.