Gathering Information HyperDoc

Researching in the digital age can be overwhelming. Students are doing a majority of their research online and using digital note-taking tools. To help streamline the process, I have created this Gathering Information HyperDoc with steps and tutorials.  

This will be accessible on our LibGuide and be sent to teachers, with an offer to make subject specific changes. 

How to Write a Press Release: Promoting Your School Library Beyond Social Media

Social media is a great way to celebrate all that is happening in your school library media center but is it enough? 
Do stakeholders, decision-makers and voters know the importance of a professionally staffed school library media center?

Across the country, school library media specialists and even school libraries have been the victim of budget cuts. The words hit me like daggers:

"Why do we need a school library?  Kids read books on their phones." 

"Do they really need a certified librarian to check books out?"

There are still people who do NOT understand that school librarians are so much more than a "book checker-outers". (See my post Use the Words Library and Librarian about the role of today's future ready librarian). The term librarian still conjures an image of a bespecatled woman behind a desk raising a finger to her lips "shhh." Some of these same people are making decisions about school libraries, some are voting on town and education budgets. 

I love social media and use it daily to share information and events with colleagues, students and fellow librarians. I see other school librarians doing the same. We post on Facebook in groups like School Librarian's Workshop or Future Ready Librarians. We share on Twitter with hashtags #tlchat and #FutureReadyLibs.  We share on Instagram to reach our pre-teen and teen students.

But not everyone is on social media. School board members may not be following us. But they probably read the school newsletters. Are you submitting library events, student learning, and highlights in each and every issue?  

There are lots of people who still read the newspaper. The actual newspaper.  Made of paper and delivered to their doors. (Please note I am one of those people too, newspaper to the door but it is not my sole source of information and events). The newspaper is the only place some people find out what is happening in the community. In our digital world, it is important that we remember to get our message out in all forms of media.

Submitting a story to a newspaper does take a little more time than a few clicks on social media. As a former freelance writer for a local paper, I know that press releases are important. A well written press release means less work for a reporter or editor which increases the odds it will get published. Submit pictures or relevant graphics with your press release, make it easy on the newspaper staff to run your story.  

Below you will see Tips for Writing Press Releases with some links to assist you. 

Social media will always be the "go to for" sharing. Please consider occasionally celebrating what students are learning and creating in the library...the digital citizenship lessons, the Breakout EDU, the green screen experience, the Hour of Code, the podcasting, the author visits, and yes the reading challenges the printed newspaper. 

Let's make sure everyone knows that school libraries and school librarians are active and tech-savvy learning centers that are vital to education.  

Direct link to Press Release Tips Doc

Should School-Issued Digital Devices Be Taken Home?

Should schools with 1:1 digital devices allow students to bring home their devices nightly?

I have been thinking about this question and writing this post for a long time. I have been pondering this from multiple perspectives, as a school library media specialist, teacher, parent, andstudent. 

We live in a digital world and we need to prepare students for that world. I absolutely believe in providing devices so that each student has access at the point of need. 
  • With devices, educators can teach students about digital research, search strategies, reliable sources, and triangulating information. 
  • With devices, educators can teach students about library databases and finding information beyond Google search results. 
  • With devices, educators can teach about copyright, plagiarism, and Creative Commons. 
  • With devices, educators can teach digital note-taking and citation. 
  • With devices, educators can teach students how to collaborate digitally and how to use a variety of digital tools, allowing differentiated options for students to show learning. 
  • With devices, educators can teach students how to be a part of the digital community, to protect themselves, to use social media positively, and to protect their digital footprint. 
Librarians and teachers TEACH all of those skills. However, before 1:1 students did not always have the chance to practice and skills immediately, making the teaching meaningful. Individual devices provide students with the opportunity to use what they are learning as they are being taught. With educators close by for guidance and assistance, students have the can ask questions, create and explore. The key is here is that the teacher or librarian is present to guide, help and monitor students as they dive in to the digital world. 

I do not know that handing each student their own device to tote between home and school each day makes the device an effective tool, at least not before high school.  

My first concern is how well we, as educators, are preparing students to use technology ethically and responsibly. There are ways to "babysit" the devices but if students are using a school issued device for personal recreation instead of homework, is it effective? 

My last post sparked a response from a parent who stated: 

"As a mother of four - 2 in high school , a 7th grader and a 5th grader, it’s very challenging to go against the popular current. We held off on giving anyone a device until 9th grade. An old smart phone. Both high schoolers have phones now. Strict rules still apply to the 9th grader. 

Currently we are struggling with the “wonderful” free laptops my older 3 were given from school to use at home. Now we have to referee the school computer and it is daily and exhausting!! We fought so hard to have a device free home and the school pushes it. The benefits are getting homework done and not having to share and we absolutely appreciate that. It’s the daily nagging that we really find tiresome."  -Kerri Hedde

This summer I read Alice Keeler and Matt Miller's Ditch That Homework: Practical Strategies That Make Homework Obsolete. I have both personal and professional reasons to love this idea but what resonated with me were some of the reasons, supported by research, for ditching homework. (Links to research can be found on the Ditch That Textbook web page).

Keeler and Miller discuss how homework is not equitable for all students as "home situations, resources and parent time are not equal. Not all kids get the same level of support at home." We send students home with devices assuming they have the ability to access the Internet and some sort of adult guidance. Keeler and Miller also point out that kids who do their homework are typically the ones who do not need the homework because they already understand the topic being reinforced.

My ideal school would offer longer classes, at least an hour, where both instruction and student work can occur during the same period. Shorter class periods allow time for one or the other and assume students will remember instruction details from the previous day. Or the shorter class period is rushed as educators try to cram in instruction and rush student work. There is little to no opportunity to work with individual students to address their needs. 

I speak from personal experience. At the elementary level, I taught 30-40 minute library classes. Teaching digital citizenship or research steps and allowing time for students to work, conferencing and assisting them through their process was near impossible. Oh and I needed to give students ample time to find and check out their library books. And then I would not see them for another week, and by the they have forgotten what we were working on. Co-teaching at the middle school in their 45-ish minute block was not much better as it allows little time for instruction and deep inquiry during the same block of time.

Some in education may argue that devices are just like a textbook. We are giving students a tool to learn and do their work, and their homework. But the two could not be more different. Again, do not misunderstand, I LOVE technology but you cannot use a text book to cyberbully, game, or search for clearly inappropriate content. Just as you cannot use a textbook to create digital projects. Adolescents are impulsive and curious, which is not dangerous with a textbook but can be with technology if students are not prepared to accept responsibility and are committed to ethically and responsibly using.

My son is only in Kindergarten so I surveyed some parents about their school issued devices. Some stated they liked the seamless transition between home and school work. One parent with multiple children liked that her kids were not fighting for use of their home computer.

As for drawbacks, some parents found the device poor quality. Others did not like the responsibility of the device as they are not made to withstand the schlepping in backpacks between home and school. Some schools do not allow students to carry backpacks to class so during the school day they are are carrying them and plopping them with their piles of books in each class, the cafeteria and the gym. The cost of repair was another drawback although some schools do offer insurance.

Another parent expressed concern about classroom management and academic integrity.

 "I don't think the teachers can control what the students are watching/doing when they're up in front of the class teaching and the students are face down in their laptops with the laptop lid facing the teacher. I believe the students should be looking up at the teacher and the board. I know the kids message and video chat ALL DAY LONG.

They (school officials) try to block the programs and the kids bypass the blocks faster than they can come up with new ones. I think there's something to be said for pen to paper. Many students are just cutting and pasting what they've found somewhere on the internet for their assignments."

Which leads to another point, do school issued devices increase cheating and plagiarizing? How is academic integrity being taught across grade levels?

I believe there needs to be more conversations among all stakeholders about best practices and the use of school-issued digital devices at home and at school. Personally, I believe before high school, the norm should be that students leave devices at school where they are safe, can be charged and ready for the next day of learning. When home use is needed, there should be a specific educational purpose for bringing devices home and parents and guardians should be notified.

Work Cited

Miller, Matt, and Alice Keeler. Ditch That Homework: Practical Strategies That
     Make Homework Obsolete. Dave Burgess Consulting, 2017.

The Gift of No Devices

Thank you to Anne Marie Doyle for co-authoring this post with me!

This summer my sister, also a school library media-specialist, and I discussed getting our own children Chromebooks for Christmas. We both work in public schools with one-to-one initiatives. My sister and I are both very techie. We love finding new tools and ways to engage and enhance student learning and creativity with technology. We are both are passionate about making sure our students and our own children use technology responsibly and ethically. 

It seems that we would want our own children ages 6, 8, and 11 (my sister's kids are the two older ones) to have device to learn on. However, we both quickly changed our minds.  
In both our homes, we have computers, iPads, Kindles and smartphones. We allow our children to use them but make no mistake, they are OUR devices, not our children's. Allowing them to use technology is a privilege, not a right. My sister has a chart where her children must do chores, read for an allotted amount of time, and play/color/ride bikes/etc before earning a set time on a device. That tech time they work towards includes watching YouTube videos, playing on Xbox, or using the iPad. I have a timer to limit my son's iPad usage. 

Our children use the devices in family rooms so we can monitor, assist and encourage them. They are not allowed to use in their bedrooms. Could I monitor, encourage and assist my child on his own device? Yes but he is 6, does he really need a device? Does he really need a piece of technology he can call his own? My sister's children are older and are great kids but does that mean they should have their own laptop? Like all kids, they are curious and impulsive, a combination that could be a recipe for disaster. Yes, those disasters allow us to teach life lessons but sometimes those life lessons are not age appropriate. It has been hard enough trying to explain what they hear about on the news and see in the newspaper these days.

Technology is addictive. We know that. Giving a child a device before they are ready assumes they already know how to use it responsibly. It assumes that the child is psychologically ready and the the child has supportive adults to assist and guide students. 

"My eight year old daughter has been using an old iPod touch we found when cleaning the house. It is not an understatement when I state that in the 48 hours since we discovered it, the iPod has been by her side. Part of the problem I notice is many of my children’s friends have their own devices and my children feel pressure to have their own. Every family has to make the best choice for their children. I know my children are not ready for the enormity of having their own device. Weekly my son and daughter ask “how old do I have to be to get my own phone?”  When my children begin to spend more time out with friends, especially when they are old enough for those times are unsupervised, I want them to have the ability to contact me.  But since mine are not at that point yet we will wait.  I believe that we need to model responsible use first as adults and hope that that will become intrinsic in our own kids.   That means restraint and technology free times at home with the family. No phone message, social media notification, text message or tweet should be more important than my children." 
-Anne Marie Doyle

Sitting in church last week we witnessed a mother with three elementary aged children check and reply to messages on her phone multiple times. Across the aisle a cell phone rang, another ones text alerts went off. What lessons are our children learning from us? Church, playgrounds, beach, library, parent teacher conferences, restaurants, sporting events, concerts, theater productions, and where is sacred. Instead, we treat our phones like they are the most important and sacred thing as they garner our full attention no matter what the circumstance.

I always have my phone or tablet close by. I say it's in case someone (my son's teacher, my aging parents) need to get in touch with me. But it truly is the fear of missing out. I try not to respond like Pavlov's dog each time it dings but I am not always successful. My sister is the same way. However, we make a point of talking to our children about our behavior and make sure they see us leaving our phones in the car when we are at church or a movie. Within our own families we have rules that we give our children permission to help enforce - no phones at the dinner table, no phones in the bedrooms*. We want them to understand balance and restraint. We want them to see life is what is happening around them and not what is happening on a screen.  

What will be the right age to give our children their own devices? I truly do not know. Right now I am thinking 8th or 9th grade. We need to see how our children's personalities develop, gauge their maturity and their sense of responsibility. My sister just allowed my nephew to get his own email address, that was a huge milestone...he was so excited! He will be using

Is the ability to use technology an important life skill? Absolutely! But there are a lot more important things that we want our children to prioritize and learn before giving them a personal device.  

Developing the Love of Reading

I am a school librarian and I have a son who doesn't love to read.

How did this happen?

Ever since I can remember I dreamed of having a child who would nestle next to me at night excited to read together. Some of my dearest memories from my own childhood were cozed up under a blanket with my sister listening to my mother read the adventures of Laura Ingalls, Ramona Quimby, the Five Little Peppers and so many more.

I know that passionate readers are created. I have that have read to M every night since he has been born. It was so easy when he was a baby. Not being able to talk meant he could not argue with me about putting on pajamas, brushing his teeth, reading books, and going to bed. In the last couple years I confess I more than occasionally would substitute a tv show before bed because I was too exhausted to fight with a child who did not want to read. (Note: We always watch television with closed captioning turned on...not exactly reading but at least shows the importance of the printed word.)

I tried not to worry because M knew his letters and sounds. However, he showed no interest in learning how to read words. As a librarian, a mom, and an avid reader, I feel like a failure. We took trips to the library, I let him choose whatever books he wanted, despite my own lack of enthusiasm for another Avenger book. I let him check out chapter books that I knew were over his head because I know that saying "no" to a book further dampers any flicker of interest in reading and books. Together we would choose a few books that I knew would be appropriate for reading together. When we got home, we would unpack them and maybe read a couple but it was a struggle, far from the serene mother and son reading experience I dreamed about.

And then we discovered Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie and things started to look up. Oh how we both LOVED the characters and stories. The simplicity of the story and ability to act out the character allowed us to read together (I whispered the words to him because he could not read them). We talked about empathy and how facial expressions and body language show emotions. We them again and again and again. We scoured the library and bought our favorites. Matthew even got to meet Elephant & Piggie with his preschool class. 
Two of M's favorite characters.

When Mo Willems ended the series, we branched out and enjoyed the Pigeon books, but my son's interest was waning again. Part of this was due to us being displaced from our home for several months so our routines were out of whack, the other was that we were living with his older cousins. The cousins LOVED to read out loud to him but my son preferred to play with them and did not sit still well, especially with other kids around. Then I blamed transitioning back to our house. Through it all I kept offering books and always had plenty of books available around the house. 

My husband and I also model reading as an enjoyable activity.  We both always have a book within reach. We talk about books with family and friends and my son witnesses these moments.

My son is 6 now. He just started kindergarten so I have hope that his love of reading will grow. He is learning site words through movement and gets excited when he recognizes one. He is so proud when he can read a site word book. I see a flicker of reading love starting. 

My sister recently gave M a gift card to the local book shop for his birthday. Again, I held my opinions and let M choose what he wanted. Because of his new interest in football he chose The Football Fumble by David A. Kelly. It is a chapter book that I knew he could not read himself. When we got home, M was so excited about the book HE picked out and purchased, he nestled in to my side and we read for two hours. I used my finger as I read pointing to each word, and his eyes followed, excited when he recognized one of his site words! What is even better is that this is part of a series which we have now been devouring. 

Would M prefer to play Legos, use the iPad, or run around outside over reading? Absolutely! But I know that "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents" (Emilie Buchwald). 

It would be easy to give up and hand M the ipad and turn on an ebook but an app will not replace the experience of reading together. I will not give up because the love of reading is too important. Not just the ability to read, but the desire to devour books. I want M to want to read for fun, for intellectual gains, to develop empathy, to understand the world. I want M to be filled with excitement each time he opens a book.  

Creating a reader is not something that happens overnight, it takes a lot of work with some children, M is one of those children. 

I am a school librarian and I have a son who doesn't love to read...YET.  
I am committed to the YET!

LEDtech Evaluation

In my last post I discussed the planning of our first district LEDtech professional day which we held this past Tuesday, November 7th. 

The day was well received by over 99% of the attendees, the data is listed below. 

I ran 3 different sessions that day.  Below are my links and reflections on each.

I began by asking the teachers to view EDpuzzle as a student. They joined the Google Classroom I created for the day and they followed the announcement to the EDpuzzle assignment. They proceeded to watch and answer the questions I had created. 

I used the smart board to project the teacher side of EDpuzzle where teachers can see student progress, their answers, the multiple choice grades and how to grade the free answer.   

Before continuing on we discussed how EDpuzzle can be used in class. I provided this hyperdoc to participants with the list of idea and steps to create an EDpuzzle.

I then gave them an EDpuzzle tour, teaching participants to connect Google Classroom student lists; search the EDpuzzle libraries; and create, assign and post  an EDpuzzle.
Teachers, who ranged from elementary to high school, were given time to find and/or create their own so I could help individuals with any questions.


My NoodleTools group learned how to use the tool as a student and teacher. NoodleTools did provide me with a great slideshow presentation but I took a more hands-on approach, asking participants to create a project. Teachers from subject areas beyond humanities who attended found it helpful to know what students were doing in other areas. The middle school teachers who attended thought there was a lot going on for some of their students.  So we talked about how to use Google Slides in a similar fashion. I also made sure everyone knew about the resources on our school LibGuides for research.

Video Creation Tools

This was an advanced group and also a very eclectic group - ranging from preschool to high school teachers and with 3 administrators. While each one of the tools I introduced could have been a standalone session, I chose I chose to give 10 minute overview of each because of the wide range of participants. I shared this handout  I planned the last 20 minutes for teachers to choose the one they think would be most useful in their class to play with and ask more questions about.  

By this third session, I could tell participants were exhausted. So much new learning in so little time. I also noticed while my first two sessions, the participants wanted to play with the tools, this session, although "advanced" did not jump on and start playing. I encouraged participants to focus on ONE thing they learned in the course of the morning to implement in their classroom.  

A couple participants thought there was too much content and while I agree I also know my reasoning behind the multiple tools. I think if I had tried to showcase 3 tools in a first session it would have not seemed so overwhelming. I also know for next time, this session would be specific to elementary, middle or high school. 

We will be doing an official de-brief with the LEDtech committee and start planning for 2018!'

Planning the First "LEDtech" - District Technology Day

The Ledyard school district will be hosting the first Ledyard Technology (LEDtech) event where district educators will be teaching fellow educators how to use a variety of apps and tools.

Last school year our district began transitioning to a Google School. Students and staff were provided Google accounts and several grade levels received Chromebooks as we began the first phase of the district's 1:1 initiative. Many of the high school and middle school teachers I work with began incorporating Google Classroom and Google Apps, most of them having little or no formal training. I know the same is true at the elementary level. Educators would learn apps on their own, learn about tools from their own professional learning networks and incorporate them in to their curriculum to enhance student learning. 

In December 2016, our school district sent about a dozen teachers to the EdTechTeam summit in Boston. (Note: if you EVER have an opportunity to attend an EdTechTeam event I absolutely recommend!!) Those of us who attended the event, excitedly returned to school with so many ideas. We incorporated aspects of our new learning with our students and informally shared ideas with colleagues. We also discussed our learning with our assistant superintendent, Jennifer P. Byars, EdD. The idea for our own district day of technology arose from those conversations.

In the fall 2017, a committee of teachers was formed to begin planning the LEDtech Event. We brainstormed a list of technology tools and apps we would each be willing to teach and surveyed the teachers via Google Forms to find out what they would want to learn. We also created levels of sessions ranging from beginner to expert.  

Dr. Byars took the lead on creating the survey, analyzing the results, organizing the registration process and creating the schedule for the day. A LEDtech webpage with the catalog of offerings was created and teachers were required to sign up for 3 sessions prior to the event on November 7th. In the meantime teacher presenters are working on the resources they will present. 

Stay tuned - next week I will be posting reflections for the LEDtech event!!

Gathering Information HyperDoc

Researching in the digital age can be overwhelming. Students are doing a majority of their research online and using digital note-taking too...