Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reading and the Common Core

AASL=seeing your favorite people in the world in person. I subscribe to Library Sparks mostly for Tony Buzzeo's monthly column on lessons aligned to the Common Core.  So, of course, I went to see
Tony Buzzeo's presentation on Reading and the Common Core.  Tony pointed out at the beginning of her talk that we have a HUGE opportunity with the ELA Common Core.  Using EBSCO and other databases has great links to periodical articles and the lexile level for the articles is given for each article.  Teachers will love this.  We also talked about some great informational text authors--Steve Jenkins

She showed us reading standards that we can cite--and many of these are activities that most good school librarians are already modeling all them:
  • Pulling out evidence from a text to answer a question
  • Comparing 2 texts on a similar topic to show how they are alike and different
  • Selecting and sharing books with appropriate complexity for the intended grade level
  • Quoting accurately from text (great place to use document cameras/ebooks) to answer a question--and describe what you can infer (start with -- what is a character like?  then show us in the book where it says that)
  • Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak knowledgeably about the subject (great opportunity to use a combination of books and periodical articles)
ALWAYS document what you do--attach the ELA standard to what you are doing and make sure classroom teachers and your administrators know that you are doing this. 

Join forces with colleagues--choose topics and divide the work to develop curriculum.  She also recommended Novelist Plus, which has many common core lesson plans.  Massachusetts databases do not include Novelist Plus (just Novelist) and she suggested school librarians request this upgrade to help them with common core.

A couple of books new to me that I will definitely be purchasing:
Do you know which ones will grow? by Susan A. Shea
A wizard from the start by Don Brown
The boy who harnessed the wind by William Kankwambe
Farmer Will Allen and the growing table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
When the Beat was Born:  DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill
My First Day by THE AMAZING Steve Jenkins
Lifetime: the Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives by Lola M. Schaefer
Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (pair it with Mo Willem's Naked Mole Rat)
Pedal It! by Michelle Mulder
Locomotive by Brian Floca

Great handouts here

Friday, November 15, 2013

PBS Learning Media

I have long been a fan of Teachers' Domain, so was eager to go see its new incarnation as PBS learning media

You need to set up free account with email and PW; there is an email account you can use (they will help you set it up) so you can set up an account for students to use

34,000 digital resources, includes:

  • Short clips from longer PBS national programs and local productions, some are from high-quality partners (e.g, NASA, Smithsonian), and some are produced specifically for the site
  • all clips are selected to be tied to particular curriculum and all are tied to standards
  • many clips are associated with a lesson plan that indicates how to use the clip appropriately
All clips are searchable by keywords, grade level, subject area, and by CCSS standards and some national stantdards
  • Clips can be saved using favorite buttons and saved to folders; folders can be shared
  • There are also clips organized by public media series, state and local collections, curriculum topics and theme
  • There is a whole collected of "characteristics of highly effective teaching and learning" that could be used for PD within your school--short videos showing many best practices for teaching and classroom management
Themed-content in middle school literacy practicing reading and writing in the content area (pbslearningmedia/collections/midlit), including science (energy, plate tectonics, health), ELA (character development, personification), social studies, mathematics--most populated at science and social studies
  • Lesson plans go with all topics and have been created and vetted with and by experts/teachers
  • Includes a number of literacy strategies--categorize, compare/contrast, find evidence, etc etc
We looked at 2 excellent lessons -- one on cowbirds and one on Pocahontus.  The workshop participants all agreed that the lessons were engaging (actually fun and very interesting), and there were some excellent student activities and assignments embedded into each one.    These would make excellent assignments for supplementation, homework, self-paced work in a topic area.

Many, many middle school math lessons and activities will be added soon

Thursday, November 14, 2013


When I had the privilege of attending AASL11 two years ago in Minneapolis, one of my favorite parts was IDEAxCHANGE, also known as the Exploratorium.  It's a chance to talk to librarians from across the country and find out what neat, innovative, groundbreaking things they're doing in their libraries, learn from them, get ideas, get inspired, and go home ready to try something new. 

This year was no different.  There were 36 tables, and I stopped by at least 5 that had a MSLA member, so go us! We are out there on the forefront doing amazing things and teaching others, and I think we should be really proud of what we're accomplishing in the field.   Just to give you a small taste of the presentations I walked by: library centers, featuring Newton library teacher Jessica Lodge and her partners, Cari Young from San Antonio and Carolyn Vibbert from Dumfries, Virginia, Library Pals, an online, virtual penpal partnership between Newton library teacher Jennifer Reed and a librarian in Minnesota, Boston Arts Academy/Fenway High School Library Director Deborah Lang Froggatt's presentation on using iPads to enable free agent learning, tables covering how to teach copyright, responsible digital citizenship, writing mentor programs in the library, Common Core connections, using picture books to teach civics and current events, a new filing system that combines non-fiction and fiction together using new subject headings, and so much more.  

It can be almost overwhelming at times, but it's also an energizing, exciting moment because you walk away buzzing with ideas. I've already jotted down at least ten things I want to try when I get back to school on Monday - even though I know some of them will take a lot of time! The IDEAxCHANGE was phenomenal, and I can't wait to see what tomorrow and Saturday's concurrent sessions bring.  Best of all, I don't have to agonize as much as I did last time about which sessions to attend, because 70 of them will be recorded and hosted on eCOLLAB by AASL (all handouts and materials distributed at the IDEAxCHANGE are also available there), which is free for all AASL members.  

Welcome to AASL 13

It's a beautiful morning in Hartford CT and we're getting ready for AASL 13.  There are lots of MSLA members and we'd love to have you blogging with us.  If you're interested, let us know!

It's preconference day here and I'm presenting with Judi Moriellen and teams of librarians and teachers from around the country to show that teacher-librarian collaboration is a terrific way to boost the efficacy of both teaching partners.  My favorite first grade teacher, Marianne Duffy, and I are showing off some of the terrific research we do together with her ELL class.  I am guessing that if you can do research with grade 1 ELL kids, you can do research with anybody!

This afternoon's Idea Exchange is another opportunity to get some great ideas.  I'm working with the Essential Links group there to show off the resources AASL has cached for members. Please come over and say "hi" and find out what we've been collecting to help school librarians.

Monday, July 1, 2013

ALA After Hours

It's not all fun and games at ALA--for example, this morning I am eating my first ever Egg McMuffin after discovering McDonald's was the only place open to get breakfast at the Convention Center.  (It's actually not horrific).  And I am suffering from "convention shoulder," which is caused by lugging heavy bags of free books.

But after hours it is fun and games here!  Saturday night several of us went to a special performance of the famed Second City comedy troupe, in a special performance for librarians.  They worked in great bits about budget cuts and crazy patrons, and you could hear Valerie Diggs laughing from a block away.  The program was put on as a scholarship fundraiser sponsored by ProQuest, and funds are designated for students in library school programs (YAY).

Last night Kathy Lowe, Amy Short, Sharon Hamer and I were invited to a party at the world headquarters of Encyclopedia Britannica (our new Massachusetts encyclopedia on our state database!). We got a tour of their base of operations led by a man named Ted who is apparently the historian of the Encyclopedia Britannica and a man you'd want by your side at a trivia contest.  I had no idea that Britannica had been published in the US continuously since the 1700s.  We also connected with the California and Colorado school library association members and got heartening news about how their strong advocacy efforts are beginning to pay off (in Colorado they're getting money, in California they just aren't laying off as many librarians as in the past--everything seems to be relative in libraries).  We got back to our hotel in time to see lots of splendidly-dressed people leaving the Caldecott-Newbery banquet and from reports in the ladies' room, that was just wonderful too.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Retired (not)

The AASL Retiree Special Interest Group (SIG) is a group of former school librarians who have remained actively involved in our profession and are seeking to formalize their role within AASL. Ann Marie Pipkin from Alabama has chaired the SIG this past year. This was AASL's first SIG; a new Student SIG has since been formed as well.

The group met at ALA Annual this week to review progress made so far and to make plans for the future. Kathy Lowe and Linda Friel from MSLA were among the participants.

Hilda Weisburg (NJ) reported on the New Jersey Association of School Librarians' (NJASL) mentoring program, which is made up of volunteer retired members. Her recommendation is to start letting other states know how retirees can participate in their state organizations and encourage states to get their retirees involved.

AASL Hartford program - Mentoring: A Win Win Proposition
A proposal from the Retiree SIG for a panel of retirees to speak on mentoring opportunities available within ALA has been accepted by the AASL Conference Committee. The NJASL program will be cited as an example of how to implement a mentoring program at the state level. SIG members were asked to volunteer to facilitate breakout discussions.  Fran Roscello (NY) asked for ideas for an activity for retirees at the AASL conference in Hartford, CT in November. Dinner (or breakfast) with Your Local Retired Librarian was one suggestion.

The Membership Committee has started calling retired librarians to see if they want to remain active in AASL. Ann Marie Pipkin asked for volunteers to continue calling others. Allison Cline (the SIG's AASL staff liaison) has written a script of talking points. Also, a point person is needed to connect with the Student SIG group.

Ann Marie asked if anyone is interested in chairing this SIG next year and Irene Kwidzinski (CT) volunteered to take the position.

ALA has a Retired Members Round Table that Ann Marie encouraged all to join and attend its meeting at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia next January.

After the meeting, several SIG members adjourned to Emilio's Tapas restaurant for some informal networking. See the photo here: 

No matter where you are on your professional trajectory, there are always ways to stay involved and continue to contribute to the profession - and keep on going to national conferences!

NCLE --great opportunity for librarians

The National Center for Literacy Education is a great opportunity for school librarians to shine in front of our colleagues in education.  NCLE is a coalition of over 2 dozen educational organizations with an interest in promoting literacy.  NCLE offers grants, promotes best practice, and shares ideas among its stakeholders.  I first heard about NCLE at the ALA Midwinter meeting in Seattle and joined its listserv.  I have been very impressed with the quality of resources about literacy initiatives and best practices that appear weekly in my email, and have put many into practice and shared many more with my principal and teachers.  This afternoon, Cara Calvin, an AASL volunteer who acts as a liaison to NCLE described how librarians could ask NCLE for small grants to support projects in schools and districts to pilot projects and get materials.  She also urged us to join the site and post projects to showcase best practices.  It is clear that this is a strong opportunity for librarians to demonstrate their skills as teachers and to show colleagues and administrators how we add value to student learning.  I hope to promote this initiative when I return to Massachusetts!

What happens at Affiliate Assembly?

AASL Affiliate Assembly met this morning.  We were represented by Amy Short and Sharon Hamer, and I went along too.  This group is where representatives from school library organizations throughout the country come to share ideas and concerns and to recognize good things that are happening in the field. Over the years, we’ve gotten some terrific ideas here from other state initiatives.  For instance, check out what Colorado is up to!
MSLA sends two representatives to the assembly as voting members.  We are then grouped by region, and we belong to the New England region, called Region 1 here.  We sit with our region and share.  Ours is the only region that has formed a professional organization (NESLA), and our affiliate assembly representatives are also our representatives to NESLA.  Within our region, we elect a director, who sits on the board of the AASL Executive Board and helps shape their policies.  The regional directors spend an enormous amount of time meeting while we are at ALA to plan and organize for AASL.  As of this weekend, Valerie Diggs from MSLA stepped down after four years in this position, and turned the responsibility over to Michelle Luhtala of Connecticut.  This morning we discussed how Region 1 states select their delegates and got some good ideas for refining our own selection process. Sharon Hamer was nominated as our regional representative alternate to work with Michelle at our meetings.   Sharon and Amy will be sharing information about the specific work of this affiliate assembly with MSLA through our next issue of the MSLA Forum. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

On the level

Elementary librarians (like me) and maybe even the middle school practioners spend lots of time tryin to decipher what the reading people are up to--and one of the trickiest bits involves book leveling.  Kate Todd presented a librarians guide to leveled reading and explained the difference between quantative leveling (such as lexile levels) that use a formula based on word length, sentence length to determine reading difficulty, and qualitative leveling (such as Fuontas and Pinnell) that use additional features of the book to determine reading difficulty.  Notes for this are here.

Todd then presented some potential benefits of leveling books--helping students to find books they can read independently, providing the motivation of a successful reading experience.  However, she pointed out that librarians, appropriately, have some concerns about using book leveling in the library.  In fact ALA and AASL have issued statements cautioning librarians about some issues with book leveling, such as revealing confidential information about students (telling students they can only take a book at their reading levels shows each student who can and cannot read well), having children limited in their book selection and censoring what they select, and skewing the reasons for reading to be about rewards (e.g., Accelerated Reader) and not about the intrinsic value of reading.  LOTS of discussion ensued with many concerns raised about leveling in the interesting topic to pursue in our own practice with our own reading teachers.

Loving kids, having fun, using digital resources

 Mark Edwards, Superintendent of Mooresville Managed School District in North Carolina presented at the AASL President's Program this morning.  We heard about his district's astonishing results in education using well-thought through shifts to digital learning (every student has a laptop) and project-based learning.  He told us that librarians are part of the shared leadership in the district, where when they have to lay off staff, they NEVER lay off librarians!  Edwards embraces an "All in!" approach where every child and every adult matters and every child and every adult is responsible for adults.  Students track their own learning and from young age have an awareness and a responsibility for their "trajectory of learning."  Edwards prizes professional development and created a summer institute for teachers and 12 early release days each year to have teachers think deeply and reflectively about practice. Edwards recommends all staff read specific books in unison to discuss common strong ideas to lead to an ongoing and evolving teaching culture:
·         All Systems Go by Michael Fullton
·         Building Leadership Capacity in Schools
·         Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
·         Brain Rules:  John Medina
·         Drive:  Daniel Pink

·         A New Culture of Learning:  Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown

Hello From Chicago with great websites

Massachusetts is well represented at ALA Chicago this summer.  Here on official ALA business are Valerie Diggs, Kathy Lowe, Judi Paradis and our representatives to the AASL Affiliate Assembly Sharon Hamer and Amy Short.  In addition, we have been running into many friends from home--members of the MSLA Board, and friends from the Massachusetts Library System.

I am starting the day at the roll out of AASL's Best Websites for Teaching and Learning--my pinterest boards are growing by the minute.  The best website list is not up on the AASL website just yet, but some of the sites rolling out that look good include Wonderopolis, Marqueed, icivics, Seriously Amazing, Edudemic, and Science NetLinks.

Friday, March 8, 2013

So I have had several days to process the really great conference from last weekend. Here in the midst of another winter storm, I get some unexpected time to write about it. I think the most important benefit of these conferences is the opportunity to meet up with other school librarians. I know you have heard it all before, but the cliche is true: networking is critical, and we learn so much from each other that we simply must get out of our buildings and be together. I had some really great conversations during the meals, and in between sessions, and I count those to be as valuable as what I learned in the sessions.

First, kudos to the conference committee. Year after year, a dedicated group of school librarians work tirelessly to bring us the very best speakers, opportunities, and facilities to enhance our learning. THANK YOU!! I appreciate you! :-)

Despite some connectivity issues, which really hindered some of the presentations (I felt badly for those presenters; they brought Powerpoint slides for just such an occurrence, but those sessions didn't work very well), I thought that the sessions I attended were generally all of high quality. The conference began with a bang, with Pam Berger's session on inquiry, primary sources, and technology. Pam provided us with some good examples about how to get kids to think critically about primary sources, and make personal connections. But this activity led to one of the best ideas I heard at the conference from one of the librarians at my table (I'm so sorry, I don't remember who it was! Please write and let me know, if you read this!). She explained how she gets multiple versions of Paul Revere's ride, which include various artistic renditions, Longfellow's poem, maps from the Park Service, and things Revere himself wrote about the events. She then asks students to compare the different versions, and investigate why some of the versions are different from each other. Inquiry! Investigation! Critical thinking! I love it! I will definitely look for opportunities to incorporate this sort of inquiry when talking with teachers about upcoming units.

In the afternoon, Richard Byrne made a pretty compelling case for why Twitter can be an educator's best friend. This is when the internet began to slow down, as did his presentation, but I was grateful for the kick in the pants to get myself connected on Twitter to a lot of my Mass. school librarian colleagues. I will definitely try to figure out how fit Twitter into my (almost) daily schedule now. Time has been a barrier to fully integrating it; I encourage you to give it another try if you, like I did, sort of gave up on it.

The other major highlight for me was the description by Maureen Ambrosino and Anita Cellucci of the public library/public school collaboration that they have developed. My nascent Student Advisory Board has been struggling to stay afloat, and I hope to be able to reach out to our public librarians in Hudson to see if we can re-energize this group. I firmly believe that students need opportunities to take charge of their learning and activities (see the Search Institute's "40 Developmental Assets") and I need to find a way to help my students make this jump, and take charge!

So again, thank you so very much to the Conference Committee. I was energized, and I learned new things that I can try to put into action right away! Well, maybe after it stops snowing...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sync the Library and Computer Lab

And start a Library Technology Center--a la Laura Beal D'Elia and Dan Callahan in Burlington--
LTC—library technology center—THEY CALL IT THAT and so do the kids….Laura and Dan are viewed as a team—branded and interchangeable:
Some good stuff heard in this session--

All lesson plans are written together in a google doc—and they note in each one where they are hitting their standards and the Common Core—at the end of the year, the plan is to get together and look at these and see where they need to upgrade lessons
All kids have online portfolios

Physical space—library with space for class work, and connected to the computer lab—lots of flexibility;   Shared space helps team stay connected—tons of informal meetings and planning; many tools help them stay connected—dropbox, google drive, icloud, and a massive white board with calendar for  the month
Laura has  a “wall of awesome”--I have no idea what this is, but I want one

Find them at  -- easy for remembering

Library is fixed schedule but not prep time—30 minutes per class/ so looks as flexible/fixed
Sometimes kids have ITS during “library time” and he does book stuff! 

Right now they are thinking about doing 45 minute fixed time each week that either Dan or Laura could do and do that scheduled time as prep period—some of this is now happening with 4th and 5th grade.  Their thought is that this would give them more regular time to work on projects.  They are also trying to get at the idea that you don’t have to checkout a book every week—especially with older kids.

Piloting a 1:1 ipad project right now with about 18 kids per class.  They like the idea of ipads for working with kids OUTSIDE of library—in classrooms (including specialists).  Ipads can be anywhere, including outside.

Volunteers cover the LTC, and are scheduled throughout the day doing checkout and other circ, collection work, etc.  Huge training session and commitment

Folding in the teachers—3 grade level teams.  They find that working with teachers individually works well and focus on doing a project really well.  Lots of informal meetings as one of the team members walks through the hall.  All the projects are curriculum-based.  They have flexibility to work with either entire team or specific teachers. 

They have a school youtube channel

Little kids and research—let the kids create their own questions—grade 1 mammal project; kids got to choose the mammal to focus on; kids generated a lot of questions about mammals and then organized them into topics; then they had figure out where they information they found went



Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday's Panels: At least 2 things that I learned from the panels

IPads and Free Agent Learning.

The Wifi wasn't working in the Cheshire Room. At a conference, always bring back-up (good thing the presenters were prepared). Ways to promote use of iPads with teachers: visit department meetings and take teacher suggestions of apps to load and have textbook apps on iPads.

Book Trailer Bootcamp.

When doing photo projects, encourage students to take their own pictures (copyright friendly). Show students models of project before they start and ask them to take notes on what they liked and what they thought didn't work well (improves the product that they will produce in the future). Pics for Learning and Flicker Blue Mountain are great places to search for photos because photos are listed with citations.

Syncing Your Library and Technology Program.

Share a physical space. Callahan and D'Elia based their program on Shannon Miller's standards: digital citizenship, technology, information and media literacy, love of reading. It's OK not to have students check out books at the end of library time (especially older students), encourage them to return on their own time. Develop your volunteer program to get great volunteers that may staff your library when you're out in the classrooms.

Jack Gantos - Sunday night

Sunday night dinner

I was very excited to hear Jack Gantos. I loved Dead End in Norvelt and also loved the Rotten Ralph books as a child. From the moment he stepped on the stage, we all knew it was going to be a fun speech. No one was disappointed; Jack Gantos was HILARIOUS. Amazing. Librarians were ROTFL almost for real. Overall, he shared how his personal experiences and love of reading growing up have informed his writing. And what amazing experiences! From his childhood in Norvelt, Pennsylvania that informed his Newbery award winner Dead End in Norvelt to owning a cat as an adult, which helped him write the Rotten Ralph books ("most menacing animal not in a cage").

He started out talking about his love of reading, which he calls "bookishness." His description of reading the final chapter of a book and lingering over every word and even the white space between the words spoke to a lot of us, I think. He went on to emphasize that readers are 50% of the book; after we finish a book the book just sits there, but it and the characters live on in us. As he said, "books are an infection." He talked about the excitement of getting a new book at a bookstore, carefully preserving the perfect condition of said book, spiriting it home and then ahhhh! sniffing the book for the first time. "Did I ever tell you about the time I sniffed Lady Chatterly's lover?" I know for many of us this is why an e-reader will never replace our physical books. You don't see many people sniffing their Kindle. :)

Next he moved on to show some (12) of his failed books including one about pigs that had nothing but Oinks for dialogue, which didn't work out because "pigs don't buy books." Ha! But talk about persistence! We had a chance to see inside some of his journals from when he was a kid, which were filled with maps of his neighborhoods with interesting commentary. As he said, "the same stuff you thought was interesting as a kid is still interesting to kids today." Like the kid in his neighborhood who was a daredevil and rode his bike off the roof into the pool. Except he missed and knocked himself out. Or like the time his mother was arrested for murder. Ha! Makes me wish I saved more of my childhood journals...or wrote about more interesting stuff. Mr. Gantos actually still writes out all his books by hand in journals and then types them up each night.

Overall, his presentation was fabulous. He had us laughing from beginning to end and definitely highlighted what for me is why I became a librarian in the first place: I love books and I want other people to find the joy, pleasure and fun that I've discovered from reading. Sharing that excitement for stories is what each of us do every day. Thanks so much, Jack Gantos! (Now I can't wait to find a way to bring him to my students will love him, too!)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Take-aways from Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne's presentation on personal learning networks was as interesting and entertaining as Pam  Berger's presentation on inquiry teaching and learning.

Mr. Byrne demonstrated his ideas through two engaging videos, many photos, and through many stories that brought PLNs to light for us participants. We loved seeing pictures of his dogs and he walked us through creating a twitter account by creating one on the spot for his dog. One of the highlights was when his girlfriend tried to message him during his presentation--he caught the message just in time!

What does he advocate? Get into social media. Choose at least one platform and dedicate 15 minutes a day to it. You will only get out of it what you put into it (make a profile and comment through the media). He suggested Twitter (big fan), GooglePlus, Pinterest, and a little Facebook. A little Facebook goes a long way.

One of the quotes that stuck with me, "Facebook is for the people that you know, Twitter and LinkedIn are for the people that you want to know." Personally I need to get more into Twitter, GooglePlus, and Pinterest.

There were many little "nuggets" of good tips that he gave regarding the platforms. And if all else fails and you are trying to learn something new, try and find it on YouTube.

Take-aways from Pam Berger

Ms. Berger's presentation was interesting and funny. The presentation was interactive, full of anecdotes, and was built around a lesson for 7th graders that utilized the inquiry process and primary documents.

She reminded us that students are very visual and that photographs or paintings (as long as they are created during the same time period of the event!) are wonderful ways to demonstrate point of view and to embed primary documents in a lesson. It was a nice little reminder of what really constitutes a primary document.

Ms. Berger gave us copies of the lesson and documents and explained the process after we had completed the lesson at our tables. She highlighted,,, and as possible Web 2.0 tools to use in lessons with primary documents.

What do I need to do (I'm a middle school library media specialist)? Tell my social studies colleagues about this lesson and do my best to incorporate DigitalVault or DocsTeach into any of the collaborative projects that I'll be working on. Government resources with primary documents that students NEED to be exposed to.

My lingering question: what kind of final product could students create using primary documents in a social studies or language arts class?

Personal Learning Community with Richard Byrne


Personal Learning Community:  There are amazing educators out there sharing and discussion and connecting.  A personal community is a way to use social media (not just TWITTER!) to use these resources.  You can often  get immediate feedback to solve a problem, find a lesson, talk through a new trend, or just find out what the cool people in your field are doing.    When you are a solo practioner, you will find this especially useful.

Dip in—look for a few minutes once day, check in for longer once a week—don’t stress over not keeping up with everything that comes in.


Join ONE social network—if you join more than one, you can get overwhelmed quickly.  Start with one, and it doesn’t have to be Twitter (but Richard Byrne likes this one), pinterest, google hangout, facebook—you choose! 

Complete all parts of your profile—if people know more about you, you will get more links to people who have interests you have in common!

Participate!  Don’t be the “weird guy in the corner!”  If you want to have a personal learning community that is effective, you must participate—post, respond, ask questions, share things you find online.  The more you participate, the more robust your account

Add 5 new friends to your personal learning network—then see who they follow!


Twitter—check out #msla13

RSS Feed—have your favorite sites send things to you!

·         RSS feeds:  Feedly, flipboard

Blog!  Still works well, but you have to share it.

Remember—it takes time!

INTERESTING things that come from this:

Flat Classroom Project—connecting classrooms around the world on twitter

We're tweeting like crazy with Richard Byrne

Check it out at #msla13

think about it...

Wordle to analyze primary sources!  Great idea...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Do you have a date for Saturday night?

This will be a brief post, but just to follow-up on what Judi just said, this has been a great night. Sitting in an intimate setting with five different authors on the same night was just wonderful. Looks like we will make this a yearly event!! Watch for more blog posts as the conference winds up!

Speed dating with an author

Saturday night is date night--so what better way to kick off the MSLA conference than a little speed dating with some terrific Massachusetts authors.  When it was finished, we agreed we go out again with all of them.

The event, organized by Sharon Shaloo of the Massachusetts Center for the Book, worked just like a speed dating night for singles in search of a mate.  Librarians sat at tables enjoying appetizers and drinks, and every ten minutes a new author came to our table and talked with us.  The authors were varied and engaging, including:
  • Carolyn DeCristofano, author of science books, such as A Black Hole is Not a Hole
  • Laura Harrington, author of the popular YA crossover novel Alice Bliss
  • John Lechner, author of graphic novels and picture books for younger children
  • Leslea Newman, author of over 60 books, including a recent novel in poetic verse about Matthew Shepherd
  • Melissa Stewart, author of over 170 nonfiction titles for children 
It turned out that ten minutes was an adequate time to get a sense of each author's work and personality.  Our table started with charming and funny Carolyn DeCristofano, who told us how she went from working at TJ Maxx after graduating from Brown University to writing books for kids about topics you wouldn't imagine they'd grasp--from Leonardo DaVinci to the Big Bang and Black Holes.  Just as we were sure, she was the one for us, the buzzer rang, and on we went to a quick talk with John Lechner about his work at Fable Vision and how his work with animation impacts the way he writes his graphic novels about Sticky Burr and his Burr pals in the woods.

The nicest part of the event was the informal discussion.  When Laura Harrington came to talk about her novel, concerning a young girl coming of age while her father is serving in Iraq.  Our discussion got involved in a whole offshoot about how the war is hidden from view and just a small percentage of Americans are directly impacted by it.  We agreed that this was an important book to get this discussion started in both the communities that do have a military tie, but also to bring it to the attention of those communities that have little direct understanding of the toll this has taken on so many families.

The variety of the evening kept it exciting.  We were just taking in how Melissa Stewart's background in journalism helped her manage to write so many books so well, and discussing why she was drawn to nonfiction, when it was time to switch gears for Leslea Newman.  Newman's newest book about Matthew Shepherd's tragic death in Wyoming.  Newman told us that she'd been asked to speak at the University of Wyoming the week this tragedy was unfolding.  Her story was riveting, and made the books genesis clear. 

As the event concluded, many people stayed to purchase books, enjoy a glass of wine, and mingle with the authors and other guests.  It was fun to hear what each table talked about, and to feel as though we'd met some new authors that we'd like to see again.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Common Core

Some GREAT resources here:

School Library Research in Pennsylvania

In 2011 the Pennsylvania School Library Association and the Pennsylvania co-sponsored a survey of school libraries in their state. They received responses from over 78% of those surveyed. This survey and initiative mirrors our legislation currently being filed here in Massachusetts.

The survey had very predictable result. Approximately 58% of students in PA do not have access to a professional librarian in their schools. Quantitatively, the study determined what components school library programs need to be successful. Qualitatively, what difference do school libraries make in the lives of students? Many critical components were discovered, most mimicking the early studies by Keith Curry Lance in Colorado.

Not surprisingly, schools with flexible scheduling and a collaborative atmosphere were most influential in the academic lives of their students. The study also did an estimation of the costs of restoring full-time school librarians in all schools, supplying all schools with "Power-library" databases (similar to our databases provided here in Massachusetts by the MBLC) as well as two days of professional development for all school librarians in the state.

They developed an acronym called FACTTS

F = annual funding for school libraries
A= access to the library beyond the school day
C= currency of the collection
T= technology
T= teaching
S= staff (the most important factors, along with the presence of some support staff)

This acronym was used to report out the data. Some of the findings are not unusual, many are supportive and useful. In Pennsylvania, students take the PSSA Reading Test. One of the findings from the study showed that nearly half of all students with flexible access to their school library during the school day scored "Advanced" on the PSSA Reading Test.

Opening the school library - either before or after school or both - also has had an impact on student achievement. "More than twice as many students who are able to use their school library before or after the school day scored "Advanced" on the PSSA Writing Test as those students without such access.

The data goes on and on. Let's hope for success in Massachusetts and that we are able to replicate the data-collection and disseminating in Pennsylvania. For more information, please see

What the research shows

Pennsylvania and New Jersey presented excellent overviews of their recent state studies, coordinated by UPittsburgh and Rutgers library schools respectively.  It was particularly exciting to hear the PA study, as it is based on findings from a study commission that we are hoping to replicate in Massachusetts.  It was especially exciting to hear that Pennsylvania was able to show that excellent libraries with professional staffing, a high degree of collaboration, and flexible scheduling have a higher than expected positive impact on the subgroups that typically score less well on their state standardized test.  They have put together an "elevator speech" of the factors that matter most in getting the most from a school library program in order to improve student achievement--including:
  • Funding—you need a budget for more materials each year
  • Access—you need access to school library beyond the school day (especially before and after day)
  • Collection—current resources in various physical formats are important
  • Technology—access in school and at home (ebooks and databases)
  • Teaching—teaching information literacy skills in collaboration and having a flexible schedule
  • Staffing—single most important factor was having a fulltime certified school librarian with a support
To read the research yourself go to The Pennsylvania School Library site and the New Jersey study focusing on "what does a good school library look like?"

It's in Hartford--you can go

And you should:

NCLE and why it matters

Judi Moriellen presented to AASL about its involvement with the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE).  NCLE is an affiliation of approximately 30 educational groups focused on literacy.  The resources shared and collected on their site are incredibly useful for librarians, and they send out twice-weekly postings with articles on topics that school librarians are sure to find useful.  For example, recent postings have included research on why reading skills in boys lag behind those for girls, and things to consider before you flip your classroom.  Please take a look at their website, and start following them on twitter or RSS feed--you will be glad you did.  NCLE is at

Why does it matter?  For years librarians have known how much we have to offer--especially in supporting student literacy.  This initiative helps us to access terrific resources that we can share with our faculty and administrators, and it also provides school librarians with an opportunity to share our best practices and ideas.  Please use this resource, and look for ways that school librarians can contribute to this venture.

Digital Learning Day

February 6 is Digital Learning Day and it is a great opportunity for school librarians to show their stuff.  One topic discussed at AASL involved how we can do this simply and effectively.  Sue Kowalski from the Pine Grove Middle School in East Syracuse, NY was an inspiration as she explained how her students completely organized the event for her--resulting in after-school "tech smackdowns" where students are encouraged to come to the school or public libraries and teach one another digital games or how to use their devices.  Students created an animoto to publicize the event, and were all asked to "tell three teachers" to come!  To read more about plans for AASL in Digital Learning Day check out Sue's post on the AASL blog:

Legislative updates

I sat in a session this morning with Jennifer Duffy of Cook Political report, who shared an amazing knowledge of Washington politics and current climate to help us think about how library leaders can strategically approach the federal government on library issues and funding.

The session began with a video shared from the chair of the FCC talking about the key role libraries play in bridging the digital divide--and how they are vital for national communications!

Opportunities that Duffy described included:
  • Demographics are shifting, and many of the people who use libraries heavily are also the people who appear to be voting, such as recent immigrants
  • Moderate voters, those who don't care for extreme conservative or liberal positions, are those most likely to affect election outcomes
But the challenges are also significant:
  • Duffy reported that the current Congress and Senate is extremely dysfunctional and it is incredibly hard to get anything done.  Most members are relatively new (majority of Congress has served less than 3 years) and rigid ideologically.  They move from crisis to crisis and don't get much done.  For example, Duffy said many educational funding bills are up for renewal and it is unlikely all will be passed.
  • It is very difficult to assess public opinion accurately due to changes in technology--fewer people have landlines, and fewer answer their phone; it can be difficult to find a way to reach many key demographic groups using any one form of access.  Consquently, polling data is not as clear as it once was.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Settling into Seattle

MSLA members are at the ALA Midwinter meeting in Seattle this weekend.  The sun is out and we are expecting a few more noteworthy events as we plan our time here.  Several people were out early this morning to meetings with colleagues at AASL with lots of focus on our L4L database, common core, and coordinating information among members across the country.

As always, the informal interactions are terrific when there are thousands of librarians gathered in one place--from the sign at the Pike Market Fish Market announcing "librarians do it quietly!" to a fruit vendor telling us that he's enjoyed meeting so many nice librarians (and realizing we ARE a nice group).  This morning I ended up at a coffee shop for breakfast and quickly learned the woman sitting next to me was on the ALA notable books committee for children's books, and she'd read hundreds of the 1500 books recommended this year (as had her husband!).  She was full of information about which books she thought really stood out from the crowd (and no, it wasn't Wonder--though she liked it).  It was one of those moments that make you realize how much we all love what we do--as we happily discussed children's books for almost an hour.  Tonight we are off to explore the vendor hall exhibits and have dinner with AASL colleagues before we meet with the affiliate assembly tomorrow.  Stay tuned!