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.