Sunday, November 24, 2013

Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month.
I think SCSD staff would agree with Dianne de Las Casas, author, storyteller and founder of the celebration: 

In this digital age where people are predicting the coming death of print books, picture books (the print kind) need love. And the world needs picture books. There’s nothing like the physical page turn of a beautifully crafted picture book.

To celebrate at SCSD, I kept a fresh supply of handpicked picture books in each of the three teacher lounges.

Staff shared their favorites on Padlet.

At the high school, Mrs Pentico collected staff favorites and shared them with students.

The week of the 18th, two first grade class and one fourth grade class connected with students in Connecticut to read Mo Willems books to each other. Together, we read I'M A FROG, his newest.

On Thursday, we were very fortunate to be part of the first ever Picture Book Smackdown (organized by rockstar school librarian, Andy Plemmons), connecting with schools in Georgia, Texas, Maine and Connecticut and with two rockstar authors (Ame Dyckman and Laurel Snyder) using the fantastic tool, Google Hangouts on Air.

Mrs Jimison's class did a great job of preparing to "smackdown" on their favorite picture book, but so many students at each school wanted to participate that we all ran out of time. Fortunately, every one who wanted to get in front of the camera was able to. The video is available on the Smore page above.

What a great month it has been!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Google Midwest Summit November 3-5

I will be attending the Google Midwest Summit this weekend and will be surrounded by Google gurus. What would you like me to bring back to you? Feel free to add ideas that aren't on the list. When I get back, I can schedule some small group sessions or even meet with you individually.

powered by tricider

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's about the people

Last Friday, an administrative team from an Iowa middle school visited the SCSD campus to talk about creating a new vision for their school library.  The principal on this team had been at the August School Administrators of Iowa conference where I was part of a panel discussion, "Transforming Your Teacher Librarian into a Leader" moderated by our superintendent, Sam Miller. At the conclusion of the presentation, we encouraged attendees to get out and see first hand what successful programs look like and this principal decided to take us up on the offer. 

One of their main take aways was -  it isn't all, or even primarily, about the facility (although it is a big plus to have attractive, well planned, space, seating, shelving, etc.)
 It is about the people and about access - great people and access to great books and technology.

Our middle school media center is really just a repurposed classroom, but because of Mrs Butterfield's dedication, creativity and love of the students, it is a vibrant, welcoming and busy place. Since school started almost 1,700 books have been checked and 100 holds placed. We can't keep Iowa Teen Awards books on the shelf. TEAM READ starts in a couple of weeks. 

Over twenty students come to Tech Club Tuesday mornings. We are constantly moving books around to make room for what is in high demand and now have more than 1,000 books in storage. 

When I am at SMS, I rarely sit at my "desk". I'm either working with students or I am in a classroom. So far this year I am working with Kerri Coons and TAG students on a radio show and I'm gearing up with Travis Kerkove for our 3rd year of collaborating on a multi-week research project. 

Mrs B and I both worked with Mrs Velasquez with a cool International Dot Day project pairing up 8th and 4th graders to create dot superhero stories and illustrations. 

Every day we make connections with learners and teachers.

I told the visiting Admin team about our awesome "integrated library system", DestinyQuest, which is used district wide, but loved most by our elementary students. I wish they could have been in a third grade media center class the first time 3rd graders logged in to their own accounts. It is one of the most exciting weeks of the year for me and such a great "sandbox" for them to learn about social media etiquette in a safe, private environment that is focused on literature. 

It was obvious to them that our Lakeview media center buzzed with the energy of learning, with students using the book collection (over 3,500 books circulated since day 1), getting computers from the carts, using the flexible space for small group work and assessments. I loved showing off the facility, but again emphasized -

it is the people that make the library a great place and I couldn't have a better co-worker than Paula Day. This is our 11th year working side by side.

It was the vibe at the high school that really blew their minds though. When they arrived at 7:50 am, the place was humming. Students were reading, working on online, chatting quietly, listening to audio with headphones, playing chess and just having a great start of the day. While we stood and chatted near the entrance, they watched the activity and especially noticed how Mrs Pentico easily interacted with the students, asking about their studies, homecoming plans and reading. 

It's the people - and I am so thankful to have Mrs Pentico as part of the media services team!

I told them how our library is used by classes and how I am very often not in the library, but in the classrooms, collaborating with teachers on everything from science fair research to EasyBib training. They asked, "how do you get teachers to work with you?" 
Relationships, follow-through, just-in-time access to resources and expertise - and chocolate.

I heard back from one of the team members the following week.

"Thank you so much for your time on Friday. We were so impressed! ... talked nonstop on our way to (the next library) about the wonderful things we saw at your schools."

I am so lucky to work with such phenomenal staff and students. I am proud to share our vision.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Here come the connections!

All buildings were ready to check out Day 1!

Over 75 Language Arts 12 students visited the SHS library for booktalks.
Almost 1,400 books checked out district wide in just four days.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Making connections with parents

I wish I could have made it to all three buildings Thursday night, but I love being able to talk to parents about the role of the library in the academic lives of their freshmen. I have known many of these students and parents since preschool days.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Welcome to Solon Community School District!

Dear new teachers,

When the New Teacher Institute time rolls around each year, I can't help thinking back to my first days at Solon Community School District. 

My brain was exploding! And you probably feel about the same way.

Don't worry. You'll get into the groove and things will start falling into place. The best part is that you have a terrific support system. 

You have your fabulous professional partners. 

You have the GWAEA induction coach, Heather Groh.

You have your building principal and Matt Townsley (who you have gotten to know well!)

And the entire SCSD community.

That includes Media Services. Yes, we are an important part of your support system!

We have so much more than books and "stuff". 

We are here to help you help students succeed. 

Never hesitate to call, email, chat, video conference or just stop by your building's media center. If we don't have the answer to your question, we will find it!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Making connections with local history

Instructor Todd Kopecky is passionate about Iowa history and this last quarter, he had three sections of "Revisit Iowa" to share that interest with high school students. For the last several years, Todd has incorporated an investigation of Solon history into the curriculum, but this year the study took on new dimensions.

The seed was planted last year when local history expert, Sandy Hanson spent time with researchers identifying local landmarks and commenting on the contents of the Solon Historical Society's publication, "Solon Snapshots".

Class members gathered facts from the historical collection at the Solon Public Library and from local residents and paired that research up with images of city landmarks. They then added those two elements to a Google Map. I facilitated Sandy's visit and instructed students on how to collaborate on the map.

This year, over 70 students participated in an enhanced project which included primary source research at the public library, interviews with residents, video, still images and audio elements. For each class, the final product was a Google Map with individual sites loaded with at least one still image, text and either a podcast or video. 

I created a "container" using Google Sites that held general instructions, tutorials, an image gallery and an embedded map for each section of "Revisit Iowa". I also created and shared the maps with the students so that they could upload content themselves. The result is a dynamic history project that can be shared with the community to generate new facts and research options for future "Revisit Iowa" enrollees.

For the Google Earth experience, download the KML file and open it in Google Earth.

I'm looking forward to working with next school year's "Revisit Iowa" students and their enthusiastic instructor.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Take another look around you: learning to learn in a new world

As we enter our summer vacation time, how are you feeling about your own learning? Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano will make you think.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Expect more

(SlideRocket has discontinued its service)

At least once a year, I have the opportunity to meet with the SCSD Leadership Team. This year, I wanted to incorporate some of the concepts from EXPECT MORE by David Lankes, a book  that has influenced me and others (including my colleague, Buffy Hamilton). It dovetailed nicely with the discussions being  held by the Task Force for School Libraries in Iowa, a group formed by the Department of Education Director, Jason Glass. Our superintendent, Sam Miller is a member of the task force and we've talked numerous times about my role in our district and the role of teacher librarians in our state. 

After sharing these slides and talking about how the SCSD library program is working to live up to the vision, the team had several excellent suggestions for getting the word out and sharing the message with staff, students and community. 

I really appreciate their support and insight and the chance to review and dream a little bit.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Working Together is Working Smarter

"A new report released by the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) reveals that school librarians are highly involved leaders playing a critical role in their schools through consistent and sustained collaboration with other educators. Additionally, school librarians not only participate in but deliver professional development to peers, educators and staff in their schools. The report, Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works, details key findings from a nationwide survey of more than 2,400 educators representing all grade levels and subject areas. It investigates the connection between professional learning, educator collaboration and student learning. NCLE Press Release" from

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

World Read Aloud Day 2013

March 6 was World Read Aloud Day.

At Lakeview, the Media Center connected with 3 classrooms: one from Oklahoma (shown above), one from Massachusetts and one from Minnesota.

But of course, reading was taking place all over the district, as it does everyday.

I asked teachers to share the titles they were reading aloud and these are the responses I received:

The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963
Stone fox
Where the Red Fern Grows
On My Honor
Tuck Everlasting
Ghost of Spirit Bear
Leprechaun In Late Winter
Robin's Country
Mystery on the Iditarod Trail
Series of Unfortunate Events: A Bad Beginning
George Brown, Class Clown
The Three Little Pigs
Monsters of Men
Pete the Cat, Rocking in My School Shoes
Jack and the Leprechaun
The Leprechaun Who Lost His Rainbow
Runaway Ralph
The Forest
Horrid Henry  Tricks the Tooth Fairy
Sleepy Bears
Molly Lou Lemon - Standing Tall
Charlotte's Web
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 
The Wizard of Oz 
Golden Lion Tamarin Comes Home

We are lucky to have great teachers, great students and great books to read here at Solon. World Read Aloud Day is an opportunity to for all of us to recognize that not everyone has the opportunities that we do. There are millions of people who cannot read and don't have books available to them to learn to read. 

Visit the LitWorld web page to learn how you can make a difference.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Going beyond "the Google"

Are our students in love with the Google search? Yes.
But because so many of our teachers see the value in introducing students to the advantages of using trustworthy, subject-indexed and (mostly) full-text subscription databases, we have significant use of these high quality, Iowa AEA Online and Grant Wood AEA sponsored resources. .

I recently studied the 2011-2012 usage statistics for all the districts in the Grant Wood Area Education Agency to get a sense of where we stood in comparison to other districts and was pleasantly surprised to see that although we aren't leading the pack and there is room for growth, we were averaging about 3,300 hits a day last year.

The data is somewhat crude. Because we use IP authentication and not separate building logins, grade level use of resources can't be parsed out. Who is using Soundzabound so much for royalty free audio? I hope it is being used by K-12 for multimedia projects.

When I show students Britannica and talk about our online encyclopedia, I sometimes ask them about that super popular "pedia" web site that shows up in the top ranks of Google searches. It is a great opportunity to discuss the difference between them. I'm not anti-Wikipedia at all, but I do believe that it is necessary to use other sources as well and Britannica is an excellent choice, with value added content like images, videos, primary source documents and hand-picked web sites. I'm glad to see our students are taking advantage of it.
EbscoHost continues to be one of our most popular sources for magazine articles, although Gale and SIRS made a good showing too. Many SCSD teachers require citations from database research and that helps give students some search experience. The use of databases will not be optional at the college level.

The numbers only tell part of the story though. Collecting hits is one thing - understanding how databases work, why they are important, designing search strategies, understanding Boolean search logic - that is something completely different and something much harder. 

I'm here to help. While I'm happy to give students the "overview" presentation, what is really most effective is meeting with them one on one to work through the process of a successful search. That might mean scheduling myself to embed in the classroom for one or two days, something I love doing. Don't hesitate to ask.

If you are interested in seeing the full study, it  can be found at "Use of Databases by GWAEA Districts".