Wednesday, May 20, 2015


These are my notes from the speech I gave at the 8th grade celebration. I used the signs to illustrate my hashtags.

Let’s get a sense of what generations we have here in the room tonight.

(I held up a giant picture of the hashtag symbol)

Raise your hand if this symbol makes you think of “pound” or “number” (anyone over 30)

Raise your hand if this symbol makes you think “hashtag” (all the 8th graders)

"A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social network and microblogging services which makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content. Users create and use hashtags by placing the hash character (or number sign) # in front of a word or unspaced phrase. Searching for that hashtag will then present each message that has been tagged with it."

The term 'hashtag' is so popular, it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary  last June.

Popular Solon hashtags are #soloncsd and #solonstrong

There aren’t any rules about hashtags. No one owns them and they can expire if no one uses them.

So, for your #8thgradecelebration

here are some



We have technology everywhere. Especially here in school. You’ve been working with computers since at least 3rd grade. One thing you know is - things don’t always work the way you think they will. You have to be patient and you have to troubleshoot.

We get lots of tech questions in the media center, but I’m sure they are just a fraction of those that you are answering yourselves, because you are using past experience and background knowledge to do your own troubleshooting. That is a life skill!

An important thing to remember when you are troubleshooting is - someone else has probably had this problem too. 5 years ago, I probably would have automatically gone to the “help screens” that are always part of an application. But now what do I do? (What do you do?) Yes, I google it and I usually look for a video. How many of you do that? You are troubleshooting!

And you aren’t going to just have to troubleshoot technology. You will be troubleshooting your life. And your best “help screens” are going to be your role models, adults you trust and your parents.  Learn from their mistakes.


Not all information is created equal. Some of it is downright wrong!

Guess what? Not everything you find on Google is true! It is totally up to you look at that information and ask yourself questions about it. Where did this information come from? Who is the expert and why are they the expert? Is the information current? Can you find the same information in other places? Can it be corroborated?

Do not undersell trustworthy resources because they don’t work exactly like Google.

Do you know what I’m referring to?

DATABASES. Like those available to you free from the state of Iowa through Iowa AEA Online and Grant Wood Area Education Agency.

Who knows the user name and password?

We are REALLY lucky to have these expensive, high quality resources available to us at Solon CSD. Use them to get excellent information. Want to impress your high school teachers? Skip the googling and find a magazine article or an online reference books.

And speaking of credible resources, ask yourself the same kinds of questions when friends are telling you stories that just don’t sound right. Where did this information come from? Who made them the expert? Would trusted adults verify this information? Don’t believe everything you hear and don’t pass questionable information along to other people.


Who thinks that they MAYBE have wasted an average of 1 piece of per a day? Doesn’t sound like much does it?

Multiply the number of SMS students, 446 x 180 days of school.
That equals 80,280 pieces of paper.
Or almost 10 trees.

8th graders. This is NOT necessary. Every single application we have on our computers allows you to do something called print preview. Before you press print, you can determine which pages to print! Your 1 piece of paper is not a big deal, but 160 reams of paper is ridiculous! Please remember this when you get to the high school!

Did you ever think that by looking around at upper classmen and people you admire that you can do your own “print preview”? Watch your role models for good decisions they are making. Avoid mistakes that you see others making. Preview your high school years and just do the things that are good for you. Don’t waste your time and energy on activities that aren’t going to have a positive impact.


Books are definitely marketed by their artwork. Publishers spend a lot of money for what they think will be the magic look that will sell more books. But the truth is, there are plenty of unattractive book covers that hide beautiful, fantastic, wonderful, delightful, mind-blowing, unforgettable stories! Give them a chance.

And remember to give other people a chance to. Everyone is different. They may not look like you. Maybe they don’t smile. Maybe they are shy. Maybe their clothes aren’t the style you like. But inside, they are beautiful, fantastic, wonderful and delightful. Don’t judge people by the way they look.


When you are done with your work online. BE SURE to logout - sign out. Your information is private. Don’t leave it vulnerable to those who might do something malicious.

It’s important to just logout of everything once in awhile. I mean logout and turn off your devices and just go for a walk or read a book. You don’t need to be online 24/7. Try it!

#creationnotconsumption or #makingnottaking

Raise your hand if you played a game on an electronic device today.

Did you create a game today? You can do that!
Have you heard of Thomas Suarez, who learned Java, Python and other programming language so he could make his own iPhone app when he was 12? He now has his own company, Carrot Corp.
Why couldn’t you do that?

Raise your hand if you watched a Youtube video today.

Who watched a Minecraft video?

Minecraft videos got more than 3.9 billion views in March 2015 alone.

97.6% of these views were “fan-created videos” uploaded by people other than the games’ developers and publishers.

You could could make one of those fan videos!

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Kid President. He’s 11 years old. He’s not sitting around watching movies and playing video games, he’s trying to make the world a little nicer - with his videos.

"It's everybody’s duty to give the world a reason to dance. So get to it." (I did a little tiny dance)

Did you create your own video today? You can do that!

You are smart, creative and have the tools! You can do that and a thousand other things! You don’t have to settle for things other people make. You can be a maker!


When you use information from other sources, you need to acknowledge that. If I had my way, every single assignment from 3rd grade up would require a bibliography. Just because it seems so easy to find information online doesn’t eliminate the need to recognize that you did not create that knowledge. It came from somewhere else.

(and by the way - I researched the definition of hashtag on Wikipedia. Just want to give it credit!)

Giving credit  goes for images, video and other intellectual property as well. It takes 2 seconds to download some one else's art work, but how long did it take them to create it? Don’t they deserve credit for the work they put into it?

How would you feel if you were looking through images on Pinterest and and found that someone had posted one of your Instagram photos? You might feel flattered and happy for awhile, but eventually you’ll probably start feeling like you had something taken from you. (I know, it’s happened to me with digital posters I’ve saved to Pinterest and seen later in a random tweet from someone I don’t even know) The more you post and use social media, the better the chance this will happen to you too.

And giving credit is a good thing! We are not successful in a vacuum. All of us have people to thank for our successes.

I’d like to give a huge shoutout to some special people before I finish up here. My success here at Solon CSD is in large part due to the great people I have worked with. First of all, I want to give huge thanks to Mrs Butterfield, the media center associate here at SMS. She is an incredible advocate for you, for reading and for supporting your academic success. Remember Mrs Day at Lakeview? I need to thank Mrs Day for being awesome. And if you don’t know Mrs Pentico, you will soon. She is the Media Associate at the high school and is going to be someone you can go to for almost anything, including a good book. Thank you Mrs Pentico!

Thank you to Mr Herdliska! You’ve  been a cheerleader for the library program and a fantastic supporter for technology and reading.

And thank you to all of the staff and teachers of Solon Middle School, for your unwavering dedication to the students - to you!

Do you have parents, grandparents or special friends here tonight? Right now, turn around find them and give them a wave or a thumbs up and thank them tonight after this celebration. Give them credit!

Congratulations 8th grade class of 2015! It’s been an honor to be your librarian! I’m expecting great things from you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

#fail and #win

A year ago I told my supervisor, Matt Townsley that I planned to retire at the end of the 2015 school year. During the last twelve months, I've had time to reflect on my 37 year career and my 12 years at Solon CSD, my first and only experience in a school library setting. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from my administration, staff, colleagues and even our local media, but maybe surprisingly, I've thought a lot more about what I didn't do than what I did do.

A couple months ago, I started making my #fail list. Things that didn't get done, things I wish I had done, areas where I didn't meet my own expectations. I was pretty hard on myself, but I did try to balance it out with a (shorter) list of good things.

When it came time for my annual presentation to the Leadership team, I decided to be vulnerable and share my thoughts.

But I softened the approach a bit.

I wish I had...
I'm glad I...

I was hired during a 3 year period when school librarians were required to have a master's degree in library science, but not  a teaching certificate. I was in the dark about the political situation that created that gaping hole in the code and was just thrilled to have the job as we moved back to Iowa after traveling the world for a couple of decades. I didn't understand the implications for me in terms of interacting with teachers and teacher librarians. I felt isolated and defensive. #iwish I had understood the ramifications of working in a school system without a teaching certificate.

Several years into my tenure, I looked into what it would take to achieve the status I craved. I contacted the AEA, the SLIS at University of Iowa and talked to several colleagues I respected. It was discouraging. One friend told me I'd be better off finding a different job and I took that advice applying for academic positions in the region. I didn't meet their needs and I continued on as the K-12 media specialist. I learned later of other people in a similar situation that were able to find programs that helped them achieve their certifications with special programs. #iwish I had been able to do that.

I believe there is value in the degree. I understand how important it is to speak the same language and to understand what you are talking about. 

I tried. 

I read a lot. I attended workshops. I signed up for webinars. I listened to my colleagues. But I didn't have that basic foundation and it was a hindrance in terms of credibility and implementation. #iwish I had.

Pedagogy. It isn't just jargon.

I never found my comfortable spot among the Professional Learning Communities in my district. Because of that I missed opportunities for collaboration, networking and curriculum integration. I considered myself a "singleton" and found my community among colleagues within my Personal Learning network. #iwish I had found meaningful connections closer to home.

Reading is central to the mission of SCSD Media Services. Having academic training in the teaching of reading instruction would have been very valuable. #iwish I had sought out those opportunities.

Statistics, reports, stories, blogs, tweets, student work published on the web site. I still could have done more to connect the library program to student achievement. #iwish I had more non-anecdotal evidence to show that having a strong information literacy curriculum and a well supported collection has made a difference in student learning.

We've had dozens of student teachers cycle through the district during the last 12 years. What did they learn about the role of the school librarian? #iwish I had made more of those connections.

The counselors and TAG teachers are natural partners. #iwish I had sought more opportunities to collaborate.

New teachers are such an amazing asset to the district. They bring enthusiasm and new ideas. I've been grateful for the chance to meet with them during their orientation period, but #iwish I had been more assertive with followup - to offer assistance and to suggest opportunities for collaboration.

I might have gotten some good feedback on how to communicate more effectively if I had done annual evaluative surveys of the staff. #iwish that I had asked more often and directly, "how am I doing?"

Our students have excellent access to technology (and I ran a weekly tech club for several years), but I was never successful in organizing and running a student run tech help system. #iwish that I could have persuaded students to take ownership of this learning, to share their skills with both staff and the student body.

In the last twelve years, there has been a deemphasis on print collections, but they are still important. #iwish I could have spent more time weeding the collections and making them relevant, up to date and attractive to readers. We came a long way, (purchasing new materials, organizing the fiction into genres) but there is still work to be done. It is a never ending process.

We've invested in ebooks and there are pockets of use, especially for unlimited simultaneous access nonfiction for the classroom, but students don't really think of the school library as a source for pleasure reading via download. #iwish I had done more to get the word out.

Students doing independent study could benefit from a mandatory checkin with the librarian. #iwish I had pursued that. It would have helped develop relationships and perhaps helped students and instructors discover new resources and connections.

After 12 years of modeling the use of Print Preview and reminding students of the importance of conservation, the amount of waste still makes me cringe. #iwish I could have helped save a tree or two.

It breaks my heart to see students so disappointed when my mind goes blank on their names (even though I've known them since they were in in kindergarten). #iwish I had steel trap memory so that I could recall the names of the hundreds of students that I've had the pleasure to know. I've loved seeing them mature into wonderful young adults.

Lakeview Facilitator, Lori Grimoskas, posted this message on the staff lounge door a couple of years ago and there has not one school day since that I haven't thought about it. How can I have significant relationships with 1,400 students and over 100 staff members? #iwish it was possible.

Differentiation is the mantra. #iwish I had been able to work more closely with Learning Center staff and classroom teachers to understand the specific learning styles of their students and to develop approaches to assist them.

#iwish I could have read more books. Picture books, middle school books, YA books, award winning books, books the kids love...

I talked a lot about books. But it still wasn't enough. #iwish I had done much more hand selling of books, especially at the elementary school.

For some staff, my most visible role was as AV wrangler. It's a job I taught myself and wasn't especially fond of (I don't miss the days of cleaning overhead projectors). #iwish that I could have somehow upgraded those transactions into possible collaborations that involved student learning.

I work with phenomenal women. They do it all. They support me. They love the kids. They greet everyone with a smile. They always give 110%. They manage the day to day operations of each library. They deal with problems and think independently. They have an enormous amount of responsibility. #iwish I had been a more effective advocate for them. I haven't heard one complaint about their salaries, but one thing I know. Their value far exceeds their compensation.

One librarian for 1400 students and 3 buildings is not ideal. The reason the list above is so long is that I constantly felt like I wasn't doing enough, that more was possible. It bothered me - a lot. I hoped that I was demonstrating that successes would be multiplied with another professional on the team. That with additional staff, collaborations would be routine, not special. #iwish I had successfully made the case that a district of our size needs to follow the lead of districts like Mt Vernon, Williamsburg and Washington and restore the staffing levels that predated my tenure.  

This was my biggest #fail.

So, what about #win? Or #i'm glad?
The list isn't as long, but there are a few things I'm proud of.

#i'mglad that I pushed myself to write and to publish in indexed journals (YAY! my name is in Ebsco!) I wrote articles for Knowledge Quest (thank you Carolyn Starkey for thinking of me) and Teacher Librarian (thanks to a post shared on the AASL email list). Doing the thinking, the research, the editing and feeling the pressure of deadlines reminded me what it is like to be a student - not a bad thing. It was also an intellectual challenge that (aside from the stress), I enjoyed. I recommend the process.
I'm coming up on my 5 year anniversary as a user of the social media platform, Twitter. For me, it has been a strictly professional connection that changed my professional life. Prior to the discovery of this tremendous resource, I felt lonely and isolated as the single librarian in our district. Yes, I read blogs, subscribed to journals online via our databases and was addicted to LM_Net, but it was really a one way relationship. I was just taking it all in. I wasn't sharing. Well, after all - what did I have to share? Attributing my change of heart to a video might seem a reach, but looking at sharing through the "obvious to you, amazing to others" lens was a turning point for me. 

Little by little, I started posting ideas, photos, links and comments rather than just lurking and I developed an odd, but strangely compelling affection for the routine of "checking the Twitter". Through this 140 character dialog, I've learned so much, been challenged to try new things and "met" so many amazing people. Thank you to Matt Townsley for being my Twitter mentor. #i'mglad I took the plunge.

When students are producing digital artifacts, why not share them? Yes, it is a lot of work to gather the files, upload them and post them, but when you are done you have an accessible catalog of what they have accomplished, with your guidance. #i'mglad I took the time to share.

Transparency. What I've done is out there for anyone to see. Over 1,400 posts on my various blogs (including this one), hundreds of photographs, dozens of Google sites, dozens of iWeb pages, videos on YouTube, an eportfolio on Pinterest. I have so many accounts that I can barely remember or keep track of them. I'm not hiding. #i'mglad that I've shared.

Technology changes everyday and it is a struggle to keep up with it. But I tried! I wanted to be a resource to students and staff, so I challenged myself to learn how to use new services and devices. It was fun and I learned so much. #i'mglad I embraced my inner geek.

Over the years I've attended innumerable workshops and training sessions. At SCSD, I decided I could be in the front of the class, partnering with some talented and smart colleagues - Dawn Posekany, Jan Johnson, Maria Schroeder... Matt Townsley and I have presented together at least 5 times, maybe more. Is it easy? No. Did I get nervous? Yes. Was it worth it? #i'mglad I pushed myself to share.

It is impossible to develop authentic relationships with 1500 , but it is possible to establish meaningful ties with a handful of individuals and that is what I did. After years of feeling like a failure for not finding collaborative ties with certain teams, grade levels or teachers, I decided to concentrate on successes and there were many. #i'mglad that I focused on and acknowledged those partnerships.

Each building has its own distinct personality and culture, but media services is a team. We plan together, share our ideas and support each other. I am so proud of this crew of smart, talented, empathetic, passionate and dedicated women. #i'mglad that I could be a member of this extraordinary team.
And then there is this team of administrators. These are busy people. They have responsibilities and stresses that we can't comprehend, but each one of them supported me, my team and the program. Although I may not have had the coveted monthly meetings that I hoped for my first couple of years, I did have their full attention at least once a year during an administrative team meeting and I know they were aware of what was happening in media services. I received many kind notes, words of encouragement and positive feedback, making me feel that I was making a difference. That is what has really mattered. #imglad I had the opportunity to play a part in the success of this team.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#WRAD15 World Read Aloud Day at Lakeview Elementary

The last few years, students at Lakeview have connected to classrooms around the United States (and even Singapore one time) for World Read Aloud Day (which is celebrated for an entire week and incorporates Read Across America).

For my last year doing this project, I set a goal of connecting all sections of our 6 day K-4 Media Center rotation and I'm almost there.

To plan, I am using a shared Google Doc  which is now 100+ pages long and is being contributed to by classrooms of all grade levels across the country. I have copied and pasted our local schedule (it is on approximately page 59 (but that changes).

It is a pretty amazing thing to watch grow and it takes patience and collaboration to make connections work across time zones, grade levels and types of technology. But WOW is it worth it!

This is what our schedule looks like so far. I'm still looking to fill in those blanks.

Monday, March 2
Lakeview Day 4
Connecting with...
9:00 - 9:25 (CST)
2nd grade
Miranda Kral
Twitter @MirandaKral
Skype name: mplibraries
School info: Mid-Prairie CSD: Kalona Elementary, Wellman Elementary, and Washington Township Elementary (Kalona and Wellman, Iowa)
5th grade
10:05 - 10:45 (CST)
4th grade
Sarah Staudt
Skype: SarahStaudt1
Mason City, Iowa
Harding Elementary

Could we make it 10:25am? YES
12:35 - 1:00 (CST)
1st grade
Eileen Gardner
Veterans Elementary
Ellicott City, MD
skype: eileengardner6
2:00 - 2:25 (CST)
3rd grade
Katie Bruechert
Greenbriar East Elementary School (PreK-6th)
Eastern Time
5th graders
Tuesday, March 3
Lakeview Day 5
Connecting with...
9:00 - 9:25 (CST)
2nd grade
Erin Broderick
Skype; zervaslibrary
Zervas Elementary
Newton, MA
Grade 3 - 9:00-9:15 (10:00-10:15 EST)
11:15 - 1135 (CST)

12:35 - 1:10 (CST)
1st grade
Ann Reynolds - Crestview West Des Moines - kindergarten
2:00 - 2:25 (CST)
3rd grade
Michelle Simpson
Skype: msimpsonercu1
East Richland Elementary School - Olney, Illinois (CST)
Grades K - 5
Grade 4 with Lakeview
Wednesday, March 4
Lakeview Day 6
Connecting with...
9:00- 9:35 (CST)
2nd grade

10:05 - 10:45  (CST)
4th grade
Nancy Jo lambert
10-10:30 CST 3rd grade
11:15 - 11:35 (CST)
Mary Hundt
West Salem Elementary, West Salem, Wisconsin
Skype: mary_hundt Google hangout:
Twitter: maryfranny
2:00 - 2:25 (CST)
3rd grade
Shawna Ford
K-6 Weatherford, TX
Skype: curtis.elementary
Google+ Shawna Ford
Thursday, March 5
Lakeview Day 1
Connecting with...
9:10 - 9:50 (CST)
4th grade

Name:  Tobey Rhodes
Skype:  tobeyrhodes
School Info:  Woodruff Primary
Woodruff, SC
K3-2nd     EST 10:10
10:15 - 10:35  (CST)
Sarah Staudt
Mason City, Iowa
Jefferson Elementary
11:40 - 12:05   (CST)
1st grade
Joe Romano
Skype: AWSLearningCommons
Annie Wright Schools in Tacoma, WA
12:30 - 1:10 (CST)
3rd grade
Peg Noctor
Skype GWES.lib
George Watkins Elementary
Quinton, VA
EST          3rd grade: 1:30-2:00
Friday, March 6
Lakeview Day 2
Connecting with...
9:00 - 9:25 (CST)
2nd grade

10:05 - 10:50 (CST)
4th grade
Erin Broderick
K-5 Zervas Elementary School
Skype: zervaslibrary
11:15 - 11:35 (CST)
Mary Priske
@Mary Priske
Skype Mary Priske
4th grade class
12:35 - 1:10 (CST)
1st grade
Ann Reynolds - Crestview West Des Moines - kindergarten
1:45 - 1:10 (CST)
3rd grade
Jeanne Cook, K-5 Librarian / / 636.327.5110 ext 5
Twitter: @jeannecook20
Skype name:  prelibrary
School info:  Peine Ridge Elementary, Wentzville, MO  CST
Monday, March 9
Lakeview Day 3
Connecting with...
9:00 - 9:25 (CST)
2nd grade

11:15 - 11:35 (CST)

12:35 - 1:10 (CST)
1st grade
Ann Reynolds - Crestview West Des Moines 1st grade
1:45 - 1:10 (CST)
3rd grade