Saturday, September 30, 2017

Our First Book Tasting Event

I have been seeing many teacher librarians talk about book tasting activities on social media over the past several months. With our specialized student focus on increasing interest in reading this year, book tasting is something I've wanted to try with our high school students. Just a few days ago, we attempted our first such event. It was a great success, and I will share the journey of its development in the paragraphs below.


During lunch, we have been sharing the idea of a book tasting event with students for the past few weeks. I've been surprised at how many of them liked the idea. We began thinking that this could be an excellent service to provide teachers in their classrooms. Such book "catering" events could be a creative way to advertise our newly genrefied fiction section to teachers and students. For information on our genrefication process, please read Kaitlyn Price's (my teacher librarian colleague) blog article here.


There are always opportunities to reach teachers with library services. We merely have to actively seek such chances. That opportunity happened one afternoon when Mrs. Michelle Davis, one of our 10th grade ELA teachers, came to the library. We had just been talking about book tasting, and we told her about it. She was immediately interested in having us come to her class. We found a date and began talking about what it could look like.

Room Layout
The Event

Mrs. Davis decided to use 6 tables in her classroom set with a restaurant theme. We had battery powered candles, tablecloths, and a "Book Pass" form that my teacher library colleague, Kaitlyn Price, had previously used.   Mrs. Davis would greet students outside her door and hand them a "Book Pass" form (you can find this form on Kaitlyn's blog here). She also took time to describe the expectations of the day. The students spent 7 minutes at each table. We had at least 10 titles at each location. The genres she selected were Sci-Fi/ Fantasy, Action/ Adventure, Realistic Fiction/ Historical Fiction, Romance/ Biographies, Sports, and Mystery/ Suspense. The "Book Pass" form required students to list the Title/ Author, list their comments, list the genre, and provide a rating. This form also served as their exit ticket for class.

The "Chef" Makes a Visit
Kaitlyn and I would roll in a cart with the books after her introduction. We both wore aprons and carried the books to the tables as if we were servers in a restaurant. I used phrases like "Careful, these are hot", "I believe this table ordered Sci-Fi/ Fiction... excellent", and "This book is cooked medium rare for you, sir." The students seemed to enjoy the role play we provided. In the middle of the sessions, Ray Borel, one of our library assistants, would visit the class dressed as a chef. He used a French accent to interact and check on the students. During the last 6 minutes of class, we would return to check out books "to go." On the next day, all her classes came to the library to respond to a Google Form survey we created. You can view some of their responses in the Student Voice portion of this article below.

Teacher Reflection (Mrs. Michelle Davis)

The book tasting may be one of the most successful activities I have ever had in my classes.  Though I have worked to create a reading-friendly culture or mindset in my classes this year by spending the first ten minutes of every class each day reading, this helped to convince me that even my reluctant readers are willing with the right approach.  I cannot thank our media specialists enough for coming to me with an idea and working together to form a plan that kept 5 classes of sophomores engaged and reading for full 50 minutes (or more) class periods.  

The formal dining ambiance of the event created a sense of curiosity and excitement in my students. Students were intrigued by the formality of a maitre d’  greeting them as they approached the door and were in awe of candlelit tables as they entered.  The interest didn’t stop with seating either. Students remained engaged throughout the periods, sampling from six different genres.  

Candlelight Book "Dining"
It was thrilling to watch my students browsing through the many choices they had been served, choosing the “dish” they believed to be most favorable to their appetites, and devouring the stories. The positive reaction that I both saw and received was rewarding.   There were several students who, though pretending to be uninterested, checked out books for “to go” orders when they believed no one was looking or paying attention.  Additionally, I had students thank me (surprising, right?) and even request future book tastings. Many students anxiously asked if they would get their book passes returned so that they had the list to refer to in the future.  

The whole event was a success.  There was very little redirecting students.  Most of the students stayed focused and willingingly engaged for the entire event. I am anxious to see how my students respond in their official feedback forms following the event.

I will absolutely be doing this again with my classes.  The event allowed the students time to sample books that they may have never willingly chosen otherwise and find gems beyond my limited classroom library.  

Student Voices

"I thought it was an interesting way to get people to get a taste of some reading genres that might not appeal to certain people."

"At first I thought it was going to be boring but it turned out to be pretty fun."

"I thought it was pretty cool but I feel like we should have had more time to actually read the books and get a good taste."

"It was cool and interesting and helped me find out what kind of books I like."

"I really liked it. I ended up finding a book that I like. I would have never found this book if I would have not done this."


It always surprises me how simple changes to a classroom space can alter the dynamic in a dramatic way. Mrs. Davis' students were extremely engaged in this activity. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to get out into a classroom. Teachers and students saw us in the hallways as we went to and fro in our costumes. This advertised the event in a great way! Teachers and administrators visited the event. In addition, several ELA teachers now want us to bring our "book catering" to their classrooms. One has even made reservations for these services for early next week. I think we have a great recipe for literacy success in the building. Think about launching your own book tasting event soon. Be sure to share your book tasting stories in the comments below.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

How we helped geography classes Skype with national parks in the library.

3 things I've learned about Breakout EDU.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

3 Things I've Learned About Breakout EDU

 I first wrote about our adventures with Breakout EDU after I discovered it on summer professional development trips last year. You can read about our first library orientation Breakout EDU here. Since that time, we have learned so much about how to facilitate such sessions. To illustrate this, I want to present 3 things I've learned about Breakout EDU over the past year. I hope you will find these points helpful as you begin planning your own sessions.

1. Have enough boxes for everyone - The first year we conducted Breakout sessions, we didn't always have enough boxes for everyone. As I recall, we might have 12-15 students assigned to one box. We discovered it was more difficult to keep everyone engaged with higher numbers on one box. This year we have used more boxes for classes when possible. By keeping 7-10 students assigned to one box, we noticed a higher level of engagement during our library orientation sessions this year (2017-2018). The students also seemed to enjoy it more by having fewer student teams on each box.

2. Take up the locks when students unlock them - I'm not sure how many locks were ruined last year, but it was significant! After students unlock locks, they will automatically play with them. When this happens, I promise they will accidentally reset the locks. This can make for a really bad day of Breakout EDU! This year, I had students bring me any locks or lockboxes immediately after opening them. I would give them a hint to move on if they followed this direction. The results were no ruined locks and a happier experience for all! Also, at the end of the day be sure to reset locks to something you can remember while they are in storage. We now reset the number locks to 000 or 0000. The direction lock to UP-UP-UP-UP and the word lock to SPELL. We have discovered that we cannot always remember the last Breakout EDU puzzle from several months prior. Resetting your locks for storage will greatly reduce future stress!

3. You don't have to help them immediately, let them problem solve! - During our first year of Breakout EDU sessions, I felt like I had to give the students a hint every time they got stuck. I hated seeing them struggle. I missed the point. Breakout EDU is all about problem-solving and teamwork. Let them struggle and think as a team. The better they work as a team, the more successful they will be. The struggle is part of the experience. Offer hints, but make them agree to ask for a hint as a team. Consider giving them a specific number for hint support advice (for instance, each team can only receive 3 hints, etc).

Breakout EDU takes a lot of time to plan and execute. I had several students ask if I like setting up puzzles. I told them it was very time consuming to do, but it is so worth it to see them learn through engaging puzzles. Be sure to share your favorite Breakout EDU moments and/ or blog articles in the comments below!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

How we helped geography classes Skype with national parks in the library.

3 things every educator should remember.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Geography Classes Skype with National Parks

Several months ago, I wrote about ways to connect your library with Skype. If you haven't read that piece, take a moment to get familiar with Skype in the Classroom and the cool connection possibilities they offer. Since writing that article, I have had the opportunity to have some wonderful virtual tours with National Parks around the United States. I would like to share how we did this with several 9th-grade Geography classes during the spring semester of 2017.

The Need

Geography was offered to 9th-grade students during the second semester of the 2016-2017 school year. Two of the teachers that would be presenting these classes came to me because they knew we frequently connected via Skype in the library. They asked if we could help them connect to National Parks around the country as part of their classes. The teachers knew this would be a wonderful way to expose students to different land forms and places around the country in a new way. I was very excited to assist them with this endeavor!

How We Set Up The Sessions

I visited the Skype in the Classroom web page to see what parks were available through virtual field trips. I selected which sessions the teachers wanted, and put our available dates with times. It didn't take long for national park rangers to email me confirmation times. We typically connected the day before each session to test our connection and equipment.

What Happened

Below are brief descriptions of each park session. I made Facebook Live video broadcasts and put them on YouTube to share here.

Badlands National Park is located in South Dakota. The ranger did a great job talking about the landforms and wildlife in the area. My favorite part of this video clip is when he turned the camera around to show the students snow on the ground. The entire room reacted with a unanimous sigh. It was one of those moments that reminded me why we should connect our students to the world outside of our classroom!

Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming, Montana, and parts of Idaho. We enjoyed hearing about geysers, hot springs, and other natural phenomena during the session.

Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California. I recall that the park ranger Skyped outside with a desert background! It was a wonderful experience for our learners.

Student Reflections

"What I liked about Skyping the Badlands National Park was that he showed us fossils of animals that used to live in that area."

"I LOVED the whole experience! I have one suggestion though, maybe students go one at a time and ask their question/ questions? But loved the whole experience. Maybe we could Skype with the White House."

"The Skype was very good. It gave us information and something for us to look at and see that what we are learning is happening around the world..." 

"I think the Skype call was fun, and I liked how he showed pictures and fossils and stuff to show the animals that were actually there. I think he did a good job explaining everything, and I thought he knew the material very well."

Final Thoughts

I think this illustrates an important way the library can help connect teachers and students to the world outside of the school building. Teacher librarians often have a flexible schedule at the secondary level. This allows us to locate and schedule events like this for teachers that may not have the time or confidence with such connective technology. This is definitely a future ready practice we can all bring to the table. What are you waiting for? It's time to connect! Be sure to add your memorable connection moments in the comments below.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Are you listening to student voice?

Connect your library with Skype.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

3 Things Every Educator Should Remember

As I'm preparing to start another school year, I've been reflecting on all the conference sessions and inspirational speakers I've heard over the past several weeks. These sessions have made me think about teachers I've had in the past and what made them stand out. It has also been good to think back to things I could have done better in my education career. Whether you are a teacher, teacher librarian, or an administrator, you can still have a huge impact in the entire school learning community. I want to share three things that should be a focus for all of us each and every day we encounter students.

Enthusiasm is Contagious

Some of my favorite educators are always enthusiastic about their work. I have worked with principals, superintendents, and teachers that love what they do. You don't have to ask them; it shows in their daily approach to work and life. These people usually draw others to them naturally. They have the gift of making everyone feel special that comes into contact with them. One thing I have noticed about this special type of personality is that their energy and enthusiasm is contagious. I want to be like them and so do most people that come into contact with them.

Being an educator demands high energy since we are charged with motivating our learners to excellence. This year, what if we remembered that the energy we project is contagious? Does this mean we can go in each and every day with the intensity of the first weeks of school? Of course not. We are human and imperfect! We can approach each day knowing that people (students, teachers, administrators, and parents) are watching us and can feed off our enthusiasm. If I'm excited about the school library, others will also be excited because I am. They may not be as enthusiastic about the library as I am, but they will recognize I love what I do.

If I consistently stand at the door with a smile on my face and greet students (even on a Friday before spring break), it makes the atmosphere better for everyone. We set the tone in our classroom which can impact the entire school. I want to remember this each day I go to work. My enthusiasm could change the course of someone's day and maybe even their life. We never know what impact we may have! Enthusiam is contagious!

Relationships Matter

This week, I was reminded by a session speaker that a growing number of our students do not have the parental support system that many of us had as young people. My parents are still there for me, and I talk to them numerous times during the week. I can't even imagine what it must be like for a young person to not have someone at home supporting them with encouragement. Some of our students may be totally without parents. While this is a tragedy, it is also an opportunity for educators.

You don't have to look hard for these students in the hallways of a public school. In our school library, we seek them out. I love finding students that walk in the hallway staring at the floor and surprising them with  a genuine compliment. Something as simple as "I like your shirt" or "Nice shoes!" can brighten a student's day. It is entirely possible that such a compliment might be the only one they hear all day or all week. Try this each day, and watch what happens. It always opens doors for the kids that need it. This practice has drawn many students to the school library and provided them with a safe haven. It has also provided them with a support network, which is our library staff. Frequently, these students will start telling us about their interests. When they do this, we make time to listen. This is an opportunity to help a kid find books they may want to read. We may also be able to connect them to a makerspace tool or skill. Sometimes the opportunity comes to put such a student in front of the crowd and allow them to show off their talent. (Yes, this can happen in the library and/ or your classroom!)

My fondest memories from public school and college are of the positive relationships I had with my favorite teachers. The ones that stand out the most are the ones that showed me they cared. They listened to my dreams and encouraged me to reach for the stars. What memories are you creating for your learners? What will they remember about your library or classroom? What will they recall twenty years from now about you? Are you leaving a legacy of positive relationships? What if we considered this each day we went to work? Relationhips matter.

Each Day is an Opportunity

We never know what opportunity we may have to impact change in our students' lives each day. Education is a magical career because we are influencing both the present and the future. Each time a student codes something with one of our library makerspace robots, they could be taking those early steps to be the next successful programmer. When you encourage a student to keep trying at that skill they haven't yet mastered, your words could motivate them to a path to become an expert years from now. By connecting your students to the outside world through a tool like Skype, you may shatter their perception of distant countries and the people that live there. They may even forge lifelong friendships with future international colleagues through such continued classroom connections. The possiblities are truly endless.

Like anything in life, the education profession is what we make of it. What adventures will you take your students on this year in your library or classroom? Each day is an opportunity. Educators change lives. 

I can't wait to see what happens at school this year. Be sure to share the things you are enthusiastic about in the comments below. Remember... you make a difference!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

What can a library be?

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

What Can A Library Be?

Do you ever stop and think about what the school library can be for your learning community? It is easy to get caught up in the daily activities and forget about the endless possibilities that exist for our learners. As I prepare to begin my tenth year as a school librarian, I've been thinking about how the library spaces and resources can transform our students' lives. I would like to share some recent happenings that have illustrated this to me.

A Safe Place

We loved seeing new students discover the library!
Recently we hosted an 8th grade school wide orientation. It was a busy day of meeting countless new students. As these young people arrived at the high school as new 8th graders for the first time, I thought about how intimidating this transition must be for them. It was also easy to see which students were new to our district since they were usually standing by themselves. How uncomfortable this must be for new students. I enjoyed seeking these students out and introducing myself and our library staff to them. Such connections will undoubtedly direct some of them to find us again in the library. In years past, the library has been a safe haven for many of our students in all grades. It is fulfilling to know that we can accomplish this by being friendly and showing interest in the students that visit. Most of the time, all it takes is a simple "Good morning", "How are you?", or "I'm glad you are here". As I reflect back through the events of the day, I'm glad I took the time to visit with so many new students. This was an investment that will bring new customers to the library when school starts. The library is an important safe place in the school.

A Place of Inquiry and Innovation

We started our brief orientation sessions in the fiction room portion of the library. My teacher librarian colleague, Mrs. Kaitlyn Price, enjoyed telling the newcomers about her genrefication project of all fiction titles. (You can learn more about how she accomplished this here). I imagine many students were curious about the titles they would find in the nine different categories she established in the space. I feel certain many will return to browse their favorite genres. In fact, one student proclaimed he would read every one of our science fiction/ fantasy titles! 

After this, we moved next door to the non-fiction room for a brief tour. Then we allowed them to explore the makerspace resources. We had Viewmaster Virtual Reality devices, Ozobots, Little Bits, Legos, coloring pages, jewelry making resources, and our Ollie robot out for everyone to try. Each group was very engaged with all the resources. As we interacted with all the students, I began to wonder how many of them might become proficient with our makerspace resources. Consider the numerous possibilities for these students. By having access to such resources at age 13, what progress might be possible between grades 8 to 12? Learners could begin designing and building projects using the 3D Printer. learning the basics of coding, and designing video games. Such activities may change their lives forever. The library is an important place of inquiry and innovation in the school. 

A Place of Connections

In the past, we have used Skype and Google Hangouts to connect students all over the country and world. We are already planning to continue this practice in the coming school year. Today I asked our new student visitors if they had ever Skyped with another place at school. Some hands went up, but most had not enjoyed the experience. I wonder if those students are looking forward to the places we will connect with in the coming year. Will they associate the library as a place that connects them all over the world? Will they tell their parents and grandparents about the places they connect in the library? How will this change the perception of the library and school? 

We enjoy having guest speakers in the library. In previous years we have had Veterans, local politicians, librarians from the county library, guest authors, local community musicians perform, and more. Many students have connected with such presenters during our brief lunch programs. I can't help but wonder what many connections await us this coming school year. What lives might be changed as a result of such programming? The library is an important place of connections. 

Final Thoughts

I hope you will join me in pondering these things as the school year starts and progresses. I want to stay focused on what the library can be for our learners. We can make a difference in our school and community. Anything is possible in the school library! It's going to be a great year.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Makerspace resources we are adding to our libraries.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Keeping Work Neat With Google Keep

Back in the spring, the Lakeside High School Principal, Mr. Darin Landry, shared an app with me he used constantly with his staff. The app is called Google Keep. I had never heard of it before in my experiences with Google tools. It looked fascinating to me, but I decided to table learning about the app until summer 2017.

Overview of the App

I never forgot about the app, and this summer I have done exactly what I planned to do by getting acquainted with the tool! I used it first by downloading the free app to my iPhone. I signed in with my school Google Gmail account and immediately starting creating to-do notes for practice. I found it easy to create notes of summer tasks that need to be accomplished each week. It was also simple to label the lists by week for easy reference. After I spent several days with the app, I was ready to share the notes with Kaitlyn Price (@Kait_Price11), co-librarian with me at Lakeside High School. Sharing was as easy as selecting the collaborator icon and typing in her school Gmail address. When Kaitlyn got on campus, we starting experimenting with our new shared to-do lists. After a short time, we discovered we could use a hashtag (#Kaitlyn & Stony) to categorize our lists. We plan to share separate lists with our two library assistants using a different hashtag.

Our first library task lists for July 2017
The Impact of Using the App

During our first week working together this summer, we crossed off 18 items over the first three days of the week. It was great to be able to share notes and work together to accomplish the tasks. After a task was completed, we would check the box next to the item. After checking the box, the app marks a line through the task and drops it to the bottom of the note under "checked items." It was fulfilling to see our list get smaller. At the same time, we could add new things to the list and/ or create new notes and tasks for the weeks ahead. We both really enjoyed the experience of seeing our work notes develop and change through the days.

We loved crossing items off the list!

Additional Features
I was able to add a photo of a book cover!

I have discovered that we can pin notes to the top of the page. We can also set reminders to show up for lists at specific times and days. Kaitlyn discovered that she can color code our lists (in the web version of Google Keep) separately from our library assistants so we don't get them confused. Another favorite feature I recently discovered is that we can post photos in our lists. There are so many possibilities for this app in our daily jobs.

Advocacy Thoughts

Google Keep could be an excellent advocacy tool since it shows tasks that we accomplish. If we choose to use this consistently all year, it will serve as an archived record of our work for 2017-2018. This is great evidence to share with administrators and stakeholders. In a time when all of us should be advocating for our jobs, this appears to be an easy method to collect such work data. In addition, it will give all of our library staff a chance to see what each other is doing and offer assistance when needed. I look forward to using this tool throughout the year and learning its many features. If you use Google Keep and want to share your experience or advice, be sure to add it in the comments below.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Makerspace resources we are adding to our libraries.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

My ISTE 2017 Reflections

I just got back from attending the ISTE conference in San Antonio, Texas. It had been eight years since I attended an ISTE conference, and I had forgotten how massive of a gathering it is. My friend and colleague, Tracey Wong (@TraceyCarayol), had put in for us to present at the conference, and we were so excited to have another chance to speak together. We were also very fortunate to have the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Travel Program (MIEExpert) approve to send us to the conference since our session was accepted!

Huge Conference

Words can't describe how large of a conference ISTE has grown to be. We were told that approximately 21,000 were in attendance at the event. I enjoyed how many options there were for sessions. They offered breakout sessions, poster sessions, technology playgrounds, and the largest expo exhibits area I have ever experienced in my life. There was so much to do and see that I was constantly overwhelmed. For the remainder of the article, I want to share some of the highlights I learned about.


I'm so grateful to Karey Killian for arranging several of us to visit an after hours demonstration of Lifeliqe's virtual reality and augmented reality products. Karey is a teacher librarian and MIEExpert in Pennsylvania. I was able to view their 3D app, and I was amazed at the quality of the animation. The real treat for me was my first experience with wearing a virtual reality viewer and experiencing their immersive software environment. I was able to view the International Space Station, an animated horse, and much more. It was so amazing to be transported to another place while wearing the viewing appliance. I truly hope to add something like this to the school library innovation space this year.


While at the Lifeliqe demonstration, I was also able to try the Microsoft Hololens for the first time. This tool provided me with a mixed reality environment. I could still see what was happening in the room while being able to view 3D objects through the Hololens appliance. I liked it because there were no cables or controls hanging from the device. I could simply make motions in the air with my hands to select the 3D objects. It was amazing!

Microsoft Translator

I have used Skype Translator several times in the past. While at ISTE, I attended a special focus group for a new product by Microsoft called Translator. This is a stand alone app or web-based tool that users can have to translate their messages to individuals or groups. I was very intrigued by the possibilities of this product, and I plan to use it this school year!

Makerspace Points from Laura Fleming

I have followed Laura Fleming (@LFlemingEDU) for quite a long time on social media. She is a teacher librarian in New Jersey and is well known for her makerspace innovations. I was very delighted to meet her at ISTE, and I also attended one of her sessions. She discussed her journey of creating a school library makerspace. My biggest takeaway from her session is that no two makerspaces are alike; we must create them based on the needs of students and the learning community.

Future Ready Libraries

I was super excited to have the opportunity to participate in a TLChat Live session with Jonathan Werner (@MaineSchoolTech) and Sherry Gick (@sherryngick)! I have interacted with the two of them on social media for a few years. They were so nice to allow me to participate in the TLChat Live video session. We talked about highlights at ISTE and some Future Ready topics. I have to admit I was very nervous to be sitting between two extreme leaders in our profession! I hope to have the opportunity to interact with them again in the future.

Working in the Microsoft Experience Room

Microsoft had a very strong presence at ISTE. One of my favorite areas they had established was called the Microsoft Experience Room. In that room was a great setup for Skype in the Classroom. I had volunteered to help with Skype and had the opportunity to work with the Skype in the Classroom team for a few hours on my second day at the conference. I learned about four great live Skype Virtual Field Trips while I was there:

  • Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
  • Florida Oceanographic Society
  • Buffalo Bill Centre of the West
  • National WWII Museum

You can visit for more information on these free connections for your classroom!

Our Session

Tracey and I had about 65 people attend our breakout session called Game Design as a Catalyst for Learning. Tracey showed off her Virtual Reality setup by VR Quest. After this, she gave a brief overview of Minecraft Education Edition. Following the overview, I shared some specific applications our students created from this past school year. The highlight of the session was when we used Facetime to connect with Jordan, one of my students back in Arkansas. He was able to share how he had used Minecraft for school projects and why he liked it so much! Many thanks to our friends at ISTE for allowing us to share our voices at the conference! 

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Makerspace resources we are adding to our libraries.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Professional Development: A Future Ready Library Buffet

Before the end of school, I was super excited to get an email from an Arkansas Educational Cooperative in our state. They wanted to know if I was available to present a summer session on Skype, Makerspaces, and other library leadership topics to teacher librarians in the area served by the cooperative. I was thrilled and nervous at the same time since it would be a six-hour session. I have presented breakout sessions at conferences and even a few keynotes, but never a full day facilitating professional learning. I remember looking at the calendar and programming a date during my summer vacation time. Then came the fun part: planning the event.

I asked my wife Cindy (@CindyRookEvans) to join me on this trip. She is also a teacher librarian at the K-6 level, and I knew that she could share some powerful stories for those attending from elementary schools. We brainstormed and decided to share about our many library collaboration programs, Mystery Skype and Skype Field Trips, Makerspaces, Social Media Presence, and Annual Reports. By the end of school, I was ready for the training date to come around so we could share these topics with new friends.

 The Event

We arrived at the DeQueen-Mena Education Cooperative in plenty of time to set up and prepare for teacher librarians to show up. I started with introductions and a Microsoft Sway I had created to outline the day.

Library Collaborations 

To start our content for the day, we shared about our many library collaboration programs from grades K-6 and 8-12. I enjoyed telling the story of how our first common core collaboration began in 2012 with the book Fearless by Eric Blehm. I also shared about collaborations centered around the Dust Bowl and Great Gatsby. Several teacher librarians began sharing how they would like to do a similar collaboration using the book Fearless around 9/11 or Veterans Day. It was encouraging to see teacher librarians thinking out of the box and considering new ways to collaborate and connect with their learning communities. Cindy shared about some of the collaborations she had done over the past two years with grades 5 and 6, such as Writing in the Dark, Mythology Introduction, and Court in the Library. Again, several teacher librarians seemed interested in knowing more.

The best way to learn Mystery Skype... Do it!
Mystery Skype

For the next event, I shared about Mystery Skype and how we use this engaging activity to collaborate with social studies and geography classes. After a brief introduction, we set up the room and actually connected with Tracey Wong (@TraceyCarayol) and her 3rd-grade students in New York to practice playing Mystery Skype. We connected with them for about 30 minutes. Afterward, we asked her students why they enjoy Mystery Skype. One girl said she liked connecting with other places. It was so good to have our group of 14 teacher librarians hearing student voices share their excitement about connecting! Thank you for playing Mystery Skype with us, Tracey!

Teacher Librarians loved Skype in the Classroom
Skype in the Classroom

Next, we shared the Skype in the Classroom portion of the Microsoft Education website. I had the teacher librarians find virtual field trips that they might want to try this next school year. Several teacher librarians found interesting potential trips! Most of them were not aware of these wonderful resources. I was so glad we could share these tools with them.


Many of the teacher librarians didn't have experience with Makerspace tools. To give them some hands-on opportunities, we set up 5 tables in the classroom with different innovation tools to try out. We had Legos, Makey-Makeys, K'nex, Little Bits, electronic kits, Cublets, Light Up Edison Kit, and Ollies.  We split them into groups and had them change table stations every 10 minutes. We went around and helped if they needed it. The teacher librarians learned that the best way to get comfortable with maker activities is to just give it a try. We also encouraged them to let their students be the experts. Student-led innovations have worked wonderfully for us at our schools. 

Makerspace Stations
Annual Reports

I shared how annual reporting has changed the perception of the school library at both school districts I have served as a teacher librarian. We took a long look at the components that I selected. I also shared my reasons for choosing each component for my annual reports.

Social Media Presence

I ended the day with sessions on how we use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blogging to share the value of our school library programs. I also shared how these tools were now connecting us to educators all over the nation and world. It was a lot of fun to share a few stories about connecting from this school year.


I felt honored to be invited to share our best practices with educators in a different part of the state. I hope our new friends will take a few of the tools that we shared and try them this school year. In reflection, I think I crammed too much into the day. It was a good introduction to many concepts that have changed the learning communities at both my school and Cindy's. Since there never is enough time for any professional development, perhaps, this "Future Ready Library Buffet" training was just right to give the teacher librarians a small taste of how they can change their schools forever.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Makerspace resources we are adding to our libraries.

How our students presented innovation spaces in the library.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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