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In recognition of Banned Books Week which just around the corner, our #CavaliersRead Book Club is reading a highly volatile book, Ellen Hopkins Crank. I would like to set up a Google Hangout for my group, which meets during first lunch at Dorman from 11:33-12:03 ET, just to connect my teens to teens outside our school, perhaps to give them ideas and understanding beyond our own group. I figure we’d try to connect at 11:40 AM. It will be short and brief, being less than 20 minutes. Anyone interested in connecting with us?
Why Crank?
This post over on the YA Love Blog sort of inspired us to choose this book for our September book club, and despite it being roughly 5 years old, it is still a quite popular book that really speaks to the consequences of bad choices by teens, best, from a user’s perspective. I look forward to hearing the thoughts of my teens…and hopefully yours too.
Promoting it at school
Checkout a poster one of our book club members created for placement in the halls at school!

Created by DHS student Marybeth M.

Librarian Twitter Chats | Piktochart Infographic Editor.

With the beginning of school and our own administrative staff now endorsing the use of Remind by communicating to our faculty and staff using it, I’ve been sharing its potential use in the classroom as well. We all know (and even lament) how today’s students rely on their devices. So why not capitalize on that reliance by capitalizing on it for educational use. Our high school bookclub has been using Remind for around 2 years, and we have found it as the best way to communicate meeting dates/times, when the book club books are in and available, and more. It is available through a website or an app for most mobile devices. The following are Google Drawings I made for use as helpful resources for my teachers. (Download larger image here.)

But some of my students and/or parents can’t join for a variety of reasons, such as limited data plans on their phone, no way to receive texts, dislike of texts, etc. No worries, let your intended audience know they can subscribe via email. (Download larger image here.)

After creating an account, the user will have to find ways to communicate the necessary information for users to subscribe. Remind provides a handy printable PDF that can be used, but one can also verbally share as it’s almost always simple enough to just say it or write it on a simple sign. Here is how I made our library book club “handout,” which I’ve printed and maintained ready to give to students at the circulation desk. (Download larger image here.)

In this “showcasing” of why Remind is a good classroom tool, I also share the ability to schedule messages, which is a nice feature in Remind that often wins over even the most reluctant. (Download larger image here.)

In some kind of follow-up training, I will share the now available chat features. I will also help my teachers use the widgets offered in Remind to add to their online spaces. Finally, since all our classes are semester long classes I will share how to remove users closer to the end of the semester.

The summer learning opportunities I’ve had have my brain just a whirling. SCASL’s Summer Institute (which I missed due to family travel), ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia, and DENSI2015 last week in Washington, DC have given me much to think about and how I can apply it to my own teaching and learning context.
From SCASL’s Summer Institute (JUue 16, 2015) – Maker Spaces

From the SCASL Summer Institute, I saw some terrific short video clips of the tremendous learning via the SCASL Facebook page, specifically here and here. Seeing these made me regret missing our SCASL Summer Institute, as I heard nothing but good things. Kudos to SCASL President Diana Carr for pulling this together, (Note I tried to embed, but I’m not optimistic they will show up; also those seeing this from a reader may have to pop out to see them anyway, but well worth the time to do so.)


Summer institute Rube Goldberg

Posted by South Carolina Association of School Librarians on Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Summer institute magnet theater

Posted by South Carolina Association of School Librarians on Tuesday, June 16, 2015


From ISTE and DENSI, Maker Space Ideas Galore

Before we headed up to DC for the Discovery Education Network Summer Institute, we were asked to consider bringing a maker space idea or project, complete with resources needed to showcase it in what was dubbed a DENovator Faire. We were featured on one of the DENSI pages–have a look at the sessions listed. This is not all of them, as we had some just show up with a maker project. This room was jam packed that evening with GREAT ideas for any maker space. Our Australian DEN Friends made a Day 4 Recap Video that shows a lot of the maker spaces set up and also really shows how energized everyone was.

This is another video that is actually the DENSI 2015 Podcast show, and it features more of the DENovator Fair.

From ISTE, there were maker space playgrounds, and the ISTE Librarians Network featured for their ISTE Librarian Forum an entire session led by a panel of school librarians to talk about Maker Spaces. Luckily, the entire presentation was recorded via Google Hangout and broadcast live from ISTE for sharing afterwards. It’s long, and the audio is slightly off, but it is well worth watching.

And let’s not forget the DENSI Costume Party

Since I shared the Flickr Pool set of pictures tagged DENSI2015, I won’t embed them again, but you can find some of the “History Themed” Costume Party photos in that set. It was tremendous fun and something I won’t forget soon.  You can look at the set again here, however, I will share mine from our “photobooth” moments at that party. Such fun I had with DEN friends.

This one features SCASL peep Jessica Felker and myself at the History themed costume party. Jessica is representing an “inaugural ball guest” and I am representing “Dr. Jane Goodall.”

Look! I had a twin Jane Goodall at our DENSI2015 Costume Party!


So How will I apply this to my own teaching and learning context?

Of course I now want to try and set up some of the maker space activities I have seen at ISTE2015 and DENSI 2015. I think we will plan some of these for Fridays at lunch, and advertise them in advance. Maybe at first we’ll sponsor all the tables, but eventually expand it to let students have a table too. I think four activities a session might be enough to start with. We’ll have to see how it goes. And if I can square it away, I’ll also get some guests to come and showcase things I saw at my conferences (i.e. 3Doodler?) Watch a captivating video here.

Screenshot of this video: https://youtu.be/hUOZTckQPWw


And even beyond my own school…

The more I thought about this, I decided both the Maker Space session and the costume party featured in my summer professional development not only might impact my teaching context, but also might fly at my own state organizations’ annual conferences. I have floated the ideas to them as well, though only time will tell if “the powers that be” decide to look into it. It’s still very early in the planning stages. I have my fingers crossed. I have offered to take on that project–yes, I’m crazy.

It’s summertime and at that time I get to pursue interests and hobbies. My husband swears my only interest is “school,” and my only hobby is attending conferences and workshops. That may be sort of true–I’m guilty as charged, but I do enjoy my flowers each summer too. I thought just to break up my posts I’d talk about something more in line with summertime and not pedagogical. I’ll share my flowers and their story. (But I can go the pedagogical route if someone really pushes me, even about flowers.)

It all begins around school’s spring break

Each spring I itch to get my fingers in the dirt. I love to have plants, greenery, flowers and more outside. I probably get that from my maternal grandmother who I have heard had prize winning lilies and gladiolus growing in her yard. She loved to experiment with growing flowers, and her flowers were always breath taking. She was the “serious” gardener. My plan for this summer was to have begonias, multicolored impatiens, potato vines, and of course ferns around both porches. Here is the progression of each, and I have to say I’m thrilled with how they are turning out, even if the begonias have not done as well as years past.
The lower bushes and flower beds

(Photo by Cathy Jo Nelson using Canva.com) In early April we severely cut back some the front bushes. I don’t even know their name, but I took a limb cutting to the local nursery to ask about cutting them back. Actually I think that bush whacking happened in late March. I was so worried I had killed them. The begonias suffered from too much water through mid June, but since we cut back the watering, they are looking much healthier. I do love the dark leafed red begonias.

The backyard deck baskets and ground planters beds

(Photo by Cathy Jo Nelson using Canva.com) In the back I made 4 sets of hanging baskets with multi colored dark leaf begonias and streaming vinca vines. On the ground below I planted in planters Lantana (which supposedly discourages mosquitos); in the center of each planter I put purple ornamental grass. As of today I have only three of the purple grass showing the funky purple stems with seeds. But all four are tall, full, and healthy. The back porch also has a lone fern not pictured. I may have to rethink streaming vines next summer if I am going to keep the planters beneath them.

The porch’s box planters and ferns

(Photo by Cathy Jo Nelson using Canva.com) The boxes hanging on my porch are strapped down “MacGyver-style” with zip-ties. In these I planted mixed colored impatiens and streaming potato vines. I had the boxes ready to go in the garage for about ten days before I finally put them out, and it took two more weeks before the ferns went up. My husband rigged me a watering system made of PVC pipe that wraps around the inside of the porch above the ferns, and so twice a day water comes down in a micro-tube to the ferns, and then drips directly into the three boxes strapped to the porch. This year for the first time, I had to go buy plastic snakes for the ferns to keep birds from nesting there. Worked like a charm. The ferns are HUMONGOUS and have broken chains twice this summer. Today I raised them up four chain links because the fronds were resting on the impatiens in the flower boxes. The ferns and flower boxes very much like that twice-a-day watering.


What’s comes after summer?

Are you kidding? School. I’ve never had much luck with plants that grow in the colder weather. I am not sure I will even try when it turns cooler this year. So I’ll just enjoy these all the way through late October when we’ll finally have a frost that will kill all the ground flowers. Then I’ll take it all down and wait for next spring to do it again. I’m thinking next spring/summer about Lantana mixed with something else in the front boxes with maybe green AND purple potato vine, along with some vinca vine spilling down the front. Time will tell. I do love my summer hobby.

I am still processing DENSI2015, and today I spent some time going through the many #DENSI2015 tagged videos, specially looking for really creative ones. You see, I’m already trying to come up with something interesting and innovative for my own 2016 application video. I am sharing here a few that struck me in one way or another.
A School Librarian from North Carolina

The first is by Judy Uhrig, a school librarian just like myself. One of the reasons this video struck me is because like me, she is a high school librarian. We attended several of the same sessions at DENSI2015 as we have a similar view of our respective schools. We take on any and every content area and we serve our students and staff, no matter the requests. This is one of the reasons I love being a high school librarian, as no two days are alike, ever. No room for boredom or feeling like one is in a rut in this position for sure. Her video really represents that well. I know that for my own video, I did about 90% in an Animoto, mainly because I could create my video piece by piece, especially since I tend to put everyone else first and my personal projects last. My video portion and narration took place on a testing day when most of our students and teachers were encumbered, freeing up just a little bit of time for me. 🙂 Her video REALLY represents what my typical day is like. I try to stay out of my office, visible, and accessible 80% of the day. Job well done Judy!!

A Technology Coach from California..and beyond

The next video I am sharing belongs to Dennis Grice, a Technology Coach who is starting his own new adventure in an International School this fall. I love the different approach he took in his creation. No less effective, viewers immediately pick up on his personality and dry wit! There were many with singing applicants, but his personal touch was spot on!


A Passionate Teacher from Texas

Finally, Lindsay Foster‘s video touched me as well. At the institute, we were encouraged to use our passions to reach others. There were many emotional moments as DEN members shared their story. It is easy to see how the DEN Community becomes such a close knit group, way above and beyond just the passion for teaching and learning that brings us together. Lindsay’s application video really showcased her passion well. way to go Lindsay.

Feeling Inspired 

All of the videos I have watched have given me something to consider as I begin planning for my next DENSI Application video. Meeting you in person was just icing on the cake. All the DENSI2015 attendees have seriously rocked my world–others who just don’t get it are going to think you warped me, and that’s okay too…as long as my passion for working in the education field continues to shine through. Thanks DEN Community and Discovery Education for allowing me to be a part of this and reigniting the fire for networking with an educational purpose.

First off, I’ll share my entire DENSI2015 flickr set:

Next I’ll share the #DENSI2015 Group set :

Note: Flickr has done away with the ability to share a set(now known as album) in show mode but a little search revealed that one can still add the word “show” to the end of the URL and then use the share feature to snag the embed code. It refers users to the older Flickr with its familiar toolbars and tools of old, but hopefully that won’t go away anytime soon.


#PhotoFail or #PhotoSuccess?

If you haven’t noticed, I failed miserably at capturing a lot of pictures. I really thought I would take photos of everything happening and selfies with/of everyone I met and made friends. But I wound up doing more preserving of my phone’s battery power instead. So I shared the pool of photos of which I did contribute my few.  Then I shared above the complete shared photoset from the #DENSI2015 group.  Happy I am to see more than 200 photos. I even uploaded my roomie Jessica Felker’s  photos.


Still making sense of DENSI2015

I am still very much processing the week’s events. My intention early on was to try and blog each day’s events. By my the 4th day (Wednesday) I was absolutely on information over load. Here are the sessions I attended, followed by a comment or two:

  • The session Level Up Learning! Gamified Professional Development led by Selena Ward was an eye opening experience for me. I’m not much of a gamer, but I can see where adding that “competitive” twist to PD might be just the catalyst I need for getting Ts to participate in our more often than not “optional” professional development. In my teaching context we have a few days before school begins and even fewer days after school begins for any required/mandatory training, so gamifying it just might be the solution to get Ts to participate!



  • I then went to Karen Ogen‘s session Augmented Reality Can Make Your Classroom Come Alive! I had two reasons to attend this session–one, she is SC’s DEN Leadership Council rep, and two, I wanted to see if there was anything new or different from what I had seen recently at ISTE. It was much of the same, but no less exciting. Some tools have changed names, such as coLAR to Quiver. But it is still much the same. Here is a link to her slides and the material covered, where she predominantly showcased her content, leaving us  extremely wowed. The other big difference in this session as opposed to sessions at ISTE, attendees really felt at ease asking questions and interrupting to get clarification.
  • Following our breakout sessions we had a fun session where the entire group reconvenes to physically vote on “Things That Rock.” Essentially the moderators, Dean Shareski and Steve Dembo created a slide set of topics, and the audience voted by lining themselves up on either the far right (strongly agree) or far left (strongly disagree) and those somewhere in the middle stood in the middle. It’s always fun to hear impassioned debate as attendees defend their positions. I could not believe the arguments about Starbucks of all things. All the topics were not pedagogical, but all were relevant to us as attendees at DENSI this week (i.e. topics ranged from “dry university” to “tenure.”)
  • The last topic of the day for the convened group was to plan out the next day’s unconference. I’ve never seen it done this way. My experience with unconferences is to have to audience somehow “vote” on the topics that make sessions. This time people lined up to write a topic on a card and then vocally proposed it, saying why they wanted that to be a topic for the next day. The Discovery Ed team ultimately decided what sessions made. After some combining, the schedule was displayed on the wall at first, then transferred to a shared google spreadsheet and corresponding doc for group notes. Excellent way to do this. I am not sure I’m allowed to link to the notes yet so I’ll follow up later if that is kosher.



Next on the Agenda, The Denovator Fair

Picture by Jessica Felker

This was the most incredible part of the day, seeing all that participants came up with to share at the Denovator Fair. Please look through all the photos in the DENSI Group (embedded above) to grasp the range of makerspace type activities we had access to. My own contribution was Upcycled/Recycled Tshirts, where I challenged attendees to create a bag or a pompom.

It ended too soon

Picture by Joquetta Johnson

It didn’t seem possible that Friday was already here when it did come. Thursday was spent going from unconfernece session to unconference session. Thursday evening brought on one of the WILDEST parties I’ve attended as an adult, our History Themed Costume Party. Again, just take a gander at the photos in the DENSI2015 group set to see the variety of costumes! I’ve asked our SCASL Pres and Pres-elect to maybe consider adding a Maker fair and Costume party to our annual conference. I’d do it. Would you, fellow SCASL members? In the end we were challenged to continue learning, sharing, connecting and more. And DE Leader Jannita Demian has tasked us with helping get MORE SOS tips/topics to DEN for future use and expansion.

Today was filled with lots of connections, sessions, and finally the DENmazing Race.

Making connections

At our group start-up meeting we were given an Bingo-like sheet that looked more like a DC Metro line map, just in a simpler format. As we network over the next few days, we are to get for each “stop” a signature to show that we are indeed networking and learning about, with, and from each other. Each stop is a DEN characteristic (i.e. Won a DENmazing race contest before, or Has taught for 20 or more years.) The “stops” really help you get to know other Discovery Education Network members well. One of the DENmazing race activities was to match names to pictures of attendees, and my group was able to QUICKLY match them, and I attribute that to the HIGH level of networking. The Dengo activity really did help me know names and faces in that activity.



This is where as I reflect my brain actually starts to hurt! Most of these sessions were focused on tools, but it wasn’t just an introduction to a tool. I’ve been “tool-focused” sessions a plenty (i.e. 60 apps in 60 minutes) that just superficially scratch the surface of the tool. The sessions today that focused on tools were significantly more meaty, giving me lots of application ideas AND making me reflect and think of more ways I might use them in my own teaching practice not only as a school librarian working with classes, but also as a Tech Trainer working with Teachers. Often I lament that tech conferences now a days do not give me new material. Thank you DEN for great material today, and I can’t wait to get more great material tomorrow!


Favorite QUOTE of the day:
When the smartest person in the room is the room, make sure its your room. –Hall Davidson


List of Apps/Tools/Material I want to dig into deeper now that I have new insights and ideas aplenty:

There were PLENTY more than this short list, but these captured my attention for various reasons, and of course I will dig into them a bit more.


The DENmazing Race

The DEN organizers created a scavenger hunt type game loosely based on the Amazing Race reality tv show, and teams of four worked through the activities, some of them challenging and brain teaser-ish for sure! We find out tomorrow how our team stacked up.

A pic of the screen in Chad Lehman’s session, my ground roll for the DENmazing Race, my DENmazing team, and the DENGO networking activity/challenge.


I still need to get three more “stops” on my DENgo game, and we have a day filled with great sessions again tomorrow, followed by the Dennovator Faire (a maker faire amongst the DEN!)


Most of the morning was spent in downtown Washington, DC at the National Mall exploring/touring several monuments. It all began with a bus tour of “embassy row” where our tour guide shared interesting bits of knowledge about each embassy and other establishments, like the vice president’s residence, the location of Hilary Clinton’s residence, the National Cathedral, and even a “wanna-be” embassy that is actually a family residence tucked in this residential area where the embassies are located.

The tour guides provided by Discovery Education enchanted us with facts and anecdotes about not only the embassies, but also a couple of specific monuments, including the Jefferson Memorial, the the Lincoln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument with a view also of the White House beyond, the FDR Memorial, the MLK Memorial, a walk along the tidal basin, and of course the Vietnam War and Korean War Memorials.

After lunch on the steps of the Natural Museum of History, we were released to scavenge the area of all the Smithsonian Museums at our leisure until 4PM. We returned from our touring day to crash. A scheduled independent night tour of the monuments was available to those wishing to see more after dark. (I skipped this because I had done a similar tour the last time I was in DC.) We just hung out for the rest of the evening. My legs and feet will be so sore tomorrow!

Here are some pics from the day that I grabbed from the DENSI2015 Group Pool.

Made with Flickrit

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