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Spot on, Frank!!

And yet another reason I’m a huge Gamecock fan (other than my alumni status!) Sure wish our decision makers in congress got it.

Being in a school library with a trend to infuse technology in the k12 environment has forced me to think differently. More students bring their own device, and more classes in my teaching context are equipped one-to-one, making the library potentially an irrelevant space. Since students want to turn to computers or digital avenues for their research, I have stepped up the investments in digital portals for the library. I market them to teachers and students at orientations and during instructional units that call for research. I share continuously with my teachers, and advertise our services as resources that can supplement their instruction. I make sure to “take the library” to them, offering to visit classrooms as opposed to forcing classes to schedule the library. The library has grown from a physical space to include a conceptual/digital place as well.

How have you addressed ambiguity and irrelevancy as real threats to your library program?

A panoramic view from the circulation desk at Dorman High. Photo by Cathy Jo Nelson 28 August 2013.

Fruits of Labor

Our “Friends of the Library” book sale began Thursday, May 1, and has been available everyday all day, and will remain so until the last day of school. We have not seen huge numbers or sales, but we are having some. Since we are required to purchase books with the proceeds, and we can’t turn in anymore P.O.’s for this year, we opted to cash out over at the local book store. SQUEEE–can’t wait to get my hands on some of these! Can’t wait to show them off to our library regulars either! (And even though the last day to check out was Friday, we are still circulating to our very regular library readers.  Shhhhh, don’t tell. I trust them.)

Old School

As I sit and reflect on the coming end of school, I have to wonder am I old school? Let’s face it. I have two sons, one a college graduate, and one a college senior with just one course to go. I’ve been around. I do consider myself  “up” on most tools, and I feel I work pretty well at using methods and tools to bring relevancy to what I teach. I share continuously within my  networks, and really make an effort to bring it home to my own school and students. I have plenty of connections and I do interact with my PLN  using Twitter and even Facebook. But I have heard some say this is old school now. WHAT!?  Well guess what? If these are old school, I guess I am too. And not only that, but I still very much devour my RSS feeds, if not daily, then by every weekend. My learning and staying relevant with my students is deeply embedded in using the tools of professional learning networks, be it Twitter, Facebook, forums, listservs, digital communities, webinars, reading and reacting to blogs, and more. I find immense value in these.

I don’t want to downplay the very important value of face-to-face and what it provides. I am attending several opportunities this summer, including the Upstate Technology Conference, TASL’s Summer 2014 PD, ISTE 2014 Atlanta, and a few other select events that haven’t been confirmed yet. These opportunities help me to build on my learning and yes, even flesh out my PLN a little more. Old school or no, I’m still learning daily. Nothing wrong with that.

I am sharing  my GTA 2014 Application Video. I so want to attend one of these summer opportunities.



I’ll close with this picture, a tweet by my college senior youngest son. He had a revelation over the weekend when he checked me out on Twitter. I think I just scored some street cred from him! Thanks for those who find value in my contributions in my Twitter PLN. I did tell him how this came to be.


We’ve never done this before, but we heavily weeded our fiction section midwinter, and had plenty of books to do something with, books that are really in good shape. See, we have a lot of duplicate copies, so our first wave of weeding was to reduce duplicate copies for books that no longer have good circulation stats. We had some ideas of what to do with them, but we asked if we could perhaps sponsor a book sale.  All other options don’t generate any funds.  Happily our principal said yes. We just started it and have already sold around 25 books.

What will we do with the funds?

Well, our requirement is to buy more books. So we are planning a shopping spree with the cash made here, and we are going to let our students help pick out the titles. We won’t generate a lot of funding here, but every little bit helps, especially at the end of the school year which is upon us, when we have no remaining funds in our account.

As we are midway through April with our Poetry Month celebrations, I am pleasantly surprised at the participation and response from our students. I’m also reflecting over some of the benefits I have seen. Let me share some surprising perks from our Spine Poetry Activity.

Candid photos by myself and my collaborating teacher

Perk 1: Growing stock of student created spine poems for display
At the beginning of the month I shared our planned activities. As expected our English department took a keen interest in the Poetry Month plans. A couple of classes have actually scheduled to come in and build poems. What has been helpful is offering to print the poems using the library’s laser color printer for display purposes, and providing the teacher and the student with a copy to keep. Even my collaborating teacher from this class made one. We are ALL happy. I have poems to add to my growing display, the teacher has a set to share in the classroom, and the students like having a crisp colorful printout too. (A few have asked for a digital pic to keep as well, so I hope they are sharing in their virtual spaces like me.) Seeing the growing displays and I’m sure having my English department who eats lunch together daily share about the activity has brought in more classes. Seeing the growing display has made visiting individual students want to create too.
Perk 2: Using the Destiny catalog for a different purpose
Lisa Richie, one of my collaborating teachers, decided to get in on the fun and set out to make one for herself. After collecting a few books, she asked about finding books with titles that began with certain words. She wanted to use the word “teach” in her teacher-created spine poem. I showed her how to use the catalog to search by title. We input just the word “teach” in the search box, set the parameters to search by title, and then used the link “browse by titles” to get an alphabetical listing of all the titles that began with the word “teach.” Happily Lisa went off in search of her title. And immediately students began looking up words in the catalog to build their prefect poem that reflected literary theory and criticism, which was the goal of the class. They learned catalog skills and strategy. Here is my collaborating teacher Lisa Richie’s spine poem.

Created by Lisa Richie, English Department Teacher at Dorman High

Perk 3: Discovering books!
If you’ve ever done this you know that one of the results is a ton of books pulled off the shelves. It makes for a load of work reshelving. I initially took the idea from Andy Plemmons in his post and considered his directions to keep from having too many books pulled off shelves. Tiffany Whitehead took a totally different approach, and instead made pictures of tantalizing titles from spines, even going to a bookstore to find really interesting titles to use. She printed them out and provided these printouts for her students to use instead of actual books. Both of these approaches effectively get students thinking out of the box and creating. In the end I decided the reshelving was worth the work. Our instructions to students were to take to the stacks and find book titles that could be used. I pulled out four empty book carts, and simply asked that once a poem was completed, students place the books on the carts.

We had fun while creating a wonderful mess.

Perk 4: Increased circulation
If you look at the photo above, you’ll see that we had a big pile of books that were going to need to be shelved. But the kids were having a great time working and being creative. My collaborating teacher from this particularl class saw the work it was going to take, as by the time she brought this class in, we had four carts full. She pulled me aside and told me the group was savvy enough that if she told them to shelve their books they could do it right, and it would save us some work. I told her no, absolutely not! I told her to let the students use their time for making spine poems (and Gami’s using Tellagami) and we’d worry about the books later. The perk from allowing so many books to be pulled and handled were enormous! Students were constantly exclaiming “I did not know our library had this book!” or “I really want to read this one!” And of course, a lot of books were checked out as each class came to create spine poems. I never turned down a request.
Perk 5: Weeding
During fourth block, when the library staff and student workers tackled the reshelving project, once again it gave us an opportunity to really evaluate titles. I found a couple that had obviously been wet (no, we don’t always catch the titles that are turned in damaged.) I weeded those, as well as a few copies that were ratty and unattractive.
Perk 6: Getting to know the collection
Handling so many books really helps get to know what IS on the shelves. Every year after weeding, we have to shift books. I always make sure I do not pass this off to student helpers. Handling books is a nice way to really know what is on your shelves. Most of the time our library assistant shelves books. We also engage our high school student workers who have shown the capability to shelve. With this project and over four carts of books, I took the time to shuffle the carts’ books in order, making the reshelving an easier task. By handling each book individually, not only was I able to weed a few books before we actually shelved them, it helped me get to know our books just a little better. When you inherit an established collection of over 24,000 books, it’s not so easy to know what you have on the shelf. This exposure is priceless and SO beneficial to me.
The classes that visited to participate in the activity were very excited to not only share their creations, but also discover good books to read. Let me just suffice to say we had a lot of books checked out. And THAT was maybe the best perk of the day. The perks of allowing students to pull and handle the books for this activity far outweighed the disadvantages. What say you?

As part of our month long celebration of School Library Month, we are sponsoring a wheel of prizes. We set up in the cafeteria (across from the library) and lure students over with our colorful wheel and prizes to be won! The most popular prizes were free books and mystery QR Codes that students had to “discover” and then bring the image of their prize back to us. Two more Tuesdays in this month, but kids visit the library everyday to give our wheel a “practice” spin!

After seeing how Andy Plemmons (a Georgia school librarian in my professional learning community) used Tellagami with his Spine Poetry activity, I shared it with A teacher of World Lit classes. Her classes were visiting the library to create Spine Poems. Since these students are from a high school World Lit class, their task was to create a couple of Spine Poems, but one had to reflect major themes from their recent study of literary criticism and theory. These students amazed us today, and with no demonstration at all, they ran with it. The decision to use it was made about thirty minutes before the first group came, and so it was just suggested students use their own smartphones and help each other out.  Here are the results. ENJOY!!

The two above shared straight from Tellagami, and I received a Tellagami Link via email (from the share feature in Tellagami)  where I grabbed the embed code. They have their “Gami” border, and I like that visitors can see that we used the app Tellagami to create the spine poems. The others (featured below in the flickr stream)  were air dropped to my collaborating teacher from the hard drives of the students’ phones, and so there is no Tellagami border. This was a true learning experience for my CT and I. we had not thought to think through how students would share their work. Surprisingly helpful is the fact that students do not have to have accounts. It is ready to go and use.  After playing with the app only a few minutes, we all learned how to work up an avatar, upload a background (in this case their pictured poems), and how to share the finalized products. TOO LATE we learned how to turn and enlarge or reduce the size of our avatars and background pictures. But I do like the app and can think of plenty of other different ways to use it.


These are just a few we captured yesterday. Hoping to see more in the coming days.

Im nominated for  a Bammy Award 2014So this afternoon I casually open my email and almost dismissed it as spam. You see, I was nominated for a 2014 Bammy Award. As a blogger, I get plenty of emails asking me to share content, consider guest posts, or blog this or that topic. So my habitual skimming almost made me overlook this email. How about that!!  I’ve been reading where members of my PLN are celebrating their nominations, and I’ve been celebrating with them, sending in congratulatory comments, and bookmarking so when time presents itself, I can go back and vote/endorse their nomination. I even scoffed, wishing I could get in on it with a nomination. That’s how much I thought this could happen. Wishful thinking.


So it was a pleasant surprise to really process this email and realize well, gosh, I’ve been nominated! I’m super excited, humble to realize it, and I must say in GREAT company with some really awesome school librarians for my category.

Screenshot 2014-04-15 22.07.38


Just happy to have my passion acknowledged
But I am most excited to be acknowledged for being a passionate educator, one who strives to collaborate! This is reflected in my position as a school librarian at Dorman High School, as Regional Network Director for SCASL, and even as a member of the Leadership Team (Executive Board) working for SCASL. I am often asked where I find the time to do everything I do and make such an impact. Many are amazed at the depth of my involvement. To me, it is just the way I roll. When one is passionate about the work they are contributing (with students, teachers, colleagues, fellow librarians, community, more) it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like a rewarding accomplishment. No project is done and settled without a new one well on its way.  And I like it this way.


If you would, please take a moment to vote for me.


‘On the phone.’ Found on flickrcc.net

How can my students be productive using BYOD?
This is a question frequently asked by teachers in a BYOD environment. Yes it’s a challenge to really integrate the variety of devices students bring with them. But this article featuring Google Apps really made me stop and think.


Teachers must opt in
I work in a Google Apps for Education district. But ours is designed to be an “opt in” set up for our teachers. Our teachers must request the brief training, provide students with an initial overview, give out and take up permission forms, and then implement usage in their classroom or teaching context. And this is true class by class, so even if a student IS using it in one class already, a different class still requires forms, etc.


We have room to grow
Using Google Apps for Education means students who are bringing ipads, tablets, laptops, and even smartphones can USE these devices to be productive for a content area. At least that is the intent with the policy. So it is not unusual to see students in the library, the labs, the cafeteria, and the classrooms openly using their devices. I’d love to see our students using them for more than passing virtual notes (texting) or tuning in to their favorite music (and tuning the classroom instruction out.) BYOD is not permission to have the device out for texting and music. BYOD is about allowing students to use their preferred tool for a learning purpose. Is this a problem in anyone else’s school?


Can’t stop some things…
Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed the devices that are widely visible now throughout school being used for some texting and even listening to music. I hear daily how teachers are glad their students have music to keep them focused, and that without it students seem to be more easily distracted by what is going on around them (i.e. talking with neighbors, not working on the work at hand.)  This is all fine and dandy, but the BYOD policy was not adopted to be a classroom management tool. I’m just sayin’. Yes, we have a lot of room to grow.


Final Thoughts
I don’t think we have as much of a BYOD problem as we have an engagement problem. We are happy to have the devices. I’m just not sure they are being applied more towards usage for learning than usage for entertainment, to the detriment of learning. And I’m feeling a bit guilty over that.


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