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Many teachers use videos to supplement instruction in class. It’s a nice way to give your delivery of instruction variety, while at the same time ensuring different modalities are used in the instructional approach. The copyright surrounding using videos legally in classroom instruction essentially says to be in compliance, there must be some face to face instruction that goes with the video. I have first hand seen great examples of how teachers meet this need. Examples include:

  • Questions to answer after a video
  • Questions to answer during the video
  • Pair sharing following a video
  • Class wide discussions based on a video’s content

Make a Video Interactive in Class
All of these work well and often compliment the learning. How can we utilize tools to add to the list? Here is a thought. Choose your video, and before the class starts CREATE a DISCUSSION with a few threads that match topics you want to emphasize from the video. I recommend one word topics. Then launch your video and students can immediately engage in a discussion (also known as a backchannel) to compliment the learning.

ItsLearning Discussion Tool – Screenshot by CJ Nelson

There are many  tools that can provide a backchannel to learning scenarios. Some of my favorites include TodaysMeet and Padlet. These programs allow for students to create their own username, while most learning management systems automatically tie all contributions to the student’s actual name. There is even a Todays Meet educator portal that gives the teacher a little more control. Whatever you choose, research well before beginning.

Add an Assessment Element
I also recommend creating a rubric that you can apply to student contributions.  Make sure students understand before the discussion how they will be assessed. The rubric might include points for:

  • Minimum number of postings to the discussions
  • Postings to the discussion should demonstrate a thoughtful approach to the content
  • Discussions that show student attentiveness (reiterating content from the video).
  • Discussions that extend the learning (show a reflection or deeper understanding.)
  • Interaction with other students in the discussion is evidenced
  • Interaction with other students in the discussion that extends understanding/learning is evidenced.

Discussions are a great way to engage students, and if a video is embedded into a learning module, students can participate in their own time.

Not Just for Videos
Discussions can compliment any type of instruction, including face to face lectures, debates, fishbowl style discussions (small group talks aloud while the rest of the class discusses online), assigned readings, etc. A discussion can enrich any learning sequence, and can bring to life the shy, quiet student as well.  Consider adding a discussion to your next lesson.

So what is your favorite discussion/backchannel tool?


We are voting each Thursday, so today was decision day in the first round of our Library March Madness Tournament. Our Sweet Sixteen are now officially down to our Elite Eight.


Image Attributions: Book Covers are compliments of GoodReads.
All other images are my own.

Of course anyone who works in a library knows it’s never “done.” But my focus has definitely shifted away from this section. I am finished focusing on it for this school year anyway. Here is a comparison of the data from when I began in September to its current status.

Date Number Avg Copyright
9/5/2014 1582 2000
3/1/2015 635 2007

How does it look?

Before, the Biography section consisted of two walls of too full shelves.

Now it has been relocated and consists of fewer, but roomier shelving, roomy enough in fact to actually display some of the titles. Circulation seems to be better too, though I haven’t really taken the time to fully analyze that. We are pleased as punch with the new location and the increased visibility of newer biography titles too!

My new focus on weeding now is our video collection.  We had roughly 1000 videos and DVDs, with the vast majority being VHS format. We are looking to completely rid our collection of VHS formatted videos in the next month. I’ve tried giving them away to teachers section by section, but they are not showing much interest. We will probably wind up truly throwing these away. They are old and dated. That they are VHS in format says it all.

So we’ll be saying so long to this cart of vhs tapes and several more just like it.  Weeding is a never ending job.

Nancy Everhart shared this in Facebook yesterday and I think it is so cute and telling! Which brings to mind our overdue notices that are going out Monday. Some may say we are slackers, as we only send them out quarterly, somewhere near midterm. We will catch immortal sin and grief from our patrons coming Monday when these offensive yellow slips go out. Most of the grief will be because students misread the information on the notice. Destiny’s notices are easily misinterpreted.  We do have safety nets and policies in place to help kids with fines though. And more often than not, those funds we do collect are used on our students.  Examples follow:

  • Safety Net: When our little snow or ice affects our schedule, we mark the library calendar “closed” in circulation so students do not get charged for late books on a day the library was not physically open. On late arrival days, just the same we mark the calendar closed.  Yes we are physically open on late arrival days and can circulate books in and out, but the system thinks we are closed so books circulating are not impacted by that date. Student do not accrue fines on those dates if their book is due. It helps as students may not be able to turn in their book, as their remaining schedule that day doesn’t bring them near the library. The system also automatically adds a “day of grace” which means they have two days to get it back to us before fines are added. This helps the students.
  • Safety Net: Students who come to talk to us about their late books usually get some kind of waiver or reduced fine amount. It’s quite easy to look a student in the face, listen to their quandary, and reduce or clear fines. It’s very easy to ignore those who just knowingly drop a late book in the box and walk away. All of this is explained in library orientation.
  • Fine Money Funds: All of our fine money in funneled right back into the library. The vast majority of this funding helps us offer library programming. Fine/fee money buys our book club titles. That funding source also allows us to purchase and provide lunch to the book club members. This way we can have an active library book club that doesn’t require students to stay after school.
  • Fine Money Funds: Sometime during early to mid March, our school budget has to be spent. Any funds remaining are zeroed out and added back to the general fund to be spent by someone higher than me, and not necessarily on or for  library programming. Having this local account assures that we can purchase more books for the collection, particularly those that become available after March. We love being able to offer our students the newest in the series or the next ever so popular YA title.
  • Fine Money Funds: We use that funding to offer prizes or treats that go with Teen Read Week, Poetry Month, and other library promotions and contests. I love the look on students faces when they learn they can choose a book as a prize.  I also enjoy giving our “Cavalier Coupons” that students may use in the cafeteria or school coffee shop.
  • Fine Money Funds: We used some of our money to purchase digital readers and ebooks when they first came out. This was a trial to see how they could be used, how hard it was to get books on and off, and if they could be applied in the school library loan model. Eventually we opted out of getting more, and now our readers are used in house and to model/demonstrate to students how to get checkout our ebooks from our system.  So they are still being used. In a nutshell, the money allows us to explore programming too.

Other source funds:  The library also sells the following at a low cost or no cost to raise small amounts of funds.

  • Earbuds – We sell earbuds for $2.00 a pair. Our network settings have sound disabled on all student devices that log in to the network unless there is a speaker device attached. Many students walk around with their earbuds, but we have a steady stream of students who want to purchase their own pair. They are cheap, costing us $1.00 or so. We make a 100% profit by selling them for $2,00
  • Flashdrives – We sell these at cost. we make no money from these, but it does keep students returning. We stock our school store which is in  another part of the building with both flash drives and earbuds.
  • Color printouts – Students can print all the black/white copies they need right from the library’s student laptops at no cost. We sell color copies from the desk at  $0.25 per page. Every little bit helps.

I realize not everyone works in a situation where they can charge fines or use the same fund raiser tactics that we use. Everyone’s teaching context is different. But I want readers to know that as a school that does charge fines, we are good stewards with that limited source of funds.  We make sure it is a total investment for the library programming.

In a post earlier today, I talked about helping teachers use an online html code editor to “pretty up” their pages in our LMS. That’s all fine and well if content is not blocked. I’m referring here primarily to videos. Most popular online video sources (Youtube, Vimeo) are blocked for students in our school’s networked environment.

Filtered content is just something we must deal with
Working in my region of the US, filtering is just something we must deal with. With our LMS and the goal to have teachers use more of a Blended or flipped model of instruction, you can guess that embedding videos would be problematic for many of our teachers. Even if they have learned how to find and grab the code and embed a video, that does not mean the filter won’t block access to the content for our students while they are on campus.

More drawback
More of a dilemma is the need or desire to create video channels of videos found in searches that meet the curriculum goals and objectives, or a place to store original student video content, only to realize the only one who can access it at school is the teaching staff.  Sigh.

What has worked recently?
Big in my district, teachers provide access to blocked video content by using video downloading tools that work in Youtube. KeepVid, Youtube Downloader, and even the simple trick of adding ss to the beginning of a youtube’s url -example-https://www.ssyoutube.com/watch….. – allows teachers to quickly and easily download a video they want to provide to students. Legal? I’m not so sure, though arguably it is done in the name of fair use. This is how many have addressed the issue of filtered video content. But that doesn’t work for all online video sources. It also does not allow teachers to embed video in their web portals or LMS’s.

What is the solution? 
Here is another reason I am a huge Google fan. Did you know you can upload those original student created videos to your Google drive and get an embed code there? Since I work in a GAFE district, content linked from my Google Drive is not blocked. But even before we became a GAFE district, I’d already discovered that pulling content into my Drive for a link was not blocked.  Best, videos hosted in your Google Drive can be a place to grab an embed code.

Need an EMBED CODE for a video in your Google Drive?
Here are the steps using CHROME as your web browser:

  • Upload the video to drive. (I put mine in a folder for the same type of videos. This folder pictured contained either posters or videos because that is what the kids had to make for their project.)  Make sure the shared settings are public.  If they are not shared properly, anyone who tries to view them will be asked for a login/password. This is an important step. In this screenshot, you can see the double head icon telling me it is a shared file.

  • The shared settings:  There are several ways to get to the shared settings, but I usually just right click on the file, then choose share from the menu.

  • Choose the option that best fits your needs. I tend to choose “Anyone with the link can view.” Then right click again and this time choose “Get Link.”
  • Now you have to open that link in an incognito window.  To launch an “incognito window” click on the upper right in Chrome.  If you are logged into Chrome, your account name will be in a  box. Notice mine reads “District 6 Train…”  This will open a menu that allows you to switch users or go incognito. Choose “incognito.” In a MAC environment you may have to go to FILE–>New Incognito Window

  • Once the incognito window for Chrome is open, paste the url of your video (or picture) into the url box. Your video should load and be ready to be played. Larger videos will need time for Google to process them.  At the top in the tool bar, choose the strange vertical dots to open another menu, and there you will see the embed menu option.

  • Open the embed menu option, and copy the iframe code.

  • Now you have something you can use in any number of digital places . This technique will also work to embed pictures, though Im not a fan since it also brings with it an unattractive, unsightly grey band/border..

This is a good thing since many LMS’s limit users in their available storage space, and pictures and videos take up a lot of room if uploaded.

So what are the drawbacks?

  • Teachers must remember to tweak the shared settings.
  • The embedded videos cannot be viewed full screen, at least not to my knowledge.

Special thanks to my Google Teacher Academy cohort (GTAATL) where I learned this nifty trick.


With serving as a Tech Trainer for our LMS this year, I have stepped up my efforts to model effective use for our teachers. There are high hopes that teachers will begin to consider and/or adopt a more blended learning approach to instruction, if not all together go “Flipped.” I’m not so optimistic that many of my roughly 150 teachers will go totally flipped (though I see glimmers of hope here and there,) I am encouraged in what I’m seeing with the blended learning approach. I do believe high school teachers are a hard sell.

Model with Use; Share Tips and Tricks
One way I’ve tried to help them make the transition to using our LMS (ItsLearning) is by providing tips and or tricks along the way and modeling in my own practice. I try to send tips through the LMS, but I pair sending it with a regular email blast too. I’ve shared things like how to use the microphone/webcam in project based learning, how to embed a PowerPoint or Word document in a viewer friendly manner, how to contact an entire class or individual through the LMS, and even how to conduct an online discussion or chat.

Screenshot of my OneDrive Page from my Office 365 Lesson in ItsLearning. The pages’s elements (blocks) were created using the html editor Quackit.

Teachers’ biggest complaint
A complaint I hear from teachers is that they want a more attractive way to deliver their content in the LMS. The most dominantly used element is rich text content. This is where they stumble, as when they think of rich text content, they think strictly text.

Let’s make it pretty
I have shared this tool with them, but every time I use it I realize just how much I like it. The “Page” feature in our LMS essentially allows teachers to add blocks of information. This is where I push them to try an online html editor like Quackit to make those text blocks visually appealing and not just text. This is my favorite tool to help teachers build something visually attractive. Why do I like it?

  • Users don’t have to know anything about html or any other kind of code.
  • Using this free online html editor, you still get to develop content in a wysiwyg manner (what you see is what you get), which means you don’t have to be an expert in code.
  • You build it in a friendly editor that has a familiar look and feel like the rich text editor in ItsLearning or any other standard text editor–like Word, with which they are all very familiar.
  • Users build, click source and copy that html code, then paste the code in their content block.
  • No login required; it’s just there to use as needed. This is my favorite reason to love it!!
  • Users are offered plenty of other more robust editors for a variety of other content (music, players, videos, etc.) from this site as well.

My Sceenshot of Quackit

Quackit HTML Editor is just a part of a much bigger site, but this has become my go to site for grabbing some code. I’m sure there are other sites that do the same. Now readers, share your favorite with me.

I put up our Library March Madness Brackets today.  I will put up more Monday, including a Bracket Challenge, a Title for this display, and how the books made it into the tournament. I don’t necessarily need it, though, as MANY students who passed as I was putting this up today asked me when the tournament started and how they could participate, so the word is out and my students are expecting it! We will post results each Friday during March, so students will have Monday through Thursday to vote a book through the tournament.


How did we choose the books?

We ran a Destiny report on the top circulating books from February 2014 to February 2015, and then created a true 16 bracket single elimination tournament, with the seeds matched up accurately.  Starting Monday, students can drop by to vote their favorite books through. We will tally votes Thursday after school, and reveal the next round (Elite Eight) Friday at lunch time.


What Made the Tourney?

We are proud to present the following titles as our Sweet Sixteen. Some of these are book club titles (which could have given them an inflated status) and three of them are from our Manga and/or Graphic Novels collection, a very popular section in the library. This year is the first time we’ve had more than one graphic novel in our tournament.


What books made the tournament?

Our Sweet Sixteen are as follows:

  • #1 – Bleach 55 (Manga) vs #16 The Fight (Drama High)
  • #2 – Butter (Lange) vs #15 Back Stage (Manga)
  • #3 – Naruto 1 (Manga) vs #14 Blue Plate Special (Kwasney)
  • #4 – The Fault in Our Stars (Greene)  vs #13 Thirteen Reasons Why (Asher)
  • #5 – If I Stay (Foreman) vs #12 Lockdown (Smith)
  • #6 – If I fall (Oliver) vs #11 Homeboyz (Sitomer)
  • #7 – Allegiant (Roth) vs #10 Champion (Lu)
  • #8 – House of Hades vs #9 Mocking Jay (Collins)


How do the books advance?

We will begin with a bracket challenge, allowing students Monday through Thursday to predict the total tournament results.  Each Thursday during lunch we will invite students to make predictions bracket by bracket by having them vote. We will set up our voting in a Google Form, and encourage students to vote. After lunch on Thursday we will tally and move the winners forward. We will name the following each Friday:

  • February 27 – Sweet Sixteen
  • March 6 – Elite Eight
  • March 13 – Final Four
  • March 20 – Championship Round
  • March 27 – Tournament Champion

Picture Attribution: Original Picture by Cathy Nelson

My district implemented a Learning Management System. Even though we are a Google Apps for Education district, we opted to go a different way than the Google Classroom. This decision was not made lightly. Why a learning management system? These are a few of my own understandings, though I’m sure at the table where the decision was ultimately made, there were more:

  • Decrease use of paper
  • Authentically engage students in using technology for learning
  • Encourage BYOD
  • Provide an experience in the k-12 environment that prepares our students for college and/or career, a foundation of our school and district goals

Perhaps I am not wording the fourth one as adequately as it should read, but the gist of it is true. We have plenty of contact with our graduates, and repeatedly the ones who go onto college report back to us their biggest obstacle to overcome in the first year of college was learning to utilize Blackboard or other learning management systems.


The chosen platform

If you are not a new reader, then you know our district went with ItsLearning.  Relatively unknown in my PLN and networking circles, most of whom are using Google Classroom by the way, I must to say I am not disappointed in it. Quite robust, it has the potential to transform teaching and learning in my district. Having had my Google Teacher Academy experience this past summer (#GRAATL), I did fall in love with Google Classroom. But our decision makers decided to find an LMS that catered to all levels, including Pre-K through 2nd grade. To hear one of our assistant principals talk about how her young kindergarten son uses it really underscores for me why it was the right choice for us.


A soft launch

We didn’t implement it at the very beginning of school, but rather went with a “soft launch.” Why? Teachers were in, but not yet students at the start of school. Students showed up a few weeks later. As tech trainers,we had some summer training, but none of our teachers had any exposure. Our district leaders and administration set the stage for our training by calling on teachers to train with the help of trainers. The training course was tweaked to meet the needs of our staff, set up in the platform itself, and designed with the “flipped” mindset. Our initial training efforts were focused on getting teachers to log in, set up what we dubbed “sandbox” courses, and essentially learn by doing after interacting with the training course. Playing around in a sandbox course could build invaluable understanding.


So how is it going now?

My observation (especially as a trainer) is that our teachers using it at this time are are using it more or less as a virtual filing cabinet and a way to deliver and receive materials paperlessly to their classes. With school starting and it not fully available to students, and teachers having to learn to build content  after school had already begun, it is understandable many were reluctant to change the plans they’d already made for their classes. I can understand that reluctance to a degree. Some were even already using other platforms (Schoology, Weebly, Edmodo, etc) to deliver content and engage students, so their reluctance to change platforms was understandable too. If I had to say right now what percentage of our staff is using ItsLearning, I’d say 30%. We as trainers offered multiple opportunities to work face-to-face with teachers (and still are), but since the course was designed as a flipped classroom approach and teachers could lead themselves through the training, our training opportunities were never mandated, but rather made optional. In a way, I think that hurt the adoption by teachers a little. Those too busy just let it get pushed back to the rear burner. Who doesn’t understand the “busyness” of teachers though? Especially at the beginning of school.

Ruben R. Puentedura, As We May Teach: Educational Technology, From Theory Into Practice. (2009)

Ruben R. Puentedura, As We May Teach: Educational Technology, From Theory Into Practice. (2009)



When I think of teachers adopting any technology, it brings to mind the SAMR Model (see the graphic above or read about it at Kathy Schrock‘s site). And as I reflect on my own use of new tools, it is understandable that most of us are on the S level of this model when thinking about our use of ItsLearning at this point in the school year. I can think of a couple of my teachers who are on the brink of moving to the A level. As I develop courses for training purposes, I am trying to model Redefinition in my own use. But I am a lone teacher who just happens to train others in my school as a component of my job as school librarian. Saying that, as each new technology has been exposed to me, I see my own embracement inline with the SAMR model. Different tools take longer to fully embrace. So I remind myself today to be patient and understand this. While I struggle with impatience, I truly believe with the training plans we have set out, which include mostly optional professional development for my staff, more teachers will be fully on board by the time school begins for our 2015-2016 school year. And I am truly glad I work in a district that is not mandating the training, but rather offering and encouraging. It does make me optimistic that given proper time to learn and prepare, such as optional training now, and those on the horizon in summer and back to school professional development currently in the planning stage, we will see more use of the tool by our teachers.

Image Attributions:

My biography weeding project continues. In phase one, I pulled 600+ or – books from the 1584 book section. We did return some based on curriculum relevancy and circ data. Phase two deals with analyzing copyright dates, and my guess is we are going to locate and pull to a cart roughly 400 more books for further evaluation, and these are books with copyright dates between 1982 and 2005. Most of them have a date above 1998. The older titles have 1s or 2s in number. Pesky books get HIDDEN in an overcrowded section. I have four student helpers who will address this scavenger hunt tomorrow, and it will likely take through Tuesday to find them all. Then we begin evaluating them on a more professional level (curriculum relevancy and circ data.) This is work–truly manual labor. Boring at times; interesting at others. 

What it looked like yesterday…

Since there was a lot of open shelving now and significantly fewer books in this space, we decided to switch the graphic novels with the biographies. We began relocating the books, and I quickly remember OMG, move one shelf and you move them ALL!!

After checking the circ data and relevancy to curriculum, we returned maybe 50 books to the shelves. The rest we worked to discard. To help teachers with selection/adoption, I created resource lists named by the cart the books were on. I sent emails saying please adopt, and listed them by call number/title in the body of the message, and attached a complete bibliography that showed notes, date, etc.  By listing the call number and title in the body of the message, teachers could quickly skim and know who the biographies featured, especially since we use 92 and the last name, first name of the featured person (example, 92 Lincoln, Abraham    Lincoln: A Photobiography).  PS-Didnt toss this one since it was a Newbery Honor book and one I like. We had a number of teachers come to browse these carts, and quite a few to ask us to pull a few books by cart number to put in their boxes.  (Not near enough though.)

By the Numbers – first wave:

Before Biography Weeding Project After Phase one of Weeding Project
1584 Biographies 942 Bioraphies
Average Copright date 2000 Average Copyright date 2004

We then decided to run a Follett Titlewave Analysis, and dig a little deeper. Running the repert and then looking closely at what remained on the shelves, this time we looked specifically at copyright dates.  I took a highlighter and highlighted titles that were suspect and potentially a book to remove. The highlighted dates were anything UNDER the copyright date of 2004.

This page actually shows a Malcolm X biography near the bottom (next to last) from 1965! I had to put my highlighter down and take a pic to send to a friend. We went to look immediately for that book, but we did not find it. Upon further investigation (looking it up in the catalog) I really thought we’d find it as a “missing” or “lost” book.  Nope. It’s actually checked out.

Where is that book? What!!? It’s checked out!!?
When I realized it was checked out, I decided to check its circ stats. This 1965 book has been checked out 9 times since 2001, 2001 probably being the the first time it was checked out since our conversion to Destiny), and actually six times in the last two years. Stranger than that, it was checked out five times during these last two years by the same student, and that is who has it right now. Since this student must be quite attached to the book, we may very well make it a gift to him. Sigh.


Maybe 350-400 more to go
Using this list, we are going to pull roughly 350-400 more titles off the self for further evaluation. My back, shoulders and arms are sore today, mainly from shifting books. Tomorrow I will have my helpers create a resource list of these books, and I will take time to physically look over them all. The helpers will scan for circ data, making a pile of books with 8, which I will further inspect.  I expect to return maybe 50 of these back to the shelf.


I see light at the end of the tunnel!
Its definitely a slow process. But it’s coming along nicely. And we are switching the biography space for the graphic novel space. They look much neater and now the graphic novels have more room to grow, which is good. Our next book order coming in has a large number of graphic novels and we really didn’t have the shelf space for any more.


Until next time…I hope its my last update on this year’s Biography weeding project. My muscles (neck, back, arms) could use the coming break.

We have decided to seriously weed our Biography section. We got a new paint job this summer, so all of our wall labels came down. Due to circumstances beyond my control (moving the styrofoam letters a couple of times by assorted summer maintenance crew) our letters were unusable to replace on the wall. But the area above this section used to read BIOGRAPHY.  Since we have the opportunity to consider relocating the section, we’ve decided to first weed, then look at all our options.

View of the “before” look; the beginning of the weeding

Some facts and a few observations:

  • 1584 books in the biography section
  • This is makes up 6.73% of our collection
  • Very little circulates from this section.
  • The little circulated books take up a huge section of shelves, and the shelves are too full.
  • Average copyright date for this section is 2000.

The plan of attack:
Our collection was converted to Destiny in 1999. Books purchased after that show a correct acquisition date. My Follett Titlewave Analysis shows me the copyright dates. But showing me the 1500 titles across four pages in my analysis online doesn’t really help me find the ones I need to weed easily.

First wave – Copy Status
Since most of our older books have an acquisition date of 1999 due to the conversion to Destiny, I brought over a laptop and barcode scanner, ands et a student to scan for copy status. Anything that had an acquisition date of 1999 was suspect for me, and so the student scanned and pulled all that said 1999.  We sort of treated it like an inventory.  After scanning half the books (roughly 800), we had two full book trucks full pulled off the shelves.

Judging not by copyright date, but rather acquisition date–horrors
Now I know I shouldn’t go just by my unprofessional judgement of the copy status/acquisition date.  The books on the cart will be brought to the desk (or probably into the office) where we can check circulation stats (that only go back to 1999) and determine relevance to the curriculum. I will also go back to the shelf and check the number of bios for each person. I was astonished at how many George w. Bush Biographies I saw. I pulled almost all of them no matter there date. For this issue, I will measure stats and reviews. It may be that this many years later after his presidency, we need a totally new one. They all may be going.
Only Just begun
Once we finish removing the books we suspect may turn into weeds, we will have to do a lot of evaluation, and this will take  a while. Our students are just not capable of helping with all of that, though they can tell me how many circs books have had, etc.




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