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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.



In ’91 or so when I was finishing my first Master’s Degree in elementary Education (University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC), I was scrambling for hours that could satisfy the last course requirements. I wound up taking an elementary education math methods course of all things, and driving all the way from the lower part of Orangeburg, SC some 60 miles southwest to Aiken, SC so I could wrap it up in a three week Maymester course and get the degree (and the much coveted step up in pay due to a higher degree.) My goal at the time was to just FINISH. This was pre distance-ed days, and even pre distance-ed via video tape. I know, that is hard to fathom. Every class had to be physically attended. I was teaching 7th grade ELA at time.


Teaching License Renewal
South Carolina at this time required teachers to maintain/renew teaching licensure every five years with graduate level courses. One could take 2 course (6 hours), submit them to the state department of ed, and be deemed renewed with teaching licensure for an additional five years. As a member of a family of educators, I understood well what having additional degrees could do for my pay. When it became time to renew, I applied to graduate school and initially declared my major as unknown. I explored administration first. I hated the two classes I took. I then looked at a Reading Specialist degree. It was okay but I was bored. I hated the thought that I would limit what I taught to just reading. I then explored guidance and counseling. I liked the classes, but the theory I was studying, and the actual practice I saw day in and day out in my teaching did not match. Even way back then (early 90s) I saw the heavy emphasis that testing played in the role of guidance. Finally I just opted for the same major, elementary education.


Because I had Dr. Whiten
The class met at USC Aiken and we had plenty of school visits to the Aiken schools. The instructor was Dr. David Whiten, a professor I’ve lost track of now, but he believed in authentic engagement, project based learning, and that the librarian could be a classroom teacher’s best friend. He made me realize I could touch every student, teacher, and curriculum area if I were in the library. Even better, we spent a day in USC’s education building exploring computer games that could impact student learning. This was a day of true revelation for me. I realized the LIBRARY was where I could have have major impact and really enjoy my contribution in a k12 environment. And Dr. Whiten opened my eyes to how I could become an integral part of the paradigm shift coming to education with technology and digital resources, through the hub of every school known as the library.


Finished and already wanting to start over!
I finished that degree, and I had just had my second son who wasn’t even a year old yet. With the completion of that class (and the degree) I came home raving to my husband that I knew I couldn’t do it right away (financially nor with a young second child in the mix), but even if I had to wait five years because I needed to renew my teaching license, I fully planned to enroll in library school somewhere, some how.


Fast forward, 1995
I enrolled in USC-Columbia’s College of Library and Information Science’s program for media specialist certification. The only way I could obtain it was to enroll in the Master’s Degree program. I think I misunderstood somewhere along the way, because I already had a Master’s Degree, and the next logical step was a Specialist Degree. But USC either didn’t have a specialist program at the time, or I just did not understand that to get my certification I had to take the same course work as the Master’s Degree seeking library school candidates. It did not matter then, as my goal was to become a certified school librarian, and that 2nd Master’s Degree was going to be the fastest route. So I applied.
“I just looooove reading!”

Dr. Dan Barron at a SCASL Conference. Picture from SCASL Flickr stream.

I had to sit through an interview with a professor from the (formally known as) USC CLIS Program, and I can remember being asked why I wanted to be in the program. Thankfully I never uttered the words, “Because I love books and I love to read.” I simply shared my story–same as above. Later in my library school classes with (now retired) Dr. Dan Barron, I heard him NUMEROUS times talk about the number of prospective students in their interviews declare their love of reading, and how loving reading was NOT enough! In my earliest courses I had Barron several times, and I must say he lit a fire in me for the profession like no other. I joined our state organization, as well as AASL and ALA due to him, joined LM_Net and our own SCASL listserv due to him, and discovered the power of a PLN and connected learning EARLY, way before it became the cool thing for educators to do, all thanks to him. I learned so much in my two year program, becoming instantly a tech savvy teacher and having a much better understanding of the school and community, which I can attribute to my days as a student of USC’s School of Library and Information Science.


USC-SLIS – still impacting me

Librarian friends (L-R) Elizabeth Graham, myself, Wendy Rollins, and Karen Meharg

Heather Loy, me, Fran Bullington at a DEN Event a few years ago!

It is now called USC’s School of Library and Information Science, housed under Mass Communications, and is still generating some of the most dynamic school librarians there are. I reflect at some of those professors and graduates who have impacted me as a working school librarian, including professors like Dr. Dan Barron, Dr. Donna Shannon, Elizabeth Miller (and by spring the last one I had classes under will retire–Dr. Shannon). I also am friends with USC graduates such as past SCASL Presidents and/or leadership members like Heather Loy, Valerie Byrd-Fort, and Martha Taylor. I’ve had previous USC library interns who have helped shape me and make me a better librarian as well, like Kim Isiminger, and recent interns Lori Willis-Richards and Elizabeth Graham. I have interacted with plenty of librarians in my state too, who amaze me with their stellar representation of school librarianship, including folks like Tamara Cox, Karen Meharg, Wendy Rollins, Liz Hood, Kelly Knight, Fran Bullington, Susan Myers, and so many more. Even my own co-librarian Melanie Dillard, a USC library school alumni, amazes me pretty regularly. (I tell her all the time how she “completes” me in the library!)


Still a long way to go
My path to becoming a librarian took me along many different paths along the way to certification and to where I am as a librarian today.  I just saw this video shared by my friend Sara Kelly Johns, and it seems like a fitting close. You see Ive had wonderful principals along the way too, all who have supported each and every turn I took along my career path. After 28 years behind me in education (yikes I sound OLD) I’m still not done.  And I can’t wait to make more of an impact at my local level, as well as county, state, and even beyond to national and international levels. THAT is why I’m a librarian. And I love it as much today as I did day one.


So I kick off my spring break this evening, reflecting over our library’s plans to celebrate Poetry Month and School Library Month.

Dorman’s Planned April Poetry Month Activities:

  • Spine Poetry – Students may use library books to create spine poems. We will take a picture and display them in the library.
  • Chalk Poems – Students may get chalk and write original poems; these will be displayed outside the library doors.
  • Blackout Poetry – Students may get a page of text (from torn, old, or discarded books), and using a sharpie, blacken out lines of text, leaving some words clear, which when read together make poems. These will displayed in the library, along with a photo of the student author.
  • Poem in Your Pocket Day – students will be encouraged to collect poems to have available for Poem in Your Pocket Day. The library staff will be in the cafeteria Thursday, April 24 to ask for poems during all three lunches. Those who produce poems will receive coupons with QR Codes. QR Codes will reveal a prize they can redeem in the library (pencil, bookmark, free book, Cavalatte Coupon, fine forgiveness, etc.)
  • Poetry Picnic Book Club during lunches Wednesday, April 23. For this lunchtime book club, students will be asked to bring their own lunches, but meet on the patio outside the cafeteria. We have asked that students be allowed to leave class five minutes before their lunch to allow them early access to lunch before lines form. We are meeting on the cafeteria’s patio, a popular lunchtime hangout, where we will have reserved tables for the lunch book club. We are thinking other students seeing us enjoy books at lunch might draw them in too. I suppose it’s a marketing ploy.

Waiting to hear…
All we need (and have asked for, though certainly not a deal breaker if denied) is administrative permission for a five-minute early dismissal for book club members that are in DHS 2nd block classes.


April is School Library Month too!  We want to celebrate this by using each of the remaining TUESDAYs during lunches to spin a wheel for library related prizes. This will be the ONLY opportunity for the rest of the school year for students to get fine forgiveness.  The prizes are as follows:

  • Free book
  • Pencil
  • Bookmark
  • Fine forgiveness
  • Treat (penny candy)
  • Mystery Prize (coupon with a QR code and students have to figure out what they won, but these prizes will be an assortment of double prizes (i.e. bookmark & free book or items we’ve accumulated from freebies at conferences etc.)


Silver lining:
Our silver lining and best selling point for permissions: NOTHING has a cost to Dorman or the library.

Because I invested some time in smalltalk with a neighboring school’s advisor, I received the biggest surprise today! You see, in that polite conversation, I planted the seed for a collaboration. Well, maybe it was more of a collaborative idea hatched and carried through! I wish I had a photo to share of our student Cesar, but he is apparently absent today. He came by Tuesday afternoon to tell me he had made something for the library over in his Applied Technology (Carpentry) class over at neighboring R.D. Anderson Applied Technology Center, but it would need to be delivered or picked up. To say I was ecstatic is an understatement! You see, during the week of our high school’s course registration for 14-15 school year–when RD Anderson reps (teachers/advisors) came to Dorman’s lunch block to sign off on students taking RDA courses, we had ELDA Testing in the library. The testing caused us to be closed for a day or two, and this coincided with the RDA lunch visit. Since the library was closed we moved a cart over to the lunchroom to get returned books, renew books, and take special book orders for our library regulars or anyone else wanting library books and materials. And this is where I engaged in polite smalltalk with the RDA staff.


We met – we chatted! 
We were positioned right next to the RDA staff in our cafeteria that day. I struck up a conversation with Elizabeth Abel, the Academic Assistance Teacher working RDA registration during one of those days, telling her how we had some library regulars getting cards signed for RDA classes.  I then told her how an after school group (that includes Cesar) all ride a late bus, and join us to play checkers, chess, or scrabble daily after school. I told her about an idea I had for maybe a carpentry class to build us a small table top checker board, and that we would be happy to help out with the cost of materials and resources.  I also said I thought that maybe Dorman students would be happy to build it for us, and we would put it to immediate use. (You see, RDA is a shared applied technology facility between 3 neighboring districts.) It was an enjoyable conversation though I never followed up to make it happen. Shame on me for that!


SURPRISE! Our chat had mega results, no?
Unbeknownst to me until Tuesday after school, the project was taken on by Cesar, an 11th grader at Dorman, through his Carpentry class taught by RDA Instructor Tom Webb. When Cesar told me he had something for us that needed to be delivered, I was even a little dismissive, not expecting much, even if his class had made something. Shame on me times two! The final product demonstrates high quality craftsmanship and I’m sure was a true labor of love. You see, Cesar is one of the guys who comes in most afternoons to play board games. It delights me immensely that one who is invested in our library program, even if it is after school to kill time waiting for his bus, truly took on and embraced the challenge to create something he and his friends can enjoy everyday at Dorman. I can’t wait to take a picture of the board in use to share!

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