Feed on

Last year during the spring semester I swiped an idea from a neighboring district’s USC library intern (Karen Meharg, a now fully certified and working school librarian), and set to create a Library Book Tournament for my school. It was dubbed our “Library March Madness,” and patterned after the well-known NCAA Basketball Tournament (though a much smaller scale.)


Based on TRUE Circulation Data

I analyzed our Destiny Report to name the top 16 titles that circulated in our library, setting our parameters for the time frame of one year. Then I created my brackets, seeding the books #1-#16 based on where they fell in our circ data report.  I decided to make this a 16 team (book) tournament so that each week of the month  of March books in the brackets could advance. Going with sixteen meant within four weeks of the month our students could choose the “champion” book. Our “Library March Madness” was born.


From Experience

Last year I did not set books in a series together, and it made for an awkward championship, as two books from the same series wound up being pitted against each other. This year if two books were from the same series, the series was noted with the first book, and included reference to the series. This also allowed variety into the sixteen, and we have three titles this year that are referred to as a series.
Setting up the Brackets

Image from http://printablebrackets.net

One should have some understanding of brackets and seeds to set library books in brackets. My husband, a former coach, and my library assistant, a current softball coach had to help me understand how to set the brackets for a sixteen team tournament.

I learned quickly how to place the seeds in the brackets, and here is the basic outline:

Screenshot 2014-02-18 20.03.14

My own creation based on learnings about seeds in a 16 team tournament bracket.

I was shown that for each contest combined seed (rank) added together equaled 17, and knowing that and getting help from those mentioned above, I numbered the brackets. From my Destiny reports, I used each title’s rank to determine seed, only combining series when I decided to name a series rather than a book in a seed.


Rules for the Contest

Each week I will create a Google Form that will ask students to choose a title in each (remaining) bracket.

  • March 6 – Students vote to reduce the list from a “Sweet Sixteen” to an “Elite Eight”
  • March 13 – Students vote to reduce the list from an “Elite Eight” to a “Final Four”
  • March 20 – Students vote to reduce the list from a “Final Four” to the Finalists
  • March 27 – Students vote to select the “DHS Champion Book of the Year”

We are voting once a week on Thursdays so that we can reveal the newest brackets the next day, Friday.

The following are some of our March Madness photos from last year and this year. This year’s brackets are still in creation phase.


Fun, fellowship, and Rewards!

Using Google Forms, we will ask students to submit their name and their selections. This will make tallying results simple. We will offer paper ballots, but we will then turn and hand enter their selections into the Google form. Students names are requested just to ensure students only vote once. The names are also requested so that we can do periodic drawings for prizes. Prizes will range from cafeteria goody coupons, Barns and Noble Gift Cards, and free paperback books. We’ll do a drawing once a week (Friday) from the previous days votes, and then again at our “Championship” celebration.


In Celebration…

The “Championship Celebration” will consist of inviting students to a Donut Drop-in that will be scheduled the last Friday of March BEFORE school. These students will be the first to see the Championship Title before any other students. We’ll also culminate with a few other drawings.


A twist is planned

We are also going to invite students to fill out a bracket with predictions during the first week before revealing the week one titles that move on. Those will also be monitored for accuracy and integrity throughout the tournament, and students who still have a title alive each week will be in some of our drawings.


Who participates

Owly Images

Tiffany Whitehead shared her Library March Madness Tournament Bracket with me via Twitter! Thanks for the nod Tiffany!! Thrilled to know I inspired some of my friends.

Those who work on high school and public libraries know that by this age, you tend to have your regulars. We expect our regulars to be heavily involved. This year I am going to use an idea I am swiping from Tiffany Whitehead who has embraced our “Library March Madness” Book Tournament for her own school. Tiffany has placed her brackets out in the hall for better visibility. I had already made mine for a narrow column in the library, but I like the idea of better visibility too. So I am making a second one that is a larger scale representation for our hallway. Here is her bracket display:


In anticipation

I’m anticipating more participation this year with better visibility outside the library. I’ll keep folks posted on our results. 



Here is the description for a panel session I’m facilitating at the upcoming SCASL Conference (in just over three weeks, March 12-14, 2014). It is slated for 11:00AM Thursday, March 13 in the Columbia Convention Center. I am sharing this now in hopes that you SCASL Conference attendees will put it on your calendar, or BETTER, join the panel by adding your name and a topic here:

Session Title: Don’t Worry, Be ‘Appy

Teacher-librarian practitioners will share their ideas relating to effective practice in use of 2.0 tools and mobile Apps to deliver the mission envisioned in our AASL standards document, a mission that resonates well with ISTE’s NETS*S. Tools and apps have exploded as educators embrace 2.0 and mobile devices, and this sharing session will help us all better understand thoughtful and engaging strategies for integration. No sitting on the ropes! You will need to participate to make this an awesome and exciting session. Be prepared to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE. (Panel session)


See you in Columbia, SC at our conference!!

PS – That embedded Buncee isn’t acting right so please click out here.

I think I need this more than many!!



First time EVER!

We return tomorrow to school after having Tuesday through Friday off for snow. I applaud my district for making the decisions daily early enough to have no worries about dealing with treacherous icy roads to and from school. Since I had an appointment Friday early, my hubby and I actually went out and scraped the snow and ice off one side of the driveway to make getting out the next morning easier. It was a solid sheet of precipitation. As a southerner, of course I am not equipped to shovel snow! Our tools? We used two dustpans. My forearms were sore for two days! But cleared it, we did. The rest finally melted away Saturday with our very temperate 55 degree day. There is still some snow around in shady areas, but I imagine today’s 58 degree weather will take care of it.

I used the snow days for a little work.

I accomplished a good bit during the snow days. I’ve read a couple of books, evaluated a class of projects for a collaboration, and worked on my monthly report for January, quite tardy!! I made a few helpful tip posts over at SCASL.net, and I re-planned the culmination of the current collaboration and pushed back the dates for the next one. Sigh. I brought home two potentiaL bulletin board type displays, one encouraging students to vote for our annual SCYABA Award, a simple sign, and then another, our Library March Madness, where students help us identify the top circulating books as we set up a Sweet Sixteen book tournament.

Happiness abounds

It really bothers me that so many students are so very flipping happy about the snow days. As I watched the news and sow so many newscasts feature the students in our area totally enjoying the snow, I did in a way understand their happiness. We only get snow once or twice a year. This snow event was a big one for us, despite the minor five inches of accumulation. I did find myself housebound for four consecutive days. But I began to see a trend. It mattered not what kind of student or school, most of the kids that news reporters talked to were ecstatic to be out of school.


i have a theory of why our students, no matter the age, grade,type of school, type of home life, socioeconomic background, treasured the days out of school. Overall, schools are failing to engage our students. Even the few classrooms that truly have engaging activities going on, overwhelmingly school is mundane, boring, and more about test scores and how well we stack up to other schools than about teaching students with authentic and engaging learning goals. Our kids are bored with school. And we as educators are a big part of the problem. Even those of us who want to do more still have to work mindful of our own school’s unwritten mission, that of raising test scores and providing our schools with more awards, accolades, banners, and bragging rights. And this saddens me.

Snowdays at the Nelson household.


Picture attributions:
All pictures used belong to me.
I used Canva.com to layout my pictures ins a creative way.

After the leak of what can only be described as a  bootleg video trailer for The Fault in Our Stars movie set for a June release, the official one is out! (When I say bootleg here, I mean “low quality cell phone camera recording from a video screen” quality.) Yep, I called it!  Love John Green’s description and use of the phrase, “in high glorious definition!”




As I’m working up an Oscars contest for our high school teens, using the many YA books going to movies as a baseline to draw interest, I must confess I’m really excited for John Green’s movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars.

Just saw this little Instagram vid posted today:

Recently I had shared a little snakiness related to the movie poster, and of course my teens were appalled.  Most simply said wow and lot of adults just can’t handle the hard truth.  We had a consensus of opinion that the naysayers just have not read the book, otherwise this would be a perfectly fitting byline.

From www.cinemablend.com

What I said at school:

So the movie comes out June 6, and there are some stinkers fussing over the tagline. They obviously don’t get John Green, Hazel, or Augustus. Grrr, just as I have to say (or think really loudly anyway) when censorship raises its ugly head about YA lit, just read the book. Please! Then the tagline will fit perfectly. Sigh.

As I read the other day that TFIOS is the number one selling book over at AMAZON, I also heard an official trailer was leaked today. I watched it but I’m not linking it here, since bootleg anything just doesn’t do it justice.  I figure now that it has been leaked it will be out in a few days so then I’ll share a much better quality trailer. But I am happy to report many are seeing the Divergent movie trailers in theaters now, and the same actress (Shailene Woodly) in in both TFIOS and Divergent.  SCORE!! [NOTE: TFIOS fell out of its number one status due to the ALA YMA from yesterday. But it remains in the top five. This is one of those books all teachers should read, no matter your grade level! )

Since I’m not sharing the movie trailer leaked for TFIOS, I will share the Divergent ones just in case you haven’t seen the,m. And I know many poo-poo the movies as never being as great as the books. I’m one of them too. But it does not make me want to see the flicks any less.



How many of us plan our instruction so that we get kids tapping in to these? Should be automatic, no?

Originally seen over at MindShift. Click the image for original source.

The ALA Midwinter Monday meeting is the annual announcement of the ALA Youth Media Awards. Just to clarify for those who don’t know, this is when the Newbery and Caldecott Awards are announced, among the other youth media awards. I’m especially excited because I actually KNOW a committee member (John Shoemaker).  

From SLJ:

The ALA Youth Media Awards honor children’s and young adult authors and illustrators, as well as producers of children’s audio and video materials. These include the Newbery, Caldecott, Batchelder, Belpre, Carnegie, Geisel, Odyssey, and Sibert awards.

In the last few years ALA has streamed it out live for those not in attendance. For those in attendance, this is one hot event that is difficult to get a seat for–Let’s hope SCASL President Anne Lemieux and SCASL Pres-elect Diana Carr have set their alarm clocks or wake up calls for early so they get a good seat.  

No worries though as there are many online avenues to get the announced winners, including Twitter and Facebook.  But for those f us who love all the anticipation, nothing beats a live announcement. Your online portal to watch live is HERE.

Want to read up on each award? Check out this ALA FactSheet. Here’s a little promo video to get you excited!



Going Flipped

I was asked today what programs I was looking at for taking our professional development flipped.  I’ve been looking at a few, so thought I’d share them here. Actually I think I misnamed the one I’m liking the best the the fellow librarian who asked, but she reads the blog, so I can rectify that here.

My favorite:  ActivePresenter by AtomiSystems

Screenshot 2014-01-23 20.12.58

Screen shot from my desktop tonight.

Why do I like it?  Just as the pic here shows, you capture, edit, and export.  It is really intuitive. I’ve only just begun using it, but so far I ‘m impressed.  Anyone who has dabbled in editing videos using a standard digital editor (think iMovie, Windows Movie Maker) should feel right at home with this one. Best, it’s new to me.


Others I looked at:

  • Jing
  • Screencast-o-matic
  • Promethean’s ActiveInspire (May as well check out it’s screen capture capability since we are a Promethean district.)

Richard Byrne has reviewed some over on his site, so I won’t bother to try and out do him, but it is worth providing a link so you can see yourself.  Go there using this link. I’m still testing

In recent days I’ve been mulling over what is the best way to present professional development for educators. As I’m scheduled this week to give an after school PD, I am reflecting on recent conversations about what is most effective. I have come to the conclusion that PD cannot be standardized, and there will always be those who consider PD a classic #fail.  How do we get our PD? There are plenty of models that have there own degree of effectiveness.


One size fits all

In this model, educators all attend the same PD opportunity. In my own experience, this generally happens in schools when there is an initiative being rolled out and administrators want to make sure teachers understand and hopefully embrace or buy-in whatever is the said program or concept. From my own teaching context, I can think of several: Olweus, a bullying program, High Schools That Work, Assertive Discipline, a guest speaker, “Working on the Work”,  Common Core, and so much more come to mind.


Beat it to fit, paint it to match

Sometimes I think some PD is the same as previous PD, just repackaged. I like to call these kinds of training sessions “beat it to fit, paint it to match.” Initially we all think of these staff developments as something new, but it doesn’t take long to realize it’s the same ol’ thing with a new package or name. Sigh. These kinds also build anger or resentment.


Training specialized for teams or departments

Often times the PD is channeled toward groups. Fine Arts and Physical Education teachers often have their own kind of PD that wouldn’t always be relevant to core content area educators. My own specialized group, Librarians, often get left out of specialized PD. I feel wronged when this happens, as I think especially for a position that serves the entire school, I should be aware of changes, what is new, or focus for these groups too. I like to know so I can work towards relevancy with these groups and their students using their initiatives.


How long is right?

Often teachers and other educators argue over the length of PD. In my very recent past, I have seen teachers bring to PD sets of papers to grade. In a way it’s insulting, particularly to the one leading the PD, but on the flip side of that, nowadays people multitask and do it well. When someone one is struggling to understand a concept, there comes a point in the learning called “information overload,” and it’s not the same for everyone.  When an attendee reaches that point, they potentially become a distraction. There are often quite a variety of levels (just as there is in a classroom full of students) and so if there isn’t any accommodation for differentiated learning (in levels and styles) many leave a PD session frustrated, resentful, and sometimes even downright angry. Especially with professionals, it is challenging to plan for the different levels. What is the prefect solution?


My own situation

I am involved with offering technology training in my working context. I get an additional stipend if it takes place outside of the normal school day. In the past we have provided two day summer opportunities, but attendance has been optional, and often it shows with moderate to low attendance. I am also slated to lead a couple of two-hour after school events, but again these are optional, and yes, it shows. The last one I led was on file management, and targeted teachers who are still struggling with understanding digital files on the network. This was advertised throughout the entire district. Many admitted they desperately needed the info. There was a large number who expressed interest, but contacting me only to ask if there was a way to get the information since they could not attend an after school session. FIVE actually attended, despite a great response to the advertised after school PD session. Bummer. 


Why stay when I can get it during the school day….

There are also those teachers who won’t attend an after school gig that will specifically address their needs (in terms of tech training) but will instead come to the library during the day to request the same information since they work in the same building with me.  My dilemma here is that I’m fighting resentment over the teacher blowing off a set time for specific training only to come and request it during the school day. Of course I generously provide the information and assistance, but it does bug me that a reason said teacher did not attend was because they knew I would give it anyway at some point during the school day if they didn’t attend. PD training is a part of the regular job of a school librarian, and to refuse (because they didn’t attend the after school thing) would be wrong. Out of professional courtesy, a desire for collegiality, and professionalism, of course I go through the training with teachers who ask for it during the school day. I do consider it a part of my “day” job. Not all feel that way though. And their negative feelings show sometimes.


A new approach – effectiveness to be determined

After discussing this with colleagues who are tasked with the same responsibility of providing tech training to our district, we have come up with something to try. We are going to continue offering our two-hour sessions scheduled for after school spread across the district calendar. Attendance has been widely scattered but overall POOR. In our discussions, we decided to rethink our delivery, and accommodate those with high demands on their time and availability. We will start making videos and screencasts of our training materials, breaking them up into five minute intervals. Our group is going to create a district Youtube Channel to store these videos. (I’m not sure I agree with this, as my suggestion was to use a Google Drive, and share them appropriately–we are a Google Apps for Education District.) We will then begin a marketing campaign of this stockpile of training resources so that teachers can on their own partake of the offerings–during a time when it suits and better, when it is a need.  If there is one thing I’ve learned about addressing library learning standards, they only “stick” when they are needed.  So I set off some after school time this week to create a series of five minutes screencasts based on some of my topics–> file management in our district network, Socrativee, Todays Meet, and Padlet. Some of these only need five minutes. Yay for me.

Maybe this is the best way to approach Technology Training. Time will tell.


File Management Training Session – Agenda

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