Feed on

Our annual library conference held in Columbia, SC was one of the most memorable in years.  Ten or so years ago there was no doubt that our conference drew upwards of 1200 attendees. In recent years though, with the downward turn of the economy and schools tightening their wallets, fewer of our librarians have come. Recent years we have averaged just over 500 attendees. This downward trend has effected us so much that next year we will be in a smaller venue (Myrtle Beach’s Kingston Plantation). This year’s attendance was somewhere over 600, and I swear it felt like an even  larger crowd. But our Conference Planner/President-Elect Jennifer Tazerouti worked hard to make this year’s event something NOT to miss. It was, in a word, spectacular. As Regional Network Coordinator for SCASL, I had some obligations, but not nearly as much as the President Diana Carr and President Elect Jennifer Tazerouti. Even today as I process my conference this year, I am reminded of just how much work our executive board puts into conference each year.  They just have to forget they have families and not even consider illness (even pink-eye!!) due to their huge responsibilities to pull off our conference.

Both of these made me feel so very welcome to Conference this year!!

Usually I give a rundown of the events I attended, my take aways, and how I plan to return and use/implement new ideas. This year I’m spending more time reflecting on what I thought was MEMORABLE!! Yes, I presented twice, once on my own and once with a small group from my district. Perhaps I’ll spend another day sharing those sessions and the materials, but today I must give props 100% to SCASL.

So tune in to the next post for day one’s rundown of what was “memorable to me.” Then I’ll share a few regrets afterward (which are few!!) I’m already looking forward to this time next March (horrors, during Dr. Seuss week!!) when we’ll travel to Myrtle Beach, SC.  I already have a dinner date with my friends at Bimini’s Oyster Bar, a favorite locals dive at the beach!  Cant wait to stick my toes in the sand. I sure hope it’s warm!

Each week we’ve voted with a Google Form that was set to allow students to see the results after their vote.  There are quite a few steaming students upset with me since this week’s round has closed results! I want it to be a surprise when we announce our winner Friday, March 27th.

Being at the #SCASL15 Conference last week, I’m a little late posting it.  Here are our current Library March Madness standings.



I’m very excited to start this week.  It will be a LONG and enjoyable week.  You see Wednesday begins our annual SCASL conference, #SCASL2015. And what’s not to love? Just a few exciting things for me personally:

There are just TOO MANY good things happening this week! Apologies in advance if I am too overwhelmed to tweet or post to Facebook.

SCASL Memories




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.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »