Feed on

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.




I love this video created by the California Association of School Librarians.  I hope my own state organization, the South Carolina Association of School Librarian can take our recent School Library Impact Study done with Keith Curry Lance can create some kind of advocacy tool like this.  I love the work the California groups has done.  Y’all ROCK!! Thanks, Jane Lofton, for sharing it with our AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee  during our meeting last night and through your blog. I am so inspired!

Just sharing that I did successfully renew my National Board certification. Mine is in Library Media.

What is the key?

The key in my opinion is reflective practice. I think often that blogging gives me a lot of practice in reflection. Since I’ve been blogging here going on eight years, I reckon I had enough practice to successfully renew. Reflection is not only the most effective way to improve your teaching practice, it is one of the KEY ELEMENTS in a successful journey to becoming a National Board Teacher.

Advice for others

Back in 2008 I wrote a post about the scoring date and advice for those who did not certify. First timers are awaiting scores now, and they will be released very soon. Revisit my former post while you wait. Send the link to those who did not successfully achieve the NBCT goal.

NBPTS endorsement or not–you are ACCOMPLISHED

I still feel that way. The same advice applies. Keep trying if you don’t make it.



Our school is in training to use a learning management system, ItsLearning. The training is being “delivered” flipped right through the platform. The pros of delivering the training this way are numerous. Two standouts for me are:

  • Teachers can essentially work at their own pace
  • Teachers experience what their students might experience, which gives them an insight that can be enlightening, and ultimately will impact how they design course content, assignments, projects, and assessments through the platform


What elements make up a “good” course?

This was the leading question for one of our staff development “assignments” through our PD course centered on using itslearning. It has been interesting to read the reflective thoughts of our teachers as they process using the platform and how it can compliment their classroom instruction.

Seeing the shift in thinking

Juliana S. Follow. Turn Around. Flickr. 3 February 2008. goo.gl/odFexD

As a tech trainer for my school, I have been in some conversations with our teachers as they move through this PD course, interacting with content, designing instructional material, and engaging students in an online environment for the purpose of learning. I am seeing the paradigm shift in thinking for some, and they always impress me with their thoughts. This is an example of just that. The gist of the question teachers had to respond to after completing “Lesson 5” in the PD course was What elements make up a “good” course? I have permission to share one of my colleague’s responses here. Lori Moore is our English Department Chair and most definitely a leader in our school community of professional teachers..


Lori Moore: What elements make up a “good” course

I’ve been thinking about this question for a long time, and I know I don’t have all the answers. My first thought is that the course needs to be accessible to all students. We discovered when one person took my test, that her tablet would not allow her to do the drag and drop and some of the other test items I created, so that certainly would be an issue if I put a test on ItsLearning for my students.

I think the students need to be able to find the information on the course dashboard, and I’ve really tried to pay attention to the colors of my content blocks and assignments and such. When I’ve added something new, or something important, I’ve tried to choose a color that will–I hope–stand out so my students will see it.

One thing I do know, I don’t think we should use ItsLearning just for the sake of saying we used technology. We really need to have a purpose for what we are doing. Just like my Silent Graffiti activity. We decided that it probably did work best the old fashioned way–an overhead and the board. However, one of my students, after we had finished the Silent Graffiti, wondered about putting a picture of one of our graffitis on ItsLearning. We’ll probably go back and do one and add it to our course dashboard.

I think a course needs to take into account the different interests and learning styles of our students. I do see ways that we can differentiate instruction and add both remedial and enrichment activities. I think the course needs to provide opportunities for students to work in groups and provide students the opportunity to receive pretty immediate feedback from the instructor. I really like the fact that I can send audio and video messages to students. I think this will allow me to conference with students about their essays without the student having to come before or after school. Not that I mind students coming in for conferences, but it’s difficult for some students to do so. I can write my comments on their papers, but many students won’t read those, and many times students just need to hear what I have to say about the essay.

I really think that as I work more with ItsLearning I will discover what makes a good course. I know that I’ve created assignments and activities and then gone back and changed them because I begin to think a different format would work better. I think some of this will be trial and error. Also, as the ELA teachers are building, basically online curriculum guides, I think we’ll also discover some things that work and some that don’t.

I think my HCR students have liked having the Destiny resources on our dashboard and under the resources section, especially as they are working on their research papers. ItsLearning has provided them with a pretty simple way to navigate to the information they need, and I think this has been most helpful to them. I usually receive e-mails with questions about DISCUS logins and passwords, but the chart has taken those e-mails away.

Lori Moore
English Department Chair


The Graffiti

I asked Lori to share a picture of the Silent Graffiti with me. When I get that, I will revisit and post here in my blog.


Definitely “not final” thoughts

Lori sums up one of my own feelings well. The more the platform is used, the more insights students and teachers will gain. I, too, think it is too soon for a new user to be able to say what makes a good course.  Her reference to using the platform to “say” we are using technology when we are using ItsLearning is spot on as a misconception. The teachers I know who are using it definitely do not think of it as “using technology.” Along with that, a lot of what is shared here is true for any course when determining what makes a good course. True?


Teen Read Week concluded and we had a great number of students participating. One of our most popular activities was the book “strip” tease, where students read a “strip” from a popular book and then identified the title. Voting for YALSA’s Teens Top Ten culminates at the end of Teen Read Week, and the ten winners were recently announced. For the first time in years, we had all 24 nominees. I went to update my Teens Top Ten display, and decided to pull the titles to set up around the display. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of them were checked out! Many of the winning titles were my favorites this year, and this coming week we are having our lunch time book club meet to discuss Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Just last week Rick Yancey (The 5th Wave) was in our area visiting and signing at a local book store. This set has been so easy to share with students. It is an impressive list!


I love that Capstone has created such a rich and wonderful advocacy tool for us!


Daily Activities:

  • Guess how many books are in the library?  There is a jar at the circulation desk where students and teachers may guess!
  • Get Caught Reading – Follow @CavaliersRead on both Twitter and Instagram, and see who we feature as “Caught Reading at DHS.”  Tag your own Instagrams or Tweets with #TRW@DHS or tag us using @CavaliersRead so we can see and share your photos.

Featured Activities and Contests for each day:

  • Monday:
    “Strip” Tease Book Contest
    – Read a “strip” from a book and accurately name the title.
  • Tuesday:
    Dream Vacation photo-op – For 25 cents, students  and friends can pose in front of a variety of vacation backdrops and walk away with a picture.  All proceeds go to Relay for Life. We are using the app DO INK for this!
  • Wednesday:
    Dreamy Book Contest – Students are challenged to identify a strategically disguised books.
  • Thursday:
    “In your Dewey Dreams” Contest – Students are challenged to locate a mystery book, and the only clue given will be a dewey number.
  • Friday:
    Turn Dreams into Reality Breakfast Drop-in – The students who have circulated the most books since the beginning of school, and who have no overdues are invited to a drop-in breakfast in the library’s work room. Each student will have breakfast finger foods and get to select a free book of their choice.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »