Sunday, March 24, 2013

State Conferences Matter

With her permission, I am posting this fantastic post "State Conferences Matter" by Okle Miller. It originally appeared on her blog, One School Librarian. Note that both Shannon Miller and Buffy Hamilton will be keynote speakers at our conference on April 8th. There is still time to register. Don't miss it!

I went to my state conference,  FAME this past week.  I had a really good time and connected with some great people.  Not all of my friends were able to go this year, but I haven’t missed a conference since I became a librarian. Here are my reasons for never missing your state conference:

It’s fun to get away from school sometimes.
It’s true, going to a conference is still getting to go on a trip.  I don’t normally stay at a Hilton and eat at high end, nice restaurants  it’s usually Motel6 and McDonald’s, so this is a treat each year.
You can hear some great speakers, like Shannon Miller and Buffy Hamilton
 This year my conference had exceptional keynote and closing speakers.  That might not be the case every year, but usually one or the other has something you can take back with you.  Like I said, this year was super great and I made sure I was on time for the opening session with Shannon Miller and I stayed to the last second to make sure I didn’t miss hearing Buffy Hamilton.
You learn some new ways to engage your students.
You can always find some sessions were you can pick up new tips and tricks.  I learned to manage my social media better (thanks Shannon) and some great ideas for implementing book clubs that I hadn’t considered before. 

You learn what you were already doing is the right thing.
 Sometimes you don’t learn anything new in a session.  While you might think it was a waste of time, I like to stay positive and see it as validation that what I am doing with my students is right.  If another school librarian in a different part of the state is doing things the way I’m doing them, then we are both brilliant! 

 Session and workshops are great, but sometimes the most insight comes from lunch.
Session and workshops are great but sometimes the most insight comes from lunch.  That’s right lunch, when we are all looking for a table and you end up at a table with new peers.  The first day we sat with  author Christina Gonzalez, who was a delight.  The next day,Michelle Harclerode, sat down next to me and we had a great conversation about her wonderful book trailers and how things are in her district.
You realize the maybe things are not so bad at your school or district after all.
Getting to meet and talk with school librarians from around the state can really open your eyes.  We still have a certified school librarian in each of our schools elementary through high school.  After talking to others I am starting to realize how lucky we are in our district. I may not have a clerk for help,  but my students still have me and I’m glad I have one school to go to each day.

You get to meet face to face with your PLN peeps.
I follow Shannon Miller on twitter and read her blog so I was really excited that she was the keynote speaker this year.  She was also presenting a workshop that I got to attend.  It was great that she just didn’t speak and leave. I was able to really talk to her and make a connection.  She has had a big impact on my professional development and getting to connect with her in person has made it all that much better.

You realize you are not alone.
We spend much of our time professionally by ourselves.  The teachers at school may like you and support you but that don’t always “get” you.  ”You have the be here for conference night?”, “You are so lucky, you get to read books all day”  Even connecting with your library peeps on school email isn’t that same as getting to spend three days together.  To really get to talk and pick each other’s brains is priceless.
When it is time for your state conference do whatever you have to do to be able to go.  You won’t regret it. : )

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Joe Crozier of Grant Wood AEA writes about Iowa AEA Online in the Cedar Rapids Gazette

This is a must read article and one that you can easily forward on to your administrators, staff, school board members and parents.

In most school buildings, the person most familiar with Iowa AEA Online resources is the Teacher Librarian. The TL provides training, works collaboratively with teachers, assists students one to one and insures not only that access to IDs and passwords are easily obtained, but that students can quickly access the databases via library portals. 

How does your building or district utilize Iowa AEA Online resources? Look at the statistics. I recently used those stats and school population data to compare districts in AEA10 and shared the results with our staff.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hanging out with teachers

Submitted by IASL member, Ernie Cox, Teacher Librarian at Prairie Creek Intermediate School, College Community School District. 
Ernie will kick off the IASL Spring conference Sunday April 7.

A winter storm shut down the normal routine today resulting in lots of shoveling, plenty of warm beverage consumption, and no school.  Several folks from my district had scheduled time to plan a keynote for the upcoming Iowa ASCD Conference (PDF document).  Due to full calendars and the need for immediate action we had to plan today - we turned to Google Hangouts to make the conversation possible.  A snow day did not mean learning was turned off.
What did we find?  It worked great and we got so much planning done from the comfort and safety of our snow bound homes. Why did it work?
  • Compelling purpose - collaborating with colleagues to share work we value with a larger audience.
  • Google makes it darn easy (and fun - look at the eyewear options)!  Everyone figured out how to use this tool via trial and error, tutorials, asking someone else, or all of the above (sounds like 21st century skills).   

Today’s Hangout engaged teachers in the kind of learning described in the Iowa Core Standards.  “Share knowledge and skills with local or distant teams of peers, experts, or others using technology tools and resources to create group works and/or innovative solutions.”  (Grade 6-8 Technology Literacy).  I look forward to using this teacher example in future lessons with my students. These standards are tricky though because so much of “schooling” is tied to the physical building and the official “instructional time”. Our students learn around the clock; they need new ways to engage in school sanctioned learning. 


Some kids need time to process (I do), others have a favorite place to work (coffee shop for me), and many have preferred technologies (ipad and droid here). Can educators displace the time and location of learning to better reflect these preferences while also meeting standards? In addition to Google Apps for Education accounts we recently rolled out Edmodo for students at Prairie Creek Intermediate School. “Hey it looks like Facebook” was a common response in the first few weeks as students set about building their learning network. We’ve settled into this school based social networking tool as our main learning platform for the library and tech class. Slowly, we’re breaking out of the idea that all the learning has to happen in that 45 minute time and in the lab/library space.  Kids are using the mobile app to access learning modules, teachers are forming groups for their content purposes, interactions are happening that teachers are moderating but not controlling. 

The big challenge is not the tool - it is finding the real world challenges in need of solutions and giving kids academic freedom (when to work, who to work with, and where to work from) necessary to meet the vision of the standards.

What digital tools are your schools using to facilitate these kinds of collaborative interactions?

*image By The Avery Coonley School ( [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 4, 2013

Advocacy = Communication

As technology leaders, Teacher Librarians are expected to be masters of all things wired, wireless and shiny. So it makes sense that we would use technology to communicate about our library programs to our stakeholders.

A well-kept library website is absolutely necessary for our students and school communities. Students and adults alike are used to the internet being their first source of quick information. A library website should provide those quick bits of info... quickly!  When is the library open? What is the phone number if I have a question? How can I see the library catalog? What sources are available to me online? What programs or events are coming up?  The website can be simple, but it must be clean and organized, informative and user-friendly.

Social Media is successfully being used by many libraries and librarians to communicate about their programs. Facebook pages for the library include much of that “quick info” patrons often want, and also provide an opportunity for interaction about literature, programming, or instruction. Twitter offers a quick update on the goings-on at a library that parents and community members can follow at their own pace. Pinterest can be used to curate collections of recommended books, give you ideas for displays, and organize digital materials in a visually pleasing way.

If you are, like I am, guilty of using social media inconsistently (a Twitter account that updates daily for a week and then nothing for 4 months isn’t likely to be effective), then stick to more traditional forms of communication.  A monthly newsletter can be posted on the library website, distributed at school, and emailed to stakeholders.  Set up a template with categories like “Library Learning,” “Technology Connections,” “Collection Development,” and “Collaboration” and set aside 30 minutes a month to give a brief summary of that month’s successes. Keep a camera handy throughout the school year and snap pictures of students at work, book displays and special events. Insert a couple photos and a page-long newsletter fills up quickly.  

Below are a few examples of libraries using communication tools effectively. Each one has strengths and weaknesses, but think of them as inspiration for your own communication tools.  

Share links to other great examples in the comments!

Library Websites:  

Library Newsletters:

Library Blogs:

Library Facebook Pages:

A great infographic from Library Research Service

Friday, March 1, 2013

This is your time to Be the Change

Sign up now for this fabulous series, BE THE CHANGE, led by Iowa Teacher Librarian, Shannon McClintock Miller of Van Meter Community School District.

Now this is PD! (via @gwnethjones)

Is anyone else thinking - IASL Spring Conference?