Thursday, January 30, 2014

Join AASL this February 5th for Digital Learning Day!

Next week is the 3rd annual Digital Learning Day.  The American Association of School Librarians urges school librarians to participate in a variety of ways.    

A resource that provides access to lesson plans and tools from the Digital Learning Day official web page.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Apps review: Productivity tools

Written by Christine Sturgeon, IASL President

What’s your favorite holiday?  Here are the results from a 2011 Harris poll:

1. Christmas
2. Thanksgiving
3. Halloween
4. Fourth of July
5. Easter

Me, I have to agree with the #6 choice, New Year’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom’s Christmas fudge and my mother-in-law’s pumpkin pie.  But the thing I love most about New Year’s isn’t the food (though I do have some black eyed peas and greens for good luck every January 1st).  It's getting a clean slate.  You know, New Year’s resolutions!  And since it’s now a good four weeks past the holiday, I thought I’d share some of my favorite productivity tools that are really helping me to keep my goals for 2014.  (And you know, you don’t have to wait until January 1st to have a clean slate - there’s always a Monday right around the corner!)

And please - pipe in with your favorites.


Workflowy is my #1 productivity app.  I’ve been using it for about a year, and it still is going strong for me.  It’s basically a blank web page, private to you, that you use to make lists.  If you are an outline kind of gal or guy, Workflowy is for you.

Watch these videos to learn how it works.  As their video says, “It’s like a single sheet of paper, that holds your entire brain.”  

Habit Master

I’ve tried out lots of new productivity apps this month, and they all have their place.  My favorite new app was a purchase ($2.99), and I’m loving it.  You can list different goals, and name them either daily, weekly, or monthly.  If you’re like me and like marking off your to-do list, you’ll like this one.

Wonderful Day

Here’s another paid app ($0.99) that does a nice job for those who have many goals.  It has a really nice visual feel to it, too.

Golden Scale

Golden Scale is good if you have one big goal - stopping smoking, exercising daily, e.g. And it's free!

Habit Monkey

 Habit Monkey is another nice free app for keeping track of multiple goals.


 Everest is a nice free app that I’ll use when I have a big project with several disparate steps.  I think Everest has a social media aspect to it, too.

Really, I think any of these would work, it's just what you're willing to stick with. What are your favorite productivity apps?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Up Next for IASL Vice President Dixie Forcht

Thanks to Diane Brown who conducted the interview! Jean Donham chimed in to give her point of view based on Dixie's responses to the questions.

Tell us who you are (e.g. previous position(s)/careers, professional experience, service, education).

Originally from Texas, I was a speech and debate coach for the first 12 years of my teaching career, traveling with nationally competitive students in forensics. I have a BS and MS in Communication Studies from the University of North Texas, and I have a lot of service to the forensic community both at the state and national levels. 

After moving to Iowa to coach for West Des Moines, I met my husband and ended up in central Iowa. I received on the job training in School Library Studies as the PK-12 Teacher Librarian for East Marshall Community Schools while earning a Masters at UNI. After completing my MAE, I went on to get my PK-12 Administrative Certificate and a K-12 TAG endorsement, also from UNI. 

Jean Donham: This list of rapid-fire accomplishments is evidence of the energy level that Dixie bring to IASL. I am convinced that this woman never sleeps!

In one or two sentences, tell us what your current professional position.

I am now the MS/HS Teacher Librarian for South Tama County CSD and working on my PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Iowa. I serve as a technology integrationist, manage two libraries, and teach 21st Century Technology at the MS.

Jean Donham: Two important skills sets are really important and leadership. As a profession, we need to get that message out to all educators that these are skill sets of teacher librarians...and further as an association, we need to nurture and build these skills in all our TL colleagues. Every one of us must be strong. I read recently that Kelly Gallagher (national guru about literacy) has little to say about school libraries or school librarians--while he extolls the value of classroom libraries--because of his own unfortunate experience with a school librarian when he was a classroom teacher. Every one of us must project (and have) a high level of competence. You never know what greater influence you can have!

What are your top three responsibilities or goals?

1. Convince teachers to collaborate with me for projects and research.
2. Convince students to utilize a variety of resources (including books) when doing research, other than just browsing.
3. Learn more so I can share more.

Jean Donham: Number 3: Learn more...Yep! This is a profession of learners for learners.

How do you set priorities, especially if assigned to multiple buildings?   

I keep a lot of lists! I try to think about what's urgent, what's required, what's needed, and what's a waste of my time. Then, I focus on the urgent and required, and then get to the needed as soon as I can. Of course, needs vary from building to building, so it's an ongoing process.
Who is your biggest supporter and why?

My husband, Craig, is my greatest supporter. He encouraged me to go back to school, and supports my efforts. He is my rock.

How do you stay current (in technology, literature, instruction, pop culture, etc.)?
The SLIK-12 is a primary resource, along with my fellow TLs at AEA267. I also subscribe to LMC, SLJ, and other journals to stay on top of the changes in our field. I am also a gadget geek and addicted to
Jean Donham: While we can all pick up ideas from SLIK-12, we indeed need to extend beyond Iowa to see what is happening in the professional journals like LMC and SLJ and SLM (School Library Monthly) as well as KQ (Knowledge Quest) and TL (Teacher Librarian) help us all stretch, reflect, and experiment!

Where do you see the position of teacher librarians making an impact in schools?

I think our important work varies based on the stakeholders. With students, we need to be friendly, open, and responsive to their needs. With teachers, the same, but also work with them in collegial ways, such as coming to their grade level or subject area PLCs and serving them for professional learning. At the district/administrative level, it is essential that we make our value known to the administrators, and participate in a variety of committees that may impact the libraries.

How do you know if you have made progress?

If my calendar is full of bookings with teachers and I'm busy all the time, I'm doing something right!

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Trying to be everywhere at once. If I had a choice, I would not split my day between the HS and MS, but rather do a full day on one campus or the other. Since I have actual classes to teach every afternoon, my ability to work with teachers and classes in the afternoons on either campus is limited without getting a substitute. 

What’s the best (or worst) part about working with young people?

I love it when the light comes on and I can see comprehension or understanding radiating from within a student who has just discovered something. That 'a-ha!' moment is priceless.

What advice do you have for current and future librarians?

Unless we can get the law changed in Iowa regarding the assignment of certified TLs to Iowa schools, we need to prepare for continued consolidation of positions. We need to demonstrate our value and get our administrators to also support us.

Jean Donham: Legal mandates can only do so much...our colleagues in administration and in classrooms have to come to believe that they cannot succeed without us. We have to deliver...the Common Core is opening the door for us...we need to make our skills and knowledge known!

What is a cause or issue that is important to you in librarianship?

Besides defending the budgets for libraries and fighting to keep actual books in the library (in addition to e-books), I think that our biggest battle is the issue of staffing libraries with certified TLs. 

Who is your mentor and why? How did you meet this person?
Dr. Jean Donham is my mentor. When I was hired to be the TL at East Marshall, I went online and ordered some books so I could read about what I was supposed to do in my new job. (Classes didn't begin until the fall semester, so I had a summer of reading.) One of the books I bought was Enhancing Teaching and Learning and I was so glad to have a book with realistic advice. Then, I walked into a class at UNI and there she was! She is brilliant, pragmatic, and a fount of knowledge. She also encouraged me to go on to pursue the PhD and to consider service to IASL.

How do you respond when someone says”All you do is check in/out books and shelve them.”
My response: "Actually, that's my associate's job. But if you would like to do my job for a day, I will gladly do yours. Here's the list of what needs to get done. And don't forget, you have to be at the Middle School by 12:30 and you have meetings before and after school. I can't wait to teach quadratic equations!"

Jean Donham: :-)

What fictional character would you most like to be for a day?

If I could be any fictional character for a day, I would be Katniss Everdeen. Very few books have grabbed me and held on like The Hunger Games series. Plus, the girl's got skills!

Jean Donham: I can see this...Dixie has just that much fortitude! Best to her in her IASL leadership role!

Link to Dixie's library website

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

LEGISLATIVE ALERT: Senate Study Bill 3031

Message from Christine Sturgeon, President, Iowa Association of School Librarians (


Senate Study Bill 3031 is a proposed bill to fund professional development services for elementary teachers to improve students’ literary skills. IASL and the Iowa Library Association believe it is vitally important that teacher librarians be included in this bill.

Find your representative here

Call or email them with the following message:

Dear Representative/Senator: As an Iowa teacher librarian, I would like to ask that you make sure that teacher librarians are specifically included in SSB 3031. As you know, teacher librarians are uniquely trained and strategically positioned to:

§  teach students to think critically and independently to construct new understanding and insights from varied information sources;
§  lead and embrace the integration of technology to enhance learning
§  connect communities of learners in virtual and physical spaces
§  collaborate with the school community to design and enact rigorous learning experiences and participate as positive digital citizens
§  maximize access to quality print and digital resources
§  champion and support the reading life of students
§  nurture curiosity to develop in students a passion for learning for life
§  the legislature has already recognized the importance of teacher librarians in the Iowa Administrative Code 12.3(12)

Thank you for getting this important message to your state senators and representatives ASAP!

When you're done, please take a second and fill out this one-question form, just so we know who's already been contacted.  Thanks!

Be sure to pass along this video to all interested parties as well.

Book Review: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Imagine a future where the real world is dull, dreary, and overcrowded, where only the rich live in the luxury of regular food, electricity, and space.  The only escape that anyone has is to jack into the OASIS.  In the OASIS, you can travel at the speed of a thought, go to school, play games, join chat rooms, go to parties...anything you would do in the real world, but beyond.  The OASIS has even become the center of commerce throughout the world.  All are welcome in the OASIS, and everything in the real world falls away.

In Ready Player One, Wade Watts is one of millions of people who lives the majority of his life in the OASIS.  Everything changes for him and other people in his low- to no-income position when the creator of OASIS offers them a way out:  complete a series of puzzles hidden inside OASIS and you will receive treasures beyond your wildest dreams.  Wade, among most of the other users of the OASIS, is seeking these puzzles, ferreting out clues, but years pass and nothing happens.  Until one day Wade innocently happens upon the first puzzle, and wins, sparking an international frenzy.  Who will win the prize and change their life forever?  Or is the game hiding a larger plan by the creator of OASIS?

Similar to Ender’s Game, Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, is an exciting science fiction book with turns and twists throughout.  Full of 1980s movies, songs, and memorabilia, which the creator of OASIS was obsessed with, adult readers will find familiar pop culture to draw them into the story, and even young adult readers may find something familiar in the throwback world.  Although visualizing some of the scenes inside the OASIS can be difficult because it is a virtual reality and anything is possible, most of the book is very well-written and could be accessible by many readers, from lovers of science fiction to readers of adventure and suspense.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Publication Features IASL Members!

Inquiry and the Common Core; Librarians and teachers Designing Teaching for Learning edited by Violet Harada and Sharon Coatney. 

This new book published by Libraries Unlimited clarifies the connections between inquiry-based learning as librarians understand it and the Common Core. While the book has informative chapters about inquiry and Common Core, it also has a section filled with "exemplars" of lessons designed and taught by practicing librarians that bring the idea of inquiry to life. 

The book features lesson examplars from several Iowa teacher librarians including Shannon McClintock Miller (Van Meter), Elizabeth Schau (Iowa City), and Chelsea Sims (Iowa City). Their partner teachers in these lessons are Van Meter: Lynn Caltrider and  Christa McClintock; Iowa City: Lynda Johnson,  Ben Mosher, Andrew Smith, and Scott Stimmel. 

Chapter authors in the text will be many familiar names to Iowa teacher librarians: Barbara Stripling, Judi Moreillon, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Jean Donham, among others. If you are involved in--or wish your were involved in--implementation of the Common Core, this book may be just what you need! Available for purchase from ABC-CLIO or Amazon.

(Thanks to Jean Donham for writing this post!)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Shifting from Helplessness to the Principles of the Possible

Have you read Dr. Ross J. Todd's article in the December 2013 issue of Teacher Librarian? 

In this research summary, Todd recognizes that many of us have fallen into the trap of learned helplessness when talking about our programs. We often point out what we can't do, rather than how we could make something happen. Todd believes that if our programs are left in the hands of these "impossibilists," our programs will remain in the realm of the past; but, if we shift our mindsets, our libraries can be recognized as the strong and vital programs we know them to be.

Through Todd's studies of successful programs in the hands of those he calls "possibilists," he developed 7 core ideas he calls the "Principles of the Possible." Each of the strong school library programs in the study had these principles in common.

Principle 1: The primary function of a school library is pedagogical, with access to quality information as the foundation of meaningful pedagogy.

Principle 2: The role of the school librarian is primarily that of teacher, coteaching with classroom teachers to develop curriculum standards.

Principle 3: An inquiry-centered pedagogy defines the instructional role of the school librarian.

Principle 4: The focus on curriculum content and knowledge development enables the integration of inquiry capabilities in a meaningful way.

Principle 5: The collaborative nature of teaching is the core dynamic for integrating the school library into the culture of the school.

Principle 6: School libraries constitute and advance social justice.

Principle 7: School libraries connect community and the world through digital citizenship and learning for life capabilities.

So how can we re-frame our thinking, our self-talk, and our practice to better reflect the mindset of a "possibilist"? How can we move our programs into the future, and stop thinking "can't"?  

Read the whole article in the December 2013 issue of Teacher Librarian, via Ebsco.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Library Space: The Hub to the Heart of Learning

What's your school library vision or mission? I am pondering this after reading the School Library Journal article The Heart of the School: Iowa Van Meter District Plans Library Expansion.

The essential question from the article that triggered my imagination was, "what would you have in your space if you could, if nothing was holding you back?"

How can I be innovative based on who and what I am working with? How can I be aware of the infinite possibilities of now? 

Some things that I am thinking about in regards to our library...
Who we are
What we do
Whom we serve
Who is my competition
Where I want to be in one year...five years...ten years...and beyond
What can I do and how can I grade myself
What concrete steps did I take to get where I am and how can I move forward to reach goals based on the vision statement or action plan 
What kind of collection do I want users to have
What does success will I know
What does information literacy look can I connect ideas
How can I be realistic with an vision statement or action plan...who are the key people

Find inspiration to create, explore, and expand. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

One Book, Two Book - Children's Literature Celebration, Iowa City

This weekend is the second annual One Book, Two Book Children's Literature Celebration in Iowa City. 

Friday evening, the "Once Upon a Time" banquet will celebrate young writers from each of Iowa City's elementary schools, along with a keynote by author Loren Long.

Saturday's family-centered events include a book fair, performances, visiting authors, and activites for children and teens. Schedule and locations below:


Sunday will feature the Write Out Loud event, where students in grades 1-8 will gather for entertainment, prizes, and of course, celebrations of their writing!

To learn more about the events of this weekend, visit the One Book, Two Book website.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Joining Efforts To Improve Promotion Of Iowa Award Books

Three opportunities to collaborate and participate to promote literature, literacy, and reading. Add your two cents worth to the presentations and include your name or Twitter handle.

Ordering from Perfection Learning is now available with official order forms due by February 21, 2014 to guarantee availability and poster.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Library Learning Cards

     Weekly library classes provide much needed planning time for my colleagues in the content areas.  It also provides my co-teacher (the building technology instructor) and I with an important opportunity to teach 21st century skills and understandings.  Our aim during these library/tech classes is to form a foundation students can use in content area learning. To forge these connections I attend PLC meetings, provide instructional partnership, and talk with teachers at every opportunity (the hallway conversations).  Despite all these efforts I still find that many of my colleagues are not aware of the skills students have developed in the library class or how to integrate them into content learning.  As we return from winter break I'm looking for more ways to connect the school library program to the larger school culture.

Many of our students and teachers are familiar with library cards. In fact, we issue library cards to our students. Why not add Library Learning Cards to your program offerings? At Prairie Creek we've begun giving a physical card to teachers outlining the current learning in library/tech class. This is printed on heavy card stock.

Library Learning Card

We follow up with an email containing a digital version of the card with links to reproducibles such as these student project cards and graphic organizer from a Creative Commons unit.  Teachers also have access to the detailed Understanding By Design formatted unit plan in our district curriculum mapping tool.  This tangible artifact will serve as a catalyst for future collaboration.

~contributed by Ernie Cox @erniec

Friday, January 3, 2014

ALA's Advocacy University

Looking for some up-to-date resources to help you advocate for your students' right to a school library?  
Advocacy University Logo
Check out the ALA's Advocacy University.  Grouped by topic or by library type, this resource provides links to research, publications, kits, and more to help you make sure our libraries are recognized as the vital programs they are.

Find information on budgets and funding, dealing with challenges to materials, working with elected officials, internet safety and more!  Resources specific to school library programs include teaching standards, press materials, data collection tools, and information on the ALA's Presidential Task Force on School Libraries

Take note of the ALSC's campaign called "Kids! @your library" which includes some great (free!) promotional materials!

You can find permanent links to these and other great resources on the Advocacy Toolkit tab at the top!