Thing 40: Final Reflections & What’s Next?

As another Cool Tools for Schools comes to an end it is time for some reflection.

What I learned……

This year I found that I began by following track 4. I quickly realized that just learning and playing wasn’t enough and it was time to start using these tools for my real life (as opposed to my “book smart” life). I think one of the biggest things I learned doing this is the real value of an authentic learning experience. When I was vested in the outcome because I wanted to use it for a lesson, my sister’s baby shower, or the annual report I found that I delved much more deeply than I would have if I was just exploring the tool to explore. To sum it up I learned: There are two very valuable levels to this program. EXPLORE to know what is out there and DELVE DEEP to use the tools. This year I did more deep delving. I created a cool Padlet for my sister’s baby shower (it was cool even though not many people used it), I spearheaded a complete revamping of our annual report, and I started combining tools by using BlendSpace as a storage location for our ScreenCast lessonsScreenCasts as lesson tools.  I explored a check in system that didn’t work out for us only because of the time factor. The biggest challenge is knowing when to stop!

What’s next….

Next year I want to revisit the check-in system, expand my use of screencasts (perhaps even teach a professional development class on making a screencast) and explore some quiz options to be used for Freshman Orientation. I also discovered that the professional development projects that have the greatest value to me at this stage in my career are those that don’t just show me things but give me an opportunity to apply my learning. To that end I will be looking for PD classes that include a work component.

I loved learning this way!!!!

Each year I wonder if it is worth it to pursue Cool Tools again and each year when I get to the reflection page the answer is a resounding YES!!!! The “Things” are so detailed I find that there is always something new to try, explore and learn about. My first few times through the program I learned of a lot of new tools. Now I am at the point where I can say “hey, I have heard of a tool for that” and use the tools in greater depth. Can’t wait for the next phase of Cool Tools!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thing 14: Media Skills

wordle for blogContinuing with my theme of completing “things” at the point of need I am excited to explore Thing 14:Media Skills as I am putting the finishing touches on our annual report.

I spent time with both Tagxedo and Wordle to create the “perfect” word cloud representing the various booktalks we did throughout the year. I quickly realized that there is a depth to these tools I was unaware of! In the end I found the advanced features of Wordle to be exactly what I needed for this project.

Here are some cool things I learned:

  • Keep words together by using the ~ symbol
  • You can add weight to words by giving them a point value
  • To get numbers to show up in your Wordle open the font open the language menu option. It is a small checkbox at the very top.
  • Using a spreadsheet adds a great deal of flexibility as you play with word sizes and color.

The spreadsheet I mentioned was a huge part of this learning curve and I wish I had thought of it sooner. In the end I had 3 columns.Capture

The Combined Fields column is what I copied and pasted into the Wordle advanced box. The formula for that was =CONCATENATE(F3,”:”,G3)

The Wordle at the top of this post is the result of these fields.

Once again, a great learning activity. Just one caveat. GIVE YOURSELF A TIME LIMIT!!!!! You will never be 110% in love with your Wordle and will always wonder what just one more respin will bring🙂




Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Thing 37: DIY Library Check In Systems

Last year in our library we had a program that enabled students to sign in to the library by scanning their student ID. After a rocky start we were off and running and the program was a hit. The records were easy to retrieve and it was a fast system for the students. Unfortunately it was a grant based program and the grant was not renewed so this year we are back to handwritten sign in sheets.  There are a few problems with this: 1. we can’t read the student signatures 2. It is very time consuming to track the library usage by counting students. 3. While we can separate students from lunch and study hall with two different sign in sheets it is difficult to keep track of which study hall students are coming from 4. It is time consuming for the students to check in. They have timed it and it takes 8 minutes in line during our busier periods.

I decided as an activity for this I would look for a Cool Tool for Library Sign In.  I was specifically looking for something easy to use, where I could track student visits and where they came from (i.e. lunch, class, study hall), that would save time for the students signing in and the staff in keeping statistics.  My google searches were very uneventful but I found an article on LM_Net about someone who used Google forms. After looking into that a bit it seemed like it would take a lot of back end maintenance work. Then I hit the jack pot with this post MAKING THE DATA VISIBLE: RAMPING UP LIBRARY REPORTING WITH LIBRARYTRAC . While it isn’t free it is definitely affordable.

I first contacted our technology department for both permission to try the tool,and assurance that if we love it they would work with us on funding. Once I got the green light from them  I contacted Scott and he promptly set me up with a free trial.

At first I tried to set this up by brute force. You know….click and fill stuff in…that didn’t work so well and in the end the help file was what I needed. First I entered in our block schedule. Then populated a list of reasons for the visits. At this point I was glad I had worked with the technology department because I needed data files from them for both students and teachers. Once I got the files I spent quite a bit of time manipulating the data. Rather than having students type in the teachers name we wanted them to be able to select from a dropdown list. Scott showed me how I could name the fields what I wanted to in order to populate the list with all study hall teachers. This is where I am right now. Manipulating the spreadsheet for our teachers. I also realized that with only 8 days of school left we don’t have time to properly launch and test this program so it is going on the back burner until next year.




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thing 12: Collaborating, Connecting, Sharing

mozfestscienceFor the Collaborating Connecting and Sharing lesson I am going to focus on Collaborative Brainstorming. As I am seeing more group projects I can see a need for students to be able to brainstorm digitally. Ideally I would love something where you can easily add ideas from your phone.  I am also looking for a brainstorm/organization tool to use with my co-librarian as we work to develop our library website.


I first explored Padlet. I don’t immediately see a use for that in school but I have added it to my virtual/mental toolbox. I did however see a cool use for it for my sister’s baby shower! Based on a great suggestion from a a Pinterest pin we asked people to bring a book instead of a card to build the baby’s library. In order to prevent duplicates I created a baby book Padlet to keep track of the books people have purchased will asked people to update it. I found it fairly easy to navigate using both an iPhone and Android phone without the app installed, I assume it would be much easier with the app. As of this typing I am the only one that has added anything but invitations will go out soon and we will see if it gets used.


I next moved on to Popplet. While I was very impressed in what I could do with the free version by myself I was not as impressed with the collaboration piece. Here’s my Popplet:


My reaction:

  • It was super easy to:
    •  create a new Popplet (their term for the boxes)
    • add/move/connect popplets
    • color code Popplets (I even made a key in the corner for my plan)
  • It was easy to add photos and videos to the Popplet but once I added a photo I couldn’t figure out how to change or remove it without deleting the entire Popplet box.
  • When collaborating with another person you can only change the items you added. So if the other person made a simple spelling error you couldn’t fix it. There is however the ability to add a comment for the other person to read.  CORRECTION: Under settings – Labs you can set the permission that popplets can be edited by any collaborator. 

Overall, this is a cool tool that I may continue to use for the website but we would both log in under the same username and password so we could change everything.


Stormboard was my least favorite of the tools I tried. Here’s my board and my reactions:



  • The Legend in the corner was nice.
  • The squares are not re-sizable.
  • The squares would frequently go on top of each other
  • There was no way to create a “mind map” of the squares using lines. And even if there had been they were too big for what I wanted to do.
  • The collaboration features seemed strong. There was an option you can set so others can edit the information. However, when I went to close my Stormboard I got the message that if I closed it others would be kicked out and not able to work on it. If you wanted to work as a group you would really need to look into this more.


After trying a few more services from the Free Technology for Teachers post 7 Tools for Creating Flowcharts, Mind Maps, and Diagrams I have decided to stick with Popplet. I really liked Text2MindMap but it was cost prohibitive (aka it wasn’t free).

After more work I am very happy with Popplet. Here’s the current work on progress:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thing 15: Web Presence

My library has no web presence. Currenonline-942410_960_720tly the library website is the Home Page on Follett Destiny. This provides a great place to list our databases but as I am exploring screencasting I realize I need a better system. Before exploring a  presence on social media I need a website! I will use this lesson to explore websites to identify the layout and content for my website.

Holy Cow!!!! Get me a paper bag I am about to hyperventilate! Panic has set in. These websites are amazing….information filled…..and oh, so much more than what I can wrap my head around! Looking at the websites I realized I needed to identify features that I like as well as things that I can do NOW and ideas for the FUTURE.

The Castilleja Library is all encompassing and active in social media.

  • FUTURE – Featured headline photos with descriptions
  • NOW – Clear boxes on the right hand side leading to the catalog and databases. This could be expanded to include many frequently used features.
  • NOW – Recommended reading section that included links to popular and award winning lists.

The Plymouth Regional High School Library award winning. Lots of information

  • I really liked how the blog entries automatically update the website.
  • Link to Your Next Read for readers advisory was a nice feature
  • I found that I ended up with a TON of tabs open and couldn’t navigate them all
  • Used LibGuides as a back end. I felt that this made navigation unclear.

Milipitas High School Library My favorite so far!

  • Library information readily available on the top of the home page
  • Personalized with a bio page for the librarian
  • Updates using the blog posts
  • Love the tabs for digital resources. I could use this for the way I currently have my databases divided.  NOTE: This was powered by GalePages and only displayed Gale databases. Once I was on the page there was no easy way to get back to the home page of the library.
  • Love the “new books” section. Clicking on a book showed it was powered by Library Thing and thus would be easily maintainable.
  • Love the Google form used for book requests.
  • Many features and tools available right from the front page that took advantage of other features and would not require maintenance such as: database search, source evaluation, book request form and calendar.
  • PB works as back end for pathfinders. However, many of the pages had not been updated for years.

Springston School Library Blog

  • Used Picassa as a back end for scrolling library photos

Ventura High School Library This library appears to be very formal.

  • I liked how directions were given to check your checkouts
  • Library Rules were published and viewable
  • Interesting current news page. There may be resources here that would be useful for my website
  • There were too many things that reflect the way we used to think to make me want to review it in depth. I mean really, you MUST have your student ID to check out a book and if it’s late we charge 10 cents per day does not meet my districts expectations of opportunity and accessibility.

I have also been collecting examples of High School websites with features I like on my Pearltrees page. I will review and incorporate them into my final design also.

After looking at all the blogs and websites and reviewing Free Tech for Teachers Creating Blogs and Websites post I realize I need to brainstorm exactly what it is I want/need to include on my website before starting on website design. The online content ideas checklist  from the National Libraries of New Zealand webpage is very useful and all encompassing to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I will also review this great list7 Best Practices for Creating a User Friendly Library Website. Since I have a co-librarian we need to work on this together so I will explore a collaboration tool to get us going.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Thing 34: Annual Reports – Make Them Matter

After spending a lot of time looking at annual reports and reflecting on our stakeholders I have come to realize a few things.

  1. A report that can be printed as well as viewed digitally will likely get read the most by my stakeholders.
  2. Images and photos add a lot to the presentation.
  3. All report elements must point back to Vision 2018.

Looking at the Annual Reports page from Jennifer LaGarde’s “Being a Data Super Hero”  website was super useful. I identified a few reports and elements of reports that were attractive to me and could be integrated in my annual report. I will list them here as well as the features/elements that I would like to consider incorporating.

Joyce Valenza’s report for Springfield Township High School

  • Digital publishing tools take very little work to convert your print based document into a digital document. While Joyce Valenza used Issuu  I am more familiar with Youblisher and would use this digital publishing tool as it was used with my student books in the Nonfiction Book Project at Maple Hill Middle School.
  • I like the highlights section at the beginning of the document. However, instead of using it to list my accomplishments I would like to use it to reference the highlights inside the report and send them to the page of the report where they could find more information.0 i.e. Through weeding and purchasing our collection was improved. page 4
  • I like the space this format gives us to incorporate words, data visualization and photographs.
  • At first glance it is easy to say this report is too long. However, if you take the time to read it there is excellent information included.
  • I like that she references a way to get to a printable form of the report. However, I was unable to locate the printable document on her website.

Mrs. Gick’s RMHS Annual report

  • I really like the clean and updated format of this one and would like to incorporate this look into my report. I was hoping to find it as a template in Word or Publisher but when I couldn’t do that I was going to reach out to Mrs. Gick. Unfortunately the website this report links too has not been updated since 2010. I will continue to search or look for a different style template.
  • Incorporating this colorful format with our school colors would match many of the other professional documents put out by the school.

Jennifer LaGarde’s Annual Report

  • I wonder if I could incorporate her use of “What’s the bottom line” into my report in a useful manner.
  • I like the data feature of circulation by grade. This would be a good way to show the correlation between booktalks/research projects and reading from the library. A brief check of my catalog shows that while I should be able to get this information very easily with a report my records are not correct (instead of 500+ 9th grade students my catalog only shows 30) so this would be much more time consuming. I will put this off for this year and verify my records first thing next year.
  • Great use of photos

MGMS Annual Report

  • Great data in this infographic. Much of it could be incorporated into my annual report with explanations of why it is important.
  • I like how instead of Goals there was a page called Moving Forward and a section called “Next year look for more…..”

The Unquiet Library Annual Report, 2009-10

  • I like the idea of a short video to intrigue people to read more details in the report. This could easily be accomplished as Buffy Hamilton did with an Animoto.

There was one reading that stood out to me as being totally separate from the annual report conversation and yet very important to it.

7 tips for making your principal your ally from  The Doug Johnson, Blue Skunk Blog

  • Take your problems with your solutions to the principal
  • Advocate for the students, not the library!
  • Don’t surprise your principal
  • Know your principals goals – So often we assume the principal has the same goals, I need to sit down and ask him what his goals are and how he sees the library fitting into the school wide community.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thing 25: Infographics & Data Visualization

Regardless of the buzz about infographics I still had a hard time figuring out just how I would use them. Infographic creators are always raving about how useful they are but at first glance many of them seem busy and overwhelming. While hunting for my current library job I created an infographic resume after working through Thing 24.  Once I had a clear vision for what I needed the rest came together.

Then it was back to the attitude of “I just don’t get infographics”.Until the conversation came up about annual reports at a recent Library Tech Conference (Hi Polly :-)  leading me back to Thing 25: Infographics & Data Visualization Now I have a data need  Find a tool to add a visual depiction of the results of our current weeding project/current state of the collection.  The article When and How to Create an Effective Infographic” confirmed that I have a data need and helped clarify my thinking about where I needed to go with it. 

Step 1: Identify goal ages for the collection. I based our goals off the book Less is More: A Practical Guide to Weeding School Library Collections by Donna J. Baumbach and Linda L. Miller.

Step 2: Gather the data of our current collection.  For this I used the TitleWise Collection analysis report.

Step 3: Put both groups of data into a spreadsheet. I put way more data into the spreadsheet that we will EVER include in our annual report but the purpose of this visualization is threefold.  Show where we’ve been and where we are and  drive where we are going.

Step 4: Find a tool to show the data the way it is useful to my audience. Seriously, I even sketched it out on paper.

After looking at many “high tech” tools I realized that for the data I had Excel is truly the best tool to present my data in a meaningful way.  Below is what I came up with. It is a long way from done but you can see that through our weeding project we have improved the age of our collection. The 630s, Agriculture and Domestic Animals, are at an acceptable age.  Our most outdated section appears to be the 640s”Family, cooking home economics”. I left the Dewey numbers off the chart because those are only important to us, not necessarily our stakeholders.

Average%20age%20by%20areaSo I guess I didn’t create an infographic, but I did create the beginnings to a very useful a data visualization that could be inserted into an infographic.  On to more……..

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Thing 33: Taking the Lead: Connecting with your Stakeholders

Hmmmmm, connecting with our stakeholders.

Step 1: Reflect on what we do now

  • Talk to the students when they come into the library either with a class or during their free time.
    • With classes this conversation is often focused on us helping them with their research tasks in lessons we have taught.
    • While in the library during free time it is most often the Teaching Assistants or the Library Clerk that is speaking to the students. These conversations range from corrections of actions (no eating in the library) or general get to know you chit chat.
  • Email the teachers to setup their research classes.
  • Talk to the teachers before and at the beginning of their projects.
  • Email lists of weeded books to the Board of Education for their approval.
  • Mail out the annual report every year after the school year has ended.
  • Meet with the principal when we have problems or concerns.
  • Talk to other teachers that happen to stop in the library.
  • Parents get automated phone calls when their student has an overdue library book.

Looking at this I realize that our communication with many of our stakeholders is limited
connecting_the_dots to a small grou
p and a small space in time: Return your books, help us with this problem, come to the library with your class for research. We don’t connect with a “Check out the library” type conversation. Based on the last few activities we are planning on kicking up our annual report a notch. I’m excited to explore other ways to connect with out stakeholders in a positive way.

Step 2: What can we do differently?

Watching the video Heidi Neltner on “Your Stakeholder Connected Librarian Toolkit” from  Connected Librarians Day 2014Heidi Neltner has given me, as it was intended to, a huge toolkit to work with. I learned two big things from this.

  1. I have already identified my stakeholders.
  2. There are some really cool and simple ways to connect with them.

While the video deserves a second and even third viewing here are my notes from the Connected Librarian Stakeholder Toolkit video:

Below are my personal notes and reflections based on this video posted on YouTube. The time indicators are the location of each section. Thank you Heidi Neltner for sharing your process and tools!

Stakeholders she focuses on: students, teachers, parents, administrators

She researched stakeholders by:

  • Reviewing the mission statement of school
  • Reviewing the school improvement plan
  • Looking at TELL survey data results (used in her state)
  • Used Google forms to survey teachers, students, administrators at her building level and at the district level
    • Discovered teachers and administrators main focus was student growth and success as being the largest concern.
    • Students biggest concern at the elementary level was to find a book they wanted to read.
  • Message was tailored based on this information
  • Keep your message short and sweet
    • talking points for each group

Cool ways to connect

  • Students (13 minute mark)

    • faced books outward like they do in a bookstore
    • added shelf markers to point out key sections 14:40
    • 15:40 High school librarian uses google forms for check in and check out
    • 15:00 use the library desktops to do your work for you
    • Highlight books that are new by taking pictures and using Picassa and Google photo screen saver.
    • She talks about having a Symbaloo on her Destiny home page 17:25 but I was unable to see that from her webpage which is worth checking out for organization and screencast examples
    • Visual search created based on genre’s
    • Added student created book trailers to the catalog
    • Uses Screencast-o-matic to create screen casts and videos to save time, provide consistency in teaching among classes, provide teaching tool for students who may have missed the instruction 19:00
    • Uses PowToon for different types of instruction to make it both fun and entertaining 20:40
    • Aurasma for instruction sheets and booktalks 22:00
  • Teachers 23:00

    • Tuesday Teacher tips using Smore
      • Keep it small, maybe three things
      • Benefits of Smore is analytics page showing how many are viewing her flyer and how long they are looking at it
      • Promote new book and how they can use it
      • Promote technology tool
    • PD of tools that they are interested in using
      • Picassa and Canva
      • Keep it short
      • Keep it Visual 27:00
    • Infographics
      • One page with the most important information
      • She uses Piktochart and app smashes it with Thinglink and posts this on her blog where teachers can come back to it 28:00
  • Administrators

    • Piktochart to create library reports 29:00
      • Not interested in how many books kids are checking out but on how we are contributing to student growth
    • Need to align report to student growth
    • Share programming ideas
      • She uses Canva to create visuals
      • Doing one book one school. Invited all adults in the building to read the book. Also got copies of the book for all school board members and invited them to participate
  • Parents 34:00

    • Didn’t poll parents yet but referred to AASL information
      • Uses Publisher in her email blast to parents. Parents don’t have to click on anything. Photos and links will be embedded.
      • Share projects students are working on.
      • Sent out quarterly
      • Uses facebook for day to day information. Posts weekly.
      • Shares opening video using Powtoons on facebook 37:00
      • Used Canva to create profile picture and banner to be used across platforms

Overall: “Develop an image and style that is both consistent and relevant” for your school library.

This is a great list of ideas. The next step is to narrow it down and focus on one step at a time.


The one other thing that stood out to me from this lesson is the post by a High School Principal about the school library. Great read. We should all be seen that way by our principal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thing 32 : Evidence Based Practice – Collecting Data

Like many of us I find it is easy to get caught up in the numbers. I know all those booktalks are helping students. I talk to the kids who like their books, or even better conference withread-316508_960_720 the kids who don’t like the books.  We all have them. The students we work with who tell us “I just don’t like reading.” We work to connect with them, discover their interests and reading levels and match them to the right book. It’s a great feeling to have that student return to you and say “I loved that book and couldn’t put it down.”  You know you have impacted their learning. But how do you put that into words in your annual report?

While exploring the Teacher Librarians Toolkit for Evidence Based Practice I discovered Agent for Collaboration a table of various collaboration activities, evidence for collaboration, and the benefits to students. They may seem basic but for those of us just getting our feet wet with EBP or needing a little refresher this is a great resource.

Another great gem from Teacher Librarians Toolkit for Evidence Based Practice  from the Reflect and Refresh page is the simple Reflect and Rework form. I find forms keep me on track but so often they are overly complicated. This one is clear and simple and will make a great post project conference form to show reflection and improvement.

On the Resources page there are many more gems.  Four Stages of Research – Secondary – Rubric would be a great addition to many of my high school projects. Useful for measuring student perceptions and teacher perceptions all in one place.

Lyn Hay’s AASL 2015 Conference Presentation is posted on her blog.  From here you can download the template EBP Action Plan Nov 2015 and modify it for your own use. This action plan is a complete list of all the steps needed to perform strong EBP as well as a timeline to make it happen.

I would also like to look into tools to support an EBP program:









Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Thing 31: Evidence Based Practice – Getting Started

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the day to day running of the library and lose sight of why we do what we do. Thing 31: Evidence Based Practice – Getting Started really gave me a chance to reconnect with the big picture.  I had always envisioned the annual report to be a collection of pretty numbers displayed on paper. Really, it is so much more.

I am using this blog post as my notebook to jot down ideas about how we can demonstrate our value and update our annual report so it no longer focuses on numbers but on achievement.


  • Lead with emotion. Support that emotion with facts and data.
  • Open the report by connecting with stakeholders with stories. Gather these stories from many different places as mentioned by Joyce Valenza in her article Evolving with Evidence: Leveraging New Tools for EBP
    • review student work
    • gather exit tickets
    • hold small group conferences of seniors to reflect on learning
  • Link back to Vision 2018: Five Year District Plan and how what we are doing (evidenced by stories) supports that plan
  • Doesn’t need to be dry paper. We can get the kids involved. Perhaps produce a flyer like RMHS Library’s Book Buzz and then support it with a video we can show at a Board of Ed meeting and post on our website.


Some things to highlight in the annual report

  • Teen Advisory Committee
    • Active students
    • Results of polls
    • Attempted policy changes and their outcome
      • food
      • moving chairs
      • quiet zones
    • Ideas for next year
  • New format for book talks
    • Need to get feedback from students and teachers to present here
  • Laptops make us more mobile
  • Results from Senior feedback meetings
  • Turnitin
    • Teacher feedback
    • Results of projects
    • How we worked with students to improve their skills based on report feedback.
    • How we will improve the way we use this project next year
  • Weeding project
    • what it was, where it is now, where we are heading
  • Goals for next year

Linking to the research

While everything we have done is great and we see the change in student papers, reading and attitudes we need to link it back to the research. Show Them The Evidence of Your Success provides a great way to think about taking the first step by locating the research and building around it.



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment