Thing 4: Digital Storytelling“>TimelineJSThe article 6 Reasons You Should Be Doing Digital Storytelling with Your Students provided valid reasons to use storytelling with students with a clear list of how digital storytelling mirrors the writing process.

The best part of this article was the tip to use Photos For Class  for creative commons licensed photos complete with citations! The citation in this photo is small but it is there!

For this lesson I am diving in deeper to Digital Timelines. The tools I have used in the past no longer serve their purpose and I am looking for a new tool. I am currently working with an 11th Grade English class on a civil liberties research project. The students  identified a civil liberty from a literary fiction book they read. They then need to identify three major time periods and the notable court cases and legislation that impacted that liberty.  A tool that they could use to creatively demonstrate their learning would be a nice change from the paper.

This is my example of a teen life using TimelineJS:

Love love love how easy this tool is to use!  Students will need a google account then all you do is edit a spreadsheet. You can incorporate pretty much anything on the web: Twitter, YouTube, Google Maps, photos, you name  it you can add it.

Easy to use. Creative. Flexible. Easy to edit. No logon needed. Definitely a tool to explore with my students.

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Thing 15: Web Presence

Currently our library website is the Follett catalog page where we list our databases on one tab and you can search the catalog on the other page:


While we like the full functionality of the Follett search page. This certainly doesn’t count as a web presence and we are finding with all the new tools available it is time to expand our website. We purchased LibGuides this year but have been unable to find not made the time to explore LibGuides to the extent needed to really get a good start on the website.

I watched the video Using LibGuides CMS for library websites and began work on our site. That makes it sound super simple but it certainly wasn’t and I realize I am a long way from done. Here is how the site looks now


What I accomplished:

  • Learned how to change all the colors so we can decide on a final color plan.
  • Added images giving access to OverDrive
  • Added Follett Destiny search boxes that use the Destiny Quest search feature. This is not our preferred search method and I don’t like the size of the boxes but this is a starting point.
  • Removed all the header and title information to make the page look more like a webpage than a subject guide


Still to be done:

As you can see there is lots to be done. When I look back at what I did get done it doesn’t seem like much but hopefully some of the learning curve is gone and I will be able to move forward with the project.


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Thing 23: Infographics & Data Visualization

After creating collections for lit circles for our grade 9 and 10 English classes my next challenge was figuring out how to present the data to the teachers in an attractive way. I really like some of the lists sent out by Novelists like this Romance Newsletter  but worried that maybe it wouldn’t count for this exercise since it doesn’t have data. I was excited to read that “An infographic may not include any actual data, while a data visualization must.”

Time to figure out how to make this work for my teachers!

I found Kathy Schrock’s video Infographics as a Creative Assessment useful but extremely intimidating when looking at what we need to teach our students. I found the article The Anatomy Of An Infographic: 5 Steps To Create A Powerful Visual by Sneh Roy simplified things for me. I especially liked her explanation of a one-level deep infographic vs. a two-level deep infographic.  What I am looking to create for my first try will certainly be one level deep. A recent infographic from Time Magazine titled “Mapping the Girls Effect” is an excellent example of a two-level deep infographic.

I will certainly use the tools in Creating Infographics with Students when working with students on infographics.

Since mine is a simple graphic I decided to use Powerpoint as it is the initial tool I will be using with my students. I came up with the template below that I hope to reuse for other collections.




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Thing 24: Control the Info Flow with RSS & Feed Readers

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Let the learning begin 2016-2017

start-lineIt has taken me a little while to get started this year but I am excited and ready to go.  I realized my hesitancy to get started stemmed from not knowing where I was going. With the new format and no solid path I kept looking at the long list of “things” and scratching my head. Where do I start? What is my purpose? I decided to focus my learning this year on “things” that will help with our upcoming LibGuides website.   Let the journey begin.

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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!

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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 🙂




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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.




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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:


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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.


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