Kicking off a new PD year 2017-2018

Looking forward to kicking off another new year of Cool Tools for Schools.

This year I am going for breadth rather than depth. We recently launched our library libguide providing me a place to drop lists of tools for teachers and students to try on their own. I will be looking to provide useful free tools for the students and teachers to explore on their own. Of course, along the way, I am bound to find tools I need to delve into more deeply. But hey, that’s what learning is all about.


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Thing 11: DIY – MLA 8 Resources

GOAL: Locate resources for a Professional Development class and for teaching students next year.


MLA Style Center

The MLA Style Center  published by the Modern Language Association provides a long list of resources:

  • The MLA Practice Template provided shows the framework for students to use for locating and completing their Works Cited entry.
  • The Works Cited Quick Guide  provides a nice graphic of some basic sources.
  • LESSON IDEA: Create a graphic for students showing the concept of a container. Give students this link to show how to complete the MLA Practice Template. Provide students the MLA Practice Template and links to sources to be used to complete the template. Have students correct their own paper by providing a Prezi indicating where the info came from much like the Works Cited Quick Guide.
  • The Works Cited List Peer Grading lesson is easy to incorporate into any  research paper.  In reading the provided worksheet it occurs to me that another way to do this is by having the students actually locate the source their peer is referencing. This will provide students a basis as to the importance of the different pieces of information.
  • Hey, my idea from above actually exists as a pre-done lesson! Reading and Writing Citations
  • The Group Presentation on MLA Style lesson is one I will propose to all teachers to consider for their students at the beginning of the year to provide a solid foundation for MLA style. I will especially emphasize this for my 9th grade teachers.

Purdue OWL

The Purdue OWL MLA Citation Guide  has pages on each type of entry that some students might find helpful. The Powerpoint Presentation is dry but could be helpful in instruction.


Since MLA 8 is becoming more flexible I decided to explore Noodletools for changes relating to MLA 8. While they have changed the platform a little bit nothing really addresses the container idea. So I will explore other online citations tools such as Bibme and CitationMachine. The MLA Workshop provided didn’t help me plan my teaching but gives me good ideas for discussion.



I did not find Bibme to offer any resources that were useful. I created an account and in the end didn’t like their style at all. I found the webpage to be cluttered and not something useful in educating my students.

I am going to create lessons around my ideas from The MLA Style Center





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Thing 20 : Evidence Based Practice – Collecting Data

As we continued work on our annual report I realized I needed a refresher on WHY we are are doing an annual report. It’s so easy to take the easy path and throw seemingly impressive numbers on a page, make it pretty, and move on. But that’s not what it’s all about. Jennifer LaGarde’s post School Library Annual Reports: Connecting the Dots Between Your Library And Student Learning  our annual report needs to be about students not stuff!

She gives four great reasons to create an annual report

  1. Assuming others know what you do is stupid silly.
  2. Our work doesn’t matter if it doesn’t impact students.
  3. “We’re in this together” is a message we cannot send too many time.
  4. Reflection makes us better.

“We’re in this together” is a message we cannot send too many time.  Using the annual report to reflect on student and library data shows teachers and administrators that we are just as invested in student growth as they are.  Instead of running around fretting about our inventories, the annual report gives us the opportunity to show that we are fretting about the same thing every other adult in the building is fretting about at the end of the year: student achievement. (School Library Annual Reports: Connecting the Dots Between Your Library And Student Learning, Jennifer LaGarde 2013)

With these points in mind I reviewed numbers that seem important to me…..should they be included? Why? Is there a better way to show student achievement?

Doug Johnson’s articles Demonstrating Our Impact: Putting Numbers in Context – Part 1 and Part 2 were a great, albeit overwhelming, resource.  My takeaways……

1. Our numbers help show our value….by inference.

Counting things. Year-end reports that include circulation statistics, library usage, and collection size data are a common way for building library programs to demonstrate the degree to which they are being used, and by inference, having an impact on the educational program in the school.

2. But we need to be looking at other ways to show value

There is a movement away from counting things: materials, circulation, online resource uses, website hits, individual student visits, whole class visits and special activities conducted (tech fairs, reading promotions, etc.) to enumerating how many instructional activities were accomplished:  booktalks given, skill lessons taught, teacher in-services provided, pathfinders/bibliographies created and collaborative units conducted. Administrators are less concerned about how many materials are available and more concerned about how they are being used.

3. Student and staff surveys are a great way to get feedback.

I have put it on my calendar for next year to conduct surveys post-orientation. I will also discuss with administration about requiring end of project/year surveys. Doug Johnson’s  Part 2 provides a great list of questions as well as other resources for these surveys.

4. STORIES and anecdotes MUST be part of our annual report.

When “selling” our programs, our visions, and ourselves to those we wish to influence, we need to tell our stories.

Context and Focus Numbers alone, of course, mean little. They need to be interpreted and placed in some type of meaningful context. Context can be achieved by setting and meeting goals and by looking at numbers in a historical context. Look, for example, at how each statement gets more powerful:
•    28 teachers participated in collaborative units (Is this good or bad?)
•    78% of teachers in the building participated in collaborative units (This tells me more.)
•    78% of teachers, up from 62% of teachers last year, participated in collaborative teaching units. (This shows a program that is getting stronger.)

Got it! I am ready to kick it up a notch.

It’s too late this year to pull more numbers but looking back I see many things that I hadn’t considered about including. We did some student surveys and the teachers did surveys that pertained to our time in the library together. They can easily be added along with more pictures.

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Thing 29: OER – Open Educational Resources

Like many things Open Educational Resources is a term I have heard and even used but never been able to succinctly define. In the end from the various articles I explored I wrapped my head around the fact that as a school librarian I have three reasons to use OER.

1. Teaching Resources

The Frequently Asked Questions – OER for K-12 Educators does an excellent job defining  Open Education Resources as it pertains to teaching resources:

  • Anything from full  courses to teaching techniques
  • Available free forever, not just for a short time
  • Free to adapt for your own purposes

I have used resources purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers with great success. However, in many cases you can’t see the details until you make the purchase and even after making the purchase the sources are provided in PDF form and not easily editable.

2. Professional Development

OERs also have a very strong learning aspect. This graphic from the OER video  sums it up nicely.  OERs are great for those of us motivated to learn.


3. Curation of information for our teachers.

Joining the OER (Open Educational Resources) Conversation – provides resources for school librarians and the linked article by Joyce Valenza date Feb 2016 mentions that Follett Destiny will be adding OER to their search features. A quick search of my catalog shows I already have that feature and don’t know how to use it. Add it to my list of things to  do.

I am excited to explore resources available as OER both to help me in my day to day teaching and to further my learning and improve my teaching.

OER Search Tools

I explored two search tools. In the tools I explored was looking for:

  1. Lessons on MLA citations. Since MLA was updated a little over a year ago I figured this would show me the currency of lessons and I could also see how easily adaptable an older lesson would be.
  2. Research Projects for grades 9 – 12.

OER Commons

I easily created an account with OER Commons

I explored groups and found …..

  • Media Literacy Education and Youth Media – a collection of 43 resources for teaching.
  • I was easily able to find a lesson on MLA 8 and a very comprehensive research project.
  • It was very easy to save lessons and you can create your own folders.
  • I was quickly able to create a few folders to revisit in the future.


CK – 12

The materials in this one are STEM related and I was unable to locate anything that I would be using. Based on the student page I would definitely include this as a resource for my STEM teachers.

While I am not sure I love either of these search tools I look forward to working with my catalog to see what else is there and exploring other OER search engines like the ones listed in the Joining the OER (Open Educational Resources) Conversation article.


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Thing 18: Student Assessment & Feedback Tools

I set out to explore Thing 18: Student Assessment & Feedback Tools with the idea of modernizing my lessons but wasn’t sure exactly were I was going with it. I decided to try some tools and see what I found.

Dotstorming is a quick way to collect votes. I can see using it to vote on books for our bookclub. It was very easy to create an account and I quickly created my first Dotstorm from my landscaping Pinterest board. Took me a second to figure out how to edit the board but overall it was simple. While I am not sure how I would use this in the classroom it is a good tool to have in my toolbox.

In my Fall High School Library Orientation we started using student created videos to introduce the library layout and basic policies. Students then complete a short 5 question sheet as part of their library scavenger hunt.  While this certainly beats listening to me   some students find a workaround by copying others answers and skip the videos. Inserting questions into the videos streamlines the process and would ensure more students watch the video. Vizia and EdPuzzle are two tools that would do this.

I quickly setup an account with EdPuzzle, added the link to my video, and added quiz questions. I hit a roadblock when I tried to share out my assignment like I would for my orientation students. For Google Classroom teachers it would be an easy thing to assign the video and questions. Unfortunately, my school uses Office 365 and not Google  classroom. I tried to send a link to a coworker but it was asking her to create an account and not giving logical options. For this reason I decided that EdPuzzle is not feasible for my needs. That said here are my observations of this tool:

  • When viewing the video students are able to see where the questions are going to occur but you may prevent them from fast forwarding through the video.
  • When answering questions students get immediate feedback and are able to review the video section again and re-answer the question.
  • The question format is very flexible. True False.  Choose more than one.  Multiple choice.

Vizia was also easy to setup an account and add a quiz to the video. Here are my notes:

  • Easy to add a quiz.
  • Students are able to access the video via the link simply by providing a name and email address.
  • Results are easily downloaded into an excel spreadsheet that provides the student name, email address, and the provided answers. The teacher would need to grade based on the provided answers.
  • I did not try the “Call to Action” feature that sends students to a link you provide.
  • Students can see where the questions are going to occur and can skip through the video.
  • The students are provided a “8 out of 10” grade at the end of the video. There is no way to reinforce the questions students did not get correct.

Given the two tools I have decided to work harder to figure out how to get our students to use Vizia. There are more question options and immediate feedback for the students fits my need of viewing for understanding rather than a grade.

I will continue with this product in June as I prepare for the fall library orientation with my new videos.

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Thing 14: News Literacy Part 2

In Part 1 of this “thing” I read a collection of articles on news literacy. For Part 2 I will explore some of the various tools to be utilized. In particular I will be looking for tools/lesson ideas to use with my high school students.

Since students are generally aware of, and have a respect for, Ted talks the TedEd Lesson seems like a good place to explore. After watching the TedEd video How to Choose Your News  (the same one I mentioned in my prior post) I signed up for a Ted account in order to explore the options available for answering questions and creating lessons. Things I learned and wish to remember:

  • Lessons are super easy to create and in many cases you can edit an existing lesson. The lessons will then show up on your account activity page.
  • Students will need to create a TED account using their email and country. Once they have an account they can interact with your lesson.
  • You can give your students feedback on their lessons.
  • The lesson that currently exists with this video is terrific. The short answer questions will be a good way to assess student learning and in all lessons can be customized.

I look forward to exploring TED ED for future possible lessons.

The NY Times” article Practical Tools for Teaching News Literacy provides a practical way to integrate News Literacy into the current curriculum. The IMVAIN checklist updates our current RADCAB and CRAP tests for more current learning. It would be terrific to implement this process into the current Article of the Week assignment for students.

In many of the articles throughout the Media Literacy lessons there have been references to Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy. I was excited to read an article about their MOOC “Six-week online course helps consumers decipher fake news from reliable information”. You can access the materials for free or access the paid course for just $49. Regardless of whether or not you take the course you can access lesson plans and information. I highly recommend this site and will return to it soon.

Other sources I want to return to are:

So many sources… little time……

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Thing 14: News Literacy Part 1

With all the buzz about fake news Thing 14: News Literacy is a very timely topic and one that deserves much attention. After reviewing the list of reading and tools I have decided that this item deserves double the time so I will be breaking this into two sections. For part 1 I will read a selection of articles and in Part 2 I will explore some of the various tools. I will summarize and reflect on the articles here.

One of the things that often trips me up is when students ask me to define a term that, while I feel I know what it means  I don’t have a concrete definition ready to go. In reading the intro to this “thing” I determined I had better have definitions ready for:

Time Lapse Warning: Reading the article I am about to mention will NOT freeze time. After following the links and watching the videos you will realize 2 hours have passed. I suggest you read the article yourself as my summary does not do it justice.

In her November 26, 2016 blog post titled Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world Joyce Valenza stresses that in a news landscape with challenges facing even professional journalists “We need to teach the important lessons of everyday civics for new consumption and production landscapes”.  She discusses a survey given to students from Middle school to college and how the students were found to lack the skills needed to navigate our currently world.  The TedEd video will be useful in opening a conversation with students. The variety of links provided were very helpful in forming my thinking before working with students. . The biggest take-away: We need to do more than teach our students that there are GOOD and BAD websites. The playing field has expanded and we need to teach them how to critically analyze news.

The article News Literacy: What Not to Do looks at news literacy as it relates to American journalist. The article makes the excellent point that rather than  teaching news literacy as a lower level journalism class it “needs to be thought about as teaching a different set of skills—more focused on those who consume news and not those who produce it.”  Their final statement forms a foundation of our teaching. 

News literacy programs must focus on building learners’ critical thinking and creative communication skills. When this happens, news consumers will be better able to understand, appreciate and critique the news while using the tools they’ve been given to evaluate its fairness, transparency and accuracy.

While here I also spent time examining Snopes. This is a tool that I believe should be added to any news literacy toolbox. 

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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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