Saturday, March 23, 2019

Creating Paper Signals In Your Makerspace

Ready to go next level in your library makerspace?  Branch out with Paper Signals, a Voice Experiment a part of the Experiments with Google site.  If you are already tinkering with Makey Makey, littleBits, Arduino and/or Raspberry Pi you should feel quite comfortable creating with Paper Signals.

Paper Signals does require driver, the Arduino software, and Paper Signals code downloads so be sure to check with your IT Department before jumping head first into this project. You will also need a phone with the Google Assistant (available on both Android and iOS devices) to start controlling your Paper Signal with your voice.

The creators of Paper Signals make it easy to get started by providing a link to the electronic components needed as well as easy to print paper templates.  For those kids who are really into coding, Paper Signals provides access to its open source coding so that students can tweak the paper templates to create their own custom signal.

I can definitely see doing this in a middle/high school library makerspace.

Get Musical In Your Library MakerSpace With Chrome Music Lab

Chrome Music Lab is part of the Experiments with Google collection.  The Chrome Music Lab is a fun way for your students to engage with music through thirteen different musical variations:

  • Song Maker
  • Rhythm
  • Spectrogram
  • Chords
  • Sound Waves
  • Arpeggios (notes of a chord played in succession, either ascending or descending)
  • Kandinsky
  • Melody Maker
  • Voice Spinner
  • Harmonics
  • Piano Roll
  • Oscillators (electric currents or voltages by non mechanical means)
  • Strings

Chrome Music Lab requires no sign in process and works across devices through the Chrome Web Browser.  This is a must for your Makerspace area to round out the S.T.E.A.M. supports found there.

From the Chrome Music Lab site:

What can it (Chrome Music Lab) be used for?
Many teachers have been using Chrome Music Lab as a tool in their classrooms to explore music and its connections to science, math, art, and more. They’ve been combining it with dance and live instruments. Here’s a collection of some uses we’ve found on Twitter.

My students just started exploring Chrome Music Lab at the Google Center and they are absolutely loving it!  After exploring all thirteen different musical variations they make a FlipGrid video where they tell which of the thirteen was their favorite and why.  The fun thing is that the kids keep experimenting outside of the library.

Don't stop with just exploring the Chrome Music Lab.  Be sure to check out other music related Chrome Experiments here:

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Coding is a Basic Literacy Library Centers Deep Dive Part 3/15

Recently, CBS aired a 60 Minutes episode highlighting the gender gap in the tech industry. Hadi Partovi, founder of, along with top computer science based industry leaders and a majority of developed nations, recognizes coding as a basic literacy that schools should start teaching at the same time that we teach students how to read and write.

Each year schools across the world observe Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify "code", to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science.

Teaching coding just one hour per year is tantamount to teaching reading, writing, and mathematics just one hour per year, and simply will not meet the needs of the fastest growing job industry in the United States.

Starting with Kindergarten, the Winkley Library incorporates coding and other computer science skills into library classes. Students rotate through a series of center activities each time they visit the Winkley Library. One center that has been a constant in the Winkley Library is the Coding Center. Coding is introduced to students in grades K-5 through both unplugged and device based activities.

A few of the recent coding/computer science activities students in the Winkley Library have explored include:
Additionally, thanks to a recent generous parent donation, the Winkley Library has been able to add one LEGO WeDo 2.0 kit that combines learning how to code with robotics.

The Winkley Library is committed to supporting literacy, in all its forms, through library classes and collaborations with classroom teachers.

Part 1/15:

Part 2/15:

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Demystifying the Circulation Desk

Demystifying the Circulation Desk 

Library Helper Center 

(Library Centers Deep Dive - Part 2/15 )

Library Helper Center is the easiest center to put together. Most of the supplies you need are right there at the circulation desk. The kids are excited to be the librarian for the day. Plus, you get some much needed assistance.

As with all Library Learning Centers there needs to be clear learning objectives. The main learning objectives students learn at the Library Helper Center include:

  • Dewey Decimal System
  • Genrification
  • Shelf Appearance
  • Book Check Out Procedure
  • Creating Holds
  • Student Privacy Guidelines
  • Customer Service
  • Book Processing
  • Library Displays
  • Other Duties as Needed

The basic Library Helper Center tasks that all students in grades K-5 are expected to do include:

  • Take all returned books out of the book drop and move them onto the book cart
  • Get one center at a time to check out their books
  • Assist students with checking out their books
  • Good customer service
  • Student Privacy Guidelines

These five tasks are the bare basics that I start with for Kindergarteners in the Library Helper Center. If there is time remaining after all students have checked out their books Kindergarten will sort books on the book cart. This gives me a chance to talk to them about the Dewey Decimal System and genrification and why books go in certain places in the library. I find that teaching just 3-5 students at a time makes this task not only more manageable but more meaningful as well.

First and second grades continue building on previously learned skills adding in shelving Everybody books and filling shelf gaps.

3rd grade builds from there adding in shelving books in our “special” genre section.

4th grade branches out to shelving fiction books and 5th grade adds on the shelving of non fiction.

All grade levels assist with other tasks including book processing, helping to create library displays, and other tasks a librarian may need to do. Recently our sweet library helpers collated and stapled informational flyers to be sent home with students about our upcoming Book Fair. They also helped make tissue paper flowers for our February LOVE display.

Dewey Decimal System, Genrification, Shelving, and Shelf Appearance

I am a big proponent of John Dewey’s principle of learning by doing. Teaching students the why and how of shelving books goes hand in hand with learning the Dewey Decimal System, Genrified sections, and the appearance of shelves.

One thing I have always disliked in the library is the use of paint sticks (or any other item) as student shelf markers. To me, they make finding a book cumbersome, a chore, and down right stressful. Instead of using shelf markers I have “I Changed My Mind” bins at the ends of each shelving unit. If a student removes a book from the shelf and then decides it is not the book for them they simply place it in the bin. Easy peasy. Other students often find the books they are looking for in the bins so it is a win-win for everyone.

So, what does the abolishment of paint sticks have to do with learning the Dewey Decimal System, Genrified sections, and the appearance of shelves?


As students learn in the Library Helper Center why books are shelved in certain locations the rest falls into place. Recently, I observed a 1st grade Library Helper assist another student with finding the Elephant & Piggie books. He knew, from actually shelving the books, where they were located and why.

Shelf appearance also comes into play when teaching kids how to shelve books using Dewey Order or Genres. All of us who have been librarians for any length of time have had that kid who pushes all of the books to the very back of the shelf and proudly exclaims, “Look! I fixed the books for you!” Explaining while doing will help nip this little library quirk.

When teaching kids how to shelve books in the Library Helper Center, especially fiction and nonfiction books, we have a chance to actually talk about how the shelves look and how that can make shelving books easy or hard.

“When you shelved that book what made it easy?”

“When you shelved that book what made it hard?”

The most common answer to both of these is the ability to see the spine labels. If books are pushed all the way to the back it is difficult to see the spine labels and a tedious process to put the books in their place. It also makes it difficult for someone wanting those books to see them. Likewise, when the books are blocked it is easier to find and shelve.

Filling in the Gaps

Filling in the gaps with books from that section not only makes your library look full of wonderful books to read but is an awesome advertising tool. Actually being able to see the covers of books in the various sections of the library makes locating the books you want that much easier for students.

Book Check Out Procedure

The overarching theme of the Library Helper Center is good customer service and setting an example of good behavior for the rest of the class.

Library Helpers are the first center to check out books. Once Library Helpers have checked out their own books, they prompt students at each center, one center at a time, to check out their books. This keeps the number of students checking out books to just 3-5 students at a time. This is the perfect time to teach Library Helpers how to assist students with using the search computer, locating books, and with placing books on hold if needed.

Kindergarten students have a library card that they scan when checking out their books.

Kindergarten Library Helpers follow a little script:

  • Please scan your card
  • Please scan your book
  • Please scan the reset card
  • Please go back to your center

By directing other students through the book check out process, Library Helpers are also solidifying their own understanding of the process as well.

First, Second, and Third grade Library Helpers assist students in learning their library number for checking out books. There is a printed list of each class, the students in that class, and each student’s library number at the circulation desk for students to use if they haven’t memorized their number yet. Since Library Helpers have access to student information, this is when and where we address student privacy and the responsibility that goes along with being a Library Helper.

There is little need for Fourth and Fifth grade Library Helpers to be tied to the circulation desk as most students are self sufficient by these grade levels. This frees these students up for shelving books, processing books, creating library displays, and working on other library related tasks.

If you are thinking of trying out centers in your library I definitely recommend starting with the Library Helper Center!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

THE BEGINNING Library Centers Deep Dive: A 15 Part Series

Ladonia Elementary School

This 15 part series is a deep dive into the why and how of establishing Library Learning Centers.


During my first year as an elementary school librarian in the mid-90’s I was a worksheet queen. Worksheets teaching how to shelve books by drawing a line from a book to the shelf where it belonged. Worksheets teaching Dewey order through cutting and pasting books in the correct Dewey order. Worksheets about book care for students to color. Worksheets where students labeled the parts of a book. Worksheet after worksheet after worksheet.

I also noticed that the students were less than enthralled with the barrage of worksheets they were confronted with during their library time each week. The students were fidgety and it was a struggle to get them to sit still, be quiet, and learn a formal lesson with or without worksheets. Students would draw pictures on their worksheets, fold them into paper airplanes, make origami fortune tellers and inevitably, throw the worksheets in the trash as they left the library. The lessons rarely resulted in the students ability to actually internalize and demonstrate through action the lesson taught.

During this same time I was struggling just to find time to shelve books as over 800 students a week visited the library at 30 minutes intervals. One afternoon after a particularly “tooth pulling” day, surrounded by carts filled with returned books and putting together worksheets for the next days lesson about the Dewey Decimal System and Ordering Books on the Shelf, one of those face-palm moments hit me. Why was I having students draw lines, circle, cut and paste where books belonged on shelves on a worksheet when I had a whole library full of books that needed to be shelved?! Wouldn’t learning by doing not only be a much more effective way of teaching these skills, but would also assist with the seemingly never ending task of shelving books.

I had the wherewithal to know that setting loose all 20+ students in each class to check in and shelve their own books would be a catastrophic disaster. I had to find a way to teach, model and supervise students in small groups as they gained hands on learning with the who, what, where, when, why and how of basic library skills like shelving books. I also wanted students to learn other skills that supported the overall elementary curriculum and gave them some hands on learning and fun. From there the idea quickly cascaded into the development of library learning centers.

WARNING: Development of quality, curriculum based centers requires a great deal of upfront planning and development.  The upside is that after all of that planning students will be the leaders of their own learning within the centers with the librarian serving as a facilitator.

In the blog posts to follow I will share each Library Learning Center in detail. This will be followed by posts that explain ways to set up Library Learning Centers as well as what Free Center days look like, why you might need them, and tips and tricks on how to run them. This series will conclude with a look at whole group lessons, mini-lessons, and storytime within a center based library.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Cross Post with The Edvocate

A librarian shares her journey from approaching burnout to becoming her school’s technology innovator.
By Nikki D. Robertson
During the 2009–2010 school year, I became convinced I was missing out on something. So many of the educators around me were excited about their role, innovating at every turn and sharing those experiences with the world. I couldn’t help but wonder how they were able to do what they were doing with so much passion. Reflecting on this period of my career, it’s safe to say I was burnt out, but I also realized that feeling would only be permanent if I allowed it to be.
I wanted to learn and to expand my horizons, so I looked for my own PD experiences and discovered Shelly Sanchez Terrell’s 30 Goals Challenge. One of her challenges was to get involved in a Twitter chat, so I attended #EdChat, the first educational Twitter chat.
I was blown away by all the connections I made with superstar educators, and by seeing the amazing things they were doing with technology in their classrooms. One part of the process of becoming a connected educator is the overwhelming tide of emotions you feel. When you first start connecting with these incredibly accomplished educators, it can be intimidating. One night after #EdChat, I found myself thinking “I can’t do this. I’m not capable of being these people.”
After the chat, I emailed these new friends of mine who I had connected with online and said, “It’s been really fun learning from you, but I’m not capable of doing these things.” I sent that off at about 10:00 PM, then got up at 5:00 in the morning and checked my email, wondering if anyone would have replied.
Every single one of those superstar educators, people I admired so much, had emailed me back. And they all said basically the same thing: “You can do this. We’ve got your back. All you have to do is try every day to be a little bit better than yesterday.”
Since that day, I’ve never looked back, and nothing I’ve done has been through my own power alone—it’s been through the power of my tribe, my professional learning network (PLN). For example, our district has really embraced augmented reality and virtual reality, and through my network I’ve been the one to introduce new technology to my school: the WITHIN app for my older kids, along with Discovery VR and 3DBear, which mashes up AR and 3D printing. I’m no longer intimidated by trying new things in my library, and I’m willing to step off that cliff because I know that my PLN is there to help me fly.
Why Every Librarian Needs a PLNBeing a connected educator is important for all of us, but especially for school librarians. We’re usually the only person in our schools with our specific role, which makes finding collaborative networks within your own building challenging, to say the least. In several districts I’ve worked for, I was at the only high school; which meant I was the only high school librarian.
For years, I had no one to brainstorm ideas with. Getting connected via social media introduced me to a world of other school librarians asking the same questions I was wondering about myself. Branching out of your own school, district, or even country will bring the best ideas from around the globe straight into your classroom.
How Librarians Are Reclaiming PD LeadershipPart of being a connected educator is being a PD leader in your own school. Librarians have always been the gatekeepers of technology in schools. Way back when the overhead projector came in, who was the one leading the PD and making sure teachers knew how to change its light bulb? When devices went from rolling around school on a cart to digital platforms and clouds, schools felt they needed a technology person—and some of them forgot that librarians have been their tech advocate all along. Our interest and knowledge regarding technology didn’t necessarily change, but our leadership role in PD did. With all the emerging technology these days, librarians have to step out of the stacks and become PD leaders.
We can do this in large-group presentations, one-on-one meetings, co-teaching, or providing “just in time” PD by recording Tech Tips sessions. With my current schedule, the most effective way for me to model new technology use is to “ride shotgun.” I’ll see new technology come across my social media feed, and my wheels will start turning. I’ll run in the next day to tell my kids about this cool new tech. They’ll ask me what it does, and I’ll say, “We’re gonna figure it out together, and you tell me how it works!” We explore together, and they can’t wait to share their discoveries with their classroom teachers.
Once I get more familiar with the technology, I find an organized way to incorporate it into curricula and then share it with educators on social media. This gets other educators with their own tool belt of ideas to engage on my feed, so the cycle of collaboration continues.
As educators, we’re all in this together. Getting connected via social media launched me to where I am now. I went from being a burned-out educator to being completely ignited—and more on fire than I was when I first started teaching.
Nikki D. Robertson is an educator, librarian, instructional technology facilitator, and ISTE Librarians Network President. 
Follow her on Twitter: @NikkiDRobertson.