Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2020...A New Decade to Connect, Share, Learn, Grow Together!

Like many as we leave one year and move onto the next, the promise of new things to come is just around the corner. This year we don't just usher in a new year but a new decade making the reflection process common for this time of year especially poignant. 

In the last decade, I welcomed to the world three amazing grandchildren and four fur babies (I miss you Oliver kitty), met the love of my life and got married, made some of my best friends on social media and collaborated on some incredible projects, wrote a book, retired, turned fifty, relocated to a new state, served a year as the ISTE Librarians Network President, started a new career, became a Ph.D. student, and bought a house.

Being a school librarian is the very essence of who I have been but it is and has always been the technology part of being a school librarian that has sustained my interest and propelled me forward. This is why I fully support organizations like the Future Ready Librarians and the ISTE Librarians Network who understand the vital role school librarians wield when they work as and in unison with educational technology leaders. 

In 2019 my lifelong love of technology came to a crescendo with my new career as a leader in digital learning and the pursuit of a doctorate degree with an emphasis on educational technology. 

As 2020 dawns I dedicate this next decade to the integration of technology, learning, and school librarianship. 

Cheers to a new decade of opportunities to connect, share, learn and grow together!

Friday, November 8, 2019

When Lessons About Digital Citizenship, Online Safety, & Cyberbullying Fall Short

Recently I came across the following articles that made me stop and reflect on how we as school librarians and educators teach and address issues with digital citizenship, online safety, and cyberbullying with our students, yet fall short of the most insidious influences to which our children are increasingly falling prey.

Dvorak, Petula. “Perspective | White Supremacists Are Recruiting White Teens Online. Parents Must Stop Them.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 15 Aug. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/local/white-supremacists-are-recruiting-white-teens-online-parents-must-stop-them/2019/08/15/5169c192-bf69-11e9-b873-63ace636af08_story.html.

Gibson, Caitlin. “'Do You Have White Teenage Sons? Listen up.' How White Supremacists Are Recruiting Boys Online.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 17 Sept. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/do-you-have-white-teenage-sons-listen-up-how-white-supremacists-are-recruiting-boys-online/2019/09/17/f081e806-d3d5-11e9-9343-40db57cf6abd_story.html.
Written by Anonymous | Published on May 5, 2. (2019, May 14). What Happened After My 13-Year-Old Son Joined the Alt-Right. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonian.com/2019/05/05/what-happened-after-my-13-year-old-son-joined-the-alt-right/

These three articles recount the ways in which extremist groups are targeting vulnerable kids, playing on their frustrations and feelings of isolation to gradually grooming them by providing online acceptance, building friendships based on common topics of anger, and desensitizing through gradually more and more exposure to extremist memes and other tactics. When the kid being groomed by these extremist groups, specifically white supremacists, is already dealing with emotional instability the end result can sadly continue to add to the staggering statistics of “white men (and boys) committing more mass shooting than any other group” (Kruzel, 2017).

One platform popular with extremist groups are sites like Reddit, specifically the use of memes, and multiplayer online games. The use of images to desensitize people to racist views is not new. Disney, Warner Brothers, and Dr. Seuss are among some of the most well-known creators of cringe-worthy examples of conditioning deep discrimination and hatred towards particular groups of people through images and film.

I don’t have the answers to how we start addressing these issues in our schools and libraries, but I do know that we need to start having some serious conversations. Our children's lives are literally at stake.


Anonymous | Published on May 5, 2. (2019, May 14). What Happened After My 13-Year-Old Son    

Disney's Big Bad Wolf was dressed as a Jewish peddler stereotype (video). (n.d.). Retrieved from

Dvorak, Petula. “Perspective | White Supremacists Are Recruiting White Teens Online. Parents Must      Stop Them.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 15 Aug. 2019,

Gibson, Caitlin. “'Do You Have White Teenage Sons? Listen up.' How White Supremacists Are    
     Recruiting Boys Online.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 17 Sept. 2019,

Kamenetz, A. (2018, November 05). Right-Wing Hate Groups Are Recruiting Video Gamers.
     Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2018/11/05/660642531/right-wing-hate-groups-are-recruiting-

Kruzel, J. (2017, October 06). Do white males account for a majority of mass shootings? Newsweek
     Weekly. Retrieved from 

McCann, E. (n.d.). Horribly Racist Moments From Looney Tunes You Missed Growing Up.    

Seuss, Dr. (1941). Adolf the Wolf. PM Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.snopes.com/fact-
Strom, A. (2019, September 25). Understanding Dr. Seuss' Depictions of the 'Other' in his Political
     Cartoons - Re-imagining Migration. Retrieved from https://reimaginingmigration.org/dr-seuss-

Zara, C. (2019, April 20). Columbine 20 years later: This map shows every school shooting since.
     Retrieved from 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Follett Webinar Recap: Fighting Back: Making the Case for a Certified Librarian

*Cross-post with Follett

Recently I had the pleasure of partnering with Follett and John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary, to present a timely and relevant webinar, Fighting Back: Making the Case for a Certified Librarian. In the weeks leading up to the webinar, Follett sent out a survey to registered participants to elicit questions they would like addressed in the overarching theme of library advocacy. Based on response data three main areas of focus were, Making the Case, Writing the Plan, and Annual Report, followed by some ProTips and Q&A.

Making the Case

An overwhelming hurdle for school librarians is being able to effectively disseminate the critically vital impact a full time certified library media specialist has on student outcomes. The American Association of School Librarians created a research-based, fact-filled, yet easily digestible infographic titled, Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students, that can be shared with your principals and superintendent as well as providing talking points when the worth of your position is called into question. For a deeper dive into the research, you can turn to the Phi Delta Kappan journal article, Why school libraries matter: What years of research tell us.

Data, however, doesn’t hold much water if there is no tangible action from the librarians within schools and districts backing it up. Often times we, certified librarians, shoot ourselves (and subsequently others) in the foot as one registered participant stated in the pre-webinar survey, “Past certified librarians became lackadaisical near retirement giving a bad name to the rest of us. Their replacements are all paraprofessionals. How do you suggest approaching key decisionmakers about this dilemma?”

Writing the Plan

Advocating for your school library goes beyond just vocalizing your concerns, needs, wants, and “should be”. A thoughtful and thorough plan needs to be written up that includes a specific cause or goal supported with data that clearly connects the dots back to student outcomes. The “who” needs to be clearly defined as well so that your message will resonate with the critical needs of the stakeholder your advocacy is addressing. If designing this message for the administration, focus on how your cause or goal supports the school mission, vision, and values, how it ties to student outcomes and addresses those issues that keep your administrators up at night. Additionally, have a viable action plan for implementation.

Annual Reports

Annual reports are a bit different from your written plan but can and should draw from it. An annual report tells the story of the library, specifically how the work you do makes a difference and is connected to positive student outcomes with data to back it up. Jennifer LaGarde’s post, It’s Annual Report Season! Here Are Some Tips To Help You Effectively Tell Your Story, provides a detailed framework on how best to approach the creation and delivery of an Annual Report. Key components of Jennifer’s post include identifying your target audience, including student data as opposed to circulation data, tell a story, share both qualitative and quantitative data to diversify the information shared, start early gathering information throughout the school year, ensure that the Annual Plan is easily digestible and respects the time of your target audience, let the Annual Report be a mirror on the work you do, and learn from others. Jennifer has also included an open-source Google Doc where you can view a wide variety of Annual Reports created by school librarians across the country.

Don’t wait until the end of the year and Annual Report time to share the story of your library. It is also helpful to harness the power of social media to share the story of how the school library is impacting student learning and teacher effectiveness each day throughout the year. Social media is also convenient storage of the stories you will later share in your Annual Report. In my book, Connected Librarians: Tap Social Media to Enhance Professional Development and Student Learning, my own personal journey and concrete examples of how social media can tell your story, build connections, provide rich professional development, and connect your school with the world for global collaboration and real-world connections. It also helps make the case for social media if your administration is hesitant.


Dr. Laura Sheneman, founder of the Librarian Influencers website and the Librarians Influencers Podcast, provides a free How-to Guide Elevator Talk Worksheet to accompany the blog post, Create an Elevator Speech You Can Recycle Many Ways. A ready to use elevator speech helps let others who inquire what you do as a librarian and why what you do matters. Laura guides you through examining the Common Beliefs of the AASL Standards, your school and district vision and mission statements, digging deep into core values, and development of a memorable tagline. Laura even provides example elevator talks for situations such as a school open house, a school board meeting, or being interviewed by a local radio or television station. I often find myself in need of an elevator pitch when meeting new people just in general social situations in my private life who often espouse they are surprised there is a need for librarians now that schools have computers.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to advocate for school libraries is to conduct your library services in such a way that administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community members can’t possibly imagine the school functioning effectively without you.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

2019 ISTE Reflection: Amplifying Learning

The deluge of stimuli at ISTE is overwhelming even for a veteran like myself. There isn’t a minute of the day (or night) when there isn’t something in which to immerse yourself. For me, ISTE is the ultimate professional development conference to catch up on the latest in EdTech, collaborate with old and new friends, and to spend time with my people.

ISTE is a conference from which you will emerge seeped in a wealth of knowledge even if you never make it to even one of the 1811 sessions. My favorite learning opportunity every year is the Librarians Network Playground. The Playground provides learners with 44 different walk up sessions in the span of just 3.5 hours. The thing I love most about the Playground is the ability to access information in an informal way that lends itself to a more personalized experience.

One session that blew my mind was, Cellverse: Virtual Reality for Cellular Biology. MIT Step Labs introduced their new virtual reality learning projects through CLEVR: Collaborative Learning Environments in Virtual Reality. CLEVR allows students to examine a cell from the inside with a 360 degree view. Along their journey in the cell assignments and guides pop up on clipboards. Taking this learning experience one step further, CLEVR also pairs these journey in the cell with lessons based around specific diseases like cystic fibrosis so that students can see the variations in cells from one disease to the other. This experience brings a much deeper and longer lasting understanding of cells than a labeled cell cake!

If you have never attended a session presented by the Justice League of EdTech Superheroes, Adam Bellow, Colleen Graves, Sherry Gick, Steve Dembo, Nicholas Provenzano, Michael Medvinsky, and friends set up a Google alert now on where to find their next presentation. Last year they presented their favorite new edtech through a Let’s Make a Deal style presentation. This year attendees were treated to a Battle of the EdTech Stars. Audience member participation determined whether the edtech presented by the Red Team or the Blue Team won each battle round. Attendees were also treated to free subscriptions or the actual product for playing the game.

The ISTE Librarians Network Breakfast Keynote was perhaps the highlight of my learning experience at ISTE this year, as it always is. The ISTE Librarians Network has a strong history of securing dynamic Keynote speakers and this year was particularly amazing. As an ardent advocate for student voice I knew that, as ISTE Librarians Network President, I had to get Olivia Van Ledtje (@TheLivBits) and her mother Cynthia Merrill to be the 2019 Keynote speakers. Liv and her mother shared their personal experiences and journey through harnessing the power of social media for empowering students to claim and share their stories. To learn more about their message and how you can start empowering student voice in your school be sure to check out Liv and Cynthia’s new book, Spark Change: Making Your Mark in a Digital World.

These are just four sessions I was able to participate in while at ISTE this year. I have spent a good portion of the two days since returning from ISTE going through the program and collecting resources from sessions I attended as well as those I was interested in attending but simply couldn’t fit in my schedule. So far I have curated 32 resources that I want to go back and examine closer.

The best thing about ISTE is that the learning continues all year long through the webinars and interactive communities provided by each of the ISTE Networks. I’d encourage you to check out the ISTE Librarians Network website for news, updates, and upcoming webinars as well as checking out past webinars. Be sure to also connect with the ISTE Librarians Network on Facebook and Twitter.

Works Cited

3:16, Everything Fondant! “Making an Animal Cell Model Using Cake & Fondant! Great for
     School Science Projects!” YouTube, YouTube, 4 Feb. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?

“CLEVR: Collaborative Learning Environments in Virtual Reality.” MIT Scheller Teacher Education 
     Program, 26 June 2019, education.mit.edu/project/clevr/.

“EdTech Conference | Philadelphia, June 23-26.” ISTE19, 

“EdTech Conference | Philadelphia, June 23-26.” ISTE19, 

“ISTE 2019 Digital Toolbox Links.” Google Sheets, Google, 

“ISTE Librarians Network.” ISTE Librarians Network, librariansnetwork.weebly.com/.

“ISTE Librarians Network.” ISTE Librarians Network Public Group, 

“Librarians Network.” Librarians Network - ISTE Connect, 

“The LivBits.” The LivBits, www.thelivbits.com/.

PLN, ISTE Librarians. “ISTE Librarians PLN (@Istelib).” Twitter, Twitter, 13 June 2019, 

“Program Search.” ISTE19, conference.iste.org/2019/program/search/.

“Session Times 2019 Librarians Network Playground.” Google Slides, Google, 

“Spark Change: Making Your Mark in a Digital World.” Amazon, Amazon, 22 July 2019,