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Track 4, Thing 40: Final Reflections and What’s Next?



Shhh, you!  We are working on our self reflections!

Wow!  Time surely does fly, especially when you’re having fun!  I just completed track four of Cool Tools, and, honestly, I can say that I learned JUST AS MUCH during this track as I have in the past three.  EVERY SINGLE TIME I finish my “things,” I instantaneously get a feeling of “dread” in the pit of my stomach, not because of my fear of the work that’s being evaluated, but because of the feeling of finality that comes alongside.  It’s like the feeling that we all get when we finish the final book of a series, the one where we KNOW we won’t get to be with the characters EVER AGAIN.  It’s a sad feeling, really.

That being said, during THIS track, I learned about things that I never really stopped to give much thought to, even though they were important to the livelihood of being a librarian.  Advocacy, annual reports, evidence based practice, and that’s only naming a few!  EVERY piece of the librarian puzzle matters, whether it’s one that’s dedicated to ordering, and which vendor suits your library best, or the one that gives you the strength to physically CLOSE AND LOCK the library door so that you, too, can get an uninterrupted forty-two minutes for lunch and rejuvenation.

So.  Having said all that, I discovered that there were  a “few” things that I’m going to change for this next go-’round with Cool Tools for Schools.  I mentioned in passing to a fellow librarian in my district about the course, and she DEMANDED that I tell her about it this next time, so that she can enroll in it as well.  Having a fellow librarian going through the course with me, I think, will be a big help.  While I do enjoy working through all of the “things” on my own (thanks to being an only child with a DEFINITE Type A personality, solo work is my group of choice), it’s also nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and to discuss the findings of a particular article or piece of technology, especially when it’s a fellow librarian, NOT a classroom teacher who has TOTALLY different ideas about the placement of something within a classroom that’s NOT a library.  So for next time, I definitely want a pal to join in with me!

WITHOUT A DOUBT, I would definitely “do” this program all over again.  Just like last year at this time, I recognize that my ONE AND ONLY PROBLEM is my vice of procrastination.  I always think to myself, OH, I CAN WRITE UP FOUR BLOG POSTS TOMORROW, NO BIG DEAL, and then get to tomorrow, start reading through a particular “thing,” and discover that not only can I NOT write four blog entries, I’m muddling through an article that is giving me a mini-stroke because of something that comes up while I’m reading or working on it, so DEARLORDINHEAVEN WHY DID I SIGN UP TO DO THIS AGAIN?   Kids, DO YOUR ASSIGNMENTS according to a better timeline than mine.  Consider this a friendly PSA…DON’T BE LIKE ROCKSTARSCHOOLLIBRARIAN!

Polly, thank you for your time and dedication to online learning.  An even bigger THANK YOU for your willingness to help ME when my district was adamantly refusing to grant me the credit for the course.  You are TOP NOTCH, A-NUMBER ONE, and I will ALWAYS be your cheerleader, no matter when, where, or for what!



Track 4, Thing 39: News Literacy


News Literacy…what do our kids need in order to better understand what’s going on in the world today?

Kids today need (no, REQUIRE) the ability to critically analyze and determine whether or not the author of a particular piece (whether audio, video, print, or any other format) is giving the true, authentic story about a particular topic.  Case in point:  after reading the article that Polly posted within the Cool Tools website, “Connecting Kids with News in their Communities,”  I read about a group of elementary school kids who, while living in Philadelphia, were interviewed about occurrences within their communities, known as “flash mobs.”  It was determined that the kids weren’t truly getting the information about the mobs, simply because of the way that reporters were presenting the “facts” to the public.  John Landis, their teacher, involved the kids in making video games about the process of reporting, as well as the mobs themselves, and once the games were complete, Landis wrote a piece to the local media about the games.  The media visited the kids at school, interviewed them about the process, and once the information was (again) released to the public, the kids were ASTONISHED to learn that even THEIR story was skewed according to the reporter’s viewpoint!  The kids were upset to see that their teacher’s viewpoint wasn’t included, their faces were blurred, among other things, but the kids were genuinely upset!

Kids today are being viewed as “digital natives,” which can be a GOOD thing, but it can also be a BAD thing!  Students who are growing up with digital technology already know the shortcuts for different things, and teachers INEVITABLY have “that student” who wants to help with EVERYTHING that ALWAYS happens when an observation is going on, but I digress…

An article that I came across on Edutopia also talks about News Literacy, and it compares it to critically thinking.  You can check it out here.  (I’m honestly not sure if Polly shared it with us or not, but hey, if she did, I’ll TOTALLY say that old adage of, “Polly’s great mind caused me to read it already, and I wanted to share it with you again.” ;o))

One site that I came across from the list of links that Polly gave us, SoundCiteJS, from the Northwestern University’s Knight Lab, is the COOLEST thing I’ve EVER come across.  With SoundCiteJS, you have the ability to insert a sound clip into your writing, whether a fictional story, an informational text piece of writing, what have you!  COOLEST.  THING.  EVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

As a little “nod”to my love of reading books, Julian Smith, writer and creator of the SMASH HIT, “I’m Reading a Book,” I’ve contacted him (his PEOPLE, probably), and once I’m granted permission, I’m going to include the SoundCite link within the blog.  If you haven’t heard Julian’s song, then you will be in a for a BIG treat!

Thanks, Polly, for the interesting topic of News Literacy…this one was very interesting, especially when reading the article about the students and their views!

ETA!!! I just received an email from Julian Smith OR his people, not sure which, but ANYHOO… they said the following…

“Hey Beth! Go for it.
Love your email signature! Thanks for writing.”

My email signature says, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, but a librarian will bring you back the right one.”

So, that being said, here’s the video for your viewing pleasure, and once I get the SoundCite figured out for WordPress (figures that WordPress users “might” experience a wee bit of trouble, according to the SoundCite site)…

Track 4, Thing 38: App-palooza!


Library in Your Pocket!  Those folks behind the folder happen to be my husband and myself, on our wedding day, approximately seventeen years ago!

Apps!  New games!  New things to look at, play with, learn from, and all manners of other stuff await us!

So since this “thing” has us looking at apps, and their place within our libraries, I decided to create a “Library in My Pocket” for my own iPhone.  Kids, whether or not they want to admit it, WILL use the tools that we provide to them, as long as they’ve been taught how to use them, and realize that they are sometimes easier than just “Googling it.”

Below are some QR codes that I made of the apps that you see featured in the “Pocket” above.  The only one that happens to be missing from MY creations is the iHandy Translator app; they don’t have an online presence, but kids who are translating will go straight for the old standby, GoogleTranslate.  That being said, I’m going to try and see if my iPhone will translate without an app.  (You know, like, ask Siri, “Siri, how do you say, ‘How much does this t-shirt cost?’ in Italian?”)  UPDATE:  I just attempted to use Siri in my quest, and it did NOT work to translate.  The result of asking Siri to give me “how to say ‘How much does this t-shirt cost?’ resulted in a website that gave t-shirt sizes, including “Biggish.”)  Didn’t really work the way I figured it would.  The Apple corporation should see what they could do about that, in my opinion.


Google Drive – access your saved images, documents, etc.


AML – Access My Library; Gale Databases


Encyclopedia Britannica









I think that kids (especially the older ones, junior- and senior-high level students) would definitely benefit from a “Library in My Pocket” folder of apps on their own personal smartphone.  That being said, I’m going to revamp my beginning of the year orientation to include showcasing just that for this next upcoming school year.  Students who are prepared with the tools that aren’t just “pretty,” but are helpful as well are bonuses.

Apps are fun and all, but when they’re being utilized for education, ease of use, and the ability to be downloaded across ALL platforms is also a necessity.  At this point in time, my online card catalog (the OPAC) doesn’t have an app for searching, but the folks that maintain our online presence HAVE created QR codes for scanning.  WHICH, by the way, seem kind of silly, simply because they appear ON THE CATALOG.  What is really the point of having QR codes if they’re placed upon the site you’re attempting to go to in the first place?  Moot point, I’m sure, but hey.



IMG_2242 (1)




Track 4, Thing 37: DIY – You Pick!

Honesty is generally the best policy, right?  Well, to be honest with you, I get nervous and my palms get sweaty when I’m “given the reins.”  I’m always fearful that whatever choose to investigate, will be the wrong thing.  Period.  I mean, there’s never any harm in learning new things, whether in school, at home, or in life.  So, at the age of mumblemumble-something, I am going to attempt to drop the fear, and dive into the unknown!


When I looked through Polly’s post (which happened to be number 37 for me), I noticed a listing for the Teacher’s Guide to Technology and Learning, which had a list of “things” that you may or may not be aware of within the world of technology and education.  “Badges,” of which I have never heard, intrigued me.  I mean, if I can get a nice little digital doohicky that tells EVERYONE EVERYWHERE that I did SOMETHING, whether or not you know what it even is, SIGN.  ME.  UP.  I am nothing if not a proverbial and perennial only child, seeking approval.  I hope that’s okay.


So. BADGES.  I KNOW what badges are, at least in a physical, tangible sense.  Girl and boy scouts sell cookies and boxes of popcorn, and earn badges for doing that, along with carving blocks of Ivory soap into polar bears, or building a bridge for a “major” environmental project that helps out a community.  But DIGITAL badges?  New to me!

So, after reading the article that was posted on the Teacher’s Guide, I learned that teachers have the ability to assign work to their students, and once the students have achieved a predetermined amount, they can earn a digital badge, which will be awarded once the work is completed.  At this point in time, the only website that the article discussed was ClassBadges.  The site is a free online tool that allows teachers (and schools, for that matter) to assign specific value to a variety of badges, whether academic, social, what have you.


Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 10.28.41 PM

Teachers who already are utilizing digital tools for learning and assessment would benefit from the use of ClassBadges!


There are a wide variety of badges to be awarded, from Art and Music, Behavior, ELA, History, Language, Math, Science, and Technology.  Teachers can determine what type of achievement each student must have in order to earn the badge, and once earned, students keep the badges, displaying them on the internet.

I “like” the idea of the badges, but honestly, and AGAIN, since I’m in the middle school, and I don’t have a set of students, I have limited access to working continuously with the same kids.  In the elementary library, however, I think ClassBadges would be a great big hit!  I think I’ll be sharing it with my colleagues at our next department meeting!

class badges example

Yeah, I would have NEVER gotten the Mathlete badge.  Shrug.


Another thing that I noticed within the ClassBadges website was the inclusion of a blog, for users of the site to give other users helpful hints, ideas, and general troubleshooting help when needed.  The only drawback that I noticed about the blog is that it hasn’t been updated or written within since 2014.  Hopefully, whenever anyone uses the site, they won’t need any “help,” because if you look to the blog for such, you’re going to be out of luck, sad to say.


Overall, I like the idea of the badges!  I think the kids, just like “back in the day,” who enjoyed stickers, will enjoy today’s digital badges.  No sticky residue, smiles for days, and a teacher who has added yet another tool to her toolbox.  It’s a win-win for sure!



Track 4, Thing 36: Flash Cards, Quiz Games, and More!

Oooooooooh, this “thing” brings me back to being a little Rock Star School Librarian, in which I would play school, and, as an only child, it would get kind of tiresome being both the teacher and the student, but I digress.  I remember creating tests, and flash cards, and ALL KINDS of fun things for my “students!”

I’m sure that today’s youth aren’t playing school much anymore, and, if they do, they certainly aren’t writing out tests and quizzes in longhand. Instead, they’re utilizing all manners of technology to assess the students of the 21st century!  Which brings us to our current topic: flash cards and quiz games in a BRAND NEW! format, DIGITIZED.

Well, I had never heard of, so I decided to start there.  Well.  I hate to say it, but I was underwhelmed.  I mean, I liked the idea of using Google Sheets for creating a “test bank” of questions and answers, but once I published them to the Web, I saw a digital set of lined index cards that had my topics and answers “written” on them.  Kind of meh, especially when I work with teachers in my building who use Quizlet on a regular basis, so I feel like students aren’t going to give the time that it should receive, but I do think that students could use it on their own, especially for review!  I don’t think I would use it with a class, but I would definitely recommend it to students.  A plus is that is free, so for those students who already struggle to bring in the most basic of supplies, the idea that they can create study aids at no cost is a HUGE plus.  If you’d like to check out MY deck of flash cards, click here. isn’t only just flash cards; there are game templates, a mad libs creator, along with other tools that you might not realize that you need at the moment, but later on, when you discover that you can use them for SO MANY things, everyone is going to have their own choir of angels singing overhead!

06aa5d99a8f761452e3d06ffcfc1f6e0…not only flashcards to see here, folks!



Diagram of a flashcard at


My second option that I chose to “check out” was Google Forms.  I have heard other teachers in my building talk about using Google Forms for exit tickets, among other things, but I have never had the opportunity to use it with a group of students, simply because I am not a teacher of record, and I don’t have a “set” group of students that I see regularly.  That being said, I created an “exit ticket” of sorts to use with my students when we booktaste, and let me tell you, I cannot wait!  (To booktaste, simply because the kids, whenever I’ve done it with them, LOVE it)!  If you’d like to take my survey about booktalking, feel free!  Check it out here.  Any feedback you can give me is greatly appreciated!



Book Tasting at WJHS never looked so good!



Track 4, Thing 35: Digital Portfolios for Students

Ooh!  Portfolios!  I remember, way back in the day, when I was still teaching in the general education classroom, as a fourth grade teacher, the FEAR and PALPITATIONS that the words “student portfolios” would put into my heart.  I mean, this was back in the late nineties, just before dozens of computers were appearing in classrooms for students to use, and we would save pieces of our students’ writing for NEXT YEAR’S teachers.  Well, even though I signed up to be a teacher, and I “kind of” told people that I was “good” with organization, that was pretty much a snow job.  I mean, I KNOW where things are, in a general sense, but sometimes, I can’t put my fingers directly onto them.  I DO find them later on, maybe within a time frame that’s longer than a couple minutes, but I AM able to locate them later on.

I digress.  TODAY’S students have the option of creating digital portfolios on scads of different websites, and one that I came across, called Pathbrite, is absolutely STUNNING to look at!  I created a portfolio, and if you’d like to check it out, go here.  (Basically, just to test it out, I grabbed some things from my work-related Google drive, and threw them on, just to “see,” and I have to say, I’m pretty impressed)!


The really nice thing about Pathbrite, at least in my opinion, is the capability of the author/creator to either “share” the portfolio with others, or keep it totally private, which can be a good thing, especially when you are concerned about copyright issues.  There are a variety of ways to use Pathbrite, according to the “About Us” section.  Teachers can utilize the site to add to their lesson plans for their students,  students are challenged to think critically about their writing and reflection upon such, and instructors can then focus on their teaching, while students curate their own work within the site. I’m definitely going to share this one with my colleagues.  It’s extremely easy to use; basically, if you can drag an item, then drop it, you’re ready to use Pathbrite!  Check out the gif above!  Teachers have the ability (as well as any other users that a student chooses to share their portfolio with) to comment on the various items that are included within a particular student’s portfolio.

Since my district has become a “Google” district, I was also interested to know if I would be able to incorporate items from my Google drive into a portfolio, and, BINGO, I was able to!  I actually was able to sign up for an account using my Google information, so that made it easier than having to remember a username, a password, and all that jazz!

As far as what school librarians have to do with students creating portfolios, at least at MY level, I don’t feel that I have THAT much to do with the creation OR the curation of one.  I most definitely could assist a student when they visit the library with an English or Social Studies project, if they wanted to keep an accessible list of their images, or of their weblinks, but honestly, a Google drive can do pretty much the same thing.  I guess the difference in a Google drive and the use of a digital portfolio, just like a “traditional” paper portfolio folder, a student can dedicate ONE project or idea to each individual one, whereas the Google drive is basically a catchall for EVERYTHING that they’re working on.  I like the idea of having students create an online “field trip” for a topic that they’re studying in a class, whether in science, or any other class.  When I was in the general classroom, the idea of having students “jigsaw” (basically, teach a smaller section of a lesson to the rest of the class, then another section is taught by another student, and so on) was really big.  Students working on a broad topic (maybe a specific time period) would really benefit from using Pathbrite for a springboard for a lesson, or for a project.

I’m going to continue to use Pathbrite with my own work, then I’m going to come back and edit this post, provided that I find further information (both positive and negative, of course)! that will be helpful to others.  Great lesson, Polly!




Track 4, Thing 34: Annual Reports – Make Them Matter

I have to confess, dear reader.  <I LOVEEEEEEEEEEEE writing annual reports!>.  So much so comma that I, one might say, drag on a wee bit.  I mean, just because I love being in my library, and love all of the goings on, and love each and every single book that lies upon each of my shelves, and…well, I guess you could say that in everything I do, when I feel great love and affection for it, I might definitely can run on for a time.

You can imagine my dismay when reading that there are administrators (okay, okay, “people”) out there in the world who don’t enjoy reading statistics reports about a year in the life of a middle school library media center!  Really?  Seriously?  That simply cannot be true!  (At this point in time, I am cringing while thinking about my first year as a library media specialist, in which I may or may NOT have created a fifteen slide PowerPoint presentation {complete with graphics and sound clips, mind you…just imagine the jazz hands of a million chorus dancers, and you’ll get the picture here}, and the wide-eyed looks of my coordinator, principal, and other administrative folks when they got the email from yours truly).  I guess you CAN have too much of a good thing.

So for Polly, whose word in MY mind is, simply put, GOSPEL, tells me that a fifty-page report of statistics is not really the best way to get my word out, then you better well know that I’m going to give her more than a second of my time to listen.

Let’s insert a breath of fresh air for those who DO have  choose to read my reports!  I’m DEFINITELY going to try a couple of the following…

  • Lucidpress.  This site is BEEYOOOTEEFULL.  I mean, it is kind of costly, but there ARE free options.  For a free user, you can create up to a three page presentation, and it allows you to have up to 25 MB of storage.  The drawbacks, however, include no ability to print, and you can’t embed further documents within your presentation.  If a user needs further pages, or maybe more storage, then you can upgrade to a Basic account.  For $5.95 a month (paid annually, or go month-to-month for $9.95) you can then create presentations of any number of pages, and you then have the ability to print, and can access a full library of templates.  If you want to see a really nice use of Lucidpress, check out the link that Polly sent us, courtesy of LibraryGirl, and an activity that she used during a session of PD.  Just click here.  I can’t promise that you won’t fall in love on first click.
  • Edcanvas.  Well, I WOULD have included a link to the site for you to peruse, but FUHGEDDABOUTIT.  This site, after attempting to click on it, and receiving the “Blocked” response from the filter, I got a message from my Helpdesk, letting me know that it redirected THEM to a site called TES.  Well, after a little investimagation, I learn that the former Edcanvas is NOW a digital clearinghouse for lessons created by teachers from all around the world.  While this MAY be helpful to classroom teachers, as some of the lessons are free, this librarian has NO need for it, since I’m looking to freshen up my annual reports, not instruct eighth graders on finding percentages.  If you’ve ever gone to Teachers Pay Teachers, then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Skip this one.
  • Canva.  If you haven’t ever heard of Canva, or haven’t seen anything created with Canva, GO. THERE. NOW.  At first, I thought Lucidpress was the bomb dot com, but after seeing and futzing around with Canva, I’m sold.  Flatline on all other presentation tools, they’re all dead to me.  With Canva, you have the ability to create a wide variety of free projects, from posters to magazines, to social media posts, the list can just go on and on!  While I only have a free account, there is an upgraded version available, but to be honest with you, even the freebie templates within the basic account are outstanding!  I’ve included a preview to what I’m working up for an annual report for my building, so if you like what you see, check it out!  (To be honest with you, I feel like Canva has won the contest, and all the other contenders should just bow out before it becomes awkward for everyone involved.  No hard feelings, though).  I will warn you, though, if you work for a supervisor who is touchy about so many graphics!, you might have to hold back on your usage.  Not that I have personal knowledge of such, mind you.

Cover page! Ever heard of anyone turning down a cupcake? Didn’t think so.


Almost six thousand students visiting the library? Craziness over there at Wapp Jr!


Those 7th and 8th graders sure do like to read!


Collaboration isn’t hard when you have an amazing library media specialist!


You will notice the watermarked image above; I intentionally left it in my annual report’s draft, so that I would remember to make YOU, dear reader, aware of the fact that while you can use ANY image that Canva has within its gallery, some of them do cost.  While most items are only a dollar, if I wanted to have the watermark removed, I would simply need to pay my final total at the end, and when I download my project, the watermark would be gone.  While I don’t mind seeing it, there are those who would rather it not be visible.


So?  Thoughts about annual reports haven’t changed in MY mind.  I still love stats, still love talking about them within written reports, and, if I may be so bold, I LOVE the ability to choose from a crazy amount of fonts and styles when I’m waxing poetic on the number of books that I weeded from my library’s collection.


I know that some librarians share reports with their administrators on a regular, monthly, or quarterly basis, but since I feel that, for my purposes, it will suffice for me to create a yearly report.  I think my coordinator and principal will appreciate it, simply because it’s one less thing they have to contend with, sad to say.


Polly, as always, THANK YOU for sharing new avenues with us!  This topic was a GREAT BIG BALL of fun!