30 Nov

Turn Life into a Video Game with HabitRPG

Turn Life into a Video Game with HabitRPG:


So I just found this and I think it’s a great tool for students that struggle with routine but like ProSkins video games. You can create your own “daily quests,” “habits,” and “to-dos.” There’s a rewards section where you can then use the returns from these “quests” to buy presents for yourself.

I think this is great for both specific classes and mainstream students as well as special education.

This looks interesting. I’ll have to check it out.

30 Nov

FANTASTIC! Bugscope: Free access to a scanning electron…

FANTASTIC! Bugscope: Free access to a scanning electron microscope to use with insects from your own backyard. 

Scientists included!

#edtech #scichat  

What is Bugscope?

“The Bugscope project provides free interactive access to a scanning electron microscope (SEM) so that students anywhere in the world can explore the microscopic world of insects. 

Bugscope allows teachers everywhere to provide students with the opportunity to become microscopists themselves—the kids propose experiments, explore insect specimens at high-magnification, and discuss what they see with our scientists—all from a regular web browser over a standard broadband internet connection.”

How does it work?

“You sign up, ask your students to find some bugs, and mail them to us. We accept your application, schedule your session, and prepare the bugs for insertion into the electron microscope. When your session time arrives, we put the bug(s) into the microscope and set it up for your classroom. Then you and your students login over the web and control the microscope. We’ll be there via chat to guide you and answer the kids’ questions.”

With the recent warm weather in my neck of the woods (Chicago) their are bugs everywhere. Perfect time for Bugscope!

***I love that you can also pop in as a guest at a live session. Awesome!

Note: This a reblog but with spring just around the corner I thought it was a great time to share Bugscope again.

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27 Nov

Spreaker: Create a free live podcast. #edtech…

Spreaker: Create a free live podcast.

#edtech #podcasting

Several options for accounts but the free account will probably be enough to suit the needs of many teachers/classrooms.

In the past I used Aviary to podcast with students but since the tools are no longer available Spreaker looks like a nice replacement. Actually it looks easier.

Kids love to record and listen to themselves. Podcasting is a great way and with Spreaker it can also be shared with family and friends.

What can your students podcast? Anything! Check out Listening to Themselves: Podcasting Takes Lessons Beyond the Classroom from Edutopia to get some fantastic ideas.

25 Nov

Lame to fame: 4 tips for optimizing presentations for Twitter

See on Scoop.itEducation Matters – (tech and non-tech)

Presentations and slideshows have been historically one of the most boring and standard corporate media currently available to employees and management.

KB…Konnected’s insight:

Some unique ideas. Many of which can be used in classrooms using Twiter. Perfect ideas to jazz up a professional development presentation too.

See on blog.scoop.it

19 Nov

The Library’s Final Four

We decided to do a “March Madness” book tournament at my school, basing our “Sweet Sixteen” on the top circulating books for the calendar year, February 2012 – February 2013.  The idea was shared from a neighboring library school intern at Spartanburg High.  We picked it up and ran with it, modifying it only slightly! Our sixteen titles were seeded based on circulation statistics form Destiny after tossing out books with inflated stats due sto class projects and required readings from certain courses in the curriculum. We wanted to the tournament titles to be the most popular books based on “student” choice not requirements from classes.  SCORE!

So here we are today naming our Final Four.



The Final Four match up like this:

  • Catching Fire vs. Mockingjay
  • Legend vs. Hunger Games

I am amazed (and at the same time dismayed) to have an entire series in our final four.  Next year when we plan our March madness, if two books in a series make it to the Sweet Sixteen, the entire series will be a single team. That way we don’t have competitors from a single series like this year’s final four.  It would be very difficult for me to choose a winner.


Related and of interest to this storyline:

18 Nov

Will etiquette lessons work?

My friend Frank Baker posted this on our SCASL listserv recently and included a link to this article:

With the increased popularity of social media have come more bullying, cheating and privacy concerns. Now, some are questioning whether schools — where students learn many lessons in morality — should include social media etiquette as part of the curriculum. Some, however, say teachers already have too much on their plates and that it is the responsibility of families to teach students moral and ethical lessons.


Follow me on Twitter @fbaker 
Friend Media Literacy Clearinghouse on Facebook
A response was soon after expressing what I interpreted as maybe fear and perhaps anger at school librarians being overlooked as a source for teaching the very core of media literacy, specifically media etiquette, safety, and more.  In a sense, this is a standard of ours–>ethical use of resources–even electronic ones, so does indeed fall into our job description.


Now I am not so immune to such feelings myself, and on more than one occasion I’ve had my own knee-jerk response to being ignored or left out when it comes to curriculum decisions.  But I do think if a school or school district does not turn to their librarians when a need like this arises, then it’s our own fault.  Here is how I responded to the thread:

It is [our job] if we are proactive about it. Today’s  teacher librarian must educate the masses about what we bring to the table. If those powers that be don’t know we can bring this to the curriculum table, we will continue to be left out. A good start might be sharing this very article with admin and other colleagues in your school as a conversation starter to a collegial discussion. I just don’t think many admin realize what we offer, and that is our own fault.

Now that I’ve had some time to really digest this, I want to add to that statement.  One truth I learned a long time ago about teaching is that everyone needs to have a personal investment in the tasks at hand so the goals and objectives can be achieved. This is true in  any curriculum area, and I especially learned this when trying to use technology integration.  Kids don’t take to it when it is “schooly.” Many actually turn away. This is one reason I  have not really pushed hard for students to blog or tweet with me around school or curriculum concepts.  If it is made “schooly,” it becomes an isolated lesson that doesn’t always carry over into personalized learning. It becomes a means to an end, a hoop to get through. The challenge is to make students WANT to participate in these tools in a school setting. Just having students blog does not make them 21st century learners. A vision must be cast in the setting that students wil buy into. Then and only then is using social networking or educational web 2.0 tools a viable avenue to integrate etiquette lessons and ethical use conversations.  This is why “character education” programs don’t stick, even though schools still very much do them..


So the real challenge is how do we bring into a lesson ethical use of social media without 1) turning it schooly and making it an isolated lesson that won’t stick, and 2) make the powers that be understand these lessons should be fully integrated throughout the curriculum and therefore more likely to be meaningful to students?


Instead of teacher librarians focusing on being left out of this decision making process, let’s be a catalyst for collegial conversations around the topic, which just might make those decision makers see that teacher librarians are much more than collection development specialists and reading advocates. Bonus, we become sought after for thoughts and ideas for improving a variety of instructional units, and we model effective integration  (which could also include ethical lessons and etiquette.)


Picture Attribution:
Huynh, Tommy. “Sneaky Messages.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 1 Aug. 2007. Web. 05 Jan. 2013  <http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyhuynh/1219122548/sizes/n/>.

07 Nov

Guest Post: Lori Willis-Richards, Intern

When Mrs. Nelson asked if I wanted to write a blog post for her blog Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts I was a little unsure.  I mean the title of her blog is Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts and I was not sure I actually had anything to say worthy of being labeled a “professional thought.” However, I started thinking about what I do know, and one of the things I currently know a whole lot about is being a School Media Specialist intern, so this I what I have decided to blog about.


I have enjoyed my time as Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Dillard’s intern so much and I really wish I could stay on forever.  DHS has a top-notch library program and I have learned so much during my short internship there. There is something to be said for being able to put into application the theories and ideals I learned about as a USC-SLIS student.  There really is no greater teacher than real world experience!


I know a lot of the people that read Cathy’s blog are already established media specialists, and this is why I want to take a short moment of your time for a public services message of sorts, don’t worry I wont take that long.  I just want to say if you are a great media specialist (and of course you are if you are reading this blog!) please think about hosting an intern.  It will be a great learning experience for your intern and I hope for you as well.  You will really be doing your profession a world of good, because you will be able to mold these young professionals into the kind of media specialist you want representing your field. So it really is a win-win. We get experience; you get to influence.  So please host an intern if you are ever asked or contact your local university and let then know you are willing to host an intern in the future.


P.S.  I do think working at DHS was fun!

02 Nov

Is E for Easy?

Today many of my SC library friends engaged in a healthy discussion about the books that have mostly pictures, are roughly 32 pages (give or take), and have been maligned by teachers as “easy.”

The conversation began with an innocent question:

If you are in an Intermediate school, 4th and 5th grade, do you have an Easy Book section with E on the spine?

Here are the takeaways from this crowd sourced “wonder.”

  • I had an E section but it was called Everybody Books.
  • We have a E “Everybody” section.  Many of these books are good read-alouds that support standards, especially science and social studies.
  • We call them “Everybody” books because they aren’t all that easy to read.  There are several picture books in our “E” section that have lexiles in the upper hundreds. I hate to call them “Easy” because they aren’t all that easy to read.  We call them “Everybody” because if you can’t read the words, you can enjoy the pictures.  Therefore “Everybody” can enjoy those books.
  • I use E for Everybody books  – if I were starting new, I would use P for picture. Picture books are NOT easy books – some of them are on 4th, 5th, 6th grade levels!
  • Very well stated! I totally agree with what you’ve said and that is how I promote my “E” section – easy is not part of the vocab here. And for what it’s worth, I despise the term “Chapter books”.  Makes me want to scream.  Why teachers use this when sending the kids to the Learning Commons is beyond my imagination.

Found on flickrcc.net

All of these are fantastic support from some great SC voices. As a high school librarian, I want to add my support for these books as well. These books are a GREAT way to introduce a topic in any classroom or content area. They can be the perfect segue from topic to topic or activity to activity in any classroom. These books also tap into the inner creative side for some, and we all know there are plenty of students who do not respond to dry text, but will respond to stories or pictures that make connections, evoke feelings, and allow for the appreciation of literature, dramatic readings, and in its purest form, the appreciation of art. Just think of the possibilities too, as you prepare for Common Core, and providing varied texts and formats of information.

Levels can be misleading
It’s funny that this came up. Years ago when Lexile became all the rage, I had a teacher friend in my school ask if I would pull some 1100 level books for her. Her daughter had to have one the next day for her English class (at a neighboring elementary school) and hadn’t had the chance to get one. So I said I’d pull some together and they could come right after school together to browse through the books pulled. Imagine her shock and indignation when in the pile of books  there were a couple of picture books. She immediately tossed them aside, saying I needed to put them back, as her daughter would be in trouble if she brought such a book in. While the fifth grade daughter selected something more appropriate to what her teacher wanted, the mother, my colleague, was amazed at the variety of books that seemed to be from a wide range–> small books to thick books, easy books to longer works and even classics. But each book met her criteria of being in the lexile range requested. I demonstrated how to use our Destiny catalog to search Lexiles, and told her she could use the catalog to narrow down choices once in the Lexile range. I wanted the Mom/Teacher to take the book and teach the teacher a thing or two about Lexiles and vague assignments. Alas, she wouldn’t do it. But you rest assured she told everybody in our middle school about her experience with Lexiles.
A favorite
There are many I find favor in.  Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, Mo Willems, John Scieszka, and many more…these authors are found in my high school collection. And yes, many classified as Easy.
So without further adieu, here is one of my  favorites!! Actually, ANYTHING by Mark Teague.  I could list many, but I think I’ll just feature one that I have used before.

What can you address in a classroom with this book appropriate for high schoolers?
  • Different Points of View (reality vs. what we manifest in our minds)
  • Differing views through colors (Visual literacy/Art appreciation)
  • Imagination and perception
  • Letter writing  and audience
  • Newspaper article writing and audience

I’ll close with this reflection.  Just as we cannot judge books by their covers, this is a reality for levels too.  No matter the intended audience, the level may vary greatly. A book, despite a low level or lexile, might be the prefect choice for adding variety, providing choice, creating a mood, or modeling/demonstrating a concept. So don’t be dismissive of these well loved books just because they are labeled Easy..

Picture Attribution:
Morgan, John.  ”Caught Reading.” http://www.flickr.com/photos/24742305@N00/6475675533
14 November 2011.

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