Monday, April 28, 2014

Teen Book Con 2014

Doing some research last week and found that Teen Book Con was scheduled for April 26, 2014 at Alief Taylor High School in Houston, Texas. I had attended a similar event in Austin, TX a few years ago to hear the keynote speaker, the amazing Ellen Hopkins. At the time my older daughter was only eleven and really too young for the books to be discussed. I vowed to take her when she was old enough. This past Saturday was our opportunity, and it was awesome!

When I offered to take her, she was a little reluctant since she hadn't read anything by the authors speaking that day. She invited several friends and they were all busy. It turned into a mommy/daughter outing.

We were both very impressed with the keynote, Laurie Halse Anderson. Of course I had read her book Speak and loved it. She shared some pictures and personal struggles that led her to be a reader and writer. Anderson talked about her challenging teen years and the chaos she endured due to her father's PTSD and alcoholism. Throughout that experience, the school library was her sanctuary. She was witty, relatable and a great opening speaker.

 Each panel was opened up to questions from the audience. It was interesting to hear how the authors got inspiration for their stories, fought writer's block and fulfilled their lifelong dreams of writing for a living. Pretty much all of the sessions gave the audience the same message and encouraged student writers to just keep writing.

I applaud events like this one for connecting students with authors. Even as an adult I always thought of authors as superhumans. It wasn't until I became a librarian and then wrote books myself that I realized that writers are just people following their dreams. For students who love reading, these guys are rockstars and inspirations. As educators, we should foster that connection as much as possible.
All of the authors! (Don't miss Shannon Hale doing the splits in the front!)
On a side note, I totally got busted by Len Vlahos! Lauren Myracle was talking about her latest book which is about first love and sex. Having written a graduate school paper in library school on censorship, I am very familiar with Lauren's work. This was back when ttyl had come out and was such a scandal. (I really loved her book Shine.) Needless to say the mama bear came out in me and I leaned over to my daughter and told her not to read the sex book. Len was the next to speak and totally called me out!

Monday, April 21, 2014


As is usually the case, I saw Thinglink ( at a conference about a year ago. It went on my shelf of things I need to try, but never have. After returning form TLA last week, I started looking school library web sites and saw Michelle Luhtala had a Thinglink on her site ( to promote the 2014 ALA Youth Media Awards. The image on her site has book covers which are linked to the review of that book on Good Reads (

I was inspired to make something. Here is what I ended up with:

You will notice as you hover over the images, dots appear on the book covers. Those dots link to book reviews in some cases and book trailers in other cases.

I had never used Thinglink before, but it was so easy! Just upload your image and start adding links. You can customize the icon that represents the link in the picture and link many different things. Share your finished Thinglink with a link, embed in a web site or easily post to social media like your library Facebook or Twitter.

Lots of possibilities for educators as well as student projects. Get linking!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Michelle Luhtala and Jennifer LaGarde are Rockstars!

So I have to say that TLA has really changed since last I was here. I did not attend TLA12 & 13. My last TLA I was a bit confounded by the lack of technology sessions. No more! This year is way different.

I was really impressed by Michelle Luhtala (@mluhtala) and Jennifer LaGarde (@jenniferlagarde). Both ladies are out-of-staters, but we won't hold that against them.

Michelle is from New Canaan HS in Connecticut. She presented three sessions today, but I was  most impressed with her session on creating a Learning Commons. This has been a topic discussion in my region for several years now. Many of my librarians are attempting pieces of it, but not a complete shift. Few of our schools have the technology access to really make it happen. And since many of those schools are rural there isn't enough internet connectivity in the schools or student homes to make this endeavor worthwhile. I did love her ideas and the suggestion to start a bit at a time. Change in chunks and your library should never look the same from one year to another. Her school has a BYOD initiative and that drives many of the activities in the library. I thought it was way clever that she has charge stations with USB ports on many tables and even circulates device chargers to students. Instead of fighting the students, you meet their needs. 

The best quote from Michelle today was that it is not "if" but "when" all schools will embrace student devices because of "Confiscation Fatigue" As the spouse of a school administrator who deals with phones all day, I thought her comment was hysterical. I don't think a day goes by that someone at his school doesn't take up a phone.

Ok, now to Jennifer LaGarde. What a funny library girl! She is a librarian-on-loan in North Carolina working for three years to visit and assess all school libraries in that state. She works with administrators, school boards, teachers, and librarians to help each other meet the needs of kids where the school library is concerned. She shared statements from administrators and suggestions for fixing that perception by shifting what the librarian does. My favorite was "Shift from teaching library skills to teaching life skills". Her example was that the Dewey Decimal System is not a life skill. And she is so right! She also suggested not punishing kids with fines and access to circulation when they have late or lost books. There was some mutterings from the group around me, but she made very valid points and gave suggestions for learning lessons to use with kids instead of punishing them for missing books.

These are two ladies who I will be adding to my PLN!! 

Cheapskate PD for Librarians and Inforgraphics

I am currently attending the Texas Library Association Annual Conference this week in San Antonio, TX. Attended two great sessions yesterday. One on PD and the other on Infographics.

The PD session was presented by a group of six librarians. They challenged themselves to use a presentation method called Pecha Kucha which limits each presenter to 20 slides in less than 7 minutes. Lots of info in a short period of time. They discussed building a PLN, connecting to colleagues on twitter, subscribing to podcasts, connecting to live experts, viewing webinars, and reading blogs. All of their suggestions were available anytime, anywhere and free. The presenters were Sharon Gullet (@sharongullett), Sonja Schulz (@sonjaschulz), Sandra Carswell (@sandracarswell), Michelle Cooper (@_michellecooper), Marsha Edney (@EdneyLib), and Sue Fitzgerald (@sue_fitz).

This session was especially interesting to me because I provide PD for librarians and teachers. Since the school budget massacres of 2011 in Texas I have seen a huge decrease in the number of people seeking my services. In fact, I have canceled over 80% of my face-to-face workshops this school year. Many schools have really restricted PD travel, but we should always be learning new things. I hope my librarians are seeking PD on their own through the avenues these great library ladies suggested.

The other session I really liked was on infographics. I love them and think there are many ways to incorporate them into classroom instruction. The presenter Leslie Barrett (@lesliebarrett13), who is in the same position that I am in but at another ESC, made some great points about allowing students to construct infographics and not just be consumers of the information. Our visual learners, which so many kids are these days, will gravitate to these sleek visual representations of data. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

On the eve of my trip to the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX, I decided to do something I used to do a lot: make a book trailer.

My 8th grade daughter was out of town during Spring Break and I really needed a book to take to the beach. I borrowed her copy of Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. My daughter had been gifted this signed copy by her school librarian who had gotten it at TLA last year.

I could not put down this book! I was hooked on the story and wanted to know what happened to the characters. I also really loved that it was set in New Orleans. Hubby and I went to NOLA last summer on vacation and are taking the kids back this summer for the first time. I am excited to take my daughter to the places mentioned in this book.

Out of the Easy tells the story of Josie, the daughter of a high end prostitute who works for Willie Woodley at her brothel. Josie and her mom have quite the dysfunctional relationship. Willie and her employees fill the void in Josie's life that her mother has left. Josie works at a bookstore and lives upstairs in the office. She wants to leave the big easy and find a better life for herself where she isn't the daughter of a harlot. A few chance meetings and a murder put Josie in danger and drop her right in the middle of a police investigation and organized crime activity. It's a great book and has the best first line ever.   

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Disruptive Innovation in Education

Another day at TXDLA. Conferences make my brain percolate new ideas. Many ideas to bring back to work. 

Today's keynote was Heather Staker who is a researcher in disruptive innovation in education. Don't get this confused with disruptive students who we have all had in our careers. This topic is about things that move education from its standard trajectory. Distance learning is a disruptive innovation. 

She talked about different models that schools are adopting to better meet the needs of their students. Models like flipping where the students watch videos at home that introduce new concepts and then spend class time delving more deeply into the concept. She also talked about schools that we're adopting models where students get most of their content online but also meet in small groups and workshop with teachers for extra support.

As I listened to her speak I think of the students I have taught. Many of them would have thrived with this type of flexible model. My own children would have loved it. I'm not sure it would work with all of my students. I really wish a school in my area would pilot a program and explore the possibilities.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My thoughts on Michael Wesch

This week I have been attending the Texas Distance Learning Association (TXDLA) conference in Corpus Christi, Texas. This is the first year I have attended this event.

The first day I attended a really great preconference session on iPads presented by Jaime Donally (@jaimedonally) who is an Instructional Technologist for Tyler ISD. Because of this session (and because I got to play with an iPad mini), I went to Best Buy today and traded in my iPad 1 and iPad 2 for a mini. It will be my device of choice tomorrow and at TLA next week!

Today's keynote was brilliant. It was delivered by Michael Wesch, an Anthropology professor from Kansas State University. He is a leader in the field of digital ethnography. I hadn't realized until his presentation that I had watched one of his videos on YouTube. (The video is embedded below.)

Today's message concentrated on several key points:

  • Standard education has taken the wonder out of students. They no longer ask questions other than "When is the paper due?"and "How long does it have to be?" We need to explore ways to bring back that wonder.
  • Technology has made us lose empathy which is the basis of connection with have with others.
  • Games should be used in more classes to promote a ownership, social interaction, cycle that leads to engagement.
  • But traditional education has become a game, and not in a good way. Kids just "play the game"and jump the hurdles, but may not be prepared for what life has in store.
  • He mentioned Seymour Papert and his early predictions of the internet or "Knowledge Machine"
This simplistic explanation makes me wish I had taken notes. And he had a really great Papert quote that I wish I had taken a picture of because I can't find it online!

What I left  the keynote thinking was that we have education so backwards. But how do we fix it in the high stakes, low standards game we have turned education into? When we rely on memorizing facts to pass a test, are we truly preparing our students for life? Are we teaching them or encouraging them to think? Has education killed their desire to wonder and learn?