Thing 12: Final Reflection 17/18

I gotta say, I love CoolTools.  I feel like it is the best PD for me because I like to explore things at my own pace.  We’re switching our library automation system and the training that is involved with that is tedious.  It takes a long time and most of it goes in one ear and out the other.  With CoolTools I can pick the tools I think might make the most difference in my day to day activities with students.  I can work at my own pace and I am able to apply many things right away.

Last year my major accomplishment was establishing some global connections.  This year I’ve maintained those connections and used them as an audience and a way to exchange learning.  I worked a lot on infographs this year and creating visual messages like gifs, using bitmojis, autodraw, and noun project.  I then share these tools with the LMS’ in my district, especially when I see exactly how useful they are in the classroom.

I love when things tie together.  Last year I worked on my own understanding of Creative Commons.  This year I taught Creative Commons to my students and they learned how to adjust their search settings to avoid copyright infringement.  Then the noun project website reinforced the use of Creative Commons.

Bitmojis are part of my everyday communication tools now.  I had seen them before but just didn’t put in the time to play with them.  Now, I’m preparing to teach a fifth grade lesson in google docs and I plan on using Bitmojis for positive feedback.  I’m excited about sharing fun digital stickers with my students.  I’ve used them with teachers, but haven’t gotten much response from that population.  I’m guessing most adults are in the same boat I was before I played with the tool on CoolTools.

While exploring the eraser app and my Harold and the Purple Crayon recreation idea, things didn’t turn out quite like I’d hoped.  It didn’t look at all like Harold, but the kindergarten students were so adorable in their adobe sketch pictures I decided to share with my principal and superintendent.  The superintendent asked if he could share the pictures at the next board meeting.


Next year I look forward to participating in CoolTools again and expanding my technological awareness even more.  Things change so quickly that I feel like CoolTools is a necessity each year just to stay abreast of current tools and methodologies.

Thanks for another great season of CoolTools!!

autodraw 3_13_2018



Thing 22: Emerging Tech (17/18)

In the article, Technology Trends Reshape Today’s Libraries by Wendy McMahon, I clicked on the example of the Vancouver Schools innovative library spaces link and found a Tedx talk, Changing the Conversation about Librarians by Mark Ray.  In it, Ray discusses how librarians are moving toward the future.  They’re the ones to teach digital citizenship and information literacy.  Even in a school with 1:1 iPads, students need guidance as they navigate information and new apps.  Librarians are the ones to do it.  Ray also discussed moving the unused reference section of the library and creating a collaborative work space. This is something I want to do, right now, today, in my library.  There are cabinets full of teacher reference books that haven’t been touched in the three years since I’ve been in my building.  We need that space for collaboration and creative thinking.

In Idea Watch by Carolyn Foote, she discusses the various ways libraries are evolving and the fact that from year to year they will evolve.  We can’t expect libraries to remain the same in any way.  I’ve found that is especially true for me.  While working with ePals and connecting with people around the world, you can’t predict who will be available to collaborate or to be an interactive audience.  You have to use the resources available and change and modify as necessary.  She also discusses how students are creating information and they want to be in social media platforms that enable the sharing of creations.  If students lives’ are this way, shouldn’t we challenge them to share their learning in the same manner?  Learning how to speak clearly in front of a camera or to create visual messages that are easy to read quickly and easy to understand are important skills in the 21st century.

At the elementary level we may not be encouraging students to create YouTube videos and post to Twitter, but giving them the skills to do so responsibly and intelligently as they get older, is important.  Foote writes, “to reinvent libraries, we have to be the future we want to see.”  Character building is important on and off technology devices.  I think every teacher would agree we want the future to be full of citizens who are responsible and intelligent on and off technology devices.

While reading some of the articles, I also encountered the idea that some libraries are creating the future library space as a quiet place to unplug.  I wish there were more places like this and that it was a more common idea.  Unplugging is so important, especially, I feel, for our youngest students.  The infograph on the page for Thing 22 shows the statistic that 46% of 3-5th graders are smartphone users.  My children don’t own smartphones but I would admit that they know how to use mine quiet well.  My thought it that children and teenagers don’t have the skills to self-regulate yet and if they don’t know what calm and unplugged feels like, how can they understand how important it is to unplug?  Therefore, there is no intrinsic incentive to unplug.

While reading the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, I was pleased to see there are no shockers, as in that I am aware of newest developments and hurdles.  Evolving is just part of my role and like I said before, I need to create a space for collaborative learning.  Something with flexible furniture and makerspace supplies.  This means that I can continue on my trajectory and aim to overcome some of the hurdles by providing even exposure to many different tools as often as possible.  More coding, more problem solving, and more creating are all on the agenda for next year.  I think my biggest hurdle may be a lack of contact time with students.

I did this Thing last year but I feel CoolTools is one of the ways I stay current and learn new tools best.  So I wanted to be sure I was on track with the newest trends on the horizon as well, especially as I begin to look forward to next year.  This job will never get boring, that’s for sure!!

17/18 Media Skills

I feel like most of the things I’ve worked on this year for Cool Tools have somehow revolved around creating visuals for sharing information.  It is an important skill in today’s world and seems to be the prevailing form of communication especially with social media platforms.  I want to give my students the opportunity to share about what they are learning in a language that is most familiar to them as digital natives. Photo editing, gifs, and memes are some of the ways I could provide these opportunities.

I love the article by Meredith Akers, “Using gifs for Learning.” She is an assistant principal and her blog focuses on using technology with elementary aged students.  This helps me enormously because I feel like half of what I do is wade through tools and sites that are just beyond or inappropriate for elementary aged students.  I used the site to create a gif of my pug.  It was fun once I got myself out of the screen. 

I have an idea to have my students recreate the Harold and the Purple Crayon books by Crockett Johnson by photoshopping them into a black background and allowing them to draw the scene just like Harold does with his crayon.  Before doing this I have to play with some photoshopping apps and I found two that erase the background.  One was Magic Eraser and the other is just Background Eraser.  I liked Background Eraser better because it doesn’t erase directly under your fingertip and you can see the little dot follow your finger.  So it makes for more precise editing.  I did this test run with my son.

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 1.43.26 PM

(Moon image from

I have used Tagxedo and Wordle before and I plan to put those to use again soon.  I enjoyed Stencil and can see that coming in handy in the future.  I also thought snagit would be a great google chrome extension to have on our chromebooks.  Pixlr is perhaps a little advanced for elementary school and it takes a lot of trial and error for me to figure out something like what I did with my son above.

It is a continued goal of mine to get more technology in action at school.  Meredith Akers has great ideas and this opportunity to explore with photo editing and gif creation was great.  Thank you!!

17/18 News Literacy

The other day I was watching one of my favorite shows, Amazing Race, and I noticed a Google Pixel 2 ad that was playing every commercial break.  I’m so good at tuning out commercials, it probably took 3 or 4 times before I noticed there is a media literacy message in it!  The commercial ends with, “There’s a deeper story behind every picture.  Question your lens.”  I think it will take a cultural shift to help people become aware of the influence of fake news in their lives.  Like the TedEd video by Damon Brown, “How to Choose Your News,” he points out that even older siblings may not be aware of how much information we are faced with daily and that we need to know “how to read the news.” If mainstream pop culture and media begin teaching through advertising, it could really get the ball rolling.

I wrote down several words from Glossary: The Language of News Literacy, from the Digital Resource Center, which listed several key vocabulary words surrounding news literacy.  In order to give my students some focus, at the elementary level, I’ve selected a few to teach, including: accountability, bias, context, direct evidence, entertainment, and fairness/balance.  I also took note of what News is supposed to be – subjected to journalistic process of verification and an individual or organization is directly accountable.  And also that reliable information has verification, independence, and accountability.  Some of these messages were repeated over and over as I clicked on the articles in News Literacy.

The Factitious game by JoLT and AU Game Lab would be great for high school students and I thought my elementary teaching colleagues would benefit from this activity during a staff meeting.  It is fun and really makes players think about what makes an article real or fake and how difficult it can be to distinguish between the two.

I will definitely begin using Newsela and Newseum ED.  I had never visited those sites before and they will be useful tools for collecting and sharing articles with students.  Newseum ED also includes some great lesson plans for the elementary level.  Lessons for elementary students on fake news are difficult to find.  Last year I found this Scholastic lesson plan which was perfect for elementary.  Students had to figure out which article was real and which was fake.  From there I had my fifth graders break into two groups to write their own articles.  One group wrote a fake article and the other group wrote a true article.

This year I am going to incorporate photo editing tools and begin the process of teaching students how easily photos can be manipulated.  I will also use BrainPop. While exploring the resources for this lesson, I decided to check BrainPop for media literacy and there is a great video for elementary students about media literacy.  It covers bias and point of view, looking for a motive, and the fact that we are surrounded by media all of the time.  It’s a great introduction for elementary students and stays in a safe territory.

While I haven’t put together a plan based on this lesson.  It is a work in progress.  I emphasize questioning motives all the time.  With copyright and plagiarism lessons, I try to get students to think about who’s getting the credit and who’s getting paid.  While learning about databases and the WWW, I emphasize the advertisements showing up all over the free articles on the World Wide Web and again we talk about motives and who’s getting paid.  I am hoping that by covering this concepts throughout the year, by the time students work on the fake news activity, they’ll be thinking more critically about information.

Thing 43: Google Drawings (17/18)

I have been trying to branch out from the Google Suite but this is one tool I haven’t used yet.  I really appreciate all the ways it works well with other tools in the suite and I can see how it’ll be great for future projects.

I read Tony Vincent’s article Get Creative with Google Drawings at  Tony Vincent is great at providing numerous examples and tools for teachers to modify and apply right away.  I explored Eric Curtis’ charts and appreciated Vincent’s note that Curtis shares his work to Creative Commons.  This is great to know and as an aside, I feel like Creative Commons and appropriate use information is becoming easier to find and use.  The Google Images search feature in Google Drawings gives a little information about using images fairly.

I also tried the Noun Project.  Another tool that is deliberately set up for people to think about whether attribution needs to be given.  I really like this tool.  If you pay for the tool, you have access to all icons without needing to give attribution.  If you don’t pay for it, you have to give attribution, but the site makes it incredibly easy.  As in, you don’t actually have to do anything, but attribution is attached to the icon you’ve downloaded, as you can see in the flower image below.


The site explains, “To provide proper credit, use the embedded credit already in the icon you downloaded, or you can copy the attribution text and add it to your citations, about page, or place in which you would credit work you did not create.”  Just by using this site people will be more aware of copyright infringement and Creative Commons.

I also tried Auto Draw.  I didn’t have much luck.  Personally, I can see more use for my students using the Noun Project just because in elementary school drawing skills may not be refined enough to use this website effectively.  It is a fun website to use though!  Below you can see my attempt to draw a tree.  The site suggested spiders first, then the Mona Lisa, then I had a few Eiffel Towers to choose from, and finally grass.

autodraw 2_7_2018autodraw 2_7_2018

I wanted to see if Google Drawing would be an option for our upcoming infograph project.  We’re creating infographs on Air Pollution to participate in a contest with our ePals in India.  Another one of my favorite projects initiated from my participation in Cool Tools!

air pollution-1

While building this infograph, I learned how to crop images into shapes using the mask feature.  I was able to make the fruit and vegetable heart that way.  The icons are from the Noun Project.

Google Drawings definitely gives my students more options.  We need options when we don’t have enough computers or iPads to go around for a class.  This will give students more choices and enable them to work together from separate computers.  I would recommend Google Drawings as a great tool for teachers!



Thing 18: Infographics and Data Visualization (17/18)

After doing my last post on Annual Report, being impressed by Tony Vincent’s infograph from App-palooza, and attempting to make a newsletter, I realized I needed to do Thing 18: Infographics and Data Visualization.  We’re beyond the age of power point and slide shows.  People want to look at something quickly and be informed.  Infographics need to be informative, easy to read, and visually beautiful.

So I read The Anatomy of an Infographic by Sneh Roy, Producing Info Pics by Tony Vincent, Infographics Lie: Here’s How to Spot the B.S. by Randy Olson, and I watched the Ted Ex talk by David McCandless and Infographics as a Creative Assessment by Kathy Schrock.

Many of the articles and videos covered similar concepts.  Infographics must be visually stimulating with accurate and meaningful content.  David McCandless mentioned that he was self-taught in the art of design literacy, mostly because there are so many great examples to study and learn from.  Both David McCandless and Randy Olson point out that it’s important to read infographics for accuracy.  Just as with Fake News, consumers need to check the source, read the labels carefully, and be aware that we tend to trust images more than text.


I wrote down a list of apps and websites to try with my students.  I am thinking of many ways my students can begin creating infographics or at least using design literacy tools in order to make book summaries, valentine cards for ePals, or as in my example below, to highlight the benefits of a database.  I can see the application for design literacy skills in nearly every lesson moving forward.

database awesomeness.png

Fourth and fifth grades will be moving into comparing databases with searching the world wide web.  I will use this infographic to introduce databases and also to model what I would like them to accomplish in their own creation of an infographic using the app phonto.


Thing 32: Annual Reports – Make Them Matter (17/18)

Our amazing middle school librarian, Rebecca Ekstrom, does quarterly and annual reports for her library.  This is my third year in our district and she recently approached our elementary team about joining her in this annual reports initiative.  I’ve seen a few annual reports and worked on my own for coursework or internships, but I have yet to do one in my current district.  I like the clear message in several of the articles included for Thing 32, keep annual reports brief and visually stimulating and relevant to student impact.

The Blue Skunk Blog by Doug Johnson had a couple articles to this point.  I started with 7 Tips for Making Your Principal Your Ally.  His list of tips are great.  Most importantly, I think creating an annual report for my principal and staff will help inform those I work with and create an ally out of not only my principal but my staff as well.  I found a comment on the Teen Services Underground blog by Sereena Hamm about a monthly newspaper called “The Toilet Paper,” which is installed on bathroom doors for light and easy bathroom reading.  While entertaining people and being humorous doesn’t come naturally to me, I think something like this could be enormously valuable.

Library Girl’s School Library Annual Reports: Connecting the Dots Between Your Library and Student Learning, started out by saying, “Assuming others know what you do is silly,” which is true, but I guess I’ve been doing a lot of assuming.  When I started in my position, teachers were required to accompany their class to media lit.  This was a sore issue for teachers and a practice put in place before I arrived and I’m afraid resulted in some bad blood between teachers and the library.  Now, teachers are not required to be there during media lit. and there really is no reason they would know what is happening in the library.  So… it would be a great time to start newsletters!

The most important message I read while reading through the articles is to make sure newsletters and reports focus on students.  Doug Johnson wrote, “the alignment of our “it” to their “it,”” referring to the goals of librarians and administrators in terms of student success as the most important focus.  And Jennifer LaGarde, aka Library Girl, wrote that “Our work doesn’t matter if it doesn’t impact students.”  It’s clear what my focus will be!

I remembered Tony Vincent’s infographic in iPad as the Teacher’s Pet and want to try using pages to create the initial workings of a newsletter.  I will consult with my media lit. team because I think we will try to create unity and work together on this to keep our libraries and schools on the same page.

Here is a start to a newsletter.  I’ll need to meet with my MLS team before continuing on, but Thing 32 was the boost I needed to get started.  Averill Park Elementary Library newsletter.