Sunday, February 12, 2017

8th Grade Intro To Research Using Chromebooks

For many years, I have taught research skills to high school students. I have always wanted to make it a more interactive experience for learners when teachers bring classes to the library. This year, Mrs. Mari Simmons requested to bring her 8th grade ELA class to the library to begin their World War II research project. She asked if we could teach them about some of our many resources in the library. Mrs. Simmons had recently received a Chromebook cart for her class to use. This was an added bonus since I had been anxious to incorporate devices into such a lesson. In this article, I want to share how we designed a research lesson around the Chromebooks and Google Classroom.

HyperDoc in Google Classroom

I brainstormed during the weekend prior to the lesson. I kept thinking back to the HyperDoc session I attended at the Google Summit during summer 2016. It seemed an interactive document like this might be a nice way to keep Mrs. Simmons' learners engaged all through our research project lessons. I decided to use a HyperDoc that contained links and brief information to the resources the students would be using. Mrs. Simmons also allowed Kaitlyn Price (partner teacher librarian) and myself to join her Google Classroom. I thought this was a great opportunity to become "embedded librarians" so students could message us at any time if they had questions. This is a link to the HyperDoc we used. It seemed very helpful for the learners to see an outline of what we covered in their classes on this document. In addition, if they required explanations, we could insert brief definitions. The document was posted in Google Classroom, so at any point during the project the document was accessible. We also used as an added method for students to ask questions.

These students found the books they needed!
OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)

I shared the basics of searching in our OPAC. I showed students how to find the call number and also how to tell the difference between fiction/ non-fiction materials. We looked at a few examples of the contents of books while using the OPAC. By having the link to the catalog on the HyperDoc, students were much more engaged than in years past!

Britannica School

I showed them how to login to Britannica School and how to search by using different keywords for their topics. Students seemed to like that Britannica School's cite tool creates a nice MLA citation automatically for them. We also looked at the "Web's Best Sites" tool for websites that have been approved by Britannica editors.

Mrs. Price and Mrs. Simmons introduce citations

On the fourth day of research, Mrs. Price showed students how to access EasyBib. She also showed them how to create their works cited page using the tool. They were highly engaged for this activity since they had already found several sources by this point in the week.

Google Advanced Search

Many students did not know how to utilize Google Advanced Search. I showed them how to access it and also how to specify .edu or .gov domains for more credible sources. One of the things I always like to do is compare the number of sites found between a normal Google search and a Google Advanced search by filtering out the .com and .org. This presents results that showing only the .edu (or .gov) domain links. This always turns up significantly fewer results for students to choose from.

This class took advantage of Padlet for asking questions!

Since the students had Chromebooks, we decided to create a Padlet ( for each class period. We encouraged students to ask questions on the Padlet. We found that this empowered many students since some may not want to ask a question in front of the entire class. One period filled up the screen with relevant questions. It was a wonderful addition to the lesson!

Student Feedback

We created a short survey using Google Forms to get feedback on the research lessons and tools that were presented all week. Below are some of the student responses:

"Really enjoyed EasyBib, makes citing a whole lot easier."

"It was great! I liked the new question website (Padlet) so you don't have to wait on a teacher."

"This really helped me and made it a lot easier to do my project."

"One of my favorite websites for research is the Britannica School website. BY FAR!!"

"Everything was really good but next time maybe you could do an example of taking notes on a notecard."

"I thought that it helped us find trusted sites to use."

Click on the video above to hear our reflections after the first lessons.

Teacher Reflection (Mrs. Mari Simmons)

This week in the Lakeside High School Media Center, my six 8th English classes have been learning the process of writing a research paper.  The topics are based on people and events during World War II.  Students chose topics in class before meeting in the library.  Mr. Evans snd Mrs. Price introduced the lesson by joining Google Classrooms and posting links to OPAC and Encyclopedia Britannica for finding sources. Mr. Evans and Mrs. Price modeled the information on the big screen for students.  There was also a Padlet posted on Google Classroom which allowed students to ask questions about the lesson or sources.  The questions were answered in a timely fashion, and sometimes addressed to the whole group.  Mrs. Price explained for students to create the Works Cited page.  Once students found sources, she demonstrated how to create citations for books, encyclopedia articles, and websites.  Students then submitted the Google Document to their individual Google Classrooms for me to grade online.  One of the improvements this year was students followed instruction by using an individual Chromebook, which I brought from my room.  Students learned quickly, as it was a hands-on experience instead of a listen and learn lecture.  The expertise of Mr. Evans and Mrs. Price with research greatly added to the student learning experience.  It was an extremely successful week, and a great introduction for writing a research paper!

Next Steps

Now that we have had a successful integration of these interactive tools in the research lessons, we want to do more. We are already brainstorming what this might look like in upper grades and also other subjects. We hope that students will take advantage of our "embedded librarian" status in their Google Classroom by messaging us if they have research questions. Perhaps we can try embedding ourselves in other teacher's Google Classrooms in a similar way during research projects. This provides excellent evidence to our stakeholders of the value of the library program. We cannot simply wait for students (and teachers) to come to us, we must find them and serve them where they are (even if that means asking to join Google Classrooms)! I can't wait to see Mrs. Simmons' finished student research products!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Connect your library with Skype!

Collaboration sharing research tools with 8th grade English classes in 2015.

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Krystyna's Connection Reflection

Krystyna visits with Robyn Hrivnatz via Skype
The 2016-2017 school year has been the most powerful for connections using Skype in the library. Several classes have utilized our services to Mystery Skype or just to connect and collaborate. I have noticed a change in our learning community since these connections have become more frequent. First of all, students always seem to want more. They frequently ask, "When will we Skype again?" In addition, teachers are beginning to think beyond our state to connect their classes to far away states or countries.

Presentations and Skype-a-Thon

Earlier this year, I wrote about student makerspace presentations in the library for two education cooperatives that had visited us. Our learners did such a wonderful job, we started arranging for them to share their presentations with schools in other states via Skype. These students even had opportunities to present their innovations to the Follett Corporation and Microsoft. During the Skype-a-Thon, students had the chance to present to Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft. On a separate Skype connection, students visited with Robyn Hrivnatz, Marketing and Educator Programs Manager, US Education at Microsoft. During that session, Krystyna, one of our high school students, asked several questions about the potential career paths to work for a major technology company. I remember she was clearly empowered by these connections during the Skype-a-Thon. She talked about the experiences for weeks following the events.I was curious to hear more about these experiences through the lens of a high school student. I decided to ask Krystyna to write a reflection so I could share it on this blog. She finally completed it this week. It was wonderful to learn about the impact of connecting through her voice. Her narrative follows in the space below:

How Meeting with Microsoft Changed My Life
Krystyna presents her robots to visiting teachers
A few months ago I had a life-changing moment along with other students from Lakeside. The library joined a Skype-a-Thon with Microsoft. I got to present my robots to Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft. He virtually traveled more than 9 million miles around the world to answer questions that students like myself had. I would like to thank everyone that put the Skype-a-Thon together on the other end and my educators who help me find opportunities to expand my experience and share knowledge with others. I was completely amazed by the effort of the whole Microsoft community and I’m excited to see what comes next.
The 2016 Skype-a-Thon with Microsoft blew my mind. I was able to talk to a big time company that has done many amazing things for people. I never thought that I, a 15 year old girl, would be able to present my robot friends to Mr. Salcito. It made me feel significant and made me realize that distance is no reason not to connect. The Skype-a-Thon event really expressed the idea that connecting schools is important because it lets kids see outside of their own school. There are so many creative events that Microsoft comes up. These events make them a community of inspiring people who are willing to teach kids from around the world. Microsoft is a huge education sponsor that goes way past products. They make programs like Onenote, hold Skype-a-Thons, and sponsor school events for students to be able to be educated. The people at Microsoft come up with amazing ways to show how beautiful the minds of students are.
I love the idea of spreading the message across the world that connection and education is important. They dream big at Microsoft and I love the ideas they have to spread technology and knowledge. A few days after the Skype-a-Thon I Skyped with Robin Hrivnatz who also works at Microsoft. I asked her what the standards are to get a job at Microsoft. Mrs. Hrivnatz told me that there are so many branches in Microsoft that I would be able to get a job there even if I didn't go to college, though I am still going to college. It gave me a huge confidence boost to know that there are many more dreamers like me in the world and that I could connect with them. I knew for a long time that I wanted to work with innovative technology and program robots to help others, but now I have an idea who I want to work with and where I want to do it.

I hope that I get more amazing opportunities to share my voice. Thanks to amazing educators and opportunities like this, kids have a chance to have a powerful voice in this world, and I hope that never goes away. They really did change the lives of many students and showed them what they are capable of including myself. I, along with many other students, got a confidence boost from talking to such encouraging people who show us the possibilities of working hard and following our passions.Thanks to this event I learned that I love presenting to people about technology and the advantages of innovation. I am so glad that I could share my passion with Microsoft, and I am very thankful that they took time to listen to kids around the world and encouraged kids to continue sharing their works with others.

Next Steps
I have shared many times how connecting with other educators has enriched my practices and changed me professionally. Krystyna's account gives us all a glimpse into the potential power that awaits our libraries and classrooms. I want to give more learners the opportunity to present and connect to new distant school friends. Perhaps, one of the most important things we can do is invite students to share about the impact of
Krystyna with the library team
their experiences. How many other students might be willing to write a reflection I could publish here?

Libraries are wonderful places to connect people with information and technology. A new goal for me will be to seek out students that have connected with resources that interest them in the library (technology, books, and more). I want to give students a voice when they connect in the school library. There are so many valuable stories waiting to be told. I can't wait to share them here.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Connect your library with Skype!

A recent graduate shares her library story.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Connect Your Library With Skype

Last week, I received a message from Iro Stefopoulou (@iro_st) asking if I could connect with her via Skype. Iro is a Skype Master Teacher and she lives in the United Kingdom. After a few quick exchanges via email and Skype messaging, we finally met using our webcams. What happened next totally opened up a number of possibilities for us to connect our school using programs that Skype and Microsoft are providing to educators! I want to share some of the highlights that you might want to check out.

Microsoft Educator Community

The links and resources that Iro shared with me are located on the Microsoft Educator Community website. If you haven't visited this site before, you are missing out on some great opportunities. I'm so glad Iro reminded me of this resource in our Skype session. I get so busy in my job that I forget to check it for the latest offerings. For this article, I will focus on activities that feature Skype in the Classroom. It has been so powerful to help teachers connect their students to classrooms all over the nation and world!

Skype in the Classroom

From the Microsoft Educator Community page, you will notice that there are many resources listed on the left side of the screen. If you select Skype in the Classroom, you will be taken to their community page. Here you will find links to Virtual Field Trips, Skype Lessons, Skype Collaborations, Mystery Skype, and Guest Speakers. In our connection, Iro shared that February would be their Literacy Month and I immediately wanted to know more!

Virtual Valentines 2017

One of the current Skype Collaborations Iro told me about is called Virtual Valentines 2017: Melting the Miles between Classrooms. This seasonal event allows students to learn about geography while sharing Virtual Valentines or even connecting via Skype with a partner school! You can find this collaboration and many more in the Skype Collaboration portion of the site.

Read Across America

Iro also showed me a link in the Skype Collaboration area that focused on the upcoming Read Across America event on March 2, 2017. This is a great opportunity to connect classrooms all over the United States to celebrate literacy. In 2016,  one of our seniors read a Dr. Seuss book to students in another state for this event!  That student still talks about her experience, and she has been an alumnus for nearly a year!

Skype Lessons

A few of the most interesting Skype possibilities that Iro shared with me were Skype Lessons. The first was called Beyond the Blocks: Minecraft Literacy with The Elementia Chronicles. This lesson is a Skype connection with author, Sean Fay-Wolfe. Educators can simply select the "Register for this Skype Lesson" link at the bottom of the page and then view the presenter's available times for a connection.

Another interesting Skype lesson was called Writing Books For Minecrafters. The author is Danica Davidson, and she discusses the steps that she takes while writing her novels. There are also links to purchase her Minecraft books on this site. I showed both of these lesson advertisements to students that visit the library during lunch, and they already want me to connect to both Minecraft authors!

Webinars and Courses

Did you know that there are webinars and courses on the Microsoft  Educator community site? Iro shared a few Skype webinars with me on the page so I could show our teachers. A great beginning Skype course you might consider showing educators is Introduction to Skype in the Classroom. I also was interested in the webinar called Getting Started With Mystery Skype.


I'm so glad that Iro reached out to me to share these great resources for our learning community. Connecting students is so important as we work to help them prepare for the future. Using these tools will help you and your teachers connect with other schools and places. One of the questions I always get from teacher librarians is "how do you find schools to do Mystery Skype?" Up until now, I have relied on my Twitter PLN. This site makes it easier by having one place to find classes to connect.

Thank you, Iro!

I hope you will consider using Skype to connect your library (or classroom) and students to the world. If you don't feel comfortable with Mystery Skype, try a virtual field trip or guest speaker. If you try just one, your students and teachers will want more!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Our First Mystery Skype in the Library.

Cool Connections in October 2016!

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Physics Project Rolls Into The Library

Back in December, our Physics teacher, Mrs. Linda Self, asked me if her students could display their paper roller coaster projects in the library. I was very excited by this request. After visiting her classroom and seeing their work, I couldn't wait to share them with the learning community in the library! It has been a challenge for us to collaborate with mathematics and science classes. This was a perfect opportunity to allow the library to be a public viewing space for student work. I'm thrilled to be joined by Mrs. Self in this post as she shares her thoughts on the project.

Mrs. Self's Reflection 

Roller Coaster Physics:
Roller coasters are often used as a real world application for the Physics of Motion.  Change of location, changing speeds and changing heights are the very basics for motion studies.  Then, there are the turns!  My class built paper roller coasters during the unit on Circular Motion.  The classes learn about the forces that create circular motion, the imaginary force called centrifugal, and how much speed is necessary for an object to complete a loop.  The rubric for the students is to build a free-standing roller coaster that correctly uses all of the parts, using kits designed by Andrew Gatt (  The challenge is to run the marble for the longest amount of time--bonus points to the winner!  A sense of competition really brings out the best in kids.  This year I had an exceptional group and the results were fantastic!
Since Physics works hand in hand with engineering disciplines there are many design challenges that we have throughout the year.  We start with a rocket.  This is a basic introduction that simply requires the students to follow blueprints.  Next is an egg-drop apparatus.  The purpose is to build a device that allows an egg to fall from a height of 10m and not break on impact. Students do a lot of research to help them decide on a feasible design.  Then comes the roller coaster.  It takes about two weeks of design and building.  Students are allowed a great deal more freedom and they use trial and error to learn the dos and don'ts in construction.  Gravity is NOT their friend.  We are currently designing and building boats as part of our unit on Fluid Dynamics.  In this challenge, students must build a boat that floats the most pennies.  They must create a blueprint for their design and stay within a budget for their materials.  We also design and build kites and Rube-Goldberg machines.  In my class, we value the learning that comes from making mistakes and then fixing them.  These special projects provide a fun and safe atmosphere for students to learn.

Reception in the Library

After the learners set up their roller coasters, our library visitors took notice instantly. They were full of questions about the projects, and they wanted to roll marbles in them to watch how each worked. I even posted pictures of the roller coasters on Twitter and quickly received many inquiries from around the country! Imagine how this must have made Mrs. Self and her students feel! The interest generated by their products in the library was a perfect opportunity to encourage visiting students to create their own innovations in our makerspace area.

Two Students Make Comments On Video

Next Steps

When we returned to school after our winter break, Mrs. Self asked other librarians on our campus if the rollercoasters could be displayed in their schools. A few days later, I received photos from teacher librarians at both the primary and intermediate schools at Lakeside. Tammy Catlett, teacher librarian at Lakeside Primary School, shared this brief reflection.

"I had two classes that dragged their teachers into the library to make sure they saw the roller coasters and to tell them about it.  This morning one of our kindergarteners said he wished he could come to the library one hundred million days so he could play with them!" 

This shows that school libraries can be excellent places to display student work no matter the grade level. Perhaps we should consider sharing the work of learners from all schools. In addition, by inviting science and/ or math classes to display their projects provides an opportunity to get them into the library. It is possible to develop such activities to include students presenting their projects or even leading maker sessions that empower others to build such things. We can also share our books on similar projects and information.

I'm so glad that Mrs. Self decided to reach out to us for this partnership. Her students have inspired our learning community and school district in new ways. They have also mentored younger students by modeling these skills. I hope we can find ways to continue supporting such class projects. Hopefully, this "ride" has only just begun!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Elvis in the library!

Have a Future Ready New Year.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Elvis In The Library!

I have always loved the music of Elvis Presley. When I was a child, my parents frequently played Elvis records at our home. This music was a major influence on me when I became a musician as a teenager. From a library and programming perspective, Elvis is an important artist to share with the entire learning community since his influence made rock and roll music popular on an international scale.

A Spontaneous Idea Hits Big

Several years ago in January, we decided to put on an "Elvis Week" program in the library when I was the Jr. High librarian at Lakeside. I remember it being a success since most learners didn't really know much about Elvis (other than recognizing his image and some of his music). I have been wanting to bring this program back but wasn't sure how our high school learners would respond. We brainstormed the idea for this January (as a way to celebrate his birthday). We decided to have an Elvis "lip curl" photo activity. We thought we could get the younger students to attempt the iconic Elvis look as a fun activity. We also thought we could show a portion of one of his concert videos and have students answer essential questions about the performance (how the concert relates to modern performances, how the music relates to music of the present, etc). We decided to try the program!

The School Was All Shook Up

Peggy Schaeffer, one of our amazing assistants, decorated the library with Elvis cardboard models and a rock and roll theme. She also pulled our many Elvis books and displayed them around the library. Students immediately began asking about all the decorations. These made a great conversation piece for everyone. Students would get excited and share that their parents or grandparents had Elvis recordings or videos. Some shared that they had visited Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee.

One lunch period, we decided to start asking students to show us their best Elvis "lip curl". We couldn't believe how students got into this activity! We all took photos of students attempting to look like the King of Rock and Roll. Ray Borel, our other creative library assistant, began taking photos and video of teachers and students in the hall. The activity quickly became a popular draw to the library. Ray even got administrators to pose! He created a video that was shown on all of the televisions in the school. Students and teachers quickly came to us and talked about the activity!

Check out the video that Ray made above! (It's fun watching students & teachers try the Elvis "lip curl".)

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Impersonation, Please

A student performs an Elvis song during lunch!
Through all the excitement over Elvis, one 9th grade student told me that he did an Elvis impersonation! He showed our staff a video of his amazing performances. He also showed us a video of a Blues Brothers act he and his brother performed. We immediately asked him if they could perform for us in the library during lunch. They agreed and put on a fantastic performance on our stage a few days later! One of the assistant superintendents and the high school principal even attended the performance.

The Library Is Always On Their Mind

Lakeside Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Bruce Orr, poses with Elvis
This all started as a spontaneous thought for a simple library program and activity. As a result, it has opened up countless opportunities for conversations with students and teachers. I wonder how activities like this help change both student and teacher perspectives of the library program? I wonder how parents and administrators are impacted by seeing videos and photos of such events on library and school social media? Our hope is that the library stays on their mind as not only a fun place for a variety of programming but also as a place of information and literacy. We have decided to keep the Elvis theme for a few more weeks. We plan to show a portion of an Elvis concert and let students answer some essential questions (as mentioned in an earlier section). We want them to talk about how the music compares to the music of today. They can also identify differences in video techniques and clothing. There are endless possibilities!

I hope this reflection inspires you to try something new in your library programming this year! You never know what will hit big with students and teachers. With a library program, anything is possible since we have materials and information on all subjects. Start thinking out of the box and reaching out to the learning community in new ways.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Adventures with OER and Google Groups.

Our Disability Awareness lunch program.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Have A Future Ready New Year

A New Year With New Goals

It is always exciting to return to school after the start of the new year. The rollover of the calendar represents an opportunity to change and evolve as we work to improve our craft in education.

Pick Future Ready Components To Target

We all have different strengths as teacher librarians. Perhaps we should resolve to focus on Future Ready components that promote our strengths as the new year begins. The components I want to explore as we return to school follow below:

Empower Students As Creators

In recent years, I have witnessed the power of encouraging students to create. Many times, teacher librarians might be the only adults providing opportunities for learners to innovate in designated school spaces. This doesn't only mean in a makerspace. I frequently have students that bring me stories they have written. They also tell me about manga fiction they are wanting to write and draw. These are perfect chances for us to show interest in student work in the same ways we observe and encourage their makerspace innovations. The library is the perfect space and environment for students to create anything new! When we show interest, we empower them. The halls are full of creations waiting to happen. How can we better encourage learners? We never know what future author or engineer is waiting for a positive word. Encouragement and empowerment can change a student's life!

Build Instructional Partnerships

Building Instructional Partnerships is an area I want to continue developing in our learning community. Supporting instruction is one of the school library's most valuable functions. We have a wealth of

resources and skills for assisting teachers and students in learning. I love helping teachers bring their class novels to life through our many collaborative programs. Some of my favorites are based on The Great Gatsby and Out Of The Dust.  I want to continue using  Open Educational Resources (OER) to help teachers enhance their digital lessons this year. I also want to partner with ELA, math, science, and other subject teachers. (Even if I have to go to their classrooms!)

Facilitate Professional Learning

As we add more devices into our school, the need for more professional learning rises. We have 
already teamed up with tech savvy teachers in our building to provide support for new digital classroom tools. We became a Google school in August so we decided to create a Google Classroom with tips and tricks for our learning community as they learn to use these new tools. Perhaps we can also invite some of our student innovators to help us provide professional learning opportunities for our faculty during lunch. A few years ago, we invited two students to present Prezi, and it was a success! Earlier this
year, we had students present Breakout EDU. There are countless possibilities!

Share Your Journey With Your Learning Community

Whatever we do in the library, we should consider promoting our journey. Remember, if we don't share what we are doing, many people will never know (including administrators and other stakeholders). Send emails, post photos and video clips on social media, and write short blog posts to inform others of library activities.

Sharing the journey of your Future Ready activities will change how others perceive the library. You may have teacher colleagues and administrators that have a dated idea about what a school library should be. These actions will help transform those opinions!

Engage In The Community

Recently, Shannon Miller has been promoting the Future Ready Librarians Facebook Group. This has been a great place to read the conversations happening about all things Future Ready. In addition, remember there is a #FutureReady Twitter hashtag. This year, post your Future Ready activities and take part in the conversations!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Are We Future Ready Librarians?

Future Ready Libraries Change Lives.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Top 5 Blog Posts Of 2016

This was a great year for the Library Media Tech Talk Blog! I created this blog in March 2014. I sincerely hope that my posts have been both interesting and helpful to all educators! As 2016 comes to a close, I want to share our most-read articles of the year.

Top 5 most read blog posts of 2016

3265 pageviews: The Flexible School Library: Creating a 21st Century Space For Our Learners

2698 pageviews : How 6 Picture Frames Made A Difference In The School Library

2165 pageviews : Create A Library Sign-In With Google Forms

1805 pageviews : Four Ways To Lead From The School Library

1757 pageviews : Library Orientation Breakout EDU

Thank you for reading this blog! Happy New Year, friends!

How we held the 2016 Skype-a-Thon in the library!

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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