Monday, December 28, 2015

Our Top 5 Blog Posts of 2015

This was the second year for the Library Media Tech Talk Blog. The blog was created in March 2014. We hope that our posts have been both interesting and helpful to all educators! As 2015 comes to a close, I want to share our most read articles of the year.

Top 5 most read blog posts of 2015

1825 pageviews: Our First Mysteryskype!

1535 pageviews: Our First Makerspace Day In The Library

1154 pageviews: How My Wife Became Super Librarian

926 pageviews: Tweet Us Some #Inspiration

819 pageviews: Students "Teach The Teachers" Prezi At Lunch In The Library

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

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Seasons Greetings 2015 from Library Media Tech Talk!

I've noticed over the past few years if I am passionate and excited about something, this energy is usually contagious. One of the things I have enjoyed since high school is playing music on saxophone. I spent 12 years as a public school band director. It was a very rewarding job that I especially miss during the holiday season. I liked helping my band students prepare for a winter holiday concert each year. Luckily, I married a musician and can enjoy playing music anytime! My wife Cindy (who is also a school librarian) plays piano. We enjoy playing together in church and other local engagements.

I have always wanted to record music since my college days. It is now  possible to create recordings using a simple laptop computer and microphone setup. These recordings can be combined with video to make exciting music videos (or for digital storytelling, etc).

Use your skills to model technology projects for students & teachers

This might be an option for some students to create for learning projects in any class. It is easy to overlook creative students who have music and art skills. This is perfect outlet for them to shine. If they choose to publish their work, it gives them an opportunity to learn best practices for marketing on social media. As school librarians and technology support, we can help direct both students and teachers using these tools. It amazes me how we take all these different items and make them work together to create a product like a video!

These are the tools we used to create both videos

I want to take a moment to share about two holiday music videos Cindy and I have created over the past two years. Both music selections are public domain Christmas carols that we arranged (so we didn't have to worry about copyright issues).

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

I used Band in a Box (bass, piano, and drums) to create the backing tracks for this song. This software is simply amazing! The version I have comes on an external hard drive (this contains all the instrument tracks of nearly every style you can imagine). I exported the backing tracks as audio files and then put them in Garage Band. I recorded the melody using my tenor saxophone (an old Selmer USA TS 100 I have had since college). I used a Shure SM-57 microphone to record the saxophone part. I put a small amount of reverb on the saxophone recording in Garage Band to give it a more professional sound. After this, I was ready for a snow day to shoot the video.

We actually had two different snow events in February 2015. We used our Canon Rebel T3 DSLR camera to shoot the videos of the snow scenes. All of the video clips were made on our property in Bismarck, Arkansas. I then took the video clips and merged them with my audio recording using Final Cut Pro X for my MacBook Pro. This entire process took 10-12 hours from start to finish. Students could use this same process to create their own original videos about learning content. What if you created a video to inspire them using special skills or hobbies you have? Take a look at the finished product on our YouTube channel below:

What Child Is This?

Cindy has played her own arrangement of this public domain Christmas carol for many years. We used our Kurzweil PC1X keyboard to make this recording in Garage Band during the fall months of 2014. We also shot video clips of our Christmas decorations around the house. I remember that we had to decorate the house early in November so we could shoot the video in time to release it near Thanksgiving. I made sure to get shots of Cindy playing her acoustic Kimball piano. We took all these clips and created the music video in Final Cut Pro X on our MacBook Pro. It took about 8 hours of work from start to finish. Take a moment to view the finished product below:

Closing Thoughts:

A few essential questions to consider: In what ways can you combine your talents with technology tools to create memorable products to inspire your learners? In what ways can students do this? 

If you are a great storyteller, create a product with technology to enhance this skill. If a student is great at rap and rhyming, help them create a rap video or audio file about content they have learned in class. The holidays are a great time to experiment with these skills, especially if you get new tech toys!

Go here to see how we had a Google Holiday Hangout with another school library 200 miles away.

Go here to learn two ways we brought music into the library! (one involves vinyl)

Have you been wanting to try #Mysteryskype? Go here to see how we did it!

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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Monday, November 23, 2015

Schools Without Walls 2015 Changed My Thinking...

I attended the Schools Without Walls (SWOW) annual conference just a few weeks ago. The conference was held in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I enjoy attending the conference each year to learn the latest about educational technology! The sessions always challenge my thinking.

This year, I was excited to hear a presentation by keynote speaker Ginger Lewman (follow her on Twitter @GingerLewman). Ginger asked great questions:

"Are we transforming curriculum with technology or are we substituting digital worksheets for paper worksheets?" This helped me reflect about my role as a library media specialist and technology consultant. I can help teachers enhance curriculum in their classroom with technology... In what ways am I doing this? (something we should all ponder as school librarians)

"How do we ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn outside of our walls?"

My three biggest takeaways from SWOW:

Genius Hour

Ginger explained that this comes from Google's 20% time for their employees. Students can use designated "Genius Hour" time to explore/ create projects of their choosing. The library is a great place to try this since we have so many resources for students to utilize. I love the idea of encouraging learners to come up with solutions to problems. The school library is a perfect spot to research and experiment! I want to try this soon!

Educational Video Games

I attended a session by Chad Freeman on this topic. Chad is a teacher at Ashdown High School in Ashdown, Arkansas. He challenged my thinking on gaming by discussing why people game. The main reasons being that the best games are complex and engaging. Video gamers also receive instant feedback and are encouraged to try again (something we should adopt in all aspects of education). Chad provided names of some excellent games for classroom use:

Minecraft EDU
Cities Skylines

I have forwarded information about Cities Skylines to our Civics teachers. This game looks like an excellent opportunity to have learners develop a virtual local government and build/ maintain a city. I will have to examine the other games as time permits! This is an ever emerging way to engage our learners in a video game environment.

Photo found at

Live Internet Radio and Podcasting

I really enjoyed the session about Internet Broadcasting led by Arkansas educators Jeff Madlock and David Henderson (on Twitter @edutechguys)! They discussed the many ways that teachers can broadcast from their classroom. Jeff and David presented many different possibilities for podcasting in the classroom. Among these were class reviews, class discussions, class presentations, school news, and interviews. Jeff (@jmadlock) and David (@davidinark) have a regular podcast where they interview educators. You can listen to their previous broadcasts here.

Some of the websites with free options (with the opportunity for expanded paid plans) they presented:

Photo found at (users can broadcast 1 hour sessions for free, longer periods require paid plan)  (users can broadcast 1 hour sessions for free, longer periods require paid plan)

Both of these sites are wonderful options to reach students where they are (almost every learner has a device of some type that can access digital audio/ podcasts). I'm already interested in this since two of our Lakeside High School history teachers (Mr. Kevin Pumphrey and Mr. Ron Franklin) have just started podcasting from their classrooms. They have been using a YouTube channel (History After Hours Podcast) to post their episodes. I attended one of their combined class discussions one day and was very impressed with how engaged their students were! It's a great day when we can engage students using technology that models digital citizenship!

I hope my three takeaways from the SWOW conference have inspired you!

Take a moment to read a few of our most popular blog articles:

Our first Mysteryskype is described here

We describe our first Makerspace Day in the library here.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

When Things Fall Apart Again...

Lakeside High School Library Media Specialist, Misti Bell, presents this article about a recent library collaboration program:

On October 29th, our library hosted Africa Day for the third time (go here to see how this event started in 2012).  Once again the library staff, tenth grade English teachers, and Chartwells collaborated to make this year’s Africa Day the best yet!  The tenth grade students are reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and this event was developed to help the students have a better understanding of the Igbo people of Nigeria in the late 1800’s. 


This year we focused on giving students more time at each station.  Students participated in four learning stations:  food, art, music, and games.   Students spent twelve minutes at each station; this provided them an opportunity to go more in depth and have a more meaningful experience.  
Taste of Africa was our food station; Chartwells (our food services) prepared a goat and yam stew, fufu, and wine (grape juice).  The students ate the stew with great reluctance; however, they soon realized that it, in fact, tasted like chicken!  The fufu acted as a type of “cornbread” to dip into the stew.  This station provided the students an opportunity to actually taste a meal that would be prepared in Africa.  One student shared, “The spices were absolutely perfect and I wish I could do it again and again!”

The art station consisted of African masks, art, and face painting.  This station was 100% student led; the art students made the masks and presented how and why the masks are used in Africa.  A popular part of this station was face painting.  Students chose a particular design and color; the designs were symbolic of various traits: strength, masculinity, courage, honor, etc.

Our video station encouraged students to not only hear rhythms but to also see that rhythm is a part of the African experience.  One student commented that, “It was really interesting seeing how rhythm was a part of their daily life.”  In addition to the video, our students were able to beat out some rhythms of their own on a djembe drum!

This year we introduced a game station; this station will definitely be a permanent part of Africa Day!  A symbolism matching game and two authentic African children games were a fun addition to this collaboration.  The symbolism game was added to emphasize the importance of symbolism in the novel.  The African games were Ekak and Nanpe.  The object of Ekak is to find a ring that has been buried in a pile of sand or sawdust;  once the ring has been hidden, children take turns by inserting a stick into the pile.  The person who finds the ring will be named king and allowed to hide the ring for the next players.  This game was rather messy, but the students really enjoyed this hands-on activity!  Nanpe is much like a dice game, but instead of throwing dice you throw sticks.  Players will form a circle and have four sticks; the sticks are brown on one side and white on the other.  The players will take turns and throw the sticks into the air and earn points based on how the sticks land.  If two colors land up, the player earns two points and if four colors land up, the player earns four points.  The first person to reach eight points wins the game! 


We also added a post collaboration survey.  Students were asked a series of questions to determine what worked and what didn’t work!  We will use this data to better prepare for our future collaborations.  Our goal for Africa Day was to expose students to a new culture and in turn help them better understand the setting of the novel, Things Fall Apart.   When asked if the Africa Day experience helped them to better understand the novel:  54% of students surveyed answered yes, 43% answered somewhat and only 3% answered no.  Students answering no were either not present for the event or felt that they had no understanding of the book.  Our most exciting data was that 89% of students surveyed would like to see more collaborative projects in the future! 


Based on our student feedback, I feel that we are moving in the right direction!  Students want to be engaged; collaborations are a way for the learning community to tap into resources and discover innovative ways for students to learn.

Go here to read about our collaboration based on The Crucible!

Read about my first International Google Hangout here!

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My First International Hangout!

On a Saturday in late September, one of our Lakeside High School Assistant Principals, Mr. Mathew Thornton, (@Mat_Thornton) mentioned me in a Tweet. The message was from Dina Moati (@dinamoati) who is a Professor of Education in Ontario, Canada.

After seeing that Dina was looking for volunteers to speak to her class of aspiring educators, I Tweeted a message to her immediately! I love sharing about how Twitter has changed me professionally! I have also been looking for opportunities to connect our learning community to educators outside of the United States.

Dina Moati leads the Virtual Experts Panel
I knew this could be a first step to lead the way to more international collaboration! Dina messaged me back and the date was set. 
Stephan Hughes
This event took place for two of Dina's classes as a Google Hangout forum with two other educators: Stephan Hughes from Rio de Janeiro (@stephwurking) and Tammy G. Neil from Florida (@TG_Neil). 

Tammy G. Neil
We started the two sessions by introducing ourselves and telling about what we do. Dina would turn her camera to the class so we could see them on our screens and we would all wave greetings to each other. We then discussed ways that we use social media in the profession of education. We took turns answering some of these questions and topics: 
  • "What is a connected educator?" 
  • "Discuss how you use technology in the 21st century classroom" 
  • "What are your favorite hashtags to follow?"
I had never participated in a discussion on webcam like this before. It was so much fun to connect with new friends in Canada, Florida, and Rio de Janeiro simultaneously! I began thinking of what an impact this demonstration must have had on Dina's students. She was modeling a wonderful practice for her college students. 

Dina's class in Canada
Furthermore, I considered what this could look like in a high school classroom. We have such wonderful tools for connecting our students to other places, yet our time is limited. I plan to encourage our teachers to make time for these activities! I want to encourage them to be risk takers by stepping out of their comfort zones to connect their students to other classrooms outside of our town, state, and country. I hope they will use the school library whenever possible to embark on their educational journeys. The adventure is only just beginning! What happens next?... Whatever we decide! How will you model social media and being connected to your learning community?

Check out our Google Hangout with 4 Spanish classes here!

Read about our first #MysterySkype here!

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Dust Bowl Collaboration Blows In Again!

We have been privileged to host a Dust Bowl collaboration with 8th grade English classes for the past 4 years. If you want to read about how this started, go here. The program is designed to help students understand Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Our 8th grade science teachers asked if they could join in the collaboration by adding science experiments to the program last year. In addition, the Chartwells food service catering manager also wanted to include a food station last year so learners could get a taste of the Dust Bowl era. Luckily it went so well that these additions were kept for the 2015-2016 school year! As an added bonus we used a 1934 painting in our two day program to illustrate how art can be a primary source. We want to share about the setup and reception of this library collaboration.

The program took place over two days. Day 1 consisted of four learning stations with a general focus on the era. Day 2 consisted of three learning stations with a focus on the science and food of the era. We began planning about four weeks prior to the event. 

We met before school to plan the stations

Day 1:

Station 1- The Dust Bowl Blues music video.

Students listened to the Dust Bowl Blues by Woody Guthrie
Station 2- An introduction to the Dust Bowl from a PBS television series.

Station 3- Ploughing it Under by Thomas Hart Benton.

This painting is from 1934. The digital file was provided by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. We used this as an example of how an art object can be a primary source.

Station 4- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Dust Bowl speech.

Day 2:

Station 1- Static electricity.

We used the following video to introduce lightning to the students. I used Final Cut Pro to make the video. The presenter is Mrs. Linda Self, one of our science teachers at Lakeside High School. After watching the video, students would transition to a presentation area in the library led by LHS science teacher, Mr. Matthew Balcom.

Station 2- Water purification.

Students experimented with cotton, paper, sand, and cloth to see which was the most effective water filter. This was led by LHS science teacher, Mrs. Mary French.

Station 3- Dust Bowl "seconds".

Students got to taste cabbage and ham, buttermilk, rice with tomato gravy, and apple pan dowdy for dessert. This station was provided by Mr. Robert Miller of Chartwells. Our school outsources to Chartwells for all food services.

Many thanks to Mr. Darin Landry (LHS Principal), Mrs. Mari Simmons (8th grade English), Mrs. Meg Parker (8th grade English), Mr. Robert Miller (Chartwells), and our library staff (Mrs.Misti Bell, Mrs. Peggy Schaeffer, and Mr. Ray Borel) for making this possible! We are so glad to see how our stakeholders are continually improving this wonderful collaboration. Stay tuned to see how our other programs develop this school year.

Read about our Crucible Collaboration here!

Read how we improved our 9/11 Collaboration here!

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Friday, October 16, 2015

The Crucible Collaboration

Mrs. Misti Bell, LHS Library Media Specialist, presents this installment of Library Media Tech Talk. She and 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Jerrie Stanage, collaborated for a second year on this wonderful student led program:

The Crucible Event:  The Mock Trial of Abigail Williams
by Misti Bell

Abigail Williams is NOT a witch!  On September 30th, 2015 the junior English classes participated in our second annual mock trial of Abigail Williams.  After reading The Crucible by Arthur Miller, students selected roles from the play, created costumes and scripts, and portrayed the characters.  

The students were divided into defense, prosecution, witnesses, jury, bailiff, and judge; the judge being the most powerful player in the court.  Students, teachers, and principals were placed in the stock when the judge deemed them “out of order”!   

The defense and prosecution prepared witnesses and plead their cases.  No court room drama can be complete without a surprise witness or two, exciting revelations, biting testimonies, and some surprising adlibs! 

Based on the arguments presented by both sides, the jury was asked to determine the guilt or innocence of Abigail Williams.  It was an overwhelming  “not guilty” verdict for Miss Williams this year, surprising the court!  This was a fun culminating activity that provided students an opportunity to be creative and explore both sides of an argument.  Special thanks to Attorney Lance Garner for presenting and consulting with students as they prepared to have court. Thanks to LHS English teachers Mrs. Jerrie Stanage, Mrs. Jennifer Garner, Mrs. Hayden Shamel, and Mrs. Melissa Vetter for this collaboration! 

Go here for our Africa Day collaboration based on Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

Check out our Great Gatsby collaboration here!

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Our First Collaborative Library Commercial!

Congratulations to Mr. Kevin Parrott for helping us create a great collaborative library video commercial! Kevin is a 12th grade student here at Lakeside High School. Our library team had an idea to create an innovative commercial combining athletics and literacy. Kevin helped us make it happen! Special thanks to Kevin, the LHS Cross Country Team, Coach Joe Hobbs, and Coach Karrie Irwin for taking the time to do this project with us! The commercial has already received many views and comments on various social media outlets over the past week!

Also, many thanks to Mr. Carl Harvey, II, one of the editors of ABC-CLIO's new School Library Connection publication. He has invited me to write an article about this commercial in an upcoming issue! I asked if Kevin could co-write with me, and Carl approved! I'm so grateful that we will be able to share a student voice in a national publication! Stay tuned!

Check out the video above!

Our goals for 2015-2016 can be found here.

Believe it or not, I married "Super Librarian"

It's not too late to send your annual report!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A New Year Of Goals And Celebrations

It seems like the first few weeks of school are always the equivalent of drinking from a fire hydrant! Now that the rush of the first few weeks have subsided, it's time to start setting the course for the year. First of all, I would like to share some celebrations. This blog is nearly a year and a half old. It is the direct result of being inspired by Shannon Miller at the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference in 2014 (a prime example of why we should attend professional conferences). I remember listening to her talk about networking on Twitter and sharing her library happenings on the VanMeter Library Voice blog. After I heard this, I couldn't wait to start reflecting in the same way! 59 posts and 17 months later, I'm more excited than ever to plan and write these articles. I'm convinced that blogs and social media are important "digital billboards" to show evidence of what we do in this wonderful profession!

I want to celebrate some of the monthly statistics with all of you that read this blog. A year ago in August 2014 we had a total of 602 page views. At the time, I was so excited about this number! However, over the summer of 2015, views have skyrocketed to all time highs of 3936 in July and 7955 in August! It inspires me to see that other educators value our reflections. I have also enjoyed making new friends in other states and across the globe as a result of this continued practice. Our library team will continue working hard to share the best library activities and collaborative lessons in 2015-2016. Thank you for viewing these pages. I also appreciate the emails and comments of encouragement! I always share these with my co-workers. If you have ideas for articles you would like us to share, please, feel free to contact me via email or comment on the blog below!
7955 Page views in August! Thank you!

Another celebration for this year is our library renovation already underway. I plan to share the photos of progress and some of the details of this renovation process. The refit will feature a gaming/ coding room, a cafe theme, 3 computer labs, a dedicated Makerspace, custom movable shelving units for collaboration space, and more. I cannot wait to share the images of this new library for our learners. Construction should be complete by January 3, 2016.

3D concept of our library renovation!
One additional celebration for this school year. I will be contributing a few articles to the new School Library Connection publication! (Misti Bell and I are currently working on one together.) We are grateful to Mrs. Paige Jaeger and Dr. Rebecca Morris for this wonderful opportunity. I'm so thankful to them and ABC-CLIO for giving Lakeside High School and our library media program an opportunity for a national voice. If you haven't subscribed to School Library Connection, please, visit their site here! Follow them on Twitter @SLC_Online.

Now, about those goals...There are so many potential goals for this school year. Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the large number of things you want to try in the library? Time is always the enemy since there is never enough of it! First of all, Misti and I want to bring in authors this year. We are currently brainstorming names! We hope to either have them come on site or Skype with them. We want to continue igniting an interest in reading for our learners.

We also want to use the library as a space to connect classes to other states and countries. I connected with Angels Soriano (@Angelssoriano74) in Valencia, Spain on Twitter this summer. I hope to connect some of our Spanish classes with Angels' students for a rich cultural exchange using technology. After our successes with MysterySkype and Lakeside Squared last year, our learners want more. I can't think of a better place to facilitate this than the school library.

Lastly, I want to continue building my Twitter Professional Learning Community this year. I want to connect with more motivated educator friends like Tiffany Whitehead (@librarian_tiff) in Louisana, Becky Calzada (@becalzada) in Texas, and Rik Rowe (@RoweRikW) in Massachusetts, to name a few. Please, consider following these leaders if you aren't already. Twitter networking has had a profound effect on me professionally over the past 12 months, and I can't wait to see how it helps connect me to new ways to impact student learning in 2015-2016! If you aren't on Twitter, check out this 2 part article for a brief tutorial.

This will be the best year ever. The reason I believe this is because we have so many great resources to make us better! All we really have to provide is our knowledge, experience, creativity, and innovation to the classroom to make an impact. I encourage everyone to take risks and try something new in 2015-2016. That is what I will be doing and for some details on these adventures, keep coming back to the current URL. Have a great year, friends!

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