Saturday, April 30, 2016

Four Ways To Lead From The School Library

Updated February 18, 2017

Recently, I have heard from many teacher librarian friends around the country (and world) that are encountering the effects of personnel and/ or budget cuts. This deeply saddens me when I learn of library services being cut back in any way. We should explore ways to be proactive to hopefully minimize these effects. Sometimes, no amount of promoting the library seems to make a difference when money is tight, but we should still make the effort to show the value of the library.

It is crucial that we show the school, community, and world that libraries are an essential part of learning. We should strive to lead from the library and work to do this even from areas in which we are not comfortable because this is how growth takes place. I'd like to share what has worked for me in the 9 years I have served as a school librarian. This isn't a perfect method of leadership, but I have seen it work year after year.

1. Build Relationships

I used to think that libraries were only about books and technology. I have adjusted that idea over the past few years and now firmly believe that libraries are about people first. The way I have discovered to get students and teachers to visit the library consistently is through relationship building. In the mornings, our staff circulates among the students in the library before school. We exchange brief conversations with students and have found that many times we might be the only adult to personally visit with the students. They feel safe in the library; and when we talk to them and show an interest on a personal level, this changes everything over time. In almost every instance, these students come back and become regular visitors.

The same is true with teachers. It is necessary to make time to visit with the educators we serve. I have built many strong professional relationships with my colleagues through the years and have learned so much from them. They will never fully know the impact they have made on me personally and professionally. Through our daily exchanges, I can only hope I have been able to teach them a few small things about literature, technology, or information.

For our library team, relationships are everything in the school library. It is a time consuming task that is a priceless investment. I wish I had realized this when I entered education so many years ago. Through relationships, people can be linked to books, technology, and information much more effectively. It is a customer service approach that has worked time and again!

2. Listen to the Needs of the Learning Community

When relationships grow stronger, people will typically begin to communicate more. This is where listening becomes a powerful tool for library leaders. Teachers and students will share their concerns and challenges. They will feel more comfortable asking for books, resources, and assistance with technology. They will also ask for assistance teaching and collaborating. Listening is a skill I always need to improve. When I do listen to requests and concerns, relationships grow stronger and so does the value of the library.

3. Serve Others and Take Action

Listening is not enough. To lead others, I have found that we must serve those that come to us with needs and questions. It is a good thing when students and teachers see that we are listening to them. When they observe that we truly take action and serve them, it is amazing! Think about it; we are all drawn to people that are genuinely interested in us. When you go above and beyond for students and teachers, it will be noticed. Word will travel like wildfire when this is done consistently because good service gets talked about!

4. Look for Opportunities to Collaborate

Great things can happen when we build relationships, listen, and serve. Powerful collaboration will begin to take place within the learning community. Students and teachers will begin sharing ideas and you will have chances to collaborate. This is exactly how some of our first collaborations began to take place in 2012 and 2013. When you team teach and collaborate with students and teachers, they will tell others about their experiences. These successes build a great momentum that can literally transform a learning community! When teachers see their colleagues taking part in library collaborations that include cutting edge technology and powerful team teaching, they will want to join in!

Final Thoughts

What I'm sharing with you has been life changing for me personally and professionally. When I look at the 125 articles published in this blog, these four points are what led to these successes. Is this time consuming? Yes. Is it physically and mentally draining? Yes. Does it make a difference for students and teachers? Yes! I truly believe a library program that shows extreme value will be less likely to experience major cuts. Lets all work to build relationships, listen, and serve our learning communities so well that no one can ignore us as we lead from the school library.

I have started 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!

Other articles that may interest you:

Contact Me/ Follow Me

Are you on Twitter?

Follow me : @stony12270

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How the MIE Expert Program Changed Me

A Friendly Email

It all started with an email from my friend, Tracey Wong, last summer. Tracey is a school librarian in New York City. I first connected with her via email after reading one of her magazine articles late last spring. In June, she emailed telling me I should apply for an unfamiliar program called MIE Expert (Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert). I love learning, and I'm always looking for ways to connect with other educators. At first glance, I knew that this program would be very beneficial.

Microsoft selects educators each year to become part of the MIE Expert group. This is a large community with thousands of educators all over the world. All of the members are innovative leaders in education using technology. I thought this would be a great way to network and learn from others, so I decided to apply to see what might happen. Go here to learn more about being an MIE Expert.

Skype has changed our learning community this year!
Application and Acceptance

I completed the application in July and submitted it (after getting Tracey to look over it for me to make sure everything was in order!). Honestly, I didn't think I had a chance of being selected. After school started in August, I quickly forgot about the whole thing until fall. Then one day, the notification email came through... I had been accepted! I tweeted and emailed Tracey the good news immediately! I was so excited!

Webinars and Connections

I enjoy monthly MIE Expert webinars!

Since November, I have attended monthly MIE Expert webinars. These sessions feature current MIE Experts sharing their innovative practices. I have learned about what teachers are doing around the country to reach students in the classroom with Microsoft products. I've also participated in a Global Skype-a-Thon with one of the teachers at my school. His classes contacted other schools via Mystery Skype sessions last December.

One of the most valuable benefits to this program has been making connections. All of the teachers I encounter in this group are passionate 21st century connected educators. They are always looking to share best practices and ready to learn more for their learning communities. This kind of passion is contagious when you are surrounded by it! 

I have also learned about Microsoft products and training opportunities. I have started connecting with educators in other countries. I use Skype to connect with new educator friends; the more I use it, the more comfortable it gets. It seems that I've only just scratched the surface of what is possible to learn.

MIE Expert Forum

The MIE Expert community, Twitter, and Skype keep me connected!

I found out a few weeks ago that I will be attending the MIE Forum in Denver, Colorado this summer. This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn in a conference style atmosphere. I'm most excited to meet other MIE Experts in person. I hope to make connections and bring them back to our learning community for future collaborations via Skype!

Many of our students have connected with other schools via Skype over the past year!

Future Plans

The 2015-2016 school year has been full of connections on social media and through the MIE Expert program. When we connect with other educators and build relationships, many good things happen. First, we learn from others, and this improves our teaching practices. Secondly, when we learn and change, we impact our entire learning community. This has the potential to benefit many of our learners.

I will continue learning in the MIE Expert community next school year. Thank you, Tracey Wong, for suggesting I apply for this wonderful group. It has changed me and impacted my learning community. I look forward to learning and connecting more in 2016-2017!

I have started 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!

Contact Us/ Follow Us

Are you on Twitter?

Follow me : @stony12270

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Disability Awareness Lunch Program

Earlier this year our special services administrator, Mrs. Courtney Eubanks, approached me about participating in Disability Awareness Week. I was very interested in the idea. It is important to serve all types of learners in the library and give them a voice. I was especially interested in a disability awareness activity that Mrs. Eubanks described to me. She told me that she had access to several activities that allowed students to experience disabilities in a learning station format. I shared this activity with the library staff, and we were all excited to give it a try. We also partnered with our local First Step organization that assists students with disabilities in our community. It was decided that we would have a fundraiser in the library for First Step during Disability Awareness Week.

The "Walk a Mile In My Shoes" Activity

We decided to have a total of four learning stations for students to experience on the day of the event. Our Family and Consumer Science teacher, Mrs. Tonja Bolding, offered to have her Special Olympics Partners Club students lead each activity. There was a tactile disability simulation, a visual disability simulation, a video depicting characteristics of autism, and a squeeze machine demonstration. I wanted to get feedback from students at the end of the event, so we could find out how the activities impacted them. The activity was appropriately named "Walk a Mile in My Shoes."

Tactile Disability Simulation

This activity featured a simulation of what it might be like for the participant to experience a tactile perception disability. Students put on gloves with thick padding. They were then asked to put beads on pipe cleaners. After this, participants were required to attempt tying their shoes. The station proved to be very frustrating for students.

Visual Disability Simulation

This learning station consisted of safety goggles with a coat of petroleum jelly on the lenses. Participants were asked to read a page of text featuring different sized fonts. The presenter also asked students to copy the text on notebook paper. When I tried this activity, I had to hold the paper right up to my face. I could barely read the largest font. It caused me to realize how much I take my vision for granted!

Autism Sensory Overload Simulation Video

This video showed what sensory overload might be like for a person with autism. It depicts an individual walking inside a busy store (like Wal-Mart or a grocery store). The sounds of people and noise get increasingly louder as the person walks through the store. As the noise increases to uncomfortable levels, the person's vision deteriorates. When they finally walk outside into the parking lot, the sounds become more calm and their vision seems to return to normal.

Squeeze Machine Demonstration

This station featured a discussion and demonstration of our school squeeze machine. The student presenter discussed how he has used the squeeze machine. I was very proud of him for sharing this personal experience of how the device helps calm him down when he is feeling stress. Student participants were then allowed to try the squeeze machine, so they could experience the device for themselves. Several students used the machine during the lunch program.

Student Reflections

"This opened my eyes to how difficult everyday tasks can be to people with disabilities. I enjoyed getting to know about (different) disabilities and how (they) affect people." - Jason R.

"Simple tasks like tying your shoes and opening books is much more difficult for those with disabilities..." 

"... I understand why they (Autistic students) wear hearing protection and sunglasses... I never knew about the about (the effects) of the sound and the lights..." - Cade L.

"It really opened my eyes to experience this event. I couldn't imagine playing soccer without my good eyesight!" - Joseph P.

"I had no idea how hard it would be to do basic tasks with a disability. With the visual I could not even read the paper along with taking notes. With the tactile I could not even tie my shoes. I had no idea it was so difficult to deal with a disability." - Barrett J.

Administrator Reflection

Mrs. Eubanks describes the Squeeze Machine to participants
"Raising awareness about different disabilities has been a great experience. Today we provided a disability simulation for our students- This gave our students an opportunity to feel the way some of our students feel for just a few minutes. By the student comments, we were able to see this had opened their eyes and raised empathy and understanding for students with disabilities." - Courtney Eubanks, Lakeside School District Special Services Administrator

Next Steps

This week was wonderful for our learning community. It gave some of our students with disabilities a chance to share their voice. It allowed students without disabilities a chance to better understand what others may go through in their classes. During this disability awareness week, I actually heard one 8th grade autistic student sharing about his experiences and how he had learned to overcome many obstacles through the years. Other students discussed their experiences with disabilities in their own families. We displayed many books on disabilities to advertise relevant library resources to students.

We are already discussing how we can improve disability awareness programming next year. We plan to expand the awareness activities for students in 2017. Some of the ideas included additional guest speakers and educational videos. I was very pleased that we were able to inform students about this topic in the school library. I want to continue looking for more ways to inform our learners of such subjects and help generate empathy. The library is a hub for everyone in the school. This activity was another step in the right direction! Many thanks to Mrs. Courtney Eubanks, Mrs. Tonja Bolding, and all the students involved. They made a difference in our learning community!

I have started 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!

Contact Us/ Follow Us

Are you on Twitter?

Follow me : @stony12270

Saturday, April 9, 2016

My #AAIM2016 Conference Reflections

Each time I attend professional conferences, I come home overwhelmed with ideas. Hearing keynote speakers share their best practices while also issuing growth challenges is always thought provoking. This year, the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media (AAIM) Conference was held in Springdale, Arkansas. I want to share some of my most important takeaways from the conference.

Dr. Joyce Valenza

Dr. Valenza was the first keynote speaker of the conference. I have been following her on Twitter for many years; and it was great to hear her speak and meet her in person! Her first general session had many points that resonated with me. Her thoughts about our online presence being our "business card" was big! Here are some questions and thoughts that I'm still considering after her talk nearly a week ago:

  • What footprint (business card) are we creating on social media?
  • Our Twitter account/ feed is our new business card.
  • What are we teaching students about this?

We are encouraged to talk to students about Internet safety, but how often do we teach them how to create a positive footprint? We talk to them about what not to post on social media, but do we tell them what they should post? How often do we model this for them? 

I have been working hard for several years to establish a digital footprint for our library program, but I rarely share these strategies with students. Valenza challenged us to help students create LinkedIn accounts with links to their best school work. I can't help but wonder, why I haven't already been doing this? I could write many more paragraphs about Dr. Valenza's sessions, but this was my biggest takeaway from her keynote. I need to do a better job of teaching and modeling social media presence to my students and teachers. 

Over the past two years, social media has impacted me in ways that I cannot even completely express in words. We are all being watched on social media, and our presence is our identity. A strong presence in a niche can provide many opportunities and connections. One thing I learned is that we never know who is reading our material and evidence. While visiting with Dr. Valenza and Jennifer LaGarde (aka Library Girl), they brought it to my attention that for every one person that comments on a blog, 100 other people may have viewed it. We need to share this with our learners and help them build an online presence!

The other part of this concept is that we need to consider building a strong social media presence for our school library programs. If we don't tell our stories on social media, how will people find out what we are doing for learners? Social media has helped our library program receive support from stakeholders. It has also helped us connect our learning community with distant places. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of possibilities. Dr. Valenza's presentations changed my thinking for my students and learning community.

I learned lots from Joyce Valenza!

Jennifer LaGarde (Library Girl)

I enjoyed Jennifer's keynote on the second day of the conference. She plainly stated there are two types of librarians: Zombies and Zombie Fighters! Her talk brought many best practices to the table. In an effort to be relevant to our learning communities, LaGarde urged the audience to be transparent. I love this concept! If we share our best practices on social media (wherever our users will see), imagine how this might change how people view school librarians. This is our opportunity to help change stereotypes. This can and will happen if we make an effort.

It was great to meet and visit with Jennifer!

I agree with Jennifer on working to "reimagine, redefine, reinvent, and remodel" all things library and librarian! This is not an impossible task. An example of this happened today when a parent came to spend some time in our facility. She had actually filled in for me earlier in the week when I was off campus attending the AAIM conference. She helped decorate for our 11th grade Great Gatsby collaboration yesterday. Today, while subbing in another building, she was reassigned to us to complete her day. This was very helpful since we held the Gatsby event today. She saw how hundreds of students came through the library facility and how it impacted them. At the end of the day, she shared how this changed her perception of the school library program. This parent is now a supporter of our library. She is a walking billboard that will tell our story to other parents and community members. Jennifer LaGarde said in her keynote that "everyone that comes in the library is a potential advocate". The parent visit today is proof of this statement. How many opportunities do we miss each week to grow more support for our programs? 

Jennifer said if we are not on Twitter by now, we are just being "stubborn". After witnessing the power of Twitter and being a connected educator since the summer of 2014, I agree with this statement. If we refuse to embrace these technologies, we are denying our learners many undiscovered opportunities. There are so many new connections awaiting us on Twitter. Without Twitter, I would have never met Elizabeth Hutchinson. Elizabeth is a librarian on the island of Guernsey which is located in the English Channel. Elizabeth arranged for us to have our first International Mystery Hangout with a school on the island of Alderney. Since then, we have connected with her two additional times (once for a professional development meeting and the other time was to connect with our primary school library). What other connections await our learning community?

A conference crowd contains endless potential for change!
Jennifer's message was heard by Arkansas' library media specialists. By the end of the week, the AAIM listserv was buzzing about Twitter. Librarians have been exchanging connections on social media and following each other. There has even been talk this week of establishing a monthly Twitter chat for Arkansas librarians. Ripples of change are flowing through our state. This is what should happen as a result of an inspiring conference experience. I have no doubt that these ripples will become great waves of change. Thank you Dr. Joyce Valenza and Jennifer LaGarde for challenging us to do a better job for our learning communities! I'll be reflecting on  AAIM 2016 for many months to come.

Follow Joyce Valenza on Twitter: @joycevalenza
Follow Jennifer LaGarde on Twitter: @jenniferlagarde

I have recently started 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!

Contact Us/ Follow Us

Are you on Twitter?

Follow me : @stony12270

Saturday, April 2, 2016

How We Made Super Librarian Fly!

Earlier this year, I published an article about my wife's (Cindy Evans) super hero library theme. Cindy has found this theme to be one of her most successful in recent years. She has noticed that students, teachers, and parents have really connected to super heroes. This is no surprise since, even 8 months after my original post, super hero movies continue to blow up the big screen!

Super Librarian flying!
Super Librarian On The Big Screen

Cindy and I decided to take a road trip to the Grand Canyon during spring break. She knew she would be out of school on the following Wednesday when we returned. This would be a day she normally announced the Accelerated Reader awards for the nine weeks at a school assembly. She hated to miss this important moment for her students, so she pitched an idea that really resonated with me. Cindy asked if there was a way to make it appear she was flying over the Grand Canyon in her Super Librarian identity. Her learning community had loved the previous comic strip video skit she had created at the first of the year. She wanted to announce the Accelerated Reader winners in the proposed video of Super Librarian flying.

We began brainstorming how this might work. We had both used Do Ink's Green Screen App for iOS over the past year. I thought it would be possible to shoot a video panning across the Grand Canyon using her iPad Mini. We could then set up a green screen in her library and cover a table in green paper. Cindy could lay on the table in her costume, and we could put the Grand Canyon panning skyline behind her on the green screen. I just knew it could work!

How We Created The Video

While at the Grand Canyon south rim overlook, we shot the video of the landscape and skyline as planned. After we returned home, we picked an afternoon after school to set up the green screen and table just as we had discussed during the planning stage. I brought a camera stand and an iStabilizer Tabmount adapter for the iPad. The iStabilizer clamps around the iPad and allows the user to connect it to a camera stand. This keeps the video shot very stable for a more professional appearance!

Our green screen set up

Everything worked exactly as planned! We were able to get the shot to work perfectly using the Green Screen app by Do Ink. We simply videoed Cindy pretending to fly on the table. (I stood behind her out of sight and moved her cape for the flapping effect.)
Green Screen app screenshot
The Green Screen app allows you to easily put in your desired photo or video clip to appear in the background on the green screen surface. After a few takes, Cindy had the project started like she had envisioned a month prior. Now we just needed to do the final edits. 

Green Screen app by Do Ink

Final Edits And Reception

That evening, we exported the Green Screen app movie to her iPad photo storage. We then used the iMovie app on her iPad to make final edits. We added text and music to give it more of a professional finished appearance. After this, we uploaded the finished product to YouTube so it would be ready to show on the big day. It took about an hour and a half to set up and shoot the green screen video. It took an additional hour and a half to complete final edits and upload to YouTube. All in all, it took about three hours for total completion. Click below to see the finished video!

Cindy's video was shown to approximately 250 students over a two day period. Teachers and administrators reported that the children reacted with great excitement. Students asked questions like: "How is she flying?" Parents asked the principal: "I wonder how she did that?" Imagine how this changed how they viewed Cindy and her library program. This was a perfect way to shatter the stereotypical librarian image! 

Next Steps

We will now be looking for additional creative ways to incorporate green screen techniques into our library promotions. I want our students to create videos like this in our makerspace areas. I'm so excited that Cindy chose to do this video. She has changed her learning community by exposing them to the endless creative possibilities of video production! I wonder what will happen next? Stay tuned to find out!

I have recently started 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!

Follow Cindy Evans on Twitter: @CindyRookEvans
Cindy's email:

Contact Us/ Follow Us

Are you on Twitter?

Follow me : @stony12270