Monday, June 30, 2014

More MemaCation! Five Fun and Free iPad Apps That Help Students Learn to Write

I have been following Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teacher's Blog for quite awhile now. I am excited about his latest post and these five free apps for helping students to learn about sentence structure. I am going to use these apps with my grandson this summer to help him keep his skills strong for first grade. Check out his post and don't forget to download the free apps. Five Fun and Free iPad Apps That Help Students Learn to Write!


MemaCation is a word I just coined and what I am now calling the time of year when my grandson's day care is provided by me, their Mema. I can not tell you how excited I am, almost as excited as I was every summer when school got out and I got to claim my own children back for the summer. Yes, I am a teacher, a librarian but summer is special not just to kids. Teacher/librarians need the time too and I beleive my grandsons are as excited as I am to have our time together! Every Year the time they get to stay with me dwindles because of professional development. This year was the worst because of all the snow days that we needed to make up as teachers at the end of school. Still, the day has arrived and first on the agenda this morning is going to the library for story time. I joke with the public children's librarian that just as my library is ramping down hers is ramping up and indeed I see many of my students at the public library in the summer. It makes my librarian heart jump for joy and I will be honest I am a little jealous of the fun things that public librarians can do to draw my students into the library in the summer. While they come to me for lessons each cycle during the school year they go to the public library for fun. Here's the proof. Last week my local public library had a magic show in the evening. My grandsons and I were one of the first people in line! Who doesn't love magic in the library? My grandson was chosen to be the first magic helper of the evening.

Of course this stint as a magician lead to checking out a book about how to do magic tricks! And now, as if summer was not magic enough, one of the things on our list for this summer is learning a little magic! Stay tuned!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Project Roundtable: Summer PD

I totally enjoyed watching the Project Roundtable video archive summer PD Roundtable. I also attended EdCampUSA and it was very interesting to hear Brendon’s take on the experience! My thoughts on EdCampUSA are here.

I was invited to be a part of Project Roundtable’s Google Hangout but was still in school teaching when it was being recorded.  Thanks Ben Wilkoff for inviting me and changing my summer PD mindset. I especially liked CrystalMidlik’s summer PD in Germany. Having lived in Germany for many years I can’t wait to hear her take on the German schools.

My district requires 3 PD days (called MIACs) that are usually done either at the end of June or end of August. I usually do more than the 3 days because I love to learn, connect, and collaborate with other teachers in my district at this time. However, I like the idea of having fun and the thought that Summer PD should be fun is something new! To me EdCamps are fun because they are conversations, learning via conversation and connection is a lot more fun than sit and get! But my most favorite learning experience this year was when I attended Engadget Expand inNew York City in November. It was the first time I felt validated in what I am doing in the library. It was like a mini maker-faire with big name roundtable discussions. It was a geeky-librarian’s dream come true.

This roundtable helped me think differently about watching my grandchildren over the summer too. I always think of it as my joy but now I am also thinking of it as my opportunity. I have already ordered the air stomp rocket and we are going to make SLIME! Yes, learning can be fun. We are also going to the zoo and to the Franklin Institute and Please Touch Museum this summer. This is my summer PD as well as cool learning for the grandkids!

I really liked the question about what are we missing out on in our online PD, by only having our PD online. I totally loved Debby Jacoby’s answer because my online PD is important to me. The connections I make online are valuable and when I do get to meet people at an ISTE experience it is very cool to meet my virtual friends face to face and realize these people are not strangers! We already have a relationship and we are now taking that experience to the next level.

Ben, love that you mentioned Paul’s blogpost about EdampUSA and the imperative for teachers to be the ones that share to other teachers. Meeting Paul and having him join the session I did with Carolyn Foote at EdCampUSA was amazing. Paul showed me it is OK to bring my own equipment into the library, not to be afraid, to take a risk. If I took one thing away from this Roundtable discussion and EdCampUSA it is not to be afraid, just do it, and tell about it- success or failure. I also want to tell the stories of the other teachers in my school.  Loved ScottMacClintic’s final thought too, we do need to model life-long learning to our students so my summer PD will be a story worth sharing with my students in September!

Skyview Library Annual Report 2013-2014

I have always thought that Annual Reports were a good idea, I just never took the time to do one before. I have always done student surveys so I could imporove my teaching the following year but I never used those surveys for anything other than my own learning. However, the student survey I conducted at the end of this year was presented to me in Google Docs with pie charts and bar graphs. I could not ignore the results so I decided to use the data from the survey and from our Follet Destiny Circulation System and put together this little Annual Report. I think it came out OK for a first attempt. Please leave a comment and let me know what I could do better next time!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Guest Blogger #1 Beth Lang- Grade 5 Counselor

I took a lot away from EdCampUSA including a call to action. As part of my promise to highlight teachers from my own school that are doing amazing things, I invited out school counselor to do a guest blog post about her wonderful activites this year. WAY TO GO BETH LANG. Please enjoy her post below and be sure to check out her website.

As a school counselor at Skyview Upper Elementary School, I am embracing technology as much as I can, and I love it!

I work with 5th grade students here at Skyview.

During this school year, I have created a fabulous website using, and have offered a parent book club done via blog. The blog was created as a way of enabling parents who could not come to school for book club meetings during the day a chance to participate in the discussions about the readings.

I have utilized google surveys to create and disseminate needs assessments to my parents, students, and teachers so that I can create and deliver a counseling program based upon current needs.  I enjoy the charts and graphs that google automatically creates for me based upon my results. I am very visually oriented, so this is wonderful!

In addition, I had created and posted a video tour of my office for incoming 5th graders and their families so that they could become familiar with the space that they would be visiting throughout the year and get to know me a little bit early on in the year. This was a big hit as a part of the transition for our incoming 5th graders!

Just last week, I held my first ever skype party! My lunch bunch group of 8 girls engaged in pen pal activities with students from Ms. Demir’s class at Rutherford Middle School in Rutherford, NJ. At the end of this school year Mrs. Demir and I surprised our students with a skype session so they could see each other and talk to each other in real time. This was amazing! Through the use of technology, students from 2 different states were able to practice their social skills, conversation skills, eye contact, and use of appropriate questions! They had so much fun! The students and teachers enjoyed hearing about the differences between urban Rutherford and suburban Eagleville. They found that there were many similarities between groups of students in terms of interests, favorite music, favorite pastimes, pets, and family life. All the students are looking forward to continuing to develop their relationships with one another next year through letter writing and through skype sessions. The teachers are looking forward to it as well. For an hour, all the students were “kids” having fun with one another, regardless of boundaries, and physical or educational challenges.

This counselor is totally jazzed about using technology to deliver a comprehensive school counseling curriculum to my students and looks forward to incorporating more elements each year!

Bethany R. Lang, MS  LPC  NCSC  NCC
PA School Counselor, PSCA Past President
Skyview Upper Elementary School
5th Grade Counselor


Monday, June 09, 2014

Tagul going HTML5!

I must admit that using an iPad the past few years on Flash websites has been frustrating. But since I have not used iPads in my library until this year it has not become a school issue. Correction, I have on occasion brought my own iPad to school for various student uses but using Flash websites was not one of those uses.
I have spent most of this school year which ends next week signing out the iPad cart only for creation projects, not for research but some very important things have happened in the past year that will significantly change my use of iPads next school year.

First of all, I will have an iPad cart dedicated for library use. And second is the switch of many of my favorite resources to HTML5.

The number one shift has come from the PebbleGo Databases that our elementary schools use. PebbleGo is migrating to HTML5.  As you can see from the photo below the mobile friendly version is now in beta and it works wonderfully on iPads. The shift started happening around March or April but I found out about it during my annual state library conference the first week in May. PebbleGo was already awesome, now it is super awesome! No more breakdowns from students because the website won't open on their iPads! Thanks PebbleGo. I have touted the merits of PebbleGo to every librarian I have talked to over the past few years I have been using it and I have no affiliation with Capstone. It is just an excellent research database for emergent readers! It also ranked as a Stellar Database in School Library Journal's review of databases. Oh, and now Capstone is introducing their first database module (with more to come I am sure) for upper elementary students. It is called PebbleGo NEXT and right now it only has one social studies module which includes all 50 states and 11 American Indian tribes but the promise is there for so much more.

The next bit of excitement was Tagul's announcement in May that they too are joining the HTML5 ranks. That means that next year when I get my allocation of iPads for upper elementary library students that they will be able to research the 50 states and create a Tagul in the shape of the state they find information about. Little things like this make a difference with 800 students!

EdCampUSA- The US Department of Education meets EdCamp!

One of my tweets from the day read something like, "What if you had an EdCamp and the US Secretary of Education was there... Wait, that happened today."

I am still a little amazed that I was able to be at the Department of Education for EdCampUSA on Friday. The energy in the room as the educators and DOE officials gathered was electric and the day ended the same way with a charged call to action and promises not to let the conversation end. Special thanks to Emily Davis for helping the EdCamp faithful in the door. After only 5 years, well less than 5 actually, EdCamp has become a sort of movement, personal professional development for teachers rooted in conversations not sit and get! The first EdCamp was held in 2010 in Philadelphia, that was my first experience of learning via conversation.

I am staggered to think I was in the same room (and not a very large room) with Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education. As I was adding the session that I was presenting with Carolyn Foote (@technolibrary), Mr. Duncan walked in to look over the board. There is not set agenda for an EdCamp, the participants put together the board by being willing to lead the conversation for one of the sessions. Carolyn and I have been following each other on Twitter for years but this was the first time that we actually met in person. Carolyn is the district librarian and the high school librarian at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. I was invigorated by our conversations about digital and physical library workspaces. And we both were impressed by Paul Bogush’s “Doesn’t Feel Like School”classroom

I felt awed to be in the presence of the people who were in attendance. I at times feel like an imposter when I am in the presence of these bulwarks of education.  I definitely was not even close to being as smart as anyone in the room. Yet, many of the best and brightest (even those in attendance) have left education. One of the deep conversations revolved around their departure and the departure of a majority of teachers after just 5 years of service.  Teacher burnout is a real problem. It takes thick skin to be a teacher these days and it was remarkable that we were having these conversations with the Department of Education as well as with at least one representative from the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (where my own children attended from Kindergarten through 8th grade when we were living in Germany).

My most significant takeaway from EdCampUSA on Friday at the Department of Education was a call to action and validation. It’s not enough to go to EdCamps and conferences and change things within just my own classroom or library. The term “long tail” was heard over and over in conversations, “let this be the beginning and not the end”.  So, in the light of that I am going to sit down with my principal and suggest one of the very things I mentioned during EdCampUSA, that we highlight one teacher’s work each week at our faculty meetings. Give teachers recognition for the great work they are doing. It seemed like a normal suggestion to me, a no-brainer. I didn’t think anything of it until I noticed that principal (or as he calls himself, “Chief Learner in Charge”) Joe Mazza from the North Penn School District in Lansdale, PA tweeted out my suggestion in his Twitter feed. What validation. Every teacher needs to feel that validation and maybe the Department of Education heard that message too and the conversation won’t end here.

If you would like to see notes from each session of EdCampUSA click here.