Because I Say So

Once again, Cool Tools proved to be a great opportunity to me.   I read through my posts from all 3 tracks and I realize this blog is more valuable to me than I give it credit for. I can look back at summaries, thoughts, and ideas on how I could use cool tools from the last 3 years. In my own library, some of the tools I’ve successfully used are Smore, edWeb, netvibes, PicsArt, diigo, and my favorite so far, Evernote. I’ve shared some of these tools with students, colleagues, my own kids, and their friends!

As far as expanding my personal learning network, our district’s librarians are already a pretty close group, and I think we all feel that we can look to each other for guidance any time. After taking time to look more closely at my twitter network for Thing 27, I am looking forward to making new professional connections via twitter. I just started following a couple of awesome librarians and will keep looking for more great resources!

The challenge for the workshop was time, as usual for me. It is so easy to keep delving further and further into some of these tools and lose track of time. I’m glad I have my blog to help me when I want to revisit them. There weren’t really any projects that didn’t work out for me. I found something relevant in every learning activity.

What’s next? I cannot wait to try SeeSaw with the art students! This summer, I will put more thought into how to get a makerspace up and running. I’m also excited that I re-visited twitter, both to create more of a presence and for professional development. It’s almost like using it for the first time all over again! These are a few of the tools that I personally have plans for so far, but I know there will be opportunities to share more of the tools with others. Thank you so much, Polly, for offering Cool Tools to us again.


I explored each of the response tools in Thing 29, hoping to find a tool that would help me assess my library program. Google Forms would allow me to create a survey and easily see the results. My biggest challenge would still be getting people to go online and take the assessment in the first place, however. But…this Thing ended up being great for me because it introduced me to SeeSaw!

SeeSaw looks really cute for the elementary level.   As a parent, I would have loved seeing this for my kids when they were younger! I do see potential for its use at the high school level too, though. I will definitely make sure the art teachers in my high school know about SeeSaw. This would be perfect for students to share the thoughts and processes that went into creating their art, by creating a voice over and/or including their research notes. Every spring, the second floor of my library becomes an art gallery with senior students showcasing several of the pieces they’ve created during the past years. Classes are invited to come and browse, and there is an art show one evening for parents and family. I think these students, along with the 9th-11th graders, would love to have a digital portfolio to share with their families in addition to the art show. I’m very excited about the potential to collaborate with my art teachers using SeeSaw!

Of all the emerging trends and technologies in this learning activity’s reports, social media resonates with me the most.  Social media needs to be recognized for the powerful trend it has become.  I don’t know if any library or school community in our country can say it isn’t relevant to them.  In the high needs, urban school where I teach, social media has become the main source of communication and information for my students, school community, and the community outside of my school.  In fact, the Pew Research Center report Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015 says this:  “Interestingly, African-American and Hispanic youth report more frequent internet use than white teens. Among African-American teens, 34% report going online “almost constantly” as do 32% of Hispanic teens, while 19% of white teens go online that often.  Hispanic and African-American youth have somewhat less access to desktops, but African American teens have greater access to smartphones than their Hispanic or white counterparts.” I believe social media is the most important tech trend we have. Joyce Valenza lists it as #1 in her top 10 tech trends of 2015. This can be a challenge because we know the information students are getting on social media may not always be correct or beneficial. We need to embrace it in schools and learn to work with it, because our students aren’t going to stop using it just because we don’t. This is part of the reason why I chose to further explore twitter as my item of choice in the previous learning activity, and will revisit my Instagram account next. I may also consider creating a library facebook page.

The learning commons trend is also important to recognize.  During the past four years that I’ve been in my library, I have added areas with round tables for small groups to work together and repurposed a second floor space for multi-use including larger group sessions, biographical research, and art shows. This is the area that I would love to make more of a maker space. The challenge of course would be cost of the equipment and the time/skills required to maintain the equipment and teach others to use it.  I could look at crowdfunding (another significant trend) or a grant to acquire the equipment (I’d like to begin with a 3D printer), but the time and staffing that would be needed to support a maker space may be the biggest challenge for me.

{May 25, 2015}   Thing 27: DIY – You Pick!

For this learning activity, I started to browse through AASL’s Best Websites and the other guides and lists to learn more about tools that I am not familiar with…but I kept looking at #1 on 2014’s Top 100 Tools – Twitter. I was surprised that Twitter is at the top of that list. I use Twitter every day, but this made me wonder if I am not taking full advantage of it. I decided the thing I wanted to do most for this lesson was to make Twitter even better for me. I mostly use Twitter to keep up with news, and I rarely tweet. I currently follow 70 people and have 37 followers, so there is plenty of room for more. I am now searching for more educational resources in addition to my personal interests. There is so much potential for networking and sharing ideas. Many educators say it’s the greatest resource for professional development. Twitter could very possibly become my best learning tool!

The Your Stakeholder Connected Librarian Toolkit webinar had a lot of great ideas about advocacy, some of which I’ve tried or am familiar with and some of which are definitely worth considering. I’m going to think about rearranging my library’s fiction collection according to genre, like the bookstore model, which will hopefully increase circulation. I also very much enjoyed the video 10 Ways Librarians Can be a Marketing Genius Like Lady Gaga. My goal is always to increase the number of library users, because the students who do come in are usually there on a regular basis. I try to make my library webpage the place to go 24/7 for research and tech resources, as mentioned in the video. My elevator speech is based on how I think my library could help that particular person. I know that every connection I make is an opportunity to advocate. The teachers that I’m able to connect with are almost always very satisfied with the help I give them, and must be spreading the word because every year that I’m there I get to collaborate with more and more people. I wholeheartedly agree with Gwyneth Jones on the importance of building your list of supporters!

This activity involved exploring the settings in your browser and finding things you didn’t know about your settings, and exploring and testing out some of the extensions available for your browser.

I found a few things in my browser settings that I wasn’t aware of. I didn’t realize I could choose the number of days to keep pages in the history, or that I can set my settings to delete browsing history automatically on exit. I also didn’t know that I can set my browser to start with the tabs that were open from the last session, similar to when I put my computer in hibernate.

I chose 3 Safari extensions to try:

LastPass is a password manager and form filler. It is especially helpful when you consider that most of your passwords are probably not as strong as they should be, and in order to stay safe they should be changed often. If you use several computers, you just login to LastPass with your account so you can always have access to the latest updates.

Evernote Web Clipper caught my attention because I have come to rely so much on Evernote. It lets you save anything you see online – articles, text, images, links – and clip them directly to your Evernote account quickly and easily.

Add to Amazon Wish List will come in handy for me. When I need to shop for an item online, I always find myself checking Amazon for the same item before I purchase it. Many times it’s cheaper and, since I am a Prime member, shipping is often free. Add to Amazon Wish List saves the item to your list with one click, and makes it easy to keep track when comparison shopping.

{May 24, 2015}   Thing 24: Infographics

Untitled Infographic I wanted to make an infographic that would promote reading and also be educational. I came across research about the most effective ways to reduce stress, with reading being the top stress-reliever. I decided to use piktochart because it seemed very user-friendly and the site offered helpful tips during the process. It was fairly time-consuming to use it for the first time, but not difficult.  Infographics are definitely eye-catching so I feel the time to create it was worth it, and it will only get easier the more I work with it.

{May 24, 2015}   Thing 23 – Makerspaces

A Makerspace is a space that provides tools, collaboration, networking, training and support for people to turn their ideas into physical things. The public library for which I serve as a trustee is in the process of adding a Makerspace. We have found that in our area there is typically a membership fee to belong. The City of Rochester has a Makerspace with a monthly fee of $40. It is also not unusual for libraries to charge a materials fee. Makerspaces offer a wide range of tools and equipment. A typical makerspace has high end power tools, supplies for working with electronics, hardware and software to support, sewing machines, and graphic design centers. Training is provided before people can use the machinery. Supervision is also in place when people use the machinery. Some additional insurance may be required, depending upon the machinery in use. Two public libraries within about an hour of us have makerspaces with both “clean” technology (computers, printers, software) and “dirty” technology (high end power machinery). We have been researching and looking at spaces that would fit into our library mission, and allow us to sustain the space without additional staffing or funding. We are considering three different themes to start with, and hope to expand to other areas once the initial space is complete:

  • Photo/Video editing – The emphasis would be on high resolution scanners for old photos and videos, software/hardware to support, video editing equipment, and perhaps cameras, iPods or iPads to primarily use in new photo/video drafting.
  • Crafting – The emphasis would be high end power tools. We could add a sewing machine, quilting machine, pottery wheel, and soldering stations. This would emphasize “dirty technology” and would require a dedicated space for this lab.
  • Graphic Design The emphasis for this space would be on design. We could have a 3-d printer, software to support, AUTO CAD programs, laptops, and large printers.

My choice would be to combine the graphic design makerspace with the photo/video editing.  I believe this would best meet the needs of our clients right now.  Hopefully things will go well and we can add a crafting makerspace fairly soon. All three proposals are very exciting!

A resource guide to share with my students would probably be very useful for them and for me to have handy all in one place.  I realized the best place for this guide would be right on my library homepage where I already have a few links for this purpose.  Adding tools including Evernote, Box, EasyBib, Prezi, Animoto, Storify, iftt, and GoogleDrive is a great idea.  These can be categorized by type, along with the databases that I already have there.  A short description of what they are, and links to any of their tutorials will make the guide pretty user friendly. I’m sure this will be very beneficial to and much appreciated by both students and staff!

There are so many productivity tools out there that it can be easy to get overwhelmed!  Sometimes I start to use one and then forget about it…but one that I love and have come to depend on is Evernote!  I have saved everything from files, photos, and my own created lists here.  It is a great feeling to know that you can access your stuff from anywhere and any time, no matter what may happen to your phone or laptop!  I have packing lists and travel tips for our annual trips to Disney here, along with that I add to whenever something new pops up; it’s awesome to be able to go back to my work-in-progress rather than try to do all the research before every trip. I’ve been collecting ideas from recipes to decorations on Evernote for my daughter’s upcoming graduation party for several years, and now that that time is here I am so thankful I did!  I also have some video links and powerpoints that I think I may want to go back to someday.  I keep Evernote right on the homescreen of my phone for quick access. I’ve told both my students and my own kids about its usefulness. I love Evernote and it has definitely made my life easier!

Box is one example of a productivity tool I started to use and sort of forgot about, so I took this opportunity to revisit it and explore it further. I already had photographs stored here because I’m still searching for the perfect place in the cloud to store those. Box’s strongest benefit seems to be its collaboration feature. I may try to use it for that in the future, and I will definitely promote that use to my students. However, I came across a tip on lifehacker that suggests using each of your different storage tools for different file types. Given my track record, this seems like the best idea to me!

et cetera