Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer School Library Adventures

This has been one of the busiest summers ever in our high school library. I have made efforts to share many of the activities on social media. It is important to show the community and administration what is happening, even in the summer months, since they are investing in our program. I want to share a few things with you that occurred this week that changed my thinking.

My First Attempt at Using HyperDocs

I was recently sent with a team from my school to my first ever Google Summit. One of the most interesting tools I learned about while there was the HyperDoc. This type of shareable, innovative document could be a Google Doc (It could also easily be a Word Document if you are using or Office 365). The presenter was Will Kimbley (@willkimbley), and he showed us examples from his classroom content. He had placed a mixture of text, links, and even quizzes within the HyperDocs that were shared with students in Google Classroom. When learners accessed the content, they were able to navigate the material at their own pace which allowed the teacher to move about the room giving individual attention as needed. I loved this idea and couldn't wait to get back to school to experiment.

Luckily, I was scheduled to present a digital citizenship lesson to our summer school class at Lakeside. I decided to create a HyperDoc with the content to share with the small class of 11 students. This was a great opportunity to see how they would respond to a new delivery method. I mainly used Common Sense Media and YouTube for my links. You can access my experimental document here.

On the day of the event, the learners responded very well. We used the HyperDoc lesson activities for nearly two hours. There was a mixture of videos, small group/ big group discussion, and making activities. At the end of the sessions, I gave students a chance to give feedback. They really seemed to like the HyperDocs. I will definitely be modeling this for teachers during the coming school year.


I got to see Minecraft up close at the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Forum in June. Stephen Reid (@ImmersiveMind) blew me away with his excellent examples of student use in the classroom. I immediately downloaded the Minecraft Education edition when I arrived home after I got my new Microsoft Surface setup. Sadly, I haven't had time to experiment with it. Too often, we educators think we have to be the experts on every new tool. This is a mistake. We have students that can become experts, and we should let them.

During summer school classes, we invited a local interior design project manager to come speak to the students. Dawn Shafer of French Architects showed our learners how she redesigned our high school library for the recent renovation that was completed in January of this year.  After she and an architect presented, we loaded SketchUp Make on laptops for the kids to try. As they were working on their own designs, we started talking about Minecraft. A couple of the students really showed a lot of interest. I told them I would let them use my Surface to build things in the Minecraft environment, and I asked them to show it to our district librarians.

Students built a replica of our school library in Minecraft!
One of the students was so excited, he sent me Tweets about Minecraft that very evening. He decided to come to school on his off day from summer school to work with the software. In just a few hours, he and his friend had built a model of our high school library in Minecraft. They showed the game to all our librarians at the end of our meeting on the same day! One of our principals has even asked that I have these young men present to our faculty of approximately 100 educators during professional development sessions! They can't wait to do this.

Check out my video reflection about students presenting Minecraft (select the link above)

I learned that I don't have to be the expert of every new tech tool. It is impossible! As school librarians and tech specialists, we just need to make these items available to students (and teachers). Then we need to support them, and they can do the rest. In addition, my mind was opened up to using Minecraft in a variety of subjects including, English Language Arts, History, Math, and Science. I look forward to installing Minecraft on several library computers so we can add them to our Makerspace activities.

None of this would have happened if I wouldn't have taken a chance and allowed these two learners to use Minecraft on my Surface device. Now, they are thinking of ways to present Minecraft to teachers as a classroom learning tool. How many other students are out there waiting for the opportunity to share their knowledge and/ or passion for learning in new ways? I believe the "fields" are ripe with them. We must seek them out and empower them.

New Faculty Orientation

As an added bonus, our district administrators used the library for their new faculty orientation sessions. It was great to see that the library could be their first taste of our school district! Consider asking your administration to use the school library as a space for summer training sessions, especially for new faculty. This is a wonderful way to introduce yourself and the services you offer to new educator friends, even if they are in different buildings. First impressions are important. Why not make them in the school library?

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Takeaways from the ArASL 2016 Conference

I love attending conferences and professional development during the summer months since they really get me thinking about the upcoming school year. My wife Cindy and I just attended the Arkansas Association of School Librarians (ArASL) conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. It's also great to see librarian friends from around the state at these events. Reconnecting with old friends and making new friends are key at every conference.

I have noticed that there always seem to be a few big takeaways from all conference sessions. I want to share a few of these points with you because they are important. First, I was thrilled to meet our keynote speaker, Nikki D. Robertson, at this conference. I've been following Nikki for quite a while on social media. As I recall, I first connected with her during a #TLChat session on Twitter months ago. I have enjoyed learning from Nikki through her blog, #TLChat, TL News Night, and TL Virtual Cafe

Kaitlyn Price (my new partner LHS librarian), Nikki, and me :-)
The Importance of a PLN

A few weeks ago, I talked about the power of meeting my PLN (personal learning network) this summer while attending the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert US Forum in Denver, Colorado. I wondered what it would be like to meet Nikki since we had only communicated through social media. It was exactly like the experience I had in Colorado and Nebraska this summer; it felt as if I had connected with a friend I had previously met face to face.

I have got to start using Snapchat!
I am grateful for this meeting! Nikki emphasized the importance of building our individual PLNs. Most school librarians work without the companionship of other librarians in their buildings. A PLN can be that network that "has our backs". Currently, I have over 4000 professionals in my Twitter PLN. To me, the number of followers a person has doesn't really matter. It's the growth of an individual PLN that is crucial. We should strive to connect with as many passionate educators as possible. I never thought that having a rapidly growing network was within reach; but if it can happen for me, it can also happen for you! These talented educators inspire me weekly, especially during Twitter education chats. If you don't know how to start a PLN through education chats on Twitter, check out this article.

Share Shamelessly

Nikki talked about many other important topics for school librarians during her sessions over the two-day conference. She talked about "Sharing Shamelessly". All too often, we tend to think that what we have to say is not important. I can't help but wonder how many wonderful ideas have gone with people to their grave because they sold themselves short for a lifetime. Perhaps, we should take risks and put our best ideas and thoughts out there. If we don't tell our stories from the library to others, how will they know what we are doing? Furthermore, how will they know our journey of learning and development as educators? Nikki is right, we must share what we are doing in the library to show the value of our programs to the world. We never know who we might impact. If it weren't for this blog, I would have never met Elizabeth Hutchinson, a librarian on the island of Guernsey. Elizabeth has connected with me, my school, our students, and our district's teacher librarians. These connections have brought change and showed the library program's value to our district's stakeholders. What might happen for you and your learning community if you share your library's stories on a blog or social media?

Libraries are about Relationships!

Nikki discussed how libraries are about relationships in her last keynote session. While books are important and we do have a literacy mission, the focus has moved to library as place. Our students deserve a sanctuary where they can feel safe... a place where they belong. They also deserve a space to collaborate and experiment with new technologies and makerspaces. Perhaps rather than worrying over getting new books processed immediately, we should be more concerned with meeting and knowing our student patrons. This point in her keynote really resonated with me. I've always thought if we take care of people, the rest will take care of itself. I think Nikki is dead on. If we want student patrons to visit our facilities, we need to build professional relationships with them. 

Who Will Advocate for Us?

The last point that stood out to me was when Nikki asked who would be our advocate if our job was on the line. She talked about a school librarian who was cut from her job in another state. The students in the school were in an uproar over this event and actually had a library "sit in". The librarian's job was saved as a result. Would something like that happen for each of us if our position was on the line? If not, what changes should we make to create strong advocates in our learning communities? 


This is just a small reflection of the ArASL 2016 conference. I learned about new YA fiction titles, tech tools, and more. While these are important, the points above resonated strongest to me. I'm going to make an effort to remember these concepts as I begin my 9th year in the school library. Join me by building your PLN, sharing shamelessly, focusing on relationships, and growing new advocates. If we make a concerted effort to do these things, 2016-2017 will be the best year ever. Let's do it, friends!

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Microsoft Surface Adventures: Skype Translator

I'm very grateful to Microsoft for recently selecting me to be a Surface Expert. When I returned home from the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert US Forum, a new Surface Pro 4 was waiting for me. I will be writing a series of blog posts this year sharing about my learning experiences with this new device. I can't wait to share what I learn with our learning community at Lakeside. In this post, I want to talk about my first activity with the new Surface this week. I connected with my friend, Àngels Soriano Sanchez, a teacher in Valencia, Spain. We used Skype Translator to communicate despite our language barrier (Spanish to English, etc). We decided to use Word Online to collaborate on this blog article to share our thoughts on this first experience. With tools like this, we can truly move toward the "schools without walls" concept and connect our students anywhere in the world.

First Impressions of the Surface 
It didn't take long for me to feel comfortable using the Surface right out of the box. The portable keyboard makes the device feel like a laptop. I've been a Windows user for many years, and the Windows 10 OS works great on the Surface. The touchscreen brings the functionality of a tablet to the experience. The Surface also comes with a pen for digital inking. I'm going to need more time to practice this feature. I look forward to learning more in the coming months.

Skype Translator 
I first connected with Àngels on Twitter last fall. We have been talking about connecting our students ever since that initial meeting. She told me about Skype Translator and how she used it to connect with others for real time translation. I have wanted to try this tool for nearly a year; and now that I have the new Surface, it was time to give it a go. You can visit the Windows App Store to find the free download link for Skype Translator. 

Our Connection: Stony's Perspective 
I was very impressed with the way Skype Translate performed. There is a bit of a lag in the translation, but it worked quite well. I spoke a bit slower than usual and tried to make sure that I used proper English. Àngels and I were having a conversation in just moments. We did notice a few problems in some of the translation, but overall the tool worked great! It was so good to see the excitement in her facial expressions as she shared plans for the coming school year with me. I also made sure to thank her for sending us her student created book trailers in Spanish this past year. Our students enjoyed watching them very much during library lunch programs. While we were talking, I shot a video clip with my iPhone and published it on Facebook and Twitter. Several colleagues shared their excitement about this technology in comments. I feel certain several of our teachers and students will want to experience Skype Translate in the coming months!

Click on the link above for to view a short video clip of our session. 

Our Connection: Àngels' Perspective 
From my point of view, Skype Translator is a powerful tool so that our students can get to know other cultures without the language barrier. In fact, you can facilitate the learning of them, since the simultaneous translation will help recognize both grammatical structures and vocabulary. This connection with Stony I liked, and it has made me very happy, since Stony is a virtual friend, we knew only through Email, and especially Twitter. The meeting, even in the distance and time difference, makes this world more united and connected.      

Next Steps: Àngels' 
The aim of using Skype Translator is so that our students can share reading experiences with other students of similar ages, as well as carry out exchanges of book trailer, or even small videos about news of the Center and its day to day. With connections can also better your skills in English, since they will have the possibility of having the grammatical structures and vocabulary. Share to grow, ultimately is the goal. 

Next Steps: Stony 
Already we are talking about using Skype Translator to connect  our advanced Spanish students with Àngels' students in Spain during 2016-2017. We are also discussing the possibility of using this to connect with one of our Spanish teacher's colleagues in Costa Rica. I plan to show this tool to teachers and students to inspire them to use it in the classroom to knock down barriers and connect Internationally.  I still feel we have only scratched the surface on what is possible for our learners. It is truly an exciting time to be a connected educator. Thank you, Àngels, for reaching out to us. You have inspired change at Lakeside High School!

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Power of Meeting My PLN!

I have been active on Twitter since the summer of 2014. During that time I have connected with thousands of passionate educators. We all share common bonds; we want to improve for our learners, and we love what we do. This summer, I had the opportunity to meet some members of my PLN (personal learning network). One would think this would be an intimidating event since we have never truly met in person. We had only sent short Twitter messages to each other, exchanged Voxer voice messages, and Skyped a few times. Read on to see what happened with each meeting.

Lynn Kleinmeyer @THLibrariZen

I connected with Lynn Kleinmeyer during the fall of 2015 during a Twitter education chat. Lynn is a teacher librarian in Iowa. We ended up connecting again in the spring semester. I remember our first webcam session was on one of her snow days. During the session, I gave her a tour of our newly renovated library. Lynn and I connected immediately. At a district library media specialist professional development meeting, Lynn presented about the power of being a connected educator to all our teacher librarians at Lakeside via webcam. We connected again for Read Across America when one of our seniors read to her young students via Skype. Lynn also invited me to be a moderator for a #MWLibChat session this spring. It was a lot of fun!

Nathan, Lynn, and their wonderful family

When Lynn found out I was going to be coming to Denver this summer, she invited us to come visit her and her family in Omaha, Nebraska. Cindy and I decided to take her up on it. We met at the Omaha Zoo and spent the whole day visiting with Lynn, her husband Nathan, and their kids. That evening we went out to eat and had great discussions about being connected educators. Nathan and I talked about the possibilities of connecting our students and teachers together during the coming school year. It was as if we had all known each other for years. It was a great visit that ended too quickly. Nathan and Lynn are classroom innovators that are passionate about teaching. They inspire me!

Three teacher librarians that connected via Twitter

Karey Killian @CoLIBRAtoRY 

I connected with Karey on Twitter and in the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEExpert) community. She is a teacher librarian in Pennsylvania. We connected her students to one of Brooks Lee's classes at Lakeside. Brooks is a social studies teacher who loves connecting his students to new places via Skype. Karey and I first met in person at the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert US Forum in Denver, Colorado last month. I recognized her immediately, and it was as if we were old friends. I know Karey and I will stay in touch this school year. Karey is a natural leader. I know I will learn many things from her in the coming months and years. I'm already looking forward to connecting with Karey and her students during the 2016-2017 school year.

It was great to meet Karey in person!

Richard Snyder  @mr_snyderman

Richard is a teacher librarian in the state of Washington. He will be making a transition to technology integration specialist this fall. I had never connected with Richard other than during Twitter education chats. We had been in the same MIEExpert community together this year. One day, I received a message from Richard asking if I would be interested in presenting a session with him at the upcoming MIEExpert Forum. I was honored to have such an invitation, and I immediately said, "yes!" Over the next month, we planned our presentation using the collaboration of Twitter, Skype, and Microsoft Sway. We finally met in person at the MIEExpert Forum. Richard was very approachable and easy to talk to. Just as in my other PLN meetings, it was like we had known each other for a long period of time. I had a great experience presenting with him during the Forum. Even though he is changing careers, I know we will stay in touch. I have much to learn from Richard, and I am grateful he reached out to me for our collaboration. Without social media and the collaborative technology, I'm not sure how we could have planned a session so easily.

I enjoyed learning with Richard at the MIEExpert Forum

Tracey Wong @TraceyCarayol  

I was reading articles during May of 2015 in preparation for my first writing assignment with the School Library Connection publication. I remember reading a great advocacy article by Tracy Wong during that period. Tracy is a teacher librarian in New York. Her magazine article resonated so well with me, I decided to email her words of encouragement. (If we don't tell people when they impact us, how will they know?) Tracey and I began communicating through Twitter and email. Tracey suggested that I apply for the MIEExpert community back in June of 2015. I was grateful to be accepted into the community so I could connect with many more passionate educators. This also gave me an opportunity to participate in the national MIEExpert US Forum. Tracey recently helped me become a MIE Surface Expert. (I'll talk about this more in a future entry.) We have used Skype and Voxer to visit about innovative approaches to librarianship and technology in the classroom.

Tracey Wong and I posed with the Skype "screen"

While walking down the sidewalk in Denver prior to the MIEExpert Forum, I immediately recognized Tracey as she was headed into the hotel. I spoke to her and she came over to visit with me and my wife. The previous connections of social media and our blog articles had brought us all together. Tracey is now a mentor to me and I am so glad I took a chance by sending her that initial email.


In each instance of meeting these educators in person, there was a powerful connection. We all love teaching, and we are striving to become better for our learning communities. We are risk takers who enjoy using technology and thrive on collaboration and sharing ideas. The friends I have mentioned above greatly inspire me. The professional relationships that have developed with each of them is a result of connecting on social media or another connective technology. They have all changed me by challenging me to think differently. These are only three of thousands of educators and thought leaders in my PLN. I have so much more to learn from this network. This thought is exciting to consider: each person I follow on Twitter has the potential to help me improve for my learners.

I have only been active on social media and blogging for a little over two years. When I consider how my PLN has helped me evolve in that time, I wonder what the next two years will bring? I wrote this post to encourage you to keep connecting with new friends on all forms of social media. These connections have virtually taken me and my students out of our town, state, and country. They have taken me to larger educator communities and allowed me to visit a national Microsoft conference (thanks to the MIEExpert community). What will happen next for me and my learning community? More importantly, what will happen for you and your learning community? Keep connecting and growing your PLN to find out.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Reflections From The MIEExpert Forum

101 MIEExperts in one room!
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about joining the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (#MIEExpert) community. It has been a wonderful group to be a part of this year. About two months ago, I was invited to attend the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert US Forum. It was very exciting to receive this invitation from Microsoft. I was honored to be one of the 101 chosen to attend the forum in Denver, Colorado from June 25-26, 2016. I want to take a few moments to reflect on the experience.

Day 1 Highlights

One of the most important takeaways from this experience was the power of connecting with other educators. The teachers in this group are brilliant and energized individuals. When you surround yourself with such great people, conversations take place that cause improvements in our practices as educators. I was grateful to meet Tracey Wong (a school librarian from New York) in person. Tracey is the mentor who helped me become a member of the MIEExpert community.
Tracey Wong and I pose with the Skype screen prop

I also met Karey Killian (a school librarian from Pennsylvania) and Richard Snyder (a school librarian from Washington).

It was great to meet Karey Killian!
These are all individuals I met through social media. Each of them have impacted me in countless ways during the short time we have interacted. I also got to meet, Robyn Hrivnatz, the Marketing and Educator Programs Manager for US Education at Microsoft. I truly felt I had known each of these individuals for years as we met in person. It was like an extended family. (I plan to write a future article on the impact of meeting my personal learning network face to face.)

The Hunt

Our group for the hunt (along with Microsoft mascot, Flopsie)
One of the first things we did was go on a scavenger hunt in Denver, Colorado. We were split into groups of four, and we used an app created by the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) to receive clues.

The hunt took us around downtown and allowed us to see some of the sights as we solved riddles and found landmarks. It was great fun and it opened my mind to additional ways to present information to teachers and students. Everyone loves a good hunt, especially when it is a competition. I was very impressed with the app and how everything worked together.

A clue found in an art themed hotel in downtown Denver
Learning Gallery Showcase

The next highlight was the learning showcase where we showed off a lesson or activity we completed during the year. I chose to feature our Mystery Skype collaboration from May with Karey Killian's students. (Our students gave her younger students Mystery Skype tips.) It was eye opening to see examples of teachers' best lesson activities from grades K-12 and even up through college levels. What if we had such professional development at our own schools and each teacher showcased their best lesson? What could be learned together? Again, my mind was opened to possibilities.

Cutting edge holographic technology at this station!


We came back together in the evening for a brief awards ceremony. It was great to celebrate the achievements of my new colleagues. I was very surprised and honored to be chosen as MIE Rookie of the Year! I want to work even harder now for the students and teachers I serve!

Richard Snyder and I pose with awards in hand

Day 2 Highlights


I have been hearing lots about Minecraft in the classroom over the past year I have been involved with the MIEExpert group. Stephen Reid (@ImmersiveMind) shared some of the amazing ways he has used Minecraft in the classroom. His students had created a world that contained DNA models, alternatives to standard prisons, a showcase of flags from around the world, and more. I encourage you to look at his blog here for more ideas. I hope to help teachers experiment with Minecraft this year. There are endless possibilities for our students!

Breakout Edu Session

We were introduced to Breakout Edu by the MIEExpert team. We were placed into groups again, and the goal was to solve problems and receive clues to open a Breakout Edu box. The box had all sorts of combination and keyed locks to unlock. The clues were embedded in a Minecraft world in addition to other places. I again began to think about how this could look in the classroom or for teacher professional development. There are so many possibilities for presenting content in this "breakout" format.

Panel Discussion

I was grateful to have been chosen to serve on a 4 person panel discussion. The panel was led by Tony Prophet, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft Education Marketing. Each of us had the opportunity to discuss the importance and struggles of incorporating technology into our classrooms. It was refreshing to hear such student centered focus in the discussion. What if our own school professional development could have a panel discussion portion?

Margo Day, the Vice President of US Education at Microsoft, finished the day by delivering a wonderful keynote. She emphasized that technology is everywhere in our world. The technology we fantasized about in television shows like Star Trek are now becoming a reality. She also shared Microsoft's mission statement:  "Empowering every student to achieve more". It is very exciting to see a company like Microsoft reaching out to educators to make a difference for learners. I am grateful to Microsoft for these continued opportunities to improve for my learning community. This partnership has only just begun, and I can't wait to see what happens next!

For more information on the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert program, click here.

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