Make It Happen: Delta Kappa Gamma Keynote

Today I had the incredible honor of giving the Keynote address at the Delta Kappa Gamma, Alpha Alpha State Pennsylvania Convention in beautiful State College, PA – home of Penn State.
This was my first Keynote and I was more nervous than I ever imagined I would be. There were only about 300 people in the audience, but I was terrified. Prior to my Keynote, I scanned the crowd and saw many faces I recognized – including a Superintendent from my previous district and some of the teachers I had in elementary school.
When I saw my elementary teachers – I wondered if they ever saw me becoming “something”. Even though high school, I just blended in. I wasn’t dumb, but I didn’t see the need to display my intellect in any further capacity than what was required of me.
I say that because, as a teacher, I find myself picking out students saying “oh, you’re going to be something some day – I just know it!” But what about all of those other kids. Those kids like me? I wonder if they’re more impressed because they never saw it coming. So while I’m smiling inside, I’m also keeping in mind the way that I “judge” students future based on their current lives.
 

Dear students – prove me wrong!

 
The Keynote was such an amazing experience and I can’t thank the organization enough for treating me like family.
Below are the slides from my Keynote.

I am also doing a workshop on Library as Learning Commons which you can find on my Presentations page.
Now go make something happen!

Extended Your Reach @ PSLA 2016

I just wrapped up an exciting weekend with some amazing Pennsylvania librarians at the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association annual conference. This conference is always held at the “sweetest place on Earth” – Hershey, Pennsylvania. Fortunately for me, this is also the town in which I teach, so I had very little traveling to do.

I currently serve on the Board of Directors for PSLA, so my conference began with a Board Meeting. Meanwhile, other attendees had the fortune of attending a pre-conference workshop learning about the new state evaluation system and how librarians can/should be evaluated. (There is so much debate on this topic and I’m still working out my personal opinion on the issue). So often teacher-librarians are pushed into professional development offerings that target classroom teachers, we sometimes get lost in the mix. And while we most certainly ARE teachers and a lot of the information is beneficial, it’s nice to have a dedicated professional development for our unique role. Many librarians look to PSLA to fulfill that need.

Thursday evening was the official kickoff. I got to present at the Tech Learning Lab with Mackin to chat about our new eBook consortium. (I am SO excited about this – more news to come soon).

The lovely @LibrarianLister and @MackinVIA presenting at #PSLA2016 Tech lab! pic.twitter.com/YhUwar0v1a

— PSLA_News (@PSLA_News) May 12, 2016

Then we headed to dinner and our keynote speaker, Richard Byrne. Richard spoke on “Leading Students in a Hyper Connected World” and he was kind enough to share his presentation on his blog, FreeTech4Teachers. Nothing is better than a speaker with a sense of humor. Particularly after a long day of learning.

He really had the crowd rolling when he shared this clip from The Office.

I had followed his blog prior to see him speak, and I’m confident he just gained a few hundred more after his keynote.

Friday morning was kicked off with the Awards Breakfast. This is one of my favorite events in the entire conference because I get to see so many hard working individuals be recognized.

Yay! @mschwander winning the Outstanding Individual School Library award! #PSLA2016 https://t.co/TCDqwsFAAR pic.twitter.com/Q7oJwZ50vc
— Heather Lister (@LibrarianLister) May 13, 2016

 

Congrats @MrsJinthelib and the Wilson SD for winning Outstanding School Library Program Di… https://t.co/nsWuwJX6ui pic.twitter.com/KuXiQBPo2J
— Heather Lister (@LibrarianLister) May 13, 2016

 

Way to go! #PSLA2016 Outstanding Administrator Award! Every librarian needs a supportive admin team. pic.twitter.com/oFGAJrwrV0
— Heather Lister (@LibrarianLister) May 13, 2016

 

Outstanding Building Level Admin Award #PSLA2016 So many good words about libraries. https://t.co/4R67UzzHz9 pic.twitter.com/8LqkvQLXEd
— Heather Lister (@LibrarianLister) May 13, 2016

 

PA Young Readers Choice winners! #PAYRC #PSLA2016 pic.twitter.com/AZ4SsVfM1o
— Heather Lister (@LibrarianLister) May 13, 2016

 

We also heard from Jerry Spinelli and Alan Grantz who were PA Young Readers Choice recipients in 2015. (Soo awesome!!)
Great discussion w/ @AlanGratz & @JerrySpinelli1 about writing Holocaust books for young people #PSLA2016 pic.twitter.com/twXoteUPay

— Phil Burrell (@pburrell) May 13, 2016

The best and worst part about conferences is choosing sessions. I love the ability to choose sessions that interest me, but find it SO frustrating when so many awesome sessions are occurring at the same time. PSLA 2016 was no exception. 

PSLA used this awesome tool called Sched to post the sessions online. You could create an account and make your own schedule. I love it! You can still see the schedule of events here. You can even upload session handouts straight to the app. I loved it.

I presented with some of my best friends (also colleagues) on Blended Professional Learning. You can see our slides here.

After the last session, I grabbed a bite to eat and geared up for the Unconference!

We did the Unconference “Learning Commons” style where we organized according to our interests. You can see the spreadsheet here. There was some amazing discussion on eBooks, makerspaces, coding! (Unconferences are another love/hate relationship. I want to be at EVERY table at the same time).

Along the way, librarian’s shared their “Library Wins” which was so empowering.

After the discussions, we moved to the Smackdown. During the Smackdown, librarians share their favorite tools or bring up a topic they’d like to discuss.

Saturday was an easy day with breakfast, our author keynote by Jacqueline Davies, and one final session.

The end of the conference is always bittersweet. You’re so exhausted so you’re happy, but you’re sad that you may not see some of these people for an entire YEAR! (What was life before social media?)

I am so happy to have been a part of the conference. I am also thankful that the conference ended on a Saturday giving me an entire Sunday to get re-energized for the week ahead.

As much as I love attending national conferences like ISTE, AASL, and FETC, there is so much power in your local organization. It’s like a little family. We support each other, we encourage each other, we console each other. I remember my very first time I attended PSLA – I was in my junior year as an undergrad. Since then, my family has grown tremendously with new librarians, but the old faces stay around – supporting, encouraging, and consoling. Regardless of whether they just retired or retired a decade ago – they’re love and passion for school libraries is contagious.

#psla2016 Tweets

Stop Thinking About Starting a Makerspace

I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to do a guest blog post for Common Sense Media’s Graphite blog on makerspaces.

That’s awesome for two reasons.

1 – I love Graphite! Graphite is a tool that has an abundance of reviews and ratings for websites and apps. If you’re looking for a tool to accomplish a task, there are hundreds of collections published on every topic imaginable.

2 – I love Common Sense Media. As a middle school librarian I’m always looking for in-plain-English reviews of books. Particularly books with “questionable” topics. Common Sense Media reviews are done by both parents and students that have READ the book and provide specific examples. (I’ll post more about that soon)

I was allowed to write about anything connected to #makerspaces. This was difficult for me. How do I narrow that down? So I decided to shake things up a little bit.

I wrote a post on why you should STOP thinking about starting a makerspace.

 

Read all about it here.

 

Make Writing

I know I’m a little biased, but I think we have a pretty amazing makerspace. It’s getting bigger – and messier – every day and the kids are creating some incredible stuff. Until recently, the makerspace was pretty contained to the library. This certainly wasn’t to exclude maker activities from occurring elsewhere – it just happened.
While at one of our ELA planning meetings, we were discussing the lack of enthusiasm kids have for writer’s workshop. What was once a time for kids to express themselves creatively, was now a time that kids dreaded. How sad? I loved Writer’s Workshop as a kid. We had to fix this. They had tried creative prompts, incorporating movies and music, but they were still “bleh”.
As we were brainstorming, an 8th grade English teacher brought up the book “Make Writing” by Angela Stockman. Oddly enough, I had just finished reading my advanced readers copy since I’m a member of the Hack Learning VIP program. All of a sudden we both were sitting at the edge of our seats ready to do it!
The idea of Make Writing is so basic that it is genius (but doesn’t it always happen that way).
Think about it…

Writer’s Workshop is intended to give students a creative outlet.

Makerspaces are intended to give students a creative outlet.

Put them together and you have magic. 

Three easy steps:

Step 1: We reserved the LGI because we needed a large space. We put all three ELA classes together (approximately 75 students).

Step 2: We brainstormed all of the creative things we could have the students do. We made this Tackk to share the options with students.

Step 3: Sit back and watch 🙂

Below are some images from the fun. And it really was SO MUCH FUN! I’m not lying when I say that 8th grade BOYS were RUNNING to English class. Two days prior a fire alarm could’ve gone off and these boys wouldn’t run. They’d be far too worried about how much “swag” they have when exiting the building “like a boss”. (Seriously though)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what have I learned?

  • The “makerspace” isn’t really a “space” at all. It’s more of a culture and a mindset. In reality, what we call the “makerspace” is really just convenient access to the storage of everything.
  • The makerspace doesn’t have to be an extension activity or an add-on. There are so many ways that you can incorporate making into the curriculum. Advice: take the most boring topic you can think of and incorporate making.
  • Begin with “suggested” activities to get the creative juices flowing, but don’t limit their creativity to just those activities.
  • If assigning a grade, try to focus on the process and the planning rather than the final product. It’s important to stress that mistakes will happen and you only truly fail if you give up. Sometimes the greatest inventions occurred on accident.

Be sure to connect with the three teachers that made this all happen!

@rowens1
@sjhegge
@misseggert

 

All About the sARndbox: An Augmented Reality Playground

Update: sARndbox “In Plain English” video

Our kiddos made their own video explaining the AR sandbox 🙂
I’ve been posting a lot on social media about our latest makerspace creation and so many people (okay, 2) have asked how we did it (and provided a lot of encouragement on the days I thought it might fail – thanks #TCEAtribe). Hopefully this blog post answers most of the questions. Once I go through all of our video footage (the kids took over 4 hours of footage), I’ll post some more videos on our process. As always, if you have any questions or need clarification, please just reach out to me at @LibrarianLister.
I wish I could say we came up with the idea, but we definitely didn’t. Oliver Kreylos, a computer scientist studying 3D scientific visualizations and computational geosciences at UC Davis designed and programmed the AR sandbox software. He made the software available as open source – YAY! – so we, and YOU can go grab it. #GoOpen. We first learned of these sandboxes at the Young Innovators Fair in Philadelphia this January. Myself and another teacher took a group of 20 very curious middle schoolers to this event over our Winter break. It was phenomenal.
Shortly after the Fair, we got asked to present something relating to makerspaces at the Taste of Hershey. The Taste of Hershey is our school’s foundation’s biggest fundraiser. A bunch of restaurants and businesses come together for a day of fun conversation and great food.
There are a lot of resources out there on Augmented Reality sandboxes. Of which, I understood none completely. If it weren’t for my genius, computer-programming and mechanically inclined students, I would truly have a box with sand.
This blog post is an attempt to put the many resources into plain English and I’ll provide links along the way so you can see more.

WHAT IS IT?

There are quite a few videos out there about the AR sandbox (trust me, we watched them all!) but this one does a great job of just answering the big “WHAT IS IT” question.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

AR Sandbox uses a computer projector and a motion­ sensing input device (an Xbox Kinect) mounted above a box of sand. The Kinect detects the distance to the sand below, and a visualization ­­ an elevation model with contour lines (aka. a topographic map) and a color map assigned by elevation ­­ is cast from an overhead projector onto the surface of the sand. As the sand is moved, the Kinect perceives changes in the distance to the sand surface, and the projected colors and contour lines change accordingly. When an object (for example, a hand) is sensed at a particular height above the surface of the sand, virtual rain appears as a blue, shimmering visualization on the surface below. The water appears to flow down the slopes to lower surfaces.

HOW IT’S MADE?

Here are the must-have’s to create your own AR sandbox:
  • A sandbox that is a 4:3 ratio (this is so it matches the ratio of the projector). It’s not a big deal if your box is bigger than the 4:3 ratio, just know that your projection won’t fill the entire box. You can either build your sandbox out of wood (what we did) or find something to use as a makeshift sandbox (think dresser drawer or a plastic storage bin).
    • Ours was 32″ x 24″. In hindsight, I might have made it a little bigger but since we did a lot of transporting, I’m glad ours was smaller.
    • If building your sandbox out of wood (as we did), I’d recommend water sealing it or lining it with a plastic tarp of some sort. Ours is not a permanent fixture so we did neither.
    • TIPS: Your INTERIOR measurements are what’s important. So if you’re using 2″ thick wood for your sandbox walls, you’d want to factor that in when building the box.
  • Caulk to seal the inside of the sandbox. I guess this wasn’t super necessary but our kids liked using the caulk gun.
  • Sand that will cover your entire sandbox with at least 4″ of sand.
    • We used Play Sand from Home Depot and added a little bit of water when we did the demonstrations. This way we could do a bit more molding. We used 3, 50lb bags ($3.90 x 3 = $11.70)
    • Some places recommend white sand such as this kind from Sandtastic but its much more expensive ($31.99 x 6 = $191.94)
    • You can also use Moon Sand ($58.04 x 8 = $464.32) or Kinetic Sand ($49.99 x 14 = $699.86) if you want a crazy experience.
  • A computer with at least the following:
    • Running the 64bit version of Linux
    • At least an Intel i5 (preferrably an i7 processor) running at least 3GHz. The better the processor, the faster the Kinect can scan and simultaneous project what it’s rendering. Ours was about a 3 second delay because of our 5 year old i5. We found an i5 processor in an old computer in the technology “death room”.
    • 2 GB of RAM to run the software.
    • A hard drive with at least 20GB free for the installation of Linux and the software
    • A sweet graphics card. We used a GTX 950 ($177.99) but I would not go any lower than that. Ideally, go with the 980TI ($619.99) as it will look much more like the quality in the video above. We have a lot of students that build their own computers for fun. One of our students that was instrumental in building this had a 950 that we used.
  • A first generation xBox Kinect for the Xbox 360 (not the Xbox One!) A lot of kids have upgraded to Xbox One so we had several kids bring in their “extra” kinects.
  • A short throw projector. (Teachers: Think ceiling mounted projector for SMART board vs. the ones you’d set on a cart in the back of the classroom). Originally we used an old projector from the technology “death room” but the bulb died the day before the “show” (#storyofmylife). So much to the displeasure of my technology department, I stole the one from my library classroom. (#sorrynotsorry)
    • You’ll want a projector that has HDMI or DVI that way you can take full advantage of the graphics card. You can still use a projector that has a VGA component, but it will definitely cut back on the quality output.
  • Something the mount the projector and Kinect above the sandbox.
    • Your Kinect should be mounted at the same height as your box is wide. (Our box was 32″ wide, so we mounted the Kinect 32″ high)
  • A vacuum (see images below)
  • Mountain Dew, Italian Four Cheese CheezIts (“must haves” according to middle schoolers)
  • Camera to document everything
  • Patience.
  • Perseverance.

Basically, it will look like this.

Or, if you can’t read middle school, this:

MORE FROM THE ADVENTURE

Before we built the box, we built the computer. We tested the projection and 3D rendering by this very sophisticated prototype made out of masking tape (see above)
We stayed after school one evening to build the box. My husband cut the wood and did some pre-drilling. The rest was up to the kids. A few kids had never used a drill before. Boy were they ever stoked!! Once we had the box assembled, we needed to figure out the mount for the projector.
I was super nervous about this part because it needs to be perfect. Reading through some of the help forums, I knew we needed a way to make this super study, but also somewhat adjustable. Sorry but that was way above me. We left that evening with an “eh…let’s sleep on it” kind of feeling.
And then I got to school the next day and one of my students was waiting with this masterpiece:
Uh…yeah. I know, right? He took a fence post, attached one part of the projector mount to it. Then, he took a steel pipe and put it in adjustable camps to which he soldered another steel pipe so we could mount the Kinect.
I’m not sure what made me happier – the solution to our problem, or the look of accomplishment on Joey’s face ALL day. (Definitely the latter). 
The pictures above were taken before school actually started. The kids came by, saw Joey’s creation, and didn’t even go to their locker before they started putting it together.
Once we had everything set up, we put the box on an old laptop cart so that it was study and could house the
The last step was calibration and boy was that a task! We spent a solid 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon just doing the calibration. And we still didn’t perfect the water simulation piece. At 4:30 on Saturday, we went home praying that the thing would work tomorrow.
So on Sunday morning (raining, of course), I brought my Ford Ranger to school and packed up everything. I went to take the sandbox to my car and it wouldn’t fit through the door. SERIOUSLY?!
So we quickly moved it to a smaller cart (an old projector cart) and just prayed that it wouldn’t fall.
Eventually, we got it there.

AND. IT. WAS. AWESOME.

The community response on the AR sandbox was overwhelmingly positive. People thought this was a project for gifted and they were so surprised to learn that this wasn’t a project at all, it was just a bunch of kids interested in learning more about this.

As I was editing this post, we received a phone call asking us to present at the Business Leaders Breakfast next week. I guess I’ll be dismantling that projector in my library again 🙂

OTHER RESOURCES

  • This resource has some CAD blueprints of the AR Sandbox (in .dwg files)
  • As with every complex creation comes its own help forum. This was a life saver in our final moments.
  • This Facilitation Guide was meant for museums, but has a lot of great tips for teachers too.
I hope this helped some of you get an idea of what in the world I was posting about the past month.
This is our next project:
A game table made from a cheap IKEA end table and a Raspberry Pi.

Make a Classroom Library – of eBooks

Last year we began our eBook journey (and I never looked back). To date, we have about 150 carefully selected titles – both fiction and nonfiction and we’re adding a bunch more this month in preparation for our literature circles project. Most of the titles I purchase are student or teacher requests. They get used for the project, and then the just kind of…don’t.
But sure enough, every time I show a kid MackinVIA, I get comments like, “Whoa! I had no idea we had this!” or “Are you kidding!? That’s beast!” or “That’s legit”. (Middle school here…if you couldn’t tell).
And as they scroll through the titles I see them favoriting 5 more titles. It’s not a matter of kids loving VIA – they do. It’s a matter of keeping it at the front of their minds when they’re looking for a book. I guess it’s just ingrained in them to think physical book when they are looking for something to read.
I needed a way to remind kids about MackinVIA aside from the many times I’ve told them before. But I get it – they’re middle schoolers. When they come to the library and get to pick their seats, they’re totally engrossed in the boy that sat next to him rather than the awesomeness I’m telling them.

So – time to get creative!

In case you didn’t know, Mackin has these awesome FREE eBook shelf markers. You can get them made customized to your collection (with title and cover art) sent to you as a PDF or they can print them for you. We decided to print ours ourselves. We printed them on card stock and laminated them.

When I originally printed them, I had intended on using them as pictured above. I was hoping that kids would see the shelf marker for a book that was checked out and turn to the eBook without leaving disappointed.

It just didn’t work. The shelf markers were getting mistaken for bookmarks and the ones that weren’t taken were all over the floor. That ended quickly. The book the kid wanted was checked out and they would say, “It’s okay, I think my teacher has it in her classroom library.”

Then it hit me!

I was advertising eBooks in the wrong spot. The magic of ebooks is their convenience and portability. So I should make it as convenient as possible to access them.
Instead of disposing of our eBook shelf markers, we actually had 50 sets printed (yeah…7,500 eBook shelf markers). God bless my library aide and my library helpers for cutting and laminating them all. Oh, and hole-punching them. Why hole punch?
Because of THIS:
We put them on keyrings! And we’re giving them to every teacher in the building. It’s going to be EPIC! Kids can now “browse” our eBook collection without even having their device. Once they find a title they want, they simply scan the QR code and their directed straight to the book. BAM!
 
We also made this handy little poster for the teachers. They can hang it next to the eBook keyring or anywhere in their classroom. The QR code on this poster directs to our MackinVIA homepage.
Obviously I’m a little biased, but I think this is genius at it’s best.
I had genius like this once before. That is when I attached a shovel to my son’s power wheels. I really think I’m on to something with that one.
Want to get your hands on your eBooks shelf markers? Reach out to your Educational Sales Consultant. They’ll get the specs you want and send you over a PDF file of your shelf markers.
Looking for other ways to promote your eBooks? Check out Mackin’s resource page – they have a load of bookmarks, posters, flyers, table tents, stickers, etc. to promote your eBooks.
Heather

Resources for Black History Month

I would have liked to get this out sooner, but I was having an amazing time at TCEA. That may have been my favorite conference of all time. Granted, I don’t have many to compare it to…but I had a blast and learned a TON.
Anyway – Black History Month is upon us and here are some of my favorite resources. Although most of these are geared to the secondary level, there are some great discussion questions in most of these that can be used at all levels. These would also be great teacher-resources for elementary teachers. Have a favorite resource not listed here, please share!

Project C: Lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement

“Project C: Lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement” is a series of electronic field trips occurring throughout the Civil Rights fiftieth anniversary years of 2013-2015 that focus on the role of citizenship in a democracy through the study of historical events. The collection is available on PBS Learning Media. PBS LearningMedia is a FREE resource for teachers and students with some of the best educational content from NOVA, American Experience, Frontline and MANY more. Click here to learn more about PBS LearningMedia.

*ProjectC is also hosting a LIVE field trip on February 25th. Click here to sign up.

African American History Month from Library of Congress

It would be wrong for me to highlight only one or two resources from this MASSIVE collection. Not only does this collection pull from LOC, but it also pulls from the National Park Service, the National Archives, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. If you want to use one of these resources with your students, be sure to check that the interactive doesn’t operate on Flash (otherwise, you’ll have an iPad compatibility issue).

Scholastic Black History Month Collection

There are nearly 40 resources on this collection that range from 1st to 12th grade levels. Some focus on the Underground Railroad, some on the Civil Rights Movement, and some on School Integration.

National Geographic Underground Railroad Interactive

The Underground Railroad: Journey to Freedom is a “choose your own journey” style online game that incorporates 3-D experiences as students make a series of choices that affect their journey. Played from a first-person perspective, the game immerses students in the action as they escape from a southern plantation and head north toward freedom. Along the route, students make key decisions that will lead them to one of several possible outcomes.” (from the NatGeo website). Make sure you check out the Educator Guide.

* Note, this is also available as an iOS app for $0.99

Newseum Making a Change Collection

You’ll need to create a free Newseum account before you can access most of the resources, but Newseum has some phenomenal content relating to the First Amendment, and in this case, Civil Rights. They just posted a new lesson called “What Don’t You Know About Civil Rights”. The great things about most of these lessons is that they’re typically available as a PDF download.
Looking for books on Black History Month? Check out this Pinterest Board I created with K-12 books.
Within each of these links are links to lots more resources. Hopefully you can find one that works great for your studies this month!
Heather

Why I Stopped Selling on TeachersPayTeachers

TeachersPayTeachers is this fantastic website with nearly TWO MILLION resources made by teachers*, for teachers. Prices for materials range from free to $1,800, although the average price is $5.

(*Actually a lot of people that sell aren’t educators although they still make some awesome stuff.)

I used TPT a lot when I was an elementary school librarian, particularly after having my first child. I knew what I wanted to do in class, but all of the resources I had were old and unattractive. While I know it’s about the content and not about what it looks like, I just couldn’t stand to look at the yellowing transparencies. However, I didn’t have the time to recreate everything. Many a time I would hop on TPT and find this amazing ^free (because I have yet to buy something on there) resource and use it the next day.

Well, during that time I had heard how first-grade teacher Deanna Jump made $1,000,000 (yep, 6 zeros) by selling on TPT. Now, there are over 12 teachers that have earned over a million dollars and over 300 have earned more than $100,000.


I was (and still am) totally broke and was spending hours creating what I thought to be awesome teaching resources. TeachersPayTeachers seemed like a perfect option for me. So, I listed a few things. One of my resources (free) was downloaded over 20,000 times! Awesome, right? So I began putting a price of some of my things. I had bookmarks, a call number game, etc. I never marketed my products and I never bought the premium version of TPT, so I got about 20 cents on the dollar for anything I sold. But whatever – when you’re that broke, an extra $10 a month is awesome!

But then, it just started feeling yucky. I’m a librarian for crying out loud! Sharing is what I’m all about! And despite the fact that my mother raised me to be a coupon clipping, never-buy-anything-unless-its-on-sale kinda gal, this just felt wrong. I couldn’t help but picture the new teacher scrambling for resources on TPT and whipping out their pre-paid credit card that their grandmother got them for Christmas to purchase my dumb worksheet.

…Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit dramatic.

…And maybe I’m just seeing myself. Anyway.

So yesterday I made all of my “products” free. I still think TPT is a great place to go for resources and I will probably continue to list items I create on that site (for free), but I will also list them on my blog (stay tuned!) as well as other resource sharing sites.

Til next time.

Be the Change – TYSL

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – President Barack Obama

I began studying library science in 2007. We were told that jobs were going to be in high demand due to retirements and that job satisfaction was among the highest of all careers in education. I learned as much as I could about librarianship and instructional technology. Fortunately, the university I attended had the Instructional Technology and Library Science departments combined, so I was able to immerse myself in emerging technologies as well. I had fun. I was excited to begin my career as a “21st Century Librarian”.

Then came 2008. Librarian positions began getting slashed. Library support positions were slashed. Funding was slashed. Some libraries closed altogether. It was heartbreaking. Yet, despite this devastation, it brought about a great deal of good.

For the few years following the economy crash, students and teachers found ways to survive without us – without the “traditional” us. And now that we’re back, we can’t be the librarians we used to be.

We need to transform.


Which is why I’m so excited to be a part of Mackin’s movement, Transform Your School Library (TYSL). TYSL is a forum where like-minded educators who are excited about the transformation of school libraries can have an arena to work within and help to secure the future of school libraries and school librarianship. I love reading through the Q&A section – they just get it! I’m the only librarian in my school, and it’s sometimes difficult for teachers to see the library as anything other than a warehouse of books. After all – that’s what their library was like when they attended school. And although it can be frustrating, it’s also invigorating. I want to be the librarian that they wish they had when they were in school. I’m not quite sure what that looks like – its still evolving. And it probably will continue to transform. 

I can’t wait to see what this group comes up with. I’m so excited and honored to be an advocate of TYSL. Stay tuned for more to come!

After all, “progress is impossible without change.”


It Didn’t Work…but It Wasn’t a Failure

Last year I immersed myself in maker education. I followed everyone imaginable, read every book published, and learned as much as I could. As my knowledge grew, I became more and more excited about what a makerspace could look like at my school. Our district was also immersing itself in blended education and was big on the idea of the library as a Learning Commons. After working with our Director of Infrastructure Technology, Director of Instructional Technology, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, and my building administrators, a makerspace vision was developed.

I also made this infographic.

Knowing I would be on maternity leave for the 1st marking period, I did as much planning prior to the start of the school year. Unfortunately/fortunately, my bundle of joy arrived nearly a month early and I wasn’t at the spot I needed to be in order to officially “start” the Makerspace.

I returned to school a few weeks ago and had the official “grand opening” of the HMS Makerspace. Kids flocked to the library. I mean FLOCKED. It was chaos. Beautiful chaos. And I loved it! It was the best distraction from being away from my children.


And after a few days, the beauty disappeared and it was just chaos. Pure and simple. 



And I was devastated. 



So I paused. I put everything on hold and just watched and observed. I needed to know what was going wrong in order for me to fix it. And I’m so glad I did. I learned that some of the “best” things about my school and my library were actually working against the way I had set up the Makerspace. 

Wide Open Spaces

Our library is this large, open space with huge ceilings and glass wall/window overlooking our courtyard. It’s a beautiful space. Unfortunately, the echo is AWFUL. Imagine having a library in a natatorium without any sound barriers (yeah, it’s that bad). So the echo is great if you’re trying preserve the traditional quiet library space, as even a whisper travels across the room. Without saying too much more, you can see why this is an issue.

Staggered Classes and Study Halls

Our middle school operates on a traditional 7 period day, but each grade level has a slightly adjusted schedule (don’t worry if you don’t understand, I don’t either). Students visit the library before school, after school, and during “flex” (study hall). Since each grade level has a slightly adjusted schedule, 7th grade could be in core classes while 8th grade is having their flex period. I work on a flexible schedule which is AWESOME, except for when the class overlaps with flex (which it ALWAYS does). Because of problem #1, I am forced to close the library for flex when I have a class scheduled.

Not Everyone Wants to Use the Makerspace

This was big for me. I think I was trying to make the entire library a makerspace. I think I was so excited to eliminate the notion of the “traditional” library, that I forgot that it still serves a purpose. School libraries are first and foremost a place to support the students and the curriculum. And while the makerspace has a huge curricular impact, it addresses one piece of the pie. I still needed a place for students to read quietly, work on homework, and makeup tests. Not every student comes to the library to code or make Justin Bieber’s eyes light up with LittleBits. And while it seems obvious now, it took me a while to realize this. Fortunately, everyone around me realized it and pointed it out to me. Some kids explained that they couldn’t concentrate in the library. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to enjoy the makerspace, but they had priorities and I was making their decision difficult by tempting them with these cool things. Teachers explained that they really counted on the library as a place to send kids if their study hall was noisy and kids needed to focus.

What to do?

It was clear that we had students that wanted to come to the library for the makerspace and students that wanted to come to the library for a focused, academic purpose. Unfortunately, because of our open floor plan, they were on top of each other. So I was sitting in my office drawing up some plans of how I could once again rearrange the library (my maintenance department was going to kill me). And then it hit me. My office. Let’s move the makerspace into my office. 

It took me all of 30 minutes to clean out my office. It was only my second year at this school so I hadn’t accumulated much stuff. Further, I hated being in there anyway. Even though the office has glass walls (which makes it PERFECT for the makerspace), I always felt as though there was a barrier between me and the students. Again, barrier = PERFECT for this situation. 

I had already scheduled my maintenance department to come in and help me move things, but while they were there, I ran by an idea that I found at AASL. And it worked AWESOME! We have these beautiful, sturdy oak tables, but they aren’t the best for flexible spaces. So we purchased some castors and my maintenance department replaced the feet with wheels 🙂 It’s awesome! Now I have beautiful, study furniture that is also moveable!
So here are some pictures of our “NEW” Makerspace. Although its a little cramped, it doesn’t seem to bother the kids.

LittleBits station (on our “new” moveable tables)
MakeyMakey station (my old desk)

Ozobot station
I learned so much through this process. 

1. Makerspaces aren’t a one-size-fits-all model. Keep your school’s vision and mission at the heart of the space.

2. Creating a makerspace doesn’t mean abandoning your library.

3. Succeeding after a failure is SO much more rewarding. And after all, isn’t that what we’re trying to teach our kids through maker activities?