Sunday, August 9, 2015

Reading: A Passionate Love Affair

I've been inspired by the amazing Jennifer LaGarde who has written such brilliant post about the important people and pivotal moments in your past that made you a lifelong reader.  Jennifer's post is evocative, thought-provoking, and inspiring! It was so good I wrote a flippin novel of a comment that will make up much of this posting!
Her well written words caused me to smile and fondly recall those individuals, pivot points, and circumstances that made me into a reader. And it wasn't a book report, diorama, or a standardized text passage that did it. Shocker.

Before writing this part, I called my Mom to "fact check" my memory of my pivotal reading moments and spent a great 45 min recalling both of our reader love stories. Which turned out to be - surprisingly similar!
Narnia by Candlelight
One of my earliest happy reading memories was in Miss Cooper's second grade class at Capitol Christian Academy. Every day after lunch, Miss Cooper would let us put our heads down on our desks, she'd dim the overhead lights, and she would light this little brass Swedish candle chime thingy that would rotate around dreamily and make a lovely tinkling sound.  Then she would read aloud in her clear sweet voice with all the inflections,  a chapter or two of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was magical. I was entranced.  My Mom would read the next chapter to me that night before bed in her beautiful voice, but I never minded the repeats the next day. It was wonderful!

Fast forward a couple years and grades to a rainy summer week at the beach. We were renting a "vintage" (read here cheap with no TV!) cottage at the Ocean City, Maryland beach around 1974.  Growing up, Mom said I could read but I didn't really LIKE to read. At the time, Mom was an English teacher at Bowie Senior High School and I asked her today if in those early years if it bothered her at all or if I was disappointment to her. She said nope, she was just waiting. She's a patient woman, my Mom!

Public Library Visits
Mom took my brother and me religiously to the Bowie Public Library every other week to check out tote bags of books.  But until that rainy summer week, she said I would usually check out non fiction books about How to be a Stewardess or crafting books and I would mostly just look at the pictures. 

Nancy Drew Saved Me
That week, with the rain pouring and no TV to entertain, Mom took us to a bookstore at the Salisbury mall and I got my first 2 Nancy Drew books. Mom said it was the first fiction book I read, read, and read, and didn't put down until I finished it and asked for more.  I was going into the 4th grade and I was in LOVE!
I read Nancy Drew books non-stop for a year - we would go to the Riverdale Used Book shop where you could trade in books for other books and I started collecting Nancy Drew books from the 30's, 40's, 50's...every decade - each were a little different and fascinating! 
My Mom shared with me today that she also read Nancy Drew books from the library on the Elmendorf Air Force Base library in Anchorage, Alaska growing up after WWII! And that it wasn't until Nancy that she became a lifelong reader! No wonder she nudged me in that direction!
After Nancy Drew I started branching out to other books like the Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, Gothic Novels, Harlequin Romances, Vampire books, The Hobbit, The Cliffs of Night, A Wrinkle in Time, Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Really, from then on I was omnivorous. I do remember that in 5th grade I was sent to the Principal's office at my fundamental Christian private school for bringing in the book Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. What the what!? Mom sent me to public school the next year! LOL

Library Helper
In 6th grade - my first year in public school, I was a Library Media helper for Ms. Wildburger....she the School Librarian and was also my TAG teacher who just, well.. Got. Me. In fact, when I "graduated" from Elem she gave me an inscribed paperback book Listen for the Whisperer by Phyllis A. Whitney. I still have that book! It's in my office at school. I now routinely give kids ARC or paperback books and I always write something personal for that kid to remember me by. You never know, they may just keep it.

Gone With the Wind Fabulous
During the blizzard of 1979 we were stuck home for a week and I ran out of books. (Gasp!) The picture at the very top of the post shows me curled up sitting on the heating vent with Grandma's afgan reading The Laird of Tariff Hall well-worn Gothic paperpback. After that, I guess I was whining about nothing to read so my Mom gave me her Gone With the Wind paperback - that shut me up! I don't know if it was totally appropriate for a 14 year old to read that - but it kept me quiet for many many days! By the by? If you haven't read the book - it's quite juicy!

Stand Behind Scary Books
Around this time I also read Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, some strange vampire book called Lupe that disturbed me a bit! I read Stephen King's It, and Tommyknockers.  I also tried to read Stephen King's The Stand but I quit it after the NYC tunnel scene. WAY too scary! (I finally read ALL of The Stand last summer & loved it!)  See kiddos? Sometimes you're not ready for a book, but the book will always be there waiting for you! 
Time and Again
My favourite book off ALL time (Ok, maybe until Harry Potter) was a book I was Jack Finney's Time and Again which I read in HS for fun. I LOVE this book! It's a time travel book that's illustrated with historic photographs and etchings. It's surprising, delightful, suspenseful, heart-pounding, romantic, exciting, and poignant. I was very social in High School, Studio Art, a Theatre Gleek, yearbook editor, part time job at Kemp Mill Records, the 80's punk rock scene, and boys....oh the boys!  But I still found time to read.  I was an English Lit major in college and after a couple careers in PR and advertising I realized my heart and soul were not being filled and I belonged in a school library for the rest of my life. This is the short version. 

Then came Harry.
I've blogged about this before. My love for the Harry Potter series. In 1997 I ordered from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and from then on - every year eagerly I pre-ordered from Amazon each new release, and I would be on tenterhooks for the next book. THAT, as a grownup, changed my reading life! It was the first time that I felt like I was in a reading community about a series. And what was even more exciting? I was sharing it with my students!  I wouldn't let my teachers check out the new books (they were saved just for the kiddos!)- but I would let them borrow my personal copy.  I even made a special sticker made on Print Shop Deluxe to put on each volume so it wouldn't accidentally be shelved. 

What's YOUR Story?
Now that I ponder it, I think we all should write a blog post about our passionate reading love affair moments! Yes! I think, as librarians, we should share that which made us want to BE a librarian and a life-long reader. I guarantee you, it was NOT because we were induced to, or as Jennifer said by any "points or other incentives."

We should do this to both honor those people who helped shape us, to commemorate it for ourselves and our family, and to remind the public that readers are not bought. They are not bribed. They are not coerced. They are saved. 
I would call it mix between an almost evangelical conversion and falling in love. I've been in love many times in my life. They come, they go, they get tossed aside. But my love for reading has stayed steadfast and true.

Reading Addictions
The way I read may have changed - but the magic in the words off the "page" or the tablet still delights and maintains me. I feel panicky if I don't have a book nearby. That is lifelong passion. That is lifelong devotion. That's a lifelong addiction. Call it what you will. That, is what we each try to inspire in each kiddo we meet. No small task but we're librarians. That's what we do.

So, if you haven't already - you gotta read Learning To Read Alone Is Not Enough. Your Students Need A Reading Champion. You're welcome.

Your Turn! 

I don't write as well as Jennifer. I'm rambling and all over the place (and I know I have lots of parenthetical asides, this one!) But I really hope we (all of us who have had a lifelong love affair with reading) we all should try and write down our earliest magical reading moments. I'm sure yours will be better than mine & I can't wait to read it! Comment, Tweet, share shamelessly my friends!

Resources & Links:

Do you remember the moment that you fell in love with reading?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Wonder More - Fear Less

Dare Everyday.
You know, my brand is sometimes a lot to live up to. I'm not always daring. I won't buy a 3D printer until I know I can get projects kiddos create cranked out in a timely fashion or that we can reliably afford the materials and upkeep supplies. You don't ALWAYS have to be daring in BIG ways, but you can dare everyday something. Dare to keep smiling to that kid who never smiles back. It's easy to smile to the kiddos you adore & have a connection with. But try to smile consistently, to that kiddos who is all prickles and burs. You will be surprised at the results. It took me 8 months once to get a reluctant grin back.

When thinking about the next school year -I'd like to suggest we keep in mind that we should be ready to try new things without letting fear stop us. To go beyond our comfort zone. Even if you choose only one thing that makes you squirmy inside, that's good for your practice and our profession. This way, we can truly say to our kiddos that we are pushing ourselves to fail/win and try again just like we ask them to do every day!

Wonder More. 
Wonder what could happen if we go beyond our comfort zone. Wonder what could we achieve if we put back the wonderment in our classrooms. Don't always tell everything - give our kiddos the gift of supposing. Opening discussions with this theme - which fits into ANY of our subject areas. Try it. Wonder for a moment about the conversations you could have starting with wonder and suppose. It's not really magical, but it can do ....well, wonders! 
I wonder if I've driven this home yet. I wonder if I should go onto my next point. LOL 
Dr. Justin Tarte is one of those inspiring education leaders in our amazing PLN that I really like and admire! His blog is fantastic and I sometimes read it nodding along and saying YES! This quote exemplifies how we both believe that change, however difficult, is necessary in our profession.  
Here's what I've been thinking lately
Fear Less. 
Fail - Win - Try Again.
I am not afraid to look like total DOOFUS in front of my kiddos! Whether it's trying a new device, piece of tech, or a new teaching style. I'll say something like this:
"OK guys, this is really new, I don't know if this is gonna work, it could totally bomb,  and I may even need your help to make this fly, but let's give it a whirl!"
After I say that, they immediately perk up! I also sometimes will compare it to gaming - by failing, sometimes often, that's how you learn to WIN! By admitting my vulnerability to them also makes me human and gives them permission to take honest chances.  
As a matter of fact, some of the times I've done that, fell flat on my face,  and asked for help and patience - those have been the MOST exciting and transformative experiences I've ever had in my 23+ years of teaching! And kids remember the willingness to try far more than if it works or not.

20 years ago I had a 100 foot phone cord and a 14.4 k modem that I bought myself to dial up to the University of Maryland's server because my school district didn't have the Interwebs yet. I said to my kiddos then - all 28 of us gathered around the tiny 14" Mac LCIII pizza box computer, that we may or may not get though, but if we did we were going to add this to our research unit Where in the USA Carmen Sandiego by searching this place called Yahoo that had a page filled with up to date facts about every US State!  They were entranced and excited when it worked and really good sports when it didn't. Four of those kids are teachers in my district now. \\FTW!//

Be You. 
Don't be afraid to be the authentic you to your kiddos. 
Sure, I say be a bit austere the first few months getting to know the kids and setting your ground rules. My Mom (retired teacher of 40 years) told me to not to smile until Thanksgiving. Have you heard that, too? Yeah. It works. After you get your classroom management on point, then you can relax a little and be your own self to the kids. I'm unabashedly goofy, doofy, nerdy, ADHD, & mercurial. My kids either dig it or don't. Whatever. Not trying to GET the kids to like you is key. Be you and they eventually will. Or won't. Whatever, keep your center, know you're coming from a place of  authenticity & passion for our profession and it will show.  

Have a great year, everyone! Keep trying, peeps! Never give up - never surrender! 

Because see, I've been thinking of this saying for a while now.
For both myself, teachers, & my kiddos. 
You don't have to free climb
or do urban parkour to stretch yourself.
Every day
Every School Year.
If it scares you a little, you're on the right track! 

Pick one thing this year that scares you and try it! 

OK, I better hang up now - my Mom might be trying to call me & getting just a busy signal. LOL

Your turn! What scares you the most? 
What do you worry about trying with your kiddos?
Add your ideas & thoughts in the comments, please!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tweet Like a Ninja

I've been blogging about my favourite Social Media outlet Twitter for over five years now. From Twitter: The Art of the Follow, header and background design tips with Are You Ready for a New Twitter? to What's YOUR Twitter Formula?

I figured it was time to try and put a lot of these tips into one package. This is a new presentation that I'm still fine-tuning, but I thought I would share it to get some feedback. Below are a few slides to give you a taste, as well as the full embedded Slideshare.

Your suggestions are very welcome - but please remember a lot of these tips are just my opinion or rather, enjoy this disclaimer...

Here's the full presentation - Enjoy! 

Tweet Like a Ninja from The Daring Librarian Experience
I know it's a LOT of slides but I swear
it all fits into a one hour presentation, really!
But it's not as fun without me presenting it LIVE! You gotta believe that! 
So, feel free to Contact & Invite me;  to keynote or spotlight your next EdTech or Librarian conference & give this fun presentation in person. With Bonus snark, amusing anecdotes, & Sophomoric humour! Hashtag Shameless!

Now it's your turn! What would you add? What did I forget?
Please add your thoughts & ideas in the comments! :-) 
The best will be added to the preso w/ attribution, of course!

Ps. I'm #NotAtISTE this year - I am taking a digital detox & going on an Ashram & Spa Retreat will not be Tweeting until the weekend. (Unless I can't stand it and sneak, but I'm really gonna try and be good!)  But will definitely enjoy the Tweets after the event whether it's #ISTE2015 or the shorter IMHO better, #ISTE15. Will miss you all dear friends! Namaste!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

There's an Echo in My Library!

Hello Alexa! 
Back in November Amazon announced that it was taking pre-orders for the new Echo - by invitation only. Intrigued, ever geeky, & with a big discount offered as a Prime member - I jumped on it with my own money! (Just in case it was a flop!) It took months of waiting but finally, just a few weeks ago it came and we now have a new information tool in the library!  It's the Amazon Echo! Have you heard of it? Watch this promo video!
(Fun viewing tip, watch the mom's facial expressions - they're epic!) 
UPDATE! No Invitation Needed Now! In stock July 14th

Since I'm not going to have an assistant full time next year, (don't get me started!) I thought this could be a cool way to answer basic questions. Kids are delighted to discover Alexa, living in the Amazon Echo. Not only is it a fun way for kiddos to learn how to ask the right questions, to speak clearly, it also introduces them to the Internet of Things

Since it's cloud based, Amazon can automatically upgrade and send OS downloads to the device. Is this cool or scary? I say cool!

The new "Simon says" feature is fun to play with. I was in my office checking my email, with the Echo remote handy as one of my 8th grade lunch kiddos came in. I said quietly into the remote "Alexa, Simon says: Hey Mike, it's good to see you again" He just about freaked out! "Ms Jones - it knows who I am!" I rushed out of my office and said, "What just happened!?" Heh heh heh. I even had my assistant, my beloved Ms. Bell, going for a few hours! Yeah, I'm a little bit evil.
Here are some examples of my kids discovering their new friend Alexa! 

We've also featured it on our MHTV news letting Alexa share the weather desk! 

The Amazon Echo is available by invitation only & for $50 bucks off for Amazon Prime members.  I requested an invite on November 6th, got the invite and ordered in January, and FINALLY received my Echo in May - the pre-order special deal in November was $100 off - that's why I took a chance! 

Will this tool (I am assiduously avoiding using the word toy) be an asset to our library or a distraction? Time will tell!
List of things the Alexa in the Echo can do in your Library:
  • Get the Title or Author of a book (She knows Harry Potter & Hitchiker, may not know more obscure YA titles)
  • Answer basic factual questions (I'm better at obscure trivia) 
  • Spell and define words 
  • NPR News Flash (Customizable)
  • Tells the time
  • Weather forecast for your location
  • Play Prime or purchased music & playlists
  • Listen to audiobooks from Audible or Kindle Unlimited on your Amazon Echo
  • Teaches kiddos how to phrase a question - this has been fascinating! 
I'm still learning how to do more things, and the kids are, too! Here's more Amazon Help!
But make sure to download the ECHO app and disable the ability to purchase items through the Echo. That was the 2nd thing I did! 

The Echo Does NOT Replace a Librarian!
Dear reader, let me assure you, however,  that NO DEVICE invented will EVER be able to replace a certified Librarian! Only a Librarian can give the necessary context to any information, be able to sift through the results like a surgeon, curate the best, and give all that to the student or patron with a smile.

Feel like you've read this before?
Originally, I had all this info on my Makerspace Starter Kit post, but I decided it deserved it's own post!

 Get Your Charge On!

We also have a new Courtesy Mobile Device Charging Station in the MHMS Daring School Library Media Center! Moving closer to BYOD means that kiddos often come to the media center at lunch to charge up. Nothing too fancy, a tall AV cart with a heavy duty power strip, two super fast charging UNITEK 10 USB port hubs and a couple 4-in-1 USB Charging Cords.

This is just a start! See? You don't have to invest thousands to make a change. It doesn't have to be all fancy shmancy - just be creative and give it a shot! The look on my kids faces when I put that charging cart there was priceless...they were like WOW! And one said, "this is the coolest library in the world" that's better than satchels of gold!

Next school year I'm going to buy more charging cords - one of these already broke. Either Teens are HARD on peripherals or that was a cheapo cord. Probably both! LOL
I may even buy this station on Amazon, inspired by Michael Ahr & the RHHS Library Media Center - their blog & Twitter feed is so amazing! I invite you to follow them! The , Mr. Nick Novak is super inspiring, too! If I ever felt mature enough to move to High School -I'd love to work with these people!

Did you know that there are some super cool Easter eggs built in?
Here's a hint, say "Alexa: Tea, Earl Grey, Hot"
'Alexa, show me the money!' Amazon updates the Echo
Amazon's Echo gets some savvy upgrades - CBS News




Saturday, June 6, 2015

Makerspace Starter Kit

The hot new Makerspace Movement is NOT new to Murray Hill Middle School. Eighteen years ago we designed and opened the school with the idea that we would have creation labs in the Media Center, GT room, and the TV studio. We started with video production, iMovie, Specular LogoMotion, Hyperstudio, and animation with Hollyood High kids. Here's an example of an EARLY (2003) video production called Bookfellas, featuring some Guy Ritchie-esque film direction techniques. These kids are now all grown up and we've kept evolving, too!
It's OK to Start Small!
We recently expanded upon our Makerspace offerings thanks to being inspired by several of my librarian friends in our amazing #TLChat PLN! (Pls see resources below!) Kids can come in during lunch or when they've finished their work to explore, craft, and create in the Library Media Center.
I re-purposed some of my empty study carrels for this Makerspace center at the top corner of our library.  The grouping includes a Lego Creation Station, a Duct Tape Craft Cubby, and a Makey Makey Coding Corner. (heh heh heh worked on those cute name for like....days!)

As I asserted in a recent blog post about new Ed Tech trends, fads, & tech -you can start small and  You Don't Have to Marry It!  Want to dip your toe in the Makerspace Movement?  Do you want to give it a shot without spending thousands of bucks and a lot of commitment? Keep reading!
For the Duct Tape Craft Cubby, I used a spring loaded curtain rod to hold the duct tape rolls, bought a bright blue colored shower caddy for the scissors and other tools. (You could also adapt this idea using a book cart!)
I also bought the hardback book: A Kid's Guide to Awesome Duct Tape Projects: How to Make Your Own Wallets, Bags, Flowers, Hats, and Much, Much More! which I haven't processed but am keeping just on the craft cubby with a big sign taped to it (in Duct tape, natch) DO NOT REMOVE! LOL
For the Makey Makey Coding Corner I used an older iMac computer along with some aluminum foil. (No bananas!)  With the Lego Creation Station I started small. Just a few kits and boards but I had to have that big yellow smiley tub pictured above! Here's an idea starter kit all for about $350.00.

Amazon Delivers!

I got all this on Amazon using my district P-Card & free shipping because I shared Prime with myself.

Did you know if you have Amazon Prime you can share your 2 day FREE shipping with up to 5 family members? - SO cool! There are so many perks being an Amazon Prime member, I really LOVE it!

Check out what I purchased full size - you may have to click twice to enlarge and scroll to view.

Makey Makey Made Simple Simple:
a Crowdsourced Google Doc Tutorial
One of my AWESOME 8th graders, Lillian E., started a Makey-Makey Made Simple-Simple Crowdsourced Google Doc Tutorial. I encourage anyone who is better at Makey Makey than me (and umm...that would be EVERYONE) to contribute ideas, directions, and experiments that you can do with the kit.
PLEASE consider contributing - how cool would it be to create an ever growing crowdsourced resource!? Thank you!
FUND Me! Don't have a spare $350 in your budget? Don't have any $$? Several librarian friends of mine have used to fund their maker spaces - I've personally donated my own money to help them! (I'm winking at you Jennifer LaGarde & Tiffany Whitehead! LOL)  If you're only asking for $350 I think that would go pretty quickly! HINT: Make sure to Tweet out your donation request using the #Makerspace and #TLChat or #EdChat hashtag!

What's really awesome, is that I just put the Makey Makey box next to the computer and let the kiddos put it all together and figure it out. And they did!
GREAT Addition by Lisa Johnson aka @TechChef4u 

Photo by

There are a lot of great resources out there to learn more about the Maker movement, and the best are other Librarians doing even bigger and better creation stations than me! To be honest, I'm just not ready to commit, spend thousands, redesign, and tear up my library yet! (And that's OK! I guess when it comes to this, I'm daring but also conservative - go figure!)
BUT, there are some amazingly creative and adventurous Librarians out there who are, and we can learn a lot from them! I know I'm gonna miss some (maybe you!), so please feel free to add more in the comments!
Library Journal Magazine - the Maker Issue  -A must read for any Making enthusiast! Pay special attention to the Lessons Learned paragraph.
ISTE 2015: Takeaway Tips for a Library Maker Space
Circulating Maker Kits: A Twist on Library MakerSpaces - Teen Librarian Toolbox feat. blog commenter
Follow on Twitter @Makerspaces_com

Photo collage & blog header by
Diana Rendina - Renovated Learning To me, she's THE Maker Guru! I've learned SO much from her and her amazing blog! She's so generous sharing her journey!
- Orchard School Library - Makerspace Donna has done some amazing things in her school library, is a shameless sharer, AND her blog has downloadable Rubrics for Legos & Makerspace! (Photo above is from her blog, too!) Thanks, Donna - you rock!
- The Mighty Little Librarian shares her Makerspace journey with CMS Makerspace: The Beginning

One of my favourite Tweeps & Scoopers, found this duct tape book for her school library in Perth, Australia! Next year I'm gonna get it, too! I can't spend any money right now, that's why I've been spending my own for the last month! LOL 
Get started FAST with this great Amazon deal!

Duct Tape Craft Kit with Book and 12 roll Combo Pack. Sticky Fingers Book and 12 Rolls of tape

Now it's Your Turn!
What would YOU include in your 
Makerspace Starter Kit?
What did I leave out?
Any other cool ideas?


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