Monday, July 27, 2015

Wonder More - Fear Less

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!
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
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!//

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!

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?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Persuasive Political Vines

I was really excited to work with two great ELA cooperating (student) teachers who are from my alma mater, Towson University. Shout out to Jessica Robertson & Debora Chun! An additional shout out their kind professor who actually had my blog on her "to read & review" list! So, they came to this school already familiar with my blog, how crazy is that? W00t!

So, when they expressed a desire for us to work together before they left my school it was trixy finding 2-4 days between PARCC testing and MAP testing to fit them in, but we did! 

As I mentioned in my last post I first wanted to do a Mystery Skype with an educator in the Dominican Republic because my 7th grade kiddos had just finished reading Before We Were Free. Sadly, after reaching out to, and never hearing back, from all of Mystery Skype educators in the Dominican Republic (Ok, there were only 4!) we had to move on to plan B! or should I say Plan V for Vine!  We tasked the kids to create a persuasive political message and record it using Vine.
Read below, taken from our Wikispaces page.

Vine Video Rebel Message

What if you could make a difference?
What if you could save a life?

Your group has found a way to hack into the local TV station to deliver a 6 second message.It will loop over and over again until the "authorities" can stop it. Brainstorm, plan, and storyboard how you will convey your message.

Are you a rebel and a freedom fighter?

This message should be either exposing what wrong doings you have observed or to give a passionate appeal for help. Think of visual ideas that will be intriguing & convincing. Stop action animation could also be a creative choice. REHEARSE!

Are you a spy?
Create a hidden message in the 6 second video that asks for help or relates secret information. Must relate to the book. Study the information on the wikipage and our research databases about cryptography, encryption, and decryption of secret codes.  Hint: Stop action animation would work well for this! Think of visual ideas that will be intriguing & convincing.

Vine Tech Tips:
Remember, every time you tap the Vine screen, it stops, then you tap again to start the action. That's why stop action animation is SO easy with Vine!  3 clips of 3 seconds of action works the best. Expect to film this at least 3 times before you get the final one! Don’t forget to add the hashtag #BeforeWeWereFree to the description!

Downloadable Storyboard and more are available on my wiki!
I promise to update this blog post when we finish recording the videos - but it may be after my birthday and Memorial Day because we're starting MAP testing again next week. So, stay tuned! Here's a few for now!

Tweet me if you have any questions or leave a comment!
Cheers dears! ~Gwyneth

I met with the student teachers and went over how to record a Vine, how to make a stop action animation with it,  and also to give them a chance to get some Birchbox Bonanza makeup freebies! It's really important to treat your student teachers right, spoil them a bit, it's all about paying it forward.
A photo posted by Gwyneth Jones (@thedaringlibrarian) on


Educator's Guide: Before We Were Free | Vamos a Leer

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez |

Before we were free program guide - - PDF


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Skype: Global Communication Magic!

I am SO excited about the potential of this new technology from Skype and err [cough] Microsoft. But us Mac people... I guess we'll have to wait a little longer. From Richard Byrne's awesome blog: "Microsoft has made Translator Preview open to anyone who is using Windows 8.1 or a preview edition of Windows 10. Click here to visit the download page for Translator Preview." Here's an example of it in action!
OMGosh! I can't wait to try this with my kiddos! I gotta confess, my eyes get suspiciously damp every time I watch this & the look at wonder and astonishment on the faces of the kids! EEP! (Don't judge me! LOL)

I joined Mystery Skype & Classroom hoping to connect with a classroom in the Dominican Republic. I was inspired SO much after watching that video above, I thought my 7th grade kiddos who had just finished reading Before We Were Free would get a super kick talking to a classroom in the country where it was set (and in the same time zone)! But alas, after emailing ALL the educators listed in that country, (ok, there were only 4!) I had to come up with a plan B.  So now, instead we're going to make Vine videos.
Check my next blog post for all about it!


From the amazing Richard Byrne:

Skype Translator Preview Opens to All Windows 8 & 10 Users

Mystery Skype! a brilliant blog post by RichardSnyderman the @Techsavvylib

Sunday, April 19, 2015

You Don't Have to Marry It!

Education Trends-A-Go-Go
It's SO easy to get overwhelmed with all the new education tech and trends going on in the world.
Genius Hour
Common Core
Mobile Learning
Design Thinking
Google Classroom
Brain Based Learning
Project Based Learning
Learning Management Systems
Transformative Brain Based Learning Spaces

Sheesh....I could go on! It's EXHAUSTING!

Ed Tech Relationship Anxiety

Then....there's all the new technology that you have to get, use, and master! Don't have an unlimited budget or a super generous PTA? OK, now you have to get funding from a place like Donor's Choose. (Which is totally, doable! But does take a wee bit of effort) Once it was Smart Boards now it's Tablets and 3D printers.

Then what? What happens when you run out of money to buy the supplies? OMGosh, again. Exhausting!

Take a Deep Breath, It's OK!

But I'm here to tell you...It's OK. You don't have to try to be the expert at everything.  You don't have to totally flip your classroom making videos yourself to take the place of daily instruction.  You can start by sourcing some great videos already created and add them to your lesson plan. From places like YouTube, Schooltube, & Flocabulary you can add that rich Remix Mash-Up without hours of video editing. I call it the partial flip - having augmented information available for tutorial or reinforcement and to spark student engagement. My Lesson Path (formerly Mentor Mob) on Big Rich Mt. Olympus is an example of this. Curated rather than created content. 

Baby Stepping to Change 
Alternative Ideas to Transformation

Instead of pitching out all of your furniture to create a brain based & friendly learning classroom why not just buy a few bean bag chairs for $39.99 on Amazon to create a comfy reading nook or discussion circle!

Instead of building a whole lego wall or a Makerspace center spending thousands of dollars with expensive equipment. Why not start small and create a Makerspace cart that can roll around the school with bins of Legos, patterned duck tape rolls for crafting, and a couple Makey Makey kits? See below for more ideas & resources. 
And if it doesn't catch on, you lose funding, replacement materials gets to be too much, or it just flops? You haven't invested all that much! But most likely you will love it, your kiddos will go crazy over it, the parents and admin will be impressed and you will want to expand it. Either way - you win! But it's OK to start small & grow!

Instead of stressing about not having tablets to utilize mobile media in the classroom, use your own iPad or smart phone and film Vine video stop action animation book trailers, science experiments, art talks, or social studies history snippets!

Or spark the engagement of Twitter and the ease of Google forms to have the kiddos write a #StoryIn140,  do Twitter style book reviews or QR Code Scavenger Hunts!

OR use QR Codes around the school with Loo Reviews & Pocket videos or 10 Things to do with QR Codes at Back to School Night! It's not the tool it's how you use it!

It's OK to date new technology (or teaching innovation) 
you don't have to marry it!

That's right, the coolest ed tech trends you've heard about at conferences, on Twitter, or during a webinar, you know, the ones that may have also been leaving you awake at night feeling stressed out or inadequate for not jumping in with both feet?  Yeah, those. They don't have to be all done at once! You don't have to overhaul your life, you can just adapt! You can simply "pilot" and "beta test" new technologies and new teaching ideas on a small scale. Then, when you find one you like - you can go steady. Date a while. See how it goes.
When you're ready to commit, you'll know it!

New Tool Trauma
You also don't have to get each and every new tech tool that comes out. Remember the Laser Disc? Buy one for yourself maybe and get good at it. Bring it to school and try it with small groups. My school isn't  a 1:1 or total BYOD school or iPad school. Some of the coolest things I did with QR codes and mobile media in the early days (5 years ago) was with 2 iPod Touch Gen 4's, my own smart phone, & my first iPad. It's NOT what you have, it's the creativity of how you use it. It's the innovation of teaching and not the tool. Tools come and go, the daring spirit to try new things keeps moving on!

Social Media Stress?

There's a LOT of Social Media outlets that are out there - which ones should you join? Which ones should you just be registered to and which should you be actively involved with? Sure, I've blogged about Transparency is the New Black and one of my missions is for all educators to model and create a positive web presence so that they become more visible (and less vulnerable) in their schools and in the communities. But gee whiz, there are only so many hours in the day, right?

If you're a long time reader or follower then you may know that Twitter and Scoopit are my preferred social media tools, that I broke up with Facebook years ago, and that I'm committed to this blog that you're reading now. So, what's your outlet of choice?  Years ago (2008) I created a couple graphics to illustrate that life...err Social Media is less like a fancy Table d'hôte menu and more like a Dim Sum experience...or Tapas!

You can just just try small plate here and there - like it? Get another! Not to your taste?  Push it aside and move on.

Funny how the plates have changed over the years! Second Life and Nings are out and Instagram and Vine are in!

Here's what social media outlets & tools I am active on, followed by those that I have a presence but not a penchant.

The first list means that I'm here at least once a week - if not more.  As a commitment to my profession, I have foregone a personal social media and just maintain a professional one.
That was my choice. I have a formula.
Listed in order of my preference, time, & devotion. Like, we're in love and dating steady, OK?

Wikispaces (Ex: 1, 2, 3, 4)
--------------Just starting out? Stop here!--------------
Ready for more? Consider Adding these!

Blogger - Professional blog
Edublog - School / Professional blog
Scoopit - Curation Tool
Vine  (Instant street cred w/ kiddos - Lesson Idea)
Instagram  (Why?

I'm sorta here, I filled out a profile, but I don't visit very often. It's more to point you to where I really am. Like, we're friends, nothing too serious.

LinkedIn - (Whatever you do, fill out the profile & add a picture! Be where your parents are, because you're a professional, too!)

I tried it, I don't like it, You can't make me do it! Don't poke me!


Now it's YOUR turn! What social media outlets can't you live without? What did I miss? Disagree? Bring it on! Agree? I'd LOVE to hear it! What new trends do you love, hate, & want to marry? 
BONUS! Feel FREE to Download & Play Conference Buzzword Bingo!

A cool Makerspace cart for around a grand!




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