Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Power of the Amazon List

I have 2 Amazon accounts. One for school that's tax exempt and tied to my P-card, and one that's personal that I established in 1998. The professional one is where I buy stuff for our Library Media Center and I recently found out it was really easy to make a list of  items on an Amazon.

List Power
When I first wrote the $350 Makerspace Starter Kit blog post I created a graphic that showed all the stuff I got to create it, hoping to help out those who didn't know where or how to get it started! But even though that graphic was BIG & colorful, it wasn't clickable! I can do better!

A better list is an Amazon shopping list, and I even started it in August (see above) but I didn't finish it until I was prompted by an email request from a blog reader to create a Coloring Book Shopping list and BAM! It was easy peasy! 

So, I thought I'd share with you how you can make one, too! These lists are powerful because you can share them with an administrator, your PTA, or with anyone who might be interested in how to create something cool! A list is your chance to collect, curate, organize, and share. Here's how you start!

 1. Create your list

Name it, choose if it's a Shopping or a Wish List, and if you want the list to be Public or Private.

2. Choose your stuff
Go to your desired item on Amazon and instead of buying it, drop down to where it says Add to List and choose the list & and then you'll get a confirmation!

3. Confirm & keep shopping
The neat thing (ok, it can be kind of insidious, too!) that Amazon does is after you add something to the list you get suggestions for related items that other people bought. Darn you Amazon! [shakes fist in mock fury] Ok, sometimes the suggestions are really quite spot on!

4. Organize & share your list

The cool thing with an Amazon list is you can easily edit and organize it at any time. They've really made improvements over the years!  The graphic above shows 6 ways these lists are super!
(View the FULL SIZE of the graphic)
You can: 
1. Add a photo as an inspiration or to point to a previous related blog post
2. Add a title & a comment to that photo
3. Add a product & you can add a comment about why you chose that item
4. Easily change item priority - you can click on the item on the left and move that item up or down on the list
5. Filter and sort your list by item, price, date added and more!
6. SHARE! You can share via email, Twitter, FB or you can grab the direct link!  I only wish they had the ability to EMBED the list. That would be super cool! 

Your turn!
What do you think? What would you use Amazon list for?  I invite you to share your lists and ideas in the comments.

 ((Spammers, don't waste your time - I'm ruthless, baby!))

Monday, December 28, 2015

Questions About Coloring & Makerspace

Reader Mail Bag! 
I get questions ALL the time from our dear PLN & blog readers! Mostly through Twitter and sometimes through email. Let's answer this one I got this morning about my recent Zen of Coloring & Makerspace Starter Kit blog posts!

Gwyenth, Congratulations on your blog award! I looked at your blog, and I am intrigued by your coloring corner post. Can you please share with me a list of the books you bought for coloring purposes? Did you have copies made of the ones the students wanted to color? What kind of pencils did you purchase? Please share how you advertised it to the students. Did you have in a corner or have the students as for the materials? I don't want my materials to walk off? What are your best practices?Also how can I subscribe to your page,so I know when you make new posts? One last question, what do you think about having board games and cards the library? Any ideas on which ones to purchase if you do This? Thanks for all of your help! I appreciate it very much!

Some really good questions, here! Hope the answers are helpful and informative! 
Questions & Answers: 

  1. Can you please share with me a list of the books you bought for coloring purposes?  -------> Sure! You can see the covers of a lot of our coloring books on my Instagram, Vine videos, and pictures, but I just made this handy clickable Amazon Shopping List of what I bought for you and I also added it to the Zen of Coloring blog post - thanks for the great idea!  I'll have to blog about Amazon lists next! While I was doing that, I thought I'd also make one for the whole $350 Makerspace Starter Kit , that I  blogged about last spring, too!  Basically, you don't have to spend a fortune to set up a Makerspace area. In fact, I'm still not 100% sold on that this isn't just a passing fad (Shocking, I know!  Don't tell Diana Rendina I said that!), so I don't have a 3D printer yet and I'm not re-designing my whole library just yet. I'm baby steppin it right now. 
  2. Did you have copies made of the ones the students wanted to color? ---->Nope, that would break copyright! I had the kids claim a page & keep it in the book. See the Guidelines I posted and feel free to use or adapt it!  I also menitoned on the blog post about FREE downloadable drawing pages. If you search for them, they're out there and really cool!  Remember, Attribution is EVERYTHING! 
  3. What kind of pencils did you purchase? -----> The pencils I got were sorta expensive, but I thought quality counts and it was a box of 50. Please see the Amazon Shopping List  with comments for the exact set.
  4. Please share how you advertised it to the students. ------>  I used Instagram and Vine to share with the kiddos, but really the best of all advertising - was word of mouth! Once kids saw other kids coloring and the pics of the 8th graders coloring the other kids got excited for it! I also blogged about it on our school library Edublog but who knows how many of my kids actually read it, right!? Word of mouth, always! 
  5. Did you have in a corner or have the students as for the materials? -----> The whole Makerspace area is in a group of 4 study carrels at the top of our Media Center. But  you could also put it on a rolling cart!   I mention this in a keynote I do about how to integrate new innovations in a stress-less easy way called Choose to be an Ed Tech Trooper - you don't have to go full throttle or make huge changes when starting a Makerspace. I think again, baby steppin - start small to start & grow bigger later on if you like it and it catches on!
  6. I don't want my materials to walk off? ----- >You have to sorta let that go, they might walk off - along with our books!  But for some of the more expensive parts - like my charging station and charging cords I used zip ties. On the coloring books I put our library stickers on em. But there's a certain part of the Zen of letting go with all theses innovations. It's gonna be messy, it may end up being wasteful, or some parts might walk off but that's the cost of doing business. I always start from a place of I trust you with this - you're part of our community. But then I also sharpie label and zip tie! LOL  There's a part where you just have to belive and let it go.
  7. What are your best practices? -------  Great question! I have to admit, I'm learning as I go how to manage this. I've shared my  Coloring Guidelines  and also the Way of the Lego. with some of how we're going to manage this. I might re-do this graphic but this is the latest version. Basically, your kids are part of the Makerspace and Library community and kids should abide by our guidelines or I'll kick them out...... for a little while! 
  8. Also how can I subscribe to your page,so I know when you make new posts? --------> Thank you so much, that's very kind of you!  Two easy ways! Follow by email link on the right side of my blog and G+ subscription follow button, too! - scroll down baby! I also usually pin my latest post to the top of my Twitter page.
  9. One last question, what do you think about having board games and cards the library? ------------> I think that's a  really cool idea!! 
  10. Any ideas on which ones to purchase if you do This? --------> I would create a survey Monkey or Google Form & poll the kids what they want! For funding you could also ask for PTA donations, and then maybe go to the thrift store! Don't have a budget? You can sign up for a Donor's Choose project list!  Here's Diana Rendina's  5 Tips for Creating DonorsChoose Projects  As for the games, Monopoly has got to be one of them, though don't you think? Classic! Also, RISK! I would also get labeled zip lock bags for the pieces. At the same time I would TRY not to be TOO OCD about pieces getting lost.  Posted Community Guidelines again (OK, they're rules - I just don't want the Library to be a rule obsessed community so I call them guidelines) - if kiddos don't clean it up - they get put on Makerspace probation! For a day or 5 min - I play it by ear. I really really have to battle between my desire for keeping the library looking cool & neat with accepting that they're just kids & they will be messy. It's a constant internal struggle! 

Got more questions? No problem! Ask away!  But first please, When in doubt, Google it out! If you are looking for something that I've blogged about Google "topic of search and daring librarian" 

Example: bean bag daring librarian brings up all these results and the blog post!

I hope all this helps and thanks for reaching out to me.

Srsly, I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to see pics and blog posts about whatever you end up doing! And if you're not Twitter, consider joining our PLN to connect with more teacher librarians who are trying out the Makerspace movement! 

I probably will be adding this to the blog post cause they were really good questions! 
Cheers & have a Happy New Year! 


What did I forget? What would you like me to blog about next?  Let me know in your comments!  

To A: You were spot on. Thank you. Next time I will answer reader mail when I'm not fighting a cold. LOL  Why do we often get sick on school vacations? Always seems to happen!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Zen of Coloring

There's a NEW! feature in our Library Media Center Makerspace area!
It's Coloring!
I have to admit when I first heard about how coloring books for adults and teens are all the rage, I was a bit skeptical. Then I saw the beautiful new coloring books with loopy, fabulous, mesmerizing line drawings and I was sold! I also just really like the smell of a new box of Crayons! Like PlayDoh, they smell happy. Don't judge me.

I then did some research on the Zen of Coloring and found out that teens find coloring very relaxing, meditative, and stress relieving - perfect for middle school! I also think in this world of multi-tasking, coloring keeps our hands busy and let's our mind wander free- it's also related to another hot topic mindfulness. I know that when I'm in a group setting without technology, say a staff-meeting, a conference, or a lecture, I find myself doodling and making line drawings. Always have - do you?

What to Buy
So, I got permission from my principal and bought a variety of coloring books from Amazon, a huge box of Crayons, and a passel of colored pencils. I tried to get a good mix of coloring books - for boys, girls, grownups, and also appealing to the rich multi-cultural tapestry and different interests that make up our student body.

Star Wars, Minecraft, Dragons, Ocean, Hispanic, Native American, & Celtic heritage, Indian Mehndi Henna designs, Color My Fro and Luv My Hair designs... a cornucopia of creative coloring books! See? Get suggestions from the kiddos, buy the coloring books that would appeal to them! Variety is important!
Here's my Amazon Coloring Book Shopping List Link

A video posted by Gwyneth Jones (@thedaringlibrarian) on

Nothing Fancy - I Even Upcycled
a CD-R Spindle Top for the Pencils!

Guidelines NOT Rules
Ok, sorta like rules. After a few weeks, I did find that we had to have some guidelines for the coloring corner -but  I don't like to call them rules!
Like claiming a page, sharing a page, giving us permission to Instagram or blog about the artwork & most important - not tearing out the pages. Because there are designs on the other side of the page and that would just wasteful and not fair to the other kiddos! 

Download the High Rez or poster version of this for your class or Makerspace. Click to see all sizes! All Creative Commons, Take, Use, Share!

I have some other stuff you can take, too!  Generously given by a cool blogger who specializes in creating engaging coloring pages and printables - Dawn Nicole.

Want some FREE Coloring Sheets to Download? We've got you covered!
From the website: Download Many Sizes Here:
As seen above - used with permission from the amazing DawnNicole
Get More! FREE Printable Bookmarks

Winter Bookmarks Coloring Page | by Dawn Nicole Designs

Don't believe coloring can be good for you?
Here's some of the cool research I found!

"There are plenty of studies on the effectiveness of art therapy in reducing stress, and coloring seems to offer some similar benefits, as William Brennan wrote in this magazine when he noted the coloring books’ particular popularity in France. And doodling is a way for people to organize their thoughts, and focus. Coloring offers that relief and mindfulness without the paralysis that a blank page can cause."  - Julie Beck of The Atlantic
Coloring has also been used to "gently ease veterans suffering from PTSD into art therapy. (5)"  One study on college students found that "coloring pre-drawn patterns significantly reduced signs of stress and depression. (6)"  Coloring before bedtime can even help you sleep!" (7)
"One of the first psychologists to apply coloring as a relaxation technique was Carl G. J√ľng in the early 20th century" reports the Huffington Post.

2D Mandala Flickr CC Computer by RunnerFrog
"Mandalas are concentric circle drawings that originated in India and mean “sacred circles” in Sanskrit. (10)  Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques, and Christian cathedrals all incorporate mandalas into their architecture." - By of BeBrainfit
Mandalas and similar circular or spiral designs are thousands of years old. Look around and notice how abundantly the circular pattern of the mandala appears in our environment. You can see this geometric shape in all aspects of life. The sun in the sky, the nucleus of the cells in the body, and the unique design of a snowflake.
Kids are loving the coloring! Boys, girls, and grown-ups!

Now it's YOUR turn! 
What do you think about coloring for teens and adults? Please share your thoughts in the comments! 

How Colouring Books Are Helping Adults Beat Stress


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Love More, Hate Less

In this turbulent time, I think it's important to remember that racial and religious tensions in our glorious United States have always been challenging!

The diverse and bright multi-cultural threads that makes up the warp and weft of our rich American tapestry have always included people who have risked everything to come to our shores with the hope for a better life or were forced here against their will, and ultimately made the best of it.

We've always been hard on each successive new wave of cultures (Welsh, Scottish, No Irish Need Apply, Jewish, Polish, Russian, you fill in the blank) we keep adding them into our fold. Not always easily or with grace as the video from 1945 starring Frank Sinatra embedded below will attest.

Let's please remember this when rhetoric gets out of hand. I'm really not comfortable talking politics or religion publically - my Mama taught me you don't discuss politics or religion at the table or dinner parties - and to me, Social Media is the largest Teachers Lounge and Dinner Party in the world - so this is a big stretch for me. But recent events and my prayers are prompting me to speak up for love, peace, and tolerance.

I choose to embrace ALL cultures, all people, all religions, and I know deep in my heart that that God (or Allah, Jehovah, or Higher Power - whomever you pray to - or don't) speaks to all of us if we just stop and listen.

God wants us to LOVE and NOT HATE. 
Simple as that. Love more, hate less. 

Frank Sinatra also collaborated on an article titled The Way I look at Race for Ebony magazine, July 1958. Today would have been Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday. RIP Ol' Blue Eyes.

Thanks Frank, you tell those kiddos - it's the American way. But umm, gee, Frank, you coulda left all that "Jap" talk out of it!

See folks? No one is perfect. That's why we have to keep remembering to open our hearts and our minds.  Let's strive to Love not Hate.

But it's still OK to be snarky about the Kardashians! 
OMGosh Saint? Really? [smh] Blanket, Apple, North, Poor kiddos


The “No Irish Need Apply” Controversy

The Immigrants’ Civil War: Bigotry Against the Foreign-Born

The Fallout from No Irish Need Apply Article Spreads Worldwide- Teen Historian Rocks

More unusual sharing: 
*Words I Try to Live By:
1. Embrace God in life: Pray often, & have an attitude of gratitude
2. People: Personally, family & friends first - Professionally: kiddos first, always
3. Positive: Push the positive, change the world  (Life, testing, bureaucracy, can bring you down, finding the positive and staying up is an essential way to choose happiness)
4. Generosity: is a privilege - give more than I take, live Creative Commons, & I strive towards servant leadership - and failing often, trying always
5. Excellence: Create quality content
6. Passion: Driven energy with intent and purpose

 *Not preaching, just sharing. And to quote the wise Dalton, played by Patrick Swayze, from the cinematic oeuvre that is Roadhouse - "Opinions vary"

Teaching Good - Branding Evil

For a few days last week ALL my branding went to the DARK SIDE.. and I'm not talking DARTH I'm talking Cthulhu.

Deep GEEK Disappointment! 
After a deeply felt personal geek disappointment I changed the graphic design of my branding of the last few years from Doctor Who and the Tardis ….to, to, what!? 

I don’t want to go deeply into how and why I am ditching Doctor Who (for now) but it involves some disappointment with the latest series, the latest doctor, and a couple vainglorious individuals.  So, let's just say: Basically, I’ve soured.

Teaching Good
Branding EVIL
Why am I telling you all this? Branding. People have asked me "why and how do I brand myself or should I?"  And it's a hot, interesting, and controversial topic that I sort of struggle with. I had a quick Twitter convo about this (OK, I butted in!) with Dean Shareski & George Couros recently. The controversy and opposition over branding - because I don't think they see it as a GOOD thing for their profession or our schools. I think it's not necessary to create a brand name (like The Daring Librarian, or The Digital Diva, or The Nerdy Teacher), just own your name! But always remember, you're not a brand, you're a personA brand without a soul is evil - modeling a positive digital image is a good example of practicing what you preach.

Own your professional image. If we're preaching to our kiddos how they should create and cultivate a positive digital footprint, shouldn't we model that for them with our own impression on the Interwebs? Isn't that what good teaching is all about? As a matter of fact, I just changed my Twitter handle from The Daring Librarian to Gwyneth Jones. My Twitter name always was @GwynethJones but now my "brand" is just in the Twitter profile paragraph.

You see, five years later, sometimes, I feel a little hemmed in or limited by my brand. I am more than just a Daring Librarian. I’m a redhead, a geek, a goofball, a Marylander, future Delawarean, a daughter, a friend, and a snarky smart a$$.
I'm many things. So are you!  But this has got me to thinking beyond brand.  I don’t monetize my brand on my blog, I don’t sell advert space, or blog for the companies or products that write me asking to get publicity. I only blog about things I'm passionate about. I truly appreciate the over 2M views and the average of 50K monthly visitors I get and you, dear reader! I appreciate you and want to keep my "street cred!"  So yeah, I can’t be bought. I can be rented — to speak to groups about various EdTechy and Librarian topics (that started to sound just wrong!) but I worry that both my brand and my gender can sometimes work against me on that small EdTech “keynote speaker” OWG circuit.

Because, I want to speak to all educators! I've been honored to be asked to be the keynote speaker at several tech conferences like METC, CTA Summer Institute at UCLA, and ATLE Convergence in Calgary, Canada!  I hope to do more, too! If you would like to invite me to speak at your conference, contact me! Wow...that was a really shameless plug, huh? [grins] Moving on.....

So, changing my graphics - ditching the Tardis, means new business cards, new blog, G+, and Twitter header…and hours working hard at night and weekends playing with Photoshop & PicMonkey.

First I thought, what OTHER geek icon can I use that I love? Trogdor? Oh I know…Cthuhlu!

I was surprised that a few of my peeps didn't know about he who lies dead and dreaming in Ry'leh but hey! When I ditched the Tardis he was my first thought when I was thinking of Geekdom icons! 

Graphic Design Branding Consistency
Why is graphic design branding consistency all so important? Because people will get used to the "look" of  the graphics you use on your Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and blog header. They will see it and it jumps out at them that it's YOU! That's why its important. Like Coke, Pepsi, ISTE or Google ...re-branding, or changing your look is important! The Cthulhu thing? I was just too impulsive!

Then I Woke Up
Then I woke up & realized that although Cthulhu is AWESOME, as awesome as Zombies, Pirates, Ninja's or TROGDOR - he doesn't reflect my brand as a daring educator who tries to make new teaching and tech innovations cost-effective, approachable, and do-able, and without a lot of stress. 

Hence the Storm Trooper is back! And I know, I know! Storm Troopers are BAD (for now!) - I believe in redemption arcs! Besides, they look cool. Sue me, I've always loved the Trooper. And I love how being a Trooper means to be a "reliable, often a hard-working person." Like me! 

So go ahead, brand yourself. But think of the future. Consider creating a mission statement first, it can be a simple paragraph on your blog, or even a cartoon! To get a sense of what you really stand for and want to represent.

But what the HECK am I gonna do with 400 Cthulhu mini business cards now!? LOL Sheesh!

Therefore, I'm playing with new graphics for this blog, Twitter, & my Mini Moo business cards.   If you see me present at a conference nearby - don't be surprised if you get one! Heh heh heh did I also mention I'm thrifty?

Head Banners
Also, don't be surprised if you come back here and see a different banner head to this blog o mine.  I've had a few of them! Collages can become addictive, dontcha know?

Blog post banners are important. It's like the cover of a book, it catches the eye, it makes you want to read the post. Or it should!  When I was writing about the 11 Reflective Blog Tips & Tricks a few months back #5 was Get Graphic. I think the simple act of adding a header graphic to a blog post a few other graphics in the post makes your blog more enjoyable and readable. I LOVE graphically rich blogs! Heck I blogged once about my problems with Font Lust & Graphic Desires and I even have a eponymously named Scoopit page of resources!

Why I'm NOT Dynamic....YET!
And yeah, you would think someone as passionate and opinionated as I am about Font Lust and the importance of GREAT graphic design in your school, on social media, and definitely in presentations would have adapted a new dynamic template to this blog, right? But I haven't. I like the look. It's traditional bloggy and reads well on mobile devices. Also, all my past blog headers wouldn't look good anymore and I'm NOT going to re-design hundreds of graphics. I'm not that crazy - or I am that lazy! LOL What do you think?

If you're curious, what's REALLY stopping me is the worry that all my older posts have non-square graphic blog post headers and might not visually make the template transition and conversion well and just end up looking stooopid!     

Ok, so this might be a big long fluffy blog post about an ephemeral topic, but I just thought it had to be said. Or explained how I went from the Tardis to Trooper! Oh and I credit Jennifer LaGarde for bringing Kristina Alexandderson and her Storm Trooper Flickr Creative Commons photos into my life ....and my blogs, and keynotes!

So, stay tuned for more.....more pics, more branding, more opinions and opining! Thank you dear readers!

Now it's YOUR turn! What do you think of branding? Am I crazy with all this?


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