Encouraging Teens to Read & Learn this Summer!

How do we as librarians encourage and inspire teenager so read and learn over the summer?

Last year we started a new summer reading "program" (you can read about it here). It was not mandatory, there was no set list of books, no long written assignment. It was intended to make reading just plain easy and fun. Students were asked to read and log their books on a Google Form. Winners were chosen at random and awarded prizes - season passes to home sporting events, a voucher for the following year's yearbook, homecoming tickets, and other school related gear. Books, eBooks, audio books even partially read books counted. I tried to make this as inviting and easy as possible. I even encouraged students to check out books to keep over the summer.

This year I am expanding SUMMER READING to include LEARNING. While I was pleased with participation last year, I know plenty of students won't pick up a book to read for a variety reasons. This year I am also counting podcasts (see Smore on LibGuide thanks to Casey LaPlante) and TED Talks. Students can listen and watch and log their learning on the same Google Form to be entered. 

Getting the word out can be challenging as I do not teach a regular class. I am asking high school English teachers to post in their Google Classrooms and am using the school newspaper and lots of social media to share a promotional video. I am meeting with 8th grade (soon to be 9th grade) middle school students to invite and teach them how to access the high school's eBooks and audio books. I also send emails throughout the summer to student's school accounts reminding them and sharing suggestions. This year I also have the benefit of last year's summer reading participants to talk it up and inspire other students.

Recommending Books 
Instead of a generic list of "recommended books" I asked teachers and coaches to list their recommendations for students and have them listed on our LibGuide. My hope is that a student might try a book if it has been suggested by a  particular teacher or coach that they connect with. 

Modeling Reading
Inspired by two of my favorite librarians and most avid reader friends, Laura Gardner and Casey LaPlante, I use GoodReads, Instagram and Twitter to share my own reading and suggestions for students. It is important that students see adults conversing about books (or podcasts and Ted Talks) in person and on social media, that reading and learning is not something done just for school.

Last year I participated in Laura Gardner's #30booksummer where teachers ( mostly from her school), a few librarians, and whoever else wanted to join challenged ourselves to read 30 books and post them on social media throughout the summer. I love being part of that reading community, it helps me find personal books to read, it helps me with my orders for my libraries and it helps me recommend books that I may not have read to my students. 

I can't wait to start this year's #30booksummer! 

I am ready...let's bring on Summer Reading & Learning! 

Why Haven't I Blogged Lately?

In March I had the honor of being asked to co-present a session at the Massachusetts School Librarian Association's annual conference. To say the experience was awesome would be an understatement. There is a certain energy I get after spending time with fellow librarians, sharing our passion for igniting the love of reading, discovering new technologies, teaching media literacy, and preparing student with future ready research skills. My mealtime conversations were enough to leave me giddy and excited to start my school week.

I also got to meet two of my professional idols Laura Gardner and Jennifer Casa-Todd. 

Laura and I presented Expand Horizons with Virtual Reality which we collaborate on via Google and officially met that morning. We met on social media and communicate regularly about lesson ideas, technology, and books. 

Jennifer is the author of Social Leadia. Since reading her book, I started following her blog and eventually met her online through social media. We communicated often last summer about her inspiring book.(Jennifer is also a co-worker of George Couros.)

I have shared some of my favorite learning from the day as a Twitter Moment. If you have not used Twitter Moments yet, they are a great way to save and organize tweets 

I could not wait to get back to school and start using what I learned to work with students and teachers, to write grants, and to continue making the library a vibrant welcoming learning space! 

And that is why I have not been blogging lately...

Adventures with WeVideo Part 1

Even high school students learn through play. 
For more than a year, I have been watching students struggle to create videos for class projects. They record videos on their phones and, if they haven't accidentally deleted them, struggle to figure out how to put them together to submit. I would often hear them sigh "I wish I could just use PowerPoint or Google Slides."

Video editing can be proprietary, device specific, un-collaborative and difficult projects for teachers to manage.

I was looking for video editing software that had the following capabilities (YES WeVideo has them all!):
  • Web based (not computer specific!!)
  • Stores work in progress 
  • Green screen capabilities
  • Google compatible
  • Allows for collaboration
  • Works on Chromebooks
  • Create videos longer than 5 minutes
  • A variety of special effects and transitions
  • COPPA compliant
  • User/class management abilities
  • Searchable library of images and videos on site for students to use (this feature was just released and is AMAZING!!!)
I had heard about WeVideo through Dr. Kristen Mattson on Twitter. and finally decided to give it a try. I signed up for a free trial and was really impressed. So much so that when the Instruction Leader of the Agri-Science & Technology Department approached me with the idea of a video project for her student Animal Science course, I excitedly jumped at the opportunity. I reallocated funds to be able to purchase a 30 seat subscription for her students. I was beyond excited to collaborate and co-teach the tools needed for their project.

The AASL Position Statement on the Role of the School Library Program states: 
"Beyond its curricular role, the effective school library program gives each individual member of the learning community a venue for exploring questions that arise out of personalized learning, individual curiosity, and personal interest. As part of the school library program, the school librarian provides leadership and instruction to both students and staff on how to use information technologies constructively, ethically, and safely. The school librarian offers expertise in accessing and evaluating information and collections of quality physical and virtual resources. In addition, the school librarian possesses dispositions that encourage broad and deep exploration of ideas and responsible use of information technologies. These attributes add value to the school community."

The school library media center is the perfect place for students to learn and use the technology responsibly and effectively. Video production is supported by the AASL Standards Framework for Learners, specifically building on the learner's ability to Inquire, Collaborate, Curate, Explore and Engage.

While teachers often give students project options, they tend to fall back on what they know and what is easy, I am grateful that more and more teachers have been asking me to introduce video production so students feel comfortable with the technology and see how much fun it is!

Note: I have been encouraging teachers to offer students video options for their projects but most have been reluctant because they are not comfortable with the technology themselves. I try to inspire teachers by creating mini introductions and tutorials as as I experiment with different tools - like Adobe SparkTouchCastFlipGrid, DoInk - all of which are also great tools depending on the project. It took a few months before a the first teacher jumped on board. The excitement has been contagious, one student was overheard telling a friend "You are going to have so much fun in class today." Since I started this post 3 more teachers have approached me about teaching students how to create videos. I think it is catching on!!

When students become media creators, they also become better media consumers. When students learn how to create and produce videos, they learn that the professional-looking and convincing messages they see (especially on the Internet and social media) might be manipulated with misinformation or disinformation. If students choose to post their videos on the Internet, students understand their role as digital citizens contributing to the digital world. It is important that students are mindful of the integrity and meaningfulness of their work. These are important conversations to have with students as part of the video creation process. 

Jamie Keet's Teacher's Tech WeVideo 2017 Detailed Tutorial
While WeVideo has lots of helpful tutorials, I prepared and learned WeVideo by watching and re-watching Teacher's Tech WeVideo 2017 Detailed Tutorial on YouTube I love how Keet timestamps his 25 minute tutorial, making it easy to jump to exactly what you need. 

Vermont Video Project with WeVideo and Vita-Learn IGNITE
As I researched ideas for rubrics, I found this site. I was interested in the rubric created by Eric Hall and reached out to him for permission to use. Hall is the Technology Integration Specialist and has been using WeVideo since inception. It has been their district's primary video editor for four years, since they began using Chromebooks. He shared with me his rubric which we adapted a bit (link below) and 

Eric Hall shared with me this guide he updates regularly (he also gave me permission to share it here). In our email conversations he stressed that planning is just as important as the video skills. Hall offered me lots of advice as well as I bounced ideas off him: 
"I try to get students to focus on their message. Editing without a plan leads to thin content. In that regard one suggestion I would make is to reorganize your planning guide so that WeVideo comes last after storyboard, sources (part of gathering content,) and photo uploading. That makes it easier to focus on the "content project" vs. the "tech project.""

I am so lucky to have stumbled across his expertise (love social media and PLNs!!), and am extremely grateful he was willing to share his thoughts and resources.  

Now that I was ready to work with students, in the initial lesson I introduced to WeVideo and allowed students to play with the different aspects of the tool. I used Keet's video to teach students so they could use it as a reference.  

This particular video project will last throughout the semester as students record and document their process as they train a particular animal. We discussed how to plan their video, how to back up their media throughout the process and how to create their video in segments. The final video will be used for assessment and for the student's portfolio as well as a potential promotional video for our school's Agri-Science & Technology Department. 

Video Planning Guide HyperDoc (posted below)
Animal Training Project Video Rubric

Gathering Information HyperDoc

Researching in the digital age can be overwhelming. Students are doing a majority of their research online and using digital note-taking tools. To help streamline the process, I have created this Gathering Information HyperDoc with steps and tutorials.  

This will be accessible on our LibGuide and be sent to teachers, with an offer to make subject specific changes. 

How to Write a Press Release: Promoting Your School Library Beyond Social Media

Social media is a great way to celebrate all that is happening in your school library media center but is it enough? 
Do stakeholders, decision-makers and voters know the importance of a professionally staffed school library media center?

Across the country, school library media specialists and even school libraries have been the victim of budget cuts. The words hit me like daggers:

"Why do we need a school library?  Kids read books on their phones." 

"Do they really need a certified librarian to check books out?"

There are still people who do NOT understand that school librarians are so much more than a "book checker-outers". (See my post Use the Words Library and Librarian about the role of today's future ready librarian). The term librarian still conjures an image of a bespecatled woman behind a desk raising a finger to her lips "shhh." Some of these same people are making decisions about school libraries, some are voting on town and education budgets. 

I love social media and use it daily to share information and events with colleagues, students and fellow librarians. I see other school librarians doing the same. We post on Facebook in groups like School Librarian's Workshop or Future Ready Librarians. We share on Twitter with hashtags #tlchat and #FutureReadyLibs.  We share on Instagram to reach our pre-teen and teen students.

But not everyone is on social media. School board members may not be following us. But they probably read the school newsletters. Are you submitting library events, student learning, and highlights in each and every issue?  

There are lots of people who still read the newspaper. The actual newspaper.  Made of paper and delivered to their doors. (Please note I am one of those people too, newspaper to the door but it is not my sole source of information and events). The newspaper is the only place some people find out what is happening in the community. In our digital world, it is important that we remember to get our message out in all forms of media.

Submitting a story to a newspaper does take a little more time than a few clicks on social media. As a former freelance writer for a local paper, I know that press releases are important. A well written press release means less work for a reporter or editor which increases the odds it will get published. Submit pictures or relevant graphics with your press release, make it easy on the newspaper staff to run your story.  

Below you will see Tips for Writing Press Releases with some links to assist you. 

Social media will always be the "go to for" sharing. Please consider occasionally celebrating what students are learning and creating in the library...the digital citizenship lessons, the Breakout EDU, the green screen experience, the Hour of Code, the podcasting, the author visits, and yes the reading challenges too...in the printed newspaper. 

Let's make sure everyone knows that school libraries and school librarians are active and tech-savvy learning centers that are vital to education.  

Direct link to Press Release Tips Doc

Should School-Issued Digital Devices Be Taken Home?

Should schools with 1:1 digital devices allow students to bring home their devices nightly?

I have been thinking about this question and writing this post for a long time. I have been pondering this from multiple perspectives, as a school library media specialist, teacher, parent, andstudent. 

We live in a digital world and we need to prepare students for that world. I absolutely believe in providing devices so that each student has access at the point of need. 
  • With devices, educators can teach students about digital research, search strategies, reliable sources, and triangulating information. 
  • With devices, educators can teach students about library databases and finding information beyond Google search results. 
  • With devices, educators can teach about copyright, plagiarism, and Creative Commons. 
  • With devices, educators can teach digital note-taking and citation. 
  • With devices, educators can teach students how to collaborate digitally and how to use a variety of digital tools, allowing differentiated options for students to show learning. 
  • With devices, educators can teach students how to be a part of the digital community, to protect themselves, to use social media positively, and to protect their digital footprint. 
Librarians and teachers TEACH all of those skills. However, before 1:1 students did not always have the chance to practice and skills immediately, making the teaching meaningful. Individual devices provide students with the opportunity to use what they are learning as they are being taught. With educators close by for guidance and assistance, students have the can ask questions, create and explore. The key is here is that the teacher or librarian is present to guide, help and monitor students as they dive in to the digital world. 

I do not know that handing each student their own device to tote between home and school each day makes the device an effective tool, at least not before high school.  

My first concern is how well we, as educators, are preparing students to use technology ethically and responsibly. There are ways to "babysit" the devices but if students are using a school issued device for personal recreation instead of homework, is it effective? 

My last post sparked a response from a parent who stated: 

"As a mother of four - 2 in high school , a 7th grader and a 5th grader, it’s very challenging to go against the popular current. We held off on giving anyone a device until 9th grade. An old smart phone. Both high schoolers have phones now. Strict rules still apply to the 9th grader. 

Currently we are struggling with the “wonderful” free laptops my older 3 were given from school to use at home. Now we have to referee the school computer and it is daily and exhausting!! We fought so hard to have a device free home and the school pushes it. The benefits are getting homework done and not having to share and we absolutely appreciate that. It’s the daily nagging that we really find tiresome."  -Kerri Hedde

This summer I read Alice Keeler and Matt Miller's Ditch That Homework: Practical Strategies That Make Homework Obsolete. I have both personal and professional reasons to love this idea but what resonated with me were some of the reasons, supported by research, for ditching homework. (Links to research can be found on the Ditch That Textbook web page).

Keeler and Miller discuss how homework is not equitable for all students as "home situations, resources and parent time are not equal. Not all kids get the same level of support at home." We send students home with devices assuming they have the ability to access the Internet and some sort of adult guidance. Keeler and Miller also point out that kids who do their homework are typically the ones who do not need the homework because they already understand the topic being reinforced.

My ideal school would offer longer classes, at least an hour, where both instruction and student work can occur during the same period. Shorter class periods allow time for one or the other and assume students will remember instruction details from the previous day. Or the shorter class period is rushed as educators try to cram in instruction and rush student work. There is little to no opportunity to work with individual students to address their needs. 

I speak from personal experience. At the elementary level, I taught 30-40 minute library classes. Teaching digital citizenship or research steps and allowing time for students to work, conferencing and assisting them through their process was near impossible. Oh and I needed to give students ample time to find and check out their library books. And then I would not see them for another week, and by the they have forgotten what we were working on. Co-teaching at the middle school in their 45-ish minute block was not much better as it allows little time for instruction and deep inquiry during the same block of time.

Some in education may argue that devices are just like a textbook. We are giving students a tool to learn and do their work, and their homework. But the two could not be more different. Again, do not misunderstand, I LOVE technology but you cannot use a text book to cyberbully, game, or search for clearly inappropriate content. Just as you cannot use a textbook to create digital projects. Adolescents are impulsive and curious, which is not dangerous with a textbook but can be with technology if students are not prepared to accept responsibility and are committed to ethically and responsibly using.

My son is only in Kindergarten so I surveyed some parents about their school issued devices. Some stated they liked the seamless transition between home and school work. One parent with multiple children liked that her kids were not fighting for use of their home computer.

As for drawbacks, some parents found the device poor quality. Others did not like the responsibility of the device as they are not made to withstand the schlepping in backpacks between home and school. Some schools do not allow students to carry backpacks to class so during the school day they are are carrying them and plopping them with their piles of books in each class, the cafeteria and the gym. The cost of repair was another drawback although some schools do offer insurance.

Another parent expressed concern about classroom management and academic integrity.

 "I don't think the teachers can control what the students are watching/doing when they're up in front of the class teaching and the students are face down in their laptops with the laptop lid facing the teacher. I believe the students should be looking up at the teacher and the board. I know the kids message and video chat ALL DAY LONG.

They (school officials) try to block the programs and the kids bypass the blocks faster than they can come up with new ones. I think there's something to be said for pen to paper. Many students are just cutting and pasting what they've found somewhere on the internet for their assignments."

Which leads to another point, do school issued devices increase cheating and plagiarizing? How is academic integrity being taught across grade levels?

I believe there needs to be more conversations among all stakeholders about best practices and the use of school-issued digital devices at home and at school. Personally, I believe before high school, the norm should be that students leave devices at school where they are safe, can be charged and ready for the next day of learning. When home use is needed, there should be a specific educational purpose for bringing devices home and parents and guardians should be notified.

Work Cited

Miller, Matt, and Alice Keeler. Ditch That Homework: Practical Strategies That
     Make Homework Obsolete. Dave Burgess Consulting, 2017.

The Gift of No Devices

Thank you to Anne Marie Doyle for co-authoring this post with me!

This summer my sister, also a school library media-specialist, and I discussed getting our own children Chromebooks for Christmas. We both work in public schools with one-to-one initiatives. My sister and I are both very techie. We love finding new tools and ways to engage and enhance student learning and creativity with technology. We are both are passionate about making sure our students and our own children use technology responsibly and ethically. 

It seems that we would want our own children ages 6, 8, and 11 (my sister's kids are the two older ones) to have device to learn on. However, we both quickly changed our minds.  
In both our homes, we have computers, iPads, Kindles and smartphones. We allow our children to use them but make no mistake, they are OUR devices, not our children's. Allowing them to use technology is a privilege, not a right. My sister has a chart where her children must do chores, read for an allotted amount of time, and play/color/ride bikes/etc before earning a set time on a device. That tech time they work towards includes watching YouTube videos, playing on Xbox, or using the iPad. I have a timer to limit my son's iPad usage. 

Our children use the devices in family rooms so we can monitor, assist and encourage them. They are not allowed to use in their bedrooms. Could I monitor, encourage and assist my child on his own device? Yes but he is 6, does he really need a device? Does he really need a piece of technology he can call his own? My sister's children are older and are great kids but does that mean they should have their own laptop? Like all kids, they are curious and impulsive, a combination that could be a recipe for disaster. Yes, those disasters allow us to teach life lessons but sometimes those life lessons are not age appropriate. It has been hard enough trying to explain what they hear about on the news and see in the newspaper these days.

Technology is addictive. We know that. Giving a child a device before they are ready assumes they already know how to use it responsibly. It assumes that the child is psychologically ready and the the child has supportive adults to assist and guide students. 

"My eight year old daughter has been using an old iPod touch we found when cleaning the house. It is not an understatement when I state that in the 48 hours since we discovered it, the iPod has been by her side. Part of the problem I notice is many of my children’s friends have their own devices and my children feel pressure to have their own. Every family has to make the best choice for their children. I know my children are not ready for the enormity of having their own device. Weekly my son and daughter ask “how old do I have to be to get my own phone?”  When my children begin to spend more time out with friends, especially when they are old enough for those times are unsupervised, I want them to have the ability to contact me.  But since mine are not at that point yet we will wait.  I believe that we need to model responsible use first as adults and hope that that will become intrinsic in our own kids.   That means restraint and technology free times at home with the family. No phone message, social media notification, text message or tweet should be more important than my children." 
-Anne Marie Doyle

Sitting in church last week we witnessed a mother with three elementary aged children check and reply to messages on her phone multiple times. Across the aisle a cell phone rang, another ones text alerts went off. What lessons are our children learning from us? Church, playgrounds, beach, library, parent teacher conferences, restaurants, sporting events, concerts, theater productions, and driving...no where is sacred. Instead, we treat our phones like they are the most important and sacred thing as they garner our full attention no matter what the circumstance.

I always have my phone or tablet close by. I say it's in case someone (my son's teacher, my aging parents) need to get in touch with me. But it truly is the fear of missing out. I try not to respond like Pavlov's dog each time it dings but I am not always successful. My sister is the same way. However, we make a point of talking to our children about our behavior and make sure they see us leaving our phones in the car when we are at church or a movie. Within our own families we have rules that we give our children permission to help enforce - no phones at the dinner table, no phones in the bedrooms*. We want them to understand balance and restraint. We want them to see life is what is happening around them and not what is happening on a screen.  

What will be the right age to give our children their own devices? I truly do not know. Right now I am thinking 8th or 9th grade. We need to see how our children's personalities develop, gauge their maturity and their sense of responsibility. My sister just allowed my nephew to get his own email address, that was a huge milestone...he was so excited! He will be using

Is the ability to use technology an important life skill? Absolutely! But there are a lot more important things that we want our children to prioritize and learn before giving them a personal device.  

Encouraging Teens to Read & Learn this Summer!

How do we as librarians encourage and inspire teenager so read and learn over the summer? SUMMER READING "PROGRAMS" L...