jump to navigation

Online Teaching and the Elementary School Library February 6, 2017

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Library Space, Online Teaching, Reflections.
Tags: , , , , ,

I started an exciting and very different season of my life two weeks ago…a yearlong sabbatical during which I’ll be earning an Online Teaching endorsement from Millersville University. In reality, I think of my sabbatical as part of my maternity leave where I’ll be “working” part-time hours instead of my usual 40-50 hours a week at school. That’s not to say that being a parent isn’t work…but that’s another blog post.

Online Teaching Program, Spring, Week 1 Reflections | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

For the past year, I’ve been pondering what a school library could look like in a blended school, specifically a public school.  What would I imagine for a space and curriculum that would serve both online students, traditional classroom students, and students whose education is comprised of both?

It’s a GIGANTIC question, and one that I’m going to attempt to tackle over the next 12 months. I hope to blog about my thoughts throughout the program…however, I also hoped to blog more last summer and on my maternity leave. Here I am with a 6-month-old impatiently vying for my attention next to me and 4 blog drafts that are nowhere near finished. I’m not going to make promises I can’t keep.

But back to my big question. At this moment, I see online teaching as having great potential for both positive and negative effects, just like any tool, and every educational technology of the past several decades. The exciting part is that online teaching has the potential to promote more personalized instruction for students, more opportunities for students to learn and study their interests, more flexibility for teachers in curriculum content, a more reasonable workload for teachers as far as time and energy, and a way to promote better home-work/school balance among teachers AND students.

Like any tool, however, it could also be used to promote negative outcomes: a restrictive, locked-down curriculum, large class sizes with underpaid teachers, excessive use of teachers’ time and energy in a way that interferes with the rest of their lives, and a lack of respect for what is actually best for students’ needs.

The key difference between these two scenarios is who has the power to make decisions. Do administrators seek out and value teachers’ expertise when designing curriculum, creating classes, and evaluating the needs of students? Does the principal/director have businesses or sponsors that desire profits or specific outcomes? The politics can be played both ways.

With all that said, here’s my current, perhaps utopian, idea for a public school library serving both online and traditional students:

  • A large, welcoming space, like a shared living room or coffee shop
  • Bookshelves (yes, with real paper books) organized around the room’s perimeter and scattered amidst “centers” designed for different uses.
  • Centers might include: an area for quiet study, reading, or relaxation (perhaps even a tech-free zone to figuratively unplug), an area for creating and making (a makerspace), several collaborative areas for students to work together in groups, and an always-staffed area for help with information literacy and research requests.
  • Ideally a 100% flexible schedule would best serve students as MANY research studies have shown. In most elementary schools, however, teachers will still need (and deserve) a planning period. If the library must be used as a “special,” then at least some of the teacher-librarian’s time will be required to supervise these students.  The majority of the teacher-librarian’s time should be available for students and staff using the library space and for those using the online services.
  • An online Ask-the-Librarian service for questions and research help, easily accessible from the library website on any device.
  • An administration that supports online students using the library with adult supervision. The teacher-librarian is not a babysitter, and shouldn’t be used as such, however, an online student can gain a LOT from both the teacher-librarian and the library space to enrich and enhance his/her education.
  • A dedicated, self-paced orientation and information literacy/research course for each grade level.  Once completed in the older grades, it could unlock more library privileges…for instance, the ability to hold a book or ebook, waiving a late fine, access to the Ask-a-Librarian service.  By requiring students to take this course, they would learn both about the library’s resources and how to use the library independently.  It would also save the teacher-librarian valuable time in answering very basic questions.

I’m sure I’ll add to my vision for an elementary school library of the future as my program unfolds, and I learn more about the unique demands of online teaching.  I hope you’ll come along on the journey with me, and write comments and questions that we can explore together.

Worth Every Penny: Sound Investments for Your Library (and Your Sanity!) October 15, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Library Space, Reflections, Tablets & Apps.
Tags: , , ,
comments closed

Worth Every Penny: Sound Investments for Your Library to Save Time and Your Sanity! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

In the 8 years that I’ve worked at my current school library, I’ve made some very intentional purchases to make the library and my teaching practice more efficient and student-centered.  It didn’t happen all at once due to budget and time limits, but little by little, I’ve managed to build a collection of technology and management solutions that work together to make my life easier (and help me stay sane).

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the product links, I will receive a small commission. See Disclosures & Disclaimers for more information.

Though no single item is going to radically change a library (or school for that matter), the following list has some of the things that have profoundly improved our library because of how I’ve implemented their use:

1. Android tablets or iPads for in-library useI know iPads are the favorite in education, but they are also very expensive.  I recommend buying a few Nexus 7’s if you can still find them, or other small-screen Android tablets, and ditch the huge desktops for catalog searching.  If you buy another small-screen tablet model, try one of the Google for Education models (except skip the Google “management license,” which costs extra and isn’t really necessary).  Destiny Quest works just as well on Android as on Apple devices, and there are LOTS of great Android apps that my students and I use every day.

2. Belkin headphone splitters and a class set of decent headphones – Headphone splitters are excellent for sharing the Android tablets so that 2 or more students can listen at once, though the volume needs to be turned up as more headphones are plugged in.  This is great for interactive ebooks and flipped videos (see below).  I like these headphones, and I use zip-ties to shorten their ridiculously long wires.

3. Mini laptops if your school doesn’t have 1:1 devices – I have a set of 30 Dell Latitude 2100 “netbooks” from a grant I wrote 6 years ago, but now that we have some tablets, we probably use about 10 of them each day.  A real keyboard is helpful sometimes, as is the full web-browsing experience.  For example, when writing reviews in the Destiny Quest app, one tap outside the review box deletes everything you’ve written so far.  In a browser, you have to either click the X or save your review…so the physical keyboard is much less frustrating for students with limited keyboarding practice.

4. Stackable, nesting plastic storage bins from Gratnells/Demco – These were new last year, and I adore them!  They make it SO much easier to stash my library centers out of sight when the library is needed for other uses (i.e. faculty meetings).  They also come in handy when a teacher needs a pile of books, but not enough to lend out a bookcart.Whole Number Dewey Signs by Mrs. J in the Library

5. BIG signage on magazine file boxes – Large, more colorful, image-centric signage is important because we teach elementary students under the age of 12…some of whom are just learning their letters, or don’t speak/read English, or forget/don’t have/won’t wear their glasses yet.

6. A dedicated library Dropbox account – Though this item is free, implementation can involve a lot of time investment.  To save time (and my voice), I filmed and edited a video for orientation, another one about how to find everybody/fiction books, and another about how to find nonfiction books.  I uploaded those 3 videos to a “library use only” Dropbox account, and put the Dropbox app on all 12 library tablets.  Voila!  Instant tutorials for the units I teach every year, for new students, and for reviewing!  For more information about how I use Dropbox, see my previous post on flipping your library instruction.

Do you have a can’t-live-without-it piece of equipment, technology, or organizational tool?  Share it with us and why you love it!

“What Worked” Wednesday: Keeping Books Visible on Library Shelves February 11, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Library Space, What Worked.
Tags: , , ,
comments closed

What Worked Wednesdays | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in TechI’m starting a new series based on several of the “ideas that worked” that I’ve previously blogged about, such as Cheap and Easy Library Decorations, our Library Treasure Store program for K-2 students, and the Whole Number Dewey modified library classification for elementary students.  Each post will include an idea that worked in my school library and how it makes my life less stressful, more organized, and/or more manageable.

Today’s idea that worked is:

Use shallow cardboard boxes to keep books
forward on library shelves.

How this idea lowers my stress level:

Books pushed back into the shadows of a shelf are one of my librarian pet peeves.  Elementary students probably think they’re being helpful when they do this, and I have no desire to spend valuable instruction time teaching them to leave the books where they are. 

"What Worked" Wednesday: How to Keep Books Visible on Library Shelves | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in TechTo keep my sanity, I collect small, shallow boxes and put them behind chapter books so they can’t be pushed back.  So far, I have about 25 shelves completed, and to my eyes it does make the books more visible.  It’s especially helpful for “first chapter books” aka easy readers, fiction novels, and our easy nonfiction books.

I plan to add more boxes as I find or get them until I complete the rest of the first chapter books section and the fiction section.  I haven’t compared circulation stats yet, but I’m wondering if they will increase or not with more light shining on the book spines.

Try it out, and see if you like the brighter look of your library shelves!


If you would like more library management tips like this one, as well as elementary and secondary library curriculum and makerspace resources, follow me on Pinterest!


Cheap and Easy Library Decorations August 24, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Library Space, Reflections.
Tags: , , , , , ,
comments closed

With the first day of school rapidly approaching, the most stressful “getting ready” tasks for me are 1.) transform our library’s sterile, white concrete-block walls into something cozy and inviting, and 2.) plan a theme and coordinating orientation that will engage students and get them excited about reading (or at least the start of a new year).  This year, our library has been transformed into “Camp Read S’more,” and I have to thank The Library Patch for the inspiration and bulletin board display product on TpT.  They saved me HOURS of time this year!  If you want ideas for library theme decorations, her Pinterest boards are the best!  Over the past 9 years of teaching, though, I’ve learned a few tried-and-true decorating tricks of my own.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase an item after clicking on a link, I will receive a small commission.  See Disclosures & Disclaimers for more information.

One trick I use to decorate the library quickly and cheaply is to cover the white cement-block walls with rolls of bulletin board paper.  This year I used a 50′ long and 4′ tall roll of mountain-patterned fadeless bulletin board paper.


“Read S’more” theme with crates and bears display inspired by The Library Patch.

In the past, I used an ocean floor background for the “Under the Sea” theme, a leafy rainforest background for the “Go Bananas for Books” theme, and a starry night sky background for  the “Blast Off with Books” theme.  A single 50′ roll is about $25-30, so it’s very reasonable for the amount of wall space you cover.

To hang the paper, I’ve found that Mavalus tape works best, but Demco book repair tape also works if the sections are less than 5′ long.  Mavalus tape is a bit pricey, but to me it’s worth it because the high humidity in our library makes it very difficult to keep anything on the walls.  Using the Mavalus tape this year, I haven’t had to re-hang the bulletin board paper as I have in past years.  I used 3 rolls to hang all paper and posters in the library, so that’s reasonably affordable to me.

Another trick I’ve used for several years is to add a map to the story corner (or “campfire corner” this year).   Though I don’t teach setting or geography skills explicitly, I like to reinforce those skills to visualize where a nonfiction story takes place or where a folktale comes from.  So I hung a U.S. and world map on a portable bulletin board, and whenever a U.S. state or country is mentioned in a book I’m reading, students find it on the map.  The maps I use were free swag from the World Book Online and Lerner Publishing stands at a PSLA conference a few years ago.


A world map in the story corner makes it easy to connect setting and geography skills with the story during a read-aloud.

Finally, this year I’m trying something new to save time decorating (and planning library orientation): I’m letting students set up some of the book displays with a “Recommended by” tent printed on cardstock.


Click to image to download this freebie!

I want to highlight what students have read over the summer and also build student ownership of the library space.  If all goes well, I might even make this into an independent library center or add it to the Book Review Library Center.  If you’d like to try this idea yourself, you can download the FREE book recommendation display tents I created below.  Rainbow frames clipart by Magic Mistakes and Mayhem.


If you have any decorating tips or tricks, especially cheap and easy-to-replicate ones, leave your ideas in the comments!  Happy first day of school, everyone!

TL Blogging Challenge #17 – Library Supplies June 19, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Library Space, Reflections.
Tags: , ,
comments closed

TL Blogging Challenge #17 – What types of supplies and materials do you provide for your students?  How do you find these items?  Do your students/staff expect you to supply materials?

I’m very blessed that I have and can use library supplies budget for: 50′ of bulletin board paper to cover as much of the boring white concrete walls as possible, decorations to hang from the ceiling, Treasure Store prizes and incentives, spine stickers for genres, book repair tape and glue, book pockets, date due cards, and miscellaneous things like carrying bags for Nook ereaders.

Can I just say that one really great benefit of eBooks is that there’s NO repair work, or processing, or mylar covering, or date due cards to stamp?  And every eBook I purchase means I spend less on repair supplies and more on books, eBooks, magazines, and other learning resources.  As much as I love paper books (and think there will always be a place for them), there are days that I want to go all digital just for that time savings.

Anyway, moving on….As far as where I find these supplies, I like Demco (formerly Highsmith) and Oriental Trading for reading incentives.  For library management items like book repair tape, I mostly order from Demco, except for clear matte barcode protectors.  For them, I get the “Label-Lock” ones from The Library Store.  They are more expensive, but worth it.  They stick to anything!

Do you have a favorite product without which you can’t run your school library and/or media center?  Recommend it in the comments (no affiliate links, please)!

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

P.S. – Comment moderation may be sporadic this summer.  I’m not trying to stifle conversation…just busy!

%d bloggers like this: