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Flash Freebie! Makerspace Prompt Task Cards October 6, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Fun Stuff, Makerspace!.
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When starting a makerspace, it’s sometimes helpful to start students off with some project ideas to get their creative juices flowing.  Many students are so used to finding one “right” solution to a problem.  Teaching students that some problems have many solutions and that finding those solutions might take some time…well, that’s a mindset and habit that often requires practice.

That’s where makerspace prompts can be used.  The awesome Gary Stager recommends that prompts will ideally come from students’ curiosity, discoveries, exploration, and wonderings.  He says if a teacher must design a prompt or challenge the prompt should keep these tips in mind:

1. Brevity. The best prompts fit on a Post-It! Note. They are clear, concise, and self-evident.

2. Ambiguity. The learner should be free to satisfy the prompt in their own voice, perhaps even employing strategies you never imagined.

3. Immunity to assessment…Students will want to do the best job possible when they care about their work and know that you put them ahead of a grade. If students are collaborating and regularly engaged in peer review or editing, then the judgment of an adult is really unnecessary.

Quoted from: Stager, G. S. (2012, June). A good prompt is worth 1,000 words. Retrieved from http://stager.tv/blog/?p=2779.

There are many ideas on Pinterest and social media for STEM and makerspace challenges/prompts, and I made a set of task cards based on some of them to jump-start students’ imaginations.  As part of a flash freebie promotion on Facebook, my Makerspace Project Prompt Task Cards & Materials List is FREE in my TeachersPayTeachers Store for this week only!

It was Mrs J in the Library with a #TaskCard #FlashFreebie! http://bit.ly/1WA7dD7

Posted by Teachers Pay Teachers on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Grab it while you can, and try it out!  Also, if you have more prompt or challenge ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

TL Blogging Challenge #3 – I ♥ LibGuides February 8, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Fun Stuff, Reviews, Tech Tips.
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TL Blogging Challenge #3 – Write about a Website You Can’t Live Without.


Image generated via Cryptogram

Choosing a favorite website is like choosing a favorite book.  It’s not a fair comparison, and there are just too many to choose from.

If forced to choose something for this school year at least, I would say LibGuides is my most used website that I rely on every day to run the school library.  I have the school library website hosted there, which also means we have a web-based “app.”  I’m using it to embed instructional videos to promote library services to parents.  I’m even trying to publish and curate student writing this year using LibGuides.

What I love most about LibGuides:

  • A mobile website for a mobile world!
  • I don’t have to code in HTML or use tables to make a website look great (though I can if I want to fix or tweak something).
  • I can embed almost anything: videos, photos, animated GIFs, search widgets, website links, documents in almost any file format…almost anything!
  • Reusable boxes and pages means crowd-sourcing the work of website creation.
  • A box on every page reminding users that a real person (your librarian) put time and energy into selecting, curating, and creating this resource = Instant advocacy!
  • No advertising.
  • The design is reminiscent of Pinterest…and I love Pinterest!

Runners-up to LibGuides as my favorite or most used website:

  1. Pinterest because I get so many great idea for teaching students and managing the library space, and…
  2. Feedly because while I don’t love it, it has an Android app for my phone (which I use almost exclusively to read my RSS feed).

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.

2013 Learning Reflections and Some Goals December 30, 2013

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks, How to Be Brave, Reflections.
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Happy New Year from my family to yours!
Image from Pixabay

As the year draws to a close, reflection posts and new year goals/resolutions are the popular “thing” to do on a blog.  My take is a bit different: I’m listing the things I’ve learned to remind myself (and you my dear readers) that we’ve all accomplished a lot, and we should take pride in that.  I hope you’ll share some of the things you’ve learned this year in the comments!

Things I’ve Learned This Year

  1. How to think differently and critically about the library from a student’s point of view.
  2. How to incorporate and manage Nexus tablets into a school library program.
  3. How to be brave enough to start a makerspace without “data” that it will raise PSSA standardized test scores.
  4. How to convert and merge PDF files while preserving the integrity of links, images, and other media…plus how to make images from a PDF.
  5. How to effectively use Pinterest to promote TpT products, Issuu to make an ebook, and even a bit of Twitter to connect with other teacher-librarians.
  6. How to write better blog posts (at least compared to when I started this blog) and make said posts more useful to teacher-librarian readers.
  7. Most importantly, how to re-discover my passion for teaching when I was about to burn out amidst the ridiculous data-obsession that’s gripped every facet of education today.  It feels good to find a new lease on life in my profession.
  8. And much more I’m probably forgetting, because I feel REALLY tired sometimes!

Now for my mostly reasonable, practical goals for 2014:

  1. Keep my marriage strong…because without my husband’s amazing love, support, and dinner-cooking, I just couldn’t do all of the above things.
  2. Blog twice a month, and take my own photos!  Yeah, this will be the challenging one.
  3. Re-design my home office space.  It’s a disaster, and it’s NOT conducive to doing any work right now.
  4. Keep creating products on TpT, because I really believe librarians need ready-made things to teach 21st century skills.  We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel.

So what did you learn this year that you are really proud of?  Or what are your goals for 2014?  Post in the comments if you like, and I wish you all a very happy and blessed new year!

Connected Educator Month Reflections November 4, 2013

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Reflections, Tech Tips.
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This post was more or less an assignment from my district to write about how I connect with other educators during Connected Educator Month (CEM).  I feel it’s important to acknowledge the limited time librarians and other educators are given to do our jobs.  Even when we spend hours working after school and in the evening, it seems were always being asked to do more and more.  As a limited human being with limited time (not to mention a family that is always a higher priority than work), the post below is one way of expressing how I integrate technology.

“Making Technology Click” or “How to Drink from a Firehose”
Using any technology can seem daunting and unrealistic in the face of numerous added responsibilities each school year. The trick, I’ve found, is to find the right technology tools that “click” for you and the students you teach. Let me explain…
Pennsylvania school librarians have an e-mail listserv that any member can post questions to, and we all help answer each others’ questions. The first time I asked about resources on a certain topic, within 10 minutes several librarians offered websites, books, and advice, all in 10 minutes! That was powerful, and that’s when it “clicked” for me! Since then, I’ve become more active in answering other librarians’ questions and in asking for advice/ideas on the listserv.
When I first started teaching in 2006, blogs and RSS readers clicked for me when I realized I could read all my blogs in one place. Currently I am using Feedly to collect all the blogs that I follow so I can read them at a time when it suits my schedule.
A few years later, creating my own professional blog (the one you’re reading) clicked when I realized there weren’t nearly as many elementary librarian blogs in existence versus secondary librarian blogs, and I wanted to help other elementary librarians succeed. Since then, I’ve shared my Nook e-reader program (and other resources) with over 200 educators, many of whom are practicing librarians.
Last school year, Pinterest clicked for me when I found out it wasn’t just recipes and craft projects, but also a visual search engine for practical teaching ideas from real practicing teachers. And while it’s occasionally a black hole for my time, pinning has become an enjoyable way to connect with other educators through their blogs and TeachersPayTeachers products.
Despite having a Twitter account for over a year now, Twitter finally clicked for me this school year when I wanted to start a makerspace, something that I don’t believe anyone else is doing at Wilson. By tweeting with the #makered and #makerlib tags, I connected with four other teacherlibrarians who have makerspaces, and I benefited from their expertise and experience.
Technology can often feel overwhelming and “just one more thing” on a teachers’ to-do list, so I really encourage teachers to learn about ONE useful tech tool at a time! Just one. And if you aren’t sure which tool would best suit your students’ needs, ask your librarian! I am absolutely convinced that finding the right tool and making it “click” has enriched my teaching practice by connecting me with incredibly talented, creative educators, and modern tech tools have the power to do the same for every educator.

Make the library more inviting with a DIY reading tent September 10, 2013

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Fun Stuff, Library Space.
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Our new reading tent! Note – When I tried out the pillows, I found that they pulled on the tent. A chair inside works best!

Taking a break from ed tech for some library space makeover fun — I finished making and hanging a reading tent I made for the library, something I’ve been working on for several weeks now.  I LOVE how it looks in a normally ignored corner, and I can’t wait to show the students!!  😀

My inspiration was, of course, Pinterest.  All those hours in the Pinterest black hole sometimes comes to fruition!  Most of the designs I found used a hula hoop and rope lights, but I didn’t feel like sewing on my temperamental sewing machine.  It eats fabric randomly and regularly, so that wasn’t really a safe bet.  Instead I thought of embroidery hoops.

Materials needed for my tent design (modify as you like):

  • 1 set of sheer curtains, as long as you can get ($10 on Amazon) – Mine are 84″ long
  • 1 small safety pin (or more to attach decorations if you want)
  • 1 large circular embroidery hoop or quilting hoop, as big as you can find – Mine is 15″ diameter ($12ish at a craft store)
  • 1 small bottle of acrylic paint or stain (optional to paint the hoop if you want) – I used silver
  • 1 or 2 rolls of ribbon, 3 yards each – I used 2 rolls of 3/8″ ribbon I found in the dollar bin at our local craft store.  One was for decorating, the other for attaching the tent to the ceiling.
  • Four (4) 9-foot rolls of star garland, 2 in silver and 2 in shiny multicolor ($3-4 each at craft store)
  • 1 set of 100 clear string lights, optional ($10 at Party City)
  • 1 or more 3M “stickies” and small clips to keep the end of the lights out of the way. (I had some at home, so I don’t know how much they cost.)
  • 1 electric timer, optional (like the kind used at Christmas to time when lights go on and off)

First, I took everything home and played around with it.  I painted the outside of the embroidery hoop silver because we have an outer space theme this year.  (it took 3 coats, possibly because it doesn’t come with a finish on it).

#1 – I used a safety pin attached to 1 of the ribbons to thread it through both curtains.  Looking back, I wish I’d done 1 ribbon through each curtain so it would hang more evenly.


#2 – Thread the ribbon through the curtain and tie a knot. Let the ribbons hang down if you want them to be part of the decorations, but remember you’ll need some to hang the tent as well. Place the smaller hoop inside the reading tent and spread out the curtains evenly with the gathered top in the center.

Place your decorations that will hang down on top.  Don't worry about attaching them because the outer hoop will pinch them so they stay on.

#3 – Place your decorations that will hang down on top. Don’t worry about attaching them yet.

Place the outer hoop over the smaller one and adjust hanging decorations as needed.

#4 – Place the outer hoop over the smaller one.  Screw the embroidery hoop shut, but keep it loose enough to allow some movement.


#5 – Keeping the outer hoop loose, gently pull the top of the curtains up through the embroidery hoop. Make sure to keep it centered in the middle of the hoops opening. Adjust hanging decorations as needed.


#6 – Tighten the whole embroidery hoop as tightly as you can with your fingers (no tools needed).  Pull two of the ribbons up to hang it.  I asked the band teacher to hold it up and adjusted the ribbons so the curtains hung down, but not to the floor.  Then, he was kind enough to stand on a chair and tie it around the steel frame of the drop ceiling.  He said they can hold the weight of the reading tent easily, so I’m not worried about it crashing down.

#7 – If you want to add lights, I just wrapped them around the top and let the ends hang down.  I kept the string lights tight enough that they tangled with each other to stay on top of the tent.  I used a small 3M hook on the wall to hold the end of the lights that wasn’t plugged in.  For my own sanity and convenience, I’m buying a timer so I don’t have to remember to turn the lights on and off every day.

I’m incredibly happy with the end result, and with a chair under it, I think it will be a cozy spot students will want to curl up and read in.

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