Inspiring Curiosity: A Librarian’s Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning

What is the school librarian’s role throughout the inquiry-based learning experience? How can we impact the learning experience for our students and make a difference?

The book Inspiring Curiosity: A Librarian’s Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning hopes to provide inspiring stories and practical examples of how school librarians can go beyond teaching students how to access and evaluate sources to become an essential contributor of the instructional team.

Not every inquiry-based lesson will develop into an in-depth research project or essay. Many will result in engaging Socratic Seminars where students debate and explore ideas with their classmates. Other inquiry-based lessons might lead to investigate scientific phenomena or the creation of “wonder walls” to document new questions of inquiry. I am interested in finding those key entry points where librarians can insert themselves into inquiry-based lessons and offer expertise and insights unique to our position.

Librarians can do more than just guide learners towards digital and print sources. We work directly with every student and every teacher in our school. We see the bigger picture and can view the landscape of our school through the lens of inquiry. We can influence the tone and direction of how students see themselves as researchers. Every librarian can focus on personalized learning and ensure we are preparing teens for their future.

How do you inspire curiosity?

A New Direction

DreamsQuoteI have this poster hanging in my office – I actually made alongside my Multimedia students a few years ago.  It reads Go confidently in the direction of your dreams – Live the life you have imagined” ~Thoreau.  

Well I never imagined that I would be announcing that I am leaving La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

I have accepted a position with Beaverton School District at Sunset High School as their new Library Instructional Technology Teacher.  Sunset is one of 15 schools in the district designated as a “Future Ready School”.  The plan is to move towards a 1:1 environment and make sure all students are college and career ready.  Along with library assistants, I will work directly with faculty to help them use information literacy and technology to impact student learning.

My last five years at La Salle Prep have been some of the most rewarding of my professional career.  I have grown so much both personally and professionally working with the dedicated staff and want to thank La Salle Prep for their incredible support during this process.  

Sunset Principal John Huelskamp (formerly of de La Salle North) told me that a wise man named Tom Dudley (former La Salle Principal) once told him that you can be a Lasallian educator anywhere.  So I will proudly display “Let Us Remember …” on doorway of my office and think “… that we are in the presence of God” every time I walk through the halls of Sunset High School.

Timeline JS – open source timeline tool

timelineBelow is an example of a timeline I made using Timeline JS. TimelineJS is an open-source tool that enables anyone to build visually, rich, interactive timelines. Beginners can create a timeline using nothing more than a Google spreadsheet.  For my sample, I created the images in Haiku Deck.  Then I exported them to PowerPoint so I could save each as a jpg.  Then I uploaded them to Flickr so I could get a specific URL for each image (I tried Google Drive but it didn’t give me an URL that ended in *.jpg).  This is a lot of steps so you might consider just using online images instead.  This is what my original Google spreadsheet looks like.

Step One:  Create your spreadsheet

Build a new Google Spreadsheet using their template. Drop dates, text and links to media into the appropriate columns.Note: Don’t change the column headers, don’t remove any columns, and don’t leave any blank rows in your spreadsheet.

Step Two:  Publish your spreadsheet

Under the File menu, select “Publish to the Web.”  In the next window, check “Automatically republish when changes are made.” Uncheck all other boxes. Click “start publishing.” This will give you the URL to embed in your HTML file.

Step Three:  Copy/paste spreadsheet URL into the generator box

Make sure you have published the spreadsheet first, then paste the URL at .  Feel free to customize then select PREVIEW.

Step Four:  Embed the code into your website

It will look like this when you are done or you can view it in a new browser:

NCCE 2015 Technology Educator of the Year

2015 NCCE Technology Educator of the YearAt the #NCCE2015 conference I was surprised and honored to be selected as the NCCE 2015 Technology Educator of the Year.  I have been attending or presenting at the NCCE conference for over 15 years and am thrilled to be part of this organization.  I have seen it grown over the years to know include hands-on workshops bringing in innovative speakers and educators.

I have to first thank the administration and colleagues at La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.  Ever since I received my Masters of Educational Technology from Pepperdine University, I have been seeking an educational environment that embraces technology and has a strong vision for student-centered learning.

La Salle Prep commits to a strong professional development for their faculty.  I love that our faculty works together to grow professionally.  We went 1:1 with iPads this year after three years of planning, collaborating, and working towards a common vision.  Faculty members share iPad best practices, collaborate on common assessments, focus on questioning strategies, and plan for literacy development throughout the curriculum.

I also want to thank my educational technology community.  My learning and teaching has been challenged by the experiences I have encountered throughout my career.

10415622_10203875812803171_2226749199090434807_nI accept this award and share it with all the educators I have met and worked with at:

And the various organizations that have shaped my teaching throughout my career:


Thanks also to Troxell Communications for sponsoring the award.


On days like this …

Senseless killing in Oregon and Connecticut this week has made my heart hurt.  A friend shared this prayer with me …


I have to admit, God,
that sometimes it’s hard
to even call your name.

On days like this
I can’t help but think
that if you had been there,
we wouldn’t be here—

—here in a world where
so much violence
has changed everything

—here where such bloodshed
fills today’s news
even as many more die
each day alone.

But here is where we need you,
and here is where we cry to you.
Be here with us, Lord, be here.

Let us be angry for what has been done,
but don’t let us be consumed by it
that we no longer recognize ourselves
as your creation.

Give peace to the children.
Unbind them from the bonds of grief and fear
that they may become again
children of joy, of love, of trust, and hope.

And not today, Lord, but in time,
if there’s at all any room in our hearts to forgive,
then so let it be,
for we all need to be created again.

Be here with us, Lord, be here,
right where we are, as broken as we are.
Be here with us, Lord, be here.

(c) 2012 Diana Macalintal
— at Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.

Pepperdine OMET/MALT Alumni Conference – Day 2 & 3

I began the presentations on the 2nd day of the Pepperdine OMET/MALT Alumni Conference.  I shared how my own Cadre 9 Action Research impacted my teaching and my student’s experiences.  I also shared how I built a PLN through Google Teacher Academy, meeting edtech teachers & Teacher Librarians on Twitter, presenting at conferences, co-founding edcampPDX and my future plans of teaching an online edtech class for Portland State University.

Next up was Jonathan Silk (Cadre 14) who talked about building an online Community of Practice with Leadercast for military officers.  David Greenfield (Cadre 9) talked about the Arts and importance of including them into STEM S.T.E.A.M programs — and not just think that doing “artsy” lessons is the same thing.  I really enjoyed meeting Noah Sparks (Cadre 13)  — (yes, he’s Paul’s son) and hearing how Yammer transformed his work environment.  Andrea Flagiello & Jacquelin Sandoval (Cadre 14) shared their MALT Design project — which was solving how OMET/MALT alumns can better stay connected using social media.  We will definitely use some of their ideas as we move forward with organizing future meet-ups and conferences!!

I especially enjoyed hearing about Jeff (Cadre 3)  & Maria (Cadre 11) Lee’s experiences using VoiceThread in their research of Himalayan Communities Leverage 21st Century Technology To Solve Problems.  Jeff had attended one of my VoiceThread sessions at ISTE and was able to meet  Steve & Ben, the owners of VoiceThread and then worked with them to take their beta iPad version of VoiceThread to Nepal to record the villagers talking about their experiences.  Even Robert Martellacci got into the action and updated us about MindShareLearning and Dawn Ryce shared a poem enhanced with her own photos — (thanks Debby & Dawn for being our photographers all week long!).

When enjoyed a leisurely lunch (highly recommend Malibu Seafood) and then returned for our 2nd day of unconference sessions.  I attended a discussion about what questions about technology should we be asking & how its affects our culture.  I also really enjoyed the next conversation about best practices when using collaborative tools with students and teachers.  The final panel once again shared “What’s got your attention” and we ended Friday with a community circle by the Heroes Garden with Margaret.  Of course Friday wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory after dinner visit to the Lego room as the MALT15 cadre mates worked frantically to finish up all of their projects.

We all cheered on the MALT15 cadre mates on Saturday morning as the ran their Hunger Games Lego robots — “May the PROCESS be ever in your favor” — and watched their videos.  By then everyone was all happy and smiles (and a little sleep deprived) and after the final community circle then the conference was over.

I really am glad I decided to attend the conference.  It was fun for me to meet the MALT15 cadre and enjoyed their questions of: What did you do for your Action Research, is it really going to take over my life and what are the instructors like?  Best of luck to my MALT15 buddies Kristina Peters and Catherine Davis and all the other cadre members.  Feel free to contact me anytime if you have questions of need some help with Twitter, Dreamweaver, Action Research or just a compassionate person who will commiserate with you.  And remember … it really is all about the process.  Good luck!

There and back again

“There and back again” seems like an appropriate title of my journey to becoming a certified teacher librarian.  Even though I am a “fresh voice” in the land of Oregon school libraries, I am not a stranger.   My adventure began over 17 years ago when I was a third grade teacher at St. Clare Elementary school in Portland.  The school library was run by parent volunteers and being the teacher with a reading endorsement, good tech skills and a willingness to learn landed me the position as the school’s first librarian.  Those early days were filled with fun book promotions and read-alouds but also the challenge of cataloging the entire library with little training.

Twists and turns and new opportunities sent me to Valley Catholic School in Beaverton where I taught technology classes to middle and high school students.  There I immersed myself in the world of computer applications, video production, graphic design, and journalism.  I completed my Masters of Educational Technology at Pepperdine and discovered the power of networked learning for myself and my students.  The opportunity to attend the Google Teacher Academy and to present at library and technology conferences opened my eyes to a whole new world of educators who were passionate about teaching and learning.

Blazing a new trail I have now returned to the library but this time bringing with me a whole new set of technology skills to La Salle Prep.  This part of the journey includes completing my Library Media Endorsement at Portland State and the joy of discovering a network of librarians through OASL.

So what have I learned along the way that I can bring to my new school?  My adventures took me everywhere – they were all so different and yet they each changed me in their own way.

“Persevere” was a favorite word of Sr. Dolores Doohan, a beloved teacher at St. Clare.  You must have perseverance if you love to learn and I have learned this lesson well.   Learning is tough.  It’s hard work and its always a privilege to be part of the process.  I  remember being impressed with the dedication of high school students at Valley Catholic who researched, wrote, filmed and edited a documentary about teens and technology. One of my favorite quotes is from Lloyd Alexander and I believe it is so true: “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it … than we do from learning the answer itself .”

I appreciate those who have encouraged me and pointed me down the path.  I first met Victoria McDonald (2010 Oregon Secondary Librarian of the Year) when I was at St. Clare. She was always so positive and offered helpful advice.  I’m thrilled that we now work on staff together! Sue Osborne’s dedication and efforts to support the needs of her teachers at Valley Catholic taught me the value of hard work and aligning information literacy skills with the curriculum.  I will always think of Sue, now retired, and her impressive collection of collaborative project samples from teachers.

My own experience of developing an online PLN (Personal Learning Network) has helped me stay connected with other tech-loving teacher librarians.  Reading the blogs of Joyce Valenza, Buffy J. Hamilton, Gywenth Jones, and Doug Johnson has inspired me and challenged my thinking as a teacher librarian.  I stay connected to my PLN through Twitter (#tlchat), ISTE’s SIGMS, and TLchat webinars.

I am ready for the next leg of my journey.  I have already learned so much from my PSU professors, Ruth Murray, Deanna Draper, Nancy Sullivan, Reba Parker and Dolores Johnston. I am thankful to be a recipient of the  OASL Joyce Petrie scholarship this year.  I can’t wait to be more involved in OASL and work together towards stronger school libraries.

I am ready to find resources and support the new STEM Academy at my school.  I am thrilled that La Salle has adopted collaborative technology tools like Google Apps and Moodle.  It’s been fun introducing my book club to and seeing the power of social media transform them as readers.  I look forward to the joy and excitement on a student’s face when you show them the arrival of much anticipated book. I’m glad to still have the opportunity to stay connected with my students by teaching a Multimedia/Web Design class.  Blending the teacher librarian role with technology is the perfect combination for me.

The journey is priceless.  Who knows what the bend around the next corner will bring.

Saying farewell ….

An open letter to my school community (with school names removed out of consideration):

Dear friends,

I write this to you with a heavy heart as I try to find the right words to express my feelings.  I have decided not to return to our school next year.  I have accepted a Librarian / Technology teacher position at a Catholic high school across town.

I came here in 2000 and when I reflect back on those early days I am amazed at how much I have learned and grown as a teacher.  The administrative team has always given me a lot of flexibility to improve and adapt my curriculum as my own technology skills improved.  I have appreciated that very much and am proud of all that I have accomplished here.  Our technology program has changed from a skills-based program that emphasized basic Microsoft Office techniques to a comprehensive program that gives students opportunities to be creative and express themselves through Journalism, video production, and graphic design while still concentrating on meeting the National Technology Standards for students.

Before I came  I was a classroom teacher and Librarian at a Catholic K-8 school.  Ever since I received my Masters of Educational Technology in 2007 I have desired to use my technology skills to support student learning in the role of an instructional technologist.  While I love teaching the electives classes, my heart has been drawn to the classroom.  So when the opportunity came to move back into the Library I wanted to consider it. I will complete my Library Media endorsement through PSU this year.

My new position as teacher-librarian will give me the opportunity to work with their students and faculty with an integrated information literacy and technology curriculum – along with their current Librarian (who will move into a Literacy position) and their Technology coordinator.  I will also teach a web design/multimedia class.

My hope  is that the new technology teacher can step into this program and take it to the next level by offering advanced classes like programming or web design.  We have a lot of talented students here who are eager to learn and we have great technology!

Our school will always have a special place in my heart.  Dave and I can’t THANK YOU enough for all you have done for our own children as their friend and mentors.  We know both Matthew and Alan were greatly influenced by their experience here and will forever be grateful!

On a personal note, I am proud to call you my friends and will miss the camaraderie among the faculty.  Nothing will ever top the laughs at the lunch table, playing “farkle” on Jr. Encounter, or rehearsing for the faculty skit.  I treasure your friendship.

Thank you so much for all of your support and encouragement over the years — with a special note of thanks to the Library and the IT department – I couldn’t have done this job without you.

I won’t be far and still plan to attend the plays or special events —  and meet up with you whenever I can.

God bless,


Please vote for my mini-grant project

I am participating in a Microgrant program sponsored by Dell and an online community, called WeAreTeachers. The 10 recipients of this grant receive $200 to promote “digital learning” in their classroom, as well as a flip video camera.  Recipients are selected through an online voting process. SO — If you have a moment, I’d really appreciate your going online and voting for my project. It would really mean a lot to me to have your vote and support! Just go to and follow the directions there.

Colette Cassinelli

Project Title
Voices of the Past

Middle school students at my school visit residents of a nursing home on our school campus. Students are paired up with a resident and spend time visiting, playing games, taking photos, completing activities and conducting interviews during their weekly visits. The students create a unique friendship with the residents. A culminating social event at the end of the year involves students creating special memory book of each resident and family members are invited to attend a special reception.

How will I use the money:
The money from this grant will be to purchase Flip cameras so the students can record the discussions between the students and the residents. Students will then use the recordings when they prepare their memory books or for use in digital storytelling or videos. The students can include a DVD of the clips with each memory books for the resident’s family.

Who will benefit:
Of course, the flip cameras will benefit the students in our school. Not having to worry about keeping track of notes during the interviews will free up students to focus on the interview and the resident. This project will also benefit the residents of the nursing home and their families. A DVD of their family member talking about their life and memories will be priceless.

Beaverton, Oregon

How will you use the FlipCam to document your idea?
September 2009

When will my project take place:
The FlipCam will be the focal point of the interview project and they will be used by the students to record the resident interviews. I would also like to interview the students about their experience of visiting an older person and what the project has meant to them. Giving the students a chance to reflect on the stories they heard and the lessons they learned are extremely valuable.

Why I want to do this:
Giving students the opportunity to discover the stories of real people who have led long and interesting lives is so valuable. It teachers them about friendship, respect, listening, curiosity and appreciation. Creating a video for another person about their life is a precious gift. The learning involved in choosing what to include in the interview, which segments to show, how to piece it together to tell a story is a wonderful learning opportunity. It’s real, authentic and meaningful.

2009/365 Photos

I’m really enjoying participating in the 2009/365 photo-a-day project.  It has already completely changed my vision around me.  Just this morning I was driving to school and I noticed the dark image of the trees against the early morning sky.  Hopefully it will stop raining so I can grab a few shots this week.

Over at Opening Doors to Digital Learning, Martha Thornburgh has a cool slideshow of her 365 photos.  So, I grabbed the embed code for my Flickr set and decided to post my 1st week’s accomplishments.

My goal right now is to just play with the photos and try to take a variety of shots.  I am also trying to use a couple of different cameras – depending on the situation.  Here is week one – and I plan to embed this slideshow once a month.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.