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.

Online photo editing

I really enjoyed playing around with Picnik to create this image.  For an online photo editor, you can do some pretty cool stuff – and the best part – you don’t need to create an account to try it out or save it — unless you want a Picnik account and have it save it in your history.

Here is a list of other online photo editors:


Original image credit:

Honoring intellectual property

I have been spending this past week discussing how we can honor intellectual property with my students as we search the web for “copyfriendly” images to use for multimedia projects.  Helping students to understand that all of their work – whether digital or not – is copyrighted the minute they create it is a new concept for a lot of kids.  I explain that you do not need a © symbol to copyright your work.  You created it – you own it!  Many are under the impression that you need to apply for a copyright symbol – showing their confusion with a trademark.

Appealing to the creative musicians, photographers and artists in the class, I try to help students understand that they can CHOOSE to share their creations and still maintain ownership.  This leads to a discussion about Creative Commons licensing.  If a student is willing to share their work to be remixed, changed or altered they must decided whether to allow commercial use or not.  Going through the process of choosing a license for their own work reinforces the concept of “honoring” the intentions of the other content-creators.

Inevitably, a student brings up the concept of “fair use” and wonders why they can’t just so a Google image search for their school-related assignments.  Its at this point that we talk about the purpose of citations for school work – that citing an image for a PowerPoint or presentation means that you are not taking credit for having made the image used and are indicating on the Works Cited page who is the original owner.  Luckily I teach at a school where citing using MLA or APA is used by a variety of teachers.

This discussion helps students to understand that under fair use laws, teachers must still follow certain rules:

  • I will include a notice that the materials are protected by copyright
  • I will use technology that reasonably limits the students’ ability to retain or further distribute the materials
  • I will make the materials available to the students only for a period of time that is relevant to the context of a class session  (see more)

I try to help my students to understand that even though using a copyrighted image for in-class presentation (with citation) is allowed under fair use – a lot of what we are doing in Multimedia / Web Development will not allow us to follow these guidelines because we plan on displaying them in a public forum by remixing images and making cool banners for our websites.  And you know what – the kids get it. Sure, there are always going to be those who think that if its on the Internet then they should be able to use it. But presenting Copyright vs. Creative Commons in a way that explains WHY and focus on HONORING the work of others, gets kids thinking about themselves as content-creations and how they would feel if someone “stole” their work and made money off it.

Most of my students tell me they want to share their work so I encourage them to apply an CC license for their creations – but also encourage them to retain ownership and ask for attribution.  And I know my students are understanding the bigger picture when they ask me if we are going to be sharing a particular assignment online – or is OK to “just” cite a copyrighted image for an in-class assignment — or where they should link attribution for an image they found on Flickr.

I am thankful to teacher librarians like Joyce Valenza who has put together an incredible listing of places to find “copyfriendly” images and audio online at:

Role of Teacher Librarian and literacy

Image source:

Literacies as defined by Loertscher (2008), are the skills necessary to function successfully in school and the world at large as a “literate” citizen.  Literacy skills are lifelong learning skills that include reading, writing, listening, communicating, media literacy, visual literacy, information literacy, ICT literacy, and emerging literacies (124).

The primary role of the teacher librarian in a school’s literacy program is one of advocate and collaborator.  First and foremost, the teacher librarian must know their library collection and understand how it supports the school’s curriculum.  The print and electronic resources in a library are dynamic – always changing and growing to support the learning of the student community.  The teacher librarian is not only passionate about reading and writing, but involving students in all kinds of activities, such as listening to novels on CD, using collaborative technology tools to support group work, and using databases for research and evaluation.  They must be knowledgeable about all types of resources and be the “go to” person in the school who keeps up on current research, who takes the time to learn about and practice emerging technologies, and who collaborates and encourages teachers to try new strategies – especially when it comes to information literacy.

The teacher librarian should be part of curriculum teams.  Because they work with a variety of classroom teachers and with a variety of subject areas, they are in a good position to share best practices and strategies that have been proven effective.  They are they to support, offer advice, and be positive and encouraging of those who are trying new strategies.  They should always been on the lookout for new resources and take time to share what they’ve discovered with their community.  Teacher librarians are the ultimate coach – co-teaching the necessary skills to be successful – and directing and encouraging from the sidelines.

The teacher librarian can have a significant role in content reading skills.  Especially at the higher grade levels, content reading can be quite challenging for some students.  There is a huge jump in the readability of the material and it may contain a lot of technical and unfamiliar terminology.  A teacher librarian who is familiar with content reading strategies can assist classroom teachers in suggesting effective strategies so students have better comprehension of both print and electronic resources.

Image source:

When planning a collaborative Social Studies assignment, the teacher librarian can suggest note taking strategies.  The Cornell note taking system encourages students to take notes while reading a selection from text sources or listening to a lecture and or watching a historical movie.  Students take notes on one side of the paper.  On one side of the page, the student writes “cues” – which are questions which the notes answer.  The page summary at the bottom of the notes provides a concise review of the important material on the page.  This activity reinforces many informational literacy skills and assists the students in understanding the “bigger picture” that is being presented.

Too often in Social Studies, students don’t see the connections from one event to another or they get confused by all the names and dates that are presented.  Encouraging use of a concept map or graphic organizer allows students to “show” the connections and gives them a visual representation of events, people and dates.  The teacher librarian can also provide background reading material that helps make sense of the social studies content.  They can suggest fiction books about the time period being studied.  They can provide access to multimedia collections in databases.  They can encourage individual exploration of interesting websites or DVDs.  Surrounding the students will all types of resources makes understanding social studies content reading much more manageable.

Loertscher, D., Koechlin, C., & Zwaan, S. (2008). The New Learning Commons Where Learners Win!: Reinventing School Libraries and Computer Labs. Salt Lake City, UT: Hi Willow Research

AASL Best 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning

AASL’s 25 Best Sites for Teaching and Learning was posted last Fall but I never had a chance to blog about it.  It contains links to a huge variety of resources for both teachers and librarians.  Some of my favorite tools like Jing, Prezi, and the fabulous FREE webinar from Learn Central made the list and a few others that I have heard of before but haven’t had the chance to use with students – like MuseumBox and Storybird.

Here are three that I feel are important for teacher librarians:

Live Binders
Live Binders are a great way for Librarians to quickly share a series of website to share with students or teachers.  You make a binder with websites, images, documents, a PowerPoint and movies.   You can make binders private or public.  If you want to share a private binder you give people an access key.  A new feature is that you can now collaborate on LiveBinders.   I love the idea of a students  creating a PowerPoint or uploading an essay and  then including the sites of where they got their information.  Use the Present button to view your LiveBinder like a PowerPoint.    Here is the link to my sample project I made for a Religion teacher:

Creative Commons
I think it is essential to teach students about Creative Commons licensing if we want our students to honor intellectual property.  Giving our students opportunities to be content-creators helps them value the works of artists, photographers, musicians, etc.  Explain to a student when they create something they immediately own the copyright to that creation.  They do not need to have a © to protect their creation.  Students can choose to apply a Creative Commons license to their work if they choose.  Students can choose whether to allow commercial use of their work, allow modifications and require attribution (credit).  Here is an example of a Creative Commons license:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License.  Another aspect of CC is requiring students to find images that have a CC license so they do not violate copyright.  Joyce Valenza has a great wiki with all kinds of resources at:

National Science Digital Library
I had the opportunity to attend a workshop given by the NSDL.  What an incredible resource!  The NSDL is the National Science Foundation’s online library of resources and collections for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and research.  Think of it as a search engine for all things science.  The NSDL collects resources from various organizations and evaluates them before allowing them to be part of their collection.  Every Librarian and STEM teacher should know about it.  Plus, the NSDL offers workshops, seminars, and presentations to teach you how to use their digital resources.