Thing 12/2018: Final Reflection

This is my umpteenth year doing Cool Tools and aside from the first year, this year was by far my riskiest year. There was a question about whether I would do it again because I have done it for so many years (each year completing ten things!) and I always think: Do I have the stamina to keep with it during a school year? Do I want to add “one more thing” to my plate? What can I really learn and explore yet again?

But each year Cool Tools surprises me and it seems like Polly and Cool Tools has outdone itself this year hosting guests for specific things, reinvigorating some classic tools, and creating more. Let’s face it, this won’t ever get old because technology changes too quickly. Case in point, a teacher was using Prezi with her students for a project and we realized through extensive research when some students’ Prezis looked different than others because some were grandfathered in with “classic” while the free-mium version is “next”. There were some options only students with the “classic” view had that enhanced their presentations while “next” presenters had a more limited set. I scanned and searched through forums and scrolled through screenshots to come to this conclusion. Yes, technology changes like I change my underwear (that is, every day).

But back to this being my riskiest Cool Tools since the first one. Simply put, I took more risks. I invested more time in the more complicated (or seemingly complicated) things like green screen and new resource guide tools. Then I enjoyed diving deep into Google since there are so many elements to Google. Learning how to integrate Bitmojis and use Draw were super applicable. I have a 9th grade teacher who will be using her own Bitmojis and book snaps with guidance from me for an independent reading project. Whereas I had an ELL class come in to do some next-level book searching and we did  sketchnoting. Their products were fabulous! I’m glad I took that risk and so was the teacher.

And then I learned that I can only clean up my side of the street and began protecting my own work: learning about Creative Commons and implementing it on my site and blog. It’s one thing to talk about it, but another to learn about it, understand it, and implement it.

Without a doubt, I took risks and it paid dividends. I’ve implemented EACH of the things this year rather than learned about them for a future application. As librarians, we are on the forefront, as much as time and energy allows, to know and connect technologies with projects, products, and objectives. I continue to be inspired by what I learn and then inspire others to take risks. If you’ve ever had any doubts about joining Cool Tools, here’s my advice: 


Thing 37/2018: Green Screen

Like the booksnaps using Bitmoji, this is something you can spend all of your time getting “just right”. Ironically one of Serena Waldron’s comments on her green screen post was lighting and I will echo that sentiment. My backgrounds could have been cleaner had I been in a better (more even, less shadowed) light because the transparency button using LunaPic could have cut out more background if I hadn’t had a shadow. Therefore, I spent more time with the mini eraser cutting in and around myself. I used inspiration from Waldron and the MissGeekChic post within the Cool Tools module because a) I didn’t want to pay for an app to play around just yet, b) I didn’t know what tech I would end up using.

My tools

  • Green plastic tablecloth from the store
  • My basement bedroom with a green tablecloth taped up
  • My iPhone
  • My eight year old who took the still pictures of me in front of the green screen
  • My computer to upload my pictures, use LunaPic to edit and save
  • Book images that I am not in short supply of already saved on my computer and one from LunaPic because I was playing around with their animation

Here was my attempts: first on the top left was using the background animation on the editing site (you can see how horrible the transparency and my patience was), then bottom left was the second one with a bit better erasure and a book image. Then the final was my playing around with my transparency over the book image of one of the books written by our visiting author in April.


Overall, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be ONCE I got my tools in place and time to dedicate (thank you Mother Nature) to it. I can absolutely see using these as a way to recommend books and be recognizable (we are a big school so while I would assume many students recognize my face, many might not and therefore be more approachable if they knew who I was), use for sharing information in a new tech-forward way, and dare I say, attempt again using video with an imposed background. Perhaps for another day when my own kids aren’t running around the house. I’d need a bit more quiet for that and obviously in a classroom setting, the same would be needed such as a recording studio and/or second space for this purpose. With that said, having a ready made and not easily-collapsible space in the library or classroom to use on a regular basis would be key. I know our media arts classes in the building across the street for our school has a green screen, so it is already easily accessible for that course, but not for the every student in order to spice up a presentation, recommend a book, etc.

I’ll say there is a bit of a learning curve, as there is with many of these more complex tools that needs patience and perseverance. It took me a bit to understand the vocabulary of the editing tool (as each editing tool will be different). It seemed like with LunarPic that it was harder to understand what I could and couldn’t undo, to remember to “apply” changes because “I thought I did that already” came around a few too many times in the beginning, and understanding photo editing when I have some working knowledge but nothing more than modest. An art teacher collaboration seems like the first step, then once comfortable adding other teachers. Hey, my snowfall (apropos for today) could be a weather unit in science. An “about me” image to share with the class could include a few of their favorite items in the background image. The possibilities are endless!

I’m giving myself a round of applause on attempting something that seemed daunting and actually getting some neat final products…. now on to finding a space to dedicate in our library somewhere and my first teacher/student victims… I mean, collaboration.

Thing 26&35&44/2018: Sketchnoting & ELLs & Book Stuff

I’m taking advantage of the snow day to sit and listen to several webinars I never got to see that both promote the “book stuff” that I wanted to investigate as well as supporting ELLs specifically because we have three ENL classes coming in with a teacher in another week for self-selection of books for their sustained silent reading.

We have already been very successful in support our ELLs but we can always do better. I’ve attached a link to my colleague, Kristen Majkut, and my presentation at SSL about using graphic novels with our ELLs. We want to find new ways to get them excited about reading especially when it’s difficult but also find new ways to approach a love of reading and be sure we have a diverse selection of books that appeal to every reader.

I suggest watching the Follett webinar “Promoting Inclusion, Social Equity, and Diversity in Your Library” where my favorite quote was “Libraries Harness the Power of We” as well as the Teaching Books Teach Diverse Books! webinar (I hear so much about TeachingBooks but always remember it as a last option and this webinar is helping to give me the understanding of why it needs to be a first resource go-to especially with the ability to share with Google Classroom and other shareable features that lend perspective on the books they’re reading, especially when they are #ownvoices titles!)

The Follett webinar was nice because after registering for the webinar that is now available, I receive an automated message with the link so I can go back any time and refer to it and with amazing speakers during the presentation, I’ll likely go back. Boyd’s comment about being a good troublemaker was fantastic. It was empowering for both webinars to hear about diversifying and fighting for your students. For us, fighting for inclusiveness of all students is important and our collection is reflecting that.

So now… getting them to discover those books that are not only mirrors for them in our collection but also windows and sliding glass doors. The library visit using the “book stuff” thing for this upcoming ELL class visit. After my colleague gave the teacher Donnalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer, she took charge of her ENL classroom to do more sustained reading especially because I had heard from so many of our ELL students that they tire easily– reading takes stamina! But the first step is the selection. We have done activities like speed dating, book tastings, and book talks and we want to take it to the next level. So I’m going to combining the new love of sketchnoting I took from the note-taking thing and translating it to the students to learn who they are. We already knew we were going to split the groups into two with one group in the stacks searching and finding, but we wanted another group identifying who they are as readers and people to find something that they like so we can pair them with a book. Voila! Sketchnoting for reader’s advisory! Here is my profile as a reader and then we’ll translate this example to students to create them, then identify keywords they can use in their search for books they’d enjoy!

We’re going to have them create a sketchnote of themselves and their likes/dislikes to be able to identify books that would speak to them when searching AND add this as an option for their response journals while reading too!


Thing 45/2018: Anything goes Google

Woah, you don’t know what you don’t know until you realize there’s a lot more you don’t know. My brain hurts! But I do know I can check up on Alice Keeler at any point in time and know she’s the go-to lady for all things Google!

Like Polly, I was inspired to use Google Classroom now that it was open to non-GSuite people recently. At the time, I was investigating Edmodo and Schoology to create a platform to run an online class for the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center which I’m doing begins this week and runs through spring. But, when Google made that announcement, I knew I was going to be watching diligently as Polly ran Cool Tools through Classroom (and taking notes!)

I have experience using Classroom in GSuite as a collaborator with other teachers but often to deliver PD in-house. I’ve run two sessions using Classroom and the positive things that come from the professional book groups is that they also get comfortable with Classroom and test using it in their classrooms if they weren’t before. I wanted to see for this Cool Tools assignment whether I could get smarter and not work harder at Classroom for non-GSuite. But, there is SO MUCH in Classroom with the irony that the small things annoy me (like the alphabetizing of topics rather than in an order you can create/reposition). I’m in awe, but still fearful. Then when you get on Alice Keeler’s site and she has hundreds of articles of “more you can do”, then “10 more things”, then “tips” and still more, it feels like my TBR pile– I’ll never catch up.

Here is where I started, with the articles from the Cool Tools page, reading these below and I’ve made my comments underneath about their usefulness.

  • 100+ Great Google Classroom and GSuite Resources for Educators
    • Using a writing journal prompt entry because this was just a list of other lists links (disappointed because you don’t know what you don’t know and I didn’t know what I wanted to be able to intelligently click on something). And while Keeler has a wealth of knowledge and shares it freely, this was hard to follow. Between the formatting and descriptions, her text and images were harder to understand. It brought me back to math where I needed visual instruction rather than the textbook to teach me the concept that’s already nerve-wracking for me. I’m going to be using Youtube tutorials rather than these articles, but they’re good when you’re in a pinch or already know enough about what you’re doing.
  • Google’s Buried Treasure
    • Without more explanation on the Slideshare, it was a peak behind the curtain but again there’s a time and place for it all and it wasn’t when I was trying to dive into Classroom.
  • Google Classroom Now Open to Even More Learners
    • Positive uses of Classroom outside of the education sphere it was really just their announcement which I already knew about! But kudos to Google for listening and understanding it’s usefulness to others when engaging in learning opportunities! I wouldn’t have Classroom for this GCRTC class without it.
  • 11 Things to Start With In Google Classroom
    • These very basics were visuals and basics that I already knew, but still, I’m not sure that a novice could get all they wanted out of it. I’d rather watch a Screencast than read this article, especially when if you want to follow along you’d need a split screen which is hard enough in how Classroom looks to have two smaller windows.
  • Tour of Google Classroom
    • Appreciated the “student view” image. Our school does not allow for a dummy account so the teacher can see their view. So the advice of the instructional technologist was that most teachers ask permission of a student to be able to use their account when it’s necessary. But because I’ve only run Classrooms for adults (teachers in book group PDs) I don’t have that option to ask to borrow their account. I do wish there was a toggle to allow this because that was the best thing in this article was seeing what the student sees.
  • Self-Grading Quizzes with Classroom Forms and Google Classroom
    • While I’m not assessing anything in the classes I’m using Classroom for, I did like reading about this as I’ve been talking to teachers who are using this in their classes. I do use Forms within Classroom, just not for assessment purposes, though I can see using them as exit tickets when I’m pushing in to classrooms rather than a quick paper version especially if I want to know if they “got” something I was doing a mini-lesson on.

So, my biggest takeaway is knowing the name Alice Keeler, but I much prefer a tutorial like this:

than straight text!

Thing 36/2018: Web presence

I wanted to skip over looking at our high school library’s web presence because the two librarians who work on the Weebly that we use as our platform have a continual conversation with the basic skeleton as put-together as it is going to be. We both agree with the “less is more” strategy. I wanted to work on a secondary web presence which is my professional web presence in part because of a recent discovery made around content that my colleague and I had created.

We had several discussions over two days about it and what to do, but one of the conclusions we made was that we were also at fault for not having a notification on our site around what others can do with our content– much like Polly already has on her Cool Tools website. Yes, when we’re presenting at the conference, we explain that the information is there for their perusal after the conference and we’re always quick to share the templates that we have created with participants to ask, but what about after the conference is done? Then, as we were talking about our shared presentations, I thought oh no! I have plenty of content on the many presentations I have done individually along with the blog I maintain. So I got down to business doing two things for this thing.

  1. Cleaning up my website and taking another look at my blog
  2. Investigating Creative Commons and what to do to create some protections for our shared and my professional materials

First, in terms of web presence of my Weebly, I realized I didn’t have my WordPress blog represented other than in the contacts page as a link, but I wanted a tab that would showcase that content. And it worked to my advantage because of the theme I have (which I love both in color and design) allows for a certain amount of tabs at the top. I’ve always had my most recent presentation (noted by the date of the presentation) and then the “books”, “resources”, and “contact” page. But I like that blog tab and it looks perfectly balanced now that I have a “presentations” tab where everything is couched.

DonalynTweetSecond, let’s talk ownership of content and sharing content on this thing we call the interweb. I’ve read Donalyn Miller’s tweets against Teachers Pay Teachers and see Polly’s Creative Commons license on the side of Cool Tools, so I went on to Creative Commons’ website to find out more and got to a place where I understood what I wanted. Then the site allows you to create the HTML based on your wishes for your content to use on your site. It was easy enough on my Weebly, which you can see here, but it took me a search on WordPress to figure out that I didn’t want the HTML widget but the Text widget in order to embed my Creative Commons on the WordPress blog. You can see it on my sidebar here. I’ve also added one to my aforementioned shared site with my colleague. I am going to contribute to their mission financially because I believe in their mission and cause, but appreciate that it’s not something us “regular Janes” have to pay for just yet. But it begs the question about the rights to our content in the Wild West of the web. I’m not yet at the point where I pay to maintain my own website or blog, but I consider it often. Would I also pay for protections for my content too? If you haven’t dived in to understanding more about attribution, Creative Commons, licensing, and copyright, consider checking out the Creative Commons website to start.

And after that I have a few questions about professional presence in general, I’d ask that you consider taking this survey. I’ll post the results in a follow-up post.

Thing 20/2018: Resource guides

This couldn’t come at a more perfect time because I was chatting a few weeks ago with one of our ENL teachers who I was sharing a few new books that came in. I asked him how best to share that with the ENL teachers and the content teachers that teach ENLs in sheltered classrooms. I got a list of all of the teachers we’d like to reach, but didn’t know how best to share it other than (yet another) email. So, I dove in to creating a resource guide.

I am very familiar and capital L Love Padlet for everything from a resource guide to creating a snapshot of a group and/or their work (for example: Cool Tools’ introductions were done using Padlet in addition to other methods. I have embedded Padlet’s both in this blog but also my other when sharing resources for presentations and I find it more generic (in a good way) than Pinterest.

As an aside, does anyone else think that Pinterest is still viewed as a more female-centric tool? The minute I thought this, I did a little searching and found this article from January 1, 2018 that says that of the 75 million American users, 81% are female. And if my target audience for this resource guide is equally male and female educators, I’d rather use something less stigmatized as female. Though I’ll share that I love curating lists on Pinterest to share in conference specifically when it comes to booklists. You can see one such board here.

Therefore, I picked Listly because I hadn’t every used it like some of the tools I’ve tried and forgotten because they didn’t seem useful to me (Diigo because it just didn’t speak to me, Smore because their freemium has lost its glitter, and Libguides because of its cost-prohibitiveness). It was easy to create an account and even easier to move around. Literally within five minutes I had created the title, description, and was adding my resources onto the list. The tool is WYSIWIG and that is invaluable. The next piece that is useful is how the lists can be shared: embedding on a site, but also the social media platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn. Once I have curated a perfect first list to catch the ENL teachers’ attention (I have six right now and embedded below), I’ll share it via email. In addition, the end user can provide feedback because these lists and each item in the lists are social, there’s a comment feature, a share button, and emoji and “thumbs up” responses.

Ultimately, Listly is a source I will use for sharing information with teachers and librarian colleagues and students especially where it pertains to multimedia resources. This might be one of my new favorite tools!

Update: When I’m in my editing screen and use the HTML embed code for WordPress (not the plugin because I don’t have the business plan), I can see the embedded Listly, but once I publish, I lose it. Therefore, until I can figure it out, here is the link to the Listly!

Thing 26/2018: Note-taking

As much as I always want to be forward-thinking and know what note-taking tools exist digitally, I align with most of the research and several of the articles listed in the assignment including “Laptops are Great” and “Notetaking Tips for Different Learning Styles” in that I am a firm believer in handwritten notes. And the research is meting this out for sure. Here’s what I use and how I use it:

  • Evernote: I still maintain the free (albeit much-reduced) version on my phone and this is long-term notes like remembering things to pack for camping, ideas for gifts for others, or purchases I want to make.
  • Google Keep: I use this for short-term notes and have several shared grocery lists with my husband. I love the checkbox feature and the fairly seamless refresh that keeps it in real time. In a post several years back for productivity tools, I did mention the use of Avocado with my husband for keeping lists, but several things happened with the app that made it unreliable and not useful anymore.
  • Post-its: You’ll find a pad in my purse, one in my school bag, several in a bin on my end table, one next to my alarm clock, some in my car, and a stack sitting on my desk at work. And that’s in addition to my ever-present spiral notebook that I use at work. Again, like Keep, this is for short-term thoughts and to-do’s. And I use them just as frequently when reading a print book where I want to take a picture of the page/text or remember a quote.
  • For this assignment, I downloaded Adobe Draw and played around with it, but here’s the thing. I have lovely handwriting and an appreciation for others that have font-worthy handwriting, so to see my “handwriting” destroyed by trying to “write” on Draw did not work for me. Likewise, it’s too small of a space for me to do anything with in terms of note-taking.

2018-01-07 15.47.08

And I empower my students to find what works for them. Here is a picture of a slide I use in presentations to students about the importance of finding their note-taking style.


2018-01-07 16.05.08One thing I will do more of is sketch-noting. I did Matt Miller’s challenges on his Slideshare presentation and here is the result. I think for the kinesthetic and visual learners, sketchnoting should be praised. And after completing the challenge, it reminded me of a panel Nathan Hale (the graphic novelist) was on where he talked about turning his notes into sketches and obviously why he’s a popular nonfiction graphic novelist now– being able to deliver visual context to historical fact. I always put pen to paper when I’m at a conference because it does help me retain the information. In addition, I have great spacial awareness and even in previous spiral notebooks (the ones I referenced I use at work) where I need to go back to reference a previous notebook, I usually can remember the area and/or how it was written down so it makes it easier to flip through and look for the information I’m seeking.

All I know is that I’m going back in to add sketchnoting to my slides for students. I know I will keep using each app or physical note-taking tool because they work for me in various capacities. I never want to loose the ability to hand-write anything– case in point The College Board’s change in allowing students to write the proclamation in whatever handwriting style they have versus cursive because so many kids didn’t know how to write in cursive and it was unduly stressful.