Friday, May 30, 2014

Confessions Of A Librarian - Book Stores Are My Guilty Pleasure!

I have always felt a little guilty that when I get time to myself, I love to go to our local books stores and look at the latest children's books. As a librarian, I should be choosing to go to our local public library, so I can support our wonderfully well stocked Dakota County Libraries.  I do love visiting our local libraries, but my guilty pleasure is browsing a book store children's section for an hour, reading the descriptions of all the new children's books!  I love finding the latest books and there is something so very tactile in the experience. Often, when I look at the publication date, they aren't even brand new books. I either missed them when they came out, or I couldn't afford to buy them all for our OHE library. I am always disappointed in the lack of selection in the nonfiction sections, but the fiction is fantastic!  I am especially fond of finding new books in series that I have already started!!

On my recent staycation to Barnes and Noble, I decided to document with pictures so I could share my findings on my blog. Maybe a few of you will enjoy my visit with me! Thanks to the nice Barnes & Noble associate who must have noticed I was snapping pictures every few minutes!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Klikaklu Helps Students Have Fun Locating Books In Our Library!!

Last week, I read about an app called Klikaklu (which I assume is pronounced Click A Clue) on Richard Byrne's Free Technology For Teachers website.  Richard invited a guest writer/educator, Ben Wiggins, to describe how he had used Klikaklu for a orienteering scavenger hunt with his class. After reading Ben's article, I was so excited to try it in the library with my students!  Just to be clear, even though I found the app on a website called Free Technology for Teachers, it is actually only free for seven days! When I realized the trial period was so short, I quickly set about creating a library search for my students that would quiz their location skills.  (Also, our last day for book checkout was Friday, so our library shelves are fairly stationary!)

This week my classes are trying the library scavenger hunt and I officially love this app!  First it works by matching images to pictured items. I have done library scavenger hunts with my students in the past, but I have used QR codes.  This was even better because students had to use the clues from the images to find the location of the pictured books, then scan to see if the books match the images.  The design of the app was perfect for an educational setting because each hunt can be randomize so that students are all searching for different books at different times!  Love that! 

I let the students partner up for their search. It was thrilling listening to their conversations about finding books in our library!  It was loud and chaotic, but through all of the commotion, students were discussing authors, genres, fiction, nonfiction, biographies, picture books and best of all they were enthusiastically discussing how to find books on our shelves!! It was a fantastic way to end our library school year!!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

WHAM! POW! AppSmashing Super Heros With YouDoodle & StoryMe!

This week 3rd graders finally finished a project that we started back in March!!  We really didn't take 3 months to work on the project, we just had many many school interruptions along the way. Students were so excited to get back to the their super hero alter ego comics and finish them up!  To remember our journey to the finish line, click on my two earlier blog posts - SMASH! BOOM! KAPOW! 3rd Graders Are Researching and Planning Their Super Alter Egos! and 3rd Graders Create Their Super Alter Egos Using The YouDoodle App!  Just to summarize, we read many super hero library books and MyOn eBooks to learn about the common elements found in super hero comics.

Students planned their own super hero alter egos complete with arch nemesis, side kick, super powers and plan to save the world!  Once they had their ideas planned out, they partnered up to take each other's pictures in a super hero pose.  We imported their picture into the YouDoodle App to decorate with capes, masks and other super hero paraphernalia.  

Finally, this week students appsmashed (moved) their decorated images from the YouDoodle App to the StoryMe App to give their images a "comic book" look, add captions and speech bubbles. Students added onamonapia words for extra comic book authenticity!

Their final projects turned out to be WHIZ! BANG! FANTASTIC!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2nd Graders Read Scaredy Squirrel's Graphic Organizers & Plan For Summer Using The Popplet Lite App!

Scaredy Squirrel, a delightful series written and illustrated by Melanie Watts, is about a Squirrel who is afraid of everything!  For a sneak peak...

Scaredy Squirrel tries to cope with his fears by being highly organized and makings list, charts and elaborate plans!  In the end, after a scary event turns into an adventure, he discovers something new about himself and decides to plan for his future "jump(s) into the unknown".  Planning for his adventures make them less scary!!  

After reading several books from the Scaredy Squirrel series, students followed his organizational example and made a plan for summer.  To make their plan, students used the app - Popplet Lite.  This app is free and helps students organize their ideas into wonderful mind maps!  Students can include text, images and their "selfies", making their plan even more visually interesting!  Student plans included having an adventure just like Scaredy Squirrel!!

A Special Day - Jenifer Wagner, Dakota County Heritage Children's Librarian Came To Visit!!

Just as the state's fishing opener, Mother's Day and Memorial Day all herald the approach of summer, the arrival of Jenifer Wagner to read to our students is an Oak Hills reminder that summer is nearing! Jenifer is the children's librarian at Heritage Library, our local branch of the Dakota County Library System. She is a master at read aloud, and shares her enthusiasm for the summer reading programs at all of the local libraries!  This week she visited Oak Hills and captivated her audience! 

Thank you Jenifer! Hope to see you and our students at the library this summer!!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Surprise, Surprise - Twitter!! 7 Reasons Why!?! - A Year In Review, Part 2

Twitter.  I would have never predicted that it would have such a positive impact on my professional growth!  Who knew! (Only about 6 million people!)

Before this year, my general impression was that Twitter was something that my two teenage daughters and their friends used to share the events of their lives. I thought it was a social media tool that entertainment stars used to "overshare" the details of their personal lives and tweet things most of us would rather not know. It was about social interactions, not learning. And though I certainly enjoy social interactions with friends, none of my friends were tweeting! I didn't really see why I would want to invest the time.

In October of 2012, I listened to a keynote address by Educational Technologist, Kathy Schrock at the 2012 MEMO (Minnesota Educational Media Organization) Conference.  She enthusiastically extolled the virtues of Twitter for professional learning and networking (Some call it a PLN - Personal Learning Network). I was motivated by Kathy's speech so I created a Twitter account, but then I got busy and didn't do anything with it. Still, the seed was planted.

When I began blogging at the beginning of this school year, I returned to Twitter as an observer. I began to follow educational bloggers and discovered a huge family of educational tweeters all sharing their ideas! It was like a world of professional learning had opened up at my fingertips. When I tweeted my first tweet on January 28, 2014, I had been following for months, but finally I made the leap and began to share.

Several aspects of the Twitter format made it especially useful for me -
1. - Twitter is learning in a hurry! In a few seconds, I can assess the relative value of a tweet and decide whether or not it is something I am interested in.  Within a very short time, I can find new ideas! Twitter users share infographics and memes which also expresses ideas quickly and easily! 
2. - As I follow other practitioners, I can pick and choose what I want to pursue, customizing for my needs. Not every tweet is equally relevant for me, but every tweet offers a potential opportunity!  It offers an opportunity for me to discover new ideas, prove or disprove my own beliefs, improve my techniques, build enthusiasm and make connections with others! 
3. - Twitter is a fantastic tool even for the casual "creeper"/"lurker". These are the terms my daughters use for a person who follows but doesn't tweet.  Sounds more menacing than it is, but the point is, even though Twitter is better when you jump in and make contributions and connections, it is really great for mining ideas as a passive observer! 
4. - Though it may sound harsh, if someone's tweets aren't useful for me, I unfollow.  I like the fact that I can build a Twitter professional network that works for me. It seems a bit unfriendly to unfollow, but that is what makes Twitter work as a PLN!  It allows users the opportunity to filter out the noise and focus on what they need. More over, it allows tweeters to find an audience of people who enjoy what they have to say!  I am still new enough that I rarely unfollow, but it is an option I appreciate. 
5. - Twitter #chats are a fantastic way to focus on specific educational topics while also building Twitter relationships...dare I even say friendships! As a new Twitter chatter, each chat that I have participated in has been exciting, fast paced, jam-packed with ideas, and often includes humorous banter among the participants.  I've only chatted with #mnedchat, #mnlead, and #arkedchat, but each one was wonderfully affirming.  They provided me with a great opportunity to learn how it works while also building my confidence to share my opinion! I've learned about the theories and realities of Personalized Learning, Genius Hour, Flipped Classrooms, and Makerspaces, all current trends in education.  
6. - This one might just be my favorite...Twitter has given me the opportunity to connect with a few of my heros - the authors I have been choosing for our library for years! The day Seymour Simon followed me, and Mercer Mayer favorited one of my tweets, I thought I had really arrived! Dan Santat, Drew Daywalt, Jennifer Fosberry, Oliver Jeffers and Jean Marzollo, all connected with me in some way! ....I know...Right!?!

7.  Most importantly, my newly acquired Twitter ideas, from practical to theoretical, have made their way back to my teaching and ultimately to my students.  I have discovered new apps, new web tools and new books via Twitter. More fundamentally, I have had a few shifts in my professional approach toward lesson design, allowing students more time to lead, more choices, and more opportunities to work collaboratively. 
This next week, I have six staff members at Oak Hills who have agreed to give it a try with me! At our Twitter inservice, we will get each of them going on Twitter so we can chat together!  You never know, a new hashtag chat might be born!!  I am super excited to grow my PLN with my teacher friends!

Finally, I feel the need to give a shout out to a few people who have been part of my Twitter PLN epiphany, whether they knew it or not!  @Chris_L_Myers has patiently encouraged me and answered my questions. @bretdom (Bret Domstrand) @mlament (Michelle Ament) @ak2mn (Nicholas Christensen), @khurdhorst (Kimberly Hurd), and @DaisyDyerDuerr have helped me navigate Twitter chats!  I've learned so much! @tritonkory (Kory Graham) has been quick to favorite my new tweets! Thanks for the encouragement! @Caleb_G_Lee gave me great insight into Genius Hour! @BobbiC07 (Bobbi Capwell) thanks for introducing me to InstaGrok!  Thanks to you all!

Feel free to join my Twitter PLN! @KnutsonCathy We can learn together!!

For Part 1 of A Year In Review, check out - Blogging For Surprising Results!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

An AppSmashing Culminating Digital Porfolio Using Thinglink , Keynote and Google Drive!

Mouse over the image, and the links will appear!

Recently my colleague and friend, Paula Hansen, media specialist at Eastview Elementary, called me excited to share a cool idea for a digital portfolio that she had seen. The digital portfolio idea used the app ThingLink to consolidate student work into a digital portfolio! Really Cool!! 

The Thinglink app helps users create interactive images with live links. We used Thinglink for an Olympics project back in February - to read about our previous work with Thinglink,
check out Olympic Research - Digging Deeper And Making Connections Using ThingLink!  

I thought it would be a wonderful culminating activity to have students pick their best work of the year and share it with Thinglink!  Instead of a plain colored background, I had them take a picture of themselves!  They used the Keynote App to add labels in colorful shapes to their image. 

There were a few struggles along the way.  For our documents, we published them with "link only" access from the Google Drive file menu, but the movies and images didn't have the publish option. Finally after some 'think' time, we tried simply sharing the images/movies with link only access and it worked!! Have I mentioned lately how much I love Google Apps for Education!!!

I am really grateful to Paula for sharing this idea with me! Students really enjoyed creating their digital portfolios and seeing all of their best work displayed in this creative way!

1st Graders Had An Unimaginable Adventure With Beekle & The Explain Everything App!!

Back in March I checked in with one of my favorite resources for great books, John Schu's blog Watch. Connect. Read.  That day back in March, he was sharing the trailer for a book named Beekle by Dan Santat.  ...A beautiful trailer for a beautiful book! 

The book wasn't published until April, but as soon as it was, I ran out and bought the book! I just knew that students would love the book, even if they didn't have an imaginary friend, their imaginations would be able to create one! Beekle is such a great reminder that our children have the wonderful gift of imagination!  Just like Beekle and his friend, I wanted my students to imagine the unimaginable adventures they would take with their imaginary friend...just in time for summer!

After reading the book, 1st graders created an imaginary friend, or told us about one they already have, using the Explain Everything iPad app!  This app is exactly what it says it helps the user explain everything!  The creators of this fantastic app threw everything short of the kitchen sink in!  Here is the app description - 
Explain Everything is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere

You would think, with such a list of functions, it would be complicated to use, but my first graders quickly and easily learned how to draw a picture of their imaginary friend, write a sentence about their adventure, and record their voices!  The voice recorder was a bit more complicated, but still very manageable! (For teachers trying this app for the first time, I would recommend tapping the add photo & record feature before using it with students! Tapping the add image and record buttons prompts the you to give permission for the app to have access to the camera roll and microphone.  You can ask 1st graders to say yes when these questions arise, but do so at your own risk. In my experience a large number of 1st graders will say no and then you must go into the privacy settings on the iPad and turn on the permissions. It is nice to have that out of the way when you start!)

Students did a beautiful job creating their imaginary friends, writing about them and recording their words. All in all, we had an unimaginable adventure!

Monday, May 12, 2014

2nd Graders Use Their Research To Respond Via Flipgrid!

This week, 2nd graders are finishing their great leaders research. Their research is outlined in two of my earlier posts - Rethinking, Revamping and Revisiting Research and 2nd Graders Find Inspiration For Research From Isabella and Alexander.

To summarize -  We read the books My Name Is Not Alexander and My Name Is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry, illustrated by Mike Litwin. Both books gave students a glimpse at a few great leaders, all of whom have made a contribution to the world! After browsing through Kids Infobits, students selected a great leader that they might like to research!  For our research, we used a combination of Kids Infobits and

This week we have finished with our research, along with our citations, so I decided it would be fun to have students use the pattern from the My Name Is Not...series to record themselves and share their research with each other using Flipgrid! 

The pattern is as follows...

"I am Sally, the greatest, toughest astronaut who ever was!"

"I am Rosa, the greatest, bravest activist who ever was!"

Quick Side Note - For readers of my blog, you may have noticed a great deal of Flipgrid use in recent blog posts.  It isn't your imagination!  I have fallen in love with this tool and I want to get as much use from it as possible! Flipgrid offers free teacher options for 21 days and I am in my last week of this "free period".  I don't want to pay the fee as we are at the end of the school year, so my plan is to pay the fee of $45 at the beginning of next school year!  I do think it is worth the fee, but not at the beginning of the summer.  I am just trying to squeeze out as many opportunities for my students to experience this tool before Friday!!!

Using Flipgrid, students responded to the following prompt:  Pretend to be the great leader you researched and tell us about yourself!! (Like Isabella and Alexander!) 

Their responses were fantastic! They demonstrated their learning and shared it with each other!

Here are just a few of our great leaders!  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Blogging For Surprising Results! A School Year In Review - Part One

As we approach the ending of the 2013-14 school year, I can't help but reflect on a year that has brought the greatest professional growth of my teaching career.

It certainly didn't begin that way. In the summer before this school year began, I was dreading what the new year would bring. To be clear, I wasn't dreading coming back to our lovely school community, our beautiful library or our fantastic students and parents. Our district had made the decision to eliminate media clerks in elementary libraries, the seventh year in a row of changes to media programs that most would consider negative. As I prepared for a new year, the only word I could use to describe my outlook: discouraged. No one was advocating for our libraries and it didn't appear that anyone really valued them.

It was then that I began to search for answers. I searched the websites and blogs of librarians around the nation. What I found was not what I expected. What I found was a serious dose of tough love, and a good swift kick in the pants!  I began by reading a blog by Jennifer LaGarde and her series How to Survive the Zombie Librarian Apocalypse. I became more motivated with each blog post. 

Just a few of my favorite quotes in subsequent blog post by Jennifer LaGarde...

- It's time for all of us (librarians) to ask ourselves some tough questions relating to the focus of our work and the impact it has on kids.  It's not enough to just work hard. It's not enough to be exhausted at the end of the day.  The hours we spend with children must matter.  The work we do on behalf of students must result in measurable outcomes. 
- We can't just be busy, we have to be significant.  
- To me, it's simple.  The perception that library programs are unnecessary exists for one of two reasons:  Door #1: the work being done really IS unnecessary or Door #2: the work being done is not being shared effectively. 
The more school librarians who establish themselves as indispensable members of the learning community, the greater the chance that the perception (and in some cases, the reality) of school libraries as being nice, but not necessary, will change. 
After I cried for a bit, which is what I do when I hear truth, I dried my tears and continued searching. What I found were teacher-librarians and media specialists (really the same thing) who were in fact contributing to their school communities and beyond by sharing! They had heard Jennifer LaGarde's call to arms, or maybe they wisely figured it out themselves. Whatever their motivation, I am supremely grateful for their willingness to share and help me find my way out of the Zombie Librarian Apocalypse.

A few of my early mentors (though they have no idea who I am!):
John Schu - Watch.Connect.Read, Tiffany Whitehead - Mighty Little Librarian, Jennifer Reed - Reederama, Gwyneth Jones - The Daring Librarian, Shannon Miller - Van Meter Library Voice, Matthew Winner - The Busy Librarian, April Requard - AppsolutelyApril, and Andy Plemmons - Barrow Media Center (from my home town in Athens, Georgia!!) These were just the few I found at the beginning of my journey, and I have since found many more fantastic librarians and teachers willing to share!

From these wonderful library and teacher practitioners, I was inspired to begin blogging myself. I began blogging because I knew that although what I was teaching students was significantly impacting their learning, no one knew about it! Why would they? I had never really shared what my students and I were doing!

So I began blogging.  I threw myself into sharing what my students and I were doing in our library, and along the way, I did considerably more than advertise our school's media program. Blogging and sharing our learning fundamentally changed my perspective as well. I would recommend it for anyone with a passion. When you begin to share your passion for a topic, it is extremely motivating!  While you are trying to build other people's enthusiasm for the thing you value, it builds your own enthusiasm! It throws fuel on your proverbial fire! It helps connect you to others who share your passion! And for me, it also motivated me to step up my game! Not that I wasn't always focused on creative lessons that would motivate my students to learn, but now I wouldn't accept anything less than the best! Best books, greatest web tool/app, most engaging challenging lessons, and most of all, the best outcomes for my students possible! The ultimate beneficiaries of my blogging epiphany were my lovely students!

Occasionally my discouragement does still rear it's ugly head. I am by no means willing to give up the fight to advocate for my school library program! I believe a strong school library program is good for my students! I am certainly willing to pout, whine, and even kick and scream if I believe that it will counter the belief that libraries are old and no longer relevant. But I now believe there is a better approach to convince everyone that our school library program is vital for student learning!

Step 1 - Have a vibrant, innovative library program that impacts student learning, and Step 2 - write about it!

...and only whine occasionally! 

Final Note - Part Two of "A School Year In Review" will be the surprising impact of blogging in spurts of 140 characters (Twitter) has had on my professional learning and subsequently my students!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rethinking, Revamping and Revisitng Research! - & InstaGrok!

Every so often, every teacher has a lesson that needs a little adjustment. It is just part of the job. Throughout each lesson, each activity, each practice, each discussion, we analyze how well our students are demonstrating understanding and adjust to improve outcomes. This week I found I needed to make some adjustments to help my student researchers in 2nd and 4th grade.  (To read earlier blog posts on the beginning of our research, check out 2nd Graders Find Inspirations for Research From Isabella and Alexander & Information from Kids Infobits!  and  Students Research Using The Notability App & The "You Wouldn't Want To Be..."Series As Inspiration)

For my 2nd grade researchers, I found that I needed an additional resource because Kids Infobits, a wonderful resource for research, was slightly too advanced for my 2nd graders. Kids Infobits gave students a little too much information for them to manage. Once I realized that I needed an additional resource, I decided to have students use This website gave just the right amount of biographical information and in small bite size pieces for my young researchers. Each biography included a summary of the great leader's accomplishments, a short video documentary, a list of quick facts, together with a short synopsis. I was able to help students avoid biographies that might cover mature topics by linking students directly to the "search" page of the site.  There were advertisements on each bio. I typically prefer to avoid ads when I select a tool for my students, but this site was too perfect in every other way, so we endured the Home Depot & Crest Whitening Strips ads. Finally, because all the students were using the same website, teaching them to cite their source was streamlined because much of the citation information would be the same for each student. 


My 4th grade students were just beginning their research projects when I discovered a new educational research tool called InstaGrok, a web and app based search tool that presents the search findings in an interactive concept map. Thanks to Bobbi Capwell, educator from Texas and part of my Twitter PLN for the tip about InstaGrok! After checking out the tool, I knew it would help my students gather facts while also organizing their newly found information. We tried it this week with fantastic results! Students could control the difficulty level of the web sources, it helped students keep track of their sources for citations, and it gave them a journal page to begin writing!

For a quick infomercial on InstaGrok...

This week was a great learning week for Oak Hills students and their library teacher! We all learned about new tools that would help us become better researchers!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

1st Graders Love Mercer Mayer's Just Me And My Mom eBook App!!

First graders LOVE Mercer Mayer's Little Critter books. I hadn't even begun to speak, and as I prepared to introduce them by picking up a stack of Little Critter books, I could hear my 1st graders enthusiastically announcing to the class..."I love those books!", "I have that books", "That is my favorite book!" Clearly Mercer Mayer and his Little Critter series needed no introduction!

I was especially excited about today's Mercer Mayer lesson because I had been waiting for some months to introduce 1st graders to an eBook app that I thought would be great for this week, the week leading up to Mother's Day.  The ebook entitled Just Me and My Mom, like all of Mr. Mayer's books, was totally delightful! In ebook form, it had quite a few enhanced functions. Students could choose to read the story independently or have it read to them, complete with sweet little background music. Students could tap anywhere in the story to receive identifying popup vocabulary words. For extra added fun, there was a tiny frog on each page. Students could locate each frog and tap on them to add to their total frog count of 19.

After we read Just Me and My Mom, students used our "go to" app, PicCollage, to create a Little Critter Mother's Day Card. Students used an image of Little Critter and Mom from Mercer Mayer's website art gallery with permission for printing, 

Here are just a few examples!!!

Students #ThankATeacher In Writing & Using FlipGrid!!

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day and the U.S. Department of Education began a new social media hashtag to share teacher appreciation! Oak Hills students had some great things to say about teachers!

In addition, I thought it would be fun to have the students I saw today (3rd & 5th graders) share their video appreciation using FlipGrid! Such a fun tool for such a fun day! 

Students spread out over the media center to record their appreciation!