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ISTE 2015: Takeaway Tips for a Library Maker Space | ISTE 2015

Su, 07/05/2015 - 04:24

Maker station at the ISTE Librarians Digital Age Playground at the 2015 ISTE conference in Philadelphia.

The maker movement was front and center at the 2015 ISTE conference—and that’s a good thing for me. After following maker initiatives with great interest for some time now, I have the opportunity to design a maker space this year for 6th–12th grade students at my school, Worcester (MA) Academy.

A search of this year’s program at ISTE, held June 28 to July 1 in Philadelphia, using the term “constructivist learning/maker movement” resulted in 67 related sessions. The ISTE Librarians Network hosted a maker station at their Digital Age Playground and convened a panel on library maker spaces, featuring elementary and middle school librarians, a school administrator, and the coordinator of a public library maker initiative. Vendors and exhibitors demonstrated tools, lessons, and ideas for maker spaces. Meanwhile, a four-hour Maker Playground Wednesday morning drew a huge crowd of attendees.

One of my goals at the conference was to gather ideas and tips to help me create my library’s maker space. Here are some highlights of what I discovered at ISTE.

Problem solving, problem solving, problem solving

Sure 3-D printers are cool, and it’s fun to play with LEGOs, but the most important aspect of maker spaces is to provide the opportunity for students to try, fail, and problem solve. “We must move from playing to producing,” says Elissa Malespina, Coordinating Supervisor of Educational Technology for the Parsippany-Troy Hills School District, who spoke at the library maker space panel. “Maker spaces should be about failure and problem solving.”

The Knights of Make-a-Lot panelists (Nathan Stevens, Diana Rendina, Josh Ajima, and Laura Blankenship) all stressed the importance of problem solving in the maker process.

Maker spaces provide students with safe places to create, collaborate, and problem solve. Leverage the power of making to give students choices, provide opportunities for students to teach each other, and expose students to interests they might not be introduced to otherwise, advised the panelists.

A Maker Education Model by Josh Ajima (@designmaketeach)

A big budget is not necessary 

During the ISTE Librarians Network panel discussion, Heidi Neltner, an elementary school librarian from Kentucky, described how she started her library maker space with donations—she painted a donated coffee table with chalkboard paint to create a LEGO table for her students. Diana Rendina from Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Florida, started out K’nex sets she found in storage at her school. Several librarians in attendance mentioned that they used to fund their maker spaces.

Other low-cost ideas :

  • Ask parents and friends for donations of old games, puzzles, and building sets like Legos and K’Nex
  • Use pages from old books for origami creation
  • Turn any surface into a writing or drawing space with whiteboard or chalkboard paint
  • Create a green screen wall with Behr Gamma Sector Green paint.

Watch the Librarians Network panel discussionfor more ideas on library makerspaces:

Mobile maker spaces

 Maker opportunities should be available to students in the school library as well as classrooms. Diana Rendina and Josh Ajima, a high school technology teacher in Northern Virginia, recommended using bins and bags to create mobile maker spaces. Provide opportunities for teachers to check out maker materials to use in their classrooms, and create a culture of making in your school.

At the beginning of his session, “Making, Love, and Learning,” Gary Stager stated, “We are all makers.” As librarians, we create every day. You don’t need a 3-D printer and expensive gadgets to start a maker space. Ask for donations. Look for everyday tems to incorporate into a maker space. Create opportunities for your students to collaborate, create, and problem solve and let them lead the learning. 

Maker educators to follow on Twitter:

Diana Rendina @dianalrendina 

Design Make Teach @designmaketeach

Laura Fleming @NMHS_lms 

Nathan Stevens @nathan_stevens

Carolyn Foote @technolibrary 

MakerJawn @makerjawn

Elissa Malespina @elissamalespina

Sylvia Martinez @smartinez 

Super Awesome Sylvia @MakerSylvia 


Jennifer Hanson is director of library services at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts and an educational consultant for the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Partner at Waynesburg University.

Trends Aside, Libraries Support Student Content Creation Now | Horizon K-12 Report

La, 07/04/2015 - 00:11

The evolution of students from consumers to creators of content continues as a major trend in education, according to the 2015 Horizon Report K-12 Edition. New technology is at the heart of this transition, and libraries are helping lead the way.

The annual report, released June 29 by the nonprofit New Media Consortium, examines the trends and technologies that will shape primary and secondary education over the next five years. It references libraries as being at the forefront of maker spaces, which are among 18 major trends that include the rise of STEAM education: the intersection and importance of science, technology, arts, engineering, and math.

The Horizon Report broke down challenges to school technology adoption into three categories: “solvable,” “difficult,” and “wicked,” representing a range of difficulty to implement over the next five years. The “solvable” problems reflect what many libraries are already doing, like focusing more on blended learning and STEAM. The “wicked” problems were far more dramatic: shifting toward deeper learning approaches and rethinking the role of school itself.

Students as Content Creators—in the Library

But even the most difficult challenges aren’t impossible—they’re already being met in the U.S. Andy Plemmons, a media specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary School in Clarke County, GA, worked with classroom teachers to design a unit that pushed students to bring their research into the real world. For a unit on famous African Americans, Plemmons invented the Barrow Peace Prize, inspired by the annual Nobel Prize. Using the FlipGrid app, students filmed themselves reading persuasive essays (see clip below), which were shared with their peers at other schools who voted for the winner. One second grader designed the actual prize on Tinkercard, which Plemmons 3-D printed in the library’s Maker space.

Student in the library at Barrows Elementary School.

“Some of the big goals that I have in our library is about kids having space to dream and tinker and create and share,” says Plemmons. “So I’m really big about the library not just being a place to come and consume information but a place to create.”

Plemmons says this kind of work will only grow in prominence as lessons become increasingly interdisciplinary and project-based. “Every year there’s more tools that are available, and every year it’s easier to do more work beyond school walls,” he says. “Each year we try to take these projects that we’re doing and layer a little more onto them.”

Denise Sumida, a librarian at Pearl Harbor (HI) Elementary School , first became interested in her profession as a child. She’d spend her summers helping out her mother, a high school librarian herself. “Much has changed since she was an active librarian but the role of the librarian is relatively the same: To provide help and access to resources for our school communities,” says Sumida.

A lot of that work involves making sure students have equitable access to technology, with the goal of Pearl Harbor Elementary to become a one-to-one school, meaning each child has his or her own device. (While many schools have started adopting BYOD (bring your own device) policies, Sumida says her student population is too young for that to work.)

Google’s suite of online tools has become a huge part of Sumida’s work. It lets her students work on projects together, but also empowers her to better collaborate with local schools on joint projects, like a game of Jeopardy about books nominated for the Nēnē Award, a prize selected by Hawai’ian children.

An “In-CLass” Flip

Technology can also play a role in helping librarians dive right into the meat of their lesson. Because Lakisha Brinson, a librarian at Robert E. Lillard Elementary in Nashville, TN, only has about 25 minutes a week with each class of students, she says it’s more important to get her students working and exploring rather than sitting together for one big lesson. So Brinson films those lessons herself and asks teachers to share the short Web videos with their class before visiting the library. This is her twist on the flipped classroom model—Brinson calls it an “in-class” flip—that maximizes the amount of time students are able to spend on project-based learning.

“We’ve really made a shift in library instruction toward being more student-driven and librarians are very much becoming leaders in a school,” she says.

These new approaches require teachers to change how they think about the library, which is no longer just a place where students check out a book or research some facts. Instead, librarians are playing an increasing role in developing new, tech-driven lessons and projects. And that means they need to get teachers invested in these new ideas as well.

“I think one of my main responsibilities is to get my teachers on board. If I can get them, they can hook their students,” Brinson says. “That’s one thing that I think librarians are becoming more of: change agents for teachers.”

Looking forward four or five years—to the time when today’s kindergarteners, for example, will be finishing elementary school—the Horizon report saw an increase in the number of maker spaces and the rise of digital badges, which let students demonstrate that they’ve learned a skill on their own much in the way older learners are beginning to be able to do with online courses.

But even if all the technology isn’t there yet, librarians can still do much of this kind of work right now. “We may not be able to have the 3-D printers right away, but even having things like screws and magnets will be a start,” Brinson says.

And ultimately, technology can help students not just become better learners, but also understand how the discrete disciplines they’re learning are actually far more interconnected out in the real world.

“We’re going to see more and more of kids being tasked with being problem solvers rather than this divided curriculum, where things like reading and math and science are all separate,” says Plemmons. “We’ll move into a place where they’re all connected.”

A student makes the case for Olympian Jesse Owens, winner of the inaugural Barrow Peace Prize.

Exhibitor News Roundup | ALA Annual 2015

To, 07/02/2015 - 21:09

Every American Library Association (ALA) conference produces a bumper crop of news from the companies that serve libraryland, as each tends to time its biggest debuts to the event, and this year was no exception. Here’s a roundup of what we learned on the exhibit floor. Did we miss your news? Please add it in the comments!

EBSCO and Ex Libris announced a partnership to streamline libraries’ acquisition processes and optimize patrons’ access. All print book, ebook, and journal orders placed via EBSCO online collection-development or ordering systems will be automatically updated in Ex Libris’ Alma LMS through EBSCO’s use of the Alma Real Time Acquisition API. In addition, EBSCO is making proprietary linking technology available to Ex Libris to improve the accuracy of links from Ex Libris solutions to full text articles hosted on the EBSCOhost platform. In a statement, the two companies committed to expanding their collaboration to other areas in future.

EBSCO also expanded its partnership with the H.W. Wilson Foundation to increase the American Doctoral Dissertations database to include records for dissertations and theses from 1955 to the present, with the goal of creating a single portal for electronic theses and dissertations at EBSCO further announced a new Grant Widget for Plum Analytics; a new EBSCO ebooks mobile app and viewer, and the addition of Europeana to the EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS).

ProQuest debuted the functionality of Intota v2 at the conference. Powered by a linked data metadata engine, it will provide acquisitions, description and delivery capabilities, and support management of both electronic and print collections, and will include a next generation version of Knowledgebase. It will be available to libraries in mid-2016.

ProQuest further debuted its new University Press Ebook Subscription. Curated by on-staff librarians, it will be available at the end of June via the ebrary platform and soon through ProQuest EBook Central. ProQuest Ebook Central, which integrates elements from both ebrary and EBL, plus new functionality, is now in beta and is expected to go live later this year. It includes streamlined acquisition, analytics, interoperability with key vendors, improved search, exportable notes and citations, and opportunities for libraries to customize to increase their own visibility to patrons. Beta users include libraries at Oxford University, University of Michigan, Fordham Law Library and University of Wollongong.

Gale, part of Cengage Learning, debuted a partnership with Skillsoft, an online learning pioneer, to deliver approximately 250 online workforce training courses on business, management, and computer application skills, including Microsoft Office training, to public library users. Courses are online, on demand, and self-paced. Users can access them anywhere, anytime, and on a variety of devices. They include interactive practice, assessment, and scoring, and users can earn course completion certificates.

Gale also announced that the company will be enabling its full-text scholarly content—roughly 2.5 million articles aggregated from thousands of scholarly publishers—to be indexed by Google Scholar. Users beginning their research in Google Scholar will be able to discover content from Gale and its partners, and either be taken to the full text of an article (if authenticated users of a subscribed library) or be directed to an abstract and information on how to access the article through their institution or local library. In addition, Gale is making its content and technology more easily integrated into the classroom through Google Apps for Education.

Linked Data

SirsiDynix and Zepheira announced a partnership to develop a plug-and-play product, called the Visible Library Beta Program, that will convert MARC records to linked data that’s findable through a web search. Interested libraries can start right away.  “Currently, only a fraction of all searches begin at the library,” said Bill Davison, CEO of SirsiDynix. “The great thing about this initiative is that users needn’t change their current behaviors, because we’ll now be able to meet them wherever they are.”

Innovative also announced a new service to simplify the publication of Linked Data records. The new Output Data for Libhub Service extracts library records from the database of any Innovative ILS or Service Platform (Sierra, Polaris ILS, Virtua, or Millennium) and formats them for transformation to Linked Data vocabularies including BIBFRAME and The new service is available as a one-time full database output with optional monthly updates. Library records are output in MARC/XML for sending to Zepheira. Zepheira transforms the records to BIBFRAME and publishes them to the Web.

Analytics and more

Baker & Taylor announced that its Evidence-based Selection Planning (ESP) service has completed its pilot and is now available for all U.S. public libraries. ESP combines data analytics from collectionHQ with Baker & Taylor’s Title Source 360 to choose titles based on past circulation by author, subject, and other metadata. The service will include new functionality in the forms of Title Performance Ranking, Predictive Distribution Engine, Fund Monitoring, Performance Monitoring, and Enhanced Collection Development Support. Three service levels will be available to accommodate libraries of various sizes and budgets.

The company also debuted its new All-In-One Axis 360 Mobile App, combining the company’s Acoustik audiobook and axisReader ebook apps, along with features from the third-party Blio app, into a single, seamless patron experience. All of a library’s B&T digital content can now be discovered and opened via the single Axis 360 app. Available for download on iTunes, Google Play, and the Amazon Appstore, the new app also features a single sign on, eliminating the need for Adobe IDs.

In further analytics news, Above the Treeline launched Edelweiss Analytics, a web-based, interactive collection analysis tool for libraries, at ALA. The product will initially roll out to public libraries in the U.S. The product blends the organizational tools and title data that the Edelweiss platform offers with the methodology and style used for inventory analysis tool Above the Treeline, which has been used by independent bookstores for the past dozen years. Ingram Library Services Inc. worked with Above the Treeline to bring the product to market, and will handle sales and marketing. Edelweiss Analytics tracks library circulation and monitors collections, providing recommendations on removing and/or adding titles. In addition to comparisons to holdings and circulations at other libraries, or groups of libraries, it includes retail sales and stock information. It also includes integrated digital galleys.

Library management

3M unveiled an integration between its 3M SelfCheck QuickConnect Interface and the 3M Cloud Library that recommends ebooks to patrons while they are checking out print books and other materials. Those ebooks can then be borrowed using the SelfCheck kiosk’s touchscreen interface. Separately, the SelfCheck QuickConnect interface is now also integrated with Evanced SignUp and Events. Updates and new events added to a library’s calendar using these Evanced programs will be automatically updated for display on the SelfCheck units.

LibraryThing announced TinyCat, a new OPAC for small libraries with fewer than 10,000 holdings. Planned for release in the coming weeks, TinyCat is designed for use on smartphones and tablets as well as desktop computers, and features faceted searching, support for all media types, MARC record import and export functionality, item status and patron tracking, barcode support, and more. LibraryThing designed TinyCat after noting that many small schools, church and synagogue libraries, academic departments, and community centers were using LibraryThing to catalog their collections.

Ebooks and audiobooks

OverDrive debuted OverDrive Listen instant audiobooks at ALA, which don’t require downloads, as well as narrated ebooks—different from audiobooks because they synchronize the read-aloud text with viewing the pages of an ebook, making them ideal for those learning to read (or learning a new language). The company also highlighted its recently debuted magazine and newspaper content, which, it said, is driving circulation increases via repeat visitors. And soon, the company said, streaming video and audiobooks will be extended to Roku, so consumers can use them on home TVs via Wi-Fi.

Pay-as-you-read ebook platform Total Boox announced a new partnership with the Califa Library Group, which will make TotalBoox’s collection of over 40,000 ebooks available to 32 Califa member libraries, including the San Francisco, San José, Oakland, and Santa Clara Public Libraries. In a press announcement, Paula MacKinnon, assistant director of development and innovation at Califa, said that Total Boox’s selection of technical, travel, and reference titles, which can become dated quickly and need to be available to all patrons immediately, and the fact that patrons are able to keep Total Boox content on their devices after reading, were two appealing features of the platform.

Publisher Berrett-Koehler announced BKpedia, a new digital subscription service that will incorporate the publisher’s entire list of titles, as well as content from partners such as the Center for Creative Leadership, and the American Management Association’s publishing division, AMACOM. Scheduled for launch this summer, BKpedia will be focused on themes including management and leadership, and will include ebooks as well as articles, case studies, assessments, and more, available as DRM-free PDFs.

Elsevier launched Library Learning Trends, a professional development program for librarians and information resource managers, at the conference, tapping the expertise of authors from Chandos Publishing, the Elsevier library and information science (LIS) imprint. Offerings include content from Chandos books made available via Elsevier Connect. Excerpts already posted include “Tips on marketing the 21st-century library (from an ‘unlikely librarian’)” by Debra Lucas-Alfieri; “The academic library as an educational system: Making the most of your library—and getting the word out about it through ‘proactive marketing'” by Melissa U.D. Goldsmith and Anthony J. Fonseca; “Prince or plebe? Success at all levels of the library hierarchy: Tipsand a webinaron leveraging your power from The Machiavellian Librarian by Megan Hodge; and “Seven (serious) networking tips from The Machiavellian Librarian: Advice to broaden your library’s influence (and your own)and an upcoming discussion at ALA conference” by André Nault. More articles are planned for this year. A free ebook, Marketing the Academic Library, contains chapters from five Chandos books and is available as a PDF or ePub file. More such ebooks will be offered in the future.


TechShop, developer of a national network of membership-based Maker spaces, introduced the TechShop Makerspace Academy, a comprehensive 30-hour, three and a half day course targeted at educators and librarians interested in designing, outfitting, and operating public Maker spaces. According to a company announcement, the courses are limited to 12 participants, cost $4,500 for primary participants (and $2,750 for additional participants from the same institution), and cover topics including: Determining the right size based on mission, space and budget; planning for open accessibility and safety; establishing rules and policies;  selecting and installing tools and equipment; training staff; and implementing curriculum and workshops. Initial courses will be held in July and August in Washington, DC; Pittsburgh, PA; Chicago; and San Francisco.

Many of these and other news announcements can be found in roundups on

ISTE 2015: The Big Themes—On-site and in the Backchannel | ISTE 2015

To, 07/02/2015 - 18:00

ISTE 2015 brought together an enormous crowd, with lots of possibilities for conversation. Themes emerged as educators, librarians, and a variety of other attendees flowed from poster sessions to playgrounds to halls to learn, try out, and discuss.

Professional Learning Networks are the official ISTE member cohorts. Although I spent the most time with members of the Librarians Network, I loved the chance to talk to lots of other people, from a variety of backgrounds. One theme that wove through our conversations was the power of voice and how we include and support a variety of perspectives.

The Edcamp or “unconference” model was the approach for Saturday’s Hack Education open-voice day of learning, before the official start of ISTE 2015. Many attendees said it was their favorite part: an informal, interest-driven, conversational learning day.

Librarians have always talked about access, but there’s a new urgency to defending it. We need to strive harder to include student voices in talking about social justice, especially in light of income inequality and persistent racism.

It’s important to put more tools and knowledge in the hands of our users, and expand opportunities for them to explore and tinker.

I met Adam Phyall, Instructional Technology Director of Hickman Mills C-1 School District, in Kansas City, MO. With 80 percent African American students in his schools, he’s concerned about the digital divide—he wants engaged digital citizens. “We stressed to our board that we don’t want to evaluate based on test scores,” says Phyall. “We want to get students’ thoughts about their learning. How do students feel? What are parents thinking?”

In some of their preschools, Hickman Mills has offered Parent Learning Cafes, with laptops and access to Atomic Learning tutorials. His next step is involving students in providing these technology learning sessions.

From professional development to more student-focused use of technology, school librarians are tech integration leaders, a message that was the subtext of Shannon Miller’s ISTE Librarians breakfast keynote, which centered on student voice:

Miller says “Being connected makes a huge difference. This needs to be the backbone of our learning, and our students’….,”

Nikki Robertson, #tlchat cofounder from Huntsville, AL, is working on a project collecting and archiving Google+ hangouts that highlight school librarian events and conversations. Her take-away from ISTE? We must strengthen our own voices as we advocate for libraries and students. How can we reach out to encourage each other to speak up for what should be at the heart of our schools: inquiry, critical thinking, kindness, creativity?

Joquetta Johnson, librarian and ed tech consultant, Baltimore County Public Schools, MD, has become an expert YouTube user for and with her students. It’s blocked in her district, but her students can find tremendous resources and playlists on their phones. Johnson uses videos as hooks, discussion starters, and readers’ advisory tools. She gives her students voice through their curation of YouTube playlists and the videos they make. They are encouraged to use social media to communicate with vendors, such as Gale and Animoto, tell what they like and don’t, and share their creations; she is putting students in interactive and consultative roles.

Both Johnson and Carolyn Foote, a school librarian with the Eanes Independent School District in Austin, TX, talked about how our library spaces should be reflective of the communities we serve. Who has voice in these decisions? In Foote’s session, she discussed the necessary “unthinking” of some unexamined beliefs, before we can “rethink” library spaces.

Sprint’s ConnectED was at ISTE, promoting a selection of learning sites to a maximum of 50,000 limited income students via free internet as part of a White House initiative. Students could research how internet access works in the U.S., and how to lobby for internet as a public good. They could connect and discuss access with students in other countries.

It is impossible to extract some of our key challenges and issues from the social and political backdrop and we shouldn’t want to. Overall, there was a healthy attention to purposes, not devices, at ISTE; it’s important to keep the focus on users, not corporations. The toll of testing is enormous, but as Chris Lehmann noted, in a Twitter quote of Josh Stumpenhorst’s closing keynote: “we can complain about the challenges we face but we must still do great things with kids.”

Photos from the #POCatiste feed on Twitter.

And we also need those voices of caution. Scott McLeod tweeted Audrey Watters’s article in Hack Education that says bluntly “virtual field trips are not field trips” and reminds us that access to field trips is an equity issue, among many other equity issues. A new hashtag this year connected diverse voices talking about ISTE: #POCatISTE, allowing people of color to find each other and share sessions and resources. And there’s been a growing use of #techquity and #educolor in the months before ISTE 2015, underscoring the continuing need for diverse voices.

What about the voices of those who couldn’t make it? Susie Highley, a middle school librarian from Indiana, was not at ISTE, but enjoyed following via the #notatiste Twitter hashtag. Craig Yen, a fifth grade teacher from the San Francisco Bay area, was a very active retweeter for the whole group. They also used Voxer, a live voice app.

“The #notatiste Voxer group was great for up to the minute news, for example, telling us someone was on Periscope currently, or TeacherCast, but also for longer discussions, says Highley. “We had some long conversations about copyright and curation, and lots about Periscope and Voxer itself. There was even a separate “notatiste” edtech karaoke channel. We shared many, many links through the texting side of Voxer.”

Related links:

Hack Education crowdsourced list of tools, resources, or ideas

Audrey Watters: “Virtual Field Trips and Education ‘Technology’ Inequalities”

ISTE Librarians Network Site

Joquetta Johnson’s “Putting the U in Youtube”

More about Voxer and Voxer Chats

The TLChat Google+ Community

White House ConnectEd Initiative


Melissa Techman, MLS, NBCT, former K – 5, former public librarian, is a librarian at Western Albemarle High School, Albemarle County Public Schools, VA.


The “Best Part of ISTE”: The Preshow Unconference | ISTE 2015

To, 07/02/2015 - 17:54

In my opinion, the Saturday before ISTE is really the best part of the conference. Between the annual unconference Hack Education (#hacked15) and this year’s Mobile Megashare, it was a great day of connecting and learning from  leaders in the field. Steve Hargadon has helped to organize the Hacked unconference at ISTE, for the last nine years. What makes it different than the traditional Edcamp? Instead of conducting every session suggested by a participant, people make suggestions on what they want to talk about,  then everyone goes around and votes by placing  dots or tally marks the sessions  that they want to attend.

The organizers then build a program around the most popular topics, ensuring that the most popular topics don’t run at the same time.

The rules of hacked are simple but powerful.

The rule of 20 means that if more than 20 people are interested in a topic; split up into two groups so that the conversation can flow better.

What I personally love about hacked is that a director of technology can be sitting discussing a given topic with a group of teachers, college professors, librarians, and software developers and everyone is learning from each other, through a rich and engaging conversation.

Visit the Hack Education  wiki to see  the list of session topics  plus accompanying  resources.

The second big event of the day, was Moblie Megashare put on by the ISTE Mobile Learning Network. In this event, people can go from table to table to listen to different presentations. I choose to spend most of my time at two sessions. The first,”Robots, Coding and Creativity,” lead by Laura Briggs and Teresa Grzec, was a very interesting discussion on how introducing these tools  to students can lead to their creativity shining. Laura and Teresa spent some time talking about Lego StoryStarter Kits and how they use them in the elementary classrooms to get student writing.

Grzec has students make stories with the kits and then the students use the iPad to take pictures of their story and then they use the Puppet Pal HD app to build a story on the iPad. She suggests having the students work in groups of threesone has to make up the beginning of the story, one has to make the middle, and one has to do the end of the story. Grzec gives the students 30 minutes of build time to figure out what their story is, and then 30 minutes to write the story. Grzec and Briggs both commented on how helpful these kits have been to engage their ELA and special education students.

The other session I attended was “Augment Your Reality!” lead by Katrina Keena,

which was described  as including “toys for all ages that involve tangible play, virtual reality, computer science, and more. Bring innovation and creativity to your classroom wow your fellow teachers and students.”It did not disappoint. What  I loved about this session is that not only did we see augmented reality in action, but we also got to hear how people are  using it their classrooms and libraries. One of my favorite ideas was how a school has made the inspirational quotes on their walls augmented.

When people scan the quote with the Daqri app, a video or Web page appears that enables students to  learn more about the person who said the quote. How brilliant is that!

Drew Minock and Brad Waid from the “Two Guys and Some iPads” blog also stopped by to  present some really cool ways that Daqri is infusing augmented reality into education. Check out their blog for more information.

Overall, it is was an amazing day of learning and sharing, all free of charge. I highly recommend coming to ISTE early. You will not regret it.

“Homes” Around the World | Touch and Go

To, 07/02/2015 - 17:20


Homes (Tinybop) ©2015 Tuesday Bassen


We’ve reviewed a number of Tinybop apps recently—and there are more to come. Today it seemed appropriate to explore Homes—the developer just informed us that they’ve added fireworks in celebration of the Fourth of July to a Brooklyn, NY,  street scene.

Viewers get to peek inside a Yemeni tower house, a Mongolian ger (yurt), an adobe structure in the Guatemalan highlands, and a row house located in the Northeastern United States when they enter Tinybop’s Homes ($3.99; K–Gr 5). Along with the trappings of modern living (radios, TVs, computers, antennas, solar panels), they will spy items, fabrics, and art typically found in dwellings in these countries and animals native to these climes. Distinct structural aspects of each home are also on view; for example, the animal pen on the bottom level of the tower house and the yurt’s portability. Exploration of each location yields a concept book that can be opened, featuring the language of the particular country.

Various screens feature animations (livestock trot, chickens strut, steam rises, water moves through plumbing) and interactive opportunities (pots, pans, pillow, toys, and clothing can moved about, a  puzzle assembled, drawers and doors opened, a gate unlocked, and a remote can trigger changes to a TV screen, etc.). Scenes can also be personalized by uploading images into picture frames. While it may be difficult to decipher all the details of some of the dwellings’ exteriors and surroundings, cutaway, interior, and zoomable views will bring children up close (and inside the homes) and allow them to make cultural comparisons.

There is no text beyond labels, but the extensive online handbook (available in 11 languages as a free download) offers additional information and suggestions of prompts to use with children when exploring how people around the world live and “how landscape and the surrounding areas, architecture, materials, and division of space shape each residence.”—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

For another look at contemporary architecture, see our review of Apprentice Architect. Additional app reviews are available on our dedicated app webpage.

Resources from Mobile MegaShare | ISTE 2015

Ti, 06/30/2015 - 21:42

The free exchange of resources and tips was fast and furious at the Mobile MegaShare, an ISTE 2015 preconference, held June 27 in Philadelphia. Organized by the ISTE Mobile Learning Network (MLN), the forum featured 17 stations dedicated to learning around mobile devices, with topics ranging from robotics to flipped classrooms. The rotation format allowed educator attendees to spend 45 minutes at each of four different stations. Here are some of takeaways:

Innovative Classrooms, Collaborative & Mobile w MakerEd and STEM

Led by Susan Wells (@wellssusan), educator and founder of Camptechterra, packed many resources into her presentation. Here are a few:

  • From top: Google Cardboard (photo by Othree),
    Cubetto, Osmo

    Google Cardboard is an inexpensive means to 3-D viewing. There are free apps available or, better yet, educators may use their own videos. Just think about the possibilities for virtual field trips for your students. A great way to reuse discarded cell phones.

  • Cubetto allows children to learn basic programming logic through a tactile programming interface. Kids write real programs for Cubetto, a small robot, using colorful blocks, providing a magical experience that hides all electronics inside a wooden board.
  • Kano Computer Kit Priced at about $150, this is a computer that students may build themselves and then use. What a great first step to understanding the world of computing.
  • Leap Motion allows the user to interact with a computer with the wave of the hand or lift of a finger. Using the Leap Motion controller makes the space between you and computer 3-dimensional and interactive!
  • Osmo (SLJ’s review) is a gaming accessory for iPads that incorporates real world objects into digital play by attaching a reflector and stand. Osmo comes with games, including Tangrams, Newton, Words and Masterpiece.
  • Daqri is a website for augmented reality, and one of the best things about it—it’s free.


Re-Designing Learning Spaces with Sally Lindgren and Laura Wood-Fernandez

The Great Prairie Area Education Agency in southeast Iowa has been studying how to redesign the K–12 classroom into a 21st century learning space. They believe that there are three tenets of classroom design:

  • The classroom furniture must be mobile and flexible.
  • Each collaborative area must have access to a digital display.
  • Each collaborative area must have a writeable surface.

This means that there is no teacher desk, no rows of student desks, and no “front of the room.” Classroom tables are designed to look like a jigsaw puzzle so they may be moved and rearranged, as needed.

Science teacher Laura Wood-Fernandez shared how she uses a tablet to control all the digital displays in her classroom at Mount Pleasant Middle School. Her classroom was one of two that were funded through a $50,000 cost-matched STEM Council grant. A video provides more information.


Robots, Coding and Creativity with Laura Briggs and Teresa Grzec

Laura Briggs is teaching kindergarten next year, but calling it “technogarten” instead. Her co-presenter Teresa Grzec is a second grade teacher. Here some of the tools they recommended:

Bee-Bots offers a fun way to introduce coding to the very young. Using directional commands on the robot, students may program it to move over a plastic mat. Laura and Teresa shared how they use Bee-Bots for math and language arts. Educators may create their own poster-sized activity mats for creative thinking and problem solving.


Cubelets are a robots construction system that provides students an opportunity to create simple mobile and reactive Cubelet block robots. A brick adapter is available to combine Cubelets into LEGO creations.

LEGO WeDo and LEGO StoryStarter

The educators shared how LEGO tools have helped to increase their students’ interest in writing. A couple of their suggestion for managing LEGOS included:

  • Keep LEGO StoryStarter (SLJ’s review) sets in a cardboard lid for easy management of the sets.
  • Copy the list of pieces so students take over inventory control by checking the list when they complete a project.

A complete listing of all of the session choices, as well as a resource list, is available.

Donna Macdonald is the teacher librarian and technology integrationist at Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont. Donna is also the president of ISTE’s Librarians Network.You may follow Donna on Twitter at @dsmacdonald or Orchard School at @OrchardVT.





ProQuest Ebook Central Enters Beta, University Libraries in Five Countries Testing New Service, Features

Ke, 06/24/2015 - 16:41

From Today’s PQ Announcement:

ProQuest Ebook Central integrates key elements from both ebrary and EBL – Ebook Library, along with all-new functionality, eliminating the complexities surrounding ebooks and delivering a superior experience for end-users and librarians.


Beta users include libraries at Oxford University, University of Michigan, Fordham Law Library and University of Wollongong.

The beta release also includes several new features including including improved search incl. explanation of ranking, a “smart bookshelf”, option for the library to add their own logos/text to the the homepage, and customizable links.

ProQuest Ebook Central is scheduled to launch later this year.

For more details about the beta and new features see the complete news release.

See Also: ProQuest Ebooks Homepage

See Also: ebrary and EBL Will Be Integrated Into a New Platform, ProQuest E-Book Central (January 30, 2015)

Apprentice Architect | Touch and Go

Ke, 06/24/2015 - 14:05

From Apprentice Architect (Fondation Louis Vuitton/Touch Press)

Through interactive activities users will have an opportunity to explore a museum designed by Frank Gehry and consider some of the decisions an architect makes about shape, color, pattern, and light as they design their own building. Kathleen S. Wilson reviews Apprentice Architect.

Architects have the ability to transform, inspire, and transcend on a grand scale, none more so than Frank Gehry, whose particular architectural vision is among the most distinctive in the world today. Terms such as post-structuralist and decontructivist are often bandied about when discussing his work, but words alone do not suffice. Architecture needs to be experienced to be understood. For this reason, Touch Press built a highly visual, interactive app with numerous opportunities for exploration, discovery, and creation in Apprentice Architect  (iOS, Free; Gr 3-6), an introduction to the new, Gehry-designed contemporary art museum in Paris, the Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Six activities form the core of the experience. Each one introduces a different aspect of the development of the building. “My Sketchbook” and “My Studio” focus on visualization and design. The first is a simple 2-D tool that can be used to create a sketch of an edifice by selecting shapes from Gehry’s palette of inspirational objects such as waves, sand dunes, and sailing ships, as well as colors, patterns, and backgrounds, then resizing, reshaping, and rotating them. “My Studio” is a 3-D tool for designing a building by manipulating glass sail and iceberg shapes, two of Gehry’s structural building blocks. Any number of shapes can be chosen by color (glass sails) or pattern (icebergs), then positioned, sized, rotated, stretched, and shrunk to form a simple 3-D model. A whimsical touch includes a slider that can be used to “blow wind” into the sails.

Other activities focus on exploring the structure of the museum and visual perspectives. “Look Around You” presents views from six vantage points inside the building and asks users to find the spot in the building they’d need to stand to see the views. “How Does This Work” offers high-resolution, panoramic images of four of the museum’s structural design features, which can be explored visually in 360 degrees and probed for further information.

The final two activities are more gamelike. “Where’s Frank,” a zoomable, cutaway graphic image of the museum’s interior with people visible on the various floors, invites children to find specific museum employees (a gardener, an engineer, a guide, a curator, a visitor, an artist, etc.) and learn more about the roles they play. Children are put in the role of a crane operator in “Take the Controls,” as they try to place glass panels into the curved roof of the museum without dropping (and breaking) them.

While visitors to Fondation Louis Vuitton will appreciate Apprentice Architect (the app has no sound, making it a discreet guide in the museum), children will also enjoy its engaging activities off-site. The text is available in English and French, the cartoonlike graphics are colorful and viewer-friendly, and the navigation is self-explanatory. Instructions for activities are available, if needed. When first entering the app, children can input their names. When leaving, they can choose to email themselves a certificate of their visit. If you’re looking for a fun, hands-on glimpse into Frank Gehry’s mind, creative genius, architectural style, and process, Apprentice Architect can’t be beat.—Kathleen S. Wilson, New York University, NY, NY

“When kids come to the Fondation, I want them to elevate their imagination, so they grow up thinking of architecture differently.”–Frank Gehry.

            For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated app webpage.


From Apprentice Architect (Fondation Louis Vuitton/Touch Press)

Wikipedia Comes to ALA

Ke, 06/24/2015 - 01:18

Jake Orlowitz of the Wikipedia Library Project reports that Wikipedia will be having quite a presence at ALA Annual in San Francisco this week. Here are some details:

#WikiLovesALA editathon
The Wikipedia Library invites you to the #WikiLovesALA editathon on June 26 from 1pm to 4pm at the Wikimedia Foundation Office, in celebration of the American Library Association annual conference this weekend in San Francisco.

All you need to do to participate is register:

We hope to see you there: to share knowledge, learn about Wikipedia, celebrate libraries, and create content about this amazing city, your institution’s collections, or that favorite subject you’ve been meaning to write about.

Exhibit booth

Drop by for engaging conversations about how Wikipedia works and how to get involved… and for free merchandise (Fri-Mon, Booth #2828 across from OCLC)

Office Hours Join our ‘ask a Wikipedian’ office hours hosted by OCLC (Sat 3:00-4:00, Marriott Marquis, OCLC Blue Suite, ask at the front desk for the room number) Conference Program Attend our talk “Resource Discovery in the Age of Wikipedia” (Sun 1:00-2:00pm, 3010 W Moscone)

Digital Public Library of America Seeks Educator Advisors

To, 06/18/2015 - 17:18

Do you have a deep, abiding hunger to dig through digital resources when you teach? If you’re a humanities educator who works with students in grades 6 through college, The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) wants to hear from you.

With a $96,000 grant from the Whiting Foundation, DPLA is looking to build an Education Advisory Committee to craft primary source sets, along with teacher guides, to support student research. In addition to having a passion for primary source materials, educators will be asked to attend meetings throughout the 2015–2016 school year including three virtual sessions, and two 2-day meetings in Boston, MA. Participants will also earn a $1,500 stipend, plus travel costs.

DPLA is a free, digital library granting access to more than 10 million primary and secondary sources (books, maps, and photographs) from more than 1,600 institutions, ranging from archives to museums. Besides curating primary source sets, the Whiting Foundation grant will also support DPLA’s efforts to construct tools for those constructing user-based resource sets.

Interested educators should apply online by July 1.

MakerBot Offers 3-D Printing Resources, Ebook for Educators

Ke, 06/17/2015 - 21:15

Ask most educators what they envision in a maker lab and a 3-D printer will likely be top of mind. How to put these coveted tools to use with students? That’s another leap—one that school librarians and teachers tend to make on their own through trial and error.

MakerBot, creator of 3-D printers for consumers and schools, hopes to help with a new site, the MakerBot Education Resource Center. From links to tutorials on YouTube to stories of how others are putting their printers to work, MakerBot has collected a number of online materials including a recently published 144-page ebook, Makerbot in the Classroom, which is free to download.

With 83 percent of teachers who use MakerBot printers allowing students to create their own projects rather than lean on a pre-existing design, according to a recent company survey, having a guide to walk educators through some basic (to advanced) designs may shorten the learning curve. The ebook also delineates learning objectives, terminology, and lesson plans to use with students, with sample activities also tied to free 3-D design software, including Tinkercad and Sculptris.

MakerBridge Site and Blog Show Diversity in Maker Movement | The Maker Issue

Ke, 06/17/2015 - 17:56

Students in the Michigan Makers program undertake an egg drop challenge
with grad students from the University of Michigan School of Information.
Photo by Kristin Fontichiaro/©2014 Regents of the University of Michigan.

“Diversity matters in the maker movement because of how much making is about empowerment,” says Sharona Ginsberg. “Being a maker is about demystifying the process of creation—learning how to take things apart, put them back together, and create your own. [It] means you have the skills and the knowledge to be less dependent on others.”

These convictions motivated Ginsberg to launch the MakerBridge Project (@makerbridge), a blog and website that highlights diversity. Launched in 2013, MakerBridge describes itself as “a community for anyone interested in the maker movement, especially in libraries and schools.” Regular posts by four key bloggers are interspersed with guest pieces from authors and librarians, tool reviews, tech tips, and more.

Recent posts include “One Expert Is Not Enough: What to Do When Your 3-D Printing Expert Leaves”; “Black History Month and Black Makers”; “Craftism: Activism for Makers”; and “3-D Printer Fails: Avoiding the Landfill.”

Ginsberg, a 2015 Library Journal (LJMover & Shaker, launched MakerBridge while a grad student at the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI), studying with Kristin Fontichiaro, UMSI clinical assistant professor and coordinator of the school library media program and a 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker. Ginsberg now works as an instructional technology consultant at UMSI, which also hosts the site.

“The type of making that tends to be featured publicly is usually high-tech and oriented toward stereotypically male interests—3-D printers, laser cutters, Arduinos, soldering, robotics, and so on,” Ginsberg says. That focus ignores or downplays “traditional feminine making—sewing, knitting, cooking, crafting, etc.”

Collectively, the MakerBridge team members—Ginsberg, Fontichiaro, Emily Mitchell, webmaster librarian at the State University of New York Oswego’s Penfield Library, and Ayla Stein, metadata librarian at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign—bring variety to the site. Some of Fontichiaro’s MakerBridge contributions relate to Michigan Makers, an afterschool initiative in which grad students from UMSI and Eastern Michigan University mentor kids during maker activities in schools, including Mitchell Elementary in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Community Middle School.

While MakerBridge initially aspired to be a “library-specific maker portal where librarians could come together and share best practices and their experiences,” Ginsberg says, she sees much greater potential. She wants to explore the “idea of local community hubs hosted by MakerBridge”—allowing people to gather resources, contacts, and event information geared to specific cities or regions. “Making and maker spaces, at their heart, are based in the local community.”

Darien Library Launches Video Site, Debuts Web Series

Ti, 06/16/2015 - 01:15

Connecticut’s Darien Library last week launched, a new website designed to offer streamlined access to the library’s archive of library-created video content, including recorded author lectures, educational seminars, TechCast “how to” series on consumer technology, reader recommendation presentations, and more. Much of this content was already available online, but on a “hodgepodge” of sites, explained Assistant Director for Innovation and UX John Blyberg.

“We have been producing video content for quite some time,” Blyberg said, with some recordings predating Darien’s new building, which opened in 2009. “We hadn’t come up with a strategy that we were happy with. We had a lot of it on YouTube, some of it on Vimeo, some of it was just floating around on our internal file servers…. We needed a place to put all of this stuff.” content is hosted on the library’s YouTube channel, with videos embedded in’s clean, intuitive interface. The most recent video posted to the site occupies the majority of screen real estate on the site’s homepage. Navigation options are limited to a single drop down menu on the top left of the screen, allowing visitors to browse by series, and a search field in the top right corner, plus small type links to the main site in the bottom left corner, and to the site’s Creative Commons license in the bottom right. The site employs responsive web design techniques, enabling it to scale to any screen size, making it easy to navigate on tablets and smartphones, as well as desktops and laptops. Blyberg has posted the templates—built on the open source Jekyll site generator—and other files needed to produce the site on GitHub so they can be easily adapted by other libraries.

Specific content is not yet discoverable on, although the library has been promoting the new site via social media, and has included a prominent “now open” graphic and link to the new site on its homepage.

Doing one thing well

When designing websites—particularly homepages—many libraries struggle to strike a balance between promoting digital resources, highlighting events and news, making it easy to search the library’s catalog or find branch information, and making it possible to navigate to other library resources from the homepage. Tradeoffs must be made and priorities set, or sites can become cluttered.

Blyberg said that is part of a broader effort to enhance the online experience for Darien’s patrons, and that the stripped-down simplicity of the design was deliberate.

“This is the first step in that strategy, to create discrete experiences around the content that we are providing,” he said. “We thought about making a subsection of our website—, or something like that. But when we thought about it, and started piecing together this digital strategy that we are starting to embark on, we thought ‘let’s think about this in terms of designing experiences around the content, rather than the other way around.’ When you go to, it’s clearly just a video site. There’s nothing else there. We’re not trying to push in any other library initiatives or information. We’re just providing as-is.”

Data driven

Site analytics played a major role in shaping the design of Darien’s new video site and its emerging digital strategy, Blyberg said.

“Over the past few years we have had, internally, one idea of what users wanted,” Blyberg said. “But then, when you actually look at the analytics and see what users are going to and what they are viewing, it can be a bit of a bruise to your ego. You’ve put all of this work into what you think people want, but they actually don’t want that.”

Using this analytics data, Darien is examining ways to simplify navigation and ease of use for popular content.

“We’re going to parse out all of the things that our users want from our online presence…and figure out how to streamline the experience of them getting to it,” Blyberg said. “That means pulling out a lot of information that we always thought was useful or value-added, and paring it down into silos where we can tailor make an experience around the content itself.”

Documenting the library

Concurrent with the rollout of, the library debuted its new online web series The Library. Professionally filmed and edited by retired advertising executive Manny Perez, who has been working as a videographer for Darien for about a year, each episode of the ongoing series highlights a different behind-the-scenes aspect of the Darien Library, such as a short film following a book as it travels through an automated materials handling system, or an episode in which Darien’s Head of Readers’ Services Stephanie Anderson, Book Group Coordinator Marianne Paterniti, and Reader Advisor Patricia Sheary prepare for a readers advisory event.

So far, Perez, has selected the topics and subjects profiled in the series, exploring each subject as a documentary filmmaker.

“He doesn’t have a library background, he has an advertising background,” Blyberg said. “So when he comes into the library, he doesn’t see what we see as librarians. He looks at it as ‘how does this happen? How does a group of three or four librarians…create a successful program?’ We’ll brainstorm and look at the schedule…but ultimately it’s his curiosity that drives it.” The goal of the series, Blyberg said, is “to create pieces that both advocate for the library, and educate the public as to what actually goes on in a library…. It’s basically [Perez] delving into interesting parts of the library. One series may be him focusing on a particular program or event in detail, another may be exploring what a particular department does, and getting to know the people in those departments. The intent is, if you watch the series, you have a whole new appreciation for not only how Darien Library works, but how public libraries in the 21st century operate.”

While most libraries may not have the resources to fund a full- or part-time videographer, Blyberg noted that video editing software and 1080p digital recording equipment has become relatively inexpensive. The site itself is hosted for free on GitHub Pages, and the only additional capital expenditures on the project have been for lighting equipment requested by Perez.

MARC Speaks: “When I Die”

Pe, 06/12/2015 - 23:09

A guest column by Marc Record.

I know that some people have been all too quick to call for my death, but we must look beyond such such short-sighted little people toward the greater good, as we have always done.

In doing so, I must acknowledge that I am probably not long for this world. Not because I am not doing useful work, mind you, as I completely am, but that because there are so many who call for my demise and at some point you must realize your time is near at hand.

Thus your thoughts must betimes turn to the future, and the legacy you wish to leave to those coming after. And the legacy I wish to leave is one of description. To be specific, a description most OWL. Or Turtle. Or whatever. The point is to leave behind descriptions of useful resources that don’t require the old ways of doing things — frankly, our ways of doing things — as a requirement.

I mean, it’s all about the data. If the data that I have carried so faithfully for so many decades can be taken forward into the future, then great.

But I want you to promise me something. Back when I was born, I represented the cutting edge in technology. Sure, now I seem long in the tooth, and I am, but for many years I was a technological marvel. Most professions that relied on data (for example, doctors) were decades behind me. In a lot of ways, I was the poster child for capturing structured data controlled by rules that could be parsed by computers. It’s remarkable, really.

So that’s my ask. I will go quietly into that dark night but on one condition — that you don’t set your sights too low. That you really examine both the modern requirements for bibliographic data and the amazing opportunities that exist today.

And having reviewed all of this, you then make a bold, cutting edge, almost astonishing move. Like what happened when Henriette Avram gave birth to me.

Now that would be a legacy worthy of my name.


Picture by Schu,, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

ISTE Honors School Librarians as Tech Leaders

Pe, 06/12/2015 - 21:51

Cathy Knutson

Two librarians earned a nod from their peers as tech trailblazers in their schools—winning recognition from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) members as part of its 2015 Professional Learning Network (PLN) Award Honorees.

“The library media specialist role is so far beyond how we used to think of librarians,” says Jessica Medaille, ISTE’s chief membership officer, based in Eugene, OR. “They’re helping their students and teachers understand how to collaborate by providing a learning experience with technology.”

Cathy Knutson, media specialist at Oak Hills Elementary School in Lakeville, MN, won the Librarians Network Primary Award, with Diana Rendina, media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL, taking the Librarians Network Secondary Award. Both were selected by fellow librarians.

“ISTE has been a game-changer for me professionally,” says Rendina, who is in her fifth year at the school as a media specialist. “I’ve met other librarians and connected with great people and been inspired by them.”

Diana Rendina

Knutson and Rendina were among 11 honorees ISTE recognized from its PLNs. The educational non-profit also awarded an honor for an outstanding research paper, “Infusing Educational Technologies in a Teaching Methods Courses: Successes and Dilemmas,” which ISTE says has the ability to reshape teacher learning.

For the Library PLN category, both public and private school librarians were invited to submit applications. Each was asked to submit details on how they had encouraged a collaborative technology project with students, influencing teachers and learning while serving as tech leaders in their schools.

According to Medaille, Knutson stood out to judges for her ability to build connections between the school and her district, increasing her own tech and social media skills and then teaching them to her colleagues. Rendina had embraced both STEM and STEAM, notes Medaille, reaching students through projects ranging from a catapult building competition to working with Arduino and using Google Hangouts with her students, allowing them to show each other their work.

“They really enjoyed that part,” says Redina. “They shared their projects with kids that, otherwise, they would never have met.”

This was the first year the Learning Networks organized its own awards, and members looked for “excellence in innovation for their peers,” says Medaille. ISTE’s Librarian’s Network has 2,400 members, making it one of the largest of its more than 25 Learning Networks, she says. An extremely active group, Medaille says they host webinars and Twitter chats and will be hosting a digital library playground at ISTE’s annual conference in Philadelphia, PA, June 28 to July 1. Both Rendina and Knutson will be recognized at ISTE, and their tools and processes shared.

“A lot of the emphasis was finding those who were doing the most amazing stuff and leverage that knowledge,” says Medaille. “This is real peer to peer recognition.”

Sandbox Science on the iPad

To, 06/11/2015 - 16:46


As any educator will tell you, exploration is key; witness the generations of children that have been introduced to basic math and science concepts at sand and water tables. Tinybop, a Brooklyn, NY, based developer, has taken this principle to heart with their sandbox apps. In The Human Body, viewers watch as the cookie that they deliver to a  child’s mouth travels through the x-ray view of the figure’s digestive system, or learn how the body reacts to an insect bite (an insect they have let loose.) In Plants, children can observe how the landscapes and denizens of various biomes change as day turns to night, the seasons change, and various user-triggered weather systems move in.

In Simple Machines (iOS, $2.99; K-Gr3) kids have an opportunity to explore the forces at work in the lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, screw, and wedge. For each, viewer-controlled interactive options allow them see how various adjustments impact the machines’ mechanics or force. For example, by altering the location of the lever’s fulcrum, the distance a load can be projected will change, while the height, base, and height from which a wedge is driven will effect its efficiency. In “Wheel & Axle,” users can try four bicycles or scooters and adjust the speed at which the creature riding them travels; at a fair clip, rider and vehicle sail over a narrow stream of water or up and over a ramp, but if they are moving too slowly the front wheel and creature will plunge into the water or fall forward. The colorful settings (art by James Gilleard) are pure whimsy and add to the game-like activities; the load of the lever is aimed at a castle; the inclined plane page is designed as a pinball machine; and the pulley screen (which allows kids to try four different arrangements of fixed and movable pulleys) resembles an arcade game.

Users can switch scenes from day to nighttime lighting, which changes the view in various, mostly small, ways (colors of arrows change, or on one page, the view of fish becomes an x-ray view). There are no in-app instructions, but the activities are fairly intuitive and play and exploration are rewarded. Sound effects (chirping birds, whistling wind, etc.) and atmospheric music, add to the fun and offer an element of play as well, but can be switched off if desired.

The app contains no text, but labels for the illustrations are provided in five languages (English, Spanish, French, German, and Chinese), and the iTunes store lists dozens more. A fre, downloadable handbook (in 7 languages) contains extensive notes on the science behind these machines, tips on using the app with kids, and additional suggested activities. For today’s students, digital sandboxes create additional, hands-on opportunities to explore concepts. Use this app as an adjunct to science lessons, or download it onto the classroom iPad for some free play; understanding of basic physics concepts is sure to follow. A trailer is available.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal


Screen from the “Wheel & Axle” page of Simple Machines (Tinybop) Gilleard


For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated webpage.

Evolution of a Maker Space, From “Monstie Stuffie” Projects to a Giant Catapult

To, 06/11/2015 - 15:30

littleBits activities at the circulation desk in Colleen Graves’s school library.

Two years ago, I was asked to write an article for Knowledge Quest about how I created a maker space at Lamar Middle School in Flower Mound, TX. That first year of programming is so different from what I do now that I thought it pertinent to chart how our maker programming (#Makered) has evolved.

During my first year as a librarian in 2012–13 my Teen Advisory Board (TAB) helped me redecorate a small office located behind our circulation desk. My director bought us some reading rockers, chalkboard paint, rain gutters, and 25 licenses for Minecraft.

Starting off: “Take and Make” wall and workshops

At the time, I wanted to make this room a collaborative room that housed our maker space. In 2012 my only maker programming resource was a collaborative Google Doc created by librarian members of the American Library Association (ALA). Plus, I didn’t have any extra funding left that year for maker supplies, but I knew I wanted to dedicate a space and time to maker programming.

How the Lamar Middle School maker space evolved.

My favorite aspect of this room was the “Take and Make” wall, where we hung rain gutters that housed low cost/free project ideas: making a tiny house out of paper and foldable bookmarks and sewing your own “monstie stuffie” out of felt and stuffing. Kids would come and make “monsties” in their free time, but, mostly, they used the space for filming videos or recording audio.

In late April 2013, my TAB members helped me pick out some maker workshop ideas from the collaborative Google doc started by librarian P.C. Sweeney. During the ALA conference, librarians had started this doc with the idea of libraries around the country hosting May-ker Mondays (maker programming every Monday for the month of May). My school’s first weekly workshop that May was after-school and focused on making stuff with duct tape. Each May-ker Monday was well attended, with the highest participation during our Minecraft workshop. Overall, however, that year mostly focused on crafts and no-cost tech like blogging and Minecraft.

Arduino, Magic 8 Balls, and a Theremin

Maker storage at the library.

The next school year, we still didn’t have much funding for maker supplies, but the district issued us new Macbooks. The students and I decided to host workshops on Garageband, iBooks, and the Mozilla Webmaker Suite on Mondays after school. (Since we were having Maker Monday during the whole school year and not just May, I dropped the “May-ker” moniker.) I attempted a design challenge with iBooks, but I didn’t get much participation. The Webmaker Popcorn Party got the students excited about coding, so that May, I decided to focus on coding for the whole month. Students came after school on Mondays and during our advisory time on what I deemed TechThursdays. During our Coding Bonanza, we made binary code bracelets, completed the hour of code, and attempted to finish the computer science course at

Expensive materials are stored behind the circulation desk.

The best part of the coding bonanza was reaching out to a mentor expert. We video-conferenced with a web game developer about creating video games. Since Arduino projects involve a lot of coding, I began to demo what you can do with Arduino (a microcontroller) by building a few simple projects like our “Magic 8 Ball” and a light-sensitive Theremin (a musical instrument that is controlled by hand motions). During May, at any given time, a student might walk in and see me tinkering with Arduino or MaKey MaKey. (I’d purchased Arduino with “lost book” money and borrowed the MaKey MaKeys from another library.)

My library aides and I were attempting to learn to think outside the box with these gadgets, but I wasn’t quite ready to host an Arduino workshop with a lot of students. My kids were also getting bogged down just going through the Hour of Code curriculum, so I hosted a final bonanza and showcased different coding projects. I set up the infamous banana piano with MaKey MaKey, created a game in Scratch you could control with Playdoh, and showed the kids how easy it is to modify code from the Arduino libraries with the Magic 8 Ball project. The students enjoyed changing the code so our Magic 8 Ball Arduino read, “Like a Boss.”

More resources; Combining low tech with high tech

A shelf for student projects in progress.

At the end of that second maker programming year, one of the grants I requested came through, for $2,500, and I obtained enough money for maker supplies! I ordered a little bit of everything so I could see what students enjoyed before I bought class sets: Spheros, MaKey MaKey, littleBits, Raspberry Pi kits, Makedo (make anything with cardboard), LED throwie kits, copper tape, and Hummingbird Robotic kits. Plus, I had a little supply money left over to purchase Snap Circuits. Over the summer, I created a year-long programming guide, went to Maker Camp hosted by Region 11, and participated in a MOOC focused on STEAM.

I also secured permission to have Maker Monday every Monday during advisory, a dedicated 30 minutes during the school day for students to study or attend club meetings.

My plan for this school year was to host a workshop at the first of the month to give students a new skill set and then challenge them the rest of the month to create something based on that new skill. The first project was origami and LED origami in which we lit up our Origami with LEDs! We also broke out the brushbot kits and made simple robots with small motors and brushes. I had so many kids wanting to participate that I had to give repeat sessions to new students on the following Mondays instead of instituting the planned design challenges.

A successful design challenge

The catapult design challenge.

By the end of October, I still hadn’t been able to host a design challenge and I also had a mess in my tiny maker space room. One kid left a battery wired up, and it got super hot. I realized that the maker supplies weren’t getting used on a daily basis like I wanted, and I didn’t feel like they were visible enough in the flimsy storage container I was using. I bought a bolt organizer from Harbor Freight and began to reorganize our supplies. One of my library aides spent hours organizing our frazzled Hummingbird Robotic Kits into some fishing tackle boxes I bought from Walmart.

It was around this time, too, that my maker kids had their first Skype session with librarian Diana Rendina and her STEAM club at the Stewart Magnet Middle School in Florida. I wanted my students to see the awesome stuff they were making. Plus, my kids were going to attempt to teach Diana’s students how to make brushbots.

Our connectivity wasn’t great that first session, but we ended with a design challenge on the table. One of my students had written “catapult challenge” on a scrap paper and stuffed it into our “iWanna” box (a box on our circ desk where students can recommend books, Maker Monday ideas, etc.). We asked Diana’s students if they wanted to make catapults with us, and our first successful design challenge was born.

We spent the next few weeks playing with Popsicle sticks and flinging objects across the library. One team of students borrowed books on weaponry from the Middle Ages and ended up wheeling in a catapult larger than me on our final design day with “My catapult can launch your catapult” written on the side. This team did not build this large wooden catapult in the library, but the idea was born in the library and the physics were researched there.

A big catapult launches a little one.

There was no grade assigned, no extra credit, no reward other than the sheer satisfaction of being challenged to “make something that flings something.” See Diana’s blog for even more info on the catapult challenge.

We flung ketchup packets, water bottles, and other students’ catapults and had an exhilarating time! At the end of the call, we asked Rendina’s students what challenge they wanted to set for the next month.

They challenged us to create a game with Scratch and invent our own game controller.

beyond the banana with Makey Makey

From there we’ve been flung into an amazing innovative journey. My kids have created multilevel games in Scratch, video-conferenced with the amazing MaKey MaKey inventors at The Joy Labz, and held our first Maker Faire during Open House.

The design challenge aspect also catapulted our students into tinker mode. Plus, the maker space supplies are out in plain sight now, and our students are creating something every day. We have our littleBits, Snap Circuits, Spheros, and more available for students to borrow with a simple sign-out sheet, and we store our more expensive robotics behind the circ desk. Students come for free making time before school, during any advisory, and during lunch, but I still host guided workshops on Mondays during advisory.

In addition, I’ve added a Maker Station with a revolving monthly theme and a project shelf for students to store their long-term projects, thus containing the mess created in our maker space. One of the most important things at our Maker Station is our “Inventor’s Box.” I learned from MaKey MaKey’s Jay Silver about the term bricolage, or the concept of surrounding yourself with junk you can use to create and assemble new inventions.

Tips for a successful maker space

Getting others involved

One thing that really motivates students is getting others involved. Twitter is an amazing resource! You can find other maker schools to chat with, experts to keep your kids going mid-project, and even find new ideas for your #makered programming. Our teachers are noticing that our students now have a sense of ownership in the library. Since they are buzzing about the projects we work on during class, our teachers are also getting more curious about what the maker space is all about. Students are even bringing maker ideas into the classroom, such as this theater student who decided to create her own “Applause” sign with littleBits.

Building a local and global community

The local community partnered with us to provide funds for supplies. We are talking with our Grateful Dads, a group of dads involved at our school, to involve them as mentors for our makers. But our maker community has a global reach. From chatting with the Stewart makers in Florida, to conferencing with MIT makers at the Joy Labz, to a tri-county design challenge that is in the works with superstar school principal Matt Arend of Sigler Elementary in Plano (TX)  ISD, and Engineer/ fourth grade teacher at Cottonwood Creek Elementary in Coppell (TX) ISD Teacher and #TXeduchat founder Tom Kilgore.

To extend our #makeymakeychallenge finale, our makers shared their #Lamarmakes via Tackk because we hope our designs will encourage some awesome #makeymakey challenge games and controllers around the country.

My administration has been supportive in sharing our programming with other schools in the district. Librarian Leah Mann and I have started a PLC (professional learning community) with other librarians in our district #makerlibchat, and my Twitter PLN (personal learning network) continues to grow. From the success of my maker programming this year, I’ve noticed a need to get more girls involved with STEM, so I started a girls-only group with our science teacher called the Circuit Girls. We focused on paper circuits by combining electronic journaling with digital notebook hacking. As the Circuit Girls grow and learn, I hope to integrate a love of writing with the awesome power of coding and technology.

A note on programming vs. space

You don’t have to clear out a room for your maker space, because the library is the maker space. Maker space is more of a concept and a philosophy that you need to adapt into your library programming. However, you still need to advocate for literacy skills and share your love of reading. Plus, you also need your leadership to be on board and supporting you 100 percent of the way for smooth sailing.

The most pertinent things you need for a successful maker space are

  • Materials to make things with: duct tape, old electronics, circuit boards, copper tape, old junk, etc.
  • Somewhere to store everything: a bolt organizer or empty shelf
  • Someone who knows how to use your maker resources

Sustaining programming

Keeping a design challenge going is hard work. Plus, sustaining students’ interest in a long-term design project can be demanding. You have to advocate for your space and promote your programming. Most important, you have to build relationships with your students and check in on what they want in your library—that’s why I have the iWanna box—where kids can leave book suggestions and Maker Monday suggestions. Any student can spark the idea that leads to our next design challenge.

Over the coming years, I hope our maker journey infiltrates the classroom. I’m working on collaborating with the science department to use our Spheros and MaKey MaKeys to teach curriculum concepts. I hope to collaborate with English teachers on incorporating design challenges and maker journals as a year-long research process that builds leadership, problem-solving, and teamwork skills. The more my students tinker, the more risks they take, and as they become risk-takers, they grow into collaborative innovators. And now our teachers and the community are beginning to become intrigued by what is happening in the library.

Twitter Resources

Connect with maker companies/institutions: @adafruit, @Chibitronics, @gosphero, @instructables, @littleBits, @make, @makedo, @makerbot @MakerEdOrg, @medialab, @Scratchteam, @ScratchEdTeam, @SpheroEdu, @TheJoyLabz

Connect with makers through hashtags: #arduino, #designthinking, #GirlsinSTEM, #inventanything, #kidscancode, #makered, #makerspace, #makeymakey, #raspberrypi, #STEM, #STEAM



Colleen Graves is a middle school librarian who is obsessed with learning commons transformations, maker spaces, technology education, and making stuff. As a connected educator, she brings the global community to her students on a daily basis. She is the featured SLJ Maker Workshop speaker on June 17.

San Antonio Libraries’ Standoff Ends In Partnership

Ma, 06/08/2015 - 16:30

The San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) and BiblioTech, the all-digital library operated by Bexar County and also located in San Antonio, have reached an agreement that will let the county reduce its payments to the city by hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, instead reinvesting that cash in digital content that will be accessible to users of both library systems. The compromise marks the resolution of a funding fight that stretches back to last year, when city officials complained that the county was not footing its fair share of the bill for library services.

Under the new agreement, Bexar County will reduce the annual payments it makes to the City to ensure residents in outlying areas are served by SAPL libraries. The new plan will see Bexar County shave it payments—$3.78 million in fiscal year 2015—to $3.48 million a year from 2016 to 2019. That $300,000 won’t go back into county coffers, though. Instead, it will be reinvested in digital content accessible to users of both BiblioTech and SAPL.

“San Antonio Public Library will collaborate with Bibliotech on collection development strategies to minimize duplication of products being offered and to jointly create a more robust offering of digital services,” SAPL director Ramiro Salazar told Library Journal. “The net result will be more “bang for the buck” for our respective residents.”

The deal marks a serious turnaround from last October, when Salazar described funding negotiations between Bexar County and San Antonio as “a stalemate.” The last three months, though, saw them become less adversarial, with an increased emphasis on finding places where the two library systems could collaborate.

The previous complications stemmed from the geography of San Antonio, which takes up much, but not all, of Bexar County. Of the county’s 1.8 million residents, about 400,000 live in unincorporated municipalities outside of the city limits. For decades, the County has paid the city an annual fee to ensure those residents had access to SAPL services and facilities.

When the county-funded BiblioTech opened in 2013, it threw the terms of that longstanding arrangement into question, resulting in long negotiations over how Bexar County should renumerate the city for library services, now that it provided its own. The newly minted plan ensures that citizens in Bexar County will retain access to SAPL’s 26 branches and their printed material, while the county’s savings on slimmer payments will go toward digital content shared between the two systems. That serves the big picture goal of the negotiations, Salazar told LJ: providing more access to library services for everyone in the county.

“The ultimate aim is to maximize access to library resources,” said Salazar. “Ultimately, the organization that originates the funding of those resources matters less to the user than ensuring a robust offering, including all types of resources and services, is available to the public.

How will the new partnership impact library users? Slowly but positively, says Cole. Both systems have already started reviewing their digital offerings to reduce duplication, and she anticipates the new partnership rolling out over the course of the new plan and bringing digital services for SAPL and BiblioTech patrons together more closely.

“Incrementally over the next four years, we will provide a more seamless library experience for patrons, with the goal of eventually creating a joint website for digital services where patrons can enjoy reciprocal borrowing as either a BiblioTech or SAPL patron,” she told LJ.



Cat’s Cradle: A Graphic Adventure | Touch and Go

To, 06/04/2015 - 16:00


Panel from Cat’s Crade, Book 1, The Golden Twine (Kids Can/Animanga Plus) Rioux


Here’s an app based on a graphic novel. “LITE” views of the story are available in both iOS and Android, both offering the entire ebook, but only a few pages of the animated version. Still, the animated version is the one that will give you the best idea of how this story plays on your device.

Cat’s Cradle, Book 1, The Golden Twine (Kids Can Plus/Animanga Plus; iOS $1.99; iOS Free Lite Version; Android $1.99; Android Free Lite Version; Gr 4-6), is the first chapter in a longer tale of Suri, an orphan traveling in a caravan, who dreams of becoming a great monster tamer. Jo Rioux’s middle grade graphic adventure (Kids Can, 2012) is well drawn and engaging, and will leave readers eager for more—despite some technical challenges.

The story can be accessed in either the “Reader” (ebook) or “Panel” (animated) view; there are some drawbacks to the first. In that mode, the screen is not locked into place. If viewers touch it while reading the story, the book will slide around. While this allows children to center the comic on the device, they may find the need to do so, and the movement of the pages, a frustrating experience. Also, while trying to center the pages, a touch to the screen may turn the page prematurely.  A double tap will bring up a navigation bar, where viewers can switch to the “Panel” view.” In this mode, only one page is visible. Spirited voice acting and sound effects, similar to what one finds in anime, are available. Slight animation also occurs in this setting, adding a dimension to the action scenes. The screen automatically advances when the audio reaches the end of the page with “auto-play” on, but readers must tap an arrow to advance in the “Panel” setting. In either mode, a zoom feature is in place. The panels, which vary in size and number from screen to screen, are rich in violet and blue tones, with frequent close-up, dramatic perspectives of the characters.

Animanga Plus appears to offer creators the ability to own their stories and have more control over how they are viewed—a positive development, particularly in the manga comic space. Unfortunately, the viewer experience has a way to go to catch up to other comic book apps such as those found under comiXology. However, young comic fans may not find this a barrier to enjoying Rioux’s enchanting story.–- Mark Richardson, Cedar Mill Community Library, Portland, OR

A trailer of Cat’s Cradle, Book 1: Golden Twine is available.

For additional app reviews, visit our dedicated web page.