books, tech, lessons from a librarian

Tag: creativity

Learning to Fly (and Tweet): Why Twitter?

Robot-and-Bird-03_small-779473ISTE Teacher Standard 3: Model digital age work and learning
Teachers exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society.

According to Wikipedia, Twitter debuted online in July 2006.  More than ten years later, in September 2016, I finally joined the Twitter universe.  The connection to ISTE TS-3 was immediately evident.  As an educator, I’m tasked with preparing students for functioning productively in a global society.  I can’t imagine accomplishing that goal effectively without using the Internet in my teaching.

Recently I worked with a third grade class to help them create a book award of their own.  We had just been studying ALA Caldecott books, Newbery winners, Coretta Scott King honorees, and many others award-winning titles.  My hope was that students would take a more personal view towards evaluating books… it’s okay to have favorites and some books are better than others.   Many students named awards after themselves, a favorite teacher, their pets, a family member.  A few kids thought beyond their sphere of influence, naming their awards after famous authors or their favorite athletes.  As we wrapped up the brief lesson and activity, I noticed the finished award of one boy:twitter2

The “Inspiring and Anti-Cyberbullying Award” was his creation, awarded to a Minecraft-themed book, Invasion of the Overworld by Mark Cheverton.  The student wrote: “I was a cyberbully until I read this book.”  Now, I don’t know Mark Cheverton.  I haven’t read any of his books (though my boys have many times!).  Quite honestly, Invasion of the Overworld is not in my summer reading plans.  I doubt that the author has Newbery Medal aspirations.  With all of that said, it was clear that the student made a connection to the text like few of his peers had been able to do.  

In the past, that would have been the end of things…  I would have sent the finished posters onto the teacher so they could see their students’ work.  I may have posted a few of the most interesting examples in the hallway for other students to see.  Some of the projects may have even found their life briefly extended by being posted on a proud parent’s refrigerator.  Thinking back to ISTE Teacher Standard 3b (“Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation”), though, I quickly came to the realization that Twitter was a perfect vehicle to extend our classroom to the greater community — in this case, the author’s ear.twitter1

Within the same school day, the author had responded to the student’s award.  I immediately printed screenshots of the Twitter conversation for the student to see.  (I’ve had to reprint them twice for him, as the prized printouts seem to develop feet!)  I emailed screenshots to the boy’s parents and his teacher, creating great opportunities to talk about the positive value of social media.  In the days ahead, I used the conversation in related lessons with other library classes, and in response their output and efforts were far more focused than the first class.  Modeling positive interactions such as this one are a powerful responsibility that I’ve overlooked in the past.  In the future, I’m going to make every effort to not miss those kind of opportunities.

In the past school year, the value of Twitter for an educator and librarian has become increasingly clear.  In fact, I’ve gone from avoiding Twitter to having a new issue…  managing multiple Twitter accounts and social media feeds.  My next blog post will explore some the tools that I’ve found to assist with that task.  One of those tools, HootSuite, highlighted some of the reasons for harnessing social media in a classroom setting: (1) Use technology to create a culture of collaboration, (2) Use technology to empower students to contribute, and (3) Remember: students don’t always understand the difference between personal and professional social media use.  My limited time spent exploring Twitter’s strengths has made me feel foolish for avoiding it in the past.  Lesson learned.


Byrne, R. (2015, July 29). Using HootSuite to spread your school’s message. Retrieved from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2015/07/using-hootsuite-to-spread-your-schools.html

Kushin, M. (2014, August 18). How the social media mindset can be an asset to your classroom. Retrieved from https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-the-social-media-mindset-can-be-an-asset-to-your-classroom/

Crompton, H. (2014, July 24). Know the ISTE Standards T3: Model digital age learning. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=109


Student Engagement and Learning: Baby Steps Down the Rabbit Hole

alice1 Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice “without pictures or conversations?”  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful.” Bill Murray as Bob Wiley in What About Bob?

“Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.”  “Blended learning,” Wikipedia entry

The opening line of Carroll’s classic book is a timeless characterization of childhood.  Alice was bored and her patience worn thin. Her boredom soon led her down an unpredictable path of adventure, wherein she learned lifelong lessons and met many unique and wonderful characters along the way.  Many of our students are like Alice.  They’re tired of sitting idly by, and they can’t wait to dive headfirst down a rabbit hole.  But one of the scariest things as an educator is knowing that if you’re going to give your students the freedom to explore, you can’t place enough soft cushions along the way to guarantee a comfortable landing for those in your care.  There are going to be trials and tribulations.  There are going to be bumps and bruises.  But there will also be a plethora of Alice’s wishes: pictures and conversations.  And, most importantly, there will be an abundance of transformational learning.

In this winter quarter of coursework at Seattle Pacific University I’ve been exploring the ISTE Standards for Students.  Student Standard 4: Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making. Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.  My application of this standard led to a question for my students:  How can I introduce the idea of library collection development to 4th and 5th grade students, specifically in regards to supporting their science curriculum needs?

Recently I was privileged to attend the 2016 NCCE Teacher-Librarian Summit and the keynote speaker was Andy Plemmons, an award-winning teacher-librarian from Athens, GA.  Right out of the gate he spotlighted a project from his library that explored this student standard.  In his blog Expect the Miraculous, Plemmons documents a student library collection program at this school.  A group of students develop surveys, gather input, and with the help of book vendors and print catalogs, the select appropriate titles to add to their library’s shelves.  It’s quite telling that of all of the projects that he’s undertaken in the past years (there are many!), Plemmons consistently refers to this student project as his most impactful one.  From NCCE’s website: If you had $1,000 to spend on classroom tools and wanted to make the greatest impact on student learning, how would you spend it? (Plemmons’ response): “Through my student book budget project, I’ve seen what a powerful experience it can be to give students total control over a portion of a budget. By developing surveys, conversing with peers, analyzing data, setting goals, meeting with vendors, making wish lists, and debating a final decision, students become committed to the task and their decisions are respected by the school community. Anytime that students lead the decisions it will have a greater impact on student learning” (Agostinelli, 2016).

Plemmons’ student book project is an example of project-based blended learning unit in a classroom.  Although the teacher-librarian organized the framework for the unit of study, the students were allowed freedoms within that structure.  For example, when the books were received, labeled and ready to put on the library shelves, the students were then responsible for the development and application of a marketing plan.  The freedom to explore ideas and try new things directly resulted in higher student interest and engagement.  Wikipedia’s entry highlights the importance of an underlying structure of a blended learning program, but indeed, the draw for most learners is the “element of student control”.  But taking the first steps into changing the culture and structure of your classroom into a blended model can make teacher and student alike feel a bit like Carroll’s Alice peering down into the unknown of the rabbit hole.

SAMR HaneyIn terms of the SAMR Model of technology integration, a project such as Plemmons’s student library book task extends far beyond enhancement into the area of transformational instruction.  Students are learning in ways that are not possible without technology.  Surveys and data collection, budgeting and spreadsheets, book resource lists (both on- and offline), web conferencing.  Technically all of these could be done with technology, but the reality is that the technology tools provide access to goals that could never be achieved in total in a timely manner by elementary students.

Disappointingly I have not yet introduced the student library book project to my students.  Some of this is due to scheduling and logistics and some is due to fear.  The fears that I need to overcome?  Fear of giving up more control in my classroom.  Fear of possible comments and critique from colleagues or administrators upon seeing the inherent messiness of project-based learning and going off-script from district instructional calendars.  Fear of failure, compared to others — how can I do what Plemmons and others have done when I have a fixed and full schedule with little flexibility?  The very real fear of projects never ending, especially in light of the limited times I see my students each week.    

baby stepsWhen it comes to shifting the model for my classroom, I’m afraid I bear less of a resemblance to Alice and more of a resemblance to Bill Murray’s character Bob in the 1991 comedy What About Bob?  Bob knows what he needs to do, but his fears are getting in the way of living a good life.  Then along comes direction and guidance in the form of a psychiatrist and his self-help book, Baby Steps.  With a constant and simplistic mantra of “baby steps” this and “baby steps” that, soon Bob is rising above his initial fears, achieving goals, and realizing his life’s potential.  So, rather than focusing on fears and excuses, I’m finding that I have to remind myself daily about the importance of baby steps.  Baby steps to producing and posting a introductory video for students to watch on-demand.  Baby steps to building openness for creativity into project planning.  Baby steps to being ready to watch students try and fail and try again.  

The ISTE Student Standards and SAMR model are both important reminders of the importance of students in student learning.  Andy Plemmons and the work that he has shared on his blog are inspirational and insightful.  Edutopia and other educational websites have an abundance of resources to provide guidance for those just starting out with project-based learning and blended education.  Now it’s time for my students and me to take some baby steps to the rabbit hole and beyond.


Agostinelli, M. (2016, February 16). Meet a tech savvy teacher: Andy Plemmons. Retrieved from http://blog.ncce.org/2016/02/16/meet-a-tech-savvy-teacher-andy-plemmons/

Blended learning. (2016). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 2, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blended_learning

Carroll, L. (2015). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Puffin Books.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). Standards for students. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-students

Edutopia. (2015, April 6). Blended learning: Resource roundup. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blended-learning-resources

Plemmons, A. (2015, November 12). Student book budgets 2015-16: Getting started | Expect the miraculous. Retrieved from http://expectmiraculous.com/2015/11/12/student-book-budgets-2015-16-getting-started/

Wong, W. (2014, April 1). How technology enables blended learning | EdTech Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2014/04/how-technology-enables-blended-learning


Marx, S. Down the Rabbit Hole. https://flic.kr/p/67xtJA (CC BY 2.0)

SAMR chart adapted by J. Haney from Dr. R. Puentedura.  http://hippasus.com/blog/archives/227

What About Bob? https://13movies.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/what-about-bob-baby-steps.jpg

Getting Creative With Booktalks

creativity_1ISTE Student Standard 1: Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

Much of my work in the first months of 2016 has been focused on exploring ISTE’s first standard for students and how that should look in an elementary library.  I celebrate the value of creativity every day: when I share stories books with my students; when I introduce them to the work of amazing artists and authors; when I encourage them to think creatively in their search for answers.  But as I have reflected these past weeks, I’ve been reminded of how much more I need to allow for creativity in student work.  

For the past several years our school has followed a morning routine during announcements over the intercom loudspeakers. It is very scripted, and in the past couple of years, most mornings it has also included a student book review. I love that the students are reading and sharing their responses, but I’m hoping to find ways for them to share that aren’t as formulaic and are more memorable. I’m also hoping to involve more 5th graders — there has been little interest on their part with the project as it’s been presented in the past.

Guiding Question:
Using technology, how can fifth grade students create memorable and meaningful book reviews in response to reading and how can these products be shared with a wider audience?

So the question became, what technology could I introduce to the students that would effectively introduce more creativity into the booktalk process?  My goal was guided by Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model.  Augmentation, where tech acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement — I really like the book talk process we’ve started and feel like technology could ramp up the fifth graders’ efforts (Puentedura & SAMR).  

With that in mind, I dove in. I read journal articles. I scoured websites. I scrolled through endless pages of Twitter tweets (feel free to follow me: @JustinHaney509).  A deep wade through a plethora (yes, I would definitely say it was a plethora) of outdated and inactive links did finally yield results when I discovered the work of an amazing team of librarians and technology specialists in the School District of West De Pere in De Pere, Wisconsin.  Their “Book Talks on Air” project and their yearly “Read Across America” project are exactly what I had in mind, though I didn’t know it at the time!  

The next afternoon, about twenty minutes before the final bell, and with no warning for the fifth grade teacher or his students, we dove in.  A student volunteered to give an impromptu book talk using a couple of our Chromebooks and Google Hangouts. Within the next five minutes, the fifth grade students had spent more time than they had all year on book talks, both as participants and as an attentive audience!  


Next Steps

Now that I’ve found a tool that I think will work for sharing students’ work and now that it’s already proven effective in energizing students for the project, I want to explore the book talk process we have in place (written book talk form, with blanks to fill-in, 5-star rating scale) and open up more opportunities for injecting creativity into student products.  P21, or Partnership for 21st Century Learning, highlight the vitalness of creativity and divergence in student learning throughout their student learning framework. Puccio and Figliotti write: “Divergent thinking occurs when we apply the gas pedal to our thinking process and generate lots of options in response to a particular challenge (without taking the time to evaluate them). We race our engine, producing many, varied and original options.” (Puccio & Figliotti, 2014)

I know I am not providing enough opportunities for creativity in my classroom assignments. The ISTE and P21 standards are clear and well-founded in research. So why have I held back on letting go of control? The reasons are many, and the realities can’t be ignored.  As a teacher-librarian, I only see each class once a week, and that’s assuming there are no holidays/field trips/district trainings/etc.  There’s a lot of curriculum to squeeze into the year, and it’s easy for more open-ended projects to quickly extend from weeks into months. And there’s a library system to run and books to shelve…  But the reality is, if we want our students to more fully engage in their learning, it’s time to get creative. Quietly. But not too quietly.


Hemlock Creek Elementary School Library. (n.d.). Book Talks on Air – Hemlock Creek Library. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from https://sites.google.com/a/wdpsd.com/hc-library/events/book-talks-on-air

International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Students. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-students

Puccio, G. J., & Figliotti, J. (2014, April 21). How to foster creativity in the 21st century classroom? – P21. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/news-events/p21blog/1398-how-to-foster-creativity-in-the-21st-century-classroom

Puentedura, R. (2014, September 24). SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy: Assembling the puzzle. Retrieved from https://www.graphite.org/blog/samr-and-blooms-taxonomy-assembling-the-puzzle


Creativity in Progress by Amanda Hirsch; Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0); https://flic.kr/p/5tLtoq  (original image cropped/edited using pixlr.com)

Photos by Justin Haney

Vision and Mission: Create

Many years ago in my undergraduate days at Seattle Pacific University, I was privileged to take part in several classes taught by the late professor of biology, Cynthia Fitch.  A finer teacher I have never met, and her guidance and words have stayed in my heart and mind to this day. Continue reading

© 2018 JustinHaney.org

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑