The Books Moved

My last post threw out some thoughts on student reading, and their struggling with endurance. 

I have a few more things up my sleeve for the future (cough…a seminar reading program) but I first decided to move things around in the library to facilitate easier browsing and more comfortable surroundings to encourage long-form reading.

Shelving fiction in genres is nothing new- many libraries have made the shift, but many are still considering it. I did see circulation statistics rise when I moved things at my old school and I do believe that that type of shelving fosters browsing. Many things can impact circulation statistics, of course, but the rise I saw, paired with anecdotal feedback from many many students about it being “easier to find books” has convinced me that moving to fiction genres for shelving is the way to go here at Northwest.

I got lucky.

The librarian that preceded me here had already placed genre stickers on the spines of every single fiction book:

  • Fantasy
  • Realistic
  • Sports
  • Mystery/horror
  • Humorous
  • Historical
  • Adventure
  • Romance

You can see the multicolored stickers here:


So it was a matter of moving all 12,000 books. I switched the fiction section so that it was closer to the door and main area of the library, which meant all of them had to move. Here’s the result:


It took 10 book trucks and three weeks. I only accidentally dumped a truck once:


Once the books were moved, it was a matter of putting up signage to help students find what they are in the mood for:

Final result with signage:


Now I’m working on getting each book’s section input into the sublocation field in Destiny, our library automation software.

The payoff?

Just yesterday, when students were in the library for enrollment, Ms. Koeningsdorf came over to tell me that her students were remarking that “it is going to be so much easier to find books now!”

Totally worth it.


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On Student Reading, and Endurance

Hello again, world. It has been a while since I have kept up with this blog in a consistent manner, but after attending the METC Conference a few weeks ago, I have been inspired to begin writing here again as a reflection of my own work, and to hopefully let my teachers know what is going on in the library and how I can help them.

First off, I am at Shawnee Mission Northwest now, so any posts that you see here before this one reflect my work at my previous school.

So let’s talk about reading. Student reading, to be specific. 

There are a wealth of depressing statistics about the decline of teen reading over the past few decades. Time Magazine and CommonSense Media report that “45% of 17-year-olds saying they read by choice only once or twice a year” and that “the proportion who “never” or “hardly ever” read [has] tripled since 1984.”


Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr Creative Commons

The pressing problem that our teachers anecdotally report is that students struggle to stay with any lengthier piece of text: novels, articles any longer than one page or so.

We are living in a bite-sized media environment. 140 characters, no-wait, that’s too long, Instagram instead. Snapchat.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, eloquently describes this phenomenon:


Students DO read A LOT via their connected lives. But it is a different kind of reading. Short. Linked. Jump from this to that.

Just as we are asking students to think more deeply, their lives are telling them that there is no time for that:

Wake up, don’t be tardy to school, shush-up-we-have-a-lot-to-cover-before-the-state-or-AP-assessments, GO-be on time to work/practice/watch your siblings, quick-gobble some dinner before a few hours of homework, go to bed-you aren’t getting enough sleep already, wake up and do it all again. Oh, wait- figure out where you can cram in community service, scholarship applications, clubs and activities, time with your family/friends, OHHHHH, what’s that? Neeettflixx. Time to daydream or be creative? Pffft. Gonna need to create a time-manipulation machine for that.

So how do we help students re-gain their reading endurance? We have to decide if it is a priority, and we have to give them TIME.

Our cross-country team is historically very successful. Roughly 33 state titles in 46 years. GO COUGARS! The coaching staff doesn’t take new runners and throw them out in the street to run 6 miles on their first day of practice. That would result in injuries, burnout, and copious profanity.

We need to scaffold our way back to reading endurance. We need to surround students with quality, high-interest reading material, and we need to give them TIME to select and read. 

For instance: 8 minutes the first two weeks, then 15 minutes for a couple of weeks, then 20, then 30, then 45. Or faster/slower depending on the makeup of the class and progress. This does not mean reading out loud as a group; this means independent reading.

50% reading for pleasure: student choice (developing endurance and fluency), 50% content-based academic reading.

But finding the time is a tough balance. Every curricular area is packed to the gills with standards. So it comes down to time-budgeting priorities. It is clear that reading ability has a huge impact on success in life. Perhaps more than any other factor. It is worth remembering this as we decide where we budget class time.

This is too complex a topic to cover in one blog post. Here and here are a couple of great books that provide a more comprehensive look at things.

Next post will be on how I’ve reorganized the library to try to help students more easily find reading material that they want to read.


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Visit to Cerner’s Innovation Campus

I’m dusting off the ol’ blog for this one. Mrs. McPherson and I took sixteen students to Cerner’s Innovation Campus, which is their technology center. The goal was to generate excitement for technology centered careers and to get a realistic look at what the work environment of a tech career looks like.

We started with Brittni Kingston presenting to the group about Cerner’s “dev culture.”

photo 11

The presentation had a retro gaming theme, which was perfect for high school students, as many in our group are gamers. She highlighted some of the ways that Cerner creates an exciting culture for software development including:

  • Conferences and other continual learning experiences  (Cerner’s DevCon looks like a lot of fun: Lego theme! One of our students asked whether it is open to the public. He was bummed to learn that it is not.)
  • Code retreats: on campus with catered food; centered on programming and problem solving
  • Hack nights: hardware hacking, circuit boards, app building; general tinkering
  • Meetups for communication across a large campus
  • Blogs:
  • Tech talks:
Loved the gaming theme!

Loved the gaming theme!

Next, students divided into two groups for a question/answer session with Andy, a software architect, and Brandon, who develops Cerner’s Java application. They discussed various aspects of a job in software development: typical day, tasks, education needed, and skills needed.





Then we finished up with a tour of the campus, including the gym, work areas, cafe, meeting rooms, and showcase rooms. Students LOVED seeing the work areas with their developers cranking out code in jeans, on bean bags, in a stunning environment. WHITE BOARDS EVERYWHERE. Floor-to-ceiling whiteboards; white boards as scratch paper; even TABLES that are white boards. All filled with brainstorming, flow patterns, and code. Kind of makes me want to install whiteboards all over the library.

photo 4


Intense coding going on here, for sure

Intense coding going on here, for sure

Gaming theme in the lounge area

Client demonstration areas

Client demonstration areas

Liz, with whom I coordinated this visit, told students all about Cerner’s internship opportunities and a few students have already told me that they are planning on looking into applying in the future.

A number of the students were buzzing about the campus as we left, so I would call this visit a success in terms of our goals to generate excitement about tech careers!

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Student blogging

Hello Piper teachers- I realize I’ve been completely slacking in my mission to highlight tools with classroom application for you this semester. I’ll do better next semester, I promise.

Mike Licht, Flickr Creative Commons

For today, I thought I’d call blogging to your attention. A few benefits to student blogging:

  • Authentic writing and reflection (Trying to get your students to write for an audience? Want them to reflect on an article, a current event, results of an experiment? )
  • Students can read and respond to classmates’ work and writing
  • Students can learn using a digital method of communication- skills they will need in many careers
  • Students can build a positive online portfolio and digital footprint

Most blogs are blocked by the filter, but James has set up hosted WordPress blogging, which means that student accounts are hosted on a district server and are therefore not blocked.

I used blogging with my Information and Society students this semester, and it worked well. We worked on questioning and inquiry, discussion reflection, and tool reviews. We also had to constantly revisit the need to give credit to image sources, but they started to get the hang of it.

I would be happy to set up blog accounts for your students and help to get the process off the ground- as always, let me know!

Please feel free to take a look at my students’ work:

Student Blog Links

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Book Tasting

One drawback to shelving fiction by genre is that students can get stuck in their preferred genre and miss out on some really amazing books from other genres. Next semester, I have plans for “Book Tasting” events, in which students sit in tables of four, have four bite-sized samples of foods (made by Mrs. Carlton’s Foods students) lined up in front of them, and four books from varying genres. They sample the first book and food for seven minutes. Then, they switch to the next; repeat. The hope is that students will get hooked on and want to finish books that they may never have given a chance otherwise.

On Friday, I did a trial run with my Information & Society class, only with candy instead of foods. Each book station looked like this:

The tables looked like this:

And students absorbed in reading looked like this:

I asked for feedback since they were my guinea pigs and they reported that:

  1. They liked the activity
  2. Many found books that they loved and want to finish reading
  3. Many found books that they hated and really don’t want to finish
  4. Seven minutes was just about right to get a taste for the book without getting fidgety

After they read for seven minutes, I gave them two to three minutes to fill this form out for each book to help them remember what they read for later:

I can’t wait to do the full activity with real food on a broader scale!

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Cerner Guest Speakers- Info Management at Work!

My Information & Society class was lucky to have four visitors from Cerner yesterday. The company is slated to open two huge buildings near the Legends shopping center in our district in the next year or so, and will become a fairly major presence in our community. That, combined with their focus on information, made them a perfect fit for our class!

Free Cerner earbuds for good questions!

Elise, Mark, Melissa, and Drew were engaging, humorous, and informative, even handing out earbuds to students who asked good questions and t-shirts for everyone! The students responded really well to their talk, and took away relevant new knowledge.

A few things that stood out and tied with our course curriculum:

  • Mission statement: “Health care is too important to stay the same.” (Ties with our discussions about how fast the information and tech world moves- need to constantly innovate)
  • Growth to a multi-national corporation (reflective of the Global emphasis)
  • Phase 1 was getting data into the system;  New phase is getting the data out and making use of it
  • Taking vast amounts of data points and processing them to make diagnoses, etc (Sepsis program)
  • Data center building- the “cloud”; security (reinforced concrete walls, natural disaster proof); IT side- firewalls, redundant storage and pathways

I was especially proud of my students for their focus and the intelligent and thoughtful questions asked: (I’m paraphrasing from memory)

  • How do you keep the information in the cloud secure and confidential?
  • What happens when one of your servers fails?
  • What if someone goes to a hospital not in your network and the medical professionals need access to their records?
  • Why did you choose Prezi for your presentation and not Powerpoint?
  • How does management of healthcare information affect someone my age?

Many thanks to Elise, Mark, Melissa, and Drew for such an entertaining, inspiring,  and educational visit!

Free Cerner tee-shirts!

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The NOOKs are here!

Our principal, Mr. Conrad, has generously purchased four e-readers for student use.

I chose the Barnes and Noble NOOK Simple Touch Reader for a number of reasons:

1. Institutional accounts are not one-to-one for our small amount of devices, the way that the Kindle is. Meaning, the 20 e-books that I purchased are accessible on all four devices, because they are all registered to our single account. My B & N rep did warn me, however, that that may change in the future.

2. The Simple Touch does not have a browser and students are not able to purchase content since they cannot get on our school protected wireless network without a password, which is guarded like the crown jewels around here.

3. B & N e-books are in ePub format, which is less proprietary and incompatible the way that Kindle’s .azw format is. I’m hoping that is a signal that B & N has an inkling to work with schools and libraries, since the devices that students learn on in school will likely form habits for future purchasing decisions…

We purchased 20 titles from varying genres and currently have them available for use in the library. As we get our feet wet with this and get the word out to students, we will probably expand the program into a checkout option. We will likely do so with parent permission and agreement of responsibility.

So far, students have expressed quite a bit of interest and I hear a lot of “These are cool!” statements as they play with them.

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Information & Society- what we’ve been doing

When the course was approved last year, I had grand visions of being able to manage and administer a library program without assistance, manage textbook distribution for the whole school, create and teach Info & Society from scratch, and still manage to blog following each lesson reporting on lesson plans and what worked.

Yeah, right!

So, though I’ve been remiss in reporting on our classroom activities so far, I am going to do so in one fell swoop in this post.

1. We started the year making a master list of all sources of information that students could come up with. Students ranked them in terms of reliability/authority.

2. In continuing with the evaluating information theme, students were divided into four groups for their first “ON THE FLIP SIDE” topic, which was global warming. The idea was that students would research the same types of information with the same guidelines, and would present to the class using that information to persuade that: Global warming is a human-made phenomenon OR Global warming is simply part of a natural temperature cycle. Students then voted on which group made the best/most persuasive use of their researched information.

This helped students to see that information and statistics can be selected, used, and manipulated toward a particular agenda. A couple of mistakes I made this round: I did not have students take notes while their classmates presented. It would have worked much better if they had jotted down what it was about each group’s presentation and info that was persuasive so that the discussion afterward would have been more effective.

Docs used:

3. Students set up accounts on iGoogle, Delicious, and set up hosted blogs with WordPress. Students selected “Personal Interest Topics” and gathered RSS feeds on their topic in iGoogle, bookmarked and tagged links in Delicious, and wrote inquiry posts on their topic on WordPress. These items are ongoing, and will hopefully set up the foundation for students taking the initiative to set up and use personal learning networks even after they leave this class.

4. We began a two-week long discussion unit on various topics. All involved subject introduction, article reading and annotation, and discussion either in online format or face to face, Socratic Seminar style.

First topic: Freedom of Information/Access

Intro info:

View more presentations from Stigge
Articles read and annotated before discussion:
Second topic: Hacktivism
Articles used:
Third topic: Privacy
Articles used:
Facebook (CNN)
Socratic style discussion used for this topic.
Upcoming: Information Organization unit, How Search Engines Work, Search Engine Optimization/Content Farming, and then Digital Communications unit.


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Presenting, Prezi

Judging by the number of teachers that requested last year that I work with their students on improving Powerpoint presentations, I can infer two things:

1. “Present to the class” assignments are popular

2. And yet, you all as teachers aren’t terribly impressed with your students’ presentations.

So I will offer today an alternative to Powerpoint presentation software: web-based Prezi.

Prezi is a cloud based presentation editor, which means that presentations are created and stored online, rather than on a hard drive PC or student H drive.


  • It is different than Powerpoint, which alone can help to break student Powerpoint dependancy (slide after slide of bulleted lists read to the audience)
  • It allows for easy embedding and showing of YouTube videos
  • Because of the way you create presentations, it requires critical thinking about sequencing of the information presented


  • Students have to create their own accounts, which can lead to forgotten passwords, etc
  • There is a definite learning curve because it is so different from Powerpoint (which students have used so many times at this point)
  • Free accounts that your students would create default to public, which means that their presentations are open for the world to see
  • Presentations are saved online, which means that if the site is having server issues, students wouldn’t be able to present
  • There is a way to download and save a version of the presentation, but I am fairly unfamiliar with the process and know that it saves in zipped form

Here is a simple sample Prezi presentation that I created to work with Mrs. Sadrakula’s Leadership students:

(the image is linked to see the full presentation)

As always, let me know if you would like me to introduce your students to this tool!

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Helping students save and organize info on the web- Delicious!

I want to highlight the web tool Delicious today and outline potential uses for students. Delicious is called a social bookmarking service, but has so many potential uses in the classroom. Basically, it allows the saving of bookmarks, only unlike doing so in your browser, you can access your bookmarks on any computer- home, school, laptop, library desktop- wherever! Other features that enhance classroom use:

  • You (students) can ‘tag’ bookmarks with descriptors to facilitate organization and retrieval (by unit of study, by paragraph subtopic in essay writing research, etc)
  • Students can discover new websites and resources by looking at what others have bookmarked with descriptive tags
  • You could have students bookmark webpages that you would like them to read and/or visit throughout the year

To give you an idea, take a look at my Delicious account:

I know, I'm a nerd.

My students in Information & Society have set up accounts with the purpose of gathering information about a Personal Interest Topic that they have chosen. Throughout the semester, they will be adding bookmarks, tagging them for organization, reading and learning more about their topic and reflecting on their learning growth within the topic. Those that are seniors are using Delicious to gather Senior Project information.

Already, a number of them are venturing beyond the assignment requirements and are saving and organizing other links beyond their Personal Interest Topic. THEY ARE CHOOSING TO SAVE, ORGANIZE, PRIORITIZE, AND MANAGE THEIR OWN INFORMATION!! ON THEIR OWN!!

As always, please contact me if you would like me to help you make use of this tool with your students!

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