Model Schools Conference 2014

I was asked to attend the Model Schools Conference this year as a representative from my school.  Never having attended the conference before I had no idea what to expect; however, I was excited to attend because, hello, it was being held in ORLANDO!  Below are the sessions I attended and the notes I took along with any reflections I might have about my experiences.

Keynote: “A Recipe for School Success: Leadership, Literacy, and Laughter,” Dr. Sue Szachowicz

My only note is the quote below.  The rest of the time I enjoyed just listening to her and getting “pumped up” about what was in store for the rest of the conference.

“If your action inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

MSCDigital Badges – Laura Fleming (@nmhs_lms), Session 106

I was pleased to see that there was a session being led by a school librarian and on a topic of interest!  While she did specify that you could use the digital badging for student and staff learning, I was more interested in the application for staff development.  She also indicated that for those who might not be at the ready to jump in and create their own program, you could give teachers her site and they can earn badges through her school.  She’s also willing to give anyone who wants it her digital badge “package” if you want to use it to jump start your own program – so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.  Simply contact her.

  • Worlds of Learning –
  • Worlds of Learning @ New Milford High School: Digital Badges in Professional Learning -
  • credits for learning:
    • in & out of school learning (community service)
    • informal & formal learning
    • earned anytime/anywhere
    • shared on websites, portfolios, resumes, college admission process, social media profiles…
  • Siloed Badge Issuers = badges can’t be shared; badges can only be displayed in the platform where you earned them. ex: Smore, Edmodo, Kahn Academy.
  • Open Badges can be shared/displayed anywhere.  Badge creation examples:
  • Job embedded coaching and collaboration for LMS
  • Badge Platform (WordPress plugin) –
  • Examples of badge earner programs that have been developed:
  • Allows participants to choose what they want to learn, when they want to learn it.
  • If you use Credly, you can design your own badges and upload to the site – for example, have your students (art students) design your badges and upload!

Nextpert, Session 112

Was a 15 minute demo session and was too fast for me to really get a sense of the program.  Also, I have to say we’ve been burned by lesson plan/standards programs in the past so I may not have been in the best frame of mind to give it the attention it deserved.  What I observed are lesson plans and assessments pre done/provided through Nextpert.

Brockton HS, Session 14

This HS was heralded as the “model” for what could be accomplished and how to turn around a school.  The keynote speaker, Dr. Sue Szachowicz, was the principal at one time.  I was particularly interested in attending to learn more about their literacy model.  Instead, the focus was on discussion how the school is organized and on faculty professional development.  This is all I have in my notes.

  • Student council meets with the principal once a week.
  • Teachers are required to do the chosen skill (designated/targeted skill that was undertaken in that year’s professional development) once a year and is scheduled by subject (documented in lesson plan – should appear in lesson plan at the designated time in the calendar year) and the student work is collected.  The work is reviewed by teachers, department heads, asst. principals and at faculty meetings.

I understand my principal did purchase the book, so I’m hoping there is more information about the literacy program in there.  Literacy/reading level is of a particular concern for us as our students have such poor reading skills – and we all agree that if students can’t read, they can’t succeed!

“Transforming a Culture,” Session #21, Al Fabrizio, Principal, Martin County High School, Stuart FL

This session made me think my school is already on the right course of action.  It was all about data and tracking student progress.  Identifying at-risk students and meeting their needs to help ensure they succeed.

  • Today’s Meet –  we were asked to in a handful of words define the term “culture”
  • Tweet at hashtag: #isitgoodforkids
  • Culture is: Heart and soul of the school. – “the way we do things around here’
  • “It’s up to me!” is the driving statement/mission for the school.  The one for this session is “Is it good for kids?”
  • Discipline Matrix – all students held accountable equally
  • Holds class assemblies
  • Student Policy Awareness Presentations w/ Student & Parent signatures

Creating Classroom Community to Motivate and Engage, Session #63, Jacob Clifford – [email protected]

Confession, I had to leave this session early to meet with my principal.  There were supposed to be 10 principals and I only got to 6!!  Sorry!  This is another speaker who I’d love to hear/experience more of his workshops!

  • Engaging and Motivating Students
  • Think of your favorite class ever. What made that class so special?1.Community: The students had respect and positive attitude towards you and their peers. That class was comfortable and fun.  2. Buy-In
  • Teachers are in Sales – not teaching.  You have to sell it to you students.
  • First day give them your first lesson that is the coolest thing possible.  Not the syllabus and dos and don’ts  This way they buy into the subject.
  1. Emphasize the BIG PICTURE.    Not knowing – Pete Homes video -  If very few of our students will use the content we teach every day, what do you REALLY want your students to walk away with?  Bigger picture than the content.
  2. Acknowledge and correct their misconceptions.
  3. Give them problems/puzzles to solve
  4. Teach essential skill with experiential learning activities – (learning by doing).  Skill – mastering skills requires practice.  Don’t give up when it gets hard.  Skill – get the job done first then celebrate.  Finish strong.
  5. Make and honor a contract.  No busy work is the biggie – everything you give them is designed to support the content and skills students need to learn and know.
  6. Focus on growth and progress.  Have students pair up and complete exam correction sheets.  Posting Exam Results so students know where they fall in the class average.

Digital Artifacts, Session #110, Gregg McGough, Penn Manor High School

This was supposed to be a 15 minute session, but I could tell he could spend hours and we’d sit and soak up whatever he had to share.  He went way over his time, but I had to run to catch my next session!

  • Aurisma app – hold it over a $20 bill (back) plays music and animates.  Front just shuffles the bill.
  • Evernote – where his students take notes
  • Google Docs – where his students submit documents
  • crowdsourcing is an expansion of responsibility – Jeremy Jernigan not direct quote
  • Digital Globe -
  • First Attempt In Learning (FAIL)
  • Zooniverse -

What’s Your Mobile Strategy? – Session #47, Jim Warford (@jimwarford),

This was the session description: bolding and CAPS for emphasis is mine, not in the original description…

“What does it take to integrate technology into every classroom? In this HANDS-ON session, Jim Warford will provide the MATERIALS and RESOURCES to do just that, including DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS for using social media and a technology TOOLBOX for teachers and students.  Participants should bring smartphones or tablets to use in the session (WIRELESS INTERNET NOT PROVIDED).”

Okay, first off, no hands on, no materials, resources, detailed instructions, or a toolbox provided.  And second, this was a lecture and/or antidotal on how schools should be moving toward using mobile devices in schools.  And then to not have internet in the session room …. not good, but then since the session failed to live up to it’s hype I guess the lack of internet wasn’t a great loss except it meant I didn’t have it to distract me.  Yes, I’m being harsh, but to say I was disappointed is an understatement.  If you’re going to advertise the above, you should provide at least SOME of what you promise.  That all said, Jim Warford is an engaging and entertaining speaker and if it the description hadn’t promised one thing I might have enjoyed the session for his delivery alone.

  • TodaysMeet –

Final thoughts:

Overall, while this was an enjoyable experience, I felt that most of what I heard my school/principal is already undertaking: focus on data collection, tracking, reading/literacy development, etc.  The sessions were more of an “overview” and not enough of a “hands-on” or something for me to take back and implement in my “classroom.”  It was more of a theoretical or abstract and I guess I’m used to attending my own technology and media specialist/librarian conferences that are skills and “tools” based so this is a bit out of my element.  Or I guess it was a 50/50 split between what I’m used to and the more “abstract.”  I’m not sure I’m the best person to have been asked to attend, but I don’t guess it was a complete waste of my school’s dime!  I did learn a few things that I want to give try or at least attempt to develop this year!

Summer Reading

Summer Reading 2014

“So many books, so little time!”

One of my goals has been to get back into reading young adult literature.  I’d been in a slump, or should I say disappointed with what I’d been reading, so haven’t been reading like a good YA librarian should.  To that end here are the ones I picked up to give a go and have read so far this summer:

1. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (4 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic fiction; PTSD]

Uhm, read it a LONG while ago, so don’t remember any pertinent details, just that it was good, not as good as some of her other books (ie: Speak), but still definitely worth purchasing.

2. Forgive Me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (3 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic fiction]

This was a VERY well written book and I have my own reasons, not to do with the plot/issue of the story, of why I didn’t give it a higher rating.  If anyone is interested in why I didn’t give it a higher rating, ask me in the comments and I’ll email you.  My answer has the potential to spoil the ending for those who may want to read the book and I hate spoilers so I wont do that to anyone else!!

3. Love in the Time of Global Warming by Franchesca Block (DNF); [science fiction; survival fiction; magic realistic fiction]

Okay, this one I just couldn’t get into – mostly due to the back and fourth “fantasy/reality” passages and as you really need to know/understand some mythology (I guess) to “get it” and I just didn’t feel like I wanted to put in that much effort in my summer reading!  Sorry!  This wasn’t my “cup of tea”!  Maybe others will enjoy it as I know she’s a popular YA author.

4. How to Love by Katie Cotugno (3 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic fiction; teen pregnancy]

Good, but not great.  I like that the main character accepts responsibility for her actions; however, I don’t believe that it accurately depicts the hardships single parents face – she had it too easy!  This also borders on a New Adult(ish) title since half the book is while the main character is out of high school flashing back to high school and how she became pregnant so I don’t know that it is a true YA title in my opinion.

5. Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young (4 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic/science fiction; romance]

Reminded me of a YA version of the movie “Sliding Doors” – what happens if you make one decision/choice over another?  Does it lead to the same conclusion/fate?  I didn’t always like the choices Caroline made, in either “reality”, but overall I liked the book.

6. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales (4 out of 5 stars); [contemporary; realistic fiction; bullying; romance]

Really liked the positive aspect of the adults in the main character’s life – didn’t stay in the background/absentee as in most YA, but took active roll!  Adults aren’t the enemy!

7. The Gaged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni (4 out of 5 stars); [historical fiction; mystery; romance]

Very interesting that the story is based on true account of caged graves!  Who ever heard of such a thing?  Weird.

8. Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel (4 out of 5 stars); [historical fiction; mystery; espionage; romance]

I would have given it even higher marks; however, this isn’t a YA book in my opinion.  This reads like a regular romance novel that happens to have a teenage protagonist.  It has very sexual undertones: an attempted rape; mentions of the kings mistress; witnessing a lovers tryst; etc.  While nothing overt/explicit, it is more adult in content and in writing style/language than most of my teens would be willing to invest.  That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and WILL be recommending it to my teen girls who like romance and mysteries.

9. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason (3 out of 5 stars); [steampunk; historical fiction; science fiction; romance; mystery; fantasy]

This book tired to be too many things and just didn’t work for me.  Overall, it is an okay story/mystery, but it just tried too hard to do too much at once.

Okay, that’s it for now, but I have a whole bunch more on my TBR pile.  I’ll post those as I get to them!  What have you been reading?

Photo credit: “So many books, so little time!” photograph by Heather Loy, 7/11/2014.

Technology Tools I Can’t Live Without

… Or technology I use daily.

I’ve been asked what technology I use and/or couldn’t live without. So here goes.  I doubt anything here is surprising. 


Yep.  I’m still the “email queen” and it is my preferred method of communication. Don’t call or txt me – shoot me an email.  Yes, I have an iPhone, but I rarely use it as an actual phone!  I use it as an alarm clock, to tweet and to check email!  I check email first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to bed!  Yep, addicted.  I have a work email account, a mac account, and a gmail account that all have email coming in that have to be monitored!


The device I use daily.  Even more than I need my iPhone (or any cell phone).  See above.  Okay, I’m going to say something most librarians are going to want to hurt me.  I’d rather read on my iPad than pick up a book!  There I said it.  Holding the iPad is so much easier than holding a book!  Lighter too in a lot of cases (Diana Gabaldon’s WIMOHB is going to be 864 pages and 3.1lbs!)  Plus I can have a whole series on the device and in my purse than packing the hardcopies in my suitcase for spring break this week!  Since getting the iPad it has almost replaced my Macbook.  Almost.

Macbook Pro

I haven’t had a personal desktop computer in over 5 years and haven’t missed it once.  I also haven’t missed switching from PC to Mac. As I alluded to early, since getting an iPad, I’ve not been using this as the workhorse as much as I have in the past.  It is still my go to device for creation, but not so much for consuming.  I still need a keyboard to type!  My Mac is getting some age (keys are fading and one popped off – good old superglue to the rescue) and it needs memory & processor upgrades.  I’m saving up to get a new one instead as a Christmas present to myself.  I figure I’ll upgrade to better memory, processor, and other internal stuff , but downgrade in size. I don’t need the large 15 inch model I currently have that weighs a ton. I still use the Mac for: documents; spreadsheets; presentations; photo editing; senior video creation; etc.

RSS: Darn you Google for killing Google Reader, but hallelujah for Feedly (on iPad)

RSS has been a godsend in my life.  I follow hundreds of blogs, news feeds, and websites and having to check each originating site was a pain.  RSS allows all of the new content to come to me instead!  As I said, I follow 100s of RSS feeds and I typically read only about half of what is there.  I treat it like a newspaper – scan headlines and pics to see what strikes my fancy.  The rest I “mark all read” as I just don’t have the time to spend reading it all.  I figure I follow enough teacher, librarian, & education folks that I’ll catch the important stuff sooner or later from one of them.  That’s the perk and downside to following these folks – something “new” or “it” will be blasted by all of them sooner or later!  I love how Feedly arranges the posts in a “magazine” like layout for some and lists for others to make it easy for me to scan and for a more natural and appealing experience. I also love that it allowed me to transfer all of my Google Reader feeds directly so no setup hassle for me when Google let me down.

Dropbox & Evernote

I’m often asked why I have/use both?  Don’t they do the same thing?  Answer: NO!  Dropbox is my place to store files I need to access from more than one place (home, work, iDevice, etc.)  Things like forms, spreadsheets, PPTs, documents, etc. that I refer to and update frequently.  Dropbox is my cloud file/storage cabinet.  I have to say I’m a fan of the referral process to get more free storage so haven’t felt the need to upgrade.  

I use Evernote to store my ideas, lists, important emails, notes to myself, pdfs and articles I want to read later, links or what others call favorites or bookmarks, reminders, etc.  It is also my “archival” system.  With Evernote I can search for a keyword or tag to quickly find something.  Full disclosure, I am a “pro” member of Evernote – most folks can get by with the free version, but I wanted access to all the bells and whistles!

As a side note, I could NOT have planned the SCASL Annual Conference in 2012 without the combination of email, Dropbox and Evernote to keep me sane and organized.  


Thankfully the two main calendars we use at school have an iCal feed.  Those plus my own created calendars help ensure I don’t forget any important dates, meetings, or events.  I also love the ability to add an alarm to shoot me an email reminder!  However, I’m still having to use a PAPER scheduler to keep track of library scheduling.  Sigh.  I haven’t found an electronic version that can accurately keep up with the library schedule – at least one my FACULTY will actually use.  We’ve recently moved to Office365 and I’m hoping to move our labs and library schedules to the shared calendar features there as I’m hoping it will be a more accessible and easy to collaborate/use calendar for my faculty.

eBook Readers

I use a variety of ebook readers (Kindle, Nook, Overdrive, iBooks, Bluefire Reader, Reader, Kobo, Stanza, ComiXology, Follett Enlight, & Mackinvia) as I’ve been buying ebooks since they first starting appearing commercially.  I purchased one of the first Sony eReader on the market (and I’m not too pleased with them “going out of business” in the US and switching to Kobo – no offense to Kobo).  The bulk of my books; however, are through the Kindle (Amazon).  I also check out quite a bit through my local library using the Overdrive service.  Yay!  This is especially handy now that I’ve rejoined the SC Young Adult Book Award committee and have 100 books to read that I don’t want to have to go buy.  Quite a few are available as ebooks!


I also purchase and listen to quite a few audiobooks.  The ones I don’t borrow from the public library I purchase through Audible or iTunes depending upon who has the better price at the moment.  And every summer for the past few Audiobooksync has been running a promotion giving away two free audiobooks each Thursday.  A classic paired with a contemporary.  They start up in May!  Be sure to get on their notification list!  


We subscribe to a few magazines at school that allows me to access them on my iPad (School Library Journal; The Week; & Entertainment Weekly) and I’ve subscribed to others in the past.  I’m not completely sold on the reading magazines on the iPad; however, I do find it convenient sometimes.