Category Archives: Schools

Digital Resources for Student Collaboration

Reposted from Colorado Virtual Library
By Christine Schein, Digital Literacy Instructional Specialist at Colorado Department of Education

“Collaboration is essential in our classrooms because it is inherent in the nature of how work is accomplished in our civic and workforce lives. Fifty years ago, much work was accomplished by individuals working alone, but not today. Much of all significant work is accomplished in teams, and in many cases, global teams.” The National Education Association, An Educator’s Guide to the “Four C’s “

Here are some educational technology tools to use with students allowing them to collaborate and think about the power of collaboration.

Book Creator – “Book Creator is a simple tool for creating awesome digital books. Create your own teaching resources or have your students take the reins.” Have students collaborate in creating a digital book – for the class, with a partner, or with a group.

Breakout EDU – Breakout EDU is an immersive learning game platform that brings the challenges of an escape room to the classroom promoting critical thinking and collaboration skills.

Breakout EDU Free Games – Learn how to sign up to access free games

Breakout EDU Digital SandBox – online breakout games developed by fellow educators for free!

FlipGrid – Every student has a voice, so let’s amplify! Students record short, authentic videos and can reply to each other’s videos. Educators are 100% in control with video moderation, access controls, and much more. “Flipgrid is jam-packed with features you’ll love like video downloads, stickers & drawings, custom assessment rubrics, video feedbackMixTapes,

Topic invites, private share linksVibes, and more! The entire #FlipgridFever community is here to support you!” – FlipGrid

GridPals  – Take your classroom global and connect with another educator to set up a #GridPals collaboration. Check out this amazing GridPals guide created by the first ever GridPal, Bonnie McClelland!

Google Apps for Education – “The Google Drive apps enable students and teachers to collaborate more effectively on papers, spreadsheets, and presentations. The beauty of the Google Suite for Education is: several people can contribute simultaneously, so it’s truly designed for collaboration.”

Kahoot – makes it easy to create, share and play fun learning games or trivia quizzes in minutes. 

“Boost collaboration through encouraging students to be the leaders and “quiz-makers”: to research, create, and present their own quizzes to the class.” (GoGuardian)

NowComment  – Online comment application –  Teachers can control when comments can be made on a document and when students can see each others’ comments, thus creating a period of time when students can share opinions without seeing what others say. Teachers can also have students upload their own documents for group projects or peer-reviewed activities.

Skype – Skype in the Classroom is a free community that offers live transformative educational experiences for students including Virtual Field Trips, talks from Guest Speakers, classroom to classroom connections, and live collaboration projects.

Padlet – Padlet is a “virtual wall” which promotes collaboration, communication, creativity and more because of its versatility. Students can write a response to a discussion question, add resources for a collaborative class project, work in small groups, use it for brainstorming or connect with other students and classrooms.

Teachers can create special brainstorm sessions where they invite students to discuss some topics, all with excellent opportunities provided by Padlet, such as sharing Internet findings, ideas, and visual aids.

Visit CommonSense Media at Find an EdTech Tool for more ideas and reviews of tech tools for your classroom. EdShelf will also provide ideas, reviews, and recommendations for education tech tools.

Upcoming Webinar: Summer ILL and Chill

This event has been canceled.

In the meantime, we’d like to recommend you take a look at this video of School Library Resources — you’ll find much of the same information that had been planned for the June 25 webinar. You can download the slides here.

Summertime for school librarians is not just time off. It’s also time to reflect on the past school year and prepare for the upcoming year. Join Paige Bredenkamp, School Library Consultant for the Wyoming State Library, for her free webinar “Summer: Time to ILL and Chill,” on Tuesday, June 25, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. MDT.

Paige will share resources from the WSL that you can use when developing your plan for next year. She’ll also talk about how to use the statewide interlibrary loan system that lets you access books from any library in Wyoming, including the librarian’s professional collection at the State Library.

This event will be recorded and posted to the Wyoming State Library’s webinars index for later viewing.

Have questions in your school library? The WSL can help. Contact Paige Bredenkamp, School Library Consultant, at or (307) 777-6331.

Innovations for School Libraries

Found in the Big Deal Media K-12 Technology newsletter.

Google Earth Quiz Blending History and Geography
Tucked inside Google Earth is a geography quiz created in partnership with Atlas Obscura. The Natural Wonders Quiz is a multiple-choice challenge that asks students to identify special locations around the world.

Comic Books Raising Awareness of Basic Economic Principles
The New York Federal Reserve Bank’s Educational Comic Book Series teaches students about basic economic principles and the Federal Reserve’s role in the financial system.

Game Stimulating Productive Dialogue About Race and Ethnicity
Developed by a cultural anthropologist, the two-player Who Am I? Race Awareness Game is designed to stimulate a productive dialogue between adults/educators and children regarding the complex and sensitive issues of race and ethnicity in a multicultural world.

Innovations for School Libraries

Found in the Big Deal Media K-12 Technology newsletter.

Game Integrating Computational Thinking and Environmental Problem Solving
The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) pioneered Design–Make–Play, a novel approach to learning and engagement, drawing on deeper learning research and supporting the creation of learning experiences that develop critical thinking, knowledge integration, innovation, and creativity skills.

Assessments for Evaluating Historical Thinking
The Olympics Protest is a new assessment from the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) that gauges whether students can identify the historical event depicted in an iconic photograph and evaluate its historical significance. Successful students will draw on their knowledge of the past to identify American track athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising their fists to protest racial injustice while on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics and then explain how the event was historically significant.

Documentary Illustrating Storytelling and Meaning Making with Children
Eric Carle, Picture Writer: The Art of the Picture Book is a 32-minute portrait of Eric Carle, creator of more than 70 books for children, including the bestselling classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In this documentary, Carle methodically layers a tissue paper collage of the caterpillar, pours over thumbnail sketches, and ruminates on drafts of his books.

Learn and Connect at School Library Summit

The Wyoming Library Association Conference has a special pre-conference just for those working in school libraries. The School Library Summit will be held on August 7, 2019, at Cheyenne’s Little America Hotel.

This year marks the first year of the Summit, formerly the Information Power Summer Institute. There will be some great sessions, including one about the One Book Wyoming project, a breakout box activity, and more! It’s also a great time to network with other school librarians.

Register here. The cost to attend the School Library Summit is $20.

Innovations for School Libraries

Found in the Big Deal Media K-12 Technology newsletter.

Videos Featuring Authors Commemorating Children’s Book Week
KidLit TV has partnered with the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader to produce 100 book creator videos for teachers, parents, librarians, and educators across the country to share with their students.

Videos to Deepen Understanding and Spark Curiosity
Boclips for Teachers offers an extensive library of engaging videos that bring academic topics to life for all ages while deepening students’ understanding of a variety of subjects. A school-safe alternative to consumer-focused video platforms, Boclips for Teachers gathers video clips from more than 120 partners, including Visual Learning Systems, Intelecom Learning, and Crash Course. Educators who sign up before June 30, 2019, will get free access for a full year.

Crest Hill Students Build Little Free Libraries

Robot and Dragon Little Free Libraries

Robot and Dragon Little Free Libraries built by students at Crest Hill Elementary.

Fifth graders at Crest Hill Elementary in Casper made two Little Free Libraries that they auctioned and raffled to support their Parent-Teacher Organization’s fundraising efforts. As part of the project, they investigated libraries and their impact on their communities. Each class had to work as a team to design and complete their libraries, through the school library’s makerspace.

“We also registered the libraries with the Little Free Library organization,” said Crest Hill’s librarian, Devin Hodgins. “So they appear online on the LFL’s worldwide map. Incidentally, the shells students used for the libraries were a couple of old newspaper dispensers that the Casper Star-Tribune had retired and consigned to the junk heap.They gave them to us, just asking for pictures when they were completed.”

The school was awarded a Carol McMurry Library Endowment grant through the Wyoming Community Foundation for the project. Grant dollars purchased tools, paint, and supplies, as well as a handful of computers for students to use in the library for research. Devin was also able to round up support from a few local businesses. Jereco Cleaning Systems primed and coated the newspaper racks so they’d be ready for the students to paint. Much of that paint was donated by Sherwin-Williams. The Glass Warehouse also donated some shop supplies.

Between the raffle and the auction, the students raised more than $400 for the school’s PTO, which will then use those funds to help support the school library.

Fifth graders designed one library to look like a robot. The other they designed as a dragon, their school’s mascot. After one student’s parent won the silent auction on the dragon library, the raffle drawing began. “Lo and behold!” Devin said. “The same person who put in the highest bid for the dragon also won the raffle for the robot. What’s even more spectacular about that is they live relatively close to the school, so there’s a good chance many of our students will have the opportunity to visit.”

The winning family’s father works at a local hotel, so he’s going to see if they can place one there. “What a great location for a Little Free Library, welcoming visitors to our community!” Devin said.

The class project became the catalyst for transforming the event into an entire Spring Book Festival that drew about 200 people. To accompany the raffle and auction, the PTO held a free spaghetti dinner, doing all the cooking with some donated support from Olive Garden on the breadsticks.

For the event, reading centers were scattered throughout the school commons. The centers were based on a few literary genres: mystery, fantasy, realistic fiction, traditional literature (folklore), and poetry. One station invited folks to examine the WE READ program through the Casper Star-Tribune’s MY TRIB publication. The last station allowed people to visit the Little Free Library website and to investigate the organization for themselves.

Initial feedback from participants was positive. “Students, families, teachers, and staff seemed rather impressed by the whole event and thought it was an enjoyable evening all around,” Devin said. “We now have quite a strong foundation on which to build.”

The entire project stemmed from Devin’s attendance at last year’s Wyoming Library Leadership Institute. “I wanted to help strengthen a sense of togetherness among the school, parents, and stakeholders and to expand awareness of the impact of libraries throughout the school and even broader community. I’d like to think that we took some respectable strides toward that end.”

AASL Seeks Community Input on Standards

From the American Library Association

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has launched two online surveys to gather insight from a variety of school library professionals and stakeholders regarding its 2018 “National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries.” Using these surveys, AASL seeks to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the standards and related implementation tools. Survey links and more information can be found at

Surveys will be open until May 8.

To conduct this research, two online surveys will be shared widely. The first survey will focus on feedback from within the profession. School librarians are encouraged to share the survey link with colleagues in order to collect a comprehensive assessment on whether AASL Standards reflect practice, align with the goals of stakeholders, and have increased understanding of school librarian job roles.

A second survey is specifically tailored for stakeholders. School librarians are asked to share the stakeholder survey link with their building-level and district administrators, classroom and content-area educators, and other instructional collaborators.

  • School Library Survey
  • Stakeholder SurveySurveys will be open through Wednesday, May 8. The AASL Board of Directors and AASL Standards Committee will use the finding to help inform financial and resource distribution to support those activities most needed and impactful to advance the role of the school librarian and the National School Library Standards.

A Book Challenge in Park County

Jennison Lucas

Jennisen Lucas

By Jennisen Lucas, District Librarian
Park County School District 6

Censorship. It’s a word that causes many a librarian’s blood to boil. It’s a hot topic because we have strong beliefs that no one should interrupt our rights to access information and stories. It’s a First Amendment issue. However, we also fiercely want to protect our children. And censorship tends to call these two beliefs into conflict. This conflict came forward in force last year in Cody, Wyoming. I was not in the district at that time, so what I understand about this situation is mostly hearsay.

So, let’s go back a little. The issue began in November of 2017 when a parent discovered that her son had checked out the book A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone. In perusing the book, this parent became incensed at the content, which she determined was not acceptable for her child to read. This concern was compounded by her realization that her child had access to materials at school that she determined were unsafe for her child, and she brought this concern to the school. The library staff referred her to the principal, and the parent ultimately decided to submit an official challenge to this material being in the library, as provided for in district policy.

When the book came before the reconsideration committee, it was discovered that the policy regarding the selection and reconsideration of library materials had been deleted in an effort to streamline policies, assuming that the policy for the reconsideration of instructional material, which is assigned for students to read, would be sufficient. However, this left the committee struggling with how to consider a library book, which may be read by choice. After much discussion, including some debate on whether individual members of the committee would feel comfortable with their children reading the book, the committee ultimately voted to retain the material in the library.

This is when things got a little murky. Because the district policy on instructional material says that the School Board is tasked with choosing instructional materials, and some members of the School Board disagreed with the committee’s decision, the School Board overturned the committee’s decision and voted to remove the book from the library collection, effectively banning the book.

Because I was not the librarian in the Cody School District at that time, the book was being considered by the School Board before I was completely aware of what was going on. I did not have time to read the book before I spoke to the school board about why they should keep it. Therefore, my plea to keep the book was more emotional that it probably should have been. And, as I was the only one speaking on behalf of the book, I was largely ignored. However, when the Board decided they needed to look again at the policies around selection and reconsideration of library books, I offered my services to help write the policy.

When the Cody District Librarian retired in May of 2018, I was lucky enough to get hired back into the district. The School Board also allowed me to have a seat at the table as we rewrote the selection policy. It was several months of long nights at Board meetings as I explained best practices in book selection and library policies and procedures, not to mention disagreements about what topics should NOT be in books for our students.

Protecting our children means different things to different people, I discovered. I think we protect our children by giving them access to stories and information that will help them make decisions in their lives. Others think that we should only provide materials that show our students the best sides of what humanity has to offer (although often this is based in a specific world-view) so they will aspire to that. As a strong supporter of the Freedom to Read, remembering the motivations of those who seemed to want to censor books was an important part of remaining professional throughout this process. We now have a fairly good policy that encompasses criteria for selecting materials for the library as well as processes and criteria for weeding and reconsideration of materials.

And, there were still three books left from last year’s challenges: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, The Wizard’s Apprentice by Herbie Brennan, and The Holy Bible (different complainant). The School Board chose to put those challenges on hold until after we had rewritten the policy.

In January, the new reconsideration committee (known in our district as the KEC, after the policy code) started with looking at some social studies resources that had been questioned. In March, it was the turn for library books. I was not at last year’s committee meeting, but I can tell you how this year’s meeting went. As the librarian, I was invited to address the committee, along with the complainant. We had timed turns to address the committee, and then the committee was allowed to ask us questions, followed by a discussion among the members of the committee before they voted.

During my turn, I presented a chart that I created with the selection criteria in the first column, followed by a column for each book. In the corresponding places on the chart, I outlined how each book met each criterion (if it did). I explained a little about how the selection process works in practice (we don’t create a chart like this for each book before we purchase, for instance), and I walked them through my reasoning for how these materials fit our criteria. The committee asked questions such as how often the books checked out and if we had other, similar books.

When the committee voted, they focused on the task of determining if the challenged materials met the selection criteria. For The Wizard’s Apprentice and The Holy Bible, they voted unanimously to deny the complaint and retain the material. In the case of Two Boys Kissing, however, they chose “to retain the material with recommendation that the librarian research, and present for purchase, more books on the same topic.”

According to our policy, the complainant may appeal this decision to the School Board in writing within 30 days, so this may not yet be the final outcome. However, I believe that now that we have a policy to follow, with clear criteria and a clear charge for the committee, our School Board will allow the committee decision to stand.

You see, censorship is emotional. Book selection is not.

Innovations for School Libraries

Found in the Big Deal Media K-12 Technology newsletter.

Inspirational Stories from Female Role Models in STEM Fields
Women @ NASA features short films that explore the careers and backgrounds of career women who work for NASA in each of the STEM areas. The website includes a collection of 64 videos and essays from women across the agency who contribute to NASA’s mission in many different ways. Their stories illuminate the vibrant community of dedicated women employees who play a vital role at the agency. Students will hear stories of women overcoming almost every obstacle imaginable to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world.

Teaching Tools for Celebrating Women’s History
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Congress’s passing a constitutional amendment to give women the right to vote. NewseumED offers free online resources to explore the history and struggles of the suffrage movement—from artifacts on the Seneca Falls Convention to a video recounting Susan B. Anthony’s arrest for voting to a timeline on major events in the fight for gender equality. NewseumED’s lesson plans and activities can be used to observe Women’s History Month (March) and all yearlong. The standards-aligned lessons and activities support historical connections, media literacy, and civics and citizenship. Teachers may need to sign into NewseumED for access to some of the resources; registration is free.

Initiative Connecting the Natural World and STEM
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) provides an extensive Green STEM Guidebook, full of inspiration, information, and lesson plans to inspire teachers to join NWF’s Eco-Schools USA and Schoolyards Habitats Pathways programs. This freely downloadable guidebook shows how the programs provide a clear pathway to excite, motivate, and educate the next generation of experts, innovators, and math and technology whizzes. The guidebook also highlights, with detailed case studies, how students can put their STEM skills to work solving real-world environmental issues right in their own communities.

Webinar on Use of Public Media in the Classroom
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH, preserves historic programming created by public media and provides a central web portal for access to these unique programs. The collection includes coverage of the Watergate hearings, education, women’s history, climate change, elections and civics, protests in America, civil rights, and much more.

Curriculum Tracing the Struggle for Women’s Equality
The Bill of Rights Institute has launched a new curriculum, just in time for next year’s 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Votes for Women: The Story of the Nineteenth Amendment tells the story of the fight for women’s equality, women’s right to vote, and the struggle, sacrifice, and hardship involved.

Student-Led Organization Focusing on Violence Prevention
Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) Promise Clubs are a place for young people across the country to show their leadership, creativity, and passion for protecting their friends, schools, and communities from violence before it happens. Established and led by students, SAVE Promise Clubs are a powerful approach to preventing gun violence (and other forms of violence and victimization) because they recognize the unique role that young people play in making their schools and communities safer.