Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Not Just an Hour of Code

by  Sue Fitzgerald, Library/Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach

The “Hour of Code” has proven to be a very exciting adventure for students that has just begun. The development and launch of this event was driven by students’ passion for coding and educators’ efforts to provide the opportunity. It was collaboration in its purest form for everyone involved.

How it Happened

There were several factors that came into play that brought this event to fruition. Here are some of the major factors that made “Hour of Code” a reality:

  1. Our district began an initiative to host student ePortfolios on Google sites.
  2. Two forward-thinking future-minded student library aides took the leadership role in hosting "Technology Club" during 7th and 8th grades lunches to help answer questions on the ePortfolios.
  3. A group of coders took full advantage of attending the "Technology Club".
  4. The student aides and the librarian quickly realized the "Technology Club" was about to advance into the world of coding.
  5. The librarian informed the Instructional Technology (IT) Coach and principal of the enthusiasm of these students who wanted to code.  
  6. The IT Coach found the opportunity for our students to participate in the “Hour of Code.” Not only did our IT Coach offer this opportunity to our school but spread the word through Twitter PLNs and our district to have many other schools join the campaign.  
  7. Students eagerly came by the library to sign up for the event after the news spread via our coders.  
  8. During our “Hour of Code” event our IT Coach  collaborated with another IT coach in the district to Skype with a sister Middle School campus also participating during the “Hour of Code” and share as we worked through Java coding tutorial offered through

As the adults in this process, we knew very little about coding . We did recognize the amazing opportunity this would be for our students by choosing to take on this challenge. We also saw how important it is for educators to take risks when facilitating students’ pursuit of their passions and facilitate the process for student-led passion-based learning.
At the conclusion of “Hour of Code”our students reflected with enthusiasm and determination that this must continue.  The Technology Club decided they wanted to continue to meet at lunch at least once per week with hopes to meet twice when possible. They also decided they wanted to try and collaborate on a group project that could be presented during our district TechnoExpo event.  Additionally, they reflected upon the JavaScript coding done during “Hour of Code” compared to students previous coding experience.  They preferred another coding format referred to  by the group as “Batch.” Students left the “Hour of Code” with plans to take initiative to collaborate and together create some type of product.  As facilitators we hope to encourage these students to take on leadership roles in teaching others in our school to code.
Comments we have received -
L.A. Teacher - “I am so excited my student is involved with this group.  For the first time during DEAR he had a book out and was reading.  It was a book on coding!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “This gave me such a sense of accomplishment!”
Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “I have already talked to my teacher and plan to work ahead in his class so I can come for both lunch sessions as we continue to meet.”
Instructional Technology Assistant Director- “By providing ‘The Hour of Code’ you have just provided a social platform for these students that gives them a place to not only pursue their passion but a place for those that are like-minded to meet.  Their lives will be forever changed.”
Librarian - “I just wanted to thank you for sending this out!! I’ve got 73 kids signed up!”

Thursday, December 12, 2013

ThingLink Premium Free

I blogged about ThingLink a few weeks ago and how you can produce interactive images.  I've used Aurasma and Layar but found ThingLink quite user friendly for my students since we have little access to iPads.  I came across an awesome opportunity for educators that I wanted to share.

ThingLink is offering free premium EDU accounts for teachers until December 31st.  This would generally cost $250.  

Here's how the promotion works.
  1. Create a ThingLink teacher account
  2. Once you have an account, and write ThingLink EDU Campaign in the subject line and #premium as the message
If you already have an account, as I did, just follow direction #2 from above. I've already sent my request and received a confirmation email.


Congrats! Your account has been upgraded to ThingLink Premium.

When you log in, you should see a "Premium" label under the ThingLink logo. To get started, please see the attached presentation on how to use your new premium account features.
We look forward to hearing about your work and keeping you updated on any new feature launches. Happy tagging with your new ThingLink premium account!
ThingLink team
P.S. Our special campaign to schools ends on December 31st. Remember to forward this sign up link to your colleagues before time runs out!
This was an offer I knew I needed to share with my awesome PLN.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Tweeted Times

While browsing through my Twitter account I discovered a noteworthy site called The Tweeted Times.  It's a real-time generated personal newspaper produced from your Twitter account.  The articles are compiled from your tweets along with popular tweets of those you follow.  It's an interesting alternative to - another curation tool.  The paper is rebuilt every hour and is compiled with the most popular tweets within your account.  You can share the paper on Twitter and Facebook but I have yet to find a code for embedding.  I can clearly see that it would help aggregate the most popular trends within my Twitter account for easy access for myself and my followers.

Here's my latest Tweeted Times!/sue_fitz

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Edublog Awards 2013 Finalists

I am honored for my blog to be included in The Edublog Awards 2013 shortlisted finalists.  To be included with this incredible list of "Rock Star" library/librarian blogs is an accomplishment which I must give credit to my faculty, students, and PLN who inspire me to share my library experiences. I love to write about the real life situations within my learning community and I know my students will be extremely excited to learn of the recognition the blog has received.  Without their enthusiasm I would have little to write about and share with my PLN.

I wanted to also thank my Instruction Technology Support Teacher (@teachkiwi) who was the one that nominated the blog.  The collaborative relationship that we have together is incredibly inspiring and I am lucky to work in a district that allows me the freedom to implement a dynamic library program. I am also proud to see other phenomenal Texas librarians included in these Edublog awards. Whether you decide not to vote, vote for one, or vote for many, it’s worth taking a look at the expertise of those on the lists.

For those of you who wish to start or expand your PLN, this is a great resource to use to follow others on Twitter or include in your feeds such as Feedly.  

Click here for the entire list.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Use Google Applications For Education in the Library

I first started using Google Apps in 2008 when we moved 1,000 miles and I wanted to archive 14 years worth of documents from my library.  In 2009 I was in a school that used the Google Apps for Education and realized the power and ease of the applications.  Now in 2013 I am again in a school district that is using Google Apps for Education for both faculty and students.  After asking for ideas on #TXLCHAT and the TLC (Texas Library Connect) listserv I received many great responses of how librarians are using Google Applications for Education (#GAFE) in their libraries. Here's a list.

  • I created a sign in form for students visiting the library.  It automatically records the time and date they entered the library.  I included 3 fields-- their name, time of visit (before school, A, B, C lunch, Periods 1-8, or after school, and a reason for their visit.  It eliminated our paper sign-in doc.  It is a great multi-purpose tool--for library usage data and tracking students if needed.   It took about 5 minutes to create and I have it on 2 stations.
  • I love Google Forms and use them throughout the year to collect info from my teachers (Channel 1 TVs, number of students they have, just random stuff) that I need a response to, but don't want to have to keep track of a gajillion emails.
  • Our kids use Google Docs to share work with teachers (not necessarily directly related to the library, but I do have to show them how to share on a regular basis--even though this is year 3 of Google Apps for us).
  • We share documents with our campus a lot. For example, for our Thanksgiving Feast, the sign up is a Google Spreadsheet,  information about when/how to post grades has also been shared with our staff. It helps reduce paper.
  • I have wanted to use Google Forms for sign in/sign out (students on passes), but have been unable to get a computer in the spot where I want to do sign-in/out.
  • Some of our teachers use Google Forms for discipline. Students have to complete a form when they get in trouble writing down what happened and then that way the teacher has documentation.
  • Another great idea is to use Google Forms to let students request books.
  • I also have my Google Calendar (just for the library) embedded on my Destiny home page so students can see when their class is coming to  the library. My library aides especially love this.
  • We use Google Calendar for our computer lab sign up (a resource calendar has to be created at the district level)--that makes my life SOOO much easier!
  • With Google Calendars we also have a staff calendar that has school events and staff birthdays.
  • I keep the library schedule in a Google spreadsheet and send the link out to our faculty.
  • I have embedded book trailers from YouTube into Google presentations while book talking.  I easily change the trailers between classes as the books become unavailable via check-out.
  • I use it with lesson plans and collaborate with other librarians in the district on the same grade level.
  • I also use it as a tool for students and faculty to request books.
  • I use it for students to fill out if they are having problems with their Google accounts.  I can solve the problem and email the students the solutions.
  • I use a Google form for parent volunteers.

Please add other suggestions and ideas.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

An Hour of Code

It all started with a group of 7th grade boys stopping in the library during lunch one day inquiring about our Library Technology Club. As I eagerly invited them to stay, I quickly realized I had a group of gamers and coders. They enthusiastically showed me their projects and programming and I knew I would learn much from these young men.

 After sharing this experience with my Instructional Technology Support Teacher, she found this opportunity offered from the Computer Science Education Week and when I presented this to the boys they were extremely excited about the offer. We now have a group of boys signed up for An Hour of Code for December 12th. The word is getting out to students with many others requesting a seat at the event.  My IT Support Teacher designed an awesome NetSchool page for students to access more information on programming and coding.

 This offer as stated on their website, "What's an Hour of Code? It's a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify "code" and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator. We'll provide a variety of self-guided tutorials that anybody can do, on a browser, tablet, or smartphone. We'll even have unplugged tutorials for classrooms without computers. No experience needed." There is also a tutorial video.

I challenge others to join us next week and sign-up for An Hour of Code. If all goes well the opportunity to collaborate might be a possibility. Click here for An Hour of Code sign-up

For an additional article on the event click here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Texas Lone Star Reading List 2014

This year's committee has selected an awesome group of books to be included on the Texas Lone Star Reading List for 2014. Check out the Pinterest board for the 2014 Texas Lone Star Reading list.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Using ThingLink With W.A.R.P. : The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

As one of the Texas Lone Star 2014 books, I thought this would be an excellent example to demonstrate the use of one of my new favorite sites ThingLink. It is easy to use with a quick tutorial to get started with linking "things" within an image. In this example, by clicking on areas of the image one can access a book trailer, more information on the author, and the Good Reads reviews. This will be a website that I share with my teachers with unlimited possibilities in all curricular areas. With our Google Apps for Education accounts, it will allow student produced resources to be easily linked to any image. The easy share option allows the interactive image to be linked, embedded, or shared through many social media sites. The image can even be a collaborative activity with an the option for others to edit. This will be another awesome site that I will share for some creative student driven assignments.


 Many in our district having been enjoying creative lessons using Aurasma . This augmented reality app is awesome but our secondary schools are limited on Apple devices. Thinglink might be an alternative for those using our Dell tablets.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Awesome Google Story Builder Site

I discovered an awesome site called  Google Story Builder through my PLN last week that I wanted to share.  I was so excited about the potential use of the site that I immediately made a quick story and emailed it to my L.A. department chair.  Within a few minutes I receive and email back asking me if I would present this in their next L.A. PLC (department meeting). 

This is an intuitive site that allows up to 10 different participants to build an online story. Music may be added to the story.  Once the story is produced, others may view the story easily through a link.  It’s easy to use, fun, and can be integrated in almost any writing activity.

Sue’s story:

Uses in the classroom:

  • Story starters
  • SBBB (Standard Based Bulletin Board) commentaries
  • Introductions to lessons
  • Retell a story
  • Collaborative writing activities
  • Write a different point of view
  • Embed into presentations
  • Discussions between historical figures


  • Easy and intuitive
  • Just link the story
  • Fun
  • Can be used cross curricular
  • Music is built in
  • Can be easily screencast
  • Can use with a QR code


  • Cannot edit once it’s produced
  • Not user friendly with editing
  • Cannot hear the music with Apple devices

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Google Apps for Education

As a new Google Apps for Education school what better way to curate than Pinterest. I've started this board in collaboration with an Instructional Technology Support Teacher and another librarian in our district to share with our teachers on the use of these new tools and applications. As I read pertinent articles via my Feedly feed, I quickly pin them to the Google Pinterest board. It's an exciting learning opportunity to share information with both faculty and students. I've introduced Google sites in a faculty meeting and used Google presentation on numerous occasions when presenting and screencasting. I have also embedded the board into my library website with a quick HTML code. Believe me when I tell you I know very little about HTML and once you have the code you just change out the board name that you want to embed. I am an advocate to model when introducing new and exciting technology integration opportunities. As our district surges forward with our new accounts, I will continue to curate, motivate, and teach.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tools of the Day

As a connected educator, with so many resources available, I find that I must choose the tools that best fits my needs.  This is a short list of my favorite tools that I use regularly.

Symbaloo - As teachers ask for suggestions, I send them the Symbaloo with some awesome Web. 2.0 tools. - View my smore flyers
I love using and suggesting smore to my students and faculty.  It has a quick and easy sign-up process that needs no confirmation email.  It’s an intuitive online platform that provides bulletins, online posters, advertisements, and event announcements.  It allows the user to write or upload articles, links, pictures, audio files, forms, and more.  YouTube videos may be easily embedded to view within the flyer.  Once you have 30 views, it opens analytics with a wealth of data and information.  The flyer can be linked or embedded on a blog or website.  The best part is that it’s free.

Popplet is another easy set-up online tool for students and faculty.  This website features users to create mind maps that can be collaborative, customized, or shared.  The quick tutorials will help with setting up your first mind map.  You are only allowed 5 popplets with the free account but you can save your popplets and delete them as you go.    Popplet lite is an APP available for the iPhone or iPad. 

Twitter - View my Twitter
I use Twitter for daily professional development, as a curation tool, to communicate with my learning community, to answer questions from teachers and students, and to promote our latest programming venture in the library.  This simple to use free social media has been a very useful tool of mine since 2008.  At first I was a lurker until I realized the power of the collaboration within this tool.  I use and follow some of the basic library hash tags such as #tlchat and #txlchat and I participate in many chats globally along with other educators.   Our district is filled with a variety of useful hash tags and I started one specifically for our school library.  

This free RSS feeder saves me time with scanning through the many blogs and websites that I follow.  I check for new entries on Feedly 2-3 times per day either on my iPhone or iPad.  I have categorized my feeds allowing me to check particular article topics or I can browse through the entire unread list.  It’s very easy to retweet, email, save, or favor data.  I have read you must have a Google+ account but since I already had one this did not pose an issue. 

Pinterest - View my Pinterest

This easy to use free curation tool has become a popular destination for many educators.  What better place to gather than the great visual displays and ideas on Pinterest.  You can divide your ideas and interests up by boards, follow others with the same interest, and easily pin items on to your board from a tremendous list of possibilities. I again use it to curate but I also share library information, gather topics that might be helpful my faculty, or pin for my personal interest.
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