A Window into the World of Blogging

Digital Access and Equity

This VoiceThread presentation examines the current state of “digital access and equity” in our schools, primarily as it affects low-income students.  Current issues, such as limited internet access, outdated BYOD policies and socioeconomic status are some of the issues presented.  Possible solutions to combat the “digital divide” facing today’s 21st Century Learners are explored.

To learn more about this pressing topic, view this VoiceThread and share your comments.  Also, check out the “Works Cited” pages at the end of the VoiceThread for suggested articles about “digital access and equity.”


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Reflection: Engaging Young Learners through VoiceThread

Engaging second graders in creative writing can sometimes be a challenge for classroom teachers.  The pencil and paper approach doesn’t reach all of today’s 21st Century learners and pull them in.  The good news is that there are digital tools that can encourage creativity, model the writing process (drafting, editing, revising), and captivate different types of learners who may otherwise be losing out.

I created a digital production called “The Three Big Pigs and the Puny Puppy: A Fractured Fairy Tale” using VoiceThread. This digital production was made for a fictitious second grade class to serve as an example of the culminating project students will get to partake in.  This tool is a great way to encourage collaboration, introduce technology, reach different types of learners and create a product that students can share with others.

Using VoiceThread to create fractured fairy-tales in small groups enhances the instruction students will have already received on fairy-tales, folklore and fables.  Students can draw upon their prior knowledge of well-known tales and create something new based on their collaboration within their groups.

Tools such as VoiceThread enable marginalized students to shine by drawing upon their artistic, interpersonal, visual and/or technology skills.  This example and proposed lesson is evidence that teachers and media specialists can engage even our youngest learners with technology!

For more information about the objectives and relevant AASL, Common Core and Frederick County Public Media Standards that are addressed by this lesson, click here.


Following Educator Blogs and Growing as a Teacher

Much of what I have learned about teaching has been from observing veteran teachers in practice.  When tasked with reviewing teacher blogs for SLM 508, I viewed this as an opportunity to identify blogs I can visit to learn about classroom management strategies, innovative resources, potential lessons  and ways to engage learners.  This is also an opportunity to see how blogs are used by educators and gain insight into how I can utilize blogs in my media center lessons.

The first blog that I identified is called Venspired created by teacher Krissy Venosdale.  She created this blog so that she had a place to reflect on her teaching practice.  She describes her teaching style as “inquiry-based” with an emphasis on STEAM/STEM.  Venosdale’s blog has links to additional pages, including the gifted-school where she teaches, additional blogs related to gifted and talented topics, and an extensive poster section where she has free downloadable posters she has created.

One of my favorite posts from Venspired is called Inspiring Creativity and is a place where Venosdale shares her 10 favorite hands-on activities to inspire learning through creativity.  At a time when teachers are encouraged to use inquiry-based learning in their classrooms, I relish the opportunity to learn about new resources that I can draw upon in my own teaching.

As we learn about Creative Commons, Copyright and Fair Use, it is refreshing to find a blog where the author is willing to share her valuable resources.  She has created vibrant posters with inspirational sayings about learning and developed classroom themed free downloadable art in the Posterpalooza section of her blog.  In her presentations section, Venosdale links a fabulous handout that she used at her “Tech Bootcamp” presentation.  She briefly summarizes tools such as Symbaloo, VoiceThread, Wordle and SchoolTube.  She also explains how teachers and students can use Twiducate to “tweet” with other students around the world and create individual student blogs through Kidblog!

A second blog that dovetailed with topics in SLM 508 is Wesley A. Fryer’s Moving at the Speed of Creativity Blog.  Fryer’s blog focuses on technology, digital learning and STEM.  Many of his posts describe digital tools teachers can use in the classroom such as Twine, a choose-your-own adventure story tool.  He also highlights tools for teaching skills like visual notetaking.  Fryer uses screenshots to augment his detailed instructions for incorporating technology in the classroom.

A post that resonated with me was one about becoming a “connected teacher.”  Fryer and his wife took a virtual fieldtrip to Tanzania with the aid  of Google’s Connected Classroom’s website.  He was only aware of this videoconference because he was looking into a question someone had Tweeted him that morning.  It is apparent to me that Fryer exemplifies the ISTE standards in his teaching, specifically standard 1: “Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity” and standard 3: “Model digital age work and learning” (

Fryer has so many relevant posts on his blog that it was hard to pick which ones to highlight here.  His post titled Helping Students Use Creative Commons Images in Presentations   is one that I can use in future lessons in the media center, as well as share with teachers in my building.  Fryer suggests students try a PowerPoint-like platform called Haiku-Deck to create presentations and select pictures that are Creative Commons licensed, including the attribution links.  I will continue to follow Moving at the Speed of Creativity as a way to stay on top of innovative ways to infuse technology like blogs, videoconferencing, and presentation platforms into my media center lessons.

A third educator blog that I will highlight here is Kleinspiration.  Written by Erin Klein, a second grade teacher in Michigan, this blog promotes project-based learning ideas, “tech tips” for the primary grades and “social networking.”  Klein also reviews educational websites, products and blogs.  Most of her posts promote an App, software, digital tool or activity to do with students in the classroom.  For classroom teachers with access to iPads, Klein shares seven ideas for asking questions in the classroom with iPads:  Integrating iPads.

Klein’s social network post is a great resource for teachers looking to start laying their digital footprint.   You can find social media suggestions, video clips to help you connect with teachers on Twitter, and various lesser known social media tools related specifically to education.

A fourth blog I explored is called Technology with Intention, created by Jac de Han.  This blog emphasizes “learning in public with technology and education” as stated in its blog catchphrase.  Han’s page includes announcements of upcoming Tech conferences, interviews with technology gurus, and his experiences as a digital educator.  He shares information about different digital tools and how they can enhance learning.  The first post that caught my attention was called “Create a Classroom Blog in Under 2 Minutes: Updated.”  Using “Blogger,” Han takes viewers through simple to follow steps aided by helpful screenshots.  This is a tutorial that I could share with teachers in my school during a professional development session or via email.  Even the most apprehensive teacher can see that creating a blog is nothing to fear.

Another post that was particularly relevant to SLM 508, was titled “The 5 Best Digital Identity Resources.”  Included in this list of recommended websites and resources is CommonSense Media and Edutopia’s “Parents Guide to 21st Century Learning.”  These are resources that teachers and media specialists can use to teach our students about digital etiquette and leaving a digital footprint they can be proud of.  Likewise, these are resources we can share with parents and the PTO/PTA to better educate parents about the digital media their children are encountering in today’s connected world.

I am overwhelmed by the ideas gleaned from these educator blogs and encouraged that I can use these resources to stay abreast of emerging technology tools and inquiry-based learning tips.  The one thing common with all of these blogs was their focus on using technology in their classrooms.  I see these blogs as a way to connect professionally with other educators, as a place to share and bounce ideas around, and as a way to challenge myself to stay on top of my game.

Not only can my students create their own blogs in the media center and in the classroom, but they can also learn the value and pleasure of following blogs.  Avid readers may enjoy following blogs such as Josie’s blog, a runner-up in Edublogs 2012 Best Student Blog.  They can interact through blogs.  They can provide feedback to bloggers using appropriate digital etiquette, and meet other students with similar interests from other parts of the world.

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As a novice blogger and soon-to-be school media specialist, it seems prudent to look to respected bloggers in the library field for guidance. I located some award-winning blogs that are teeming with useful ideas and engaging resources.  While each blog was created by a school librarian, the purpose, audience, tone, layout and content varies.  Each blog conveys a message to its readers, giving them an opportunity to respond and interact with the blog’s creator.  I identified blogs that emphasized technology, digital footprints and connecting with social  media–all topics stressed in Module 1 of SLM 508.

One blog that immediately drew me in was Tiffany Whitehead’s “The Mighty Little Librarian” blog.   Her post titled “Digital Citizenship at CMS” demonstrates the role of the librarian as a leader and model in promoting a positive digital footprint.  Ms. Whitehead provides numerous links to engaging tools and lessons that will hook impressionable teenagers into this important topic.  Not only does she address digital citizenship with her students, but she includes them in the learning process by having them create a PSA-style YouTube video sharing what they learned:  Whitehead also includes links to two lessons from the CommonSense Media website, entitled “Trillion Dollar Footprint”  and “Oops, I Broadcast it on the Internet.”

Ms. Whitehead is passionate about the use of social media during the school day.  Her post entitled “My case for Social Media” made me want to learn more about this controversial topic.  Ms. Whitehead’s district blocks social media such as Twitter and Facebook during the school day, creating a challenge for her as she tries to teach her students about checking their digital footprints.  She doesn’t let that stop her though.  Her work-around is to take screenshots of her Facebook  posts and Twitter feed results to show to students.  “The Mighty Little Librarian” blog is one that I recommend following as Whitehead addresses tough issues facing media specialists and our 21st century learners.

Jennifer LaGarde, a Librarian Ambassador who travels to school libraries around the country has an informative, cutting-edge blog called “The Adventures of Library Girl” where she focuses on “student learning and libraries.”  Her posts range from recapping her latest presentation to promoting upcoming Webinars to designing library physical space so that it reflects your priorities.  LaGarde’s blog emphasizes technology.  In a post titled, “Voices from the Trenches: The Teacher Librarian’s Role in 1:1/BYOD Environments,” she shares how she and Doug Johnson are devising a “Best Practices” guide for school librarians to use when implementing a BYOD policy in their schools.  This topic is extremely relevant and one for which I am seeking guidance.  I want to be able to help students use their technology to the fullest extent without being derailed because I don’t know how something works or should be handled.

Another topic that Ms. LaGarde is passionate about is being a “connected librarian” and by that she means someone who uses social media such as Twitter to stay connected with others in the field.  She hooks people by telling them “why” this is worthwhile and how it has positively impacted her own life.  The captivating slideshow she includes in the post sold me on the power of becoming connected!

LaGarde’s push for getting connected professionally through Social Media falls in line with the importance of creating a strong digital footprint.  Starting a blog or following other blogs in the library field such as “The Mighty Little Librarian”  and “The Adventures of Library Girl” are a step in the right direction.  Sharing with students our own experiences with social media for professional purposes can model good digital etiquette.

Many of the library blogs I came across reviewed and recommended books, but for purposes of this blog post, I was seeking blogs that had a technology focus.  I discovered Shannon McClintock Miller’s blog “Van Meter Library Voice” and knew this was one to follow.

As I learned in the SLM 508, Module 1 “Digital Footprint” readings and Jennifer LaGarde’s blog, it is important to connect with others in your professional field to network and grow.  Miller, who works in Iowa, posted about a “connection” she made via Twitter with a teacher in California that she previously did not know.  In her post titled “My Friend Arturo and his kindergarteners in Los Angeles Will Inspire All of Us with their New Movie” she demonstrates the power of social media and how it can positively impact students by enabling them to share and communicate with others regardless of distance.

Miller received a tweet from Arturo with an attached YouTube video of his kindergarten class’ dramatization of the story “Miss Nelson is Missing.”  Ultimately, the two classrooms (one in Iowa, the other in California) connected virtually to watch the video and to talk about it.  Not only do we see the power of social media for making connections with others in our profession, but we see the impact of using technology such as video cameras and Skype to capture dramatizations like this one and share it with students far away.  This is an example I can see myself incorporating into my own media center one day, especially with younger students!

Miller also plugs recommended databases, such as PebbleGo, technology tools such as WeVideo, and Apps like the App.  Her blog is a good resource for finding out about emerging technology tools that I may want to consider for my own school library.

I was inspired by a post by Miller that addressed an important topic for SLM 508 Module 1: teaching digital responsibility to our students.  In this post titled “EasyBib Joins Rainbow Loom Project,” Miller explains that she invited two employees from EasyBib to Skype into her third grade media center classroom to help them learn research and citation skills for a “Rainbow Loom” research project.  In the end, these students made Rainbow Loom bracelets and created special charms on a 3D printer as a thank you to their virtual instructors.  One thing I especially like about Miller’s blog is that she uses a lot of pictures and screenshots to help readers follow along, especially when she is talking about new technology.

Incorporating digital technology into media center lessons requires that media specialists stay tuned into the latest developments.  Knowing where to locate recommended tools is an important step in this process.  The Blog “A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet,”  created by Julie Greller, is brimming with resources such as links to Web 2.0 tools, tips for making your own infographics, teacher-librarians articles, recommended blogs, how-to guides and more.  This one-stop-shop is a clearinghouse of information for all school media specialists, but particularly useful for new ones, since so many resources  are in one central location.

One tool that Greller shares in her blog is “FlipQuiz,” a free tool teachers can use to create interactive game boards, instead of using bingo cards or card-stock boards.  She also posts “39 Ways for Using iPads in the Classroom,” a great starting place for teachers and media specialists looking for innovative ideas for using digital devices with students.  Greller’s “Let’s Teach Our Students About Copyright,” includes links to fifteen resources such as the Creative Commons, an interactive game for kids, and copyright lessons to help media specialists teach students about copyright.  Greller’s blog is one that I will reference as a new media specialist because of the breadth of topics she covers and the wealth of resources she shares.

Having reviewed these blogs, it is apparent that each blog has its own style, focus and value for its readership.  What they demonstrate is the ability to connect with others in your field.  If librarians can communicate and learn from one another via blogs, imagine the potential for our students to learn via blogs.    The opportunities are endless.  Students can create a classroom blog to use among themselves or break down barriers and communicate with another class across the world via the blog.  Students can use a blog to chronicle their journey through a course, a research project or for pleasure.

Learning to make a blog and starting to follow others in my field will empower me to integrate blogging into my media center.  I see the potential for using blogging and social media in the classroom and will advocate for and seek opportunities to use it in my future school media center.  In the meantime, I will take the advice of Will Richardson (Educational Leadership, November 2008) and read blogs, comment on blogs, use my professional name so that I am searchable, and start networking via Twitter and Facebook.  I need to start laying my digital footprint!


Richardson, Will.  “Footprints in a Digital Age.”  Educational Leadership November (2008): 16-19. Print.

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The 5 W’s of Blogging

What: A blog is a real-time, on-line journal that allows people to share their thoughts and ideas and get feedback from followers.  As soon as you hit publish, your words and ideas are shared with your audience.

Who: Students, teachers, librarians, moms, dads, professionals… anyone can create a blog.

Why: You have something to share with the world or want to foster a community discussion.  It’s a forum to communicate with others about a common topic; a place to share ideas and gain feedback; a place to let your creativity come alive.

When: Morning, noon or night.  You can blog anytime you want (so long as you are abiding by your teacher, boss or parents’ rules.)

Where: The beauty of blogging is that you can do it anywhere you have access to the internet.  You can use a portable device such as a Smartphone, tablet or laptop.  The options are endless.  You can blog at school, the library, at home, so long as you are being responsible and following digital etiquette (i.e. not using devices in school when you are not supposed to be doing so).