Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Job, New Blog

I have started a new position as Director of Instructional Technology for Bay City ISD. Many challenges, many opportunities, tons of rewards.

Here's my new blog address:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sub email Accounts in Gmail

Another reason I love Google, but where have I been?!?

Yesterday I was conducting a workshop for elementary teachers on Digital Learning. We discussed a few web tools, like Animoto, Voki, and others, which require user accounts. One of the teachers (thanks Aurora Aparicio!) said she used sub email in her Gmail account for her students to setup web tool accounts. Brilliant!!

To make this work, the teacher needs to setup a gmail account. I would not use my personal gmail, but setup one that is "teachery" in nature. For me it could be "" or "". Once you have setup the email, you can use as many sub accounts as you wish. You do not have to setup additional account, just assign the students an email that is attached to your own. For example, if my email was "" a sub email could be "". The email delivery system will ignore what is between the + and @ signs. The emails will be delivered to your Gmail inbox. The + sign after your email username is required for the sub email accounts to work.

It would also be a good idea to setup up a filter in the email so that all emails sent to the sub email gets put into its own folder. This will keep your email from getting overwhelmed as well as give you a folder for each student's work. Animoto, for instance, generates an email when each video is completed. Using sub email and filters, that email will be delivered to the student's folder in your email and you will just have to click the link to view and grade the finished project.

There is setup involved on the part of the teacher, but it is worth it! Of course if your school has student emails for all students then let the kids setup their own account. But if your kids don't have an email, this would be a great work around!

Friday, May 23, 2014


On Wednesday I presented at the annual Region 3 ESC School Board Conference. This is the third time I have presented at this conference in the past four years. This year my topic was "Tech Integration: Forget What. Let's Talk Why and How." I concentrated on reasons why technology integration was important with today's students and how it can be successfully included in instruction. Schools sometimes get so bogged down in what devices to buy that they miss the purpose of what digital learning is all about.

I decided to demonstrate a device neutral application to add some engagement in my presentation. I have used Socrative, Poll Everywhere, and Infused Learning in sessions before so I wanted something new. I decided to try Kahoot ( Unlike the other response systems, Kahoot acts more like the trivia games you see in restaurants where your get points based on how quickly you answer a question correctly and displays a leaderboard after each question. My quiz was types of instructional technology so I used an image of each device and the participants selected the name of the device from three choices. Just for fun I gave a prize to the winner of each game.

This tool would be useful in classes with any type of web-connected device. Teachers can create quizzes to start each class that review content from the day before. The winner of the quiz could get a free homework pass or extra points. This game-based student response system works perfectly for many types of scenarios. Kahoot also offers survey and discussion formats.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Teen Book Con 2014

Doing some research last week and found that Teen Book Con was scheduled for April 26, 2014 at Alief Taylor High School in Houston, Texas. I had attended a similar event in Austin, TX a few years ago to hear the keynote speaker, the amazing Ellen Hopkins. At the time my older daughter was only eleven and really too young for the books to be discussed. I vowed to take her when she was old enough. This past Saturday was our opportunity, and it was awesome!

When I offered to take her, she was a little reluctant since she hadn't read anything by the authors speaking that day. She invited several friends and they were all busy. It turned into a mommy/daughter outing.

We were both very impressed with the keynote, Laurie Halse Anderson. Of course I had read her book Speak and loved it. She shared some pictures and personal struggles that led her to be a reader and writer. Anderson talked about her challenging teen years and the chaos she endured due to her father's PTSD and alcoholism. Throughout that experience, the school library was her sanctuary. She was witty, relatable and a great opening speaker.

 Each panel was opened up to questions from the audience. It was interesting to hear how the authors got inspiration for their stories, fought writer's block and fulfilled their lifelong dreams of writing for a living. Pretty much all of the sessions gave the audience the same message and encouraged student writers to just keep writing.

I applaud events like this one for connecting students with authors. Even as an adult I always thought of authors as superhumans. It wasn't until I became a librarian and then wrote books myself that I realized that writers are just people following their dreams. For students who love reading, these guys are rockstars and inspirations. As educators, we should foster that connection as much as possible.
All of the authors! (Don't miss Shannon Hale doing the splits in the front!)
On a side note, I totally got busted by Len Vlahos! Lauren Myracle was talking about her latest book which is about first love and sex. Having written a graduate school paper in library school on censorship, I am very familiar with Lauren's work. This was back when ttyl had come out and was such a scandal. (I really loved her book Shine.) Needless to say the mama bear came out in me and I leaned over to my daughter and told her not to read the sex book. Len was the next to speak and totally called me out!

Monday, April 21, 2014


As is usually the case, I saw Thinglink ( at a conference about a year ago. It went on my shelf of things I need to try, but never have. After returning form TLA last week, I started looking school library web sites and saw Michelle Luhtala had a Thinglink on her site ( to promote the 2014 ALA Youth Media Awards. The image on her site has book covers which are linked to the review of that book on Good Reads (

I was inspired to make something. Here is what I ended up with:

You will notice as you hover over the images, dots appear on the book covers. Those dots link to book reviews in some cases and book trailers in other cases.

I had never used Thinglink before, but it was so easy! Just upload your image and start adding links. You can customize the icon that represents the link in the picture and link many different things. Share your finished Thinglink with a link, embed in a web site or easily post to social media like your library Facebook or Twitter.

Lots of possibilities for educators as well as student projects. Get linking!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Michelle Luhtala and Jennifer LaGarde are Rockstars!

So I have to say that TLA has really changed since last I was here. I did not attend TLA12 & 13. My last TLA I was a bit confounded by the lack of technology sessions. No more! This year is way different.

I was really impressed by Michelle Luhtala (@mluhtala) and Jennifer LaGarde (@jenniferlagarde). Both ladies are out-of-staters, but we won't hold that against them.

Michelle is from New Canaan HS in Connecticut. She presented three sessions today, but I was  most impressed with her session on creating a Learning Commons. This has been a topic discussion in my region for several years now. Many of my librarians are attempting pieces of it, but not a complete shift. Few of our schools have the technology access to really make it happen. And since many of those schools are rural there isn't enough internet connectivity in the schools or student homes to make this endeavor worthwhile. I did love her ideas and the suggestion to start a bit at a time. Change in chunks and your library should never look the same from one year to another. Her school has a BYOD initiative and that drives many of the activities in the library. I thought it was way clever that she has charge stations with USB ports on many tables and even circulates device chargers to students. Instead of fighting the students, you meet their needs. 

The best quote from Michelle today was that it is not "if" but "when" all schools will embrace student devices because of "Confiscation Fatigue" As the spouse of a school administrator who deals with phones all day, I thought her comment was hysterical. I don't think a day goes by that someone at his school doesn't take up a phone.

Ok, now to Jennifer LaGarde. What a funny library girl! She is a librarian-on-loan in North Carolina working for three years to visit and assess all school libraries in that state. She works with administrators, school boards, teachers, and librarians to help each other meet the needs of kids where the school library is concerned. She shared statements from administrators and suggestions for fixing that perception by shifting what the librarian does. My favorite was "Shift from teaching library skills to teaching life skills". Her example was that the Dewey Decimal System is not a life skill. And she is so right! She also suggested not punishing kids with fines and access to circulation when they have late or lost books. There was some mutterings from the group around me, but she made very valid points and gave suggestions for learning lessons to use with kids instead of punishing them for missing books.

These are two ladies who I will be adding to my PLN!! 

Cheapskate PD for Librarians and Inforgraphics

I am currently attending the Texas Library Association Annual Conference this week in San Antonio, TX. Attended two great sessions yesterday. One on PD and the other on Infographics.

The PD session was presented by a group of six librarians. They challenged themselves to use a presentation method called Pecha Kucha which limits each presenter to 20 slides in less than 7 minutes. Lots of info in a short period of time. They discussed building a PLN, connecting to colleagues on twitter, subscribing to podcasts, connecting to live experts, viewing webinars, and reading blogs. All of their suggestions were available anytime, anywhere and free. The presenters were Sharon Gullet (@sharongullett), Sonja Schulz (@sonjaschulz), Sandra Carswell (@sandracarswell), Michelle Cooper (@_michellecooper), Marsha Edney (@EdneyLib), and Sue Fitzgerald (@sue_fitz).

This session was especially interesting to me because I provide PD for librarians and teachers. Since the school budget massacres of 2011 in Texas I have seen a huge decrease in the number of people seeking my services. In fact, I have canceled over 80% of my face-to-face workshops this school year. Many schools have really restricted PD travel, but we should always be learning new things. I hope my librarians are seeking PD on their own through the avenues these great library ladies suggested.

The other session I really liked was on infographics. I love them and think there are many ways to incorporate them into classroom instruction. The presenter Leslie Barrett (@lesliebarrett13), who is in the same position that I am in but at another ESC, made some great points about allowing students to construct infographics and not just be consumers of the information. Our visual learners, which so many kids are these days, will gravitate to these sleek visual representations of data.