LEGO Wall

Creating a LEGO Wall in our library was one of the things that I was most excited about when planning our library makerspace. I knew this would be the centerpiece of our space and that it would be a big draw for my students. All of my inspiration for this LEGO Wall came from Diana Rendina and her photos, video, and blog posts about her own Epic LEGO Wall.

Diana has written an awesome how-to post that I followed in the construction of our LEGO Wall. You can find all of the information you need on her blog — I followed her instructions exactly and everything came out perfectly. I also love that she made a timelapse video of the wall’s installation. When I was trying to “sell” the idea of the wall to my administrator, this video really helped me explain what this was all about.

With the help of my awesome parents, it took us less than two hours to put up the LEGO Wall. I would recommend assembling the wall on a Friday afternoon so that things can dry over the weekend. We put the wall together on a Sunday afternoon and it was tough keeping the students away from it on Monday so the glue could set!

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We’re still working out how time can be made for students to use the makerspace and create on the LEGO wall. Each day we have a 20 minute Advisory/Intervention time, and my group is able to access the things in our makerspace to create, tinker, and play.

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They also helped me organize and sort out our LEGOs:

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I love seeing what our students create! Our school is in a somewhat rural/country area, so I was not at all surprised to see the word “deer” and a pin with a cow in it within the first 24 hours of the LEGO Wall being open for students:

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And I was really excited to see that during a slow time on our parent-teacher conference day, our band and choir teachers stopped in to do a little making of their own:

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So many students, teachers, and parents have shared their excitement about our new LEGO Wall. It’s such a great place for students (and teachers!) to express their creativity and just have a little fun!

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CMS Makerspace: The Beginning

I was so excited and honored to be invited to give the opening keynote at the Florida Association for Media in Education‘s annual conference in Orlando last week. It was a great conference — I was able to connect with and learn from some AWESOME Florida librarians! All of my presentation slides, links, and resources can be found on my presentation wiki.

The ideas that had me ready to get back to school and working on a new project came from my friend Diana Rendina‘s session on Makerspaces & Libraries. She’s doing some AWESOME things in her library, and she made the idea of a makerspace something I could wrap my head around. I had been intrigued but intimidated by the idea; she made it seem attainable and fun. So now we’re going for it!!!

I had organized and gathered some crafting supplies in the library over the summer as my first attempt at making something makerspace-ish, but I really didn’t advertise it with the students too much. I’ve had a collection of board games and puzzles for years, so I think the makerspace will fit in nicely with those things that are already in place. What drew me in the most about Diana’s space, and what I know my students will go CRAZY over, is her LEGO wall. So the first thing I talked to my principal about when I returned on Monday morning was the idea of adding a LEGO wall in our library at CMS. He was on board (because he’s the best), and we will be installing our wall VERY soon (I can’t wait to post about it!).

I also wanted to be able to try some of the other cool tools that Diana talked about in her presentation, so I decided to create my first ever Donors Choose project. I was absolutely amazed that my project was fully funded in just a few hours…and it’s because I’m surrounded by wonderful people who support our library. I’m tearing up just writing about it! Donations from my family, friends, coworkers, community members, members of my PLN, and even a school board member came in quickly to make this project happen. Most of the materials should arrive on Monday and I cannot WAIT! MaKey MaKeys, a Sphero, a set of Snap Circuits, LEGOs, LEGO books, and two sets of drawers on wheels for organizing materials are on their way. I’ll definitely be posting more soon as our makerspace becomes a reality. Until then, check out these videos for some of the cool tools that will be part of our new space:

Makey Makey:

Sphero:

Snap Circuits:

Posted in Makerspace, My Ramblings, Resources & Links, Tech | 4 Comments

EdCamp Baton Rouge

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Last Saturday at CMS, we hosted the first EdCamp Baton Rouge…and it was such a great day of learning, sharing, and networking! Educators from around the city (and several from other places around the state) came out for a day of “unconference” style learning. We had about 30 people show up, which I think was a good showing for the first event of its kind in Baton Rouge. Less than a handful of us had ever attended an EdCamp before, so it was definitely a new concept for most. However, everyone jumped right in and contributed to the learning, which is exactly what EdCamp is all about.

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As attendees arrived, they used different colored Post-Its to suggest session ideas and topics. Designating different colors really helped us when we were sorting and making the session board.

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We started the morning off with a few rounds of “Rocks/Sucks” or “Things that Suck” which got our attendees discussing some hot topics in education. My friend and our CMS Data Specialist, Jason Dupuy, did a great job of moderating this activity.

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Also during this time, we were busy putting together our session board. The digital session board along with links to notes from the sessions can be found here.

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Since we had a smaller group, we scheduled fewer sessions at each time slot. I had several teachers who had never attended an EdCamp before tell me they LOVED the rule of two feet — it meant they could hit up multiple sessions at a time slot and not feel bad about leaving. A number of attendees said this was the BEST professional development that they had ever attended and they couldn’t wait to recruit more people to attend next year…YES!!

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At one of our session slots, we held a playground. I combined this idea from EdCamp Atlanta‘s 25 minute tech tools session slots and the Librarians Network Playground we host at ISTE each year. At sign up, we had people put up Post-Its for a tech tool/resource they would be willing to demo at the playground. We had eight different stations where folks were sharing their favorite resource (Kahoot, Kid Blog, PicMonkey, Schoology - to name a few) and the other attendees floated around the room to learn about the different tools. This was a big success and lots of fun! We will definitely do this again next year, as it was a great way to really get to share tried and true tools that we love and use all the time in our schools.

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We had the BEST EdCamp lunch EVER, thanks to my awesome parents. They cooked for our crew: pulled pork sandwiches, smoked sausage, beans, coleslaw, and mom’s bread pudding. There were definitely lots of raves about the food and I have to give a shout out to my parents for being so amazing and supporting me in everything I do…including EdCamp!

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Thanks to my BFF and EdCamp co-organizer Alaina Laperouse…you are the best! And thanks to my friends Paula Naugle, Marcie Hebert, and Chris Young…they all traveled in from New Orleans for the day and that meant SO MUCH to me!

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Thanks the EdCamp Baton Rouge Sponsors: SimpleK12, Flocabulary, BrainPop, Edutopia, Follett, Oak Point, StoryboardThat, and 30Hands. And thanks to my awesome principal Jason Fountain for always letting me run with my crazy ideas and allowing us to host EdCamp at our school (he won the Flocabulary subscription…WOOHOO!).

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I’m counting our first EdCamp Baton Rouge as a success, and I can’t wait to host another next year!

Posted in Resources & Links, Tech | 1 Comment

Go to Recommendations: Action/Adventure

One of the best things about being a librarian is connecting students with the right books. I feel like middle school is the time where kids really become life-long readers. They discover their reading preferences and start to read books with more meat to them. I love having our library arranged by genre, I find that students are able to browse the library and find books that are of interest to them very easily. Within each section, I have my go to recommendations that I find myself constantly suggesting to students. I thought I would share mine, and hope that you’ll leave me comments with any others that you love to recommend!

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I love to recommend any books from the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshisto reluctant readers who are looking for a fast-paced read that isn’t intimidating. I’m so excited to see that this series is continuing to grow!

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Gordon Korman has several great action/adventure series, including The Island Trilogy, The Dive Trilogy, and The Everest Trilogy. Similar to the I Survived, these short books are a great way to get reluctant readers to pick up a novel.

Hatchet

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is one of those tried and true recommendations. Living in south Louisiana, so many of my students love to hunt and fish, so they really get into an outdoors adventure story.

WildLife GreatWideSea AlabamaMoonOther outdoor adventure recommendations include Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice, The Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong, and Alabama Moon by Watt Key. I have multiple copies of all of these titles, and they stay checked out all year long.

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The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz are great action-packed kid spy books that my students devour. Middle school students LOVE a series!

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For my action/adventure readers that I think would also be interested in reading science fiction/fantasy, I recommend The Limit by Kristen Landon and The Maximum Ride series by James Patterson.

AuRevoir  SonoftheMob

For my more mature readers who are into action and adventure, I love to recommend Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick and Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman. I thought both of these books were super fun, fast-paced reads!

What books do you find yourself constantly recommending to students who are hunting for an action/adventure read?

Posted in Books & Reviews, Middle Level Books, Resources & Links | 2 Comments

Bookmark Design Contest

Last year, I designed bookmarks for my students at the beginning of the year. This year, I wanted to give my students the chance to design our bookmarks. A bookmark design contest was a great way to get students involved at the start of the school year!

CMS Bookmark Design Contest by librariantiff

I invited students to submit their digital images or drawings for the contest. It was so exciting to have over 40 submissions for the contest, and even more exciting to see the awesome talent at our school on display!

You can check out the submissions on our CMS Flickr page here. I’m so proud of all of the submissions and the hard work that went into creating them!

I had our administrators pick the top 15. Those were posted on Schoology, our school’s LMS, and students were able to vote for their favorite. The three bookmarks that received the most votes were the ones I had printed!

The students have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new bookmarks, and they arrived this afternoon!! I’m so excited to put them out tomorrow, and especially excited to call in the winners and present them with a stack of their very own bookmarks in print!

Here are our winning designs:Photo Sep 04, 4 30 58 PM

Posted in My Ramblings, Resources & Links | 3 Comments

Twitter Boot Camp

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been back to school for over two weeks! The year is off to a great start. I’ve seen all of the students through their ELA classes. Last week, we kicked off our 1:1 initiative and checked out laptops to our students. We have lots of exciting things on the horizon at CMS!

One thing that I’m really pumped about this year is a Twitter Boot Camp I’m putting on for my teachers.TwitterBootCamp

I’ll be holding a 30 minute session once a month to introduce teachers to using Twitter for professional development. I’m hoping that by introducing them gradually through short sessions, they won’t feel so overwhelmed by the idea of learning to use Twitter.

Our first session is tomorrow, and I’m planning to give an overview of how Twitter works, a tour of what you see on your Twitter page, help teachers set up their accounts, and give them a list of folks to follow to start building their PLN.

I’m also going to share these awesome Comic Tutorials by the amazing Gwyneth Jones:

5091498668_3cbdd93c3b_b 5217790680_a812220975_bI think that many of my teachers are at least curious about Twitter from hearing me evangelize about it all the time, so I’m hoping for a good turn out! This is also how we’re FINALLY getting Twitter unblocked for teachers in my school…YAY!

What types of programs do you have planned to support and push your teachers this year?

Posted in Resources & Links, Tech | 2 Comments

Back to School…I’m HAPPY!

It’s that time…school supplies are everywhere, parents are dancing, teachers are getting anxious because it’s time for Back to School!

Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to go back to school. I just have a really good feeling about this year! Don’t get me wrong, last year was GREAT! Probably the greatest of my career so far. But there are some very exciting things on the horizon for this year. Some things that I’ve been trying to set into motion for YEARS are finally becoming reality. And I am beyond blessed to be at an absolutely amazing school with incredible teachers, students, and top notch administration.

Check out our CMS “Happy” video from the end of last school year. When you have such great coworkers, how could you not be excited to go back to school?!

What are some of the things happening this year that I’m so happy about? Number one on my list…social media! I have been a social media and PLN evangelist for years now, and I’m very excited to announce that this year our school is taking the plunge into social media! My school is finally developing the presence I’ve been dreaming about! Parents, community members, and other educators will be able to find us this year on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube! I’m very excited that we are taking advantage of social media to share, promote, and publicize the amazing things that are happening at CMS!

I’m also planning to do a year long Twitter PD course for our teachers. Once a month, after school in a 30 minute mini-session, we are going to meet together and I am going to help my teachers learn how educators can use Twitter to build their PLN! Hopefully by having short sessions on a regular basis, I’ll be able to help them “get” Twitter and learn to use it to really enrich and expand their professional learning. My teachers know that I am such a Twitter advocate that many of them are curious as to what it’s all about and how it can help them, so I am very hopeful that this is going to be a great PD experience for all of us! I will definitely be posting more about this as we get started!

And there’s still more to be happy about, folks! CMS will be hosting the first EdCamp Baton Rouge on September 27th!

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We are reaching out to all educators in the Baton Rouge area (and beyond!) to attend this event. I am excited for this opportunity for our teachers to really shine as leaders…and we get to show off our beautiful new school, as well! More information is available on our #EdCampBR website, Facebook page, and our Eventbrite registration! And if you’ve never attended an EdCamp, you should look for one in your area!

Every year, I try to pick a major focus for myself/the library throughout the year. This year, my major goal is to do more to support and collaborate with my teachers. I especially want to reach out to my non-ELA teachers, get their classes in the library, and get library resources in their classrooms more. Also, the Twitter PD and EdCamp are going to work really well for this goal.

What’s your goal for this year? What are you looking forward to the most?

Posted in My Ramblings, Resources & Links, Tech | 1 Comment

ISTE, Road Trip, & PLN Love

This has been quite a summer, full of fun, travel, and friends. As I reflect on the past two months, I realize how blessed I am to have made so many wonderful memories during the summer of 2014!

This is the third year that my BFF Alaina and I have attended ISTE together, then taken a trip after the conference. This year’s adventure was a three week road trip that took us 4200 miles!

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We started in Atlanta for #ISTE2014. This was my 5th ISTE conference, and it didn’t disappoint. The annual conference is a chance for me to reconnect and spend quality time with my PLN, which I NEED in order to get myself ready for a new school year. This year’s conference was extra special — this was my year that I’ve served as President of ISTE’s Librarians Network and I was recognized as one of ISTE’s Emerging Leaders.

All of our Librarians Network (formerly SIGLIB; even more formerly SIGMS) events were absolutely AMAZING! I was so stoked to finally meet the FABULOUS Jennifer LaGarde face to face at our Networking Fair. Jennifer also gave one of the BEST keynotes I’ve ever witnessed at our Librarians Network Breakfast. Seriously — Jennifer never ceases to blow my mind, and I am honored to call her a friend!

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The Digital Age Library Playground has been one of my favorite events since my very first ISTE. It’s actually how I first got involved with the awesome librarians group at ISTE many years ago, so it holds a special place in my heart. This year’s event was no exception — so much great sharing and networking went on at the playground. I shared PicMonkey, which I use obsessively for photo editing and graphic design. (I’m so glad my awesome friend Nikki Robertson snapped and posted this picture of me at the playground! Thanks Nikki!!)

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Later that day, I was recognized at the ISTE Awards Luncheon as one of the ISTE members under the age of 35 to be recognized as an Emerging Leader. I’m so incredibly honored to now be part of this elite group of ISTE Emerging Leaders!

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They also recognized the award winners at the middle keynote, so I was very excited to see myself on the HUGE screen!

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I had a blast moderating our Librarians Network Forum: Marketing Your Library, which featured Michelle Cooper, Elissa Malespina, and Nikki D. Robertson. We had a packed house, and these ladies shared the amazing things they’ve done in their libraries.

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Our final network event of the conference was the Librarians Network Annual Breakfast and Keynote. Before Jennifer’s awesome Zombie Librarian Keynote, we took some time to recognize the accomplishments of our network and the great leadership team that I have had the privilege of working with for the past few years. I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to lead and work with such amazing librarians from all around the world…it’s definitely been one of those “get back more than you give” situations for me, and I look forward to staying involved and plugged in with this awesome group! Shout-outs to Donna Macdonald (new President!), Sherry Gick (new President Elect!), Jenn Hanson (Communications Chair extraordinaire!), and Elissa Malespina (Professional Development Chair!) — such a great team!

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After the breakfast, Alaina and I jumped in the car and hit the road…and the whirlwind began! We visited my family in North Carolina en route to Washington DC. We also made a pit stop at the Poe Museum in Richmond, VA.

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We hit the ground running when we got to DC, seeing and doing as much as humanly possible in the two days we spent there!

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We were lucky enough to spend the morning of July 4th in DC, witnessing the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the National Archives. So of course we dressed up!

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We spent the rest of the 4th with our awesome friends Matthew & Aimee Winner (and their precious son Jonah, too!). I love that so many educators who started as strangers, then became members of my PLN, and I now consider them to be dear friends! This trip was full of visits with library and teacher friends, which made it super special.

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From Baltimore, we headed to New York to pick up my mom for a few fun days in the city. We saw the sights (including a Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour), saw some shows (Les Miserables and Bullets Over Broadway), and saw some friends!

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Our friends Rose Luna and Margaux DelGuidice took us for a wonderful stroll along The High Line.

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Also while in NYC, we met up with Elissa Malespina and her family for a yummy dinner at Trattoria Tercolori.

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From NYC, we headed to our second presidential library stop in Hyde Park, NY to the FDR Presidential Library & Museum. (We also visited the Carter Library in Atlanta, which is my least favorite of the eight we’ve visited so far.) I definitely recommend visiting the home and museum in Hyde Park, it was a great stop! One of my favorite features was the little rooms set up where you could listen to fireside chats.

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From Hyde Park, we headed to Newport, RI. This was probably my favorite stop of the trip! I am ready to start planning a trip back to New England, and spending several days in Newport, for sure. We visited The Breakers, one of the Newport Mansions.

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Our next stop after Newport was Boston! At this point, we were in untraveled territory for me…and I do love a city! One of the highlights of this trip was visiting with Jenn Hanson and watching a Red Socks game from Bleacher Bar…what a cool experience!

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And of course we visited the JFK Presidential Library & Museum, too. From Boston, we took the beautiful scenic drive down Highway 1 to Portland. This was EXCELLENT road trip driving, folks!

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We arrived in Portland in time for another one of the highlights of our trip…a lobstering excursion! Our cruise with Lucky Catch was so much fun. Not only did we get to see the beautiful coast from the water, but we got to participate in the whole lobstering experience!

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From Portland, we headed up to Canada! We visited Montreal, which was very…French!

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We also spent a night in Toronto, then we visited Niagara Falls! WOW!

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In order to find our way home, we had to start covering some serious ground, with a few fun stops along the way. Of course we visited the Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids (and another Oval Office replica photo, because we must)!

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We drove through Indiana and made our way to Kentucky…of course we stopped at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

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And our final stop was to visit the recently relocated CMS teacher Alex Young at her new home in Nashville! Of course we had to see the Country Music Hall of Fame (and Flat Fountain was happy to be there as well, of course).

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And there you have it! 21 days on the road, 4200 miles (EXACTLY!), and countless memories. What stands out to me the most about this trip is the number of educator friends that we met up with and stayed with…so much PLN love!

Now it’s time to get in gear for the new school year. So much to do in so little time…but it was worth being on the road and living the summer life!

Posted in ISTE, My Ramblings, Resources & Links | 1 Comment

#DreamRoadTrip with Roadtrippers!

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For me, summertime means time to hit the road! I’m very lucky to have an amazing best friend, Alaina, who also happens to be a teacher at my school AND who loves to travel as much as I do. This will be our third summer of hitting the road together and we are VERY excited about the trip we have planned. It will start off with a stop in Atlanta for #ISTE2014, and then off we’ll go to see lots of the eastern US!

Last year, we went west after #ISTE2013 in San Antonio. We were on the road for 17 days and had an absolutely AMAZING trip. In anticipation of our trip last year, I blogged about this website and app that I absolutely fell in love with called Roadtrippers (see that post here!). Here’s the trip we took last summer:

Summer 2013 | Our “Go West!” trip on Roadtrippers.com!

Also, you can check out last year’s Road Trip Photo Book and a recap of Flat Fountain’s Adventure (and the answer is YES…Flat Fountain will be returning for another year of road tripping!).

Everyone knows that half of the fun of a big trip is the planning…I absolutely love to obsessively plan a trip. And we’ve been doing just that for months now. Just like last year, our planning started with Roadtrippers. You can see the main points of our trip here:

La & Puff’s Epic Roadtrip 2014 | My new trip on Roadtrippers.com!

I use Roadtrippers a lot for pre-planning, because the website has great filters to use for finding attractions, historical locations, restaurants, etc. On the road, we use the app to find nearby sights that we don’t want to miss.

We use lots of other resources too…travel books, Google maps, local travel guides, basically anything we can get our hands on so we can make the best choices about our time in different cities. I have a Google Doc that has a very detailed outline of our trip (including departure, arrival, and travel times) and links to everything from hotels, restaurants, and sights along the way. Everything is put together in our nice little travel binder. What else would you expect from a pair of teachers ready to hit the road??

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We’ve also made a Facebook page so that our friends can follow our adventures…feel free to like our page!

Now, on top of all of the awesomeness that is Roadtrippers.com, they are also running a contest right now to give away a $500 gas card to one lucky roadtripper…and I REALLY want that to be ME! I’ve already shared my trip on the social media outlets, but I hope that this blog post will show them that I really am one of their biggest fans (I mean…I first blogged about them over a year ago!) and that gas card would seriously help two traveling educators out!

We leave for our #DreamRoadTrip one week from tomorrow and will be on the road for three awesome weeks!

Posted in My Ramblings | Leave a comment

#ISTE2014

In just one month, educators from all over the world will flock to Atlanta for this year’s International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference!

This year will mark my fifth consecutive ISTE conference. My first ISTE conference was 2010 in Denver, and it was a life-changing moments for me. It was my first big conference, and it was there that I really came to understand the power of having a PLN and making face-to-face connections with people that inspire me all year long.

Now, ISTE is the conference that I look forward to the most each year. It’s not only a chance to make new connections and learn new things, but also to reconnect with the people who I now consider to be dear friends in addition to the professional inspiration they constantly provide.

This year’s conference will be extra special for a few reasons. This conference will mark the end of my year as SIGMS/SIGLIB/ISTE Librarians Network President. Our group has gone through some crazy rebranding/name changing with ISTE this past year, but we’re still the same awesome group of library leaders that are pushing to see technology used in engaging and innovative ways in our schools. After getting so much from the organization (and the Librarians Network in particular), I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to give back by serving in a leadership role. It’s been an amazing experience to work with an awesome leadership team (THANKS Maureen, Jenn, Donna, and Elissa — you are all so great)! This year’s conference will also be extra special because I’ll be recognized as one of ISTE’s 2014 Class of Emerging Leaders. It’s such an honor to be selected along with the others in this amazing group of young educators who are working hard to make a difference in their communities.

There are tons of great posts full of conference travel tips (one of my favorites is this one from my amazing mentor Gwyneth Jones and another great friend, Nicholas Provenzano, just shared his list here). Here are my tips for a great ISTE conference:

  1. Hang out and make connections. This is what the conference is all about, for me! Sure, there’s lots of great information in the MANY sessions that take place during the conference, but I think the most valuable connections and learning take place through conversations and meeting new people. Great ways to do this include volunteering (even if it’s your first conference, get involved and VOLUNTEER!), visiting the lounges, and attending events/parties. And make sure you have some business cards handy for when you meet new folks!
  2. Use the #ISTE2014 hashtag. Apparently the official hashtag is #ISTE2014 and not #ISTE14 this year. If you are attending the conference, you MUST take advantage of the power of Twitter before, during, and after the conference. And if you’re not able to attend the conference this year, following the hashtag will give you a wealth of resources so you can still learn from afar!
  3. Take in the city. I always make a point to do some fun sight seeing when attending a conference. There will come a point where your brain is completely overloaded, so plan something fun that will help you recharge your battery! This year in Atlanta, I’m super excited to visit the World of Coca-Cola and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum (I absolutely LOVE a presidential library!).
  4. Don’t forget to eat. I always thought this was dumb when I saw it on conference planning lists…but then I realized that I never make time to eat at conferences because I just get so BUSY! Plan some lunch and dinner dates with friends at the conference. Grab something to eat and drink anytime you have the opportunity. Bring snacks. And water. This is just as important as wearing comfortable shoes and not forgetting your extra battery charger!
  5. Check out all of our awesome events with the ISTE Librarians Network! See and save the graphic below so you won’t miss any of these great chances to connect with awesome librarians and build your PLN!

Atlanta,Georgia,downtown skyline,dusk Will I be seeing you at ISTE this year?

And don’t forget…there’s still time to volunteer for the Digital Age Library Playground…sign up for a spot here!

Posted in ISTE, My Ramblings, Resources & Links, Tech | 2 Comments