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!


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!


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!


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


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.


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!


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.


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!


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.


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!


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


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


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.


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.


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!


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!


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


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


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)!


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


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).


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!

#DreamRoadTrip with Roadtrippers!


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!

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!

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, 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!


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!

Flat Fountain’s Adventure

I’ve posted sporadically about our amazing trip, but I must post fully about the adventures of Flat Fountain! For those who are scratching their heads, trying to figure out who the Flat Stanley-esque character is that appeared in numerous road trip photos on my Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook streams, let me tell you about Flat Fountain! Alaina and I have a really great principal, Mr. Fountain! I originally hoped that he would be coming to ISTE this year, but he couldn’t because he was busy awaiting the arrival of his first child this summer! A big congrats to the Fountains, who welcomed their beautiful baby into the world this week!!

We realized that Real Fountain was going to have a VERY busy summer, but wouldn’t be doing any traveling. So this is where Alaina and I came up with the idea of Flat Fountain! He would get to travel to all of the awesome fun places along our epic road trip…

Our adventure began on June 22 as we drove from Baton Rouge to San Antonio. Here’s Flat Fountain at the Texas state line.


We had a wonderful time in San Antonio at ISTE learning, exploring, and visiting with friends! Flat Fountain met many of our friends, including Matthew Winner.


He was excited to visit the Alamo, but was disappointed to find that there’s no basement. Flat Fountain also enjoyed the Riverwalk.

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Other ISTE friends included Moby and presenter Lori Elliott.

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After leaving San Antonio, we drove into New Mexico. Flat Fountain really enjoyed Carlsbad Caverns because he met a new flat friend there!

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We visited Roswell, NM and the International UFO Museum and Research Center, but Flat Fountain wasn’t too sure about those aliens…


We rode along Route 66 where we could, which Flat Fountain really enjoyed. One of the fun places he visited along the way was the Wigwam Village Motel!

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In Albuquerque, NM we had a great visit at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

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Flat Fountain was very excited to enter Arizona because it’s such a beautiful state!

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The most exciting thing that Flat Fountain did in Arizona was rafting on the Colorado River! It was a HOT day (105 degrees), so Alaina and I went for a dip in the water (which was a CHILLY 47 degrees), but Flat Fountain obviously couldn’t get wet!

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On the way to Las Vegas, the winding road took us in and out of Arizona. We did get to make a fun stop at the Little Hollywood Movie Museum in Kanab, Utah. Flat Fountain got to play the part of a movie star in an old western!

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The Hoover Dam was another must see sight on the Colorado River.


Flat Fountain was happy to spend a few days in the same spot…in Las Vegas! It was also nice to see a familiar face as my mom met us there! Vegas was the hottest town on our stop…LITERALLY, with a top temperature of 126 degrees!

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After leaving Vegas, we took a scenic drive through Utah…such a beautiful state! Flat Fountain visited a number of National Parks along the way, including Zion National Park and the AMAZING Arches!

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Flat Fountain was snoozing as we drove into Colorado in the dark, and he recovered from the long day in Utah as Alaina and I visited with a friend in Denver (thanks for having us, Carleigh). Ahead of us was another long day of driving through Kansas. We did enjoy our visit to the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum in Abilene, KS.

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We stayed the night in Topeka, KS and visited Monroe Elementary School, home of the Brown vs. Board of Education Historic Site.

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Flat Fountain was very happy to say, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” as we make another stop in Kansas City, MO. We made two more library stops: Kansas City Public Library and Truman’s Presidential Library & Museum. The Truman Library was one of the best museums we visited during the entire road trip! Flat Fountain particularly enjoyed the recreation of Truman’s Oval Office.

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Our next stop was St. Louis, which proved to be a pretty tricky city! We ended up in Illinois twice after unintentionally taking the bridge over the Mississippi River. Flat Fountain finally had his chance to visit the Gateway Arch before we headed out of town.

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Next, we headed to Memphis, TN, the final stop on our amazing road trip. Flat Fountain visited Graceland, home of Elvis!

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And before heading home to Baton Rouge, Flat Fountain needed to do one last thing…send a post card from Graceland to baby Fountain!


What an incredible adventure for Flat Fountain…and Alaina and I had a blast too! I know that the memories we made on this trip will be shared ALL the time, for years to come!

Southern Utah


Utah, a set on Flickr.

Southern Utah is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen! We took the scenic drive and hit a number of National Parks, including Zion, Red Canyon, Grand Staircase, Arches, and Dixie National Forest. It was a VERY long day of driving, but worth it for all of the beautiful landscapes we were able to see!

Librarians Rock!

I’m so excited to share two great links for you that are exciting AND library related during a time when I’m also posting lots of road trip stuff!


First, this has been in the making for quite some time! For the past year, I have served on the AASL Best Apps for Teaching & Learning committee. The AASL Best Websites have been hugely successful, and so I was very excited to be invited to join the team that would put together the first ever Best Apps list! We are all so very excited to see this list go out to educators, and the announcement was made at ALA in Chicago. Although I wasn’t able to be there for the presentation, I’m so happy and honored to have served with such an amazing group on this AASL committee!

Click here to see the 2013 AASL Best Apps for Teaching & Learning list!


I was so thrilled when I was asked to write a piece about ISTE, particularly about the SIGMS events, for School Library Journal. Even though it was hectic getting this written amidst crazy conference and road trip activities, this was really exciting for me and I’m happy to share the article with you now!

Click here for “Flipped Classrooms, Librarians as ‘Defenders of Wisdom’, and the Hottest Tech Tools” on The Digital Shift.

ISTE…THAT just happened!

So yeah…about those daily postings/videos. That didn’t happen…but ISTE did!

I’m writing this post from our little hotel in Whites City, NM at what I believe is 7:00 AM. I have a feeling that I am going to be constantly confused as to what time zone I’m in, and I’m trusting my phone to adjust accordingly (which probably isn’t the best choice, but whatever!). For future reference, if anyone is planning a trip to visit Carlsbad Caverns, book your room in Carlsbad far in advance. Otherwise, be prepared to find yourself at the Whites City Rodeway Inn, with a questionable grocery and far more questionable buffett as your only dining options for 20+ miles.

But what happened in those missing days between my last post and now? ISTE happened! And it was awesome! You can see the post below for all of the photos on the SIGMS Flickr set.

Alaina and I did this video on Saturday as we made our initial journey to San Antonio, but it never went public:

On Sunday, Alaina and I went to the Alamo. And it looked like I expected the Alamo to look.

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We also made the most of our time visiting with my dear friend Matthew Winner and his wonderful wife Aimee!


I was SO excited to meet Sherry Gick (@LibraryFanatic):

And I got to see my awesome friends accept their SIGMS Technology Innovation Awards at the Opening Ceremony! Matthew, Sherry, and Gretchen were the primary award winners, and my fellow Louisiana librarian Elizabeth Kahn and her collaborating teacher won the secondary award!

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The SIG Open House was loads of fun:

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The SIGMS Playground on Monday morning was HUGELY successful! You can find the links shared here on the wiki.

We had other great SIGMS events, including the Forum and Annual Breakfast & Keynote. It was such a great conference with amazing SIGMS events. I am so thrilled to be the new SIGMS President and work with an organization that supports the work that school librarians do in their schools with technology!

Our last night at the conference was Tuesday (although we had the SIGMS Breakfast the next morning), and Alaina and I had a BLAST at Ed Tech Karaoke with our new AMAZING friends Rose Luna and Margaux DelGuidice. It’s so great when you meet kindred spirits, and that’s exactly what Alaina and I felt with Rose and Margaux! They’re friends, collaborators, and travel buddies just like us!


We are off to see Carlsbad Caverns, then Roswell, then Albuquerque. Yes, that’s the agenda for TODAY! And we’re off…