ISTE Reflection

I’m going to try to reflect on my experience at ISTE in San Diego, but I know I’m not going to do it justice. It was incredible. This was my third ISTE Conference and it is an experience I feel like I need each year to recharge my batteries and get excited for the next school year. Although the idea of being “recharged” is difficult to grasp because I ran myself ragged at the conference this year. I just couldn’t make myself stop or slow down for silly things like sleeping and eating, there was just too much to do! Next year, I have to do a better job of giving myself time to chill and reflect.

So this year, my BFF and 6th grade ELA teacher at my school (@alaperouse) was the victim of being sucked into my ISTE and ed tech obsession. We decided to turn the conference trip into a marathon and spent a few days before and after the conference seeing San Diego and San Francisco. She was excited about the trip and curious about the conference. She’s my BFF so she knows how much my life revolves around Twitter, blogging, and the ed tech world. Since the conference, she’s a convert! Now Alaina is building her own PLN and we are making plans for some cool projects this school year. I’ve been lucky enough to have a different teacher come along with me to ISTE each year and I think that it’s really added a lot of value for me, this year especially.

So I’m going to try and give a recap of the conference. Before the conference, I was able to attend the Leadership Symposium and attend a break-out session on Moving Beyond from Textbooks — lots of great resources in this LiveBinder.

Sunday afternoon I helped set up for the SIGMS table at the SIG Fair. I love our SIG, one of the best and busiest I think, and it’s been a great year for me serving as Vice Chair.



I was able to meet so many great members of my PLN at the Fair and see many of my beloved library friends! Before the opening keynote, the cast of ISTE Hollywood Squares met up and cut up…err…planned for our session. I still can’t believe I was part of that group, what a blast! I watched the Opening Keynote from the Bloggers Cafe, but you can see it here:

Then, Alaina and I rushed back to our hotel to get ready for the AWESOME Edubros Party 🙂


Monday morning started with the SIGMS Playground, which is always SO much fun as always! After, I glanced at the planner and saw Lisa Parisi’s session on Making Connections with Blogging was about to begin. That was the PERFECT opportunity to have Alaina see how much her students NEED to be blogging. SUCCESS! It was a great session with amazing ideas and I can’t wait to see what will come of it for our students. I also attended sessions by Adam Bellow and Chris Lehmann, both amazing speakers who shared the great things they are doing. Monday night was the SIGMS Reception sponsored by ProQuest, which was a great chance to hang out with awesome library friends!

Tuesday morning I went to breakfast with other educators from my district attending the conference at the beautiful Hotel Del Coronado. I attended Kathy Shrock’s session on Literacy in the Digital Age, then got ready for the SIGMS Forum. Steve Hargadon was the main speaker, discussing social media in schools and libraries. Joquetta Johnson and I spoke of the ways that we are using social media in our schools (SO MUCH FUN!), and Jason Epstein, Marie Slim, Jane Lofton, and Peggy George shared cool tools like Pinterest, Celly, Tricider, and Symbaloo. Sharing at the Forum was a great experience! And the session is also available through ISTE’s Video On Demand!

My favorite session was Wednesday morning’s SIGMS Breakfast. Not only was I presented as SIGMS President-Elect (I’m so excited to be part of the new re-structuring of SIGMS leadership!) but we had an amazing presentation by Alan November. I mean, PREACH IT! CIPA, information access, filtering policies, the roles of librarians, search personalization by Google, and so much more! I can’t wait to listen to the Video On Demand of this session again so I can yell “AMEN!” and “THAT’S RIGHT!” over and over.

I wrapped up the conference with the craziest, most out-the-box session at the conference, which I happened to be part of…Hollywood Squares! I think most of the audience appreciated our humor and enjoyed the session as a fun way to end their time at ISTE. I know I had fun playing Lady GaGa!



Love me some Nick Provenzano and Gwyneth Jones!!

After the session, there was time for one last dinner in San Diego. Alaina and I were able to share it with some of our #isteBFFs, Matthew Winner, Cheryl Steighner, Ryan Patterson, and Ilona Brennick!

So now I’m home and recovering from that incredible trip. I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to connect with so many amazing educators from around the world. You all inspire me daily and drive me to constantly want to better myself as an educator.

I <3 #ISTE12!

ISTE 2012 Conference Tips

If you’re looking for the conference tips, scroll down a bit. Up first is a little update of the last few weeks!

Am I REALLY three weeks into summer?

The first week after the end of school was busy leading up to my brother and new wife’s wedding. It was a beautiful plantation wedding:


My mom and I spent the following week at the beach, recovering from the exhausting wedding festivities!

I got in some good reading time, but I spent most of the week coughing. I finally went to the doctor when I got home this week, and it turns out it’s developed into bronchitis. No fun, but I’m on the mend (I hope, anyway).

This Monday morning, I got the call that the movers were bringing the library books from the old school to the new school. So I got my coughing self off the couch and got over to the new school to supervise the moving of the books!



There’s still an enormous amount of work to be done, but I won’t be able to get back into the school and really get to work until I get home from my big California trip in the beginning of July.

Which means… our beloved ISTE Conference is coming up soon!

I’ll be getting on a plane to head to San Diego a week from today! This will be my third year in attendance and I’m looking forward to it even more than ever before.

I was so excited to have the opportunity to write a piece about the conference for School Library Journal called ISTE or Bust (part of the article ‘Best in the West‘) — I consider myself to be somebody now that I’m in print! They even did a caricature of me for the article!! You can read the article here.


To say this excites me is the understatement of the century! 

I’ve been asked several times about tips that I would share with a first time ISTE attendee. I think that ISTE is unlike any other conference (at least unlike any other I’ve attended). It’s MASSIVE. It’s incredibly overwhelming. There’s no way that you can see and do it all. But there’s so much to see and do, that you want to make sure you take advantage of your time as much as possible and savor every minute!

Now if you’re looking for packing tips, check out the amazing Gwyneth Jones at her Daring Librarian blog. She’s got that covered! I’m just going to ramble a bit about the things that I do to prepare myself for one of my FAVORITE professional experiences of the year.

Tip 1: Use the Conference Planner! I love the ISTE Conference Planner because it’s so thorough, organized, and easy to search. Fill it up and give yourself some options. Download the app (available now!) and keep using it throughout the conference instead of lugging around a conference book. While you’re at it, join the Conference Ning and make even more connections. Not sure what sessions to attend but want to see the best of the best? Use the SIG Picks to get some suggestions for sessions that are sure to blow you away. Make sure you add these sessions that are not to be missed (according to yours truly, anyway):

Tip 2: Get on Twitter and use the #ISTE12 hashtag! I cannot imagine going to ISTE and not being active on Twitter. There’s so much rich conversation and valuable connections that take place in that Twitter stream. There’s so much going on throughout the entire conference and it’s a great way to keep up with as many of those things as possible. Not able to make the conference? THIS is your chance to get involved and reap the benefits of such a conference from the comfort of your own home.

Tip 3: Bring business cards! There are so many opportunities to connect with new educators from all over the world. With so much creativity flowing around, there are great ideas all over the place and so many chances for collaborations to be born. Being able to pass along a business card with your contact info is quite handy. And of course, it has to be cute! My new box of Moo Mini Cards should be arriving in the mail any day now 🙂

  I <3 Moo Minis!

Tip 4: Party Time! Obviously there’s lots of sessions to attend and things to do that you are going to line up using your conference planner. That alone is enough to keep you busy and run you ragged for the duration of the conference. Don’t fill your schedule to the point where you miss out on chances for conversations and for FUN! Don’t be afraid to skip a session to go to lunch with new peeps. Spend some time hanging out at the Newbie Lounge, Blogger’s Cafe, and Social Butterfly Lounge. After hours, plan to hit up some of the fun social events, such as the EdTech Karaoke Rooftop Party. There will be more options than you can possibly attend, but use Twitter and the #ISTE12 hashtag to see where the fun is happening!

Tip 5: Document your adventure! Obviously, you are going to want to keep notes on the sessions you attend and the people you meet. Evernote is a great note taking tool out there for you to use. Perhaps you want to bring along your LiveScribe pen. However you decide to keep your notes, do your best to keep them organized so you can really use them after you get home. Note taking isn’t enough, though! Take lots of pictures and post them on Flickr. Join the masses that will be blogging about ISTE12. As usual, I plan to keep a video journal of my experience and will be posting away here on my blog!

I’m looking so very forward to ISTE this year! If you are going, what are you looking forward to the most? Make sure to look for me there and please say HI! or send me a Tweet and let’s meet up. I can’t wait to meet more members of my PLN face to face 🙂

End of Year Library Report (and GRADUATION!)

There’s a whole lot of CRAZY going on right now in my work life. Typically, I like to keep the library open as long as possible, I always make exceptions for kids who need just one more book (LOTS of exceptions, okay…), and some form of an inventory happens. Not this year, though. I’m now in the process of hunting down books students still have checked out. Next week I will be doing a thorough inventory, cleaning up the records in Destiny, and getting the collection in pristine order. The following week, the cases will be delivered that I will use to pack up the collection for the move. The idea of doing all of this is overwhelming and makes me anxious, but I know it will be wonderful to have a solid inventory and clean records. And it will be a beautiful thing when everything is settled in at the new school.

Oh yeah, and on top of the move, our principal is retiring and we’re currently on the roller coaster ride that is the process of having our new principal selected. I’m not going to get into all of that, let’s just say it isn’t helping my current level of anxiety at all. I do want whoever is selected to be our new leader to really “get” what I’m all about and what our library aims to do. So I made a super extra special End of the Year Library Report that they will get a nice copy of to peruse at their leisure. Check it out:

I put it together in Comic Life, my FAVORITE program to use when designing posters, fliers, handouts, etc. And I messed around in Photoshop for a while and created those nifty graphics for circulation stats and library visits. This was such a great way for me to reflect on this year. There are always times where I think, “Have I really done anything productive this year??” Looking back on this year with this report, the answer is, “UM YEA!” I really feel like a lot was accomplished especially with introducing our gaming and going nontraditional in both fiction and nonfiction shelving! We’re going to go ahead and label this year a success.

AND speaking of SUCCESS — Yesterday I graduated from Northwestern State University of Louisiana with my Master’s degree in Educational Technology Leadership with a 4.0 GPA! Being able to share the day with my friend and CMS ELA teacher made it even sweeter.


The Power to Recommend

(or my Library Superpower OR why I read MG books so obsessively)

I like to think that my greatest library superpower is my ability to put the right book in the right hands. It’s a job that I take very seriously. If I ever reach the point where a comment to the effect of, “You always recommend the BEST books Mrs. Whitehead,” gets old, then I need to start doing something else. I really take a lot of pride in this ability.

Recently, one of my ELA teachers — after I passed along Lauren Myracle’s Shine and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars for her reading pleasure — explained my talent to her students in a way that totally made my day:

If you don’t have a book that you are reading and enjoying, then you NEED to go see Mrs. Whitehead. She knows exactly how to find the perfect book that you will love and not be able to put down. I’m telling you — it’s just like she can look into your eyes and see it, then know what book you need!

It’s easy to get distracted by all of the other aspects of our job, the technology, troubleshooting, programs, and day to day library business to the point that we forget that reading and recommending books is still at the heart of our job. We all know that if we’re doing our job, there’s no WAY that we have time to read at work regularly. But then the thought of my kids never seeing me read really bothers me, too. I’m supposed to be their ultimate reading role-model. They’ve got to see me read sometime! I try to keep my current read on my desk (amid everything else that seems to converge on my desk over the course of the day). I let them see it, know what I’m reading, maybe see me read a few pages from time to time, even. But like I said, if I depended on “reading time” during the course of the school day, I’d never even finish a book! So it’s something I commit myself to doing. It’s not always easy, especially when I get into a reading slump. It’s all worth it, though, when I’m able to take that book that I just finished and hand it with confidence to a child that I know won’t be able to put it down.

Here are some of my favorite go-to books to recommend —

For recovering Hunger Games addicts:


Series for girls without too much mature content:


Books for boys:


Edgy reads to hook more mature reluctant readers:


For my mature, YA reading girlies:


For my Sci-Fi/Fantasy lovers:


For those looking for a book that’s not boring:


I’d love for you share your go-to recommendations for your students! I’m working on my to read list for this summer, and it’s going to be a looong list!

Lamenting over Layout

The school year is winding down quickly — tomorrow I go back from spring break for two weeks of state testing/chaos, then just two more weeks of circulation before I have to shut the library down to get the library packed up and ready for the move. Since I’ve yet to do a complete inventory and both fiction and non fiction need to be cleaned up in the system, May is going to be a busy month. Especially since I’ve been told that everything needs to be DONE and ready to go by the last day of school.

After looking at the calendar and realizing how quickly this was going to come at me, I decided I needed to move past the denial phase and start really planning! So today I’ve been playing around with how I want to lay things out in the new space, which is VERY different from the rectangular box where the library currently lives.

Since fiction and non fiction are all now broken down by genre/category, I think this gives me some interesting options for arrangement. Below is my first draft of the new library layout. Feedback would definitely be appreciated!!

I like the idea of being able to put relevant fiction and not fiction categories near each other. For example, sports fiction and non fiction can be next door neighbors! I’m also thinking that having Sci-Fi/Fantasy and NF Science, Supernatural, and Mythology in the same area. The same for Historical Fiction and NF History and War.

See full size on Flickr here.

I think this layout puts high-interest sections in the more flexible/larger spaces. I’m going to have LOADS of extra shelf space (worried that it may look empty, but I can’t really control that…). I also have some furniture that’s been ordered that won’t be functional/relevant such as newspaper racks, dictionary stand, atlas stand, too much magazine space. Once I get all of the tables and chairs, I’ll have to figure out a way to arrange it so I can also add in some lounge seating (which wasn’t included with district funds).

The center shelving will be 48” tall and have adjustable shelves (up to 4 shelves per section). Shelving around the walls will be 42” (lots of windows taking up wall space) and those will have two shelves per section with wood dividers. Rectangular tables will be up front, along with my projector station. Round tables will be in the back area near the rear doors, which will open into the courtyard.

SO, if you have any thoughts, ideas, or comments after glancing over this layout and reading this post, I would REALLY appreciate some feedback!!

PS: Thanks to everyone who responded about newspaper subscriptions in their library! I haven’t had a subscription since I’ve been in this library and don’t see the point in spending funds on it, yet when my plans came in there were fancy sections for me to hang newspapers. It looks like a lot of you have canceled your subscriptions in the past few years or plan to in the very near future.

Ditching Dewey

I’ve been planning to hammer out this post for a while, and now that I’ve finished my grad school portfolio defense and have had some time to just chill out this week on Spring Break I’M READY!

At Follett’s New Leaf in Learning Conference, Tamara Cox and I initiated some serious conversations on the topic of nontraditional shelving during one of our presentations. Tamara took the plunge last year with her nonfiction shelving and I was so inspired. I started with genre shelving my fiction books earlier this school year. I have had so much success with the genre shelving — my students LOVE it and are much more comfortable browsing for books now. I honestly feel like it opens them up to new authors in a way that traditional fiction shelving does not. Whatever genre they are in the mood for is completely laid out in front of them in a manageably sized section so they can really see what’s there and what grabs them. We all love it, and I have absolutely no regrets about making that move!

With the success of the fiction shake-down, I was ready to dive into doing a similar dance with my nonfiction section. A few disclaimers about me:

  • I’m out of the box. And once I get a hair-brained idea brewing, I won’t be content until I run with it.
  • I’m not married to Dewey as a sacred cows of library life. I was a Page (read: 20 hr/week book shelver) at the public library for over 5 years in high school and college. Before that, I was a library helper in middle school (the same library that I work in now). Dewey and I have a long history, I know him well, and he has served me well. Naturally, I could get to any topic with easy because Melville and I go way back. However, for my kids it’s a totally different story and I’m okay with that, too.
  • I’m not the most organized person. Nor do I always think things through completely before I decide to just go with it. For this reason, my methods aren’t always the cleanest ways to get to a particular destination (but I make it work!).
  • I’m okay with things being a temporary disaster if I believe that there will be an improvement in the end.

I went back and forth with one of my best friends, who is also one of our 6th grade ELA teachers. She was sort of traumatized by the idea of me doing away with Dewey. I also discussed it quite a bit with my fabulous volunteer (a grandmother and retired middle school teacher) who helped me through the fiction switch. She thought it was a great idea and would make it easier for the students to browse. Having someone solidly on my team (and willing to put in a great deal of work to see it happen), I decided that we were going to go with it.

Now you’re probably thinking that I’m crazy for doing this in the middle of the school year. And I am. Completely crazy. BUT I wanted this to happen before we move to the new school this summer, so that meant we couldn’t wait for a summer to do this. I started this transition the same way I started with fiction: stickers. I printed out stickers for each section that we would use. How did I decide on my sections? I looked at what Tamara did, and she came up with hers using the Book Industry Standards. I looked at my collection and my student’s interests and created this list: Animals, Arts & Crafts, Careers, Crime, Food, Health, History, Literature, Math, Music, Mythology, Nature, Poetry, Religion, Reference, Science, Social & Cultural Issues, Sports, Supernatural, War.  I made a cute sticker for each category and we got to sticking! Of course there were some things that threw me off — where do we put the dinosaur books? Animals? History? Science? Hm. There were also some things I was so psyched to group together — military and armor books go with war…YES!

After (most of) the stickering was done, I was ready to re-arrange! Tamara arranged hers alphabetically by category, but I didn’t since I’ll be moving completely soon anyway. I arranged it so big categories (history, science) could stay where the majority of those books already were. I also gave sports and war some prime real-estate. Then, within my categories that were larger, I sub-categorized on the shelves like this:


So, for example, within “War” I have: General, American Revolution, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Modern Wars

The kids are able to find nonfiction that they’re interested in much more easily. I’m also looking forward to the move when I’ll be able to put categories into a new order and add biographies back in (they’re tucked in a corner right now).

A common question: What are you doing with the books in the catalog? For the time being, it’s still Dewey. I’m also leaving the Dewey stickers along with the category stickers. When I do inventory, I’m going to work on the catalog. I plan to use the Destiny feature where I can scan in a group of books and tack on a pre-fix, which will be the category name. I’m going to see how that works for a while. If it doesn’t, I’ll figure something else out!

In the end, I’m doing all of this because I believe that this is what will be best for my students. Anything that I can do to make the library a friendlier, more accessible place is a good thing!

Presentation Extravaganza!

First of all, let me say…

Mardi Gras break is a great thing in South Louisiana — especially the fact that we are getting a whole week off this year! This week has also happened to fall at a very convenient time. The time when I need time to finish my thesis paper. So, yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to these days. I figured while I was waiting to hear back from my advisor/professor (Dr. Sang Park the rockstar!) for what seems like the hundredth time in the past 24 hours to see where to go next with Chapter 4 of my paper. Meh. Don’t feel too sorry for me, though. I’m almost done with my master’s program (YEA!) and I’m headed to NC this weekend to visit my precious nieces.

March is SO CLOSE and such a hoppin’ month, it’s basically going to be PRESENTATION EXTRAVAGANZA!

So it was a major bummer earlier this month when LASL, our state school library conference, was postponed at the last minute due to weather. It’s back on now for March 3rd and I can’t wait to share my three presentations! I’ve never attended LASL before, so I can’t wait! My three presentations will be: ‘What’s a PLN?’, ‘PD with a Twist’, and ‘Favorite FREE Tech Tools.’ Slides can be found on my (very cute if I do say so myself) presentation wiki.

In a few more weeks, I’ll be heading up to Illinois to present at Follett’s New Leaf in Learning Conference. The most exciting part is that I’ll be meeting (face to face!!) and presenting with my library BFF and constant source of library inspiration Tamara Cox! I know we are going to have a BLAST sharing all of the fun things we do in our libraries in our two presentations: ‘Be a Next Gen Librarian Today’ and ‘Embedded Librarianship.’ Honestly…good times ahead! And I’m sure I’ll have to do some of my always fun, usually rambling video blog posts when I travel to Illinois!

Happy Mardi Gras friends, and laissez les bons temps rouler!

CMS Library Tour

So my darling friend Tamara Cox, the Eliterate Librarian, posted a fun video tour of her library and challenged the rest of us to do the same.

You all should know by now that I love to make a video, so I was ready to jump on the wagon and get mine out there.


It’s so overwhelming to think about how much I’ve done in just over a year since I moved into this position. There’s nothing like middle school and I adore the crazy, drama-filled, brilliant, talented children that I get to work with each day.

I got an amazing compliment this week when a teacher came in to tell me what one of our 8th grade boys (the one that was recently voted “Most Athletic” in the class favorites yearbook poll) said about the library. He told his teacher: “You know how some restaurants have signs and stuff that say ‘World’s Greatest Hamburger” or “World’s Greatest Pizza”? Our library needs a sign that says “World’s Greatest Library.”

Good to know that I’m doing something right, especially on those days where it’s an absolute zoo in here and I feel like I might very well have lost my mind 🙂


Overdrive – This is the comic that I created to introduce Overdrive to my students and teachers!

SO many of my students got eReaders for Christmas and came back to school so excited. Then a week or so in, they started to realize that ebooks cost money. And middle schoolers generally are unemployed, which will really cut into an individual’s book buying budget. My budget isn’t exactly full of oodles of money for ebooks, either. However, our school is lucky to be located in the parish (now you all know, in case you didn’t before, that I’m from Louisiana) with one of the best public library systems in the country! And our public library is always adding ebooks and audiobooks to Overdrive. So even though I’m not at a point where I can offer many ebooks through our school library, I can show my kids how to access Overdrive with their public library card.


I did a short 10 minute session during each of the lunch periods this week to show students Overdrive, what our public library can offer them, and how they can use it with their various devices. There were lots of excited students (and teachers, too) that came in to learn about Overdrive. I’m sure there will be lots of excited parents, too, when their kids show them that they have access to so many ebooks and audiobooks for FREE!

Ahhh…the perks of having a library card 🙂