Looking Back @ Effective (Use of) Videos

Looking Back @ Effective (Use of) VideosEveryone loves a good video. I’ve learned that video captures students’ attention in a way no other teaching device does. Oh, we can do many tech and non-tech hands-on activities with students, but none of those actually introduce informational material the way video does. In fact, students even prefer narrated slides presented as a video!

Let me first clarify that, while I’ve used video with students for more than 25 years, from science laserdiscs with at-risk high school students to online streaming as a middle school librarian, I’ve never shown a whole movie or TV episode or educational video that ran more than about 15 minutes—even Bill Nye gets old after 15 minutes! A particular Library Lesson of mine uses short videos to great advantage: Academic Honesty. I’m sharing these videos below (either embedded or with a link offsite) so you can see how using short videos or video clips effectively can impart complex concepts in a meaningful way.

Academic Honesty Videos
In an earlier blog post about Academic Honesty I wrote why and how I teach this conceptual understanding to meet CCSS Standards for documentation (bibliographic information, citation, and plagiarism). I present Academic Honesty through 3 legal concepts in an orderly flow that imparts a full understanding to students, yet minimizes the lesson time:

  1. Intellectual property (creations of the mind that belong to the originator or other designated owner)
    Intellectual property is the overriding concept from which copyright, fair use, and plagiarism stem so I show examples of intellectual property and then use a video (2:05 min) about acknowledging the creators when using their creations.
    My own “Sight-Site-Cite” video
  2. Copyright (legal rights given to owners of creative work so it can’t be used or stolen by others)
    I transition to copyright with a video (3:15 min) explaining the legal rights conveyed to owners of intellectual property.

    Pic of Common Craft's Intellectual Property video cover

    Click on image to view Common Craft’s offsite video “Intellectual Property”

  3. Fair Use (limited legal use of copyrighted material)
    It’s important for students to understand why they can use someone’s creations for their schoolwork without getting the creator’s permission, and a video (2:46 min) from Common Sense Media explains “Copyright & Fair Use.”

    Along with Fair Use I show examples of works in the Public Domain (works whose intellectual property rights/copyrights are expired, given up, or excluded) ***(see Update at end of article) and then show a video (3:37 min) about the Creative Commons and another video (2:16 min) about using it at school.

    Pic of Common Craft's "Copyright & Creative Commons" video cover

    Click image to view Common Craft’s offsite video “Copyright & Creative Commons”

    Using Creative Commons at School

Only after students have learned the legal concepts of intellectual property, copyright, and fair use, do I introduce Plagiarism (presenting someone else’s words, ideas, or creative expressions as one’s own) stressing that it is actually an ethical (not a legal) issue concerning academic dishonesty or fraud.

If you’ve watched these 5 videos—a total time of only 14 minutes—you have a strong understanding of the power of video to transmit the complex concept of Academic Honesty.

By using short videos to introduce a complex concept, I can later give a short video review of any separate element any time it’s needed during the school year.


UPDATE!! Just 4 days after publishing this, Common Craft issued a new video (2:53 min) called “Public Domain”, the link to which I’m inserting here for you to also view. It would only add ~3 minutes to the total viewing time for all 6 videos.

Pic of Common Craft's "Public Domain" video cover

Click image to view video offsite.

Looking Back @ A Personal Management Strategy

Looking Back @ a Personal Management StrategyMaking the most of our time is difficult when we’re pulled in so many different directions. My first two years as a new school librarian I tried applying what I’d learned in library school, but I was overwhelmed by all the “stuff” in a library besides books on the shelves—documents, equipment, supplies, tools, furniture—as well as “stuff I had to do” to serve teachers and students. What I needed was a way to organize that which was not already organized by the Dewey Decimal System and the class periods of my school day.

My 3rd year as a librarian a new principal, who was an organizational genius, suggested I first develop a Personal Management Strategy as a step toward managing the library program. So I asked myself, ‘What personal strategies can help with library management?’ and I determined 3 areas for personal management: content organization, time management, and personal philosophy.

Content Organization
I began organizing content by analyzing AASL and my State’s standards and guidelines for school libraries. That may seem an odd way to start, but those documents helped me encapsulate what I do and why I do it. I created 6 organization categories: Budget, Collection, Facility, Lessons, Library Promotion, and Professional Development. These categories became the structure for my thought processes, my filing systems (digital & print), and my library program. I further articulated what belonged in each category and color-code them:

  • Budget (hot pink) = budget/funding documents, purchasing information, and booklists for purchase.
  • Collection (blue) = cataloging, circulation, inventory, and book labels.
  • Facility (orange) = aides, bulletin boards, physical layout, reading promotion (including book trailers & bookmarks), and signs/shelf labels.
  • Lessons (green) = lesson planner & tools, standards documents, library info lessons, and each individual school subject.
  • Library Promotion (red) = checklists, informational handouts/presentations, library administrative handbook, and reports.
  • Professional Development (purple) = certifications/resume, meetings/trainings, and state/district appraisal.

Time Management
A busy librarian needs a time management tool to prioritize daily actions and meet deadlines. For me, lists bring order to chaos faster than any other tool, and spreadsheets are flexible enough to create different types of lists for different time management needs. I created a “Librarian Lists” spreadsheet document with a worksheet tab for each different list.

BOY Tabs
At the beginning of the school year I have many tasks to prepare myself and the library before teachers and students arrive on campus. A chronological list is perfect to organize everything and help me accomplish it in a timely manner. In Librarian Lists I have one tab for my ‘alone’ days before teachers arrive and another tab for the week of staff development when teachers are on campus but not students. Here’s an example of what’s on those two lists:

  • BOY ABCs (before teachers arrive)
    • Records Day – list of updates to all records for teacher/room changes in automation system, library Website, library passes, maps; update teacher information documents & reprint.
    • Teacher Materials Day – list of library items to check out & deliver to teacher classrooms; troubleshoot, clean, recharge library & teacher AVD equipment.
    • Library Day – list of tasks to arrange library, update signage & bulletin boards, process summer magazines & new books, update substitute folder & aide materials.
  • BOY 123+ (during Staff Development Week)
    • Update yearly goals/objectives for library program & PD.
    • Troubleshoot/recharge student A/V/D equipment (calculators, cameras).
    • Schedule with ELA teachers for orientations & book exchanges; schedule w/ teachers for student checkout of calculators for Algebra & cameras for yearbook.
    • Prepare PPT announcements for new school year (cafeteria menus, clubs, etc).

An Eisenhower Matrix (devised by Steven Covey from a quote by former President Dwight Eisenhower)TO DO Tab
Another LibLists tab is a “To Do” list of tasks I want to accomplish during the year, such as facility changes, collection weeding and inventory, and other library or school goals. I use an Eisenhower Matrix (devised by Steven Covey from a quote by former President Dwight Eisenhower) to classify tasks into color-coded quadrants based on Importance and Urgency.

Library Schedule Tab
Sample of Library Schedule Tab worksheetMy Library Schedule tab is a calendar of the school year, listing week numbers and dates for each grading period down the left, and a cell for each day of the week across the top. Each corresponding cell shows who is in the library (or if I’ll be gone to a district meeting) and I can add Comment boxes to give details of lessons or library use. I also insert Comments to remind me of timely tasks or events, such as sending my Media Minute email each month. (This quick email of library news is sent to the whole staff and can be read in 1-minute or less. I often supply a single link for those interested in additional information.)

To complete my time management tool I have 3 additional tabs:

  • School Schedule Tab with a copy of our master class-schedule chart, customized with color-coded teacher-conference and subject-PD periods so I know when I can visit a teacher in their classroom for lesson collaboration.
  • Weeding & Inventory Tab shows a chart of Dewey Subjects/Classes and Fiction Subjects with adjoining columns for a time frame for weeding, date of last weeding, date for next weeding, and date of last inventory.
  • EOY (End-Of-the-Year) Tab for the last month of school is another chronological list of procedures for collecting library materials from students and teachers, and closing the library for the summer.

I tend to be a procrastinator, but these 7 worksheet lists keep me on-track and it’s very convenient to have my time management lists compiled into a single spreadsheet document.

Personal Philosophy
After developing content organization and a time management tool, I needed to re-clarify my own Personal Philosophy about the library program. Because I believe a school librarian is still, most importantly, a teacher, I concluded that students are the most important reason I am where I am, and if I keep students, not the library, as the priority, everything else falls into place. I resolved to make (as my former library director Dr. Salerno put it) “wise professional decisions” and always strive for a positive impact on students.

That 3rd year, one of my wisest decisions was to positively impact students by eliminating overdue book fines. They just didn’t serve any positive purpose:

  • Kids hung on to overdue books instead of returning them because they couldn’t pay the fine in order to check out a new book; the result was kids weren’t reading and books weren’t circulating.
  • Poorer kids stared at the few coins they had, trying to decide if they’d still have money for lunch (or dinner on the way home) if they paid the fine; well-off kids didn’t care about the paltry amount—they’d bring a $20 bill for a 20¢ fine and expect me to make change.
  • If we had to adjust regularly scheduled book exchanges, the due date passed by through no fault of the student. Teachers weren’t always willing to release kids from class just to return a book on time, and kids couldn’t always get to their lockers between classes.
  • In my case—and maybe for some of you—our public library doesn’t charge fines, even for adults, so why would a public school charge kids?
  • Collecting fines was time-consuming work for me with little benefit, especially when a whole class was trying to check out books during the last 10 minutes of the period!
  • Getting books back at the end of a semester by offering “forgiveness” incentives is totally unfair to kids who’ve been paying fines all year. I’m pretty gentle about lost books because a kid is more important than a book, and certainly more important than getting a few cents for an overdue fine. I’m adamant that we not use fines as an excuse to “raise money for the library.” There are much more positive ways to do that.

I don’t think fines “build responsibility” in students and my principal agreed. I have more effective ways to get back overdue books, and here are some of my solutions:

  • In our automation system, we use a field in the student’s profile for their ELA teacher. I pick a day for a regular Book Exchange visit and run overdue notices for that grade and sort by teacher. When the first class arrives I give teachers their notices, and they distribute them throughout the day just before kids browse for books. Many kids have the book(s) in their locker so they can retrieve and return the book(s) during their browsing time. (I have special ‘Locker for a Book’ passes!)
  • I have the student check the shelves to see if a book is there, because sometimes I do miss checking them in (and of course I blame the computer!).
  • I write down the overdue book title on a funny bookmark so everytime they open their new book to read it reminds them to bring back that overdue one. (Yes, they can still check out a book with an overdue. A kid is more important…)Clip of sheet of Overdue Bookmarks
  • I have kids put an overdue notice in their shoe. This was a great idea from a kid: When you get home and take off your shoes, you see the note and put the book by your shoes to bring back the next day.
  • I give kids the library phone to call their home or mobile phone and leave a reminder message on voicemail or answering machine. (They think this is hilarious, especially when I tell them that’s how “Ms P” reminds herself of things!)
  • For severe cases I have them call their Mom. (This is especially effective if they have to call her at work—she’s not happy, but the kid’s in the doghouse, not me!)

I’ve never regretted my decision to eliminate overdue book fines. Of all my “wise professional decisions” over the years, this one builds better PR with parents and students, and simplifies considerably the daily demands on my time and sanity.

Looking back, I can say that developing my Personal Management Strategy was an important step to better library management because when I organized my field of work, directed my daily activities, and confirmed what’s important to me as an educator and a school librarian, I had a method to make smarter decisions faster in order to achieve my goals. Only then could I turn my attention to conceptualizing my school library program.

Looking @ An “Invisible” Disability

Looking @ an "Invisible" DisabilityWeek 20 for my Edublogs Club offers us the opportunity to choose our own topic, and I’m inclined to discuss with readers an “invisible disability” that is all too prevalent today. That disability is called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

Lest you think I’m referring to some extreme hypochondriac’s wild fantasy, let me assure you that MCS is hardly a rare condition. More than ten million Americans suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity. That’s greater than the population of 41 individual U.S. states!

The Federal government considers MCS a legitimate disability. Bennie Howard, Acting Director of the Office of Disability Policy at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C. states that, under the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, HUD considers multiple chemical sensitivity to be a disability.

The Center for Disease Control, another Federal agency, implemented a new Indoor Environmental Quality Policy in June 2009 for all its facilities. It addresses the issue of MCS as follows:

Only green cleaning products shall be specified and used within CDC facilities and leased spaces unless otherwise approved by the Office of Health and Safety. [Under Definitions, Green Cleaning Products are “Janitorial cleaning products that are biodegradable, of low toxicity, fragrance-free, and otherwise less hazardous to human health or the environment.”]

Building Occupants
1. Non-Permissible Products
Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC. This includes the use of:

  • Incense, candles, or reed diffusers
  • Fragrance-emitting devices of any kind
  • Wall-mounted devices, similar to fragrance-emitting devices, that operate automatically or by pushing a button to dispense deodorizers or disinfectants
  • Potpourri
  • Plug-in or spray air fresheners
  • Urinal or toilet blocks
  • Other fragranced deodorizer/re-odorizer products

Personal care products (e.g. colognes, perfumes, essential oils, scented skin and hair products) should not be applied at or near actual workstations, restrooms, or anywhere in CDC owned or leased buildings.

In addition, CDC encourages employees to be as fragrance-free as possible when they arrive in the workplace. Fragrance is not appropriate for a professional work environment, and the use of some products with fragrance may be detrimental to the health of workers with chemical sensitivities, allergies, asthma, and chronic headaches/migraines.

Employees should avoid using scented detergents and fabric softeners on clothes worn to the office. Many fragrance-free personal care and laundry products are easily available and provide safer alternatives.

Fragrance Free Workplaces: Wave of the Future?

Still not convinced? Dr. Anne Steinemann, formerly a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public Affairs at the University of Washington, has recently published important research documenting the presence of a large number of toxic chemicals in widely used fragranced products, including detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, air fresheners, disinfectants, cleaning products, shampoos, and other household and personal-care products.


I am particularly interested in the topic of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities because I suffer this “invisible” disability. I’m especially sensitive to fragrances and it’s amazing how frequently I am unable to enjoy my life in such basic and essential areas as employment, education, and securing goods and services. Decision makers are not the only ones unaware of barriers to people with a chemical and environmental disability, so I feel compelled to make the rest of you aware of how your inadvertent choices can have a significant negative impact on those around you.

If exposed to fragrances, I experience, progressively, a burning in my mouth ⇒ shooting pains through my head increased histamine activity in my eyes, nose and throat ⇒ difficulty in breathing due to closure of my throat ⇒ coughing ⇒ heaving in my lungs ⇒ loss of my voice ⇒ disorientation and dizziness ⇒ inability to think. After 20 minutes of strong continuous exposure, I pass out and become comatose. Even brief exposure to fragrances requires nearly an hour of recovery, and longer exposure can require up to a full day.

Since fragrances permeate people’s personal hygiene (soaps, shampoos, deodorants, makeup, hair spray, and laundry products), it is difficult to avoid them. The accumulation of smells causes deadening of people’s senses, promoting the overuse of perfumes and colognes, which is even more perilous for an MCS sufferer. Needless to say, I am assaulted nearly everywhere I go, and because I must often avoid or remove myself from groups of people, those unaware of my condition consider me antisocial, snobbish, or weird. I can handle it—I’m an adult. But permit me, on behalf of children everywhere, to caution those of you who regularly interact with them.

baby with gas maskChildren are especially sensitive to chemical and environmental factors, and frequently even parents are unaware of their child’s vulnerability. While asthmatic attacks are very visible, your fragrances can also cause confused, erratic thinking and lethargy in a child with whom you are in close proximity, or cause heightened hypersensitivity to the point of attention-deficit and hyperactivity in another child. I have personally seen positive changes in the personality, behavior, and learning of children removed from a “toxic” adult or classroom.

Here is a comment about the mental effects of fragrances from a formerly bright and creative young woman, who now suffers from MCS:

Spelling is hard; numbers are hard. I have dyslexia sometimes now. I always check and double check. I would write an envelope, and it would be returned because I mixed up my numbers. I never had a problem with numbers before. I did calculus and differential equations. If somebody asks me numbers or to spell something, it’s really hard. (J. Duncan from Chemical Sensitivity Foundation video)

If you regularly work with children, please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or after shaves, and if possible, minimize the mixture of fragrances you use, perhaps buying some unscented products. If children will be in your classroom or library for extended periods of time, please abstain from using scented candles or room deodorizers.


More information from the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation:
An 8-minute trailer previewing scenes from the video Fragrance Free Workplace
Watch the full 53-minute Fragrance Free Workplaces video on YouTube

These videos are particularly powerful when they show the symptoms of two different MCS sufferers: inability to swallow or catch breath, progressive hoarseness of voice, spasms and seizures. These are all too familiar to me…

Looking Back @ Social Media & Cloud Computing

Looking Back @ Social Media & Cloud ComputingSocial media is a popular topic right now and there are so many ways it can be used in education:

  • As part of a teacher’s or librarian’s Professional Learning Network (PLN)
  • To inform parents and the community about school-related events and information
  • As an engaging technology tool for students in the classroom.

According to the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action, the School Librarian is tasked with teaching students the responsible use of social media, evident by these 6 references:

  • Skills 1.1.5 – Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural contexts.
  • Responsibilities Behavior 1.3.5: Use digital social tools responsibly by protecting personal information and by posting only accurate and non-inflammatory information.
  • Skills 3.1.2 – Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners.
  • Skills 4.1.7 – Use social networks and information tools to gather and share information.
  • Responsibilities 4.3.1 – Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person.
    Behavior: Use social tools to share information and communicate with others as a normal part of daily academic and personal life.
  • Responsibilities 4.3.4 – Practice safe and ethical behaviors in personal electronic communication and interaction. Behavior: Maintain ethical standards in personal contributions to the Web (no bullying, slander, inflammatory language, or biased or inaccurate information).

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), another division of the American Library Association, offers a 13-page downloadable PDF “Teens & Social Media Toolkit” for teaching students positive ways to use social media. The document suggests helping teens “learn about a variety of social media technologies,” which includes “photo-sharing technologies, …video creation technologies, …image editing. …connect with favorite authors, artists, musicians, and so on via Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs.”

The International Society for Technology in Education has 3 ISTE Standards for Students that directly relate to social media:

  • Digital citizen – Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
  • Creative communicator – Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
  • Global collaborator – Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

It follows that lessons and resources for teaching social media—the tools and their use—are abundant, both in print and online, but I’m not satisfied that any of these help students truly conceptualize and understand ‘Cloud Computing’. Online tools are rapidly replacing “in-house” apps and we need to emphasize the concept of cloud computing with each and every online tool in order for students to understand the responsible use of ALL online tools.

Focusing on Cloud Computing allows students to learn the type and purpose of tools, rather than brand names, so they learn how and when to use any digital tool regardless of who makes it.  I group cloud computing tools into 3 types of services:

  1. Personal services: individual tools for organization, communication, and learning—email, drop box, digital documents, digital storage.
  2. Group services: tools for collaborating with others—chat rooms, discussion forums, wikis, social networks, video conferencing.
  3. Presentation services: tools to create and publish original multimedia products—blogs, audio podcasts, slide shows, videos, webinars, live broadcasts.
2 slides that begin every Cloud Computing lesson.
Types of Cloud Computing Cloud Computing Tools

Within and across these 3 groups are specifics which differentiate the services and the individual tools from each other:

  • Form of interaction—
    • 1-to-1 (personal individual tools)
    • 1-to-many (presentation tools)
    • many-to-many (group tools)
  • Form of presentation—
    • 1-way broadcast (drop box, digital storage, podcasts, blogs, slide shows, videos, live broadcasts)
    • 2-way exchange (email, some digital documents, all group tools, webinars)
  • Transmission interval—
    • synchronous (chat rooms, some social networks, video conferencing, webinars, live broadcasts)
    • asynchronous (email, discussion forums, wikis, some social networks, blogs, podcasts)

Interestingly, many online tools now incorporate some form of social media, so the challenge is not teaching about social media, but rather HOW to teach social media and cloud computing. Do I teach the scope of a tool—all its potential uses—or should I focus on the efficacy of a tool, that is, its best use? That decision is normally made as I consult the purpose of the library visit using my Library Lesson Matrix and create the lesson with my Library Lesson Planner.

Cloud Computing is always my first technology lesson of the school year, and I’ve used it with all the core classes as well as Art, Spanish, ESL, and Special Ed classes. Using just a few slides, I introduce the concept, types of tools, their purpose, and form of audience interaction. The best way to teach technology is to demonstrate how to use it, so I close the slides and open the online service. I distribute a handout showing images of the tool to help students follow the demonstration. Then students use the rest of the period for a daily grade activity that guides them into 1 or 2 features the teacher wants them to use to respond to an assignment. Often students ask other teachers to give them assignments using the tool, so the teachers come to me for help, and I’m able to expand student use of the service through short lessons during library visits with other subject classes.

Consolidating all online tools under the umbrella of Cloud Computing allows me to introduce a variety of media for students to express themselves, adding creativity and value to student assignments, yet maintaining a focus on responsible online behaviors. I can keep lessons short and simple, focused on the purpose of the library visit, with a classroom-related activity so students can practice what they learn.  Often teachers who don’t understand the concept of Cloud Computing find that my Library Lessons can help them see how to integrate it into their own lessons.


Other ISTE Resources: