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A Freebie for Your Patience May 7, 2016

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Reflections.
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I know it’s been over 5 months since my last post, and well…life got in the way.  In the past few months, my husband and I became (very happily) pregnant, and it seems like everything just went crazy from there.  I know this will probably come as no surprise to the parents reading this, but things just…change.  There’s a gradual, but very noticeable, shift that I wasn’t expecting.

I don’t have the same drive to blog, or tweet, or create, or innovate.  To be fair, my body’s a little busy doing plenty of creating, however, I don’t feel the same ambitious desire to do anything innovative or new in my library.  It’s disconcerting, but I’m emotionally and professionally fine with it.  It’s been easier than I expected to just let it go.

Andy Woodworth at Agnostic, Maybe has an excellent blog post on how first-time fatherhood affects his professional life.  I read it last summer, and it came to mind again a couple of weeks ago.  It captures rather well how I’ve been feeling (except for the partner judging/shaming…my hubby has taken over all the cooking and most of the cleaning, so I blessedly can’t relate to that part).  I admire his ability and willingness to write about how his personal and professional lives interact.  And I wish more librarians and educators would be so honest about the realities of the elusive work-life balance.

A Freebie for Your Patience: Independent Reading Library Center | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

So for my readers’ patience, here’s a freebie of one of my library centers that I’ve used for a couple of years.  A commonly used center is the “reading independently” or “book buddies reading” center, and some other versions are available from my teacher-librarian PLN.  I made my own version for two reasons:

  1. I color-coded my library centers based on my 3 types of centers: Research Skills, Reading & Language, and Makerspace.  I assigned the color red to all the Reading & Language centers, so I wanted my Independent Reading Center to be red.
  2. I wanted to add options for reading material to include magazines and ebooks, as well as whisper-reading to a beanbag buddy or “book buddy.”

So if you’d like to try my version of this popular center, click on the image below or on THIS LINK to download it.  The zip file download contains the center sign below in PDF and Microsoft Word file formats, and an editable lesson plan in Microsoft Word file.  The clipart is from Glitter Meets Glue Designs and Empty Jar Illustrations.

Thank you for staying tuned during my temporary hiatus.  Enjoy!

Independent Reading Center FREEBIE! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Doctor Who and the Power of Stories April 14, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Fun Stuff, Reflections.
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Fair warning: This post contains spoilers for Doctor Who seasons 4 and 7. I take no responsibility for disappointed fans who read past this line.  😀

The Doctor Who Christmas special (that I just got around to watching 3 weeks ago) didn’t just make me cry, it upset me for days!  Literally, for a week afterwards, whenever I thought of the bow tie dropping to the TARDIS floor or Amy Pond saying “good night,” my eyes welled up with tears.  Even as I’m writing now, I’m fighting back the emotion in my throat.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m addicted to all things Doctor Who, but such a strong reaction got me thinking.

Why does a character dying/regenerating on a TV show (albeit a stellar one) affect me so much?  Why do I care?  I felt silly as I was watching and sobbing, but I was equally curious and a bit concerned about my reaction.


Direct-to-Brain Downloads? No thanks, I prefer the smell of books. Quote from Doctor Who, Season 4: Silence in the Library. Image from Emily at Novel Ideas

Then it dawned on me that Doctor Who isn’t JUST a sci-fi show about a quirky time-traveler who saves humanity over and over.  It’s also an amazingly well-written story that sucks you in like a black hole.  It’s just as absorbing as the best books I’ve read.  Steven Moffat and the other contributing writers like Newbery author Neil Gaiman, are nothing short of brilliant in my opinion.  His storytelling and creativity and ideas are what makes keeps the Doctor Who fandom vibrant and alive.

After a couple days’ reflection, I also realized that this analogy exactly illustrates my thoughts on the hackneyed discussion of print vs. eBook in education and wider society.  I am *SO TIRED* of having this conversation with community members, administrators, and other school librarians.  Just because eBooks exist doesn’t make them a one-size-fits-all format for any content.  It’s not about how we read or what “thing” we use to read or the number of multimedia features in a book/eBook/iBook.

It’s about excellent stories.  It always has been, and I believe it will continue to be all about the stories.  As my husband (a HUGE graphic novel fan) so beautifully summed it up:

 Anyone who discredits a format, underestimates it.

Some stories are best told in print, some in eBook, some with interactive features, some as audiobooks, some as graphic novels, and some as movies, plays, podcasts, or even British sci-fi TV series.  The format only matters if it’s limiting or liberating to the story being told, which can lead to exciting, endless possibilities for storytelling.  That fact tells me that libraries and librarians aren’t going anywhere.  No matter what you call us or how our role inevitably changes, we are, at our core, lovers and sharers of stories in all formats, genres, and devices.

TL Blogging Challenge #2 – Ebooks February 4, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Reflections, Reviews.
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Image from Pixabay

Challenge #2 – Your Library and eBooks/Audiobooks

I’ve talked about how I love Capstone Interactive eBooks before (and I’m not being paid to say that).  The parts I love the most, however, aren’t really exclusive to Capstone: the web-hosting, device neutrality, and unlimited simultaneous access.  Capstone is one publisher who is executing the idea the best though.  There’s no DRM, no downloads, no pass-through the Amazon/Kindle website, no logging into an account, and no lockdown to buy from one vendor.  All of the those barriers are reasons I don’t buy eBooks from Overdrive, Follett, or Mackin.

I’ve looked into other publishers that offer web-hosted eBooks like Lerner, Rosen, and Bearport, but I haven’t been impressed by the quality of the content.  Even Capstone isn’t always a home run on quality.  Also, most of the other web-hosted eBooks I’ve investigated lack any interactive functions, which I find ridiculous.  If I’m going to pay a premium price for eBooks, they need have more features and not look like a scanned PDF with Flash-animated page turns!  Interactive features like audio by a real person and embedded definitions of vocabulary should be standard, not extras, if publishers are going to charge extra for a digital copy of a book.

As an educational publisher and vendor, Capstone truly “gets” what school libraries need and have found a way to make it work for both libraries and authors.  The Big 5 and Overdrive should take notes!  Students just click a link, and the book opens!  There’s very little coming between the reader and the book.  All educational tech solutions should look and work like this…Simple and effective.

So my ranting about the dismal state of library eBooks aside, I’ve bought just under 100 Capstone eBooks.  I’ve promoted them to students this year as part of orientation, and my usage stats have definitely gone up from last year.  I’ve told teachers about them as the opportunity arises, but I haven’t had a chance to present to the whole faculty yet.  So far, the teachers that try them, LOVE it!  They use them as centers, or curriculum supplements.  I’ve had a few topic suggestions for nonfiction eBooks to buy, and my only complaint is that Capstone’s offerings can’t meet all of those needs.  They also could offer more and better quality fiction titles.

In my library class instruction, I’m using some pet informational eBooks to do a research unit in kindergarten in the next few weeks…we’ll see how that works out, but even with the challenges of getting a 5-year-old to focus and comprehend what they hear/read, I’m optimistic.

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

A Wrinkle in Tech is not affiliated with or otherwise sponsored by Capstone or any other publisher.

Nexus Tablets in School Libraries Update January 8, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks, Reflections, Tablets & Apps, Tech Tips.
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AppLock! Mild tablet app controls for a 21st century library!

I have a new stress-reducing trick for managing Android tablets: AppLock!  This ingenious app is minimal, fast to set up, and effective! It lets you lock specific apps so that they can’t be used without a password, thus ensuring students won’t uninstall or download apps OR cause any mischief in the Settings menus.

Update on Nexus Tablets & Why I Needed AppLock
Students have been using the Nexus tablets pretty much “out of the box” for catalog searching, reading/listening to interactive ebooks, on-demand research…It’s all been great!  Though I’ve downloaded a couple apps, I haven’t done any major customizing.  Thankfully, students have mostly left the settings and home screen configuration alone.  A few intrepid students, however, have figured out how to re-arrange the home screen, add widgets, change the sound settings, and search the Google Play Store.  Not the end of the world, but a hassle to fix.  I was particularly impressed with the student who wanted to check out “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck” when all copies were already out.  He proceeded to find the ebook on Google Books (the preview I think) to read online.  Nothing stops these kids when they *really* want something.  🙂

Still, after I had to re-do a homescreen following the above “makeovers,” I decided to look into some kind of parental control app that could prevent students from accessing the tablet settings and other apps that are not for student use.  10 minutes of research later, I found that I could set up a new profile with it’s own apps.  (Note: That only works on tablets with Jelly Bean Android operating systems or higher.)  Doing that would require reconstructing my home screens on each tablet…again.  Nope, not going to happen.

So I went with an app, and found AppLock.  Installing was FAST, and the download is small.  Just type in a code, add an e-mail, and you are set to start locking or unlocking apps.  The apps are still visible (unless you disable them), but when opened, the user is prompted for a password or pattern.  It’s not foolproof, of course, but nothing is.  My favorite part was that in 15 minutes, I had all 12 of the tablets set up with the Play Store, Settings, Google Settings, Meraki Systems Manager, People, and Calendar apps locked down.

It’s so beautiful when technology works effectively and simply!

2013 Learning Reflections and Some Goals December 30, 2013

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks, How to Be Brave, Reflections.
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Happy New Year from my family to yours!
Image from Pixabay

As the year draws to a close, reflection posts and new year goals/resolutions are the popular “thing” to do on a blog.  My take is a bit different: I’m listing the things I’ve learned to remind myself (and you my dear readers) that we’ve all accomplished a lot, and we should take pride in that.  I hope you’ll share some of the things you’ve learned this year in the comments!

Things I’ve Learned This Year

  1. How to think differently and critically about the library from a student’s point of view.
  2. How to incorporate and manage Nexus tablets into a school library program.
  3. How to be brave enough to start a makerspace without “data” that it will raise PSSA standardized test scores.
  4. How to convert and merge PDF files while preserving the integrity of links, images, and other media…plus how to make images from a PDF.
  5. How to effectively use Pinterest to promote TpT products, Issuu to make an ebook, and even a bit of Twitter to connect with other teacher-librarians.
  6. How to write better blog posts (at least compared to when I started this blog) and make said posts more useful to teacher-librarian readers.
  7. Most importantly, how to re-discover my passion for teaching when I was about to burn out amidst the ridiculous data-obsession that’s gripped every facet of education today.  It feels good to find a new lease on life in my profession.
  8. And much more I’m probably forgetting, because I feel REALLY tired sometimes!

Now for my mostly reasonable, practical goals for 2014:

  1. Keep my marriage strong…because without my husband’s amazing love, support, and dinner-cooking, I just couldn’t do all of the above things.
  2. Blog twice a month, and take my own photos!  Yeah, this will be the challenging one.
  3. Re-design my home office space.  It’s a disaster, and it’s NOT conducive to doing any work right now.
  4. Keep creating products on TpT, because I really believe librarians need ready-made things to teach 21st century skills.  We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel.

So what did you learn this year that you are really proud of?  Or what are your goals for 2014?  Post in the comments if you like, and I wish you all a very happy and blessed new year!

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