Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Alabama Virtual Library: Britannica Elementary

My favorite AVL resource for elementary students is by far the Britannica Elementary database. The interface is very user-friendly, and it promotes authentic information searches rather than sheer visual browsing. There is always a fresh "Activity of the Day" and every single time I open the database there are current headlines in the "Student News Net."

Personally, I have always found Britannica Elementary to be most dependable when guiding young kiddos in information searches. This is a fun database that does have learning games and high quality visuals to engage their attention, but also 

Some of my favorite Britannica Elementary features:
  • There is a timeline creator that can be really helpful for research activities about historical figures. 

  • On the home page there is a "Discover America" link that students can use to discover facts about each state (with visuals of state flowers, flags, birds, etc.) as well as the states' geography. This is a solid tool for supporting the curriculum of those grade levels who teach U.S. states and geography. (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th)

  • Also on the home page there is an "Animal of the Day" section. The animal articles always include vibrant visuals and links to nurture the children's curiosity about information beyond the article. 

  • Every article has three features that are VERY important to our role as school librarians today. One is the ability to translate the article into Spanish, which benefits our English Learners. The second is the ability to click a button to have the article read aloud (in chunks) for the students who struggle with reading. The third is the ability to easily generate a citation for the resource. This promotes ethical use of information. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Troubleshooting Basics (5th Edition)

*Today's post is from a series by Dion Station, school librarian at North Jefferson Middle School. 

The computer starts up in "safe mode"?
At times your computer could develop a problem which causes you machine to boot up in what is called "safe mode".  The easiest way to try and solve this problem is to run a "scandisk".  
1.  Click on Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and Scandisk.
2.  Place a check on "Automatically fix errors."
3.  When Scandisk finishes, reboot your computer to see if this fixed the problem. 
4.  If the computer still boots up in the Safe Mode, click on Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and Disk Defragmenter.  If you receive the message "You don't need to defragment this drive now," continue with the process anyway. 
5.  When Disk Defragmenter is finished, reboot your computer to see if this fixed the problem. 
6.  If the computer still starts up in safe mode, you need to contact a computer technician.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Just for Fun

*Today's post is by Marcia Amason, one of the school librarians at Shades Valley High School/JCIB. 

If you enjoy making pictures, being creative with pictures, sharing pictures, and motivating others with pictures, then you will love Big Huge Labs!   One of the many utilities on the site is the Motivator.  Using the Motivator you can use your own digital photos to create your own inspirational, funny, parody, or  motivational poster for any occasion.  The possibilities are endless, especially for use in today’s library media center. 

To begin, click on the browse button to find a photo that you want to use and upload it.  Select your cropping option, orientation, border, and colors.  Next, enter the title of your poster and the motivational text.  Click on the box, add credit to the image, if the image belongs to someone else, or you can give yourself credit.  Now, you are ready to click the big blue Create button and see the finished product! 

When you are satisfied with the poster, you can download it to your PC in JPEG format; share it via e-mail, Flickr, or Facebook; post it to your wiki, blog, or website; and print it to run it through a poster maker if you want a large poster. 

We had fun making our poster!!  It was easy and it is FREE!! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


*Today's post was written by Meg Brooke, one of the librarians at Shades Valley High School/JCIB. 
Going to conferences and getting free posters is always a treat.  Or, opening that mail that has a fold out poster…..Woo hoo! New color, instruction, and promotions for the library walls! With our wonderful poster maker at the IMC, we’ve all been able to enlarge homemade computer pages to poster size as well.  We love displaying seasonal and promotional posters, but storage became a real problem in our library as they piled up and slid around after being laminated. They were a heavy pile, too! 
Our problem was solved when we found the WallFile Snap Tab organizer online. It takes up a small space on the wall of our storage room, and we’ve found that it’s very easy to organize and actually see what posters we have so that they can be pulled out and used for various seasons and promotions. No, we’re not on the payroll or getting a kickback for sharing about this company with you! :) You might have someone at home who could make a similar product and you’d only need to purchase the tabs, or some of you might know a handyman or even have someone in your PTO who’d try this. We found that the organizer was affordable, and it works well. In order to save even more money, we used post-its to organize the topics, months, seasons!  If this is something that would make your life less hectic, check out more information at The picture below just gives you an idea of what it looks like, but seeing it on the website gives a larger, clearer picture.
PS----They do have larger products for maps, too! :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Troubleshooting Basics (4th Edition)

*Today's post was written as part of a series by Dion Station, school librarian at North Jefferson Middle School.

The mouse doesn't work?

Check to make sure the mouse is still properly connected to the computer.  If the mouse has been disconnected, you may have to reboot your computer.

Like the keyboard, the mouse pad is sitting in the open most of the time getting dusty, wet, slimed, or anything else that happens on your desktop.  The mouse (if you are using the kind with the rolling ball infrared mouse would be immune to this) then rolls over whatever has collected on the mouse pad and gets inside, gumming up the works.  To clean the mouse pad, wipe it off occasionally with a damp cloth or get a new one.

You also need to clean your mouse regularly, as often as twice a week.  If you turn your mouse over, you’ll notice a round ball with a cover over it.  This cover can be twisted off and the ball will come out.  Roll the ball on a clean, lint free cloth.  Then take a look at the rollers inside the mouse.  Take tweezers, a screwdriver, or even your fingernail to scratch the dirt and lint off the rods.  Next, you should look inside the mouse and clean out any other dirt or lint that is hiding in there.  Finally, replace the ball and twist back on the cover.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Troubleshooting Basics (3rd Edition)

*Today's post is written as part of a series by Dion Staton, the school librarian at North Jefferson Middle School. 

The keyboard doesn't work?
1.  Press Ctrl + Alt + Del (all three keys at the same time) to bring up the Task List.  Select any program that says "Not responding" and click the End Task button.  Repeat until all tasks are ended.  Check periodically to see if the keyboard will work.
2.  Check to make sure the keyboard is still properly connected to the computer.  If the keyboard has been disconnected, you may have to reboot your computer.
3.  If all else fails, then turn the power off.  Wait a couple of minutes before turning the computer back on.
Special Note
One of the dirtiest parts of your computer is the keyboard.  Regular cleaning will help keep the keyboard working properly.  First, blow compressed air through the spaces in between the keys to remove dust and lint.  If you shake your keyboard upside-down this will also remove some of the particles.
Another keyboard problem that could occur is when you turn your computer on and you get a message that no keyboard was detected or you get into Windows but are not able to type.  Remove the keyboard connector for the CPU, examine the pins in the connector to ensure they are straight, and then reinsert the connector.  Also, check and make sure the mouse and keyboard connectors have not been switched.  If the keyboard still doesn’t work try connecting, another keyboard that you know is working.  This will determine if you need a new keyboard or if you have a CPU problem.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Alabama School Library Week

Alabama School Library Week was created by the Alabama School Library Association in 2009 as a way to promote school libraries around the state. School libraries are important (Can I get an "Amen?")! By holding special activities such as inviting special guests in to visit our libraries and read with our children, we are advocating for our library programs!

This is how ASLW looked at my school this week:
Monday: Library OPAC Scavenger Hunt Day (All classes who visited the library participated in a scavenger hunt created just for them.)
Tuesday: Favorite Book Character Day (All students who visited the library got to vote for their favorite book character.)
Wednesday: Library Treasures on the Web! (Learning how to access NHES Library's "treasures" 24 hours a day.)
Thursday: Library Stamp Day (All students who visit the library get a special stamp.)
Friday: Book Character Dress-Up Day (District dress code must be followed).
*Every day, we welcomed guest readers into the school library to read with the children.
**Every day, we had special quotes about the library read on the announcements, as well as book trivia (question in the morning, answer in the afternoon).

Does any of this sound fancy to you? Nope, it really wasn't. The point wasn't to be fancy. The point was to promote the library, and that goal was accomplished. Every single day students were talking about the library, begging their teachers to bring them, and more importantly they were excited about the privilege of using the library.

Alabama School Library Week: Mission accomplished! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Creating a Works Cited Page

*Today's post is by Laurie Dunlap, school librarian at Mortimer Jordan High School.

Using Easybib to Create a Works Cited Page
One of the most challenging aspects of putting together a research project is correctly documenting the sources of information.  This is especially challenging when using databases and websites.  I  used with my 9th graders to help them create a works cited page for their I-Search A Word Project.  Wow – this was a tremendously helpful tool.  The format used was MLA7 which is the latest version.  All the students have to do is go to the website and enter the information about each source based on the type of source they used (i.e. book with author, book with editor, websites, and databases). 
Here are the steps we used for an AVL database:
Click on the tab for the correct type of source.
Click on Manual entry and then enter in the fields the information available on that particular source.
Steps for Manual enter for a database:
Click on the tab for database

Click on manual entry. Fill in the information available for the source. Here is a magazine article from an AVL database.

Once you have filled in all of the information click on create citation and a citation will be generated.

Once you have completed entering all sources click on Print as a Word Doc.
It will then create the Works Cited page for them.  The only issue I have is that sometimes a teacher will require additional information.  If so, they can edit it once it has been exported to Word.
I really think this is a great tool!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Alabama Virtual Library: Kids InfoBits

Kids InfoBits is one of the AVL's best resources for elementary level students. VERY visual, it's one of the best picks for younger students. They can browse each category according to their unique interests OR they can use the search feature to locate information about a specific topic. 

One of the neatest categories is "Stories & Literature." When students access this category, they can then choose from a variety of literature-related sub-categories. 

*We have recently been told that the new ARMT+ standardized test will  measure higher, more rigorous standards in regard to literacy. Poetry is one item that we can hone in on, and this section of the Kids InfoBits database can help with that! Please be sure to share this database with the classroom teachers in your building who will be focusing on poetry this year. 

If you choose the sub-category of "Reading, Writing, & Language," you can see that there is an abundance of resources available to support literacy, and the instruction of English Learners. 

Kids InfoBits is also really useful as a safe, ad-free dictionary tool! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Troubleshooting Basics (2nd Edition)

The computer is completely dead?
Check all the connections, the cables between the CPU and the monitor and all the electrical cables.  Check the wall socket or surge strip to see if they are bad (sometimes a surge strip will have good and bad outlets).  If you have a green light on your monitor but not on your CPU, then there is a problem with your CPU.  If there is a green light on your CPU and not your monitor, then you have a problem with your monitor and your CPU may be fine.  If you have another monitor that you know is good, the quickest way to test is to put another monitor on the machine and see if you get an image on the screen.  If you have a light on both the monitor and the CPU, check the pins of the data cable between the monitor and the CPU.  A single bent pin can cause an image problem.

The usual problem is that the power cord or other cord has been pulled or bumped loose from the connector. Just because it looks like it is plugged in does not mean that it is, many times unplugging and re-plugging the cord will fix the issue.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Alabama Virtual Library: Enciclopedia Juvenil

Another vital database in our state's collection of resources on the Alabama Virtual Library is the Enciclopedia Juvenil. Created as a service for students whose primary language is Spanish, Enciclopedia Juvenil eases the barrier to information access for English Learners by providing a quality search resource they can use in Spanish.

Users can search the database for information they can then translate to English if necessary. This database also has the text to voice recognition feature, meaning 

This site even has games and videos created to match course of study content, created in the Spanish language to aide those students who are struggling with English language acquisition. These can also be used to create background knowledge which will help the students make stronger, clearer connections to their classroom content. 

One unintended but also potentially relevant use for this database might be using it to demonstrate to teachers how English Learners feel as they are attempting to utilize learning resources on an every day basis that is in a language so different from their primary language. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Troubleshooting Basics

*Today's post is the first in a series by Dion Staton, the school librarian at North Jefferson Middle School. 

Troubleshooting Basic Computer Issues

I often am asked what you do when teachers have computer problems. And the answer is, truthfully I inhale deeply, and ask one question, “Have you restarted the computer since the trouble began?” This one question actually solves about 50-60% of all computer issues in my school. But what if that does not work? What do you do?

Well here is my basic process and some thoughts behind why I do these things. They are very basic and easy to perform and they get to the root cause of 80-90% of computer issues in my school. So take this for what it is: a very basic troubleshooting guide. I hope you find it helpful. 

The computer locks up and/or is acting weird?
1.  If a computer is frozen and will not respond to any commands, you will need to press Ctrl + Alt + Del (all three keys at the same time) to bring up the Task Manager (See pic1 below).  Select any program that says "Not responding" and click the End Task button.  Repeat until all tasks that are not responding are ended.  If this does not work, turn the computer off by holding down the power button for 10 seconds, wait thirty seconds, turn the computer back on, and let the computer start up again. Likely 60% of computer issues can be fixed this way.
2.  Just as stated above “When all else fails, restart!”  A majority of problems that occur while you are using your computer can be fixed by shutting down the computer and restarting.  Applications sometimes don’t release memory like they should when they are finished.  The end result is your computer locks up or acts really weird.  When you restart, memory registers are cleared and most everything is reset.  This fixes a lot of problems.

Special Note
It doesn't hurt a computer to leave it running all the time.  However, using the computer for long periods of time causes small problems that can build into larger ones.  When Windows restarts, it fixes most of these small problems.  Restarting the computer periodically while working can help reduce the risk of glitches causing big issues later on which seem worst than they are.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Encyclopedia of Alabama

The Encyclopedia of Alabama is a free resource provided by a partnership of the state department of education, Auburn University, the University of Alabama, and many other state entities. 

It is an incredibly useful tool for us because it is a database dedicated solely to the information about and resources of Alabama. It's one of the most relevant sources of quality information about our state. 4th graders at my school have used the Encyclopedia of Alabama to create class Alabama ABC's books, and have also spent time researching Alabama author Kathryn Tucker Windham as well. 

Here is one example of using the Encyclopedia of Alabama to locate quick facts about Alabama: 

A rich source of quality images and articles, EOA would be very useful for middle and high school students exploring primary sources about Alabama as well. 

How have you used the EOA? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ghostly Literacy Programming

*Today's post is written by Jennifer Anders of West Jefferson Elementary.
 As school librarians we are charged with collaborating with teachers, students, parents and the community as we plan and develop our program. One of our most valuable resources, however, is each other. Recently, Michelle Wilson (North Highland Elementary) and I got together and planned a “Big Read” unit for our respective schools without ever meeting face to face. However, we were in constant contact using different communication and social tools. Actually, we spent more time collaborating than an average lesson with teachers because of the ease of communication. This blog entry explains a little bit about what we did and how we did it.
            First, we chose the book 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey by Kathryn Tucker Windham. This was a good choice for a couple of reasons. One, it is pertinent right now because Mrs. Windham passed away this past summer, so there has been a good bit of media coverage about her and her life. Second, if you are an elementary school librarian, you know that her series of ghost stories is always popular with the kids. This selection also allowed us to concentrate on the 4th grade social studies curriculum featuring Alabama geography, history and culture.
            Next we developed a list of activities we could do with the students in our schools, and then secured or created resources to teach the activity.
1.    Introduce Kathryn Tucker Windham to students using video clip from APT Plus. 

2. Develop research booklet to guide students learning.
3. Booktalk the ghost stories in the book.
4. Take a virtual trip through Alabama using Tripline.

5. Use the Encyclopedia of Alabama to research Kathryn Tucker Windham.

6. Create ghosts crafts with each grade level.

7.   Attend production of 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey one act musical.
(Just a stroke of luck that it was playing at the local high school.

8.    Conduct a Ghost Museum, invite parents, community members and district level employees to tour the museum. 

Some of the networking tools we used to communicate are tools we use everyday. We communicated by Facebook, email, text and Pinterest. While we were teaching the lessons we would of often text between classes to find out what was working or not working so we could adjust our teaching strategies. And most importantly, it was fun, educational and strengthened a working relationship between two librarians miles apart.

If you want more information about this lesson, please attend the First Friday session Friday, November 7th.  We will share live with you details about the unit and links to all the resources.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Celebrating Literature

Everything we do as school librarians has a distinct purpose. Every lesson we plan is done so in support of the course of study. Every objective we design for collection development is in harmony with the school's strategic plan. Every activity we coordinate with students is relevant to their everyday lives.

Book character pumpkin contests is an annual fall event for many schools. Students are given some basic guidelines and suggestions for book characters, and the activity is designed to promote an awareness of literature and provides an opportunity for children to reflect on the traits of a character. It works well because it's fun, inexpensive, simple, and permits such room for creativity. As other students come in to view and vote on their favorite pumpkins, they discuss the book characters with one another and have informal yet in-depth talks about why they like each character. That's good stuff!

Here are a few pictures of this year's book pumpkins from my students at North Highland Elementary:


Indiana Jones

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

The Rainbow Fish

Bad Kitty

Hello Kitty

Wizard of Oz-Scarecrow

Wizard of Oz-Wicked Witch of the West

Wizard of Oz-Tin Man

These are a few of the pumpkins from West Jefferson Elementary's contest. Jennifer Anders is the school librarian there. 

Kermit the Frog

Wicked Witch (Wizard of Oz)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar