A Great Way to Get Kids Thinking about Plagiarism

Oh Hi Becky Farmville Tweet Goes Viral – Business Insider

Here’s What Happens When Your Joke Goes Massively Viral On Twitter

Caroline Moss

Jul. 15, 2014, 10:57 AM 798,639 40

via Oh Hi Becky Farmville Tweet Goes Viral – Business Insider

Man, I wish Scott hadn’t used the F word in his original tweet.  However, I think that we can still use this as a really relevant case study on plagiarism (with a little, um, censorship).

The gist is this: a random guy tweets something funny.  Other people steal his tweet and repost it as though it were their own.  Even famous people.  One comedian even accuses Scott of plagiarizing him.

Scott’s thoughts on the experience are fascinating- I loved that he said that he doesn’t understand how people can read something, relate to it, and then say “yup, that’s mine now,” without giving one thought to how it effects the person who created it.

I think that this example is so much easier for kids to “get” than what we’ve used in the past.  I love it.  It’s mine now — with proper attribution, of course. 🙂



5 Little Flips to Modernize Your School Library

I had the best time tonight. I had dinner with an old friend, a new friend, and an old acquaintance who really should be a friend.

We gossiped. We talked about books. We talked about the fact that we were talking about books.

I noticed something at dinner. I was sitting with a teacher and two tech integration guys. And me- a library media specialist. There was this unspoken (and mumbled a couple of times) thing in the air about librarians. I think they felt comfortable about it because I’m an unconventional librarian- I have surround sound, for god’s sake. But, in the grand scheme, nothing has changed. The perception- the stereotype- is still there. And I can’t go it alone.


We all need to work together to change it. Otherwise, those of us forging the newer path look like we are just “jerks” bent on making the rest of you look bad. That isn’t the goal. We want to push our profession forward. In order to do that, we all have to be in this together. So I thought I would share a few things I’ve heard by the “water cooler” and you can go from there…


1. Tech Integration. It isn’t just the tech integration guy’s job. As a matter of fact, I get a little salty when my guy crosses the tech line into my territory. I would have to say that 50% of the tech integration stuff is OUR job. They can keep the google integration, grade book programs, blogging, smart boards (barf), and teacher websites. If we aren’t pushing databases, ebooks, audiobooks, literacy apps, etc., then how will we stay relevant? And if your tech guy starts teaching Boolean searching, you have my permission to go medieval. I almost did.


2. Environment. This isn’t your momma’s library. I have gotten so many positive remarks since I started piping music into my library. I play mostly Vitamin String Quartet (modern music, classical style) – my music policy is NO VOICES. I’m a musician, so I realize that if there is too much going on, I will pay too much attention to the music. However, I have noticed that my own productivity has gone up because of the music, so I know that the kids’ has too. And Thrift Shop done classically is a trip. I also bought couches and bean bags a few years ago. It’s a mess. The bean bags are all over the place- my assistant and I happily clean them up every morning. You have no idea how nice it is to see kids lounging with a laptop, concentrating. It’s magical. Ditch the stodgy view of what the library should look like. The kids need a safe, comfortable, serene place to work. Like I said- the compliments come in every day. From teachers AND kids.


3. The books. I just received a compliment about books today. I am a middle school librarian, and the books in my library aren’t available in the other middle school libraries. Parents are asking friends and relatives to check books out of my library for their kids (against policy, but I let it slide). Put your beliefs aside. Put your prejudices aside. Put your preconceived notions aside. Put your fears aside. Some of your students are gay. Some of your students have eating disorders. Some of your students are victims of abuse. Carry books for everyone!!! Only restrict THE MOST edgy books- the 5% most edgy books- in your library. Don’t make everything good available ONLY for the oldest students. They might not be the ones who need them!!! You have a varied population, and you need to cater to everyone! It’s in our code of ethics. Don’t be afraid of the .01% of parents who might be offended. If they show up, tell them, “I have 1000 students and I need to have something that speaks to everyone. If your child checked something out that you find questionable, please tell your child to return it and talk to me about a book that would be great for them.” Done. Was that so hard?


4. Back to Tech. We need to get more tech savvy, people. I just acquired 14 iPads for my library, and I plan to use the hell out of them. I have plans. Buy some books- iPads in Library is a good one. Troll the internet- Twitter and Pinterest are my favorite resources for Ed tech tips. Find an ebook supplier (I use Follett) and then go into classrooms and market the hell out of it. Don’t buy another goddamn encyclopedia. Find a Web 2.0 tool that relates to info literacy, research, reading, or whatever, and master it. Then, offer to teach it to kids. When I started, I had three false starts… Nooks, Kindle Fires, and a third party ebook client…. FAILS. Don’t let the fails set you back. If you have questions, ask me. Don’t do that librarian thing – well, I tried and it didn’t work, so I’m not trying again. Technology is horrible. It doesn’t work in my district. NOPE. You are wrong. Technology doesn’t always work anywhere. Oh well. Move on. Make it work.


5. Push IN. I surprised the hell out of one of my administrators the other day. She walked through the library and saw me teaching… Then she did a surprise visit to a teacher and found me teaching…. And then she dropped into another classroom and (you guessed it) saw me teaching. She didn’t realize that I do as much push in as I do, and that’s a good thing. When you surprise them like that… Priceless. Is every day like that? Of course not. I got really lucky that day 🙂 but it isn’t rare, either. I constantly badger teachers to let me come in and teach something, anything. Come on- we are the best people the school has to teach research skills, for instance. Do you have any idea how many lessons you can prep on research? Especially with Common Core???

Bottom line? MARKETING. You need to run your library like a business. Be a retail manager. What is going to bring in revenue?

Tough love. 🙂


Zotero, Mendeley, RefWorks, and Endnote (Oh My!)

Hi All!

I just wanted to drop a line to share my experience today- I have spent the last four hours researching and testing the various source management tools out there, and I have to say that my classmate, Paula is my hero.  She suggested Mendeley, and Mendeley won for me.

Here is my two cents (take it or leave it, obviously):

icon2_zoteroZotero: A little over my head.  The learning curve is steep, and the interface isn’t as user-friendly as I would like.  When I tried to import my pdfs, they did not come with the source information.  No app support.  If you start fresh with Zotero, I think you will be very pleased.  Everything is in the cloud, which is vital these days.  For me, I had a ton of pdfs saved in Dropbox that I wanted to be able to drag and drop into whatever program I chose, and have that program recognize the files.  I couldn’t figure out how to make Zotero do that seamlessly.  You can create folders for different topics, which is good.  If you are a Firefox user, Zotero might be the best choice.  They have a plugin.  I use Chrome, so it wasn’t a feature I would use.

8322ade9fa513f6511f643c0066a87a7Endnote: Not free.  Expensive (which is even worse than not free).  Not as user-friendly as the other options.    I couldn’t figure out how to download the info I was looking for (although, according to their promo video, it IS possible).  They do have a 30 day free trial, so you can try it for yourself.  And they have cloud support and an app, which is good.  I got frustrated with the desktop program, so I didn’t try those.

images-1Refworks: Even more expensive than Endnote.  Twice, actually (Endnote costs $113 for two years of access, Refworks costs $100/year).  No free trial.  End of research. 🙂


imagesMendeley: Free.  Drag and drop and everything is there: the journal, issue, volume, pages, stable url, abstract- everything.  Most of the time, at least.  When it isn’t, you can search Google Scholar right from the record.  If that doesn’t work, you have to do it manually.  Out of the 200 I imported, I need to enter about 30 manually.  The interface reminds me of Evernote Desktop, which makes it really user-friendly and idiot-proof, which is good for me.  It has a little bookmarklet like Zotero, too- so when you are doing new research, it’s easy.  I tried it, and it works.  You can also create folders to keep things organized.  App support is there, but reviews say it tends to crash.  The one thing I wish I could do is annotate right in the app.  It will let you highlight and annotate, but only on a computer.  I don’t see that feature available in the app.  I will say that so far, it hasn’t crashed on me.  It’s in the cloud, so you can access it from anywhere, although, obviously the desktop version has many more features (true with Zotero as well).

So… there’s my opinion.  Like I said, take it or leave it- but I thought it would be really sad if four hours of work was wasted on just me. 🙂  Obviously, no one thing can give you everything (why???).  Mendeley had the most bang for the non-existent buck for me.  Oh- there was one other one that might look good- qiqqa- BUT they don’t support Mac.  Who does that anymore?  And why do they all have red and white logos? Oh, dear, I need to go to bed.  Four hours of researching research tools has gone to my head.


What do I have to say about ebooks in my school library?


A colleague of mine wants to sit down with me to talk about ebooks in my library because her school is planning to roll out something similar.  It got me thinking.  What do I have to say about it?

At the beginning of this year, I added 12 Barnes and Noble Nooks to my school library.  As of this writing, two of them are broken.  I have emailed Barnes and Noble twice, and haven’t received a reply.  I purchased all of the Harry Potter books for two of them, and they still aren’t on the devices. Something on Barnes and Noble’s side was wrong, and they said that they are working on it.  That was months ago.

I also asked if I can switch from being Barnes and Noble managed to just locally managed, so that I can switch out devices easier if they break, and I haven’t received a reply to that, either.

Last year, I bought 12 Kindle Fires.  They were beautiful, but I had to return them.  The logistics wouldn’t work.  The Kindle Fires don’t work with Proxy Servers, and that is necessary with my school district’s web filters.  It is also next to impossible to purchase things on Amazon with a PO, and my district hasn’t moved to the credit card system yet, so we cannot purchase things from Amazon.

As an Educational Technology person, I like dedicated e-readers for reading.  I think that there are cognitive load issues associated with having all of these different choices when you have a device in your hands.  How can kids concentrate on what they are reading when the email ping goes off or a text message comes in or an alert pops up that a friend just messaged them or… you get it, right?    E-readers definitely have a place for those who want an uncluttered reading space.

The only economical library-friendly ebook retailer (that I have seen) is FollettShelf.  The problem with them is that they are not compatible with dedicated e-readers.  Their books are browser-based.  I can’t use Kindle Fires and I can’t afford iPads, and I think that dedicated e-readers are better for reading.

Do you see a problem emerging?

Now, the Nooks that aren’t broken get checked out all of the time.  I have them grouped into genres: Realistic Fiction for Guys, Realistic Fiction for Girls, Fantasy, Sci Fi/Dystopian, Mystery/Horror, and Paranormal Romance.  There are 20ish titles on each device.  That is an awful waste of great books.  There is no way that kids can read more than one or two books in the time I give them to keep the device.  So, all of those great books are checked out and no one else has access to them.

There is pretty much one game in town for library management of ebooks and audiobooks- Overdrive.  Their pricing structure is way out of my league as a school librarian with 1000 patrons.

Where does that leave me?  I thought about a DRM-stripping program… DRM is ethically wrong and goes against fair use law anyhow…  I thought- what if I stripped the DRM from the books, and then downloaded them to the kids’ devices and then at the end of the checkout period, I could take them off of the devices… wow.  I think that for all of that manual maneuvering of data, I would need at least three more parapros in my LMC.  And it is in legal gray-area, which my district wouldn’t be happy with (to put it simply).

I have a real dilemma on my hands.  Bigger than ebooks, I think.

I want to stay current.  I want my library to stay relevant.  I want kids to have access to all of these awesome books and to be able to read them their way.  Hell, I don’t ever read paper books anymore.  I am strictly an ebook reader.  How can I, as a middle school librarian, expect that these kids aren’t going to want to read this way when I see the benefit of it?  It speaks to the entire field of educational technology, I think.  How do we get all of these awesome advances into the hands of kids?  I can give you a thousand examples of things that would benefit my kids more than you know, but I can’t utilize them because I have no way of delivering them.

I emailed the public library to see if they would like to do a membership drive at my library so that kids can get library cards and check ebooks out from them.  I haven’t heard back.  Does no one read my emails?  Even then, about 20% of my students live in an unincorporated area where they do not belong to the library.  So they wouldn’t be eligible to get cards.

The only upside that I can offer my colleague is that the Nooks do get checked out- they are never not checked out.  But that means that 10 of my patrons are benefiting from the thousands of dollars I have spent at a time.  Ten!

I am at a loss.




The Top Five: iPhone Apps for Middle School ELA Teachers

Pretty specific title, I know. With so many iOS apps out there geared toward education, it is hard to know which ones will be most useful. We end up downloading everything we see only to open it once and then never again. Most apps seem to be geared toward elementary or high school teachers, too. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Oh, just modify it up,” in my elementary district. No! We shouldn’t do that! If anything, we should modify down from high school. But I digress.

Here are my Top 5 (with a bonus) apps:


1. EZ Common Core Language Arts (1.99). There are a few Common Core apps out there now, and they are all pretty good for becoming more familiar with the standards. The free official one is really user-friendly, actually. The reason I find this one worthy of shelling out two bucks is the notes feature. Each standard offers a box where you can add your own notes. I’d use that to jot down lesson ideas as I think of them if it were me. Then, you can email those notes to yourself, if you want.


2. Book Retriever (1.99). I can’t tell you how many crazy interesting ideas I have heard to keep track of a classroom library. I was even guilty of a few of them myself, back in the day. Color-coded index cards, clipboards, stickers, and on and on. None seem to work. Teachers still seem to have a hard time getting students to keep track of the books. The benefits of this little guy are two-fold. First, you can scan every book into the app. About half of the time, the app’s database (which is growing, I’m told) will give you a synopsis, picture, F & P level, Lexile level, and other information. The ones not in the database need to be entered manually, but it is worth it. After all of your books are cataloged, enter your students’ names in the students section of the app. That’s it! Now, when a student wants to check out a book from your classroom library, you have the Lexile and F & P info handy, and you can just check it out to them right on your phone. No more losing your books!

remind 101

3. Remind 101 (FREE). Okay, this is cool. At Parent Night at the beginning of the year, give students and parents your Remind 101 login info, and have them create an account (it takes literally 20 seconds). Then, whenever you have a permission slip due, a big assignment due, whatever- you can send them a text alert to remind them. No one has your personal cell number, and you can send them a text whenever you need to, but they can’t text you back. What I wouldn’t give if my own kids’ teachers used this. It is so hard to keep track of everything they bring home. You would eliminate those uncomfortable parent-teacher conference moments, too. You know the ones. Where the parent says, “Why didn’t I know about this zillion point assignment sooner?!?” And you walk away, annoyed, thinking, “Well, you could have checked the classroom website, or your kid’s assignment notebook, or the online grade book, or…” To which I reply…




4. Evernote (FREE). The entire Evernote suite is a goldmine for the classroom, and I will dedicate a whole post to that sometime soon. Right now, I will focus on the power of the portfolio. I haven’t seen a better way to create student writing portfolios that can handle engaging, visual multimedia that is middle school brain-friendly. Students can drag and drop their writing, audio, photos- really anything they want. Create separate notebooks for separate units, even. They can make their notebooks private, public, or share them just with you. They don’t lose their portfolio if they change schools, districts, or move on to high school. It is so much more authentic than anything else I have seen out there.


5. Twitter (FREE). Excuse my candidness, but if you aren’t using Twitter to improve your teaching yet, you are really, really behind the curve. My Professional Learning Network includes the absolute top names in Ed Tech, Teaching, and Librarianship. I also follow major news outlets, book publishers, and other great sources of short text for teaching and learning. Teachers come to me all the time and say things like, “wow- you seem to know so much.” Twitter is my dirty little secret, really. I think I can attribute at least 75% of the cutting edge stuff I know to Twitter.

So, that’s five. But I need to add one more (you saw this coming)…


6. Pinterest (FREE). Aside from recipes, crafty stuff, and home renovation projects that no one can afford, there is more to Pinterest than you think. I find great classroom printables, engaging visuals to project, and lesson ideas. It is especially good when you are just feeling like everything is getting stale. There is nothing more inspiring that throwing away the script for a couple of days to do something creative and fresh. Pinterest can help with that.

Honestly, I could do a Top 100. Hmm. Maybe later…

Happy Reading!