Announcing this Year’s AASL Best Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning

Tools are used to install ceiling fans, repair leaky faucets, plant flowers, and make other improvements. Tools can also be used to support educators’ teaching practices and students’ learning experiences. When it comes to classroom tools, people often think of whiteboards, textbooks, computers, and handouts. The world has seen how educational materials have transformed significantly in the past decade, from online collaborative workspaces to virtual simulations. School librarians are known for their expertise and leadership in using and promoting new resources. It is our duty to stay abreast of the latest instructional materials.

The American Association of School Librarians releases an annual list of “Best Digital Tools for Teaching & Learning.” The recognition honors digital tools that foster innovation and collaboration, encourage exploration and participation, are user-friendly, and offer information and references. The Best Digital Tools provide even more opportunities for school librarians to enhance learning, engage learners, and collaborate with educators.

I am extremely honored to have served as the chair of this year’s Best Digital Tools for Teaching & Learning Committee. The committee is comprised of AASL members from across the nation, bringing forth a collection of unique experiences. Elizabeth Kahn, @TaylorLibrarian for Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, has served two years on the committee. Elizabeth says the group’s discussions reveal new and different ways to use each nominated tool for enhancing the teaching and learning experience.

AASL Shared Foundations
The review process is systematic and collaborative. First, each committee member independently evaluates the nominated tools. The evaluation form includes fields on privacy, innovation, student use, special features, and constraints. A critical piece of the rubric is examining the tools’ applications and relationships to one or more of AASL’s Shared Foundations. At team meetings, committee members discuss their thoughts on if and how each digital tool promotes a core value of school librarians and their learners. The technology resources are also evaluated for their application of AASL’s “National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries.”

This year’s list offers something for everyone. Classroomscreen, Humanities in the Class Digital Library, and Slidesmania provide opportunities for blended learning and classroom collaborations. Noodletools and Powernotes are great options to help learners tackle the research process and organize research. Civic Online Reasoning, and News-O-Matic can add to any digital citizenship lesson. And let’s not forget our commitment to developing lifelong learners and readers, which iVox and Novel Effects can add engagement to reading programs.

In the Best Digital Tools for Teaching & Learning press release, AASL President Jennisen Lucas states, “Recent virtual learning raised the visibility of school librarians as curators of digital resources and tools for our school communities.” School librarians are instructional leaders as well. We can demonstrate our expertise in educational technologies by sending a Tweet, collaborating with colleagues, and assisting students.

Join AASL and me in celebrating this year’s Best Digital Tools for Teaching & Learning by exploring and using the featured resources. Now is also the time to discover and experience digital tools for future lists. The nomination period for the 2022 Best Digital Tools for Teaching & Learning may have closed, but AASL’s connectedness, leadership, and advocacy run year-round.


AASL Best Digital Tools for Teaching & Learning Press Release

AASL Best Digital Tool Webpage

AASL 2022 Best Digital Tools Wakelet (curated by Shannon Miller)

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Digital Poetry Slam


It is no wonder why April has been deemed National Poetry Month. Early spring is filled with inspiration. The longer days and warming temperatures seem to improve my mood and stir my creativity. What a great time for reading and writing poetry! There are numerous ways to celebrate National Poetry Month through the school library. Last year, my students and I experimented with a digital poetry slam. The joyous process is open to whatever resources and strategies best suit your student and library needs.

I had always dreamed of having my younger primary school students perform in our own version of a poetry slam. Last year, my school library brought the event to life for the first time. How did we conduct such an event at a time when most in-person events were to be replaced with virtual alternatives? Fortunately, my students and staff had become skilled in using digital presentation tools. Instead of hosting a single live poetry slam, we created a digital poetry collection readily available for a wider audience of family and friends.

Students in the early grades seem to love poetry. They may not understand all of a poem’s figurative language, structure, or symbolism, but they get excited discussing their interpretations of the piece’s meaning.

Librarians can help expose students to various types of poetry using picture books, anthologies, and digital collections. The Children’s Poetry Archive is a free website for listening to the world’s best poetry read aloud. The site lets you explore poems by theme, literary glossary, and age group.

Shortly after listening and reading to poetry in a safe setting, students will be eager to craft their poems. I had my students use a program called Poetry Machine to help them create original poems. After some practice writing different styles of poems offered on the site, each homeroom came together to write a class poem. Some classes chose to write free verse poems, while others created acrostic and concrete poems. Each class poem was “published” to our school-wide digital poetry slam eBook. You can find Google Slides eBook templates from Slidesgo, SlidesMania, or create your own. Our classrooms’ published works were accompanied by a student art piece that somehow captured the poem’s topic or meaning.

Digital poetry slams can really come to life with recordings of students reciting the poems. The Mote Chrome Extension is a great tool for adding voice notes directly on pages in Google Slides. Teachers and family members will enjoy hearing students read aloud their original poems as they “flip” through the digital compilation of class poems.

There are many fun and creative ways for library users to experience poetry. Inspiration for creating original poems can come from many places: nature, conversations, and other people’s work. As a school librarian looking to engage students in writing poetry, I find inspiration from my colleagues, favorite authors, and online networks like AASL, ALSC, PBS LearningMedia, and Future Ready Librarians. I hope you will be inspired to celebrate National Poetry Month with new and exciting ideas!

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Tools to Excite Student Videographers

Since waking up this morning, you have probably viewed, shared, or posted dozens of pictures or videos. Our daily lives seem to be bombarded with visual imagery. For example, I regularly view YouTube videos to solve problems, watch documentaries to learn about new topics, and stream movies to relax and be inspired. Videos play a huge role in what I know, do, and aspire to be. The same is true for most of our students. Luckily, the school library can be a source of inspiration and information that teachers and students need to discover the power and possibilities of videography.

According to Merriam-Webster (n.d.), videography is the practice or art of recording images with a video camera. Student-created videos are effective means for documenting events, telling stories, and demonstrating learning.

There are all types of tools and techniques for getting students started with video production. My school library has curated a small collection of video recording devices for teachers and students to use in the classroom. These "not-so-ordinary" cameras bring content to life while letting students experience videography firsthand.

360-Degree Cameras

When recording a video with a phone or camcorder, you can only capture what is in front of you, which is the cinematographer’s preferred vantage point. You never see camera operators and technicians on screen. Instead, camerapersons are behind the scenes; they direct their devices toward specific people, objects, or landscapes. But there are many times I want to see even more to the story.

Panorama 360 cameras allow users to investigate their entire surroundings. Today’s 360-degree cameras come with high-quality stitching technology that delivers a remarkable, immersive experience. There are many great 360 camera options to choose from; my school library has a RICOH THETA camera. Students have used the device to record spherical videos of the school library, playground, nature trails, and even classroom demonstrations. The 360 videos can be easily shared via RICOH’s free software, Google Photos, and YouTube. My library also subscribes to ThingLink, an online program that enables students to annotate their panoramic images with text and multimedia files.

Motion-Activated Devices

It is customary to use motion-activated devices for security purposes. Institutions are equipped with video surveillance cameras to observe, monitor, and report activities. Motion-activated cameras have also become common household items. Small security cameras are an affordable option for families wishing to keep an eye out for what is happening outside and inside their homes.

I had never thought about using motion-activated monitors in the classroom until a teacher shared her plans for a first-grade science project. Her class was going to learn about life cycles by placing fertilized chicken eggs in classroom incubators until they hatch. Eggs can hatch at any time, day or night, and the teacher did not want students to miss the special event.

The teacher and I secured an EZVIZ Indoor WIFI Security Camera to the classroom’s magnetic whiteboard, with the lens pointing toward the incubator. Then, early one Monday morning, long before the school day began, the first egg hatched. We went through the video footage using the program’s smartphone app and found the moment the egg started to shake and break. Next, I helped the teacher arrange multiple video segments of eggs hatching into a single movie so students and their families could see the process in action.

Trail Cams

Behind my school’s playground is a densely wooded area containing a retention pond and a walking trail. While playing outside, students often see birds, squirrels, and insects. What they don’t see is the diversity of wildlife that comes out when no one is around.

To help students discover the animals that live in their community, my library acquired a Rexing trail camera through a small donation. Throughout the year, the principal and I helped students safely move through the woods and secure the trail cam on trees and posts in different areas. A few days later, students would retrieve the camera and browse the footage. Students collected and curated images and videos in a Google Drive folder. Next, students created “professionally” edited videos of the different animals seen. Videos and other information about animals, habitats, and conservation were uploaded to a Google Site. Eventually, students want to create markers along the trail in the woods with information and QR codes about the animals who live there. The trail camera has helped students inform their school and community about local wildlife and why it is important to protect their habitat.


As a young child, I would look up toward the sky and see passing planes or helicopters. I never pointed out flying drones, but today’s students might. Drones have become familiar devices. They allow videographers to capture beautiful aerial views. Drones are used to document special events such as outdoor sports championships and graduation ceremonies. Drone footage showed my students how closely connected people and animals are to one another.

A teacher worked with students to fly a DJI Mavic drone around the location of the trail camera’s position. Students were amazed to learn that the foxes, deer, and bobcats recorded by the trail camera were mere meters from the playground’s fence. Drone footage helped students understand why animals choose to live or hunt around the school. Students could see a nearby pond, tree lines, and open fields in the same aerial footage as the football stadium, soccer complex, and parking lot. Drone video recordings gave students a whole new perspective on people’s relationship to nature.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of different video recording devices. Technology is rapidly changing, and it might seem impossible to keep up with all the tools that are available. Try not to get hung up on the hardware. After all, student-centered videography does not demand high-tech cameras. Most smartphones and tablets take better videos and pictures than the SLR camera I had back in high school. Yes, videography requires a camera, but technology is not the most important thing. What matters is how students use videography to collaborate and think critically about the world around them.

Works Cited

Clements, L., Malkin, R., Ray, N., Sterling, M., Sparks, E., & Sykora, N. (2015). Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Video Tips. Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.) Videography.

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Your PLC Starter Kit

 I love summer. Who doesn’t? Summer break gives me time to relax with family, travel to new places, make home improvements, and recharge my professional battery. One of my favorite things to do during the summer holiday is connecting with other educators.

I have been fortunate to collaborate with fellow teachers during several field-based professional development programs. In 2017 I spent three weeks in Montana and Yellowstone National Park on a Summer Seminar for school teachers to study stories, ideas, and practices that shape the interaction between human and non-human nature. In 2018 I traveled to Chicago, along with 18,500 other educators, to discover new ways to learn with technology at the ISTE Conference & Expo. In 2019, I attended the PBL World Conference in California to learn strategies coaches can use to support and enable high-quality PBL implementation.

Collaboration and professional growth are not limited to the summer months. Teacher-librarians connect with their school community and professional learning networks year-round. Librarians moderate Twitter chats, present at virtual conferences, lead in-house workshops, create ed-tech tutorials, disseminate newsletters, and much, much more. A key commitment of AASL’s National School Library Standards is to “Work effectively with others to broaden collaborate perspectives and work toward common goals.” According to the shared foundation Collaborate, domain Share:

To promote ongoing collaboration with teachers in my building, I partnered with the school’s curriculum coordinator to launch virtual professional learning communities (PLCs) for teaching science and social studies. The virtual PLCs, their structure and process, grew organically from collaborative input. PLCs can positively impact the teaching of subject areas, especially when participants engage in a hands-on approach to problem-based learning and apply concepts to practice (Smith et al., 2008). In addition to providing a practical setting for planning, implementing, and assessing instruction, PLCs can improve one’s content knowledge. Knowledge, together with engaging instructional strategies, enriches students’ learning experiences.

The school library is essential to collaborative inquiry and the action research process. Use the following information to help you start planning a PLC with teachers or fellow librarians. Embarking on this venture will present countless opportunities for you to lead professional development that enhances the information, media, visual, and technical literacies of all school community members (AASL National School Library Standards: Collaborate/Think).

Develop some structure around group meetings (e.g., interactive agendas, Google Site).

My PLCs use different tools to keep work organized and accessible. Each PLC meeting works off an interactive agenda in Google Docs. Meeting agendas contain headings, links, goals, and other pertinent information about the meeting’s topic. Google Docs is great for collaboration as they let participants comment and make edits.

Google Sites is another platform our PLCs use to curate materials. The sites contain information on standards, a bibliography of resources, professional learning modules, and strategies for embedding the inquiry process. Teachers contribute to the websites by posting links to resources and recommending tools to support student products. The PLCs’ Google Sites are now a well-established resource utilized by all teachers in the building.

Make PLC activities interactive (e.g., professional learning modules, resource curation, mini-lesson design).

A portion of our PLC meetings is spent exploring best teaching and assessment practices from professional learning modules. Check your state department and AASL for professional development resources. Members of my PLCs use information in modules to complete activities outside of scheduled gatherings. Teachers design mini-lessons, create compelling questions, and curate instructional resources.

Encourage teachers to complete PLC assignments with the intention of one day using the material to support classroom instruction. We build time in our agendas for team members to display and discuss their thoughts and work samples. The process helps teachers see the full spectrum of standards and ideas to enrich student projects.

Design instructional units that address curriculum standards and principles of inquiry-based learning.

Training modules, weekly assignments, goal monitoring, and reflective discourse spur teachers’ enthusiasm for designing student-centered instruction. My PLC members collaboratively designed a lesson planning template structured on key elements of the inquiry process: questioning, investigating, using evidence, and communicating conclusions. The instructional document identifies the concepts and skills students are expected to master for each standard. A key step in the instructional design process is making connections to other subject areas, teaching resources, current events, and student interests. After identifying essential learning goals, curriculum connections, and appropriate sources of information, teachers are ready to outline instructional procedures.

Evaluate teaching strategies, resource integration, literacy connections, and student understandings.

Often, the results of classroom activities are much different than what is described in the lesson plan. Modifications to instructional procedures are to be expected. Instruction must be responsive to students’ misconceptions, queries, and unique learning needs. My PLC members take time to reflect on instructional practices at team meetings. We center conversations on how pedagogy and resources impact student learning. PLCs can be the perfect environment for sharing student work, referencing instructional alterations, and discussing inquiry-based strategies for subsequent activities.

Reflect on learning outcomes, modify instruction, and update pacing guides.

PLC meetings are a great time for discussing changes made during classroom instruction. My team uses questioning techniques to clarify the context and intent of instructional plans. Teachers analyze student work samples in light of scoring guides and learning objectives. Collective reflection on instruction and learning outcomes can help teachers identify growth areas and give meaningful feedback. Responsive and nonjudgmental feedback fosters a sense of trust and agency among PLC members.

Summer is a great time to map out your plans for engaging colleagues in professional learning. Whether through social media, after-school workshops, or professional learning communities, the ultimate goal remains the same. That is, to provide students and staff with the support and resources they need to inquire, include, explore, and collaborate.

Works Cited

Smith, T. R., McGowan, J., Allen, A. R., Johnson, W. D., Dickson Jr, L. A., Najee-ullah, M. A., & Peters, M. (2008). Evaluating the impact of a faculty learning community on STEM teaching and learning. The Journal of Negro Education, 203-226.

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Kentucky Association of School Librarians Inaugural Mid-Autumn Meeting

Changes made to teaching and learning this past year have also meant changes in the way educators experience professional growth. More and more school librarians and classroom teachers turn to social media for professional development (PD). Many in-person events have turned digital. The Kentucky Association of School Librarians (KASL) has embraced virtual learning for its members. In July, our annual Summer Refresher conference was entirely virtual. 

Summer Refresher attendees tuned in to hear from keynote speakers. Fifty-minute-long concurrent sessions ran all day. Presentations focused on new ed tech, blended learning, inquiry-based teaching, reading promotion, and other support services. Presentations were recorded and later made available on-demand to KASL members through our Kentucky Librarians Mighty Network.

The success of KASL’s virtual Summer Refresher has influenced other online events. For the first time, KASL organized a Mid-Autumn Meeting. And you guessed it, the meeting was virtual!

The one-hour event was held on the evening of November 12. Planning began weeks in advance. The Kentucky Bluegrass Awards (KBA) Committee arranged for two 2021 nominees to participate in a live panel discussion. The participating authors were Lynne Kelly and Susan Hood. Both are nominees for the grades 3-5 KBA category.

Lynne Kelly is the author of Song for a Whale, a story of a deaf girl’s connection to a whale whose song can’t be heard by his species, and the journey she takes to help him.

Susan Hood’s book, Lifeboat 12, tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II.

KASL engaged its members in the panel discussion by inviting them to submit questions in advance via Google Forms. Questions were compiled by KBA coordinators and shared with the authors.

Over the course of six weeks, the Mid-Autumn Meeting was promoted to its members on email groups, newsletters, and social media. By the time the event arrived, over 90 KASL members had registered! The event was conducted as a Zoom webinar. Webinars are useful when you have a large audience. The webinar format allowed the host and panelists to share their video, audio, and screen while the attendees were in view-only mode. Meeting organizers learned that the best way to keep participants engaged during a Zoom webinar is to enable the submission of questions and comments during the event.

During the Mid-Autumn Meeting, we provided KASL news and updates. It was a great time to talk about membership benefits, our mentoring program, a new online learning platform, and of course, Kentucky Bluegrass Awards. We also drew names for door prizes!

One of KASL’s KBA coordinators (@reneedhale) facilitated the panel discussion. Each author had 15 minutes to discuss their book and answer questions before joining in a group discussion. The gracious authors permitted us to upload the webinar’s recording on our organization’s YouTube channel. Registrants had three weeks to view the video.

At the conclusion of the virtual Mid-Autumn Meeting, participants were asked to complete a reflection form. Seventy-five percent of respondents gave the meeting a 5 out of 5, and 22% ranked it 4/5! Here is some of the feedback we received:

What did you enjoy most about Mid-Autumn Meeting 2020?

  • I liked having the authors talk about books. It’s always nice to get a back story to share with students.
  • Getting more info about KASL, and hearing interesting stories from authors.
  • I loved hearing the backstory from Lifeboat 12! So interesting!

How can KASL improve its Mid-Autumn Meeting and similar events?

  • I think it would be great if this could be offered in the spring with additional authors.
  • Maybe breakout rooms to mimic the social aspect of these events when they are live.
  • I almost didn’t attend because I’m a high school librarian, and neither of these authors’ books is on the KBA grades 9-12 list. I’m glad that I attended, though. I now want to read these two books. Could we possibly get a high school KBA nominated author in the spring for one of these meetings?

Additional comments/concerns:

  • Thank you for offering this to all librarians across the state.
  • Fantastic job on this webinar! Transitions were smooth, the door prizes were fun, and the featured authors were relevant and fascinating.
  • Thank you for putting on a great virtual event. It was seamless and just a really nice way to spend an evening during a stressful time.

The Mid-Autumn Meeting happened in November, but its impact lives on. KASL is excited to announce plans for a virtual Spring Summit in March or April. The spring event’s format will remain similar to Mid-Autumn Meeting, but the updates, panelists, prizes, and theme will change. A state-wide virtual event like a Mid-Autumn Meeting or a Spring Summit is yet another way to engage and support your association’s members.

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Turn to Your School Librarian for Leadership in Online Learning

School librarians have many roles, among which are teacher and instructional partner. AASL’s position “The Strategic Leadership Role of School Librarians” notes, “The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) supports the position that full-time certified school librarians provide effective leadership in curriculum development, instructional design, technology integration, professional development, student advocacy, information literacy instruction, and collaboration” (2018, para. 1). Teachers and administrators turn to school librarians for guidance and support on planning, delivering, and assessing online instruction.

The technology associated with virtual learning could never replace the librarian. Technology needs school librarians as much as we need it. School librarians rely on technology for several reasons, from the curation of resources to enriching educational experiences. Technology, on the other hand, needs school librarians to orient educators to digital resources and platforms by way of professional development and ongoing support (AASL n.d.). Most importantly, technology needs school librarians to link its features to the learning process. School librarians help teachers “get grounded in instruction, so they can figure out with students how best to engage technology” (Fullan 2011, 15).

The COVID-19 pandemic came unexpectedly, and so did school librarians’ charge of finding new ways to engage students in reading, learning, and personal growth. Distance learning comes with many challenges but even more opportunities. There are opportunities for students to build knowledge and cultivate a love of learning.

Critical Factors of Online Instruction

Four major factors of remote, inquiry-based instruction have revealed themselves due to my recent online teaching experiences. Whenever I collaborate with teachers on the development of online instruction, I reference the following factors.

Universal Theme

Universal themes connect student learning with multiple content areas. According to Roberts and Roberts (2014), “A universal or broad-based theme maximizes learning potential because it can be used in various content areas to allow students to see how and where their learning in one content area applies to other content areas or situations” (2014, 226). Universal themes (i.e., patterns, adaptation) and holistic, real-world phenomena (i.e., aviation, Egyptian pyramids) provide the motivating starting point for learning, instead of traditional school subjects. The information and skills related to themes and phenomena cross the boundaries between content areas, making learning authentic.


The rewards of inquiry-based instruction extend beyond a final product. During the inquiry process, students develop 21st-century skills, discover a new or renewed passion for learning, and become lifelong learners who are eager to explore the world. In the realm of online instruction, students can engage with content in numerous ways. For instance, students can investigate compelling questions using media-rich sources. Students can complete complex tasks that they, in turn, use to teach the class new ideas and information.


“Social interaction among two or more people is the greatest motivating force in human development” (Eun 2010, 401). This compelling statement comes as no big surprise to school librarians. Shared experiences do more than motivate. Collaboration is opening a window, which leads to new ideas, alternative solutions, and lasting relationships.

Class websites, video-conferencing software, and learning management systems make it easy to inspire student-to-student collaboration. Besides expediting students’ access to digital tools and assignments, online communication platforms foster collaboration on learning tasks. For instance, students can work simultaneously on Google Suite’s content collaboration tools—Docs, Sheets, and Slides—to plan, develop, critique, and revise products.


There is power in storytelling. National Geographic is a household name because of its ability to tell captivating stories through journalism, photography, and videography. At the heart of each National Geographic story is a central message braced by evidence. Why not let students communicate conclusions through stories? Storytelling challenges students to synthesize learning by using evidence to construct and critique claims for various purposes and audiences.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” in teaching students virtually or in-person. Classrooms consist of unique individuals with various skills and backgrounds. How can you use themes, processes, collaboration, and storytelling to provide effective leadership in online learning?

Works Cited:

AASL. n.d. “The School Librarian Role in Pandemic Learning Conditions.” (accessed Aug. 22, 2020).

AASL. 2018. “The Strategic Leadership Role of School Librarians.” American Association of School Librarians. (accessed Aug. 22, 2020).

Eun, Barohny. 2010. “From Learning to Development: A Sociocultural Approach to Instruction.” Cambridge Journal of Education 40 (4): 401-418.

Fullan, M. 2011. “Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole School Reform.” In Seminar Series, vol. 204: 1-19.

Roberts, Julia Link, and Richard A. Roberts. 2014. “Writing Units that Remove the Learning Ceiling.” Methods and Materials for Teaching the Gifted: 213-252.

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A One-Page Site for Using and Sharing Creative Works

For many students, much of the 2020-2021 school year will consist of virtual classrooms, digital sources, and blended learning. Distance learning comes with many challenges but even more opportunities. There are opportunities for students to build knowledge as part of a process of making sense of information and their experiences. During remote teaching, students should have opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and skills. The Internet is filled with programs and tools students can use to create digital products for learning and assessment. Many student-generated products will contain images, videos, sounds, and music. The big question here is: Where does this media come from?

I encourage students to create their own original works. An appreciation for creative work and intellectual property is the first step in correctly and continuously crediting authors’ works and adhering to copyright law. Often, though, students do not have time or the training needed to develop original works. Student products usually contain media files that they themselves did not create. There are rules and guidelines students must know and follow when borrowing, modifying, and sharing work created by others.

According to the AASL Standards Framework for Learners, learners use valid information and reasoned conclusions to make ethical decisions in the creation of knowledge by:
1. Ethically using and reproducing others’ work. 
2. Acknowledging authorship and demonstrating respect for the intellectual property of others.
3. Including elements in personal-knowledge products that allow others to credit content appropriately.
  • During this time of blended learning, at school and home, I find myself asking the following questions:
  • Do students know how creative work is protected?
  • Do students know the factors of fair use?
  • Do students know where to find works they can build upon legally and share?
  • Do students know how to give credit to works that carry an open license?

And so, I created a one-page Google Site with information about copyright protection, fair use, open licensing, and attribution. The primary draw of the site is its section of links to open-licensed resources (photos, images, videos, and music).

The open licensing agreement or public domain status of the media located on these websites give users the freedom to:
  • Share — copy and redistribute the material
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material

Some of the sites have their own licensing agreements, so it is important to reference their terms and conditions for information and guidance. One condition of Creative Commons and most open licensing agreements is attribution (the acknowledgment as credit to the creator of a work).

Ideal attribution includes:
  • Title
  • Creator
  • Source
  • License

Mountain Peak, Alaska” by Andrew Shiva is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

This is an ideal attribution because it includes the:
  • Title: “Mountain Peak, Alaska”
  • Creator: “Andrew Shiva “
  • Source: Link to the original photo on Wikimedia Commons
  • License: “CC BY-SA 4.0”

Students’ respect for intellectual property and their ethical use of others’ work won’t be the result of a one-page Google Site. Hopefully, the information on the site will lead to conversations centered on the safe, legal, and ethical sharing of knowledge products. During blended instruction, students can use their experience, reflections, and the ethical use of intellectual property to demonstrate learning. Through this process, may our students be the ones who develop original and creative works.

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Distance Read-Alouds

Many students are now learning at home due to COVID-19. For my elementary school students, storytime is an important and exciting part of the day. How will students hear books read aloud by their teachers and school librarians now? Educators can simply record themselves reading aloud stories and post the videos to YouTube and Facebook, right? Perhaps. The answer depends on an analysis of the four factors of fair use, in addition to the situation at hand – school is closed. During emergencies, fair use can be considered a bit more broadly. “One critical feature of copyright law is fair use, a flexible users’ right that allows the use of copyrighted works without permission. It accommodates a wide variety of circumstances, including new and rapidly evolving situations” (Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists, 2020, para. 3).

Intellectual property rights are so important that AASL’s Standards Framework for Learners has an entire domain devoted to the subject: Engage. For instance, school library standards state that learners are to use valid information and reasoned conclusions to make ethical decisions in the creation of knowledge by:
1. Ethically using and reproducing others’ work.
2. Acknowledging authorship and demonstrating respect for the intellectual property of others.

COVID-19 has brought forth many challenges, but also opportunities. We have an opportunity to model the ethical use of others’ work by how we share and credit information via distance learning.

So, can teachers and librarians use YouTube under these circumstances? Maybe. Some will always want to ask for permission to use a work that they feel may be unlawful even when fair use might allow the use. Asking for permission can be easy.

My wife teaches first grade in a neighboring school district. She was excited that her colleagues wanted to post read-aloud videos to their school’s Facebook page. My wife felt obligated to get permission from the author before video recording her read-aloud. She searched online for the author’s website to make a request to record herself reading one of his books. She explained in her message that the video would only be shared with students and parents. The author responded in less than 12 hours, generously granting permission to share his stories with students, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. My wife commented that she will use her correspondence with the author to teach first graders about fair use and intellectual property.

Asking permission can be difficult because it may be hard to determine who is the rights holder. And when libraries have acquired materials through a license agreement, the contract language associated with the work will govern your use. School librarians should review the four factors of fair use and limitations such as limiting access to the classroom or posting on a private YouTube site.

Scrolling through Twitter these past few days, I have come across several posts from authors granting permission of the recording of their books being read aloud.

Use the hashtag, #readaloudalert to find Tweets from authors granting permission to record and post videos of teachers reading their books for students while schools are temporarily closed. Emily Northcutt, Kentucky Association of School Librarians President, created a #ReadAloudAlert Wakelet with links to video resources created by authors and illustrators.

Free Read-Aloud Recordings

There are many FREE curated collections of approved read-alouds online. For instance, author Kate Messner’s website contains a collection of resources that include everything from first-chapter and picture book read-alouds (shared with permission from publishers) to drawing and writing mini-lessons.

The Story Time from Space website has videos of astronauts in space reading books to the children of Earth. The videos are placed under the heading ”Story Time Videos.”

Storyline Online is a children’s literacy resource featuring the world’s best storytellers reading books aloud. Each video includes an activity guide with lessons for K-5 students to do at home.

KidLitTV has created a virtual library of free read-alouds, drawing and writing tutorials, podcasts, art activities, and reading resources for kids!

Schools across the country are (or have been) faced with a very difficult decision—that is to temporarily suspend classes because of COVID-19. Fortunately, we live in a connected world where educational resources are readily available from any place that has Internet. We are even more fortunate to have the support and kindness of many authors and publishers who are letting teachers continue storytime (from a distance) with their students.

Works Cited:
“Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research.” 2020.
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LEGO League in the Library

It is no secret that school librarians serve as leaders in a number of ways. One such way is by serving as coordinators of unique student programs. For example, school librarians lead literature circles, coding clubs, news crews, and much more. Another new program that is finding its way into the library is FIRST LEGO League (FLL).

FLL is a program that challenges elementary and middle school students to think like scientists and engineers. Each year, FLL introduces a scientific and real-world challenge for teams to focus on and research. This program gives younger students the opportunity to investigate real-world issues such as food safety, water conservation, and energy using STEM concepts. Teams of students design, build, and program a LEGO robot to perform functions in relation to the problem.
Middle school students engage in FIRST LEGO League, and elementary school students participate in FLL Jr. Last year was my first time coordinating FLL Jr. at my elementary school. FIRST LEGO League Jr. is a non-competitive, hands-on STEM program geared toward children ages 6 to 10. Teams of up to six students explore real-world themes with an exclusive LEGO Education Inspire Model. Students use this model as a starting point but design a model of their own with LEGO elements and a WeDo 2.0 robot. Each year, FIRST LEGO League Jr. presents a new and exciting challenge to ignite the creativity of students. Last year’s challenge was called Mission Moon.

During Mission Moon, my team of students learned about the moon and explored what kinds of problems they would need to solve in order to live there. Students read several library books about space travel, astronauts, and astronomy. Students conducted research on NASA’s website and by using the library’s online databases. The team created a pamphlet about space travel that provided information on how energy, air, and water are essential to sustain life on the moon.

The team demonstrated what they learned by designing and creating a moon base and poster. Students presented their poster at the school district’s annual STEAM Showcase where attendees consist of students, families, and community members. Many states even host a FLL championship tournament where students present their research and robots to a live audience.

Show Me Poster
I was very excited when this year’s BOOMTOWN BUILD FLL Jr. Challenge was revealed. Currently, my students are exploring the growing needs and challenges of the people in our community. The team is imagining and creating a building that will solve a problem and make life easier, happier, or more connected for the people that use it.

FIRST LEGO League aligns nicely with AASL’s Standards integrated frameworks (2018). School librarians can support FLL by embedding the inquiry process; implementing technology as a tool for learning; focusing on the effective use of a wide range of resources to foster information skills; and partnering with other educators and experts on presenting topics and strategies (AASL 2018).

School librarians may want to consider coordinating a FIRST LEGO League as yet another way to support student learning and enrichment. Librarians are leaders; that’s a fact. Organizing programs in the school library such as FLL could be what your students need to become leaders themselves.

What does it cost to participate in LEGO League Jr.?
Fees for the annual team registration, a LEGO WeDo 2.0 set, and event participation cost approximately $350 USD per team (2019/2020 season.).

Click here to learn more about getting started with FIRST LEGO League and FIRST LEGO League Jr.

Works Cited
AASL. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.
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Project RAP

Young learners come to the school library possessing skills and talents just waiting to be revealed. The school librarian also possesses talents. The librarian knows how to connect students with literature that incites curiosity. The librarian knows how to select books and information sources that are developmentally appropriate for students and pertinent to specific topics and themes. The librarian knows how to curate digital tools that connect students with content, presentation software, and people. The librarian also knows how to facilitate engaging instructional strategies that inspire critical thinking and problem solving. Even though the school librarian possesses these skills, it never hurts to look for new resources and lesson ideas. If you are an elementary school librarian, you will definitely want to add Project Reaching Academic Potential (RAP) to your toolbox.

Project RAP has been developed through a partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education, Jefferson County (Kentucky) Schools, the University of Louisville, and Western Kentucky University. According to the program’s webpage, “The purpose of the program is to carry out a coordinated program of scientifically based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and similar activities designed to build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the exceptional needs of gifted and talented students” (para. 3, n.d.). Project RAP supports elementary school teachers and librarians who are looking for activities that will engage young learners in the creative process and high level thinking.

Project RAP utilizes the Young Scholars model. This model identifies and nurtures advanced academic potential in students from historically underrepresented populations (Young Scholars (K-12), n.d.). The model gives diverse learners opportunities to engage in tasks that show their talent, emphasize their ability solve problems, and support their success in advanced coursework.

Project RAP gives young learners opportunities to express creativity and develop advanced cognitive ability. One of the goals of Project RAP is to increase student readiness for gifted program participation through engagement in challenging curriculum and cluster grouping for instruction. Students from underrepresented backgrounds need opportunities to showcase their skills and creativity. Project RAP gives that opportunity to students, making the selection process for gifted and education more equitable.

Best of all, Project RAP has Selected Response Lessons. The lessons target students in grades K through 2. The lessons spawn from a picture book that the teacher-librarian reads aloud to the class. One example of a RAP lesson is “Lots of Dots” for first graders. Students read the book, Ten Black Dots by Donald Crew. Students then draw some dots on their paper or place dot stickers on the page.

Students exchange their dot papers with a partner who connects the dots to make a picture. Students write about their picture in a few sentences. This is a great way to engage students in divergent thinking and collaboration.

In the lesson “Math, Math Everywhere,” second grade students practice critical thinking and creativity. Students find relationships between skills they are learning in math and when they must apply their learning to real-life experiences. After the students read the picture book Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, they create a Math Curse Class book. Each student writes a page to the book that should also include an illustration. Students act out their real life math experiences and ask classmates to guess what math skills they are using. This activity helps students make real-world connections to what they learn in school, and it gives them opportunities to display their talents and creativity.

You can download all of the lesson plans on the Project RAP webpage. You and your colleagues will love implementing these high-level and creative activities with young students. Your learners deserve opportunities to find and/or demonstrate their talents. Give them the chance with Project RAP.

Works Cited

Reaching Academic Potential (RAP). (n.d.) Retrieved from

Young Scholars (K-12). (n.d.) Retrieved from
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