Library Connections

Entries Tagged as library-classroom connection

New Series: The Learning Library: "Help, I'm on Information Overload!"

February 11, 2013 · 10 Comments

I read a quote by a user exchange goddess whose sole purpose in life is to make yours easier--at least online. She says that "People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to disciplines. Librarians are all-knowing and all-seeing. They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the masses. They preserve every aspect of human knowledge. Librarians rule." (Erica Firment,

Erica, if you ever read this, I thank you. You are a woman of my own heart. I'm not sure about all-knowing, but we all have a similar purpose: to bring together information and those who seek it. And though our resource medium may be changing, our goals never will.

Today the 21st century library is becoming a space without walls. Information is available every minute of every day to everyone with access to the web, in any location with "bars". This is both a blessing and a curse for us and for our users. Remember the ancient days… of 1999? Back when you got web hours in the form of an AOL disk; back in the time before the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and UCITA, before terms such as information overload and information explosion. Those were the days that most people had to wait for the library to open to find out the magnitude of the largest earthquake on record (Chile, 1960, 9.5) or who won the gold medal for archery in 1972 (John Williams of the USA). I can hardly remember the time when my paper calendar reminded me it was Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday rather than the day’s Google doodle.

But today, in a world where it takes just seconds to get to information, librarians are better suited than anyone to guide information seekers through the millions of hits returned from a random Google search. And further, it is our duty as school librarians to instill good information seeking behaviors in our students at a young age. We can do so by taking advantage of some of the tools, tips, and tricks that are already out there. I am a huge advocate of not having to reinvent the wheel. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!

So with that I welcome this blog series, The Learning Library. I hope to touch on some of the tools, tips, and tricks that I have learned so you can get back to what’s most important. So go, bring order to chaos, and I’ll see you in a couple weeks!

Ever onward.

Please join us in welcoming Ruth in the comments below.

Ruth is the Supervisor of Library Services at Tustin Unified School District. Ruth spent most of her childhood at the beach or with her nose in a book—oftentimes both. Though reading and writing are her passions, promoting libraries, librarians, and information literacy is the foundation of her personal and professional objectives.

She lives with her husband and their French Bulldog in Irvine, California. Ruth will also be pinning resources for her Learning Library column on our Pinterest account- You can comment on this blog or follow her on Twitter @MssLIS.

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10 CommentsTags: library-classroom connection · Learning Library · school libraries

Educators, What would you change? (Part I)

April 25, 2012 · 118 Comments

A few weeks ago some colleagues and I were talking about our libraries and how long we had each been in our positions and where we had worked before when we started talking about the changes we all had made when we first walked through the doors of our different library jobs.

Invariably we each first looked around at the physical space and measured the changes we’d make right away usually centering on making the space “ours”. That would mean moving desks, creating bulletin boards, and even changing the arrangement of shelves when they weren’t bolted down to the floor.

It was in mid-discussion that someone asked “what if we were to walk through our doors today – as if we were the brand new librarian. What changes would we make today?

I thought of this as an incredible challenge to take back with me to school the following Monday because while I have made some great changes, I knew that it still wasn’t where I’d like it to be yet.

And so…what if I were just hired - what would I see and what would I change right now to make this library say what I want it to say about learning, teaching, searching, creating, and inviting students and teachers to join in on all those things?

So in unlocking the door on that ‘first’ day and walking around I noticed that the librarian’s desk was sitting in a back room, the shelves were placed in a very neat row but were totally uninspiring, and the chairs are way too big.

Why is this so important in this day and age when we are more often taking the library into the classroom and into other learning spaces. I absolutely applaud this trend and value it as an extension of the physical space we call ‘the library’. But that human need to gather together for social, emotional and educational engagements demands, in my mind, that we create and nurture a space for these activities to take place. The library, with all it’s resources and most importantly, the librarian there to participate as a teacher in those social, emotional, educational and creative pursuits indeed makes the library the most important classroom space in the school.

Our job is to nurture that space in such a way that every time we walk into a classroom to work alongside our teaching colleagues we ‘bring the library’ with us. And when it’s lunch time, or study hall, or tutorial or after school time, students and teachers know that they can congregate in the library to continue their studies, ask the questions, create their presentations, and build their skills with the help and guidance of their librarian.

I’ve started working with a local company to make a new reference desk out in the middle of the room, we’re creating new bulletin board displays; we’re purchasing an interactive whiteboard for easier instruction. These are the first ‘new steps’ we’re taking to make changes to our space. Next up: taking a look at our instruction.

BTW: Anyone want to buy some 1 ½ size chairs?


Connie Williams is a high school librarian and an advocate for school libraries.You can contact her via email, or leave a comment below. 

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118 CommentsTags: edtech · library-classroom connection · Inquiring Minds in the Library · library advocacy · technology and education

Amish Doll

April 20, 2012 · 9 Comments

At a district Technology Committee meeting we were divided into partner groups to brainstorm about what ‘best practices’ we might look for in using technology in the classroom.  My colleague Doug and I had been struggling with trying to identify just what good technology teaching looks like and how to best accomplish the learning goals we might have for our students.
As often happens in discussions like this we played around with ideas and listened to our colleagues and then discussed some more amongst our own assigned group. And it was in the middle of the discussion where we were almost coming to the ‘big idea’ that we were after and had been going around and around when Doug said: “it’s like the Amish doll. The Amish doll has no face and is plain and it is meant to be that way.”

When a child is handed an Amish doll, he/she gets to decide what the doll’s face looks like, is he smiling today? Does she have blue eyes like me or brown eyes like you? One day they are blue, and the next day they’re brown but maybe they turn blue after she eats blueberries. That doll can be whatever the child wants it to be – mother, father, teacher, doctor – at any given moment as the play progresses.

The Amish doll. A perfect metaphor for learning.  – if we give our students the tools, the outlines, the forms, the basic shapes; then they can fill in the ‘faces’. In terms of technology: teaching with technology; not “teaching technology” is the goal. It. Is. So. Simple.

We were tasked one time to visit classrooms and ‘drop in’ to see what role technology was playing in any given day. It was sort of a ‘snapshot’ of a day. The group fanned out to different school sites, different classrooms and reported back after a few hours of observation. The task: observe technology in use.  It was during our reporting out to the group that our Amish Doll metaphor took shape.  Our favorite lesson used no technology at all at the point we observed the class. Students in the 4th grade were in groups and were reporting to each other about books they had read. Each was assigned a role and each had a job to fulfill within their roles related to the book talking. We saw engaged students on task working together. Upon our return we thought about why that lesson was so compelling – it had given each student the ‘outline’ for what needed to be accomplished and then let them use their creativity, their prior knowledge, their content [derived from their reading] and their skills to bring it all together in a formal discussion.  The “Amish doll” approach gave them the form but not the steps.

While we might think that the very term  “Amish doll” is the antithesis of “technology” it actually has more to do with how we design our lessons rather than whether we’re using technology.  That same book-talking lesson could have been accomplished using blogs, wikis or google docs. The students could have used Voice Thread and images they created to post their book discussions or Animoto or any of the hundreds of 2.0 tools.

It’s about the simplicity of lesson creation – giving students the form, the parameters and the content they need to learn… and then letting them invent their own path to accomplish that learning.


Connie Williams is a high school librarian and an advocate for school libraries.You can contact her via email, or leave a comment below.  

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9 CommentsTags: library-classroom connection · Inquiring Minds in the Library · technology and education

The Places Students Can Go with Destiny Quest

November 11, 2011 · 11 Comments

If you are unfamiliar with Destiny Quest, it is a library search interface for K-12 students.  Destiny Quest provides an online searching experience for students to:

•    See the top 10 books and new arrival titles
•    Search the library connection
•    Browse the scrolling carousel of bookshelves
•    View book covers
•    Link to details from any computer with an internet connection.

One of the sweetest features of Destiny Quest is the ability for students to share and post reviews, promoting safe social networking.  It is a K-12 student-friendly searching interface included with Destiny Library Manager, the comprehensive, award-winning K-12 library automation solution with familiar web-based technology that students embrace.

We scoured the Internet to see what Destiny Quest users are saying.  Here’s a few finds from our trip around the Web:

Top 10 Reasons for Giving your Students a login to Destiny Quest
Our first item is a blog post from Pine Glen Library and Technology’s Blog about the use of Destiny Quest in their school.  This post discusses why students should be given their own logins to Destiny Quest .  Above all reasons reasons echo this message:  “Students are excited about books and love using the library”.

Review:  Destiny Quest
This blog post is from Kristina Weber whose school recently rolled out Destiny Quest to the nearly 1100 students who visit their library.  It turns out that students are buzzing about Destiny Quest and all its cool social features.  As a result, their holds are increasing, their unnoticed materials are getting face time, and students are feeling more independent in their library searches.  Weber also makes some recommendations and observations for improvement of Destiny Quest.  We appreciate her feedback.

Branching Out
We were thrilled to learn from Tara, an ES Librarian, International School Bangkok, in Thailand in her blog post, about the book reviews these students were writing in Destiny Quest.  Click here to see the visual corkboard of their unsolicited literary critiques.  Thanks for sharing Tara.

We enjoy learning about the ways that students are using Destiny Quest and will continue to share these Destiny Quest journeys periodically on our Library Connections blog.  If you have a story to share please provide it in the comments below.  We would love to hear from you.

Follett Software.

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11 CommentsTags: library-classroom connection · library

Social Media in Education

June 06, 2011 · 10 Comments

Social media brings excitement and interest to learning and empowers students to grow as global and digital citizens. One obvious example of an educator who is embracing this technology to engage students is Van Meter Community School Librarian Shannon McClintock Miller (@shannonmmiller). We were fortunate to have Shannon present her ideas on the Positive Effects of Social Media in Education at our New Leaf in Learning Conference, which took place in March. It was a standing-room only session that illustrated how this trailblazer's confidence in social media as a constructive learning tool is paying off.

The session was recorded and is embedded below – if you can’t see the video, click here.

As she makes clear in the video, teachers and librarians don't need to fear social media—they need to encourage kids to use it to advance learning and show them constructive ways to utilize the tools. Using social media in her school allows Shannon to connect with other teachers and classrooms well beyond her district, and her students are sharing, publishing, discussing, creating and collaborating with peers and other teachers around the world.

"Social media brings excitement, currency and engagement," she told us. "It gives kids a voice and enriches their learning experiences by letting them connect with individuals, groups and experiences around the world."

As audience members expressed concern about kids wasting time texting from their cell phones and reading Facebook posts instead of participating in class, this enthusiastic educator pointed out that a driven instructor can steer students toward using social media productively, so that they don't have time or desire to use it in the ways many teachers and parents fear. She also described how the administration at Van Meter was 'on board' with her use of social media because everything is transparent—there are no secrets—and she takes the time to teach etiquette and literacy so all students strive to use social media wisely.

But don’t take her word for it. During the session, Shannon made it easy for everyone to get ideas and see social media in action by letting her students do the talking. As a group of students appeared on the screen live via Skype, each student greeted Miller enthusiastically then told the audience about their individual projects using Animoto, Skype, Facebook, iMovie, YouTube, Flickr and others. The audience immediately saw the power of social media through the students' own stories.

What positive effects are you seeing by using social media in education? Share your stories below!

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10 CommentsTags: edtech · library-classroom connection · Professional Learning Communities · Social Media Tools · library · library advocacy · school libraries · social networking in education · stories

Banned Sites Week

May 16, 2011 · 4 Comments

We seem to be at a critical juncture in the struggle against overzealous filtering in schools. Many administrators indicate that they are ready to unblock social media sites, but claim that network administrators and lawyers caution them against it. There is a lot of misinformation about federal regulation in this realm. To demystify the issue of e-rate funding and CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) compliance, Tina Barseghian, of MindShift at KQED in San Francisco posted an interview with Karen Cator, U.S. Department of Education’s Director of Education Technology on April 26, 2011. A few weeks earlier, Lisa Nielsen (The Innovative Educator) and Tom Whitby (My Island View) address some of these issues in their co-authored blog post, The World's Simplest Online Safety Policy (April 3, 2011). In February, COSN (Consortium for School Networking) outlined recommended guidelines for Acceptable Use Policies in Web 2.0 and Mobile Era (February 18, 2011).

Students today lead dual lives – their interactive social life and their “receptive” academic life. At the end of the school day, young people log on and engage online with peers. They share resources, express themselves, opine on their friends' content and activities and the world at large. They are contributors in their social world. But in school, collaboration often begins and ends with “group projects” – which, in many cases, feel contrived in contrast to the organic participatory culture students experience outside of school. In order to inculcate that same participatory culture into students’ academic life, and channel it toward productivity, it is important to provide them with a wide range of online edu-social experiences. Unfortunately, portals for online social interaction are often blocked in schools. We are thus denying students critical learning opportunities about digital citizenship, collaboration and communication. If we are not teaching these skills in a relevant, real-world context, we are failing to teach them how to apply our lessons to their “other life.”

To highlight the importance of the First Amendment, the American Library Association (ALA) has a longstanding tradition of celebrating the freedom to read -Banned Books Week (BBW) – during the last week in September. Librarians are enlisted to feature frequently challenged books. This is a most worthy cause as it celebrates our freedom to access information and exposes censorship. At New Canaan High School, which is a free-range media/BYOD, public high school in Connecticut, we will extend censorship awareness week into a two week intellectual freedom celebration, prefacing Banned Books Week with Banned Sites Week from September 17-24, 2011, and feature sites that are commonly banned in schools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Blogger, etc. We hope that other districts will join in this initiative. Got questions about CIPA compliance? Answers here. And for more information about using social media for instruction, please visit my blog at

Michelle LuhtalaMichelle Luhtala is the Department Chair of New Canaan High School Library, which won several 2010 awards including the National School Library Program of the Year Award. She also facilitate a 2,000+ member online professional learning community for school librarians called Using Emerging Technology to Improve Your Library Program at, where she presents monthly webinars (they are all archived online). Michelle is a regular conference presenter. She is co-authoring a forthcoming book, Relevant Librarian: a 21st Century Guide to the Responsive Library, and contributing a chapter to a forthcoming book called School Librarians as Leaders in Professional Development. She blogs at

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4 CommentsTags: library-classroom connection · banned sites week · library · library advocacy · school libraries

6 Destiny Districts Recognized by NSBA for Ed Tech Leadership

April 11, 2011 · 8 Comments

When the National School Board Association’s Technology Leadership Network unveiled its most recent “20 to Watch” list, we were proud to note that no fewer than six of the innovative educators honored work at districts that are Follett Software Destiny customers. The “20 to Watch” honorees were singled out, according to the NSBA, because “they are finding different, effective and exciting ways to engage students through the use of technology.”

Buffy Hamilton, media specialist/teacher, Cherokee County School District, Canton, Georgia. Buffy uses a wide range of Web 2.0 tools to engage students at Creekview High School in literacy activities. Her school library, which she has named The Unquiet Library , emphasizes inquiry and a participatory approach to learning. For her efforts, Creekview has been honored as the Georgia High School Media Program of the Year. Among Buffy’s proudest accomplishments has been the introduction of Media 21, a participatory, transliterate learning environment for research projects. It has helped earn her a Cutting Edge Service Award from the American Library Association's Office for Information and Technology Policy. 

Paul Andersen, teacher, Bozeman Public Schools, Bozeman, Montana. To date, Paul’s “Bozeman Biology ” podcasts have been viewed more than 280,000 times. Anderson also shares his knowledge by holding weekly “Tech Junkies” meetings for teachers and students who want to learn more about technology. He recently was named the 2011 Montana Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Debra Howe, superintendent, Rochester Community Schools, Rochester, Indiana. Debra spearheaded the creation of the first New Tech High in rural Indiana. Not only are high school students learning in a 1:1 technology rich environment, but also all K-12 classrooms have interactive white boards, SMART document cameras, laptop computers and digital cameras.

Ryan Hurley, English teacher, Warren County Schools, Warrenton, North Carolina. Ryan has turned his classroom into a paperless learning community using a wide variety of free online resources. Working with a high number of impoverished high school students, Hurley goes beyond his curriculum to teach students how to use classroom technology.

Jeffrey McMahon, academic technology officer, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, Indiana. Jeffrey led the development of a 1:1 laptop model, which put laptops into the hands of more than 2,500 students. The program involved a Problem Based Learning Curriculum, in which students had to use their laptops to identify and solve real and significant problems in their communities.

Terri Simpson, teacher, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools, Sulphur, Louisiana. Terri is a 21st-century teacher who believes in diving fearlessly into new territory. She has led efforts to incorporate GoogleDocs, iPods, Palm hand-helds, digital cameras, iPads, student-response systems and one-to-one computing at her middle school, and has secured grants and other funding to help bring this technology to the school. 

Follett Software congratulates all the honorees, as well as their districts, for giving these creative educators the tools they need to work magic with technology and inspire so many.

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8 CommentsTags: edtech · library-classroom connection · leadership · library advocacy

The Power of Story (part one): Reading

February 15, 2011 · 5 Comments

Librarian StudenI started out this blog with an introduction to a series of stories I had collected with my friend, storyteller Joe McHugh. It was while doing this project that I discovered that there is true power in “story” and that we encounter its power in a variety of venues. Today I’m investigating the power of reading.

It is the power of story that motivates us to read. That story may be fiction or it may be non-fiction – but it is the written collection of events that propel us towards a deeper understanding of who we are, why we’re ‘here’ and where we might want to go. Once a story is started, we just have to find out how it ends. How often have we, as teachers and librarians, read to students and then stopped right at the crest of the conflict, that last little bit of resolution hanging out there like a chocolate drop on a string… and then slowly closed the book and put it away? Cries of “Don’t stop now!” or “Whaaatt???? Keep reading!” set the stage for future reading, often by kids who don’t even like to read. Those books get grabbed up quickly and devoured to the very end.

Dr. Stephen Krashen wrote a compelling book, entitled The Power of Reading, that guided my teaching in the classroom and still guides my work in the library today. His thesis is simple: we read better if we read more. Seems pretty simple. And it is. But for some reason, it seems that the “reading wars” will continue on around us for many years to come. Is it just a question of money or is it that educators think that they have to be doing something that makes us feel as though we are actively creating learning for our students as they practice reading? Worksheets, phonics, whole language and leveled reading all have their place, but the research is truly clear: we get better at reading… by reading.

So what does that have to do with us in the library? Plenty, since we are often the recipients of the logistics of dealing with the outcome of those ‘wars’. We purchase books, we ‘level’ them, we arrange them and we apply those ‘levels’ to our MARC records so that teachers, parents and kids can find specific books assigned to them.

But through the years, in emails to listservs and at conferences, I see a larger back-story to what goes on in the school library: kids get the books they want from their librarian. Sure, it’s extra reading, but it’s that “story” thing again… the need to find their own voice reflected back to them from the larger world. Librarians know, from experience, what Dr. Krashen found out through research: “A number of studies show that contrary to popular opinion, when interesting and comprehensible reading material is available, most children read them.” [From an e-mail to CALIB listserv 2010.]

Which brings me to the next idea in this stream of story consciousness and politics and school libraries: being fierce. Joyce Valenza’s charge to us for this year is to ‘be fierce’. What an excellent arena to do that: reading…books… sharing stories! We can easily be there as a strong presence in even the most strident AR/Language!/Read 180/Open Court /etc. schools handing out books; leading book clubs - both physical and virtual, creating book trailers, helping students create their own, sitting in with them in class and helping them to read, and instructing them in how to find books on their own in the library.

Be bold. Be fierce. Tell stories. Give books and encourage that love of story… it will, on it’s own, encourage reading. Be there for that.

Postscript: Petaluma Speech by Stephen Krashen:
Dr. Stephen Krashen spoke to a room of teachers and community members on January 28th in Petaluma, CA. Listening to him speak always awakens the optimism about reading that we all know to be true: reading more makes better readers. Click here to read one child's story.

Connie WilliamsConnie Williams is a high school librarian and an advocate for school libraries. Connie loves to read and loves talking 'story' with others. You can contact her via email, or leave a comment below.

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5 CommentsTags: library-classroom connection · Inquiring Minds in the Library · library advocacy · reading · stories

Save the date: $100K Follett Challenge

January 12, 2011 · 7 Comments

$100K Follett ChallengeStarting February 1, 2011, Follett will be accepting applications for the first-ever $100K Follett Challenge. Mark your calendars and start planning your entry now!

Recognizing innovation
Follett believes that librarians are finding ways to help students perform better in school. In recognizing the strong link between library programs and student success, the Follett Challenge’s goal is to find the best innovations in school libraries.

The contest advocates for the role librarians play as champions of school programs that drive student achievement. How can a librarian actively championing an information literacy-based school program for students enter?  

  • An online entry form will become available on February 1. Questions will uncover how the library program makes use of technology and content to improve student engagement, as well as how the program could be improved and/or expanded.
  • Produce and upload a 3-to-5 minute video describing the program.
  • The judges, comprised of library and educational professionals, will be looking for schools that do the most outstanding job of applying technology, content and creativity in ways that engage students, foster literacy and critical thinking.

What can you win?
There are six chances to win. Five prizes, including a $35,000 first place prize, will be awarded by a panel of judges. A sixth $10,000 prize will be awarded based on online voting for the best video. These prizes will be good toward Follett products and services.

Applications open February 1, 2011 and close on June 1, 2011. Popular vote begins June 23, 2011. Good luck, and keep checking back to for updates. Or, Like the Challenge on Facebook.

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7 CommentsTags: Follett Challenge · follett100K · grant · library-classroom connection · funding · library · library advocacy · school libraries

Indulge in the Dessert of Our Profession!

November 02, 2010 · 14 Comments

CupcakesIsn’t dessert the best part of a meal? I love to look at the dessert menu first so I know what I want to leave room for! Dessert makes my main course more complete and sweetens my memory of the meal.

Ever wonder what the dessert of our profession is? It too is the best part: our learning, which has the potential to sweeten the impact of student learning.

By participating in professional learning communities, collaborating with colleagues and conducting action research, we have an opportunity to indulge in the dessert of our profession and sweeten the memory of our hard work.

If we are lucky enough to find professional resources that spark a wondering in us, tempt us to dig into that sweet bowl of fresh ideals and sip on new skill-sets, then that can potentially impact student achievement.

Recently, my colleagues and I read, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child (Miller, 2009). If you haven’t read it yet, you should. This is the kind of book that not only sparked a wondering in me, but generated fireworks when we started thinking, “What if.”

“What if” we raised the bar on how many books we required students to read? How would reading more increase reading comprehension?

“What if” we provided opportunities for teachers and classmates to whisper book recommendations to each other; essentially creating an endless thread about reading experiences?

“What if” we could engage students in the culture of reading through social media; keeping them more engaged and encouraging goal setting?

I’m working with two fourth grade teachers on our own ‘Book Whisperer’ Action Research project. Here are the highlights of what we’re doing:

  • I’m developing a unit to build students’ understanding of how to use social media appropriately and responsibly.
  • We are collaborating as we use Destiny Quest to facilitate and engage students in reading conversations and to teach them how to write effective book recommendations.
  • Students are using the MyQuest feature as their own "space" where they can create Shelves containing the books they've read, those they're currently reading and those they want to read. Friends can make recommendations to Friends which creates a dialog or comment "thread" between Friends. Friends will have a clear picture of why the student liked the book and discover titles they may not have self-selected.
  • Classes are discussing safe methods of online social interaction as students learn about Acceptable Use Policies. MyQuest offers educators an authentic opportunity to discuss these issues with an age-appropriate social media tool.

Our Action Research is now under way. I’ll keep you posted on our progress and results. We would love to have feedback as we work through this process and enjoy our dessert!

Jeanne ZiembaJeanne Ziemba is currently a Technology Integration Specialist in St. Lucie School District in Florida. She believes learning is simply a sweet way to enjoy life to the fullest. You can connect with Jeanne by leaving a comment below or via email.

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14 CommentsTags: library-classroom connection · Professional Learning Communities · Social Media Tools · Action Research