Monday, February 25, 2013

North Carolina Children's Book Award

It's that time of year again! North Carolina school and public libraries are asking the quintessential reviewers of children's literature, our kids, to choose the best of the best for the 2013 North Carolina Children's Book Award winners. 
The North Carolina Children's Book Award began in 1992. Each year children throughout the state vote for their favorite books from lists of titles that the North Carolina Library Association's children's committee have chosen from nominees submitted by students. In every sense of the word, the NCCBA winner is children's book award, from beginning to end.

Students all over the state of North Carolina have been reading or hearing the wonderful books on the NCCBA list read to them for months now. This year there are 12 titles in the picture book category ranging from delightful peas that illustrate the alphabet to a cow that eats cookies. The junior book category takes readers on a journey through 13 titles, from a youth scrabble tournament, to poems of peace, to a young mouse on his own journey home.

Go to the NCCBA website at the link below and check out the nominees for 2013. No, seriously, check them out at your library! Read, enjoy and find your favorites.

When you're reading these wonderful books, keep in mind that picture books are not just for elementary school students. It is amazing how students at middle and high school levels enjoy having a picture book read to them. Use the books for a launching point for a writing project, or a social studies lesson, or a science project (think Bartholomew and the Oobleck), or any other subject!

I know that my children will always hold dear their high school band director's reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, each year right before winter break. Find time to share your favorite books with your students. Embrace the child within you and your students.

When the 2013 NCCBA winners are announced, I'll share with the group so that you can see where your choices stack up against the "authoritative" reviewers!

North Carolina Children's Book Award Website at Beehive

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Unconditional Love

Adam and Austin OBX 2011

Defined by a contributor to Wikipedia as "affection without any limitations" unconditional love is often used to describe the relationship between parents and children. Speaking as a mother of two sons, ages 24 and 16, I can honestly say that while I don't agree with everything they think and do, I do love them as individuals, as people, as young men, and as extensions of our family.

Can unconditional love be used to described relationships with people in our work families? I work in a very large school district with roughly 170 individual schools. I am part of a team of seven people, all who collaboratively work with other larger teams defined by grade levels and purpose/function within the school system.  Individually we bring unique experiences and skill sets to the team. We all see the current state of education through slightly different lenses.  But we all share a common desire: to improve learning experiences and environments for all of our 50,000 students.

The Instructional Technology and Library Media Services Team relies on educators who are chosen leaders in their schools to work as extensions of our team. Prior to the recently hired Superintendent of Academics uniting IT with LMS and hiring a Director to lead this newly created team, IT had never functioned independently and LMS was a two-person team, functioning without a director for way too long.  Additionally, the ITLMS Team’s educational extensions consist of Librarians, Technology Teachers, Technology Facilitators, Classroom Teachers, School Administrators, and Model Teachers from each of our 170 individual schools.

Much like the parent-child relationship, our school families do not always agree, but we all have the same essential focus, improving learning experiences and environments for our students. Our leaders welcome open dialogue. They know our collective voice is much more powerful than individual voices. No matter the work environment our school-based leaders are experiencing, they must realize that they are now part of something much larger; they are part of the ITLMS Team whose leaders will promote change and advocate for the work we do to improve learning environments across our district. Like parents, they will decide steps we take to move forward, and they will not always concede to our requests. It is time to lower our fences, put down our arms. We can trust our leadership, and we need to work collectively to accomplish such ambitious goals. Thank you for your leadership. Together, we are building stronger, safer learning environments and transforming our students’ skills so they know how to learn and can achieve their goals.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Do you ever feel like an island?

No, not the kind with soft white sand and ocean breezes, but an island in the midst of an education ocean, surrounded by distant continents; continents of grade levels, teams, academic areas, administration, etc. Do you ever feel like you have so much to offer, if only you could just connect with those continents?                                                                   Common Threads offers all of us the opportunity to connect our "threads"; our thoughts, our abilities, our strengths, our needs. When we connect these threads we can collectively create cables strong enough to span the distance between our islands and our continents. These cables can help each of us build the supportive relationships needed to provide extraordinary learning and teaching opportunities.

Come join us in creating strong cables with everyone's individual threads.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Changing Your Mindset

We tend to qualify ourselves with absolutes, 
claiming that we are good at this, but not at that, 
as if there is no room for change or growth.

How many times have I heard teachers in one of my trainings say, “I am not very good with technology?”  Too many to count. They usually say this as if it is a crime or as if they are somehow a lesser person or teacher.

Actually, I admire these teachers the most. They are working on a skill that they feel uncomfortable with, putting themselves out there in a vulnerable way. These teachers are keeping an open mind about their own learning.

Sometimes, however, I wonder if we all tend to pigeonhole or label ourselves, making statements that sell ourselves short. We’ve all heard or made statements such as, “I can’t even boil water!” or “I don’t know a hammer from a nail!” We tend to qualify ourselves with absolutes, claiming that we are good at this, but not at that, as if there is no room for change or growth.

In my role as a trainer I am constantly confronted with a self-limiting mindset in teachers, yet I am convinced that these are mindsets that can be overcome through effort and slow, steady progress.  This has motivated me to reflect on my own mindsets and test my own view of myself. One mindset that I have had for myself has been, “I can’t even sew a button on a shirt.” I have always viewed myself as far away from crafty as one can be. Recently, though, I’ve decided to learn to knit, which I consider being the “high end” of crafty.

Enviously, I have watched my friends whip out beautiful scarves and hats from a ball of yarn. I have been amazed at how they can really understand what they are looking at when they knit. I see a bunch of strings and have no idea how those needles pulling the yarn this way and that can create something other than a big knot. When I have sewn on a button, it has always resulted in a tangled mess on the backside of the button, so I know what that looks like!

I recently purchased my first set of knitting needles and a ball of yarn. A friend helped me start and sat with me as I clumsily learned the basics, but I’m doing it!  Naturally, there are several holes in my first scarf (see below), but with the patient, gentle support of my knitting teacher I began to feel more self-assured.

As I gained confidence, I began to question the mindset I had held for all of my adult life. Where did that absolute statement I had held all of the years come from? Was it a time when I made a mistake in sewing early-on that created that mindset? It makes me wonder what creates self-doubt.

What I am learning about my personal knitting challenge is that when teachers come to my trainings and confess up front that they are not comfortable with technology, I need to be like my knitting teacher, providing patient, gentle support and encouraging words. I want them to leave feeling like they can to do it. I want them to have a Rocky moment!

In the meantime, I’ll keep working on my knitting. I will make mistakes and there will be holes, but I will not give up. I will not let my previous mindset get in the way of my potential as a knitter! Hey, maybe I will try sewing on a button!

Here's the beginning of my new mindset!

           How can you change your   mindset?


Submitted by Jean Monroe, Technology Teacher Trainer

 "Rocky" Picture Source

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Although using technology as a tool to motivate in the educational environment has been widely practiced for many years now, educators sometimes fail to understand that "replacing the textbook" is not the best use of technology tools. While the Internet provides quick reference to endless amounts of information, the vetting process (or lack there of) is often overlooked. Essentially anyone can publish nearly anything on the web, regardless of the authenticity and reliability of the content. This includes our students. So how do we as educators make sure our students are reading reliable information, thinking critically and applying learning to solve problems or help them make sense of the world? If using technology to publish on the web doesn't motivate learners, what will?

Such ideological questions can not be answered with one blanket statement. Just as all adult learners are unique and motivated differently, our students are as well. We have to think less about the technology and more about the learners. Providing students access to technology tools when and if they need them is an essential part of technology integration. The lesson should NEVER be about the tool; well-developed and planned activities around expected learning outcomes and clear evidence that demonstrates learning should always be central in the classroom environment. Sometimes, our students will choose to use a tool to create a digital representation of their thought process, how their thinking has evolved, or even share discoveries encountered along the way. All of these activities have common threads: students expressing themselves, communicating, interacting socially with others.

Teachers who have not made the pedagogical shift are missing out on the joys of getting the know students as unique and thoughtful individuals. Students are not going to remember all the knowledge and learning they receive in school -- in twenty-five years. But they will remember those moments, the laughter shared, the caring and encouraging adults, the relationships with peers they've built. If an educator wants to motivate a learner, she needs to provide choices and opportunities to interact, discuss and share learning with peers.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

And so it begins...

This is the time of year when the children's and young adult literature world is bombarded almost weekly with announcements of books that have won medals or been named to "best of the year" lists.  A recent tweet (linked to her blog) from the wise and always knowledgeable Teri Lesesne, "Professor Nana" at Sam Houston State University and self-professed "Goddess of YA Literature," provides strong food for thought about well-intentioned school practices regarding not just prize-winning books and independent reading, but also how we sometimes think about reading, curriculum, and instruction.  We often hear "Everyone should read this book!" - sometimes from others and sometimes from ourselves.  In schools we always seem to be looking for The One Thing - the one book that all kids should read, the one app that all teachers should use, the one piece of technology that will engage all students, the one program that will make all kids pass the tests.  But as Teri points out:  One size does not fit all.  [Please read her blog for more -]

Which brings me to our newly-joined team -

All of us in ITLMS (Instructional Technology & Library Media Services - a bit of a mouthful but how wonderfully and naturally those words go together!) bring different gifts, assets, and areas of expertise to the table, but we all share a common commitment to teaching, and most importantly, to learning - the learning of our students, our teachers, our administrators, and our own learning as individuals and as a group. As we have worked together over the last several weeks, we have begun to recognize not only individual strengths, but also individual learning styles and points of view.  We are learning who is a morning or afternoon person; who is into details or the "big picture;" preferences for desktops, laptops, iPads, MacBooks, etc.; tolerance for sitting; and needs for chocolate and/or coffee.

At a recent planning session we were asked to reflect upon both past and future and put into words a "philosophy of work" (now posted to the right on this blog):

We build supportive relationships
by guiding students and educators
in using the right resources and tools
for the right learners
at the right times.

For Library Media folk, I think these words are like coming home, and not just because of the echo of "the right book for the right reader at the right time."  Most resonant may be the phrase about building "supportive relationships" - the essence of collaboration, part of the AASL Standards for over 25 years.  And for both Library Media and Instructional Tech people, this is the heart of North Carolina's IMPACT model.  I think this is what we are really looking for in our schools: people working together on complex issues that require multiple strategies at different times and for different people.  This is why we became, and still are, teachers.

Our work together is just beginning, so please come along for the ride - undoubtedly we are greater together than alone as isolated voices crying in the wilderness.  I believe that you will find that it is not just common threads that connect us, but a great deal of common ground as well.

Image courtesy of worradmu /

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Welcome to our thoughts and dreams!

We are at the beginning of something great. I can feel it. I dream of what is possible for Wake County Public Schools.

Three months ago, I joined the Instructional Technology and Library Media Services staff as their Director. It is the first time the two groups have been joined. Together, we are trying to dream big and stay focused on kids. We want to provide high quality instructional support for teachers, librarians, and administrators.

I believe our schools are hungry for a vision for what future classrooms and learning should look like. We will empower school administrators and teachers to lead their peers and connect learning with technology. That is what this blog is for. Here, we will explore resources, share best practices, brag on our schools/teachers, and DREAM BIG!

My hope is that you will join us for this journey. Share your part of the conversation.  Welcome!

Image provided: