Advocacy in Advertising: Student Icons

student-created display, from

As I’m getting ready to begin the new year, I’m moving into preparing the library for patrons.  That is a concrete job that showcases the learning commons’ resources.  In my role as library advocate, I have to spend time on signage.  I was chagrined by my lack of time to put into displays this year–there was funding last year for new textbooks, so I spent this week adding them and generating barcodes in Destiny instead of working on displays.  I shared my frustration with the principal (she used to be the TL), and she reminded me that I will have plenty of time to get displays up in the first week of school. This encouragement helped me to remember that the STUDENTS have been the display creators in past years, and they do really well.

Two years ago, students from the Virtual Enterprise class took my print orders and made beautiful copies that I laminated and used for signage.  I have since discovered a wealth of help creating gorgeous signs and displays from student aides and the Students for Literacy club.  One student aide made a bulletin board for books that will be made into movies.  My last student aide put together an origami border for the digital citizenship board, and another lovely fanime board.

Sometimes it’s hard to let students take on this job.  My aesthetics approach to lettering involves peeling off stickers and sticking them to designated spots on a penciled-in line.  Two years ago, one of my students spent an inordinate amount of time cutting out lettering for a graphic novels display.  Despite the fact that the Gothic font was a bit difficult to read, and the letters were smaller than I would’ve done, I was at least thankful to delegate a job that needed doing, thereby supporting participatory culture.  According to the 2006 MacArthur Foundation/MIT publication, White Paper: Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by Henry Jenkins, “Our goals should be to encourage youth to develop the skills, knowledge, ethical frameworks, and self-confidence needed to be full participants in contemporary culture” (p.8).  In addition, YALSA’s (2014) publication, The future of library services for and with teens: A call to action  exhorts us K-12 educators to “Listen to teens and seek out ways to affirm [student] identities through connected learning opportunities with libraries that build upon academic, digital, critical literacies, etc.” (p. 27).  What better way to engage students than to grant them the privilege to not only contribute to the running of the library, but also to build community?  And what a great way to move a job from the librarian’s shoulders to the place where it naturally goes?

For those of us who either have trouble removing our hands from the task, or have students who want to help but can’t draw a straight line, there are places to go to get great, free, images.  As I was searching the web for my last post, I came across the July 17, 2017 Knowledge Quest article by Becca Munson titled, “The Noun Project: Find icons for all your needs” .  The Noun Project, located at, contains “over a million curated icons, created by a global community.”  And if they need ideas, have them check out Pinterest boards like this one by KarinSHallett. For lettering, if you want students to conform to your expectation of readability and coloring, you can go the sticker route, or you can get die-cut letters from your local RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) store.  I challenge you to let them take the reins, though.  There is cooperation, and then there is collaboration.  If you hand over a job and say do it this way (here are the letters, use these colors, etc.), the student cooperates by completing the job to your specifications.  If you ask your student to come up with some display ideas and plans that you review and ask about (What font size do you plan on using? Do you need me to purchase supplies?), that’s collaboration.

Do any of you have go-to sources for images and lettering that you’d like to share?


Jenkins, H. (2006, October 19). White Paper: Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.  MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved from

Munson, B. (2017, July 17). The Noun Project: Find icons for all your needs. Knowledge Quest. Retrieved from

Young Adult Library Services Association. (2014, January 8). The future of library services for and with teens: A call to action. Retrieved from



697029-twitter-512I’m a social media dabbler. Not the kind of person who wakes up to check Facebook, sends tweets from conferences or author sightings, or takes fabulous Instagram pics for the school’s library site. Worse, I’m also not the kind of person who advances the library social media challenge to willing teacher’s aides. Actually, they’re usually not that willing.

Needless to say, I’m devoting this post to extending myself to Tweet world, or Tweetland, or whatever you Twittery people call it. My reason? It’s a network thing. I am always amazed by the contacts I get through Twitter. It’s awesome to attend a conference and get the handle for a great educator or inspiring librarian, and then see those tweets start coming in.

I am not a handle collector, and I never hope to be. However, it was somewhat gratifying to see that I follow 3 of the 15 (okay, 16) listed educational innovators from Laura Devaney’s (2014) article, “15 innovative Twitter accounts you should follow.” I’ve been a big Alice Keeler fan since I attended a workshop session at a Google Summit a few years back–or was it a Computer Using Educators (CUE) conference? I also like seeing what’s going on in the EdTechTeacher world, and I love Ron Swanson. That one comes up as a bonus account in the article.

So why keep up with Twitter, when there are so many other things to think about? Well, I asked my husband that question recently, and he said that he only uses Twitter for industry news and trends. This gels with advice I’ve seen elsewhere, as in Joni Nguyen’s (2017) article, “15 top educators to follow in 2017.” Nguyen states, “Following educators on Twitter can help today’s teachers stay up-to-date on the latest trends and research in education as well as help develop innovative and fun lesson plans for various subjects.” So I’m challenging myself, starting this next school year, to up my game by checking my Twitter feed more often, and to Tweet more, myself.

As a social media site, Twitter is probably the most innocuous. I can easily substitute a fancy, time-consuming Tech tip email for a quick Tweet that shows up on the library site or the school’s professional development site via a widget. And it doesn’t have to be mine! I can retweet someone else’s brilliant idea, which, COME ON, is basically what we do when we share tips. We’re librarians! So all that time I spent worrying about the fact that I hadn’t a) thought of a useful tip, and b) sat down to write and click send, as well as the time actually used in those tasks, is SAVED, yes SAVED. If you’re interested in more ways to use Twitter, check out another Edudemic article, “The Teacher’s guide to Twitter.”

If you have comments about the way you use Twitter to save time in your hectic library-running, class-coordinating, tech-consulting day, please share!


Devaney, L. (2014, June 17). 15 innovative Twitter accounts you should follow. eSchool News. Retrieved from

Nguyen, J. (2017, April 24). 15 top educators to follow in 2017. Edudemic. Retrieved from

The teacher’s guide to Twitter. (n.d.). The teacher’s guide to Twitter. Edudemic. Retrieved from


Learning from Mistakes

For more great, laugh-inducing, cringey mistakes, click on the image to visit

I’ve been thinking about making mistakes in relation to inquiry-based design.  As a high school teacher librarian who currently (pushing for change, pushing for change) has limited time with students in a classroom setting (1-3 lessons in a year per class of freshmen), I have felt like my biggest impact is in filling each minute with instruction.  However, I realized, in my pausing to take a quick breath and a sip of water between class periods, students were leaving my lessons looking like zombies.

So what is the result of my teaching?  It’s probably not heads filled with educational, information-rich, meaningful learning.  If anything, they probably paid attention at those moments when I said, “Okay.  This is really important, and you’ll want to write it down.” Beyond that, I’m lucky that their teachers have me teach on a yearly basis in the remaining three years of high school to get refreshers.

So if learning comes best, as most teachers are aware, by doing, and if we are encouraged to collaborate and function as facilitators in order to support student learners in the 21st century (see AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner), then we must seek to transform our practice, as educators like Patricia Montiel-Overall suggest in her 2013 LMC article, “Students as global citizens: Educating a new generation.”

This transformation requires some shifts that may be pretty darn uncomfortable. Speaking from my own experience, I decided that my impact was being undermined by time constraints.  Thanks to help from a fellow educator, and from an inquiry-based lesson on data literacy by Tasha Bergson-Michelson at the 2017 California School Librarian Association conference, I decided to pull back on content.  I took Tasha’s lesson and modified it for my purposes, creating an inquiry-based lesson on evaluating resources.  I’m not going to go into the full plan, but suffice to say, it was an uncomfortable transformation.

Mistakes were made.

If I learned anything, it was this: the cake may look bad, but that doesn’t mean it tastes bad.  In other words, after that first lesson was taught, I thought, “Well, at least they gave me a round of applause, and there was that big ‘aha!’ moment when the students came up with the list of traits a good resource should have.”  But it felt weird, too.  I didn’t have that tidy, all-wrapped-up feeling like I usually do after covering content.  It felt more like observing chicks hatching, or a newborn calf standing up for the first time.  The key word is observing.  I wasn’t wiping my hands and saying to myself, “good job.”   I was telling the students that.

Diana Laufenberg, in her November 2010 TEDxMidAtlantic talk titled, “How to learn? From mistakes,” notes that “always having the right answer doesn’t allow students to learn.”  She was talking about students learning from their own mistakes, but I’m here telling you that they learn from yours, too.  AND IT’S IMPORTANT!  It’s not only important to make mistakes, but it’s important to admit that your lesson is sloppy, or that you need a hand.

In “Learning from mistakes: Confessions of a flawed librarian” by Linda Braun in the April 2016 issue of the Voice of Youth Advocates journal, the author notes that “Most people would agree that everyone–even professionals–make mistakes, and most would agree that some of the most significant and profound learning comes from those mistakes” (p. 40).

If we’re to make transformation happen, where students come out of our lessons feeling like they have learned something, we need to embrace the messiness of the transformation.  Our mistakes benefit those 21st learners.


Braun, L.M. (April 2016). Learning from mistakes: Confessions of a flawed librarian. Voice of Youth Advocates 39(1), 40-41.

Laufenberg, D. (November 2010). How to Learn? From mistakes. [Video File with transcript]. TEDxMidAtlantic.  Retrieved from

Montiel-Overall, P. (2013). Students as global citizens: Educating a new generation. LMC 31(3) 8-10.  Retrieved from School Library Management, 7th edition [Kindle version].