Lessons Learned

Instructional Technology - International Education - Wellness

Tag: library

Designing a 21st Century School Library

I was fortunate to recently spend some time with Alanna Graboyes at the George C. Marshall High School library that opened this year as part of the overall school renovation. Alanna is the head librarian who teamed with administration and architects to design the new library. We recorded an episode for the Ed Tech Co-Op podcast and Alanna gave me a tour. As you can see below, I took many photographs. It might be helpful to review the photographs as you listen to the interview.




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Communicating One’s Library Collection


Sue Anderson, our librarian, continues to find creative ways to make our library a dynamic learning place for students and teachers. Her latest effort involved updating the staff as to the new materials added to the collection since the beginning of the school year.

Sue worked with her assistant to produce short slideshows posted to YouTube with images of the book covers. Sue then embedded the videos into an all staff email. One only has to select the thumbnail of the category of new materials to watch the slideshow in a pop up window. The videos also are playing on the display screen in the entrance area of the school so that students and parents can see the new materials. Seamless and easy.

Sue juggles managing collections for four languages so handling the communication to students and staff about updates is an important aspect of her job. Here is the Dutch collection slideshow to give you an idea of what the videos look like. The viewer can easily stop the slideshow and record the title to then reserve the book via our online catalog.

Your Library Web Site and Promotion of Your Subscriptions

online resources

Is your library Web site your “go to” place for student researchers? We constantly remind our students via our ICL lessons that Google searches are not the best way to find valid and helpful information. Especially in the elementary school, we want to provide our students a range of online databases and resources that give them a safe place to learn how to find information. With schools spending so much for online subscriptions it makes total sense to find ways to guide our students to use the databases.

Thankfully we have an incredible librarian at the primary campus of Washington International School who not only manages a terrific library Web site but who also promotes the tools within the site. Sue Anderson, our librarian, keeps very busy with her staff managing a collection in four languages while also teaching our Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) curriculum. Sue annually promotes the library site and the databases during one of our Wednesday faculty PD meetings.

This year Sue included the following in her learning session:

  • A few of the Web sites need Flash so Sue had all the laptops on one of our carts updated with Flash telling teachers to not bring their laptops. The last thing anyone needed would be the disruption of teachers not able to access sections of Web sites due to a lack of a plug in.
  • A brief review of all the databases and some of their features. Sue provided a copy of her presentation in a handout that had space for teachers to take notes beside each presentation slide.
  • Sue provided plenty of time for teachers to explore the databases. She had them sit together by language so that they could share ideas as they reviewed the tools.
  • The handout packet also included a listing of the user names and passwords for all the online tools. Teachers also took time to fill out the exit survey to turn in at the end of the session. They were asked to put check marks by each of the tools that they currently use as well as by ones that they plan to use more fully with their students.

Look to review the Primary School Library Web site. Do note that the language pages are under development. I am working with our language teachers to populate those pages with educational sites for our students.

Library Orientation, Passwords, iPad Stories and Other Tips


Helping elementary students learn to be organized is an important goal for all schools. One of the previous librarians at Washington International School (WIS) came up with the idea of giving each student a carry bag with an attached card that lists the student’s name, his/her photo and a barcode of his/her library account for easy checkout. With all one’s library books in the bag, even the youngest students can carry their books back to the classroom while the teachers have no worries about students possibly mixing up their books with those of other students.



Sue Anderson, our librarian, came up with an excellent series of lessons to orient our students to the library. In the first library orientation lesson, she had the students write down what their behaviors should be to make the library a wonderful place to learn together. Sue then inputted all the student behavior descriptors into Wordle to create a word cloud.

In the follow up lesson, the students discussed what the words meant and how they agreed to follow them while in the library. They then signed their personal copy while also signing a class copy thus signifying their agreement in how to learn together in the library.



The next part of the library orientation lesson engaged the students to explore, collaborate, use their spatial intelligence and see how we categorize books. Sue designed a map of the library and tasked the students working in teams to label the sections listed at the top of the map. Sue and her assistants have signage throughout the library pointing to the French, Spanish, Dutch and English collections. They also list levels, picture books, media, etc. collections as well.

I was fortunate to work with the First and Second Grades on their library mapping expedition. My table teams came up with a plan to work together to find each section. We ventured out into the stacks keeping our eyes open for signs and labels on the books. It was pretty cool hearing students calling out “I found the French Level 2 section. Here are the DVDs!”.

Sue definitely put the students in the driver’s seat as they actively connected where they were in the library with their maps. We debriefed at the end of class reviewing the maps while also asking Sue for more information to help with understanding.


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The Upper School is doing a 1:1 iPad pilot with the 9th graders. Richard Anderson, the Learning and Technology Coordinator, developed a simple Google form for teachers to share their instructional strategies in using the iPads (see image above). The entries populate a Google Document that Richard can then use to share ideas and celebrate teacher efforts.

As instruction technologists, we often play the roll of busy bees working to cross pollinate effective pedagogy. Richard definitely designed an easy way to help this process.



Our Third Graders start the year learning about the importance of creating smart passwords that they can remember as well as the importance of keeping their new passwords private. We use various naming protocols for password creation like choosing a date other than one’s birthday, a city and a symbol. The Third Graders are then introduced to our school Google Apps account with Drive being the first tool they start using once they learn how to log in with their new passwords. Remembering one’s user name and password is not an easy task for elementary students so Laura Evangelista, one of our art and digital art teachers, came up with an excellent scaffolded exercise to prepare them to become comfortable and fluent with the act of logging in.

The image above is a photo of the password practice sheet that Laura created. At the top are examples of passwords that follow the protocol Laura set up. Once the students create their password and get it OK’d from Laura, they are then tasked to write their password 10 times in the spaces provided. Laura then sends a copy of the user name and password to the parents of the students so that they also have access to the account.

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