Rocket Science

May is my last month at St. Timothy’s School and I’m  reflecting on my practice here  – what has worked well?  what would I change?

One thing I haven’t done as much of this year is walking the campus. On Friday I happened to pass by a 3rd grade science class on the parking lot. Each student was gripping a paper rocket they had made and everyone was lined up to launch them. As I watched the first liftoff students began conversations.

Conversations about:

  • rocket design
  • measuring distance
  • wind currents
  • predicting outcomes
  • air pressure

It was  great to talk with them; unfortunately the science teacher couldn’t hear most of the conversation because she was  working the air pump.  I immediately realized I had missed a collaborative opportunity. I imagined:

  • Taking photos of the rockets and loading them  to VoiceThread – student designers could explain their concept, reflect on the launch and discuss improvements. Classmates could contribute comments and observations.
  • Using Skype to bring in a real rocket scientist for consultation on the redesign project.
  • Finding something to measure actual height of rocket launches. What would that tool be?
  • Have small groups explore why we might need rockets.  Guide these conversations with the wealth of picture books and videos on the topic. These paper rockets could traverse the curriculum.

Fortunately I came down from my cloud to ask the science lab teacher how many more days were left on the project.  Turns out this was a one day project; finished just in time for open house and then the rockets would be long gone.   Collaboration by walking around has always reaped benefits. I just need to keep looking around.

Common Core Standards – Comment Period

The newest draft of the K-12 Common Core Standards is open for public comment until April 2. An encouraging aspect of these standards is the inclusion of English Language Arts and Literacy instruction embedded in the Science/Social Studies/History standards. I’m still working my way through the draft but have had a moment to look at the Appendix B: Illustrative Texts.

In speaking to other youth librarians it seems this section is a little slim. What would you add to the list (in PDF)? The selection criteria is  vague too. In Grade 4-5 Stories there are many older titles and then some very recent ones tacked on to the end. I didn’t see much in the way of graphic novels or picture books for older readers in the 6-12 range.

Come on, you know you want to carefully read over a list of books. Look at the draft too and give your feedback. “Race to the Top” does not appear to seriously address adolescent literacy. Maybe the Common Core Standards can move us forward?

Creative Schooling

A recent report from the North Carolina Cultural Resources highlights the importance of the creative industry to the state’s economy. The big picture findings:

  • Overall, North Carolina’s creative economy is 5.86 percent of the state’s total production.
  • The Creative Industry accounts for more than $10 billion dollars in employee compensation annually.
  • Nearly 5 percent of the state’s total wages and benefits comes from the Creative Industry.

Still wondering about how to conceptualize the Creative Industry. The report provides rich details about the types of jobs and workers that constitute this growing segment of the economy. The creative workforce profiles are worth checking out; including some great bluegrass playing.

Here is the line that made me sit up in my seat (I’m prone to have bad posture).

Librarians, archivists, educators, service professionals, and administrators facilitate the development of the creative economy.

How often do you read a report like this and find no mention of educators or librarians? Teachers of creativity have helped to build a vibrant and growing part of the economy in North Carolina. What words from the National Art Educators Standards jump out at you?

Wordle: National Art Education Association - Standards for Visual Arts Educators

Wordle of National Art Education Standards

Is visual learning, teaching, and creative expression a central part of the school experience in your institution? Classes that include words like “visual”, “artistic”, “aesthetic” and “demonstrate” are often labeled as enrichment, specials, and electives. The Creative Industry report shows that these classes are essential. Fostering creativity on a school wide basis should be a strategic goal of any learning institution. Notice the presence of those 21st Century Learning words we’re all concerned about – “understanding”, “community”, “assessment”, “social development”, and “knowledgeable”. Educators need to understand what it takes to be creative and how to scale these conditions school-wide.

Creativity explained - Amabile
Teresa Amabile can provide some guidance. She is the head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School and has done extensive research about innovation and creativity in the workplace (I’m not advocating for the school as business model. That is another post).

A few years ago Fast Company asked Amabile to address 6 myths about creativity. Here are her findings and the related challenges that I see for educators. I get right to the point here and don’t spend time on the myths she debunks. Consult the article for her take on that angle.

1.) Most people are “laboring in environments that impede intrinsic motivation”. This is bad news because creativity isn’t confined to creative types. Anyone can be creative if given the right set of things “experience, including knowledge and technical skills; talent; an ability to think in new ways; and the capacity to push through uncreative dry spells.” and intrinsic motivation.

Challenge – Does your school enable creativity by providing this set of things to all students? In particular, is intrinsic motivation to learn built into the curriculum?

2.) It is not about money with creative folks – it’s experience, purpose, engagement, progress, recognition, and appreciation that are prized above all else. “If the challenge is far beyond their skill level, they tend to get frustrated; if it’s far below their skill level, they tend to get bored. Leaders need to strike the right balance.”

Challenge: long standing issue of tailoring teaching and learning to each child.

3.) “People were the least creative when they were fighting the clock.” Schools are framed by schedules.

Challenge: Does your school provide students with opportunities to deeply explore projects with few distractions? Are students offered extended periods (beyond 45-60 minutes) to tinker with problems and questions?

4.) “People are happiest when they come up with a creative idea, but they’re more likely to have a breakthrough if they were happy the day before. There’s a kind of virtuous cycle.”

Challenge: Student happiness swings widely depending on the latest test result, classroom interaction, and project demands. How do educators create the “virtuous cycle” in which students can develop creativity as a result of engaging and interesting circumstances?

5.) COLLABORATION is key to creativity.

Challenge: How to make real collaborative enterprises in schools? Getting past the “group work” of old to collaborations around mutually interesting topics.

6.) More the merrier. Amabile found that organizations in a downsizing mode experienced declines in all areas of creativity.

Challenge: Protecting teachers of creativity. Expanding the scope of potential collaborators beyond the traditional school building.

Many businesses have had trouble responding to the needs of creativity. Schools fight ingrained habits, schedules, and responsibilities. How is your school addressing these challenges? Does technology help? Have new teaching models been helpful?

also posted on

NCTE 2009 (virtually)

The centerpiece of the virtual conference experience for the 2009 National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference is the ning with 3558 members today. This is free and open to members and non-members alike. It even collects your twitter address in the setup; although, it doesn’t seem that the 140 character updates in the ning are feeding into twitter – what if it did and added hash tags?

Twitter users have been sorting out what the “official” hash tag will be and it looks like most will go with #ncte2009. #ncte09 or #ncte will be used too. NCTE used Twitter to promote the National Day of Writing with and garnered over 800 followers but only followed 1 thus missing out on the two flow of communication.

The NCTE Publications twitter is

Expanded online version of the conference program preview.

Searchable program
It appears I will be able to catch glimpses of things from NCTE2009.  The ning will be especially dynamic if session presenters and attendees post videos, slides, podcasts, and blog. A few presenters have posted resources.

The Learning Lab will host a session on the redesign project for  I asked for screenshots to be posted and received a speedy and positive reply.

Now I need to figure out how to contribute to the conference and not just receive the feed.

Crash Course in Social Networking

Our upcoming Parents’ Academy will be a Crash Course in Social Networking.  Parents please take a few moments to post comments with your questions, concerns, and experiences around social networking tools. Be sure to Bring Your Own Laptop, this will be an  interactive evening of learning.

(image from

Tuesday, November 10th, 7p.m. -
7:00-8:00pm – Crash Course in Social Networking

Facebook, Twitter, and texting are some of the most popular modes of social networking today. This crash course will give parents an overview of how these networks operate, usage among youth, and practical advice for parents.

(Recommended for parents 5-8)

Presenters: Mr. Cox and Mrs. Savage

Bring Your Own Laptop session.

Another parent view of Facebook and 5 simple steps to begin your exploration.

Motherlode: Adventures in Parenting blog on the New York Times

The five steps outlined in the above post come from a class entitled Facebookforparents.

Facebook Information and Help Section

Please post your questions before the session.

What Parents Need to Know

We are working on our annual Parents’ Academy program schedule.  This is an ongoing effort to provide timely and useful information on a variety of topics of interest to our parents. What would you add to the list?

Parents’ Academy


Tentative Schedule

Tuesday, October 27th, 8:15a.m. – Veracross Refresher

8:15-9:00am – Veracross Refreshercancelled
In advance of the first report cards of the year come get a Veracross refresher. Everything parents need to know about the school information system will be covered in this session. Both new and returning parents will benefit as recent updates and changes to Veracross will be covered.
(Recommended for all parents)
Presenters: Mrs. Tison and Mrs. Reedy

Tuesday, October 27th, 7p.m. – Crash Course in Social Networking  (RESCHEDULED TO NOVEMBER 10TH)

7:00-8:00pm – Crash Course in Social Networking
Facebook, Twitter, and texting are some of the most popular modes of social networking today. This crash course will give parents an overview of how these networks operate, usage among youth, and practical advice for parents.
(Recommended for parents 5-8)
Presenters: Mr. Cox and Mrs. Savage
Bring Your Own Laptop session.

Tuesday, November 10th, 7p.m. -
7:00-8:00pm – Crash Course in Social Networking

Facebook, Twitter, and texting are some of the most popular modes of social networking today. This crash course will give parents an overview of how these networks operate, usage among youth, and practical advice for parents.

(Recommended for parents 5-8)

Presenters: Mr. Cox and Mrs. Savage

Bring Your Own Laptop session.

Tuesday, December 8th, 7p.m. -Poe Center Drug Awareness Demonstration

(Recommended for parents ???)
Presented by Poe Center Staff

Tuesday, January 12th, 7p.m. –

Virtual Worlds and the Elementary Age

7:00-8:00p.m. – Virtual Worlds and the Elementary Age
Club Penguin, Webkinz, and Neopets are a few of the many virtual worlds designed for and used by elementary kids. This session will provide an brief overview of these worlds, elementary age usage, and the future of these worlds.  Plenty of Q & A as we go along.
(Recommended for parents K-5)
Presenter: Mr. Cox

Tuesday, February 9th, 7p.m. - Bullying

presentation arranged by Savage?????

Tuesday, March 9th, 7p.m. - Learning Teams and St. Timothy’s School

7:00-8:00p.m. – Learning Teams
The faculty of St. Timothy’s School are using Learning Teams to ensure the best learning experiences for our students. Come learn about these collaborative teams and what we have accomplished this year.
(Recommended for all parents)
Presenters: Mr. Cox, Mr. Bailey, and several learning team representatives

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010, 7p.m. -
Move Over Dick and Jane: Reconsidering Books for Beginning Readers

What constitutes a book for beginning readers? Do they come in one format or many?  The Geisel Award books are bold departures from many of the leveled series.  Many of these books signal a new era of innovating writing and book design for beginning readers.  Prepare to change your perceptions of what makes a great book for early readers. Learn how to match these innovative books to the developmental needs of early readers.
(Recommended for Parents K-2)
Presenter: Mr. Cox & Mrs. Bardeen
Program note: This presentation will be based on a program to be delivered at the American Library Association Conference in Washington D.C. summer of 2010.

Tuesday, May 11th, 7p.m. – ERB Tests

Everything parents need to know to interupt results of the ERB tests.
(Recommended for parents ???)
Presenter: Mr. Bailey and Mrs. Savage

Twitter Challenge – Win a Free Book!

Twitter Logo

Twitter Logo

Do you twitter? Are you a tweet? As the  2009 American Association of School Librarians National Conference approaches it is a perfect time to open a new twitter account or dust off the one you’ve been meaning to use.  This year’s AASL conference will have a robust virtual presence including updates from Twitter.

What is Twitter?  It is a social media tool fostering interaction among people. Some have called it micro-blogging and it does function like a blog.  Tweets are brief (140 characters max) posts. The power of Twitter, in a professional sense, comes through the connections and conversations with people.  I’ve used Twitter to find people who are working on similar questions and problems at the same moment in time.   Professional Learning Networks at their best!  Find out more…take the challenge.

The Twitter (two part) Challenge

Part 1

1.) Go to
2.) Search for the hash tag #aasl2009. Twitter posts can be labeled using hash tags.  These tags function like an  index for twitter posts.  People twittering about the AASL National Conference will use the hash tag above.  You can search twitter without hash tags too.  Searching for topics will often produce useful results.
3.) Locate a recent tweet from me, erniec, highlighting a specific book title of interest to school librarians.  If you want a chance to win this book proceed to Part 2. 

Part 2

Part 2 requires the use of a Twitter Account.  Go to and set up an account (don’t worry it’s easy). Login into your twitter account.

1.) Visit me at
2.) Begin following me using the Follow option at the top of the screen.
3.) I will post a Twitter update today about this challenge.  Reply (this option is represented by an arrow on the bottom right of each post) and include the title of the book.

First three correct replies will win a copy of the book (I reserve the right to disqualify individuals who are Twitter Pros…this challenge is for the reluctant Twitter users out there). I’ll send winners a Direct Message in Twitter to determine mailing addresses.

Even if you don’t win the book you have discovered how to search Twitter and how to connect with colleagues and friends. This challenge used the Twitter website.  There are other options:

Twirl is a desktop client

Tweetdeck is a browser styled interface

Blog Launch

blog board

image from Annville Free Public Library

I have a confession.  There are languishing blogs in my past.  But a new school year brings renewed energy and enthusiasm so I’m revitalizing my efforts with Mediacentered.

A little bit about me and what I want to accomplish.

Making my work as a school librarian more transparent and open to discussion is something I’m looking forward to. Several teaching colleagues in my school have become interested in the educational applications of blogging.  Perhaps this will provide some inspiration and examples for them too.

Interested in finding out more about blogging and education?  Visit the Edublogs page “Ten way to use your edublog to teach” for ideas.  Do you have additional advance for those new to the blogosphere?  Please share.