Elissa Malespina: Library Media Specialist

Who are you and what do you do?

Hi I am Elissa Malespina, the Library Media Specialist at South Orange Middle School in South Orange, NJ. I work hard to arm our more than 700 students with the library and technology skills they need. In my spare time I present at conferences on many Web 2.0 technologies such as Pinterest, Evernote, Livebinders, QR codes, and Twitter among others. You can see my presentations here http://emalespina.wikispaces.com/. I have written two articles for School Librarians Workshop on using QR codes and Pinterest in the library which you can also access on my wiki. I am a Trustee of the South Orange Public Library and am helping to plan this years New Jersey Association of School Librarians Conference. ¬†ElissaI maintain an active twitter account where I tweet about technology and library issues @SOMSlibrary and have become addicted to Pinterest where I have 38 boards dealing with such topics as Common Core, Apps, Great Technology and more. You can follow me at http://pinterest.com/somslibrary/. Oh, I am also in the process of going back to get my Supervisory Certification and did I forget to mention that I am the mother to a sports loving 9 year old? I am also an avid Seton Hall Pirates Basketball as well as a Giants and Jets football fan. Yes, you can like both teams!! They play in different leagues ūüėČ

What hardware are you using?

I am an Apple Girl! Once you go Apple you never go back :-). I use my iPhone for everything. I am lost without it. It works great at work to get around the filters especially when I need to research something for a student that is blocked by our filters. I also have a Macbook Pro and an iPad but I have to admit I use my iPhone much more than I use my iPad.

We are a Windows school, though, so I have a Dell Laptop for my use, 2  Desktops at the Circulation Desk and a Desktop computer attached to the Smartboard that we have in the library. There are 26 Dell Desktops in the library that students and staff have access to. We also have a lab across the hall with another 19 Dells that our teachers can use as well as 4 Laptop carts with 12 computers each that teachers can check out to use with their classes. We are piloting 1:1 computing with a team of 6th grade teachers.  There is a set of 32 Dell Laptops that are shared among the team. I am in charge of the scheduling of all of those computers. I have a Google Doc set up that teachers can view but not edit to see when the computers and lab are available. The teachers then email me or come see me to sign out the equiptment.

SOMS also has 34 Nooks that I have loaded with over 100 books that students can check out. I am piloting the use of these in the district. Thanks to a combination of grants and district money I have been able to purchase so many for our students. They have gotten an amazing response from the students and they love checking them out and reading the books on the them. I also love being able to say ‚Äú that book is checked out, but you can get it on the Nook‚ÄĚ. Click here¬†for more information about my program and the AUP that I use. I have no problem talking to anyone about some of the tricks that I figured out from my experiences with deploying Nooks in our library.

As I mentioned previously we have a huge Smartboard at the back of the library. I use it to give presentations to classes but also to connect with people around the world on Skype and Google Hangout. Within the last two years we have connected with Authors, different classes, Anthropologists, Directors of Technology and even Astronauts on the International Space Station. I could not do without that set up!

And what software?

At school and home I would be lost without the following software:

Destiny Library Manager (my card catalog program): I could not do my job without it!  It is my card catalog program. I use it to check out books, run reports, catalog books and equipment, do inventory, send email notifications to parents about overdue materials and so much more. Online card catalog programs have revolutionized libraries and made it so much easier for me to do my job. I really could not spend as much time as I do teaching students about all of the different technologies we use if I had to hand catalog books.

Edmodo: this has been a game changer for the students and staff who use it in our school. Thanks to Edmodo students can now safely communicate with each other and staff about school work. Teachers can post assignments, give quizzes, post documents for students, administer polls, keep a class calendar and so much more. Our teachers even use it to communicate with students when out sick and away at conferences. Edmodo has really given our the students the ability for 24/7 learning. In my library I use it in a different way than my colleagues because I don’t have a specific class. It is the one place where all the students in the school can come together to talk about school and books. One example of this is the South Orange Middle School Compliments page I created and moderate where students send me a Direct Messages with compliments about staff and students and I then post them on the page. It is all anonymous! The students and staff love this page. For digital learning day I posted a poll asking what their favorite Web 2.0 tool that we use in school was and they picked Edmodo as their favorite.

Evernote: I have taught all of our students about Evernote. ¬†They have created accounts and have used it for at least one project. In the pilot 1:1 program my students use Evernote daily. ¬†Students keep an eportfolio with all of their writings and make notebooks for each of the units in their English Class. They take all of their notes in it and can take pictures of charts and notes on the board and put it in their notebooks. Students then share their notebooks with me and their English teacher, my “Tech Partner in Crime,” 6th grade ELA teacher Melissa Butler @AngelinaShy. Evernote has organized the notoriously unorganized middle schoolers and has made it that students no longer have the excuse that they don’t have something (I forgot it at home, my dog ate it, etc.) because they can access all their information from everywhere. We have also seen great improvements in our Special Education students who use the software. ¬†It keeps them much more engaged and organized. The other day I was teaching a class of students how to use it and I called it life changing. A student came up to me after school and said, “remember how you said Evernote was life changing? You were right it is. Thanks for showing me it.” That right there is why I do my job! Mrs. Butler and I also recently taught teachers and staff at the Teachers College at Columbia University how to use Evernote with Readers and Writers Workshop. Evernote came in a close second in the Edmodo poll.

Livebinders: I use this tool to make binders filled with information on different topics that I present on and also for staff to use for Professional Development. We have students curate binders with information that they are using for different research projects as well. I love the fact that you can easily organize websites, video, documents and more. Users also gain access to an amazing, searchable library of binders that other people created. There is a binder on almost any topic. I recently taught a member of my PLN how to use it and he is now using it as the textbook for the college class he is teaching.

Glogsterand GlogsterEdu: This is an online poster making tool and I have taught all of the students in the school how to use it. By the time they leave SOMS students have used Glogster for at least one project. I even have one of the PE teachers using it with his health classes!  Glogster allows students to put text, images, graphics, videos, audio and links to websites on an online poster. It takes that poster project that all teachers assign to the next level and really showcases the creativity of our students.

Animoto: My students love using Animoto to make book trailers and mini videos for their classes. It is a really simple, easy to use program that creates great videos. The 6th grade students have it as one of their choices in the author study unit and they have made some amazing videos!

Delivr: I use this to make QR codes for the library. I love this site because it has great free analytic tools and you can customize the QR codes. I make QR codes that I put on books and signs around the library. They link to book trailers, authors websites and more information about the book. I also have made QR codes posters for the teachers with links to the their websites and we put it up outside of their doors. It is a huge hit on back to school night with the parents. Another thing that I did this year is make posters with synopses of books and QR codes with links to book trailers and we are putting them up in the bathroom stalls in the the schools.I also teach my students how to make them and they attach them to different projects. The possibilities of uses with QR codes in endless and I stress that when I present on them at conferences.

Google Drive: I could not live without it. I use it consistently! Almost all of my documents are stored on it. I teach my students how to use it and it is an excellent cloud based alternative the office suite. It is great for students and group work because it is so collaborative.

Wikispaces: The libraries website is a wiki. It is so easy to use and looks great. I also love all the widgets and how easy it is to embed content. You also have the ability to make wikis collaborative.

Flipsnack: Love love love this site for taking word documents and making them into interactive flip books that can be embedded and is easy to share on facebook and twitter.  I use this site put the schools newspaper online .I also use it for the libraries year end report and the summer reading list. Their are so many great ways to use it in school and with classes.

Popplet: A great website where you can share your ideas and organize information collaboratively. The students love making popplets and I use it all the time in presentation. So simple to make and fun to customize.

BufferApp: I love this site and app for twitter. I can write different tweets and schedule them to go out at different times. It is great because when I find something that I want to tweet about I don’t have to tweet about them all at once I can spread out my tweets so that I can reach a wider audience. I also don’t need to be at the computer or by my phone to tweet. It is also very easy to use and have a great analytic tool to see just how many people your tweet reached and how many times the link was clicked on.

Twitter: The best professional development I have ever had! I have learned so much from so many amazing people and participated in chats with people from around the world on many great topics. It is also allowed me to advance my career. I have gotten asked to speak at conference, write articles and even got a chance to be featured on this blog because of it!

Pinterest: I have become obsessed with pinning! I have over 35 different board on topics ranging from Great Apps to Common Core Resources and Books Worth Reading It is an amazing professional development tool. I have gotten so many great ideas from it. I just wrote an article about it and how it can be used in by school librarians  that was featured in School Librarians Workshop. Click hereto read the article it is on page 13.  

There are so many more that I use but those are a few of my favorites and the best part is that they are all FREE!!

What would your dream set up be?

I would love to have a 1:1 computing environment. Having piloting the program this year I see how it has changed the way that we deliver instruction. I want all my teachers and students be able to learn in a 1:1 environment. As my friend, Tom Murray @thomascmurry Award Winning Director of Technology at the Quakertown School District says you can spend tons of money on equipment but without PD it is worthless. We need to make sure that we also do a good job offering teacher driven differentiated instruction to our staff so that the technology that we give to our teachers is implemented correctly.

Ideally at some point like to move into the role of Professional Development Coordinator for a District or Technology Integration Trainer or Director of Technology.( I like to keep my options open ūüôā ¬†Technology is my passion and l love being able to share my knowledge with others. That is one of the reasons I love presenting at technology conferences.

I can not thank Daniel enough for choosing to spotlight me on his blog. I am honored to be his first school librarian featured! I hope I am the first of many. And remember your librarian is their to help you so use them. They are a great resource!

John Fritzky: 5th Grade Teacher

Who are you and what do you do?

I am John Fritzky and I teach 5th grade at Chester Stephens Elementary in Mount Olive, New Jersey.  This is my 9th year teaching at this school, and I have been flipping my math class for a little over a year now.  I have a certification in both special education as well as regular education.  Before landing at this school, I was a special education teacher for kindergarten, second and third grade.  I blog here and can be found on Twitter: @JohnFritzky.

What hardware do you use?

My favorite device is my MacBook Pro.  It has a 2GHz Intel Core Processor, 4 GB of memory and I’m currently running OS X 10.8.2.  I love it because of its ability to some serious work and still be portable.  Every year I take hundreds of pictures and video clips of my 5th grade class and at the end of the year I put them all together and create an IMovie of about 20 minutes for students and parents.  Everyone gets a DVD when they leave my class, I do not publish to YouTube because I want to keep everything in house.  I always have a ton of video by the end of the year, about 100 GB, and the MacBook Pro handles it flawlessly.  I also love the ability to text message to other Iphone users using my laptop, I can be working on a project and not have to go and find my phone, I can just respond on my keyboard.  Great idea!

For school I was issued an HP Probook 4530s to use with my SMART Board.  The work amazingly well together. This computer has more than enough horsepower to handle anything a school can throw at it.

I also use a Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet to create lessons for my flipped math class.  The bamboo is light, portable, and very responsive, a great tool for creating lessons.

In our class we also have a SMART Document camera that allows us to share writing or problems students have solved in class.  It is wonderful to have the abillity to take a piece of writing and make it visible for the whole class.

My class has 18 HP Probooks to use as well as 3 desktop computers, so that is a total of 21 computers…yes I know how lucky I am. ¬†When my superintendent asked what he could do to support my idea for the flipped classroom and 18 computers rolled in the next year. ¬†It is great to work for someone who puts his money into a technology and concept he sees value in.

And what software?

Software/applications that I use for personal productivity:

  • Tweetdeck¬†— allows me to participate or view at least four different conversations at once on twitter. ¬†Except for sports, I don‚Äôt watch TV any more, my shows are now on Twitter.
  • Google Chrome¬†— this allows me to bookmark useful lessons and then bring them to school. ¬†The apps are great and stay with me no matter what computer I‚Äôm on.
  • Evernote¬†— allows me to store everything in one place, I use the Chrome app version when I‚Äôm away from my MacBook Pro.


Software/applications that I use for school:

In order for my students to have success in our flipped classroom, this the software I use:

  1. I use SMART Notebook and SMART Recorder to create the lesson.  It has tons of visual features, different colored pens etc. to make the learning more visual.  The SMART Recorder is great because you can upload the videos directly to YouTube once you have finished a lesson.
  2. YouTube¬†— stores all the videos I have made for the flipped classroom and storage space has so far been limitless. ¬†YouTube has allowed me to upload content longer than 5 minutes once they realized I was an educator. ¬†If you are trying to create lessons longer than 5 minutes you might need to break them up into 2 parts at first.
  3. Google Sites¬†— I organize all my lessons by chapter on Google Sites. ¬†It makes it so easy to connect YouTube videos. ¬†I click on the edit page button, insert, and there is an option to embed videos from YouTube. ¬†No formatting issues what-so ever.
  4. Google Forms¬†— I ask the students about 5-8 questions about the video they watched, plus their first and last name as well as a parent email address. ¬†This form is then embedded below the video. ¬†Because everything is Google based, it all works seamlessly together.
  5. Flubaroo¬†— The Google Script that has changed the way in which my math class functions. ¬†After students have completed their homework Flubarro uses my answer key to automatically correct the student homework. ¬†It then provides a spreadsheet and pie graph for every question answered. ¬†This means I know how every student did on the homework before they walk into my classroom. ¬†I am able to differentiate immediately.
  6. Ten Marks¬†— Is a web-based program ¬†(I learned this one from¬†Richard Byrne) that allows you to search by standard and then assign that standard to your class or individual student. You can assign 10. 20 or 30 problems, and each problem you are allowed to ask for up to 3 hints. ¬†There is also a video embedded for every problem if the students get stuck. ¬†Amazing resource as we are all moving towards the common core.

For my other subjects:

  1. Kidblog.org¬†— My students post their writing and are now connected in a quad-blog with three other classes from England. ¬†If you are looking to connect with a quad-blog you must check out¬†http://quadblogging.net/¬†and register your class.
  2. PBWorks¬†— My class uses this to collaborate on projects together and post writing they aren‚Äôt ready to share with the rest of the world. ¬†Only students in our class have access to this.
  3. Prezi¬†— Students completed¬†book reports¬†using Prezi and then post them on their kidblog site, it is like Power-Point on steroids.
  4. Voice-Thread¬†— Students upload pictures and then narrate through the pictures, so far we have used this as another way to¬†replace a book report.
  5. Skype¬†— We have a¬†Mystery Skype¬†about once every two weeks. ¬†We haven‚Äôt tried Google Hangout yet, but it would be cool to have three or four schools going at the same time.

What would your dream setup be?

I honestly have a great set-up right now with 18 laptops in my classroom.  The only thing I would change would be to have half my students with a laptop and the other half with a tablet that has a camera.  The laptops take about 5 minutes to turn on, and log on.  Sometimes we just need access to the internet and yes, we cannot wait 5 minutes.

I would also love to have a keyboarding class start in grade 4.  I think it should take place everyday for at least 3 months to provide the students with the keyboarding skills they need.  Moving forward what do you think is more important, that a student learns to write in cursive, or learns to type?  Right now it doesn’t seems as though we have time to teach both.

Brooke Mulartrick: Technology Integration Specialist

Who are you and what do you do?

photo (20)My name is Brooke Mulartrick and I am a technology integration specialist in the Methacton School District, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  I serve five K-4 buildings and support administrators, teachers and students in their quest to use technology in efficient and creative ways. I used to think my life was tough, traveling to five buildings, but then I met someone who traveled to 17 buildings.  I enjoy helping others expand their horizons when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom.  I taught transitional first grade for four years prior to moving into my current role, and yes, I miss having my own class!  Last year, I earned my Certificate in Supervision and Administration from Johns Hopkins University.


What hardware are you using?

At school, I use a district-issued Dell laptop.  At home, I use my husband’s hand-me-down Macbook.  Having used PCs my whole life, I’m more comfortable navigating on my PC, but I like the speed and easy maneuverability of my Macbook.  

At school, the big hardware investment has been SMARTBoards.  We’ve been purchasing them for years, but none were mounted up until last year.  I find mobile SMARTBoards to be very un-user friendly with the constant reorienting and the safety hazard of the leg stand and wires!  I used to spend a lot of time helping teachers set up their classrooms in the most efficient way to allow for a safe wire arrangement and a clean path to the board.

We also have a lot of IPEVO document cameras in the district.  I don’t know why anyone would want to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, on a document camera.  The IPEVO cameras meet our needs and the company is great to work with.  $69 and free shipping?  Yes, please!

Each elementary classroom has 4-5 desktop PCs.  Each building also has a stationary computer lab (Dell desktops) in addition to a mobile lab (Dell laptops).  We have a refresh cycle coming up and I’m hoping we can do some type of pilot to let teachers decide if the mobile laptop lab should be replaced with newer laptops or other devices such as tablets or netbooks.  Currently, we have 7 iPads in one elementary library.  Some other iPads are scattered throughout the special education department.  I have a district-issued iPad* so I can support the use of iPads in the classroom.  

*When I go to workshops or conferences, I take my Dexim iPad case with keyboardso I can type more efficiently.  This keyboard is almost full size with spring keys and I barely make any typing errors!

And what software?

Software/applications that I use for personal productivity:

  • Evernote for note-taking and task-organization. ¬†
  • Dropbox for sharing documents between my work and personal laptops
  • Tweetdeck for viewing chats on Twitter (I use Hootsuite on my iPad because Tweetdeck crashes for me)
  • Google Voice for distributing my mobile number in my work email signature
  • Diigo for bookmarking favorite sites
  • Zite for catching up on news from my PLN


Software/applications that I’m using with teachers and students:

  • Google Earth (in 3rd grade, we‚Äôve used it for cardinal/intermediate directions and evaluating changes over time in a suburban community)
  • Kidblog (using with 3rd and 4th grade students)
  • Little Bird Tales (using with 2nd grade students for digital storytelling)
  • Student Wiki – I created a wiki for our elementary students to use as a resource for quicklinks, skill practice and creation tools. ¬†This wiki is a shortcut icon on every computer in the elementary buildings.
  • Teacher Technology Integration Wiki – I created a wiki for district staff to use as a resource for quicklinks, help guides and grade-level collaboration. ¬†The help guides under ‚ÄúTechnology Resources‚ÄĚ are the most referenced pages on the site.


What would your dream set up be?

I would love it if all our systems could integrate with Active Directory so teachers and students would only have to remember one password. Wouldn’t that be nice? ¬†It wouldn’t prepare kids for the real world where they have to remember 10,000 passwords, but maybe they won’t have to remember that many by the time they graduate. ¬†

On the hardware side, I’d love to see a mobile device in the hands of every child and teacher. ¬†I see these devices being used in the following ways:

  • As a student response system (with the use of an app like Socrative) to give teachers real-time data for formative assessments
  • As a tool for skill practice
  • As a tool that encourages the application of higher-order thinking skills through the use of various creation apps (i.e. PuppetPals)
  • As a tool that speeds up the process of receiving feedback on assignments
  • As a tool that promotes collaboration among students and teachers
  • As a tool that simplifies the process of giving parents a glimpse of what‚Äôs going on in the classroom (i.e. Instagram or the use of a blogging tool)


The list can go on, but I’ll wait for the day when my dream comes true.