From the Desk of Deb: July 2017

Summer R and R: Experiment with Technology
by Deborah B. Ford

In June’s Horn Book Herald I wrote about ways you can use the summer to rest and relax. Though many of us (myself included) still work in the summer, it’s still a great time to try new things. Summer R and R then means rejuvenate and research.

One of my suggestions was: Experiment with technology. Try out a new website. Add some apps to your device. I just returned from the ALA Annual Conference 2017 where this year’s award-winning best websites and apps were announced. Now is the time to get a jump on these colleague-recommended/AASL-vetted resources.

Best Websites for Teaching & Learning honors websites, tools, and resources of exceptional value to inquiry-based teaching and learning as embodied in the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.

Best Websites for Teaching & Learning foster the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration. They are free, web-based sites that are user friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover.

Categories include:

  • Media Sharing
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Manage & Organize
  • Social Networking & Communication
  • Content Resources
  • Curriculum Collaboration

One of my favorites is Screencast-O-Matic. How many times do you really want to show someone how to log in to your online catalog? How do you complete an advanced search? How do you change text into a table? Using this website, users can record up to 15 minutes of live desktop usage—though shorter tutorials are often more effective. I use them to create short videos of how to better utilize our website.  Incredibly easy to use, your students K–12 can also use this software to create a screen recording. It’s great for flipped classrooms too. is a site many of us have been using for years. Be sure to check out the educator resources including a Poetry in the Classroom Calendar which helps you to share poetry all year long. 

I’m most interested to investigate MySimpleSlideShow which includes narrator voices or you can record your own.

A parallel committee selects Best Apps for Teaching & Learning. Though they use the same standards as Best Websites, some of the apps are not free. Apps are chosen for the following categories:

  • Books
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
  • Organization & Management
  • Humanities & Arts
  • Content Creation
  • Off the Beaten Apps (new for 2017)

If you’ve been frustrated with trying to post to/keep up with social media platforms, then IFTTT is for you. “If This Then That” is used to create applets (used to be called “recipes”), or the ability to link two services together as conditional statements to automate certain tasks. This app allows users to select and connect social media platforms and do the work for you. For example, if you want to post to Twitter and then to Facebook, you can set it up.

On the new-to-me field, I’m going to investigate most of them, but I’m particularly interested in Quizizz (a game-based tool). A bonus is that most of this year’s selections are free.

What about you? Which apps and websites will you check out?

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