Category Archives: School Media Specialist

AASL Recommended App: STEM: Swift Playgrounds by Apple

This summer, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announced their Best Apps for Teaching and Learning 2017. The apps encourage qualities such as creativity and collaboration, and encourage discovery and curiosity. 


Swift Playgrounds by Apple is an app for iPads that makes “learning Swift interactive and fun.” Apple created the programming language Swift, and this app helps students master the basics, no coding experience required! The app also includes challenges that encourage students try more advanced creations.

You could incorporate this app into your classroom or media center by using it during the Hour of Code, Genius Hour, or in your makerspace.

CNET has a review of Swift Playground you can read here, and it sounds like the app can be fun for all ages! And this article from The Verge shares that kids can use their own coding from Swift Playground to “control any number of real-world toys and machines,” including robots and drones! Sounds like fun!

Level: Elementary +
Platform: iOS
Cost: FREE

Learn more and watch how the app works in this video:

AASL Recommended App: Books: Radio Jones And His Robot Dad

This summer, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announced their Best Apps for Teaching and Learning 2017. The apps encourage qualities such as creativity and collaboration, and encourage discovery and curiosity. 

Radio Jones And His Robot Dad “tells the story of a boy called Radio whose Dad is too busy to spend time with him. So, using all his skills as a coder and maker, Radio builds himself a Robot Dad, and together they set off on a wild adventure.”

Check out this review of the app from The Horn Book and watch the trailer below:

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS
Cost: FREE

Radio Jones And His Robot Dad from Nexus on Vimeo.

AASL Recommended App: Books: Heuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest

This summer, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announced their Best Apps for Teaching and Learning 2017. The apps encourage qualities such as creativity and collaboration, and encourage discovery and curiosity.

Heuristic Shakespeare: The Tempest is the product of Sir Ian McKellen and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate working together to bring the plays of Shakespeare to life. “Shakespeare wrote his plays to be seen and heard, not read. Heuristic Shakespeare apps put you face to face with his characters at the heart of each play. It makes his language and references easily accessible and helps you understand each play from the inside out.” The app includes in-depth notes on the text, the history of The Tempest, and historical background on Shakespeare.

This review of the app from PC Mag gives an overview of the app as well as a pro/con list.

Level: Middle School
Platform: iOS
Cost: $5.99

Watch a behind-the-scenes video of the app being created here:


Can this school library be saved?

Animated-Flag-ArizonaIt’s not fun to think about libraries being closed down; but I think we need to stand up and scream about this every time we hear about these kinds of threats! Advocacy starts with knowing what is happening – and that includes knowing the bad things happening in our profession. Then we need to take the next step and DO SOMETHING! If you want to come fill out postcards to mail to your stakeholders, stop by our office! If you want to call your legislators and tell them about the value of libraries, do it! In this specific library, they are collecting money and will take checks at the address below.

You have a lot of options in connecting the information on the value of libraries with funders and other stakeholders; but we need you to GET OUT THERE AND DO IT!!! You might try just sitting quietly in your library and hoping that everyone else will do the work to save your library and your job – but really, that’s not going to work. Read our Advocacy material, or email us to ask what else you can do!

(From the Arizona Republic, by )

“When I was a kid, I was always at the library.

There, I would find incredible vehicles of transportation to other worlds … “A Wrinkle in Time” … “The Phantom Tollbooth” … Hans Brinker and his quest for those silver skates.

I’ve been thinking about my old friends, Ramona and Henry and Beezus, ever since I heard that students at William T. Machan Elementary School may find themselves locked out of the library this fall.

Cuts have hit this poor school hard

Federal cuts to Title I schools have forced Machan to lay off its library aide.

Volunteers who work as reading tutors at the central Phoenix school say they were notified just before the end of the school year that the library would be closed next year.

“As a group, we felt very sad for the students,” one of the volunteers, Mark Landy, told me. “The library is the only source of reading materials for the majority of the student body.”

Once upon a time, before the recession and state budget cuts, Machan had a certified librarian. But that’s a luxury long gone. Now the K-8 school can’t even afford an aide.

Maybe you’re thinking it’s no big deal. The public library, after all, is only a few miles away. But it may as well be on Mars.

Machan is a poor area. The median income is $26,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of the parents are immigrants who never made it past sixth grade and virtually all of the students qualify for a free- or reduced-price lunch. They don’t have books or internet access at home, and they certainly don’t have a way to get to the city library.

Library wasn’t just a place for books

What do have … did have … was a school library that served not only as a resource but a refuge. Suzanne Luna, who ran the library, brought in guest speakers like Marshall Trimble, the state historian, and Alberto Rios, the state poet laureate.

She organized book clubs and chess clubs and Wednesday tutoring sessions for fourth and fifth graders. She collected bicycles from Every Kid Counts, a Scottsdale non-profit, and gave them away to the children who read the most books.

Machan Principal Julie Frost is determined that the library won’t close. She just doesn’t yet know how she’ll be able to keep it open.

Maybe teachers can check out books for their students, she says, or maybe volunteers can keep it going or maybe somebody in the community has an idea.

“I’m not going to let it happen,” Frost said. “Our library is too important to our students.”

How you can help save this school

The school’s volunteers don’t want it to happen either. They’re hoping to raise the $15,000 it would take to keep the library open next year.

If you’d like to help, send a check — made out to Machan Elementary School Library – to

Save Machan’s Library, 24 W. Camelback Rd. # A533, Phoenix, AZ 85013.

Landy says all checks will be refunded if the group doesn’t reach its goal.

Surely, there is a way to keep this library open.

I can’t imagine growing up without “The Secret Garden” and “Charlotte’s Web” and “Little Women.” A world without “Stuart Little” and “Black Beauty?” Unimaginable.

Except, of course, to a child who doesn’t have access to a book.”

(Read this entire article here!)

A visit to Rogers High School Library

Another visit to a very nice high school library! And again – it was so fun to see all the neat things here! (Is it just that CMLE libraries are cool? Probably.)

Bethany Kauffman is the library person here, and has been an enthusiastic CMLE member – so it was great to get to see her library!

I loved seeing this feature right away – libraries hosting book groups are not only clearly fulfilling their mission to promote books, but are also are doing the important work of connecting with their users! Making those connections, providing programming people want to enjoy in the library – those user-centered ideas are the foundation of any good library.

Check out this cool computer lab! Although more schools are moving toward a 1 to 1 Chromebook/laptop program, reducing the need for labs, there are still good teaching programs to be done in a lab, in addition to other important uses, and providing this in a library is a great resource! (Plus, look how nicely organized this is; maybe it’s the librarian in me, but this makes me happy to see.)

I love these long views over the library! You can see how far-ranging the resources are here, and how many neat things there are available for students in this library. It’s a good perspective to have! Here we are looking out over the fiction collection.

Continue reading A visit to Rogers High School Library