Children’s Literature Workshop Recap: A CMLE Scholarship

The following was submitted by a CMLE scholarship recipient.

 Submitted by: Jenny Hill, St. Michael Elementary School Media Specialist

On June 25th and 26th, I had the privilege of attending the 33rd annual Children’s Literature Workshop thanks to a generous scholarship from Central Minnesota Libraries Exchange.  This year, the conference changed venues and was held on campus at St. Cloud State University instead of the Holiday Inn as it has in the past.  The conference featured two key note speakers, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, author of the Caldecott Award winning book Snowflake Bentley and MN Newbery Honor winner Margi  Preus who wrote The Heart of a Samuri.

My favorite part about attending conferences such as these is gaining the opportunity to hear authors talk about the creative writing process.  Martin stressed that writing is challenging for everyone—it’s just that authors don’t mind doing the work.  Preus agreed.  She shared her beliefs that she herself is not a good writer, but she is good at rewriting and loves the work she does as an author.  This reminded me of what MN author John Coy wrote in his 2012-2013 Maud Hart Lovelace nominated book Top of the Order.   “The word RE VISION is a very simple word with two parts…it means to see again” (2009, p. 144).  I was reminded after hearing these authors speak that much of the work of writing is that of re-visioning:  examining stories from multiple angles until a story comes into focus.

Another thing I enjoy about the Children’s Literature Workshop is having the opportunity to learn from presenters during break-out sessions.  This year I attended a session about Google Lit-Trips.  I hope to project Google Earth on my SMART board in the media center this year to help students gain a stronger sense of the setting of their books.

I also attended a session on the award winning books of 2012 including Jack Gantos’ Newbery winner, Dead End in Norvelt, and Chris Raschka’s book A Ball for Daisy, which won the Caldecott.  I aim to promote this books this year on our school news broadcast during a segment that I created called Book Talk Tuesday.

 Finally, I attended a session where I learned how to create text sets, or groupings of books around a similar theme or genre.  I think that grouping texts in this way, whether through displays in the school library media center or through lists of recommended titles, will help readers discover their next great book!

Want to attend the Children’s Literature Workshop next summer?  It will be held on June 17th and 18th at SCSU!

Evaluating Educational Apps

By billsoPHOTO

Have you ever wondered if you should be evaluating apps before you begin using them with your students? The question is certainly valid, and one that others in the field have been pondering as well. Independent Consultant, Tony Vincent, author of the Learning in Hand blog and former teacher, recently wrote a blog post on this very topic Here, Vincent provides an app evaluation rubric and explains that others before him asked the same question – he provides a bibliography of sorts for app evaluation. Vincent credits Harry Walker, Doctoral student from Johns Hopkins University, for first developing an app evaluation rubric and Media Specialist, Kathy Schrock (a MEMO Conference Keynote Speaker!), for later adapting and editing the rubric.

So, what are some key pieces of information to keep in mind when evaluating apps? First, is the app relevant and does it instill or reinforce what your students need to know? Is the content appropriate for the age group? Are there advertisements – and how easy is it to accidently click on an advertisement? Can the app’s settings by customized to vary according to the individual’s or learning cohort’s needs? Has the app been updated recently? Does it promote collaboration and critical thinking? These are just a few questions to consider asking when evaluating an app.

What are some things you and your teachers consider while evaluating apps? Do you evaluate them, or do you tend to choose what is used based upon recommendations, what you can find through a basic search through the iTunes store, by price, or by teacher requests?

This topic is one CMLE staff is currently stewing on, and hopes to possibly explore further in the future. Media specialists and librarians are masters at evaluation and at creating and utilizing rubrics effectively. As such, this could be an important new role for media specialists working with teachers, as well as for librarians in a number of other settings. It is our role to inform others on how to ask the important questions about the resources we’re using – why should apps be any different? Be on the lookout for more on this topic from CMLE in the near future! Hopefully you’re excited to explore it with us too!

Education and Broadband Access

“[Broadband is]… just as important as having electricity and water. It’s really become a core component of the whole business of delivering instruction and also managing school districts.” …This according to TIES Technology Integration Development and Outreach Facilitator, Mary Mehsikomer, in a recent St. Cloud Times article regarding the importance of broadband connectivity in education. The article goes on to explain that parents may have thought that a dial-up connection was enough, but now dial-up connections are not robust enough to handle the type of information that students are required to access online. But, it’s not just at home; some rural schools and colleges are facing the same problem as households. Some district budgets simply cannot afford high-speed connectivity. Due to this difficulty, some schools have now joined forces via the Minnesota Educational Technology Network. The network strives to improve access to broadband in rural areas. It allows for the cooperative purchase of internet access and video services to rural schools and libraries. This network of rural schools and libraries effectively has greater buying power than each institution on its own. A few institutions in the network have even begun the cooperative sharing of servers or IT departments.

In addition to seeking out cooperative arrangements, schools and libraries may also be interested in securing grants to support their technology needs and updates. Locally, a $4,000 grant was received by the Foley School District from the Blandin Foundation’s MIRC Program for the installation of additional wireless units in the schools for school and community use.

At the college-level, there may be even greater need for high-speed connectivity. With the boom in online courses and fully online programs, high-speed connectivity for college students is essential. Vi Bergquist, Chief Information Officer at St. Cloud Community and Technical College, says “Internet access has gotten so vitally important for college students. It’s almost a must.” Bergquist goes on to explain that there’s often an assumption (especially at larger metropolitan campuses) that all students will have a device and access to high-speed connectivity — but that’s a dangerous assumption. Bergquist explains that there are still students that don’t have this access, and students that simply don’t understand the technical requirements for taking online courses.

With demand will ultimately come greater access to connectivity and high-speed providers. James Koenig, Director of IT Services at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, explained that already “…there’s enough [provider] competition in the area that we can buy from a local provider”. This is certainly a move in the right direction!

Have you heard? Just this afternoon, the site launched! is a crowd-sourced funding site for campaigns to license previously published works under Creative Commons to provide free e-book use for all. Together, authors and publishers (right’s holders) set a fee threshold — generally $5,000 to $25,000 — that must be hit within two to six months. Through pledges from book lovers (and book loving organizations), the book will become “unglued” when the fee threshold is reached. Due to the Creative Commons license, the book will no longer have DRM restrictions, and can be copied and shared without copyright fears. To find out more about and to view the five current campaigns, visit the site directly at, or go to for a detailed article about!

24th Annual Minnesota Book Award Winners Announced

On April 14th, nearly 800 people attended the Minnesota Book Awards Gala. During the event, winners in eight categories were selected and acknowledged, along with the Readers’ Choice Award. The nine winners include: BookSpeak! Poems about Books by Laura Purdie Salas for Children’s Literature, Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Lawsuit on Science in America by Shawn Lawrence Otto for General Nonfiction, Big Wheat by Richard A. Thompson for Genre Fiction, A Song at Twilight: Of Alzheimer’s and Love by Nancy Paddock for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, Pioneer Modernists: Minnesota’s First Generation of Women Artists by Julie L’Enfant for the Award for Minnesota, The Law of Miracles and Other Stories  by Gregory Blake Smith for Novel & Short Story, Whorled by Ed Bok Lee for Poetry, With or Without You by Brian Farrey for Young People’s Literature, and The Tanglewood Terror by Kurtis Scaletta for the Readers’ Choice Award.

More information about the award winners and finalists can be found at

Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees!

Happy reading, Minnesota!

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