HarperCollins eBook Policy

I wasn’t aware of the controversy surrounding HarperCollins and their eBook policy. However, after doing some research and reading letters from librarians and the publisher’s response, I believe that HarperCollins is setting a dangerous precedent. In my opinion, their policy undermines the entire library loan system and will have some lasting effects on readers’ access and preservation of knowledge.

When a library purchases a book to add to its collection, they own the book. They can lend it as many times as they wish and it will never be taken out of circulation. While I do understand that hard-copy books will eventually deteriorate, the average life is much longer than one year. When a library purchases an eBook from HarperCollins, the new policy only gives them a one year (or 26 circulation) license, for about the same price. So, after 26 people have checked out the eBook, the library loses its rights to the book until they purchase it AGAIN. Libraries are losing their money and rights to the books. According to Troy Lambert (2015), this policy steals the library’s ability to digitally preserve the book for future generations.

While this new technology is providing access to books and the ability to read for millions of people, HarperCollins seems to be taking a large step back. Not only does this policy affect libraries, but it affects their readers, too. For most popular eBooks, libraries have waitlists longer than the license HarperCollins is allowing. Libraries, being publically funded, may not be able to purchase a new copy of the book every year. Also, after the policy announcement, many librarians agreed to boycott any HarperCollins publication, further denying access to their readers.

Finally, HarperCollins might actually be doing themselves a disservice. Studies show that about 50% of people who read an author’s work at their local library actually end up purchasing more of their books later (Zikuhr, 2012). Allowing their publications to be lent at more libraries is marketing and will eventually end up in more sales for the publisher/author.


According to Pew Research Center, 28 percent of adults read at least one eBook in 2014. This is up 11 percent from 2011. People need access to these eBooks, and HarperCollins’ eBook policy is creating a barrier. Libraries should be able to purchase one copy of an eBook, maybe at a higher cost than a paper book, and be able to lend it indefinitely.



Lambert, T. (2015, October 21). Why Libraries Win: Library Lending vs. E-book Subscription Services. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2015/10/why-libraries-win-library-lending-vs-e-book-subscription-services/

Page, B. (2011, March 01). Fury over ‘stupid’ restrictions to library ebook loans. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/mar/01/restrictions-library-ebook-loans

Zickuhr, K. (2012, June 22). Part 1: An introduction to the issues surrounding libraries and e-books. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/06/22/part-1-an-introduction-to-the-issues-surrounding-libraries-and-e-books/



Digital Storytelling Tools

As I’ve been learning about digital storytelling tools, I’ve been trying a couple out to see what will work best in my future classroom. I’ve tried Little Bird Tales, Storybird, and MyStoryBook. I spent a couple minutes playing with the text and picture tools to evaluate which platform is the best, especially for young children! MyStoryBook is the most user friendly, with big buttons and text and very clear directions. Elementary students could easily create and publish stories using MyStoryBook.

I decided to use MyStoryBook while I was babysitting and four year old girl. We spent some time planning our story before creating it online. Penny decided she wanted to write about Trick-or-Treating. She had a lot of fun going through all the characters and pictures available. This might be distracting in a classroom, but it worked well at home. Because she is only four, I did the typing but she chose everything else.

Once you finish the book, you have the option to publish and share it on social media or using email. The overall process was very easy and exciting for a four year old girl. This could be used in so many engaging ways in the classroom. In the future, I’d like to look into comic strip storytelling tools, as they might be more fun for older children.

Link to MyStoryBook Story: https://www.mystorybook.com/books/34685/

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An Interview with Matthew Arend for @txeduchat

TXEDUCHAT’s spotlight on educators continues with connected educator Matthew Arend. As the Principal of Sigler Elementary School in Plano, Texas, Matthew is passionate about ensuring all students are meeting their potential and are prepared to be leaders in the 21st century.

Matthew graduated from Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska with a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and a coaching endorsement. Immediately after graduation, Matthew accepted his first teaching job in Plano Independent School District (PISD) as a fifth grade teacher. After teaching fifth grade for two years at Centennial Elementary, he decided to return to school at the University of North Texas to pursue a Masters degree in Educational Administration. While completing his graduate work, Matthew transitioned to be a third grade teacher and team leader, to further his leadership experience. Before completing his Masters, Matthew accepted an offer to be an Assistant Principal in PISD. He served two schools during this time, Hunt Elementary and Hickey Elementary. Matthew served as an Assistant Principal in PISD for four years before becoming the Principal at Sigler Elementary in 2010. Now, four years later, Matthew says he is proud to be working with “the best teachers, staff and students.”

The Sigler Elementary mission statement, “Prepare students to excel in a diverse and changing world”, reflects the goals Matthew has set for himself and Sigler staff and students. Matthew says that they often discuss the importance of “being a part of something larger than ourselves” and of helping students achieve social, emotional, and academic success, within and beyond the walls of Sigler Elementary. Matthew also strives to create an environment where teachers and students feel empowered to take risks. This environment comes, in part, from the relationships Matthew has built with teachers, students, staff, and families over the past four years. He told me that “the successes we want for our families are unattainable without these relationships.”

Because Matthew and Sigler Elementary find relationships with students and families so important, they make them a priority at the beginning of the year and maintain them throughout the year. Matthew says that emails and phone calls can only go so far, but being present in a student’s life outside of school can leave a lasting impression. Support one of your students at a baseball game or attend their club’s fundraiser. Make it a point to build trust and have mutual respect for every student and family. Matthew believes this is key is creating a successful learning environment.

Along with supporting students outside of school, Matthew believes social media goes a long way in building and maintaining meaningful relationships. Sigler Elementary  uses Facebook, Twitter, a “Parent Center” website, and Matthew has an educational blog. Matthew thinks this makes it more convenient for parents to stay connected to the school and avoids information getting lost in backpacks or inboxes. Matthew suggested some of Sigler’s favorite tools for communication. These included Facebook and Twitter, to share pictures or celebrate students when parents cannot be present. Remind is a tool they utilize to send brief updates and school information, like events or closings. Lastly, Sigler uses Smore for weekly highlights and announcements. All of these tools make it possible for parents to be involved in their student’s school community and allow Matthew and Sigler Elementary to maintain these extremely important relationships.

Matthew also emphasized the importance of educators being connected, calling Twitter the largest professional learning network in the world. He said, “The biggest benefit of being a connected educator is the access you have to some of the greatest minds in education.” Matthew thinks that educators no longer have to stay in their classroom “bubble”, but rather can grow and learn daily with other educators all over the world. Twitter has revolutionized the teaching profession.

If you are already on Twitter, you might have seen Matthew tweeting and blogging using #NoOfficeDay. This is when administrators spend an entire day in a classroom, rather than their office. Matthew dedicates a #NoOfficeDay once a month. He rotates between each grade level, as well as special education and self contained classrooms, so he is able to connect with all students. Matthew blogs about each #NoOfficeDay (read about his most recent day with first graders here). He shared that this is the most beneficial thing he can do as a leader, as it helps him connect with students and teachers on their turf.
At the end of our interview, I asked Matthew how he has seen education change throughout his career and how he would like to see it change in the future. As educators, we are often overwhelmed with everything going on. However, Matthew says that the good outweighs the bad. He is confident that Sigler Elementary students are prepared to be citizens in a global world and that their teachers are educating the whole child. Matthew also recognizes that technology in the classroom has changed the way students learn. Matthew’s favorite part of being Sigler Elementary’s Principal is that he gets the opportunity to serve and impact the lives of children in Plano everyday. Matthew and Sigler Elementary School are changing lives!

Can You Code?

Do you know how to write computer programs? If so, was it something you learned in elementary school? The Hour of Code is a program available to teach the basics of coding to all ages, genders, races, and socioeconomic statuses. The creators also wrote computer science curriculum for K-12th grades. The best part is: everything Hour of Code offers is completely free to educators!

Computer literacy is such an important skill to have in this generation. Most students will graduate high school knowing the “basics” of computer use. Hour of Code takes students so much further. The creators of Hour of Code originally had a goal for millions of students to participate during the week of December 8-14, 2014. You could participate alone or host an “Hour of Code” event. So many classrooms participated as well, using the free curriculum to help guide them. Even though the week for the Hour of Code has passed, the tutorials and curriculum are always available to use in your room.

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As if coding could be anymore fun, they’ve recently started using Anna and Elsa from Frozen to guide the tutorials!

I finished the tutorial in less than an hour, but I would plan for it to take and hour or more. There are 20 mini-tutorials that teach different skill sets. Traditionally, coding is done using text. With Hour of Code tutorials, students will be using “Blockly”, which is a much simpler form of coding for beginners. The tutorial is filled with instructional videos starring famous models and actors and noted technology leaders. An interesting feature to note is that once the student completes the “Blockly” code, they’re given an option to see what they just coded in text form.

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Introducing students to computer science starting in primary school is so important. In the 21st century, we use so many applications and programs that are written by talented computer scientists around the world. However, according to Hour of Code, there is a shortage of people with computer science degrees or training and millions of jobs open. Also, there is a lack of diversity in the computer science/information technology field. Starting to learn about coding and computer science in Kindergarten, as Hour of Code’s curriculum and “all ages” tutorials allow, will help inspire so many students that would never have had the opportunity before. Here is a PDF with facts about Texas from Hour of Code.

At the end of your hour, students will get a certificate of completion with their name that you can print out and hang on the wall or send home. But the coding doesn’t stop there. There are so many more activities, games, apps, and tutorials to continue growing the students’ knowledge of coding. Watch this video to inspire you and get your students excited to start coding!

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If you’ve done the Hour of Code in your classroom, let me know how your students enjoyed it and how you like the curriculum!

Blogging in the Classroom

Publishing your writing to the World Wide Web can be intimidating. Since I’ve started writing weekly blog posts for TXEDUCHAT, I’ve felt inspired and excited, and have learned so much. Blogging is a great tool that anyone can use to share their thoughts and ideas. As soon as my first post was published, I felt a sense of pride. I was excited that people were reading my writing, whether they thought it was worth their time or not. The feeling of sharing a piece of writing I was proud of was such a confidence booster. I started wishing that I had the opportunity to blog earlier on in life.

I despised writing until my second year of college. But there was something that I hated even more than the actual act of writing; sharing my work with the class. I didn’t know what my classmates would think about it. As a teacher, I now understand the importance of students sharing their work, but it doesn’t make it easier on my students. Building confidence is vital and I think blogging is a way to do just that. I think some students will always have some anxiety about sharing their work, but my goal is that the fear of others not enjoying their writing lessens as they have the opportunity to share more and more.

Sometimes it is hard to find a purpose for writing, other than “It’s a standard you have to meet” or “This is something you’ll need to know in the sixth grade”. Both are very practical for teachers and administrators, but are not motivating for students. Blogging creates purpose, and more importantly motivation, for your students’ writing. Hopefully once your class starts blogging regularly, you’ll find blogging buddies or other teachers that will comment on your students’ blogs. If not, reach out on Twitter. There are so many people willing and ready to help their students become connected. Students will become connected to classes from thousands of miles away and they will have a personal purpose for writing. Although I see blogging as a way for students to feel free to express themselves, I think it also makes sense to ask students to share some of their assigned work on their blog, as they will receive feedback from so many fantastic people. I’ve seen students use blogging for their journal writing, narratives, non-fiction writing, and so much more. I’ve even seen video blogs by sixth graders that were created to help others learn the proper etiquette for commenting on blogs. Students have so much to share, so why not let them share with a much wider audience?

Here are a few examples of inspiring student blogs:

SteamPunk Chloe

Autistic and Proud


I hope you aren’t reading this blog and thinking, “Is she saying blogging is the only purposeful writing for students?” Blogging does not replace a student sitting at their desk and writing on paper, then going through the writing process and eventually sharing it with their classmates. It’s another way to let students share their voice and encourage learning, all while meeting several Common Core State Standards and integrating technology and literacy. Start by giving students one writing block a week to work on their blogs. Or encourage them to use the time after they finish another assignment to begin planning their blog. Blogging doesn’t have to take extra time out of your schedule but is worth every minute you can spend on it.

Choosing a platform can be a tedious task, as there are quite a few options but some of them may not meet the needs of the classroom. I created the chart below to help guide you. There are obvious blogging platforms, like WordPress or Blogger (through Google), that students could use. However, students will need emails for both of these. Also, it might be hard for teachers to manage so many accounts and the privacy settings. KidBlog and EduBlogs are platforms created specifically for classrooms. Both are free, but to access all the elements of EduBlogs, you have to purchase the “Pro” version. There are hundreds of other platforms available to you and your students, so the decision is a personal one.

Cost Privacy Available? Email Needed? Account Management
WordPress Free Yes Yes Teacher cannot manage
Blogger Free Yes Yes Teacher cannot manage
KidBlog Free Yes No Teacher can manage
EduBlogs Free (Fee for Pro version) Yes No Teacher can manage

Engaging students in writing assignments, building their confidence in sharing their work, and integrating technology and literacy are just a few of the benefits of blogging in the classroom. While it may be intimidating for teachers or students to begin the process, it is one that is well worth it. If you’re already blogging, I would love to hear what platform you’re using and how you and/or your students like it.

Being a Connected Educator in the 21st Century for @txeduchat

There are so many expectations and responsibilities for teachers in the 21st century. We have to plan lessons and projects that align with the Common Core or state standards that also keep students engaged and excited to learn. There are centers to plan, small groups to teach, objectives to meet, discussions to be had, and of course, all of the testing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were some network of teachers across the world ready to share their resources and help other educators succeed? As I’ve learned over the past year, there is! You can connect with other teachers across a variety of social media and education platforms.

I started my graduate program with a concentration in educational technology in August of 2014. I had three courses with Marialice Curran (@mbfxc). Our first assignment was to sign up for a Twitter account. Honestly, my initial reaction was a mix of confusion and apprehension. Before Marialice, my understanding of Twitter was what I saw on Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” segment. I wondered how this account would ever help me become a better teacher. As it turns out, this was the single most practical assignment of my undergraduate and graduate education. I started to get more comfortable with hashtags and chats and began to compile all of these fantastic classroom resources. Coincidentally, Marialice is also the person that originally connected me with @txeduchat, and I am so grateful to her for that! Twitter is certainly not the only avenue to becoming a connected educator, but it is the one that I’ve found to be the most useful.

The idea of being a connected educator evolves over time, as anything does. Teachers have always had professional learning networks (PLN); now we just have the opportunity to involve so many more people from around the world. Before social media and the World Wide Web, teachers were connected within their schools or districts. Now, a principal from Arkansas can learn with a first grade teacher from Canada and a school counselor from Australia. As a new graduate and grad student, it is so encouraging to know that there are dozens of people willing to share ideas with me or give me feedback on my ideas  — and my circle is growing every week.

Being a connected educator is beneficial to all involved. When you’re connected you’re constantly learning new about new tools and techniques, gaining diverse perspectives, collaborating with others, and staying up to date with everything in your field. I think that’s what is so special about the idea of being a connected educator in the 21st century…you can ask a question and within 30 seconds you’ll have three people helping you find an answer. Everyone in your PLN is working toward the same goal. However, to be a true connected educator, you have to share ideas and perspectives, too. When I first joined Twitter I didn’t want to share anything. I didn’t think my ideas were worth it and was fine with just collecting resources to use. After a few weeks, I started to feel like I was missing out on something. The true joy of being connected comes from helping and sharing with others.

There are many reasons to be connected, but I think the most important is the effect it has on your classroom and students. If I can learn more from being connected, can’t my students do the same? I participated in a #digcit chat last year during Connected Educator Month (CEM). High school students from Illinois joined the chat to share opinions and become connected. I also had the opportunity to be a “blog buddy” with an eighth grader in Ohio. Writing and sharing a blog with someone in another state or joining a chat to connect with teachers and students as far away as England seems so much more meaningful than sitting at a desk filling in a worksheet. Those students would never have been given those opportunities if their teacher had not been connected.

To me, being connected on Twitter or Pinterest, or by blogging or using Edmodo is like participating in effective professional learning whenever I want. It gives me ideas, helps me to be more globally aware, and essentially makes me a better teacher. There are endless possibilities for teachers and students to learn in an engaging, thoughtful, and practical way and they are all available at our fingertips.

–Jaclyn Kuehl

An Interview with Michelle King for @txeduchat

As the guest blogger for Texas EduChat, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle King, the Professional Learning Executive Director for Lewisville Independent School District (LISD). Our thirty minute conversation felt like five because we covered so many topics and Michelle’s knowledge, experience, and willingness to share were captivating.

Michelle grew up in Rochester, Minnesota. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Iowa and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with an education certification. Michelle began teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth grade mathematics in Birdville Independent School District in Texas. While earning a master’s degree in secondary education, Michelle worked as a sixth grade mathematics teacher at J. Erik Jonsson Community School. She then stepped into district leadership in 2001 as the Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator for the Denton Independent School District. In 2005, Michelle began her employment with Coppell Independent School District. She served as Mathematics Curriculum Director, the Dean of Instruction at Coppell High School, Strategic Plan Internal Facilitator, and the Director of Professional Learning in Coppell Independent School District until 2014.  At the beginning of the 2014 school year, Michelle was offered the position of Professional Learning (PL) Executive Director in Lewisville Independent School District. She shared with me how excited she is to be working in this position with the administrators and educators of LISD. Finally, while Michelle has a long list of impressive professional memberships and contributions, I’d like to highlight her role in Learning Forward. Michelle was a board member, then the President of the organization’s Texas affiliate.

After discussing Michelle’s background and experience, we had a conversation about her goals. Michelle’s very first goal as the PL Executive Director is to make sure all of the district’s professional learning is aligned with Learning Forward’s set of standards (you can see the quick reference guide here). Just as the Common Core State Standards are designed to keep students on task and learning, Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning are designed to do the same for teachers and administrators. Her second, and probably equally important goal was the idea of having a connected school district. Michelle described herself as a “connector” and explained that interdependent schools, classrooms, and educators are hugely beneficial. Something we discussed while talking about goals really struck a chord with me. Although LISD educates approximately 52,000 students, she takes special care to make sure she is reaching every teacher, and in turn, every classroom and child.

One of my favorite quotes came from our conversation about the importance of professional learning and being a connected educator. Michelle said, “Being connected is not just consuming, it’s contributing.” This is something I think every educator should strive to remember when learning and connecting. It’s easy to sit back and wait for others to contribute their ideas and resources but to be truly connected, an educator must also share his or her own ideas. This brings us to Michelle’s interesting concept of professional learning: something she calls “give one, get one.” Each participant can bring an idea to share, take someone else’s idea to use, or do both. When teachers are connected with a professional learning network and participating in effective professional learning, they can improve their skills, which Michelle says will help change their practices according to student need. When their practices are changed, students continue to improve. Michelle emphasized the reciprocal aspect of the learning process.

As a new graduate, I find it interesting to ask other teachers how they’ve seen education change throughout their careers. Michelle’s answers vary from being tangible, like the amount of technology, to intangible, like the curriculum. Michelle also talked about the accessibility all students have to education today. Specifically, more students have the opportunity to experience advanced courses and content, when they might not have in the past.

Naturally, after asking how education has changed throughout her career, I had to ask the all-important question: How would you like to see education change in the future? I found myself, unsurprisingly, agreeing wholeheartedly with everything Michelle said. If you’ve seen, and were inspired by, Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms, then you would also agree with Michelle’s dreams for the future of education. We had a wonderful conversation about students being able to engage in learning at the level for which they are prepared, not what their age suggests they are ready to learn.

Before our interview ended, I asked Michelle what was her favorite part of being the Professional Learning Executive Director. She had many reasons for loving her job, but the best part for Michelle is working with so many amazing teachers and administrators. She said that she loves to learn and she loves to help others learn, as well. She also reminded me that just because you are an educator, it does not mean you aren’t a learner. Michelle hopes that the staff in her district learns as much from her as she does from them.

I’d like to thank Michelle King for sharing her resources, inspiration, knowledge, and most importantly, her time. As a past student of Lewisville Independent School District, I am so happy the students, teachers, and administrators have the opportunity to grow and learn from such a dedicated and helpful leader. As Michelle shared with me during the interview, “We’re better together.”

-Jaclyn Kuehl