“Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?”
Neil Gaiman

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Rampart Guards by debut author Wendy Terrien

Are you bemused by Bigfoot, nuts about Nessie, and fascinated with faeries? Mystical and mysterious creatures have captured our imagination since humans first began to swap stories over campfires. The world of unexplained and unverified lifeforms now falls under its own fringe scientific category – cryptozoology. Debut author Wendy Terrien has her own ideas about this secret world and has turned them into an action-packed, magical mystery.

When Jason Lex arrives home with his dad and siblings from his afterschool basketball game to find his mom missing, he isn’t sure what to think. Has she abandoned them or did something terrible happen to her? Night stretches into the next morning and the police arrive on their doorstep with her bloodied shirt in hand. While they never find a body, the conclusion based upon the amount of blood on the shirt is that she was attacked by a mountain lion and can’t possibly have survived.

The family mourns for several months before Jason’s dad finally decides it would be better for all of them to pack up and move several hours away to be near his mother’s family. As the moving van is pulling away from the house, Jason looks back at it one last time and he is convinced he sees his mom walk past a window. Everyone seems convinced Jason is simply consumed with grief.

The mystery continues to deepen when he meets his mom’s brother – an uncle he never knew existed. His uncle is known around town as a quirky oddball who wanders about gathering data for his research on mythical creatures as a self-proclaimed cryptozoologist. As he begins to build a relationship with his uncle, he learns about the secret role his mother’s family has played in maintaining balance between cryptids and the human world; his mother was a Rampart Guard.  

Terrien has crafted a fun romp that is sure to please middle grade readers clamoring for a new series after devouring Rick Riordan, JK Rowling, and the 000 section of their elementary and middle school libraries.  

The Rampart Guards was released February 25, 2016 by Camashea Press. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Would you like to go to National Library Legislation Day in DC May 2-3, 2016?

Every Spring, librarians from all over the country swarm Washington, DC to speak out for libraries and our patrons. It is a sight to behold! In 2014, a group of librarians even coordinated a flash mob "Happy" dance on the steps of the Capitol! Many of us serve patrons who, for various reasons, can't advocate for the services we provide. Perhaps you work with homeless teens or students in high poverty school districts with no school libraries. Maybe you work with college students working multiple jobs just to afford their education. Perhaps you run a a maker space that provides opportunities for anyone to explore technology, art, and innovation simply because they are interested. Whether you are a school, public, or academic librarian - or any myriad of other specialty librarian - we all have stories to share that can help lawmakers understand the value Americans gain from strong libraries. And stories from the trenches speak volumes. 

If you are a member of YALSA who has never participated in this exciting event, you can apply for the chance to be selected for a $1000 stipend to attend this year's National Library Legislation Day (NLLD) in Washington, DC on May 2-3, 2016. In order to be considered, members must have not previously attended NLLD must apply via website application by February 1For more information and to access the application form, go to the advocacy section of the ALA website at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/nlld

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Using the Library of Congress Archives to Teach Visual Literacy

My favorite part of travelling to national library conferences is meeting innovative professionals and hearing about the remarkable things they are doing in libraries with young people. At the AASL National Conference in Columbus during the first week of November, I got to meet librarian Tom Bober and hear a wonderful presentation about using Library of Congress digital resources -- with elementary school students! Tom is an elementary school librarian from Clayton, MO currently serving as teacher in residence at the Library of Congress (http://captainlibrary.blogspot.com/).

There is still such a huge misconception among the general public about just what the role of a school librarian is, what sort of training goes into becoming one, and what we teach. Yes, we do curate collections of books, in all of their formats. We are champions of literacy, although not just in the traditional sense. What sets school librarians aside from other types of librarians is our role in teaching students the skills for ethically using, critically evaluating, effectively searching for, and successfully synthesizing information in an increasingly diverse variety of formats. What I loved about Tom’s AASL presentation was the way he is taking these critical skills and scaffolding them down to our youngest learners so that even Kindergarten students are building a base in research skills.

Just before Thanksgiving break, I had an opportunity to experiment with one of his lesson ideas with my 3rd and 5th graders. The lesson used a series of photographs from the Library of Congress digital archives. The photos depict scenes from a family Thanksgiving dinner in 1940. Most of the photos are taken from various perspectives of a single room. Students were tasked with examining the photos and creating a room diagram showing placement of furniture, doors, windows, etc.
It was fascinating to see students working through the thought process of trying to record only what they see and not what they think they are seeing. Many of them initially started drawing and labelling things as they saw them in relation to their own homes -- kitchen, dining room, family room, mud room, etc. It was a wonderful exercise in visual perception and point of view and quite different from what they are used to doing in school.

The biggest challenge I found was time. We only have a short 45 minute library class and that really wasn’t enough time to effectively complete the exercise. I would also have limited the photos to just the ones showing a single room. Overall, however, I count the lesson as a success and am excited to try more of the lesson ideas from the Library of Congress website in the future! Thanks Tom!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Evolving Libraries With STEAM: An Interview With Sarah Kepple

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many wonderful librarians throughout my journey to becoming a school librarian. Some of the most dynamic have been my colleagues in YALSA with whom I’ve had the honor of working with on committees. One of the most forward-thinking and passionate librarians is Sarah Kepple, a former Cuyahoga County Public Library youth services librarian who is now taking her talent and services on the road as an outsource programming specialist. Sarah has been at the forefront of the maker movement promoting robotics and STEAM programs in the library. In the year and a half that I’ve been working with her, we’ve had many discussions about the evolution of libraries and librarians and the potential for the library as a center for not only information and literacy skills, but creating and learning in a social setting. Sarah has just finished writing a book, Library Robotics: Technology and English Language Arts Activities for Ages 8-24, set for release in October 2015, that talks about her experiences implementing tech programs in public libraries and gives practical advice and guidelines for starting and developing programs. I recently asked Sarah a few questions to learn more about this exciting new resource for library professionals developing maker environments in their libraries.

SB: Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming book?

Sarah: Sure! I was inspired to write it because I started getting so many questions from library colleagues about what we had created at CCPL. Most of the folks who called were looking to justify for themselves or their stakeholders, why robots in libraries made sense. This is part of why I designed the activities in the book to align to not only the ISTE Standards for Students, but also the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner and the Common Core ELA Standards. Librarians develop both traditional literacy and technology literacy, so this book is designed to help them do both. The activities are all rooted in books, so that students are, for instance, reading about Alice’s adventures with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare while programming a robot to make tea. One of the school media specialists I interviewed for the book talked about how librarians are cross-curricular by nature, and I agree. Librarians could use the activities in the book in collaboration with a science, math or English teacher, an engineer from the community, or all by themselves!

SB: Why do you think libraries and schools have gone so crazy for the maker movement in the past few years?

Sarah: There are so many reasons. We’re responding to the cry from government and industry that we need more entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers. We’re participating in the push for locally and responsibly made goods, and we’re engaging folks by providing equipment that they may not be able to afford individually. Apart from all of these very valid reasons, though, I think we make and help others make because we are inspired by the process. The first time I saw students working with robotics, I was blown away. They were working in teams to solve challenges, such as programming the robots to move materials from one space into another, and they were so incredibly engaged and excited. They were independently investigating programming options, taking measurements, collaborating with each other, and discussing multiple creative solutions. The atmosphere was electric. All these years later, after leading hundreds of robotics classes, I still get energized by the students and the process. This is how we grow lifelong and connected learners. Creating is such a natural human urge, and creating together brings out the best in humanity.

SB: What do you see for the future of libraries 5, 10, and 15 years from now? What will they look like?

Sarah: Almost exactly five years ago, I went to a ground-breaking virtual conference put on by Library Journal and School Library Journal called eBooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point. At that time eBook sales and circulation was rising exponentially and there was a very strong feeling that libraries might be in trouble without some major overhaul, and not just in their collection development strategies. Though we’ve seen eBook sales and circ level off, the experience and subsequent cultural dialog has left us asking, “What is the point of a library? Why are we here? How should we move forward?” I’m encouraged by these questions. Libraries have always had to adapt to changing technology, but never before have we really looked so hard at our fundamental purpose. The past five years have seen a lot of experimenting, with makerspaces, business centers, media labs, writing centers and more. In the next five years, I would like to see us get focused on the science part of library science, and structure our experiments so that we can evaluate their effectiveness. Within ten years I expect most library systems to have moved fully into outcome-based planning. We’ll identify community needs, map out strategies to address those needs through classes, collections and services, and have ways to track our progress towards those goals. As we do this, I think we will be working toward codifying new best practices, and within fifteen years we’ll consider ourselves community learning centers rather than book repositories.

SB: There is still a huge stereotype out there of the shushing librarian and libraries as places of quiet solitude and stacks of dusty books. How can librarians squash the stereotype and create the image of libraries, and librarians, as leaders in emerging skills and technology?

Sarah: It’s true. Libraries need to do some major rebranding. ALA’s new Libraries Transform campaign emphasizes that libraries today are more about what we do for and with people, rather than what they have. I think this is the essential element on which we need to focus. It takes us back to the question, “What is the library’s purpose today?” or “What should we be doing for and with people?” To me, the overarching answer is we need to be community learning centers, and we need to behave and market accordingly. In both school and public libraries we need to think and speak in terms of learning objectives, think of ourselves as educators, adjust our language to “classes” instead of “programs”, and embed ourselves in our communities. Librarians have always been great at referring folks to the right resource at the right time. We need to recognize and celebrate that the right resources might sometimes be us and be bold enough to say so.

For the book I interviewed colleagues from school, public and academic libraries who are also using robotics with students, and all of them gave examples of how their experiences leading robotics has affected how they are perceived by others. After leading the school robotics team, one media specialist talked about how he is now in near constant communication with the physics teacher and practically co-teaches an English class. Fellow teachers see him as a vital resource, coming to him for tech help and to collaborate and his principal loves him. Another school librarian gave the phenomenal advice, “Don’t wait to be asked!” When it comes to emerging skills and technology, we need to just go ahead and lead. Recognition will follow.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Your Voice Matters in Advocating for Libraries

In our highly connected digital world, libraries are more important than ever. I can hear you saying, “Of course you say that! You’re a librarian and want to protect your job!” Yes, that’s true, but hear me out. Libraries have been a part of civilizations since the birth of writing itself as places to house, preserve, and disseminate information and as meeting grounds for information seekers. They have evolved continually over time to meet the changing needs of not just scholars, but all people seeking access to information. Libraries, in conjunction with widespread public education, have created a far more level playing field for modern societies. And as societies have grown and evolved, so too have libraries. With exponential increases in information available and developments in technology, they have continued to support access and opportunity for all citizens, arguably better and more efficiently than any other time period.  The Internet alone cannot provide such support; it only creates the connectivity. Libraries with space for collaboration, access to the most innovative technology, and yes, information, in all of its various formats, and staffed by people highly skilled in finding the right information for individual needs and teaching skills for finding, evaluating, and using information independently, are an essential need in today’s modern societies. Indeed without libraries and information professionals who can curate, cultivate, and make accessible quality information, the Internet and its connectivity become useless.

I can hear the naysayers; “Public education? What a broken mess! And my library has nothing for me!” While neither is perfect, they are shifting in the right direction. And I would argue that they should never truly be perfect. What we have now should be completely different 5, 10, 15, or 20 years from now. Both libraries and public education are in the business of creating and supporting life-long learners and should continually seek to evolve as society learns and grows. Neither profession should wake up one day and say “Well, we’re perfect now. Time to stop evolving and keep doing what we’re doing for the next 2 decades.” And I do believe that the vast majority of schools and libraries are not only doing good things, but amazing things today. But those darned naysayers are loud and squawky. They grab headlines – over and over and over again. It is libraries and educators, however, who have been the voice for open access to scholarly research and equal access to literature, technology, and the Internet. They have spoken up on behalf of all of us in the battle against censorship. They have been a voice arguing for privacy and individual rights in balance with societal needs. They have been the protectors and preservers of our cultural heritage and history – in all of its formats.  

So what can we do? Advocate to keep and expand libraries – and for finding ways to properly fund them. Who should speak up for libraries? Everyone, because that’s who they serve. There are few professions that truly speak for each and every one of us, even among the variety of public services.  The mission of libraries has always been to meet the needs of the communities they serve, whether school, public, academic, or specialty. They are driven by a sense of equal access. In recent surveys of public opinion, more than 80% of respondents place high value of the role of libraries – and yet they have been voraciously cut back and eliminated in schools and communities. In conversations with parents, teachers, and community members over the last few years, I regularly hear the lament, “They just don’t have the money for libraries anymore.” The blame is almost always on a nebulous “they” who are cutting the funding. Ultimately, we are our public servants, whether elected or hired. Advocating for improving and evolving public services, for finding and ensuring adequate funding, falls on the shoulders of each and every citizen. It is not “us” versus the nebulous “them” but rather a “we the people”. We all need to act to preserve libraries. Not doing so will just send us reeling back to the dark ages of vast inequity.

How and for what should we advocate? First, ask lawmakers and leaders to stop trying to find magical solutions in the for profit world for services that are public in nature. Keeping schools and libraries in the public non-profit sector does several things; it reduces the likelihood of individual gains taking precedence over public good and needs, it keeps hierarchy to a minimum allowing more collective (and patron driven) decision-making, it ensures that these institutions remain committed to equal access for all rather than shifting to a pay-for-play model that increases class inequity. If public services have to follow the mighty dollar, they cannot serve everyone equally. Rather than serving the public, they become servants to those that can pay the most. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be fiscally responsible with the funding they receive, just that the funding should not be tied to individual profit and gain.

Second, ask lawmakers and philanthropists to invest heavily in both libraries and education. Each and every school in America should have a school library with appropriately trained administrative assistance and a minimum of one full-time certified teacher librarian who collaboratively teaches information literacy with other teachers. Less than that and the school library is ineffective. Well-funded libraries deliver enormous value for each dollar spent. In schools, they not only prepare students with the skills for self-motivated independent learning, but connect each and every subject and discipline to encourage true interdisciplinary learning. They foster school cultures and environments where serendipitous discovery can happen naturally and in conjunction with the educative process.  They are a bridge between academic, archival, and public libraries and a link between each grade through elementary, middle, and high school. How do we know this? Solid data from two decades of more than 60 state studies show a definitive correlation between school libraries and student achievement. That kind of data is unequivocal. 

Finally, vote. Vote in every election. And understand that good politicians have to balance their decisions based upon not just your voice, but the voices of thousands of constituents, some of whom are very vocal and have substantial financial backing. Wealthy squeaky wheels, however, drown in a sea of less-well-off masses. You will never agree with every choice that elected official has to make, but if you are a passive grumbler who never votes and never communicates with elected officials, then your voice is merely static. Choose to be an educated, informed, part of “we the people.” And support widespread educated and informed citizenship through well-funded, accessible, professionally staffed, quality American libraries.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"While other things fade, stones and souls endure."

This has been a sad year. After having just lost my Mom to cancer 2 ½ short years ago, my Dad suddenly passed away last month. I’ve found myself thinking profoundly over the past few weeks about legacy, pondering deeply what my parents left me with, not so much physically as metaphorically. I am grateful for the solid foundation they gave me through encouragement, support, education, and sometimes a firm hand and boundaries that enabled me to become who I am today.  As a child, my parents fostered a love of reading, learning and books. They took our family to museums where we could steep ourselves in history, science, and art. They encouraged us to try our own hand at playing instruments and filled our house with music ranging from jazz to classical to the occasional foray into folk and pop music. They took us on vacations to beautiful national parks. They made sure we all learned to swim during summer vacations.  They gave me and my siblings the gift of college educations. We had regular family dinners, homemade and at the table together.  We discussed what we learned at school, politics, and the world. We watched the nightly news and the Muppet Show together in the evenings.  We laughed a lot and sometimes cried. I wonder often how children grow and prosper when they don’t have the luxury of being raised by parents like mine.

In the 2 ½ years since we lost my Mom, I began going to my Dad’s house to help with some chores and make dinner. We had some wonderful conversations over those dinners and I became much closer to my Dad. Frequently our conversations in that first year were on the topic of stones. The headstone on their grave was not a quick decision.  Dad mulled over multiple designs and types of stone for months, deliberating with all of us as to which one would best serve as not only a marker, but a memorial. We decided that a piece of poetry or writing would make it all the more special and Dad perused multiple possible excerpts before finally settling on a portion of John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud.” Once the stone, design, and words were settled upon, drafts and revisions circulated among family members until, finally, many months after Mom was laid to rest, the perfect headstone was set in place at Lower Brandywine. 

Throughout those months and discussions about the headstone, Dad and I also talked about the predominantly Jewish custom of leaving stones when visiting graves of loved ones. There are multiple explanations for this custom in Jewish lore. The oldest historical connection actually comes from ancient times when people would mark graves with simple piles of stones. It was a practice that ultimately evolved into grave markers with inscriptions and was not solely a Jewish custom. Aside from the historical significance of piles of stones, there are multiple stories that emerge explaining the custom. The associations Dad and I talked about most were 1) the idea of stones symbolizing endurance 2) the leaving of stones as a sign that “I was here” visiting this memorial and 3) stones left as a tribute meaning “you were remembered”. Once the headstone was in place, Dad and I both began leaving stones when we paid a visit to the gravesite. Dad left a stone he collected at Trinity University in San Antonio as well as stones from family vacations to Graves Mountain and Lake George. I left stones from various places I visited as well as stones I just liked. 

Unfortunately, some well-meaning soul has cleared away all of our stones. Maybe someone who recalled Mom’s dislike of kitschy disorder left as memorials or maybe just someone trying to keep the cemetery clean and orderly. I feel certain Mom would be just fine with this custom of leaving stones, however, and I invite any and all of you to leave your own stones if you happen to visit. Both Mom and Dad were filled with fortitude and lived rich, full lives. The legacy they left is solid as stone; it endures and lives on in the memory of everyone their lives touched. 

Holy Sonnets:  Death Be Not Proud
By John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s deliovery,
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shallt die.

(Spellings in the original Donne poems are slightly different and the inscription on my parents’ gravestone uses the original Donne spellings.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

To 1to1, or not to 1to1? That is the question...

“Technology in Education” is definitely the hot buzz in K12 lately, but the challenge for districts trying to make solid decisions is ensuring that they are seeing a full picture and weighing all of the various factors affected by their choices.  It’s easy to get trapped in the buzz word rut, but at the end of the day, everyone involved is really trying to make choices that support student learning and overall excellence in the education we provide our students.   

Melvin Kranzberg, a former professor at Case Western Reserve and Georgia Tech is famous for coining what he called “The Six Laws of Technology”.  The first of these was that “Technology is neither good, nor bad, nor neutral.”  I like this quote because it expresses a big picture sentiment that I think is often missing from technology implementation discussions: that technology is just a tool and it is what we do with it and the consequences -- good, bad and neutral -- that occur are a result of our use and choices.  Kranzberg’s 6th Law, that “technology is a very human activity - and so is the history of technology”, reaffirms the sentiment that it is about our involvement, our use, and sometimes, our misuse.  It’s critical that any technology initiative maintain a perspective for both long and short term goals, a solid understanding of functionality needs of end users, and a critical eye toward both intended and unintended consequences.  

My personal perspective on technology in our K12 schools stems from my experience as a librarian who has served as a substitute teacher in more than 10 districts throughout the Philadelphia region, accumulated more than 20 years of experience in desktop publishing and communications, parented my own children through the implementation of a school 1 to 1 device program, and a personal passion for technology and the power it has to interconnect our world.  The EdTech discussion is a vibrant and exciting.  As we continue pushing that discussion and it’s evolution, there are several recurring issues that I’d like to see technology committees exploring.

  1. Access to information isn’t guaranteed by access to technology. While there are definitely pluses to 1-to-1 device plans in ensuring that all students have access to devices of some sort and increased mobility during times of peak use, there are some issues.  Many districts implement 1-to-1 programs and eliminate libraries and library resources under the mistaken belief that technology alone means “access” to information.  The reality is that providing access to digital resources currently costs substantially more than equivalent paper resources.  In addition, not everything desirable for meeting student and staff needs is available in a digital format.  Information literacy skills as also tend to suffer substantially if libraries with adequate staffing are not boosted along with the technology implementation.  Plagiarism outside of the K12 environment is rising exponentially and the research skills the college freshman are frequently not adequate for academic work prompting many universities to add a required research/information literacy course for incoming students (see the Rutgers study published in Spring of 2014).

  1. Does one device really meet everyone’s needs? There is a significant difference in functionality and purpose for various devices which is often overlooked.  iPads are awesome, and my preferred device, for digital textbooks, ebooks, and basic browsing/curation of sources.  Heavy writing, however, is difficult on a tablet.  Laptops are great for mobility and allow more comfortable writing than tablets, but they are terrible ereaders and don’t have enough power for heavy duty creative software like the Adobe Creative Suite.  Labs configured for teacher instruction from a computer linked to a SMART Board or other large screen and which allow the teacher to control student computers via the teacher computer or an iPad are every bit as important in schools with 1to1 programs.  Giving students more technology actually increases the need for instruction in information literacies.  Students still need scaffolded instruction in researching, evaluating information, and behaving ethically and that instruction is best done as a collaborative effort between classroom teachers and teacher librarians while students are creating individual and group projects.  There is a time for each device in instruction and a time for varying degrees of freedom in using those devices dependent upon instructional goals.

  1. Some subjects don’t seem to be ready to embrace technology for everything they do.  For example, my son is doing algebra using iPads.  They are great for instructional lecture review, but they are using adobe PDFs as digital problem sheets.  Adobe just doesn’t have good functionality yet as a digital math worksheet.  It’s quirky and awkward when writing and has visibility problems (zooms in and out so that only part of the problem shows).  Inadvertent marks constantly occur and the writing feature is messy.  As a result, technology can become a distraction to the problem solving process.  We would be better meeting student needs if we would dig deeper into whether or not overuse -- or impractical use -- of technology is becoming a hindrance to learning.  

  1. Are there better solutions than 1 to 1 programs?  An alternative to 1 to 1 programs is to have laptop and iPad carts that are shared among students in each area of the school and increasing the number and quality of labs in both the library and other appropriate areas of the school.  Designing labs specifically to meet collaborative teacher instructional needs and solid tech support staff to ensure that technology is always working, updated, and functional is also key.  The number of needed per student software licenses is not as high with this route and allows more flexibility for additional high quality software in the lab environments (ex. Adobe Creative Suite, CAD, and other very pricy software).  In addition, the most cost effective plan that allows districts to keep up with the inevitable and rapid aging of current technology within schools may be to lease a variety of devices -- laptops, iPads, and desktops -- from an outside provider who will keep all devices current and upgraded.   

  1. Firewalls and restrictions… Schools have frequently been overly restrictive with access.  In order to implement a top notch tech program, the mindset has to shift from being overly restrictive to teaching proper use and using those moments of improper use as teachable moments.  Better for a student to mess up where the consequences are not as severe than to go out into the world after leaving our schools to make bigger mistakes with bigger consequences.  There is definitely a certain amount of data that needs to be restricted and protected, but it isn’t necessary to go overboard.

  1. And most important, solid contingency plans are essential. Contingency planning is often left out of K12 technology plans.  We expend a lot of time and energy planning for medical emergencies, fires, and intruders, but not much for the failure of technological tools.  A backup plan needs to be available for students to complete assignments if they forget their device at school or home, if their is a network or wifi failure, if there is a major power failure, or if a student (or teacher) device fails.  Businesses have instituted contingency planning since they began relying upon technology.  When businesses prepared for Y2K, most of them refined their plans with multiple redundancies in the event of a catastrophic technology failure.  Schools need to be similarly prepared.

Technology decisions are always challenging.  Technology is expensive and changes rapidly, but it's a necessary component of any quality educational program that truly prepares students for life outside of our educational institutions.  Finding the best way to use limited dollars is a huge task.  But at the end of the day, we want to be certain that we are not just teaching students to play with cool techy gadgets, but that we are teaching them to use technology as a tool.  Our primary goal is to teach them to think critically as they explore our interconnected world and seek balanced decisions and choices that have a positive impact on the future.