Well, friends. It's the end of July. I can't believe how fast this summer flew by. It seems like just yesterday we were all thrown into the midst of a pandemic with only uncertainties to guide us through a new era of digital learning. Maybe technology wasn't your strong suit. Or maybe you wanted to pursue different applications but weren't sure where to begin. It's like this pandemic provided some learning opportunities that we might have not pursued otherwise. I used my summer to build my skills and take on learning opportunities that will guide how I shift my programming and lessons for a more digital-inclusive library—to ensure that it's implemented with fidelity and not simply because I "earned a badge". I also participated in and created some PD opportunities and I'm honored to say that RGV Library Squad hosted our very first RGV LibCamp this summer! We really tried to provide an open opportunity for librarians seeking some guidance on how they can implement new practices for the 2020-2021 school year. Along with an amazing virtual conference, I presented multiple times--RGV LibCamp, TxASL, TCEA, and NTX Lib Camp--and even had some amazing interviews with some AMAZING people such as Charlene Martoni (Feminist Librarian aka my new friend!) and Alfonso Mendoza (My EdTech Life). I even represented the Rio Grande Valley in ALA's Virtual Tour with ALA President Julius Jefferson! OH! & let me not forget-I have a YouTube channel now! Exciting!
This summer really led to some meaningful opportunities and I am eternally thankful for a profession that allows me to flourish in so many areas of education. Learning never stops. Teaching never stops. I wanted to hone my skills, so I also pursued different micro-credentials. Mainly, yes, because I'm a hyper-nerd and I love learning, but because I really want to advocate for my position and promote my services as a library media leader. As an educator, I like to lead by example and learn as much as I can. If I encourage my students to do this—to seek knowledge, to question, to participate in thoughtful discussion—then I must do the same. So, where did that lead me this summer? I am now a Certified Google Trainer, MIE Trainer, MIE Expert, Newsela Educator, Kami Educator, a Flipgrid Level 2 Expert, and I am pursuing my Newsela Trainer credentials. Yes, these courses take time and preparation, but it's totally worth it. I can't think of a better profession that integrates the use of technology to its fullest capacity. That love of learning doesn't just stop there, though. Lispy Librarian and I kicked off a live show called "Tech It Over" in hopes of centering discussions around women in technology roles. Will conversations get serious? Definitely. Will we have fun doing it? FOR SURE! I consider myself very lucky to have her by my side for this project and what I know will be an amazing journey together! Okay, but, why do any of it? Why go for it? Because—I know what I want my library and profession to reflect: a welcoming, inclusive, innovative, and engaging environment (both physically and virtually). How I begin to prepare for the incoming school year is definitely going to be different and a challenge, but I am 100% positive that my training and experience have prepared me for this moment. Thankfully, I am part of an amazing network of librarians that encourage each other daily. (Shoutout to my new friends Amanda Hunt, Deb Zeman, Jessica Fitzpatrick, and Kaitlyn Carpenter! Make sure to follow them!) If you find yourself feeling unsure of yourself, reach out! Engage with other librarians that share the same vision and that build each other up. This isn't a competition. We're not here to see "who wins the virtual library award". These are uncertain times and we should join forces to ensure the success of our communities whether we’re from the same region or not. Isn't that why we're educators? So, I leave you with this: Pursue opportunities that you feel will make you a better librarian, educator, leader, and colleague. Encourage librarians to join you in a planning session if you're feeling overwhelmed about where to begin planning for the incoming school year. Create checklists or calendars and take it ONE task at a time. Lastly, remind yourself that you're doing the best that you can with the situation at hand. We're not perfect and neither is this current state of education--but together we can provide each other with a support system to make our year less daunting. Also, by all means, never hesitate to reach out to me if you need some advice, encouragement, or a funny meme to get you through the day 😂. I'm always an email, tweet, or Instagram message away. I may not always have the answer(s), but I can always connect you with someone who might. This may be my last blog post for a while since I'm going to begin work and school soon, but don't forget--Be brave, be resourceful, & continue to advocate for meaningful change.
I've officially transferred some of my video tutorials to my YouTube channel! Please visit and subscribe by clicking on the banner above. I recently became a Google for Education Certified Trainer, so this is where I'll be posting some Q's GSuite Tips videos. I'm excited to finally join this platform! Below are some of the videos I have on my channel and I hope you can visit the page and subscribe. Check it out!
If it's one thing I've enjoyed about working from home, it's the real-world application of all the digital tools I have learned to use from workshops and courses. My favorite finds though are the ones I stumble upon whenever I scour the Internet for productivity tips. Many of us are working from home and the key to anything during this time, especially if we have kids, is to make sure we're using our time efficiently. I made a collection of screencasts for my students highlighting various apps that I knew they'd need access to during their distance learning. Based on a survey I sent out, more than 60% of my students are working solely with a cellular device therefore, I needed to make sure my screencasts provided that additional support. I had to think of a way to mirror my iPhone to my MacBook so I could create a Screencastify videos displaying how to access GSuite/Office apps both on a desktop and phone. I didn't want to purchase any form of 3rd party application to install a screen mirroring program, so I began my search for the easiest way to achieve this. I found something that is completely free and super easy. Using Quicktime and your iPhone USB! Please note that this method is for Apple devices. I am not sure how it works for Windows, but I can always post an update the screencast once I figure that out.
Okay, so that's done. I don't know about anyone else, but once we started working from home I needed to do some major file management on my laptop. I made a customized desktop background on Canva and customized my folder icons. I made a tutorial on how to do this for your Macbook if you'd also like to check that out.
I hope you can find some use out of these tips and as always, I want to make sure you have something to literally "take away" from this post! I don't want to leave you empty handed! Below is a link to some PNG files for your desktop icons and a customized desktop background for April. Wishing you all the best during distance learning and stay safe! ILC You Online! - Q.
Hello, friends! Check out the guest blog post I contributed to the Library Learners page moderated by Cari White. Make sure to follow her on social media by following Library Learners on Facebook! This blog post goes a little more in-depth about video game tournaments in the library. In the post I do make reference to a Wakelet collection of resources, setting up the tournament on the Switch, and differences in pro-controllers. Check it out by clicking on the image below.
Hello, library friends! Cue the Librarian here to report on the BEST event my library has hosted since I've returned! These past two months have been crazy busy, but with testing season looming around the corner, I had to give my students a chance to let loose and enjoy being kids. Which is why, for the second year in a row, my library ambassadors and I organized our annual eSports Tournament! The first year we hosted, we played Marvel vs. Capcom on Xbox, but due to the Nintendo Switch and tournament capabilities, we figured it would be better to play Super Smash Bros Ultimate. We began with making announcements, posting fliers on our library's Instagram page (@libraryjems), signed up students using a Google Form with basic questions such as name, grade, and whether they had their own controllers. Once the day arrived for the actual tournament, the students were briefed on the tournament rules, set up their controllers and added themselves to the tournament brackets. I had a student who was super fluent in Smash tourneys that I decided to give him the title of Smash Game Warden. If you'd like to see how the event turned out, check out my library's newsletter https://www.smore.com/v5u4w.
Where to Begin?
A fellow librarian reached out to me and asked for best practices. So with that in mind, I would suggest the following--
1. Seek out student gamers! Their abundance of knowledge is really an asset! They WILL lead the way and it's a great opportunity to create a culture of ownership and pride in their library.
2. Choose a console and game. Super Smash Bros Ultimate tournaments on the Nintendo Switch seem to be the most popular because of the tournament and character options. I used my own console, but you if you don't have one I'm sure a student wouldn't mind offering theirs for the tournament.
3. Set rules for sportsmanship and game play. Trust me when I say the kids will have a lot of input on this because they not only live and breathe video games, but they're experienced enough that they can foresee potential problems that I would have overlooked otherwise.
4. Make sure you have a Nintendo Switch dock, HDMI cables, and extra controllers. Students often bring their own. I would suggest that you have them enter their names in the tournament brackets a couple of days before the actual competition to save you a lot of time during your event.
5. Let the kids LEAD THE WAY! My students had a great time leading this event and I loved the amount of collaboration and teamwork all of this involved. They are true 21st century leaders!
Get in the spirit!
Of course, this event would not have been complete without some personal flair. I have a huge monitor in the back of my circulation desk. Since we were going to use that specific screen I wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary. To bring attention to this event, and to stir up some buzz about the library, my husband and I made this AWESOME screen into an enormous Nintendo Switch! I used two cardboard trifolds, measured the length of the sides of the screen to size, spray painted them in "Switch colors", cut the "buttons" using foam sheets using my Cricut machine (about 2 inches in diameter), used the tops of two Casper Pillows containers that I had in the garage to create a 3D joysticks effect, and assembled everything with my trusty hot glue gun! Overall, it turned out pretty well and the kids were REALLY surprised to see it when they visited the library. Students even stopped by to see what the buzz was all about!
If gaming tournaments are something you want to try out, I highly recommend you do! Don't feel overwhelmed, just have fun with it. Start small by starting a club and then work with your gamers to come up with a game plan. Literally. If you need any help as far as ideas or tips you can always drop me a line on social media! And if you are hosting one soon--let me know! I'd LOVE to see how you run your event!
Until next time, gaming librarians!
Karina Quilantan-Garza (aka Q./Cue) is a middle school library media specialist in the Rio Grande Valley. She is an award winning blogger, social media enthusiast, book reviewer, and technology lover.