Follett Challenge

This is actually an old post that I am moving from Posterous since they are going to close down in April. So, this post is from November 28, 2011. I did add the link to the video which I recently put on youtube.

Last February my Director of Studies at my current school, the International School of Kuantan forwarded me the e-mail on the Follett Challenge. The previous fall not long after I started working at ISK I started my first online class towards my School Library Media Specialist endorsement and working on improving our library. It was mostly a jumble of books when I arrived. I took all of the books and organized them and uploaded the information on Library Thing so we would have somewhat of an online catalog. I wanted to do more to help library so I decided to enter the Follett Challenge. It was a challenge. I had never done anything before in my life. In my spare time I used my own camera and recorded a video to use. Then I took iMovie and put the movie together. Along with that I worked on the written component of the challenge as well. I thought I misunderstood how many characters/words were allowed, so when it got down to entering us in I had to cut way back on what I had written. I don’t remember exactly but I am thinking that it was 1500 words and instead it was like 1500 characters which isn’t much. I also had a hard time uploading the video because in the thumb-size version of it the words on the edge were cut off, but if the person maximized the screen they could see everything. Also, the quality once uploaded from my camera wasn’t that great if a person maximized it. Overall, though I did my best and might do it again if I have the chance. It was definitely a learning experience and I am glad I did it even if my school didn’t win.

ISK:Small and Beautiful


Twitter 16 months down the Road

I recently shared Twitter with one of my colleagues at my current school and helping her get on twitter and understand how best to use it. Recently @klbeasley and @intrepidteacher published a Twitter Cultral Guidebook for ibooks. Although I have read the posts about the different stages of twitter and thought I was higher up the ladder I realize I am actually still at the beginning stages of twitter. This is not all a bad thing but has helped me to realize some of the struggles I was dealing with earlier. Also, sharing it has helped be able to put into words and also show how valuable I find it. Plus, other conversations, new connections, and more pointers from people on how to use twitter better has really helped me. 

Twitter 8 Months Down the Road

It has been 8 months since I started on twitter after attending a session on Twitter for Teachers at Learning 2.011 in Shanghai, China. I think the honeymoon is over. In the last month I have been feeling this meh feeling about being on twitter. But I am persevering and have not given up yet. Lots of times when I attend a conference there are tons of success stories, which are great, but the speakers forget to tell us that this does not happen overnight. Or sometimes they do but that might be a 30 second snip-it but look at all the success of this method, strategy, technology, etc. I fell head over heels in awe over twitter and I couldn’t wait for the rewards of joining, getting PD, expanding my PLN and having it change my life and the way I teach for the better.

I am not saying twitter is bad. I am saying that I am growing and wanting it to do more like what I imagined. There was a huge discussion over the last week or so on #beyondlaptops which I read as I follow several of those people. I made a comment on twitter and a blog comment that I feel like an outsider. @Intrepidteacher told me that I am invited to come in and I just have to do it when I am ready. I do appreciate that. I take some of the blame for feeling like an outsider. Yes, I was very shy growing up and bullied for many years, and still have confidence issues thinking that I am important and have something to contribute. Some of the feeling though also stems from feedback or lack of feedback from others. Right now I follow lots of people who I consider to be my mentors. People who have been on twitter longer than me and teaching in International Schools longer than me and living overseas longer than me.  Many times I reply to a tweet making a comment or asking a question and I get no answer. I don’t know if people are super busy and don’t have time to respond or don’t want to respond. It is not with everyone and it is only on certain subjects that I really lack knowledge and am thirsting for more.  I also quit for the most part leaving comments on blogs because I would get no response back to questions or observations.

I am feeling that I need to find people who are maybe more on my level, but maybe those are the people not on twitter like my co-workers. I don’t know where one finds people that are newer like me. I don’t even know how many trillions of people are on twitter and how one even goes about finding those people. It is easy to find people who have been on twitter for a few years and are really reaping the benefits and those are good people to follow, but what about those like me who make mistakes, asking questions that we need an answer to, but others may see as ‘I have known that for years’.

I don’t know if some of those people who I consider my mentors don’t want that role because they don’t really want me to follow them because A. They have way more experience working in schools that are 1:1 laptops or use technology all the time. (Where my school is not 1:1 and using the computers is limited. I don’t have lots that I contribute right now to this area and I have lots of, maybe to them, simple questions. )  B. My current school is not IB and I have not been contributing anything to those conversations since I don’t know much. (I am trying to learn for when I move onto my next school in July). C. They have been living overseas for many years now where my being a newbie of only living overseas for not quite two years is annoying to them as I complain when I find things hard, and probably make make not smart decisions in my limited knowledge base (even though I am working at expanding it). I am sure I am still naive about many things and maybe have to them dumb comments and world views. ( I can’t ask people on Facebook as except for two people from twitter, I have added, also new to living overseas and 1 wealthy cousin who as lived all over the world everyone else has stayed in their hometowns their whole lives and have no idea about living overseas or dealing with people of a different culture. Out of my co-workers one is from the US and has been living in Malaysia for 20 years after marrying a local lady. The rest are all from Malaysia, and none of them have every lived anywhere else.)  D. I haven’t been teaching long enough in the US or Internationally to know how things work or don’t work and instead of wanting to help me out they are tired of my stupid, naive questions and views on education. E. They may have followed me just to be polite when I started following them in order to see what I had to say and to encourage me in the beginning but find that I have nothing really I have been sharing and would now like to not follow me or me, them.  I don’t plan to weed them out as even if they don’t respond to me I still learn many new things from them regarding a variety of topics.

It is something I struggle with here as this is a culture of non-confrontations, but I also like it when people are direct. I may post a reply or ask a question and then someone I am following or following me tweets a comment like how naive are some people or why do some people still think that or whatever. Maybe they are talking to someone else, but it would be nice if they were talking about me to say @MelShurtz you are so naive and you just don’t get it. Or whatever. If people are afraid of hurting my feelings by tweeting something like that send me a DM instead of the general tweet about “some people”.

( I know I should be direct in telling each individual person Hey, why don’t you reply to me or answer my questions. I am hoping though that someone will explain to me what I am doing wrong with twitter and my expectations before I start saying that to people. Or maybe someone will explain that to do a direct tweet like that is a faux pas and the general tweet about “some people” is the accepted way to tell people what they really think.)

That being said. Twitter has done great things. It has opened up my world. I am getting more PD since that is limited for me going to conferences. I am able to follow discussion and read blogs about different, awesome things happening. I am expanding my PLN and not all my learning is school related. Some is learning about: what it is like living overseas for many years, raising children overseas, traveling, vegetarians, vegans, atheists, Buddhist, Agnostics, living in different countries, interacting with other cultures, etc. I enjoy learning about many things I would not have had I stayed in Wyoming. It also was a great help in my deciding the next job that I chose and am starting in July.

I am not saying I am giving up on twitter. I am a person who perseveres. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 5 years old and the path to that was easy until I graduated from high school. I have stuck with it though and I am a teacher. People say that you can’t take the teacher out of me. It is just part of me all the time. Something as natural as breathing. Life hasn’t always been easy but I have persevered through tough times of that too and am still going. I am a person who loves to learn. I am constantly wanting to expand my knowledge and become a better person. I think twitter still has the possibility of helping me do that I just need to find a way to alter how I connect so that it helping me more.

So, if anyone reads this post and knows of people newer to twitter, living overseas, and teaching overseas and you want to point them in my direction I would appreciate it.

Dystopian/Utopian Unit

With my 9th and 10th graders we did a Dystopian/ Utopian Unit with Anthem and Hunger Games. I was going to have my students write a comparison/contrast essay at the end, but they are so creative. Instead I let them design their projects.

9th grade- One group did kind of like a diorama.  I have a video but it is not uploading today, as it shows it is too large. So, I will work on a way to get that uploaded.

The other group did a VoiceThread, which I will add later as they needed to make some changes giving credit to where they got pictures and music before I will put it up.

10th grade- They changed from doing a short film to a similar project to the 9th grade one that was based on a diorama.

Career Day 2011

We had career day again today. I like career day, so that students can listen and talk to people from various careers that they might be interested in. This year when had someone from Nursing, Chemical Engineering, Monash University, Taylor’s University, Social Media, Architecture, and Design Media. I was super excited this year because my brother spoke to my students. Not only did he speak, he did his presentation via Skype. This was a huge step for our school. There is resistance to technology being used. I think that it can be a good thing and ever since I went to the Learning 2.011 Teacher’s Conference I have been trying to incorporate it more. Last week my 8th grade students skyped with a couple students from a school in Melbourne, Australia. Anyway, getting back to career day, this year has been very crazy, busy, stressful. We didn’t get as early of a start on getting people for today. Many of the people we asked were busy today. I kept thinking that I would like to ask my Mom, who is a Graduate Gemologist, or my brother who is a Design Media person to speak. Of course, they are in America and that is not an easy thing to do. Finally I brought it up to the Director of Studies that I thought my brother would be great, and I thought maybe we could do it via Skype. At first, he was worried about technology not working. I assured him that I would have a back up plan if it didn’t work. He finally decided that yes, we should give it a try. After that I had to call my brother to ask him if he was available, and to work out a few of the details with the time difference. We then, e-mailed this week about what he wanted on his biodata sheet for his introduction, some websites he wanted to share, and a couple brochures. We did a practice Skype session earlier in the week to make sure that we could project him up on the wall and that we could hear him. It worked pretty well. Today came and I was super excited but also nervous about the technology working. I wanted it to work, so that it was successful and we could do this again, and do other things in the future with technology and skype. I was also picture taker for the yearbook, as the school camera doesn’t really work and no one else remembers to bring theirs. The speaker before my brother ran late, since the bus driver had been late so we didn’t get things set up as early as I had hoped. We set up two laptops with two projectors. We had one for projecting my brother onto the wall. The other we set up to show the brochures and websites. Luckily we were able to rent another projector as we had only two and that wasn’t enough. Also, two of the other speakers at the same time as my brother brought their own laptop and projectors, so that helped. It would not have worked as well with one laptop and projector.  I also brought my laptop and Ipad as the screen for projecting things is kind of in the corner and I wasn’t sure how well students could see it and my brother. I placed the laptop and Ipad in front of two different groups so they also had it close in front of them.


The first group was the high school. It worked pretty well. There were a few times he cut out on the audio, so I had to ask him to repeat himself. They had a couple questions for him. We also ran over since we started late, so he had to cut his presentation short. The second group was the middle school. That presentation was great. There were no glitches or cut outs at all. We could hear him really well. They were really excited. My brother also did better on his presentation since he had run through it once already. It was smoother in transitions, but both were excellent. One student couldn’t believe that my brother was actually live and talking to them. They wanted to know what time it was there. One of my students want to ask him about some of the things I had told them about from when we were younger to see if they were true. My brother told them that yes, those things were true. At the end one of the students presented my brother with his Thank you gift/token of appreciation. That is my favorite picture that I took of my student holding the gift up to the computer screen and my brother reaching his hands out like he is grabbing it. The students were like how is he going to get it. I told them that when I saw our Dad over Christmas since our Mom and my brother can’t come that I will send it back with our Dad. Some of the younger boys were jealous at some of the perks that my brother told them about for his job. Most of the students were excited that he likes their football (soccer) teams. I can tell this is something they are going to talk about for a long time. They were talking about how exciting it was and that the students who didn’t go had missed out. This is probably something that will end up in the yearbook too. I am going to have the students blog about it next week, hopefully.



At the end of the day the Director of Studies thought that it went really well and he is glad that we tried it. He would like to know why it cut out a few times the first session but maybe it was because of the rush of setting up and trying to open the websites on the other computer. The second time they were already open so there was no need for them to load. We don’t have a super great connection if more than one person is on the internet at the same time. He thinks that this is something that can be done next year and perhaps we can do skype for other things. I told him that I would like to see if I could set up skype sessions with authors to help get our students more excited about reading. He thought that would be a good idea. I am very glad that most of our people were in person, but I think that if there is a career where there isn’t really a representation in our town that doing Skype can be a good thing. I hope that we do continue to incorporate things like this into what we do, as it is a great world out there with lots of resources and people. In today’s society we have the ability to connect with people from all over that can help expand our knowledge, so we should take advantage of it.




I am so excited. I have been connecting with other teachers through twitter and trying to connect to other schools through blogs. We are add skype to that. Last week on Friday, November 25th my 8th grade English class skyped with a couple students from a Jewish school in Melbourne, Australia. We did it with my Ipad as I ended up not bringing my laptop to school that day and it was kind of a mix up trying to get it coordinated, but it worked. We weren’t quite prepared because I had thought that my 6/7th grade English class was going to skype, but they had to change the time. Anyway my 8th graders were excited. We talked about football (soccer), what it was like to live in Malaysia for those who are not from Malaysia since we are an International School and many of our students come from other countries. We talked about the weather. They asked us about our major religions and cultures and some celebrations that we participate in. We asked them some questions about Australia. We talked for about 20 minutes. Skype glitched a few times and sometimes they were hard to hear even though I had the volume all the way up. I would like to do it again and think I would bring my laptop next time.

This coming week on Friday (December 2nd) we are doing a career day. One of our guest speakers this year actually lives in the United States. He lives in Oklahoma City and works for the company Funnel Designs group. He works in advertising, marketing, and social media. I am very excited to have him speak to our students. Tomorrow we are going to do a run through to make sure things work. We are going to use the Director of Studies computer and we are going to see if we need to rig up a camera facing the audience. We will do a run through and see if there is anything else that we need to do before Friday. I am so excited to be doing skype. I hope that in the future maybe we can skype with authors to help students continue to get interested in reading.


I think that connections are important. My students grumble and groan every time I ask them to make a connection for any reading that we do. Life is full of connections though. It is really hard to never connect to any thing. At first it can be hard to make connections but after a while it becomes almost as natural as breathing. I want students to see that English or World History or any other subjects are not stand alone subjects. We do some art in English. Sometimes some math. Sometimes other subjects. Students do reading and writing in Math if they do anything because how else would they be able to read and solve the problems. I am a person that is such a voracious reader that I can’t stop making connections between things I am reading/learning now and even things I read years ago.  I am now getting more to the story so it is no longer one-sided.

I also think making connections makes people better writers. They aren’t just thinking about only themselves and how the prompt only affects them. They can think about the bigger picture. If they are trying to write a persuasive piece and trying to convince looking at more than just themselves can help make the argument stronger. By making a connection a writer can also look at more than just one side of a situation.

Also, with connections I am trying to make things relevant for students. We read this book not because I say so, but why are we reading it. What connections can we make that will help us now and in the future. When teaching skills as part of an assignment I connect to how the students will be using those skills even in the future. For me, it has always made them more willing to do assignments by making those connections and explaining why we are doing what we are doing.

Earlier this fall I went to the Learning 2.011 Teacher’s conference in Shanghai, China. The theme was Connect, Collaborate, Communicate. I liked that theme. In the US I was very in my own little world. I still made connections to things in my little world but not really that far. Now I am in a foreign country. I am connecting back with friends and family in the US, sharing what I am learning. I am connecting with students in online classes. We are from all over the US and then me. We make connections and learn about each others schools, etc. We can help each other out. Now I am on twitter and connecting with people all over the world that are teaching or work in schools. There are so many things I am learning through twitter and so many connections I am making. They are connecting me to other teachers and now I am trying to connect my school to theirs. I am in an International school so we have students that come from several different countries and we make connections within our school, but the world is so big (in a way) that I want them to connect with others in other schools. To learn about other countries. With my 9th and 10th grade we are working on our blog and right now they are doing book reviews. I am trying to get it so we can have things that others schools can read and comment on and we can do the same with their blogs. With my 8th grade today we connected via Skype for the first time with a couple of students in Melbourne, Australia. They got to talk to students in a different type of school than theirs and learn a little bit about Australia. Next week for one of our guest speakers for career day we are going to be connecting with a person I know back in the US that is Advertising and Marketing via Skype. I know some people have authors that talk to their students via Skype. I would like to do that since we are trying to get students interested in reading. I think it would really be awesome for them to talk to a real author.

Without connections it is hard to learn something new and fit it into our old knowledge. I think it also makes us more open-minded people because we can look at a big picture instead of being narrowly focused. We notice things we never would have noticed if we had not made a connection. We can take knowledge we learned in one place and tie it to something we learned another and perhaps it will improve what we are able to contribute to a class, paper, discussion currently about that topic. So many reasons and more for why I think connections are important.


I am a voracious reader. I have joked that I should buy a book to help deal with my addiction to reading. It is something I enjoy very much and I like to try to share that love for reading with others. Over the years I have gotten good at book talks. Talking about books in order to get others interested in reading the books that I have read. I have a vivid imagination and I like to paint for people in words the movie in my head that I have while reading. I know that the author use words to paint pictures in my head when I read but some people struggle with that. Through my sharing I can add different voices, sound effects, etc. Some people need that auditory component. I don’t know when I started this but I know I got lots of practice in junior high. We had to participate in the mile on a weekly basis. Sometimes a few times a week because we would have to improve over the course of the week. At that time I didn’t really like running the mile. Walking was fine because I enjoy walking but I didn’t like running. In order to help pass the time during the mile I would tell stories to the girls in my class from books I had read. There were a few die hard runners that would go as fast as possible. Our track was set on the top of a hill that had been flattened out so a couple girls would lay on the side of the hill and wait until we were on our last lap where they would join us to finish up. The rest of the girls would be bunched around me as I was telling my story. I would not set out to tell a story but every time we got into our rhythm then someone would say “Come on, Melanie, tell us a story.” I actually grew to enjoying running. Not in a competitive sense but it was no longer the worst thing in the world. I had a captive audience and I never told the endings so they always had to read to find what happened. Sometimes it was a too be continued story. I remember a couple times we got to bring our bikes or roller blades to do the mile if we accomplished it in a certain time running. I wasn’t very good at roller blades so I didn’t bring mine. I did bring my bike one time but it didn’t work for story telling since some were riding bikes and others were roller bladding so we only did it just the one time. Even after I was done with that P.E. class I continued my telling of stories to others.

Jump ahead to 2011. Even now I am in a book club. This is not a usual one where everyone reads the same books. We all come with different books and then we give a talk about the book so that people can determine which book they want to read next. Everyone else in the group does a short summary of the book and that’s it. When the group gets a book from someone else and no one in the group has read it, they give the book to me to read because they know I will do a good job selling the book if it is a good book to read. Sometimes a book will come to club and someone will do their summary. I will take the book to read and bring it back the next meeting and people will make some comment about how I always have these great books I read. I will tell them that it was talked about at the last meeting but they never remember.

Going back a few years to my first year of teaching I was working at a school where the students could read but they were not required to read. I had done my student teaching in a school where students had to read a certain number of pages every 6 weeks. It was 600 for the 11th grade students. I didn’t want to require my students to do that many but I did want to get them reading outside of class. I decided to use book talks. They had to do book talks every trimester. I allowed them to read newspapers, magazine, manuals, whatever but they had to do two book talks a trimester. It took a little while for them to get the hang of it because they always thought I was going to be really tough. They did the book talks with just me and we had a conversation about the book they read. I had read all of the books except one or two so we could have a discussion. They could see how excited I got just in our talk that they would be excited to read the next book so that we could talk again.

I have continued to do book talks. I still have students do it with me, but I also sometimes have them tells us about the book in front of the whole class. I have also used other ideas like puppet show, dioramas, posters, skits, comics, etc. to get students interested in sharing what they are reading. I have read many, many books, but I still haven’t read them all. I want students to help each other find books that are interesting for them to read. Most students I have had will share a good movies, TV show, or video game but not a good book. I have a student this year that really struggles with reading because of a learning disability. This student hates reading and thinks it is useless. By having my student share what they are reading through book talks this student has found two series that are acceptable for reading. Now during class when the student is done with other work and it appears I am not looking then that student will pull the book out and read. That to me is so exciting. I am hoping once the student gets through these two series that I have some other ideas in place from students of other books that are worth reading to that student.

In my current school we are working on getting students reading and get them excited about read. In this culture they are not really readers, but we are trying to change that because we know it will benefit our students. We have taken several steps to do that. The first step that I did was to organize all the books in our library so if a student was looking for a specific book or specific type that process would be easier. We don’t have a online card catalog but we have some cards in a file box with no real order to them. My second step then was to enter all our books onto the site Library Thing and help our students get accounts set up and show them how Library Thing works so that they can find books online. There is a drawback in that I don’t have the time to enter a description showing when the book is checked out. I was going to, but it was too time consuming. We just stick to the regular check out cards and I can flip through those to see if a book is checked out. We are working on expanding our library collection now that the books are organized and we can see what holes we have. We have many classics which are not bad but many of our new students this year come from other countries and so they know very little English. We cannot expect them to read The Scarlet Letter and comprehend what is happening. A couple other things we are doing is teaching reading strategies to our students to help them with reading. We implemented a school wide reading time so that the whole school every day at a certain time is reading. Since I am the main English teacher my students do get reading time in my class, but we felt that they needed more than just that. We also wanted to show them that reading is not important just in English class. The last step we implemented was a Holiday reading program. I feel that it benefits students to read even over the school breaks to help them make progress in their reading. We have found some studies that we have sent to parents to show that reading over school breaks is beneficial. Many students feel that the breaks are only to have fun and not to do any reading. To help students want to participated I have created rewards. All students who participate and turn in their reading log get a small treat of some sort. Then out of those students I have a random drawing for a few students to win a top prize. The number depends on what prize I come up with and how many of that prize I can afford. So far, I have done personal size pizzas from Pizza Hut and movie vouchers to the local movie theater.

I recently attended the Learning 2.011 Teacher’s Conference in Shanghai, China. I am also working on my School Library Media Specialist endorsement online. Both the conference and the class I am taking this semester are talking about how to use technology in teaching and in the library. We don’t have much technology at our current school. We have 15 computers now, we just got 3 new ones. We do not have any Ipads, Iphones, Kindles, etc. I am still thinking about how I can bring technology in to help my current school and future schools. I look forward to continuing to bring technology into the classroom and libraries to help students in their reading journeys.

I do have an Ipod touch that I recently got for myself. I have been putting a few apps on it that I can use for school. I found one called Good Reads. I found out that it is a website. I would like my students to set up an account and share reviews of books that they have been reading and have other students in the class check it out. I don’t expect them to go and record all of the books that they have read, but if they want to they can. It would also be neat sometime in the future to get them into a book club of books that they are interested in to continue to spark their interest in reading. I also have a Kindle that I bought before moving overseas so that I knew I could get books to read. I wasn’t too sure about the Kindle before I moved but I knew that I could not haul all the books I own with me and it sounded like there wasn’t much of a library. I had thought I was too much of a tactile person to buy a Kindle. Boy, am I glad I did though. I did go to the public library and there was only a small section of books in English and I had read all of them and most were not my favorite books I wanted to reread. The only thing I wish is that there was some way to have an electronic version of some of my favorite books that I have purchased in the past through Amazon on my Kindle. There have been some books I want to reread but I don’t want to buy them again since I have them in storage back home. I was thinking the other day that it would be nice to get a Kindle or something similar for some of our students that don’t have much of a vocabulary in English because then the dictionary is right there and the students could look up the word while they are reading. They wouldn’t have to stop and get out a dictionary or write down the words and look them up later.

Reading is a subject that I get excited about. I love to read. I love to share what I read and I love to get others excited about reading. I hope as we continue on into the future that we can still help people tap into the movies in their heads.

Hello world!


I recently attended the Learning 2.011 Teacher’s Conference in Shanghai, China. I have learned many new technologies that I am working on using for my continued improvement as an educator. I have decided to create a professional blog to share things I am doing in the classroom, new things I am learning from the others I met at the conference, and other education related ideas or lesson plans.