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An Educator's Guide to Technology and the Web
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Mary Alice Anderson is a frequent contributor to professional journals and a conference presenter. In addition to working for Winona Area Public Schools, she is an online adjunct instructor with the Online Professional Development for Educators program in the School of Education at University of Wisconsin—Stout []. Communications to the author may be addressed to Mary Alice Anderson, Media Specialist, Winona Middle School, 1570 Homer Road, Winona, MN 55987;;

Articles By Mary Alice Anderson
Primary source sets are collections of multiple individual primary source artifacts surrounding a specific theme or topic. The sets are free, quality "go-to" tools for teachers needing resources and ideas, as well as for media specialists collaborating with teachers or identifying appropriate resources for teachers. Mary Alice looks this issue at what's new in this area from the Library of Congress and the Digital Public Library of America.
Posted 01 Sep 2017 / Sep/Oct 2017 Issue
Integrating technology in education has been a catalyst for significantly repurposing the physical structure and programs of school media centers. Mary Alice queried some colleagues for help in looking back at the process during the past couple of decades to see how it has evolved and to see what works bestfor today and the future.
Posted 01 Mar 2017 / Mar/Apr 2017 Issue
Are paintings primary sources? Can they be the centerpiece of a lesson or interdisciplinary learning? How can maps be paired with paintings? In this month's New Media Center, Mary Alice shares some ideas that illustrate the power of a painting, used alone or paired with another resource to provide a great learning activity.
Posted 01 Nov 2016 / Nov/Dec 2016 Issue
In her last column, Mary Alice introduced the Digital Public Library of America, aka the DPLA, and its primary source sets for educators. DPLA is a completely online library that provides access to almost 12 million historic and cultural primary source artifacts. Given its size, she has dedicated this column to sharing more information about DPLA.
Posted 01 May 2016 / May/Jun 2016 Issue
The recently released Primary Source Sets from the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and the updated Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government are new examples of valuable resources that make access and teaching much easier. Mary Alice digs into them here.
Posted 01 Jan 2016 / Jan/Feb 2016 Issue
Mary Alice has been involved in many media center designs over her long career. This month, she discusses design ideas that enable school libraries to function well upon being redesigned   and  to continue to function well as needs change!
Posted 01 Sep 2015 / Sep/Oct 2015 Issue
Always promoting primary sources, Mary Alice looks this time at the Library of Congress's six new interactive ebook primary source sets and finds them enticing and full of intriguing, useful tools.
Posted 01 Mar 2015 / Mar/Apr 2015 Issue
Primary sources such as "Migrant Mother," the iconic photo shown on the cover of Marisa Silver's novel Mary Coin, are perfect for enriching and extending students' understanding as they read historical fiction. Mary Alice offers up a bunch!
Posted 01 Nov 2014 / Nov/Dec 2014 Issue
It's tempting to ignore collection development when funds are limited and much is online, but a carefully selected, up-to-date professional collection is helpful for media specialists who present information to administrators and school boards or collaborate with teachers. In this month's column, Mary Alice takes a look at 10 titles for today's media specialist.
Posted 01 May 2014 / May/June 2014 Issue
Primary sources are not just for history—they can enhance learning, questioning, and creative thinking in the science or health classroom as well. Mary Alice's quest to learn more about the fluoroscope led her to compile a primary source guide for those interested in the sciences.
Posted 27 Jan 2014 / Jan/Feb 2014 Issue
Mary Alice considers the state of media centers and the mindset of media specialists as the calendar year closes … where they've been, where they are, and, hopefully, where they are headed.
Posted 06 Nov 2013 / Nov/Dec 2013 Issue
Mary Alice previews a range of classroom materials on the Library of Congress (LC) Teachers page that are created "by teachers for teachers" and that "provide easy ways to incorporate the LC's unparalleled primary sources into instruction."
Posted 01 Sep 2013 / Sep/Oct 2013 Issue
Citation questions are more challenging as information formats increase, evolve, and become entwined. Mary Alice takes a very thorough look this time at NoodleTools ("more than a citation tool"), a product that has been in use since 1999 and that continues to advance.
Posted 01 May 2013 / May/Jun 2013 Issue
Teachers and media specialists looking for digital primary resources representing world history and cultures will be excited to learn about a growing collection of significant, multilingual resources accessible through the World Digital Library.
Posted 01 Mar 2013 / Mar/Apr 2013 Issue
Finding a common meeting time for just three colleagues can be more work than it should be. Mary Alice looks at several easy-to-use tools that make scheduling easier for media centers that need volunteers and for the volunteers who want to help.
Posted 01 Jan 2013 / Jan/Feb 2013 Issue
Mary Alice looks at three specific, comprehensive digital collections—Chronicling America, Historic America Newspapers; Today in History; and The Newseum's Global Digital Archives—and shows you how to locate city and state newspaper archives.
Posted 01 Nov 2012 / Nov/Dec 2012 Issue
We should teach students how to search both Google and databases effectively. Nothing new here. But Google's Literacy Lesson Plans released in May 2012 are something new.
Posted 01 Sep 2012 / Sep/Oct 2012 Issue
The Oregon Trail! Ask a group of adults about this memorable computer game and often they mention how this type of program motivates by putting kids in charge of their own learning.
Posted 01 May 2012 / May/Jun 2012 Issue
In this month's column, Mary Alice takes a look at how local history, primary sources, and a few technology tools can be just the right mix to enable you to inspire your students.
Posted 01 Mar 2012 / Mar/Apr 2012 Issue
Media specialists know to double-check that all technology is in working order, even when the activity has previously worked well. Springboarding off her updated Tips for a Successful Internet Experience planning checklist for media specialists and teachers, Mary Alice delves this month into continuing questions about lab scheduling, file storage, and printing.
Posted 01 Jan 2012 / Jan/Feb 2012 Issue
Mary Alice notes that local museums, libraries, businesses, and passionate volunteers are digitizing primary resources and providing other digital content through processes once only affordable or possible by larger entities.
Posted 01 Nov 2011 / Nov/Dec 2011 Issue
It is disconcerting when a school or state purchases valuable resources and usage is low. Mary Alice says the start of the school year is a good time to begin overcoming nonuse.
Posted 01 Sep 2011 / Sep/Oct 2011 Issue
Too often, says Mary Alice, obvious and necessary training about the basics gets lost in training about "big picture" items such as cloud computing or data mining. So she brings us back to those basics and discusses where media specialists fit in.mary alice anderson
Posted 01 May 2011 / May/Jun 2011 Issue
Will media centers as we know them be built 20 years from now? Will trends of classroom and mobile technology make physical space irrelevant? The knowledge gained about new facilities Mary Alice helped plan provides the basis for her forward-thinking ideas this month.
Posted 01 Mar 2011 / Mar/Apr 2011 Issue
This column's new title has prompted Mary Alice to think about the skills that new media specialists need. Here, then, are some attributes and attitudes she believes are essential for the profession at this juncture.
Posted 01 Jan 2011 / Jan/Feb 2011 Issue
As her bio notes indicate, Mary Alice is an online adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and she's well versed in the ways of teaching online. Since online education is growing in importance, whether for higher education, professional development, or for K-12 settings, Mary Alice offers the benefits of hers and many of her online colleagues' experience in this realm for this month's Media Center column.
Posted 01 Nov 2010 / Nov/Dec 2010 Issue
School maintenance staff along with school secretaries always appear on lists of the key people a media specialist must get to know at the start of a career. Who else do you work with and depend on as you build successful media programs? Who else depends on you? Who else can we potentially add to what Gary Hartzell calls our "Power/Dependency Map"? In this month's column, Mary Alice walks you through an exercise to help you explore this issue.
Posted 01 Sep 2010 / Sep/Oct 2010 Issue
This month, Mary Alice offers advice and discusses tools, such as Edmodo and VoiceThread, that will help you and your students do lots more than they have in the past with primary source materials they have gathered.
Posted 01 Jul 2010 / Jul/Aug 2010 Issue
If you have been diligently weeding your media center, there may not be books full of dust bunnies or obsolete technology around. But for many media specialists, weeding is a continuing need and a frequent topic of inquiry in discussion groups such as LM_NET. In Mary Alice's state group, there are often questions about what to do with specific items such as VHS tapes or offers to sell AV equipment or materials. Get your garbage cans ready as she examine the task of weeding in this month's Media Center column.
Posted 01 May 2010 / May/Jun 2010 Issue
Mary Alice is often asked, "Have you ever been a coach? You always stay so positive and have upbeat suggestions." No, she, says, she hasn't; nor is she immune to negative thoughts. But challenges notwithstanding, media specialists have "pretty darn good jogs," and so this month she offers a few ideas to encourage positive thinking in the face of those challenges.
Posted 01 Mar 2010 / Mar/Apr 2010 Issue
In her last Media Center column (November/December 2009), Mary Alice examined the power of primary sources and shared ideas for using them to enhance student learning. This month, she discusses how educators can learn how to add power to their teaching by using Teaching With Primary Sources Direct, or TPS Direct, a powerful, high-quality, free online professional development tool from the Library of Congress.
Posted 01 Jan 2010 / Jan/Feb 2010 Issue
What's a primary source? The response, "Diaries, letters, journals, oral interviews, historic documents, photos, and newspapers" is typical. But what about sheet music, drawings, maps, movies, passports, athletic event ticket stubs and statistics, campaign buttons, quilts, flyers, political cartoons, telegrams, blogs, YouTube videos, tweets, or cell phone messages? Whether it's a traditional print document or a Web 2.0 digital file, primary sources have the potential to foster an interactive classroom and deepen understanding.
Posted 01 Nov 2009 / Nov/Dec 2009 Issue
There is no better way to enhance your knowledge of a topic than to teach it and engage in discussion with a diverse group of graduate students representing various age groups and professional experiences including practicing media specialists, classroom teachers, and paraprofessionals. This column reflects Mary Alice's recent experience teaching an online reference course for Minnesota State University–Mankato and discussions with other media professionals.
Posted 01 Sep 2009 / Sep/Oct 2009 Issue
Multiple-drawer card catalogs have long been relegated to storing bulbs and batteries in media centers or nuts and bolts in garages. Static OPACS accessible only in the media center have become web catalogs accessible throughout the school and beyond; WebPACS have evolved into full-featured, one-stop-shopping access points for media centers' collections, websites, databases, customized lists of state award winners, top checkouts, ebooks, book excerpts, and thumbnail images of book covers. As Mary Alice explains this month, media specialists use these next-generation systems to create reading lists, webliographies, and more, enabling students not only to find books but to contribute to the catalog's content.
Posted 01 Jul 2009 / Jul/Aug 2009 Issue
Special needs students—those with physical, behavioral, cognitive, and learning disabilities—represent a diverse range of learners. Because of the nature of the job, media specialists must provide resources that meet their needs. There are many ways you can do this, making connections to a broad range of learning needs and working with a broad range of teachers, and in this month’s Media Center column, Mary Alice gives you some guidance.
Posted 01 May 2009 / May/Jun 2009 Issue
We’ve all got too much email. Mary Alice Anderson notes she has four accounts: one for her district job, one personal, and two for online teaching work at two universities. Without careful management, we can find ourselves confused and spending too much time sorting it all out. What’s a busy educator to do? Well, start by reading Mary Alice's tips, along with a few illustrative anecdotes, in this month's column.
Posted 01 Mar 2009 / Mar/Apr 2009 Issue
Media specialists everywhere have stories to tell about teachers who believe they no longer have time to teach their favorite units, collaborate, or use technology in educationally sound or creative ways. The combination of NCLB and other demands have created a situation where teachers have little time or interest in using technology beyond basic instructional management and easy-to-implement instructional tasks they are comfortable with. But you can help by bringing your creative ideas to your teachers! Read about two such great ideas in this month’s Media Center.
Posted 01 Jan 2009 / Jan/Feb 2009 Issue
Like that of many others, the condition of the technology in Mary Alice Anderson's district has declined to the point of continuing frustration. The need for change was obvious. Even this longtime Mac user and champion knew they had to do something … And so they did. In this column, Mary Alice shares her district's success story in the hopes that she can help media and technology specialists in similar situations remain … well … a little less discouraged.
Posted 01 Nov 2008 / Nov/Dec 2008 Issue
Students in Mary Alice Anderson's district are benefiting from new or renovated media centers in four of their nine schools, a significant part of the district's renewed emphasis on facilities improvements. The district opened two entirely new secondary media center constructions in 2000 and 2006; this summer a new elementary media center opened in completely renovated spaces and another relocated to improved spaces in former classrooms. In this column, Mary Alice looks at features that enhance the functionality and educational environment of these long overdue new facilities.
Posted 01 Sep 2008 / Sep/Oct 2008 Issue
In Mary Alice's May/June column, we heard from media specialists who are refocused and recharged in their second careers. They are busy with writing, speaking, online teaching, consulting, and multimedia production. In Part 2 Mary Alice focuses on how these accomplished people built a bridge to retirement and what they have to say about all they've learned in their new careers
Posted 01 Jul 2008 / Jul/Aug 2008 Issue
Media specialists have useful and unique skill sets that can serve them well if they want to continue working when they leave their K-12 jobs. They are multimedia creators and producers, writers, speakers, university instructors, online instructors, educational consultants and leaders, and volunteers for the professional organizations they belong to. They work with print and technology; they use their organizational, teaching, communications, and advocacy skills. They are excited and passionate about their work. Mary Alice Anderson offers thoughts and lots of examples on the subject of media specialists and retirement in this month's Media Center column.
Posted 01 May 2008 / May/Jun 2008 Issue
Geocaching, using GPS technology, is loads of fun, and it offers lots of educational opportunities as well. Yes, even in the media center. Media specialists are good at making curricular connections, and, says Mary Alice Anderson, the curriculum connections with geocaching are easy to see. Don't believe it?? Read and learn.
Posted 01 Mar 2008 / Mar/Apr 2008 Issue
Technology staff development isn't receiving the attention it once did in professional journals or at professional conferences, but the need hasn't gone away; it has simply shifted along with technology and our roles. Staff development continues to be an important role for us because, as an Illinois language arts teacher explained, "not all teachers are on board with technology." She added that, to such teachers, "incorporating technology into instruction is someone else's job, and the skills are either not taught or [are] fragmented." Teachers are also now expected to use instructional management tools in more ways, such as understanding student assessment scores. Quite often if media specialists don't assume a leadership role in providing technology staff development, it simply doesn't get done.
Posted 01 Jan 2008 / Jan/Feb 2008 Issue
In keeping with the often practical nature of this column, this month Mary Alice addresses how a simple lesson became a successful unit and how it supports information and technology literacy standards: Sometimes the most successful teaching efforts are those teachable-moment lessons that arise unexpectedly to meet an immediate need. The "Technology P's lesson" is one of those.
Posted 01 Nov 2007 / Nov/Dec 2007 Issue
You can eat an entire elephant if you cut it into small enough pieces. That well-worn advice is worth remembering; it helps us through those times of feeling overwhelmed … which explains why a collection of small elephants decorates my office. They inspired me as we moved into a new media center, implemented a new automation system district wide, and worked toward other major program changes. Are there similar daunting tasks in your future at your media center? Here are some more axioms, maxims, and just plain sage advice that may help you, whatever the task you're facing.
Posted 01 Sep 2007 / Sep/Oct 2007 Issue
Cables, adapters, and memory cards disappear; batteries run low at inopportune times; and busy teachers quickly borrow a camera from another classroom "just for a second" to take advantage of a photo opp. Digital photographers excited about creating photo-filled classroom Web pages come to work sessions with a camera incompatible with the computer's software or without the necessary connecting cable. It seems that no technology has caused more management hassles than digital cameras. Well, if you've got such problems—and who doesn't?—Mary Alice Anderson's got answers!
Posted 01 Jul 2007 / Jul/Aug 2007 Issue
Mary Alice spent part of New Year's Day setting up her new computer and putting obsolete technology in storage—floppy disks, applications for earlier operating systems, assorted wires and cables, and even old automation system disks that ran on a 48K Apple II! The occasion led to reminiscing and wondering what memories other media specialists have of outdated technologies. A quick post on LM_NET brought an instant response; apparently, many media specialists were eager to share their fond memories and favorite experiences with the technology they experienced as technologist pioneers.
Posted 01 May 2007 / May/Jun 2007 Issue
Mary Alice Anderson has compiled the results of an informal survey she did among school librarians on the subject of e-scheduling, concluding that "Clearly, e-scheduling is the choice of many media specialists and appreciated by teachers." Read the details and collected wisdom in this month's Media Center column.
Posted 01 Mar 2007 / Mar/Apr 2007 Issue
Mary Alice Anderson notes she has survived one of two big media center moves her district is making this year and is currently experiencing the third such move of her professional career. Given that background, plus a good sense of what worked and what didn't, this month she offers sage advice on moving a media center.
Posted 01 Jan 2007 / Jan/Feb 2007 Issue
A procedures book is a collection of documents that explains how your media program operates. It describes or prescribes a preferred, common, and consistent course of action. It is both a practical tool to help you and your staff and a resource that helps define the philosophical basis of your program. Does your media center have an up-to-date and helpful policy and procedures book? There is no better time than now to begin compiling one, and Mary Alice's column this month can serve as your guide.
Posted 01 Nov 2006 / Nov/Dec 2006 Issue
Community involvement can increase media program visibility and help develop support that can be very beneficial to your programs. No matter how large or small your district, there are possibilities; the community may be an entire city or it may be a neighborhood, but involvement can bring positive results. Mary Alice Anderson offers ideas in this issue's Media Center column for outreach to student families, beyond the school community, and more.
Posted 01 Sep 2006 / Sep/Oct 2006 Issue
Online learning is one of the most rapidly growing areas of education. It is expected to continue expanding as more colleges and universities increase their offerings. What's it like to take an online class? For this article, Mary Alice communicated with graduate students who have taken multiple online courses from several universities, fulfilling a need to earn course credits toward a degree or to meet professional development goals. Read on to see what they say and what hints you can pick up.
Posted 01 Jul 2006 / July/Aug 2006 Issue
In Mary Alice Anderson's district, the high school media center is getting a makeover. As always, Mary Alice was in the thick of the process, serving on the district committee as they began planning. In this month's Media Center column, she shares wisdom gained, particularly from the committee's tour of a dozen new or recently remodeled facilities in the region.
Posted 01 May 2006 / May/June 2006 Issue
A media specialist's instinct is often that teachers of core subjects—language arts, social studies, and science—are the logical and easiest clientele to work with. That isn't always the case. Some media specialists say they have more success collaborating with noncore areas than with the "traditional academics." Mary Alice Anderson looks in this month's Media Center column at some of these kinds of collaboration.
Posted 01 Mar 2006 / Mar/Apr 2006 Issue
Mary Alice Anderson writes, "In recent months I've had numerous opportunities to visit media centers in other districts as we plan for media center renovations and program improvements at our senior high. Our visitation team included media specialists, board members, architects, administrators, local press, and community members who care about media centers." And then she draws on this experience to give you expert advice on how to prepare for visitors to your own media center ... and why ... and how doing so will benefit you and your program.
Posted 01 Jan 2006 / Jan/Feb 2006 Issue
Following up on her earlier Media Center column "Data Gathering--Why You Need the Numbers ... And What You Can Do with Them," Mary Alice Anderson tells how to build and use an Excel spreadsheet that will hold the kind of qualitative and quantitative data you want.
Posted 01 Nov 2005 / Nov/Dec 2005 Issue
Much has been written about the challenges “digital immigrant” teachers—those who have come later to technology—face as they work with digitally native students. But what’s it like to work with digitally native teachers? Mary Alice Anderson has noticed some consistencies among this first generation of educators to grow up with technology. This article reflects insights from other media specialists and educators as well as her own experiences working with new teachers and innumerable university students each year.
Posted 01 Sep 2005 / Sep/Oct 2005 Issue
Media specialists enrolled in the online graduate course Mary Alice Anderson teaches are required to create electronic portfolios. They begin the process feeling uncertain and overwhelmed. They finish the process proud of their portfolios and of their accomplishments as media specialists. Even without the requirement of a class project, an electronic portfolio is a worthwhile pursuit. Mary Alice tells why ... and what, and how ... in this issue's Media Center.
Posted 01 Jul 2005 / Jul/Aug 2005 Issue
“We really are going to get this cupboard in better shape—eventually!” How many times have typical LMSs said that? Yet their software storage cupboards have probably never been ideally organized. Media specialists and technology staff discuss ways to manage networks, set up servers, or configure computers, but they don’t take much time to share ideas about how to organize the physical stuff in their cyber environments. In this issue's column, Mary Alice Anderson take time to do just that.
Posted 01 May 2005 / May/Jun 2005 Issue
Looking for a dynamic way to market and advocate for your school's media program? A media program Web site can be a versatile and far-reaching advocacy tool. What can happen if you use the Web site to showcase your school's media program to students, parents, and the community? The outreach potential is unlimited. Here’s a look at some possibilities for advocacy and marketing.
Posted 01 Mar 2005 / Mar/Apr 2005 Issue
How you lead depends on what you read! Knowledge of best practices, current research, and useful ideas will help you do the following: * Plan and develop an effective school media/technology program. * Be an effective, efficient, and credible communicator. * Support your own professional writing and presentations. * Be a leader in your school and district. Among my reading favorites are the books, journals, and Web sites I turn to frequently for reference or inspiration.
Posted 01 Jan 2005 / Jan/Feb 2005 Issue
We believe that ongoing reading promotion through our school media's technology program goes a long way toward supporting reading.
Posted 01 Nov 2004 / Nov/Dec 2004 Issue
Data gathering, data-driven decision-making, and accountability are today's buzzwords. Media specialists should take note: Make ongoing data collection routine so that information needed for advocacy, decision-making, and gaining program support is quickly accessible when needed.
Posted 01 Sep 2004 / Sep/Oct 2004 Issue
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