Sunday, September 26, 2010

Maria Savoldi - Mon. Sept. 27 to Wed. Sept. 29, 2010

I am pleased that Maria Savoldi is joining this class for a return online session.
Maria has experience as a classroom teacher, a media specialist, and as county director of instructional media and technology - - much of that employment with the Glynn County School System, Brunswick, GA. She also has designed and delivered professional learning courses (staff development, teacher training) that foster effective technology integration.
Like most of our guest experts in the field, Maria often presents sessions at state and national conferences and has served in various governance roles in professional organizations.
More recently, Maria made the career jump to working with distance learning, online education. In that arena, she was first employed by the Georgia Virtual School and this year, took a new position with Mercury Online Academy.


  1. Maria,

    I'm really excited to get to talk to someone who has experience with distance learning! I worked at an elementary school library that had a really nice set up for distance learning (new equipment, it's own separate room, etc.), but I never got the opportunity to see them actually use it as a distance learning room. I was wondering how you would go about starting a distance learning program off in a school that doesn't have one yet? From what you've seen, would you recommend stepping into the water one toe at a time or jumping in head first? Whichever you would recommend, why do you think that would have the potential to have better results than the other?

  2. Maria,

    Thanks for taking time to help us with class. I have a background in Video Production and hope to translate that into activities in our Media Center. The Language Arts teachers all have good ideas to integrate this into their classes. Do you have any cool ideas for Science, Math or Social Studies to get involved with video and the Media Center?

  3. Berry3:56 PM

    With so much technology experience, how do you deal with teachers who oppose using technology with students?
    Thanks, Berry

  4. In addition to what Barry said, I am curious how you would encourage teachers to incorporate technology through the LMC into their curriculum when they already feel so overwhelmed with obligations. My biggest issue is convincing the administration and the teachers that I could actually help them with lessons, technology and time-management. With your background, I am interested to hear how you would encourage support and participation. Thanks!

  5. Shea,

    You kicked off the day with a great, "big" question! :-)

    Distance learning (and the definition of distance learning) has evolved quite a bit over the years - especially in the past two decades! I understand you are interested in implementation at the school building level. My recommendation is to start with the end in mind. What objectives do you wish to address? Is there a specific population of students you plan to serve? And then, start small! (And small is a good thing - back to that in a moment.)

    During the early 1990s we had the big, "tricked out" DL rooms with lots of high-end (expensive) equipment. Teachers had to work in trips to the room with the entire class, there were scheduling conflicts, technical glitches and because of these types of issues, lots of wasted time. Students did have some great learning experiences but at times it felt like the cons outweighed the pros. Unless your school has a surplus of funds (and most don't in these tight times) you will be forced to think small - as in small budget. ;-) But never fear. Technology now allows for various delivery methods that are much more efficient and extremely cost effective.

    If you wish to consider offering synchronous experiences, consider web conferencing or live streaming. You can't beat free! If you want an entire class to participate, you'll just need a computer, data projector and Internet connection.

    If asynchronous fits more with your plans, consider making use of a free learning content management system such as Moodle. Many state departments of education offer free online courses to students. You may also want to consider an open source option such as Hippocampus ( This site offers full course content and textbooks online. (This is just the tip of the iceberg!)

    A practice growing in popularity, blended learning. Check out these promising practices at the iNACOL website:

    If you haven't already, consider joining a professional organization such as ISTE. Their Distance Education special interest group is very active and will be very helpful in offering suggestions!

    On a side note, I am looking forward to the "small" that entails students commonly using their iPods and other mobile devices as a primary tool in their education.

    And back to the "jumping in or big toe" question. I like having a big picture/goal when working on any project but prefer to then (initially)implement it on a smaller scale. This will allow you to work out an kinks and then plan to scale it up. Of course, you'll need the support of your administrators and at least one teacher to "buy in". Work as a partner with that teacher, show success and others will follow!

    I could go on an on but will close with well wishes as you embark on your quest!

  6. Maria,

    What suggestions do you have on convincing administrators to set aside funds for technology? My school is greatly lacking in technology, but they don't really realize it. Their basic way of acquiring technology is to take whatever is offered at textbook adoption - which is usually about 5 years behind the times as far as I can tell.

  7. Shawn,
    Video production is near and dear to my heart! It is an engaging process and students welcome the opportunity to infuse their creativity!
    My first suggestion would be to talk with your science, math and social studies teachers and find out what objectives/standards are most challenging for them to assess. Then consider how students might demonstrate mastery by employing video production skills/tools. Rubrics can be especially useful when assessing video productions. One idea for social studies would be to have students dramatize an historical event. Of course, this would involve researching, scripting, storyboarding, etc. And of course, present the rubric to them at the start of the project as it will allow them to verify along the way that they are meeting the requirements of the assignment.
    For some really great (and practical) activities, I made good use of 2 books - "Video Projects for Elementary and Middle School" and "Television Production for Elementary and Middle Schools". Both were co-written by Keith Kyker & Chris Curchy. You'll notice that the copyright dates are older but the ideas are still great and can be used with newer technologies! You may also want to check out their website at:
    You may also want to check out "School Video News". It is an online eMagazine for K-12 TV/Video Production.
    Best wishes on future productions!

  8. Maria,

    Thank you SO MUCH! It really does make sense to start small and then grow the program with proven success. I had really never considered any of the other alternatives to the high-tech distance learning that I had seen before, but now that I hear them, it makes so much sense! Using the internet seems like an especially plausible idea because it is so easily accessible and so cost-effective. The links you provided are really helpful for getting started on something I am just beginning to learn about. Related to these different technologies and their costs, what would you recommend about spending? Of course I would get as absolutely much as I could for free, but when you do have to spend money, I was wondering how the allocation goes. Is there a good recommendation of about how much of a school library's budget should go to technology (as all-encompassing as that is) and how much should go to printed material?

  9. JoAnn White11:31 AM

    Due to budget cuts, staff or media specialists are low or nonexistent. What strategies would you use to promote parents to volunteer?

  10. Maria,
    Thanks for the video links, looks like we can really use those when we start teaching video news production!

    It seems there was a time, not so long ago, that Distance Learning Field Trips were trendy. Is this still the case and do you have any suggestions for really good "field trips" for students?

  11. Berry and Rhonda,
    We will always have teachers who are reluctant to incorporate technology into their instruction. In most cases it is due to "fear of the unknown" or the belief that it will take up more time then they can spare.
    Try showing teachers what is in it for them. In fact, you may ask to "borrow" their students so that you can work with them on a specific media literacy skill. Tie it in to what the class is already working on so the teacher can see that more than one objective can be covered w/in the lesson/activity.
    In my previous school, I asked the principal for a few minutes of time at the start of the faculty meeting. I explained that had some really engaging and worthwhile media literacy lessons that I wanted to share with their students and that if they would bring them to the media center (and stick around as my helper), I would lead the class. (This was very non-threatening and they liked the idea of being a helper and not the leader.) I had a weekly sign up schedule located on the circulation desk along with a "menu" of activities (skills to be addressed). They would select a time and activity. A few days before they were scheduled to come to the media center I would ask the teacher what they were working on and then make a direct connection to the classroom work. It didn't take long for them to make the connection that it's very much a "kill two birds with one stone" scenario. Subsequently, when they came to sign up, they'd take a few moments to tell me what they were working on in the classroom and we'd chat informally about options for tying it in to the media/technology lesson.
    When one or two teachers have positive experiences, word gets out! It doesn't happen overnight but it will happen.
    Best wishes to both of you!

  12. Hello Maria!

    I noticed that you mention students using iPods and other mobile devices as a primary tool in their education. What types of things can be done with these devices? I'm curious as to how an iPod can come in handy. I love the idea of incorporating these technologies into the classroom curriculum!

  13. Berry3:08 PM

    Thanks for the good ideas of collaborating with teachers and about the schedule menu. In your new position, do you get to work with kids much? How do you like that? My favorite parts of my day are the ones I spend with kids. How do you keep "in touch" with kids in your position?
    Thanks, Berry

  14. Abby,

    Convincing administrators to budget for technology has been especially difficult during these past few years! With shrinking budgets, technology is often the first to get the axe!

    There are a few different strategies that might help...If your teachers and students are already utilizing technology at your school, host a technology night and invite staff and families to view student projects. (You might tie this in to a PTA night.) Have students be on hand to explain their projects. Be sure to take pictures and highlight the event in your school newsletter and website since not everyone will be able to make it to the event. Your PTA may decide to raise/donate funds to support a technology based project and your administrators may gain a new perspective or willingness to consider funding additional technology. You may want to consider making your initial request for a small amount, show what can be done with it (student successes) and then the next time you ask for more, you might stand a better chance of getting the funds you need.

    Need more evidence? Plan a field trip for key decision makers at your school. Visit nearby schools that are making good use of their technology and convey how you would implement similar projects at your school.

    Another route is to consider grant opportunities. There are many grants available that don't required dozens of hours to write. Check out these resources from the NEA:

    As I mentioned in a previous post - start small and it will grow! :-)

  15. JoAnn,

    When I worked in a media center we were very fortunate to have some terrific volunteers. Many came from a nearby assisted living facility. They were very active, capable seniors. They were always willing to help in any way needed - from shelving books to reading to students. It was a great relationship! We also had some strong volunteers through our Partners in Education program. Local businesses would allow their employees to volunteer (during business hours) at the school. This was another win-win situation!

    If you are not as fortunate in recruiting, you may try posting a notice on your school's website, set up a sign up table at the next PTA meeting or school event. Ask willing parents to submit basic information such as the day(s) and time(s) they are available. Emphasize to parents that they don't necessarily have to commit to a weekly schedule. Those who work full time may appreciate an opportunity to volunteer on special occasions or for special projects such as book fairs or creating bulletin boards.

    As site you are probably well familiar with has lots of other great ideas:

    May you have an abundance of helpful volunteers!

  16. Maria,
    Thanks fo rthe ideas on collaborating with teachers on technology. I would love to "schedule" classes to come in. Unfortunately, I have 7 classes (k-6) of "Specials" coverage. Each class is in the library for 35 minutes for library and technology skills lessons. Teachers expect them to check out books during that time, as well. Therefore, there is not much time to collaborate. Any suggestions with this scenario?

  17. Maria -

    Thanks for the great ideas. I just found out today that we are going to be hosting an "academic fair" where students will be able to show off their writing and other projects. Perhaps I will have mine do some electronic projects that they will have to "share" electronically and that will help parents and administrators see the importance. Thanks again!

  18. Maria and Joann -

    Might I add, too, that the idea of having seniors from a nearby assisted living community is so fabulous! My mom is the director of an assisted living in my community. My students are constantly doing things for her residents (making crafts, cards, writing letters, visiting, etc). What a great idea to bring them to where the kids are! While it may not work so well in my middle school setting due the fixed schedule of the media center (and I don't want to put the Library Assistant out of a job by having them shelve), it could work WONDERFULLY in some of the elementary schools! My mom will love the idea as well - one more place to drive them! Ha!

  19. I have read all the posts and you have shared a wealth of information. I checked out and it was very interesting.
    I have the same scenario as Rhonda. I teach 7 classes a day 50 -55 minute blocks. My director wants me to utlize the computer to drive learning. Do you have any resources for grades k-5.

  20. I've never heard of the Partners in Education program that you mentioned, but it sounds like a great way to get the community's support in schools and give the students some great role models. I volunteer in a program called HOSTS in Wayne Township in Indianapolis, and I think they may have a similar partnership (it may even be the same one, and I just don't know the name because I'm not a part of it). I believe it works the same way yours does, where people come in for an hour or so and volunteer their time with the kids. I know where I work, the kids love having mentors to work with them, and it's always exciting for them to see the familiar faces that they've come to look forward to seeing every week!

  21. Maria,

    Which of your jobs has been the most fulfilling and why? Classroom, Media Center or Administrative....

  22. Melissa,

    As technology shrinks, the mobile resources grow! For a great snapshot of how iPods and iPhones can be used in education, check out this site:
    Be sure to scroll down and explore iTunes U!

    We are educators at an exciting time!

  23. Berry3:57 PM

    Maria, the MS at my school and I are looking into purchasing e-readers for our school.What ones do you think are best for the $ and for elementary kids? And should we buy less e-readers and more subscriptions to e-books? I have started research on thi, but I am not sure what to do?
    Thanks, Berry

  24. Shea,

    As far as what percentage of the library media budget should be allocated to spend on print, software, hardware, etc. - it really depends! Standards often require that you maintain a certain ratio of books to students. (Note: The availability of eBooks will likely cause a shift or change in this type of requirement.) There may also be other standards/requirements specific to your state or district. If money is tight, you may be able to investigate the possibility of stretching your dollars by working with other departments. For example, in a school I worked at, it was decided that an influx of Title I monies be allocated to beef up the non-fiction collection. This allowed us to spend more on our fiction collection and some needed hardware. The hardware could be checked out for teacher/student use so it was a win/win situation.

    If you are stepping into a media position, it would be a good idea to review the budgets of the past several years to determine the percentages that have been used. That doesn't mean you should stick to that but then examine your collection, equipment, etc., identify areas of need and make adjustments based on that.

  25. Shawn,

    I have been out of the media center for several years but virtual field trips are "alive and well" although they have evolved. They used to be more "sit and get" whereas now they are structured to provide more opportunities for students to be active participants. Utah's Education Network has some great examples at:
    Most virtual or efield trips are free but may require the teacher register for a code. Here is an example:

    You can always just jump in with a Google search of: virtual field trips - It's amazing what's out there to explore! :-)

  26. Thanks for the question, Berry.

    My current role is primarily administrative - supporting teachers and the program in general. However, I do make occasional site visits and interact with students and parents. I also sit in on some synchronous classes. (We use the web conferencing tool, Elluminate.)

    I thoroughly enjoyed working with students when I was in a traditional school building but I find what I do now equally rewarding as I know that I am supporting what is an optimal educational opportunity for most of the students we serve. I keep in touch with my co-workers throughout the day via Skpe and I enjoy that collegial interaction as well.

  27. Ahhh Rhonda, the dreaded fixed schedule. :-(

    A couple of suggestions for the situation you described. To maximize the time, can you allow students to check out 2 books every other week and then in the alternate weeks provide a media/technology lesson? You might also ask the teachers to let you know ahead of time what they are covering and try to tie into that.

    At the last school I worked at, we set up our check out computer so students could check their books out on their own. They would scan their ID card, then scan the book and lastly scan a barcode that would clear the screen. We used the first couple weeks of school to train them to do this (less with older/returning students). The reason we did this was so that students could return a book as soon as they finished it and select another. They didn't have to wait until it was "their library day". And so when I had the class in the media center, we didn't have to spend any time checking books out. We were able to use the entire time for the lesson, research, etc. Teachers liked this as well because students always had a current book to read if they finished their classwork early.

    I hope some of these suggestions might be helpful to you.

  28. Berry6:24 PM

    I am happy to hear that you are equally as happy in your role. I think one of my fears, moving from a classroom to a MS position or something more like your own, is not being as happy in a role more removed from direct instruction with kids. It really helps to know your opinion. Berry

  29. Nichelle,

    Some jumping off points for K-5 resources:

    There are many more but these can keep you busy for awhile! :-)

  30. Shawn,

    It is tough to say which role has been most fulfilling for me because they are all so closely linked. My career has evolved over the years. It has been a natural progression - each role building on the next and I've welcomed each new opportunity. I could not be working in my current job had I not been a classroom teacher, media specialist, administrator, etc. What I'm doing now calls on all of the knowledge and skills I have acquired over the years. I think I am particularly happy in my current role because it is the best of everything - I work with all groups - teachers, admin, students, parents, there is lots of variety from day to day and I enjoy the challenges of helping to build an online school. I guess I am one of those people who likes to have their cheese moved. ;-) In short, I wouldn't change a thing!

  31. Berry,

    We have just started that discussion. I have not had the chance to do any research regarding ebooks vs. ereaders but off the top of my head, it seems that it would depend on your population. I worked in a school that was 86% free and reduced lunch. If I were there, my initial investment would have to go toward ereaders. (Possibly a roll out by grade level depending on funding.) I've also worked in a private school where either all students had access to ereaders, iPods, iPod Touch devices or their parents would be happy to spring for them. In this latter scenario I would, of course, allocate more toward ebooks. It will be a balancing act.

    I would encourage you to seek the advice of other media professionals regarding preferred model, etc.

    Happy reading!

  32. Thanks to all of you for your great questions and positive feedback.

    Please feel free to send any follow up questions to me at:

  33. Berry4:34 PM

    Thanks for the advice! My school is about 90% free and reduced, so I will go that route. Then in the future after the initial investment in ereaders, we can put more into ebook collections. Thanks for all your help this week!