Amy is a veteran K-12 educator with certifications in Library Science, Math, Science, and Family and Consumer Science. She is the current District Librarian for Dunlap School District in Dunlap Il. Amy specializes in innovating and rebuilding library and other educational programs, curating and scaffolding collections K-12, equity in resources, and EdTech Ethics. She has spent the last several years rebuilding curriculum for different educational areas, innovating and implementing 1:1 using Chromebooks, diving deep into Chrome applications for the classroom, and analyzing data for better results within her roles. You can find her online @Amy_Stefanski on Twitter, and @Libranski on IG.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, welcome to the Deeper Learning with WeVideo podcast. I am Nathan and I have my friend Amy Stefanski on today. Now Amy is a veteran K-12 educator with certifications in library science and math science, and family and consumer science. She is the current district librarian for Dunlap School District in Dunlap, Illinois. Amy specializes in innovating and rebuilding library and other educational programs. She has spent the last several years rebuilding curriculum for different educational areas, innovating and implementing one-to-one initiatives, using Chromebooks, and then diving deep into Chrome applications for the classroom. She is also the creator and host for the D23 Library podcast. Amy, welcome to the show.
Amy Stefanski: Thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: We talked a bit through email and Twitter before I finally met you face-to-face at I-D-E-A Con or Idea Con, sorry, I shouldn’t have spelt it out and it was so fun. You were just such a bright, innovative thinker and it was so great to connect with you. And it was so fun just to have our new friendship and connection last from that point. And I knew from the time I met you, I have to have her on the podcast because she’s just a wealth of information.
Amy Stefanski: That’s very nice.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, it’s true, so I’m glad to finally have you on. Through talking with you, I found out that you don’t have the traditional I’ve always wanted to be a teacher story.
Amy Stefanski: No.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Because I also don’t either, so tell me a little bit about how you came into education because it was an accident.
Amy Stefanski: Yeah, it was an accident, it’s something I fell into. So coming out of high school into college, I actually went into be an engineering major. I had a huge passion for computers growing up, my dad and I used to build computers together. I played a lot of video games growing up, so I really wanted to get into this growing market of computers and being able to build them and working in the industry. And I went to school and I was an engineering major for a hot minute. And it was just, I don’t want to say I was very average at it, I didn’t have the passion and drive for it as I really wanted to at the collegiate level.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I’d think you’d be to smart for it.
Amy Stefanski: I don’t know if that was it. But I mean, I did all the classes and things like that, like I said, it was about two years. And then I went in to be a nutrition dietetics major. Don’t ask me how that ended up happening, but it did. So anyway, I ended up graduating with my bachelor’s degree in nutrition dietetics, and then through the last part of my major, I really, really became passionate about community nutrition and helping communities and people understand how to take care of their bodies and what they’re eating are a huge essence. And so, that’s what led me to education is that I wanted to teach people how to do that. I wanted to educate people on how to be better at taking care of their bodies and eating right. And so, that’s what led me into it. And I wanted to get into the schools and in the State of Illinois, nutrition is part of a family consumer science endorsement. So I ended up getting that endorsement to teach. And then I ended up at a high school teaching family consumer science was my first teaching gig.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: That’s fantastic. And so, your curriculum, it was asking kids to bake cookies, right?
Amy Stefanski: Yes, among other things. So the basic family consumer science it’s nine sections. So it was adult living and teaching kids what happen when they left high school and then there was some sewing, we still had sewing. We still do have sewing in our curriculum and then food science and really basic stuff. So I did family consumer science at the middle school level, which when we cooked down there it was like how to get these middle school kids to make macaroni and cheese and pancakes. My goal was to have them not burn down their house and then basic sewing skills, how to sew on a button and whatnot.
Amy Stefanski: And then there was some parenting and some computer components to that one as well. So I did that for about four or five years, and then I moved into a STEM curriculum. So then some part of my day was teaching family consumer science, kids how to cook and sew, and then I walked down the hallway and I would teach seventh graders engineering, pre-engineering skills. And the funny thing is as a science teacher, it was all the same skills. It’s all application skills. And so, that was the best part of it was the fact that at the end of the day, when you scrubbed away all the other stuff, it was the same skills that you were teaching those kids.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: That’s why I said the earlier statement in jest about baking cookies because there’s a stigma around it. And actually, some of the most wonderful lessons I’ve learned was going through a family and consumer science because it really is. It is you have all of these possible different ingredients, just talking about with nutrition and cooking, you have all these possibilities and then just the creativity involved. And then there’s so much science involved too, with chemical changes when you’re cooking. And so …
Amy Stefanski: Absolutely. Lots of chemistry.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, and I was a chemistry teacher, maybe I should thank my family and consumer science teacher. I also, whenever you said you built a computer with your dad, I also thought back when I was in fourth grade, I won first place in computer science because I built a computer. Now, do you know what my computer was? It was a box with these little push pins in it and at the back of the box, there was a wire or something that would attach from one pen to the other and on the front of the box I made these labels. And so, I think I would do a matching thing, States on one side and capitals in the other, and I would set it up to where if you’ve made the connection, it would ring this little alarm on the back of it. And I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. I don’t know how I heard the idea, but anyway, I’m sure your computers were much more elaborate than my little box computers.
Amy Stefanski: I mean, it’s funny because we used to build computers at home because we didn’t have the money to buy one of the pre-built ones.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah.
Amy Stefanski: So my dad used to do all this research and we would buy either used components, mostly used components and some partially new components to build our own computer so we could essentially game. And this was in the mid ’90s. Yeah, it was just really interesting and we still build computers in my house.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I love it. And it works perfect for your experiences in being a STEM extraordinaire. And before our show, we talked a lot about makerspaces and how it’s great to have a space where kids can be creative, but the challenge exists now, these maker spaces are not being really utilized to its fullest capacity.
Amy Stefanski: No, no. And I had said this before, I would love to see data on how schools are using them three, four, five years removed from the initial grant or the initial funding that came into those makerspaces and how much, we had talked about this, and how much PD was put into training those teachers that essentially took over those spaces or who took over those spaces.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. So let’s talk about remote learning because that’s the age we’re in right now. The makerspaces are really our homes at this point or our kitchens.
Amy Stefanski: Which is really important for that family and consumer science part of it.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: There you go.
Amy Stefanski: It’s time to bake cookies, man.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. Right. And seeing kids making the cooking shows with WeVideo, which you’re also a WeVideo extraordinaire. I love seeing kids using WeVideo to create their own cooking shows, or they’re wanting to show a progression of a recipe or if they’re making a fort or something and they’re showing the progression of their fort.
Amy Stefanski: Right.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: So the makerspaces at home have been phenomenal and then just documenting it has been just a window into the process.
Amy Stefanski: Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And you’re a district librarian.
Amy Stefanski: I am.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: So what has been your role with supporting students and teachers? I assume that’s your role to help both, you have to help students access resources, but also you’re supporting teachers almost as an instructional coach.
Amy Stefanski: Yeah. So I’m wearing several different hats right now. So this is funny because we talked about my early education, but as of right now, as I stand, I’m actually a district librarian. So I take care of the print indigenal resources for eight school buildings. So I have a high school, I have two middle schools and then five elementary schools, and I’m the only certified librarian in the district.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Wow.
Amy Stefanski: So right now what I’m doing is curating resources for our teachers. So initially when we were shut down, we spent about 72 hours seeing what everybody else was doing and trying to make a plan for our teachers before we got the initial call. And so, it was letting my, I have a team of nine para-pros who are out in the other buildings, I don’t run eight of them all alone, I have a team of nine. And letting my team know that they can start checking out multiple books to kids, give the books to the kids so they can take them home. And then on the teacher end, trying to get resources to them as quickly as possible.
Amy Stefanski: And so, what I’ve been doing is curating lists of free educational resources for them, like we’re all doing right now. But mainly, a lot of it has to do with access to Ebooks, nonfiction, and fiction so the kids continue to read at home and not feel like they’re stuck and still allowing them to grow out in their different genres and to grow up with their literacy and things like that. So I have been working very, very closely with my instructional coaches. We are on the same team, so everybody has a role and that’s what we’re doing.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. Now, do you have a favorite site? Because I’m really fascinated with the access to Ebooks right now, because a lot of publishers and authors have given permission for teachers to read aloud and video the read alouds and also, we are encouraging our students to, of course, read.
Amy Stefanski: Read.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: So do you have any resources for students to access Ebooks or is it just through the local library?
Amy Stefanski: Yeah, so I did send this out to my teachers the other day. I gave them access to, I didn’t give them access, they can find it, but I sent them reminders that if our students don’t have public library cards to send that information to families, because here, our libraries are issuing temporary library cards. If you didn’t have one before you could sign up and then they would issue some because they had different resources then we do at school. One of the first things though that I did was I reminded our teachers that we actually purchased three very large databases. Non-fiction databases for our teachers to use on a regular school year. And to remember that we have those databases and then, not only that, then we went ahead and we curated a list of other optional ones. So for leisure reading for students, Epic Reads opened up their database to be used for families.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Okay.
Amy Stefanski: And so, there’s a whole bunch of books on there. And then yesterday, we went ahead and opened up [Mion 00:11:58], which is part of the Renaissance family, like Freckle and AR. And they had a lot of books that are known to these kids. Because of those publisher rights and what Ebooks are, sometimes you can’t get the books that you want. I think that’s the one things that kids struggle with. I want book four in this series. Well, sometimes you can’t find book four unless you’re willing to pay for it. So now is really not the time to be picky. I just think now’s the time to be experimental and just journey through whatever you can have.
Amy Stefanski: But otherwise, I really appreciate, Amazon’s Family Time went $0.99 for the next three months. Well, it was three months back at the end of March. So you could get onto their family, which is their kids platform for $0.99 and they have a ton of books. And then not only that, but their unlimited kid’s catalog and things like that, so my kids have that. And then I’m a huge fan of the Kindle Unlimited because I just think it offers a lot.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Same, yeah. Absolutely. I love my Kindle.
Amy Stefanski: Me too.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I mean, I love the process of holding a book in my hands and turning the pages, but there’s just nothing easier and more efficient than a Kindle.
Amy Stefanski: Junior Library Guild, that’s another company that opened up their Ebook. So they’re free right now at all three levels. I think one of the things I struggle with is the high school is getting high school level books. Lots of stuff out there for elementary, not a whole bunch out there for high school, but Junior Library Guild has a nice, it’s small-ish, but it’s a collection that is free and some popular titles on there as well.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Very cool. Now when it comes to teachers for remote learning, especially in elementary and middle but even in high school, but I mainly see this with elementary teachers that the importance of capturing these read alouds. And I’ve seen a lot of Facebook live events where teachers are going to go read a book live. My wondering is is that accessible to students? Will all of my students be able to see me read? And then also with this it’s challenging with a camera because you’re reading a book and you’re having to, just like in the classroom, if you’re doing circle time, you’re reading and then you’re showing the pages, but students will sometimes come up to the book and point to the book or …
Amy Stefanski: Right. Touch it.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, touch it, right.
Amy Stefanski: Absolutely.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And so, we lose that with the live version. And one of the really cool features with WeVideo is the read-aloud template. And I even created one just as an example, where you can have your webcam record a record the teacher who’s reading. So the webcam’s recording me reading and then have the screen capture basically show the pages. So I would have already taken pictures of the pages of the book and of course, making sure that I give permission to the publisher or just I find- …
Amy Stefanski: Right. Follow the policies. Yep.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Right, yeah, follow the policies. And this book was in the …
Amy Stefanski: Legal.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: … public domain. So there is no permission seeking because it was the …
Amy Stefanski: Perfect.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: … public domain. So what advice would you offer for teachers wanting to create an asynchronous read aloud? Because you’re a librarian and so, I can just imagine you being this dynamic read aloud teacher.
Amy Stefanski: So it’s actually funny, I have not done one myself. I don’t know if I should admit that. It’s different because at the district level I’m not down there all the times in the schools, a lot of my para-pros do that.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Right. You’re supporting everyone who’s doing that.
Amy Stefanski: Yeah, exactly. Making sure that everybody has their resources. But I think that you nailed it on the head and I hadn’t even thought about that with WeVideo is being able to prep beforehand and then read it so you can have both or even narrating it, I think. Using that narration feature. Because kids want to follow the story along with you but when you’re sitting so far away from the camera, they can’t see those pictures, but they also want to hear your voice. There is an essence of yes, we’re reading to them, but there’s an SEL, that social, emotional learning where the students are hearing the voice of a person that they used to see every day and now cannot.
Amy Stefanski: So I think that using a program that can show your face and your voice and then to be able to do, like you said, for this for reading, I think is really dynamic. The only problem, it’s not a problem, hiccup possibly in a live thing, unless you’re filming it and putting it back onto a platform is the fact that not everybody gets to join in on that. While Facebook is great, not everybody’s on Facebook. I know that’s really hard for people to imagine, what do you mean you’re not on Facebook?
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, especially elementary kids.
Amy Stefanski: Right.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Their parents might be.
Amy Stefanski: And it’s fine. I mean, usually your parents are there anyway, but I know a lot of adults who have opted out of programs like that and social media like that, because it’s become a negative factor in their life. So we always have to be weary on, I know for our district, we are encouraging them to put it onto our LMS system. So we use Canvas in our district and put it on there, record yourself and leave it up there because kids may at a really time when they need to hear your voice, click on that link and hear you read a book to them. I do know that my nephews are at a school district where their teachers all read basically a bedtime story, essentially that’s what they’re calling it and they stick it at the end of their daily, they have a Google side with all of their homework. It’s at the very end of their Google side, it’s their read aloud story that was all prerecorded. And I thought that was really cool because kids can revisit when they need to.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yes.
Amy Stefanski: Later in the day. We were just talking the other day, when we have kids and you hear the stories all the time and reading articles that high school kids have to go out and get jobs and kids are left home with their older siblings and it’s crazy. So we all have to be super flexible.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: We do. And we talked earlier about equity before we recorded the podcast and students need to feel like they also have the opportunity just like everyone else to hear the story. And that’s why I think asynchronous sessions, there’s a time and place for that. I think the social, emotional learning definitely is an opportunity for students to see their teachers live in real time but only half the students may be able to be a part of that. And then with the asynchronous sessions, with recording a video of a read aloud, then every student has the opportunity to engage with the text in their own time. And maybe it’s in the evening before bed or maybe it’s in the morning when they get up and they’re eating breakfast and they want to watch it. So I mean, there’s so much power in the asynchronous and there’s so much more flexibility.
Amy Stefanski: Right. Who doesn’t want to eat fruit loops and watch a story? I mean, I do.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Right. Well, yeah. For me, it’s my fourth cup of coffee.
Amy Stefanski: Absolutely.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: [inaudible 00:19:14] cups it takes for me to get going in the morning.
Amy Stefanski: You have nailed it on the head too. One of the things that I do love with we video and I use this when I record the podcast is the fact that you don’t actually have to do a video that you can just do audio.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yes, right.
Amy Stefanski: And I think that’s something really important. I was just talking about this with a friend, because everybody’s comfortable on camera or not everybody’s in the ability to show their house or their living situation. And so, even having kids record their voice or just having an audio clip for them to listen to, I think is a nice feature on there as well as to be cognizant of what’s happening at home.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. You make really strong points there. Oh, well, Amy, I know it’s like, how’s the podcast already over? So if we went to continue to follow all the wonderful things that you’re sharing, of course you have your podcast.
Amy Stefanski: I do.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Now, can I access your podcast through the podcast app or is there a platform that you post it?
Amy Stefanski: So I publish it through Anchor, but then Anchor will distribute it out, so you can find it really anywhere. And then we’re also on Pod Chaser. And then I just put it up on Pod Hound today. Is that a thing? That’s a thing.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I guess. If you’re telling me it is then I guess it is.
Amy Stefanski: Somebody asked me on Twitter to post it on there and I was like, “Sure, okay.” So I put it on there. So if you want to leave reviews, you can find the podcasts in most places. I listen to it on Spotify and my kids do.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Fantastic.
Amy Stefanski: Yeah, there’s different segments of it, three different levels of it as well. So when you get into it … I just posted an elementary one this morning.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Oh, awesome. Well I will have to catch up on your podcast. And then on Twitter, your Twitter handle is?
Amy Stefanski: At Amy underscore Stefanski. It’s just my name.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Stefanski.
Amy Stefanski: Yep.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: S-T-E-F-A-N …
Amy Stefanski: -S-K-I. Yes.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Perfect. Excellent. Ah, my friend who was so good chatting with you. Thank you for coming on the show and I know that our listeners are really going to benefit from a hearing all of your tips and ideas and strategies.
Amy Stefanski: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.