Are You An Opportunity Maker?: Professional Development for January 2016

Here are the professional development opportunities for January 2016. I have provided partial descriptions of the webinars from each website. Please view each link for complete details. I hope you enjoy them. In the meantime, if you are hosting a free online professional development event or chat that is applicable for school librarians, I would love to hear about it. Contact me at:

As you scroll down the list of professional development opportunities for this month, you will find that one of them is about communication. Even though we are halfway through the school year, you may find that you have not connected with some of your colleagues like you want to. Besides the obvious techniques that include writing a newsletter and serving as a mentor, I have created a poster of some of the strategies that I have used to challenge myself to communicate better with other educators. Perhaps at least one of them will work for you. Please do comment if you have some other techniques to suggest. I would love to hear about them. You may access my poster with communication tips by going to this link:

One of my favorite strategies listed on my poster is being an opportunity maker. I hope that you will watch the video embedded in this post. I love the way Kare Anderson, the speaker, talks about looking for opportunities by making connections with people “around shared interest and action” (TED, 2014). I believe school librarians are key players in schools that have the unique ability to see connections between all areas of the curriculum and the needs of students. Skilled school librarians are able to work with community stakeholders to impact student achievement. In any case, I wish you a happy holiday season!


Title: Student Game Jams

  • Organization:
  • Date: Thursday, January 7, 2016 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST
  • Description: A game jam tasks designers with creating games in a short time period based on a challenge or a theme. In essence, it is a game about making a game. In this webinar, Matthew Farber will share about his use of tabletop game jams in his middle school social studies classes as well as his digital game jams in the after-school club he advises. He will be joined by Steve Isaacs, who will talk about his use of game jams in his middle school video game design class. Steve and Matthew also will be discussing the game jam project that the Games4Ed Initiative is currently developing. Join them to learn how you can bring game jams to your school.
  • Link:

Title: Finding Your Go-To Educational Resources Online

Title: Creating a Culture of Volunteer Engagement

  • Organization:
  • Date: Thursday, January 14, 2016 @ 2:00pm – 3:00pm EST
  • Description: It’s important to create a culture of inclusion and engagement of volunteers within your organization. But, it can be hard to recognize what your current culture says to volunteers, or identify how to make changes to help volunteers feel more welcome. This webinar will help you identify how your organization’s current culture is shaping or limiting what volunteers do, and provide steps you can take to start to create more understanding, respect, and appreciation for engaging volunteers. 
  • Link:

Title:  Drivers of Equitable Achievement in K-12 STEM Programs 

  • Organization: Learning Forward
  • Date: Thursday, January 14, 2016 @ 2:00pm – 3:00pm EST
  • Description:Learn a research-based model for promoting equitable student achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs at the school level. Equip administrators and teachers with knowledge of transferable practices that are associated with high-achieving, highly diverse schools. Transform a school context where achievement disparities exist among student subgroups by understanding the drivers for equitable educational success.
  • Link:

Title: Ensuring Success for All: Strategies for Bringing Out the Best in Students in Poverty, and Students Who Struggle With Language and Learning

Title: TeachersFirst Tech Tools Smackdown

Title: Take the Common out of your Common Core ELA Standards

  • Organization: TeachersFirst
  • Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm CST
  • Description: Add a technology twist and make CC standards come alive! Discover two different tools to have students engage, interact, and love ELA while exceeding Common Core Standards. In this session, we will explore blogging and wikis. Participants will explore blogging as a tool to extend conversations outside the classroom walls and facilitate student communication. Participants will also learn how wikis can pump research projects up a level. Participants will be able to use each tool, create an example with each, and plan a project that they can begin in the classroom right away.
  • Link:

Title: Enhancing Your Library’s Web Presence with WordPress

  • Organization: OCLC WebJunction
  • Date: Thursday, January 21, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST
    Description: Whether your library’s website needs to be refreshed or rebuilt, this webinar will provide practical steps for creating, maintaining, and enhancing your website without technical expertise. Learn how the right WordPress template and plugins can help you provide your community with an informative and nimble website 24/7.
  • Link:

Title: Clear and to the Point: The Importance of Using Plain Language in Your Communications

  • Organization: Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  • Date: Thursday, January 28, 2016 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am CST
  • Description: How often are your communications missing their mark? Probably more often than you think, especially if you work with adults who are English learners, or who struggle with low literacy (more of the population than many know). In this session, we’ll talk about word choices, layout, use of visuals, and more, that will help you communicate more clearly and effectively with those you’re trying to reach. This webinar will be presented by Kathryn Bauchelle, Program Director, Literacy Advance of Houston.
  • Link:

Title: Community Engagement: Serving Diverse Communities Where They Are

  • Organization: OCLC WebJunction
  • Date: Monday, January 28, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm EST
  • Description: This interactive session will explore what it means to provide inclusive outreach to and engage with members of your local community. How do you identify the needs of the diverse communities your library is serving? What are effective approaches for community engagement, and how do you apply what you learn along the way to improve your practice? Come prepared with a challenge or opportunity from your own community that you would like to workshop with your peers during the webinar. You will also leave with a framework and action plan for cultivating partnerships for successful community engagement.
  • Link:

Title: Google Tools & Projects for Your Classroom: Free Online Teacher Conference from SimpleK12

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date: Saturday, January 30, 2016 @ 10:00 am – 3:30 pm EST
  • Description:Join the SimpleK12’s team of experts during back-to-back online sessions about ways to use Google Tools in your classroom. There will be six sessions. Free registration is limited and will fill up quickly. Claim your spot as soon as possible.
  • Link:


TED. (2014, November 5). Kare Anderson: Be an opportunity maker [Video file]. Retrieved from


Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Professional Development, STEM/STEAM, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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