Thanks and Farewell!

Thank you Costa!

This is my last posting on this blog. On Friday, June 17, I officially retired as  Mira Costa High School’ Teacher Librarian. I want to thank all the Mira Costa students and staff for a wonderful six years working with you. I also owe a huge thank you to my amazing library volunteers. I will miss all of you!

I also want to thank the Class of 2016 again for the incredible honor of recognizing me as a Sandacre Teacher of the Year. If you haven’t already read my thank you and open letter to Seniors posting, please do. Thanks, too, to La Vista for the articles about this honor and about my retirement. And thanks to the Mustang Morning News for including me in a story about retiring staff.

Some of you have asked what’s in store for me in “the next adventure.” I plan to enjoy more travel, more reading, and more time with family and friends.  I also plan to stay active in school library associations and networks to support school libraries, and to keep learning and sharing my learning at school library and educational technology conferences and through Twitter, my personal blog, and other social media. Please follow me on Twitter at @jane_librarian and on my personal blog, “Jane Lofton’s Adventures in School Libraryland,” at It’s been a bit of a challenge keeping two blogs going, but I hope to make my personal blog more active now that I will have just one on which to focus. You can also contact me on my personal email at

And, here’s me ready for the first stop on the “next adventure,” a trip to Scandinavia with my husband next month. The photo was taken with the library’s green screen and the Do Ink Green Screen app. Then, I added the frame and labels with Picmonkey:

fjords picmonkey


with best wishes,

Jane Lofton

A Year in the Life of the MCHS Library 2015-2016

Here is the short film I made, using Animoto software and music, with just some of the highlights of the 2015-2016 school year at our library:

I know that some of the slides go by a bit fast, making it difficult to read them. (I was limited by my Animoto account to under 3 minutes.) So, I have also uploaded all the photos I used in the video to a Flickr album. I also included a lot of other photos I wanted in the video but couldn’t fit in the time allotment. Here is the link.

June at the Library

As I write this, our Seniors have finished all their finals and will be graduating next Thursday, and our other students have just one more week, all filled with final exams, ahead. Sadly, the library at this point becomes pretty much a textbook warehouse with all the textbooks stacking up on tables and even the floor until they get checked out again in the fall. (I’ll spare you a photo of what that looks like.) Still, the beginning of June was busy as ever with library activities. Here are some highlights.

Calculus Class Videos

I wrote in the May posting about the Calculus classes coming to work on instructional videos. In the beginning of June, we all enjoyed watching the various videos as they were completed. Here are a couple of examples, one made using our green screen, and the other made using

You can see more of the Calculus videos on the library website.

Using Our Green Screen

The green screen has been very popular this month. I demonstrated how to use it with Do Ink’s Green Screen app for Ms. Nielsen’s and Mr. Nodado’s AP Chemistry classes for their video assignments, and we had students using it to make videos for those classes and for AP European History, Calculus, and ESL Support classes.

Shooting a green screen scene
Shooting a green screen scene

One of the rewarding parts of sharing new technology tools with students is seeing them apply them in other contexts. The AP European History video was created by students who learned about green screen technology for their Chemistry class. And, one of the Calculus students shared how he used the Powtoon software he learned about for an assignment an Economics class assignment. Transfer of knowledge, of course, takes many forms. One of the Calculus videos included information the students learned in their Physics class.

Ms. Clarke’s class booktalks

I also wrote in the May posting about Ms. Clarke’s class visiting the library to learn about book talks in preparation for creating book talks they posted to YouTube and created QR codes in order to share them with classmates. It was a delight on Friday to have all her students come in the library and scan the QR codes now posted all over the library to watch their classmates’ book talks. Stand by to see some of them on the library website.

Library Club SWVBC

Our Library Club held our last meeting of the year on Tuesday, June 7, and we celebrated our four graduating seniors – Yuka Noda, Joanne Qi, Danit Rich, and Crystal Yu – who have been with the club and supported it and our library programs for all four years of their time at Mira Costa. Here’s a huge thanks And, we also had a cake for my retirement. 🙂

2016-06-07 12.33.00-1

The week before, on June 1, we had our final Somewhat Virtual Book Club (#SWVBC) meeting via Google Hangouts. Other participants this month included New Canaan High School in New Canaan, CT, and James Caldwell High School in West Caldwell, NJ. Instead of our usual discussion of one book, this month was a BYOB, “Bring Your Own Book” session: everyone shared a favorite book with the group. Here’s the list of our book recommendations on Goodreads, and here’s a recording of our session:

Photography Slideshow by Lyla and Lizzie

I was delighted to have several visits by two talented Photography students, Lyla Floyd and Lizzie Tsuang. They were completing an assignment on “A Day in the Life” of one of their teachers. I was honored that they chose me as their subject. Here’s their slideshow they kindly agreed to let me share here:

Mustang Morning News and La Vista Features

I was also honored to be featured in two articles in  La Vista on June 7. Here is the article about my retirement, and here is the article about my Sandacre Teacher of the Year Award. I was also included in a Mustang Morning News story about retiring teachers on June 6. Here is a link to the story.

A Thank You and Open Letter to Mira Costa Seniors

Thank you, Seniors!

(….. And, if you are a Junior, Sophomore, or Freshman … what I’m writing really applies to you, too. …..)

I was absolutely flabbergasted and incredibly touched and honored at the Mira Costa Senior Awards Assembly on Wednesday to be recognized as one of three 2016 Sandacre Teachers of the Year. Congratulations to Aaron Braskin and Nicole Wachell, the other two. The accompanying letter from Denise Anderson, Sandacre Teacher of the Year Facilitator, states:

“The criteria for this recognition is for senior students to nominate a Mira Costa teacher who has stimulated, inspired, and/or prepared his/her students for their future studies and/or other endeavors. You, as an educator, mentor, and friend have had a strong impact on your students.”

As I approach retirement in – gulp – just two weeks, I can’t imagine a better send off or anything that could have made me feel prouder or more honored than to be recognized in this way by Mira Costa’s students. I will truly cherish this award and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. I will also miss you all so much! I also thank the Sandacre Scholarship Fund for this honor and incredibly generous honorarium.

Before we all leave for our “next adventure” – I for retirement, and you for college, the start of a career, or a gap year of exploration – here are a few of the ways in which I have tried to prepare you and things I hope you will remember on your journey (in no particular order):

  • Always be true to yourself. Meet the requirements for your courses and studies, of course, but take advantage of college or work as an opportunity to learn what you want to learn and pursue your personal passions. It is through those that you will be fulfilled and make a difference in our world.
  • Remember that your college library or public library is an ideal place to find those resources to learn both what you need to and to pursue your passions. And, make best friends with the librarians there; they want nothing more than to assist you on your journey.
  • There are always many, many ways to get where you want to go. Don’t be discouraged if that initial route to the future, that first choice college, class, or job doesn’t come through; there are other choices that may even turn out to be better and prove a more satisfying adventure. The places you end up by accident are sometimes the best, and lots and lots of trial and error and failure along the way is pretty much essential to getting anywhere rewarding.
  • Try something new. If you’ve never made a video, challenge yourself to try out new software to make one. Read a book in different genre than you are used to. Take a course in a subject completely new to you. You’ll never know if something might prove a new interest or even a passion if you don’t try it out.
  • When you need information, don’t forget all the amazing databases available to you. We all love and use Google and Wikipedia, but you’ll be missing a whole world of quality information if you don’t take advantage of databases. Just visit your library or your library’s website to find out what’s available.
  • Never give up your searches after the first few hits. Put your detective hat on and try different terms to describe your topic and different approaches. And, as you read through the first few sources, look for new keywords you can use to help you dig deeper and find more helpful sources. Also take advantage of the bibliographies in the good sources to delve further.
  • Whatever sources you use, employ your critical thinking skills to evaluate them for quality, credibility, accuracy, currency, and appropriateness for your needs. And, remember, your local librarian is available to help you with this task.
  • Always, always give credit to those sources. Take advantage of tools like EasyBib or NoodleTools to create citations. Most of all, remember that the whole point of bibliography is not the formatting; it’s that you are giving credit and doing it in a way that will allow your reader or viewer to retrace your steps back to the source.
  • And, don’t just give credit. When you are creating a published or public online work, make sure that you are respecting intellectual property. Don’t use copyrighted material without permission unless you are doing so in a truly transformative way that can be justified as a fair use. Take advantage of the wealth of Creative Commons-licensed materials when you need images, music, and more for your creative endeavors. And, consider contributing to that body by licensing your own creative works with Creative Commons licenses. It’s easy. Just go to to find out how.
  • Develop a positive digital footprint. We all have digital footprints these days. You want yours to be the best. Put your best foot forward online. Publish your best academic work – presentations, videos, papers, and more – online. Consider blogging to showcase and reflect on your work and connect with others out in the world. And make sure you keep those moments you might not be so proud of offline. If you wouldn’t want your parents or future children to see you doing something, don’t post it.
  • Take advantage of positive social media to connect with, learn from, and share with the world. Twitter could be one of your best ways of developing a personal learning network. But, stay away from social media platforms that allow for anonymous postings. People who are proud of what they write and have something worthwhile to say are willing to own their postings.
  • Most people are good people, but not everyone is. Practice online safety. Keep your account information secure with strong passwords and don’t share them with friends. Don’t “friend” or meet people in person you don’t know in the real world. Sadly, not everyone online is who they say they are, and we all need to exercise caution to protect ourselves.
  • Always, always, be extra polite online. Never write or send anything that could be interpreted as hostile or bullying to another individual. By all means express your opinions, but only in a respectful manner that doesn’t attack another person. With the absence of body language and tone of voice, it’s so easy to misinterpret an online message as negative. Take that extra moment to check what you write every time before you send it out to the online world to make sure it’s really what you intended and not subject to a negative interpretation. Moreover, be an upstander: don’t tolerate any online or live bullying you observe; stand up for the person(s) being bullied.
  • Volunteer some of your time to make the world a better place. Building a better world happens one small act at a time. Better yet, find a way to merge your personal passions with some community service to help others.
  • And, finally, please READ! Read what you like, but read a lot and read widely. Reading is how we learn about the world, develop understanding of new concepts, visit new places far and wide both real and imaginery, find role models for ourselves, and learn empathy for others. Whatever you do, read something every day!

It makes me sad that I can’t suggest you come back and see me at the Mira Costa Library when you visit campus in the future. But, please do visit me online – on Twitter at @jane_librarian, my personal blog – Jane’s Adventures in School Library Land at, or by email at I want to hear about your adventures, and I will always be ready to answer any of your questions and support your journey.

Thank you to all of you and to your teachers for the incredible honor and privilege of serving as your teacher librarian here at Mira Costa.

receiving award
Awards Assembly photo courtesy of Mae Sinkowitz

May at the Library

Mira Costa was overwhelmed with testing in May – AP tests and Common Core tests for 11th graders. Sadly, many school libraries virtually shut down and become testing facilities this time of year. The library had its share of testing sessions; I helped several English teachers administer Common Core practice tests. Fortunately, though, most of the testing took place in other classrooms, and the library remained open for class and individual student visits throughout the month. Here are some of the highlights:

Book Talks Lesson

Ms. Clarke’s students visited the library in preparation for creating video book talks for their outside reading books. We discussed tips on creating an engaging book talk. We also discussed options for creating their videos and how to upload them to YouTube from either a computer or a mobile device. Finally, I showed them my favorite QR code generator,, since they will all be creating QR codes for their book talks and posting them in the library. Here’s an example of the beautiful QR codes it can generate, going to my video book talk on If I Knew You Were Going to Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go, by Judy Chicurel:

Chicurel Book Talk

I look forward to Ms. Clarke’s class visits next month to share their book talk QR codes.

Health Class Digital Citizenship Videos

Health Class Digital Citizenship PSA Videos

Mr. Davidson’s Health classes visited for lessons in digital citizenship. We discussed being an upstander and not bullying or cyberbullying, building identies and positive digital footprints, online privacy, and respecting intellectual property. I used this slideshow as the basis for the lesson: (direct link:

Next we went over this assignment, in which the students were to create a PSA video on one aspect of digital citizenship. We gave the students several days to learn more about their topics and work on their films. Finally, we had a day to share them with the class. Here are some example of their work:



Please visit this page on the library website to see more examples.

Calculus Class Videos

Calculus project

Last week, Ms. Gesualdi’s and Mr. Robertson’s Calculus classes visited to work on instructional videos on a calculus topic. We started by discussing intellectual property – copyright, Creative Commons, and fair use – in preparation for making the films so the students would understand what they can and cannot include in a published online work. We also discussed different software options for producing their films. As was the case with the Health classes, most of the students are choosing to use Powtoon, fun, easy, and free software for creating animated videos. Here is the assignment. I am looking forward to seeing their work next week. I will be posting it on this library webpage, where we currently have examples from previous years.

Library Club Poetry Open Mic and SWVBC Discussion

Poetry Open Mic event at the library

Last month (April) was National Poetry Month. Our Poetry Open Mic event didn’t quite fit into April, so we held it on May 6. We had a great turnout and everyone enjoyed hearing the students share their favorite poems.

Our library club also participated in our monthly “Somewhat Virtual Book Club (#SWVBC)” discussion of Winger by Andrew Smith. As always, the discussion was lively and the students and librarians all enjoyed visiting with the other schools in the group. Here is the recording:

And, some photos:



I am a member of the advocate board for the “Transform Your School Library” movement sponsored by Mackin, and I wrote a blog posting about our Somewhat Virtual Book Club for the Mackin TYL (Transform Your Library) blog. You can read that posting here

Geeks Club and Making

The Geeks Club has continued to support our making activities. Students have been taking advantage of our 3D printers, our green screen, and popular craft table. 

May Making


It’s Free Sync Audiobook Time!

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Every summer, the wonderful folks at Sync offer free audiobooks for teens. And, summer starts early at Sync: this week. From now through August 17, you can download two free audiobooks per week. For example, until May 11, you can download Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (Dreamscape Media) and L.A. Theatre Works productions of The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial by Peter Goodchild. Each of the weekly selections pair a YA (young adult) title with a classic title on a related theme.

You can download either to your computer or to a mobile device. There are instructions on how to do both on the site. The important thing to note is that you must download and install the titles during the designated week or you will miss the opportunity for those titles. You don’t need to listen to them right away – they are yours forever once you install them. Here’s a link to the complete list.

I’m afraid I’m posting this late for Week one, so go to the site TODAY to get the first two books. They will be available until 4am PT on May 12. Then, the selection will switch to Week 2 books, which are The Sin Eater’s Daughter  by Melinda Salisbury (Scholastic Audio) and Divine Collision: An African Boy, an American Lawyer, and Their Remarkable Battle for Freedom  by Jim Gash (Oasis Audio).

Happy listening!



School Library Month @ the Mira Costa Library

Statistical and Visual Snapshots

We were on Spring Break for the first week of National School Library Month, but we made up for it in activities during the last three. The American Library Association (ALA) and its school library division, The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) asked school librarians to complete and share a “snapshot week” of statistics for our libraries. Here is Mira Costa’s snapshot, from April 25 to 29:

School Library Snapshot

Some of these figures are pretty amazing, I think. For example, we estimated 2,511 student library visits not counting those there for scheduled class visits. These were all students who chose to visit to study, visit with friends, use the computers, do research, participate in our Geeks or Library Club, use our green screen or 3D printer, enjoy our craft table, play chess, and more before school, during Snack, lunch, office hours, lunch, or after school. And, we had 46 different class visits, with students working on and getting help from me and their classroom teachers with research or selecting books. The figure I really wish were higher is our book circulation. Students make lots of use of our electronic resources; I’d love to see more checking out books for pleasure reading. So many of them tell me they are too busy with homework and other activities to read anything beyond what is required for class. I wish they could find more time for reading!

Numbers are one thing. Here’s another snapshot view of the library, with some of the photos of busy students I took during the month of April:

School Library Month Photo Snapshot

Library Activities

As you can see, students are busy participating in lessons, learning and using research skills, studying, using our green screen, playing chess, designing and printing with our 3D printer, “speed dating” with books, enjoying crafts, and, often, just “hanging out.”

Some of the class research projects I assisted students with included:

  • Ms. Meyer’s French students investigated different neighborhoods in Paris in order to write a business proposal for a cafe in their area of choice. To help them with this project, I showed them how to create customized maps using My Maps in Google Maps, how to use for storing bookmarks of sites, and how to find Creative Commons and Public Domain images for their project.
  • Mr. Zeoli’s Freshmen English classes learned about topics related to the Shakespearean era that will enrich their upcoming study of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Ms. Hutchinson and Ms. Gabbert’s freshman English classes explored topics affecting teenagers to enhance their reading of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher  in the Rye
  • Ms. Camaano’s Sophomore English classes investigated topics to help them better understand George Orwell’s 1984.
  • Ms. Sieker’s 1980’s Literature Senior Seminar students each investigated a topic relevant to the era of the 1980’s.

In addition, Ms. Clarke’s Freshman and Sophomore English students all visited to “speed date” young adult literature and select independent reading books. It was exciting seeing so many students leave with a book they found on one of the different genre tables.

Ms. Chen, Mr. Brown, and Ms. Nielsen’s classes also visited and took advantage of our library computers for class assignments.

Library Art: Accordion Books

We have been delighted to display “Themed Accordion Books” made by Ms. Park’s Art 1 students. These photos definitely don’t do them justice; please come by and see them.

Themed Accordion Books

Themed Accordion Books

Themed accordion books

Your Librarians Activities Outside the Library

Outside of the library, I was delighted to participate as one of the co-anchors of TL (Teacher Librarian) News Night on April 18. The topic this month “Providing Books for Diverse Populations.” Our amazing guests included  Paula Chase, Author of The Del Rio Bay series and co-founder of The Brown Bookshelf; L. Divine, Writer and Author of @DramaHighRafranz Davis, Executive Director of Professional & Digital Learning for Lufkin ISD; and Librarian Kathy Burnette, a member of the 2014 ALSC Website Advisory Committee and the 2014 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Committee. The discussion of the importance of supporting books that depict diverse characters, both to allow students to see themselves in books and to help them understand and empathize with people who are different from them, is one everyone will benefit from and enjoy watching. Here is the recording:

Please watch!

In addition, I served as co-moderator of a live Twitter chat for the #TLChat group on April 11 on the topic of Rethinking library spaces & learning space design. Here is a link to the chat archive.

I also had the pleasure on April 27 of co-leading, with Shannon Miller, a webinar for AASL on Storyboard That, a wonderful digital storytelling tool that can be used for storyboarding scripts, telling a story, and as a graphic organizer in so many ways. The recording of our webinar is for members AASL members only, but do visit the Storyboard That site and ask me for more information. Here is a storyboard I made, and also demonstrated how to create, during the webinar:

SLM Storyboard That Story

School Library Month, Poetry Month

April is full of celebrations! It is both National School Library Month and National Poetry Month. School libraries and poetry both have the power to transform lives.

To celebrate the library and the library club have three fun activities on tap:


Please note that the date for the Open Mic has been rescheduled To May 6. Looking forward to seeing you at the library! RSVP’s aren’t required for the Open Mike on May 6, but we’d appreciate it if you would let Ms. Lofton know if you plan to perform.


March 7 – April 1 at the Library

The month of March flew by at the Mira Costa Library. Here are some of the highlights of our busy month before Spring Break.

Class Research Projects

As always, we had lots of different classes coming to work on research projects. Two of our new English teachers, Keely Gabbert and Maddie Hutchinson, brought their 11th grade English classes for several days of research on culture in the 1920’s in conjunction with their study of The Great Gatsby, with supporting lessons by me.  We talked about quality database sources; how to do citations and annotations; and how to evaluate sources from the open web. Here is the form we had students complete to help them evaluate sources they found on the open web:

I adapted this form for our students from my librarian colleague Glen Warren’s form. Many thanks to Glen for sharing his form with me.

Glen Marx’s 12th Grade Government and Psychology classes visited for a lesson to help launch their research paper assignment. Here are the presentation slides I used during that lesson:

Other Class Visits

In addition to research, Aaron Braskin and Ken Brenan’s Robotics class came to work on modeling 3D chess pieces in Tinkercad. Mr. Braskin and Mr. Benan’s Computer Programming students completed this same assignment recently. You can see information about it in a this previous post. Here is a link to the assignment. While there is other software available for 3D modeling, we love Tinkercad since it is 1) almost completely intuitive with very little learning curve, 2) it’s in the cloud, and 3) it’s free! Here is one of the first chess pieces completed:

Student with chess piece

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A lot of the challenge of this assignment is figuring what our printers can and cannot handle. Often, a piece will need to be tweaked to print properly, so perseverance is frequently part of the learning experience.  We will be printing the rest of the chess pieces after we get back from Spring Break next week.

Another class visiting the library was Anita Rossell’s support class for English Language Learners. Ms. Rossell and I have been collaborating on an assignment to have the students document their year at Mira Costa. Working in pairs, the students will script and produce a documentary-style film with several different scenes about their experiences. For one of the scenes, they will take advantage of our new green screen. (see below.) I can’t wait to see the films they make. I’ll be sharing more about this project as the students proceed. Last week, the students worked on storyboarding their film scripts, using, an easy-to-use, very flexible tool for digital storytelling I was able to share with them.

Maker Fair

We held our third maker fair in the library on March 24. The Geeks Club, Library Club, Girls Coding Club, and Robotic Club all did a great job of hosting activities. Here are some photos of students doing 3D modeling with Tinkercad, participating in the Robotic activity, making pinwheels, using Google Cardboard, and more:
Maker Fair 3-24-16

Green Screen!

The library just got and set up a green screen kit, which students can use for photography and film making projects. The green screen allows us to take photos in front of the screen and then use software to make the green background transparent so that we can lay the image on a different background. Here is what our setup looks like:

green screen

Green screen

So far, we have been using Do Ink‘s Green Screen app on our library iPad to take the photos and lay them on other backgrounds. To assure that we are respecting intellectual property, we found all the backgrounds by searching Pixabay for copyright-free images or Photosforclass for Creative Commons images. To make students aware of this resource for film making, I started advertising last Wednesday that they can come in and have their photos taken, and some of our Geeks Club and Library Club members have pitched in to take the photos. Here are some of the fun photos we have taken so far:

Green Screen Fun

We also took a number of photos when Stacy Cabrera’s students used our green screen room for a “speak easy” party celebrating their completion of The Great Gatsby on April 1:

Stacy Cabrera's English students mock "Speakeasy " after completing The Great

Individual students and classes are invited to schedule time in our green screen room for projects. As I mentioned about, Ms. Rossell’s students will be using the green screen as part of their documentary film project.

Hokki Stools and Legos!

And, we have four great new Hokki stools. Students and teachers alike are loving them!

Mr. Brown on new stool
Teacher William Brown trying out one of the new Hokki stools

hokki stools!

We also just got a big box of legos and Sarah Geller, one of our library volunteers, donated some lovely origami paper. Students are enjoying unwinding at our craft table drawing and making items with the origami paper and legos:

craft table

craft table

craft table


#CUE16 Conference

Last week I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference in Palm Springs. It is a huge conference, with approximately 7,000 enthusiastic educator attendees this year. As always, I came away charged with a wealth of new ideas, new information, new friends, and motivation to try new ways to make our library program better.

We were also so lucky to have Joyce Valenza as a spotlight speaker this year. She is a top leader in the school library field, my #1 role model for my work, and has so much to offer all the educators at CUE. I was able to attend two of her sessions, and, even though I regularly follow her blog and hear her at national library conferences, I still learned many new ideas from her. I was inspired by her presentation on all the important transliteracies we need to be teaching students today. She also did a great session on ways that we can be curating helpful sources for students and how we can teach them to curate their own research. Some of the other inspiring sessions for me were one by Anna Kozma on the ins and outs of using green screens for filmmaking and one by fellow teacher librarian Liz Dodds on ways students can building positive digital footprints by creating social media content.

To quickly share my CUE highlights and take-aways I’ll be taking advantage of in my library, I have assembled a “Storify” story using my tweets and those of others at the conference. I’ll also share my presentation slides below the story. Be sure to scroll to see the full story.

Here are the slides from Gail Desler’s and my “Can I Use That?” session (link). I share as much of this information as as I can when classes visit to work on projects that include use of images and sounds.

Here are the slides from my “Students Are Makers” session (link). You will see lots of photos of engaged Mira Costa students in it!

Obviously, sharing a slide show doesn’t really begin to convey what was said during a session. Please contact me for more information about the content of either of these sessions.