Essays – Final Draft Checklist

Essay checklists for final drafts are crucial for learners to confirm all the elements the teacher requires are present in their work before submitting it. I give my students a short list right on the submission page in my online course as a reminder. It isn’t a comprehensive composition list; it’s more of a last-minute, final inventory.

Here’s a simple self-check I’ve created:

  • Does the essay have a full introduction? Does the introduction inform the reader of the essay’s topic and include a statement about the main idea/thesis?
  • Does the essay contain supporting details/evidence in the middle paragraphs? Do I include information that builds on the main idea and gives the reader a clear picture of the themes? Do I include facts, statistics, examples, or reasons to support the main idea? Have I written at least two middle paragraphs?
  • Does the essay have a conclusion? Does the conclusion adequately summarize the essay by highlighting each of the essay’s main points? Does it include a final thought on the topic?
  • Is the entire essay written in my own words? Did I check for plagiarism? If I did any research, did I paraphrase the writers’ words and cite any sources appropriately?
  • Can I delete any repetitive or unnecessary details to make the essay more concise?
  • Do the paragraphs contain a variety of sentence types to keep the reader’s interest?
  • Does the essay avoid stereotypes and discriminatory language? Is the language inclusive?
  • Have I spell-checked the entire essay?
  • Is the essay written with proper grammar, capitalization, and punctuation?
  • Is the essay free of slang or texting shorthand (such as “u,” “ur,” “LOL,” or “BTW.”)

The Community Value of Indie Bookstores

My town’s beloved children’s bookstore, the Magic Tree Bookstore, is closing at the end of October due to low customer turnout over the last few years. I am very sad to see our village treasure disappear. I’ve bought several of my nieces’ and nephews’ birthday gifts from this store, and I’ve always enjoyed browsing the aisles and conversing with the friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Presumably, they’ve lost a lot of business because of competitive sales via major online retailers. In a Facebook post, the owner of the Magic Tree said people just aren’t going in to buy books. My guess is even in a #ShopLocal-focused village such as Oak Park, people are choosing to buy the majority of their books online. Of course, this is happening to other types of small businesses, as well as bookstores, all over the U.S.

The loss of small businesses in any town or city underscores the constant need to shop locally. Small businesses not only contribute to the local economy, but also foster the culture of the area. Magic Tree organized several story readings and book signings by various authors. They also hosted other fun events, such as a children’s Christmas choir performance.

Fortunately, we still have a few indie bookstores throughout the Chicagoland area. Here is a good article from IndieBound on the value of buying books from independent bookstores. On the same site, you can find local, independent bookstores near you: Indie Bookstore Finder.



Julia Alvarez – Poetry Reading

Last week, my husband and I had the pleasure of seeing poet and novelist Julia Alvarez read some of her work at Dominican University’s Caesar and Patricia Tabet Poetry Reading, a wonderful annual event for students and staff and a generous gift for the surrounding community. Her poems reflect her life and emotions about growing up in the Dominican Republic, coming to the U.S., and living in two cultures and languages. She is an amazing storyteller, full of moving anecdotes of childhood and family life.

One particularly interesting topic she talked about was fluency and the complexities and nuances of languages and translating personal experiences from one language into another. She explained how it can be difficult to not be able to express one’s own perspective in a narrative when limited by language. She touches on this subject in a book she’s been working on for years now.

Here’s a short list of resources to learn more about her writing:

Heroics – poem

New Clothes – poem

List of her poetry books

Comprehensive book list



An audio recording on the Library of Congress’s website:



Children’s Lit Scholarships/Grants for Writers and Illustrators – Upcoming Deadlines

Deadlines are approaching for some cool scholarships for writers and illustrators.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) offers annual Work-In-Progress (WIP) Awards to help writers and illustrators in the publication of a specific work that’s currently not under contract. The deadline for the 2018 submission is March 31, 2018. You must be a current SCBWI member to apply. Details at Work-in-Progress Grants.

SCBWI also offers an award (in conjunction with the Work-in-Progress award) for unpublished writers and illustrators over 50 years old. The deadline is March 31, 2018. Details at Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award

The Children’s Book Academy is accepting applications for their 2018 SPRING CBWPB Yuyi Morales Merit Scholarships for an online writing course. The deadline for submissions is March 12, 2018. Details at Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books.

Additionally, Highlights Foundation offers scholarships. Information at Highlights Foundation Scholarships.

Create Flashcards and Other Study Tools with Quizlet

Quizlet is a useful edtech tool for creating self-checks. Teachers and students can create sets of cards that the user can then turn into different study modes: flashcards, matching, fill-in, spelling, and even a planet-attacking asteroid game (which is actually pretty fun).

I just created my first Quizlet sets; the site was very easy to use. You can type everything directly into the application or simply import your quizzes from Word, Google Docs, or other programs.

A basic account is free, but you can upgrade to a paid account, which offers more data based on students’ activity and progress as well as other enhanced features. Additionally, upgrading to a paid account removes the ads from your page.

Here’s one study game I created:

Press-optimized Images and Web-friendly Images — Some Industry Terms

Anyone working in both print world and web world knows the frustrations of the designers they work with. Preparing images for print or web can involve many steps.

Admittedly, I’ve found preparing files for print to be a lot more complicated than for web. That said, once you understand why image settings have to be set up a certain way for good quality, the process of preparing images becomes a lot more straightforward and painless.


Print materials (books, flyers, anything sent to a professional printer) are specially created and maintained using specific software; these materials are generally referred to as press-optimized or prepress files (often also referred to as press-ready,  print-optimized, camera-ready, or print-ready). 

Press-optimized means that every image (photo or illustration), font, and ink color is specially formatted for print so that they’ll display correctly on a printed page.

Prepress specifications (or specs or job definitions) are configured in various settings throughout a software program (such as Adobe InDesign and Photoshop). These specs usually relate to ink, crop marks, bleed, and other print-related settings that the prepress department determines based on the type of material being created.


Webpages are specially created and maintained using specific software that allows you to write and edit HTML code. You can create a webpage either in a web design program (which is basically an HTML editor such as Adobe Dreamweaver or Ultra Edit) or within another program that contains an editor for creating webpages (such as WordPress). Any file that is specially designed for the web is often called web-friendly, web-ready, or web-safe.

Web-friendly means that every image, font, and screen color is specially formatted for the Internet so that they’ll display correctly on a webpage.

The Differences between Vector, Raster, and Bitmap

The differences between the terms vector, raster, and bitmap are the basis for computer graphic design in both print and web world. Images are divided into two types: vector and bitmap. An image is either a vector or bitmap depending on how it was created, not on its final output. (This is explained more later.)

robot vector graphic
This original robot image is a vector; it was drawn in an illustration program. However, to place it here in an online environment, it had to be saved as a .png file, which is a web-ready file format.

Vector images are images that are created using many individual, scalable objects; these objects can be lines, points, curves, or shapes. They’re defined by mathematical equations rather than pixels, so they always render, or display, at the highest quality. Some examples of drawing programs used for vector illustrations are Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Inkscape, Sketchup, and CAD programs.  This original robot image (right) is a vector; it was drawn in an illustration program. However, to place it here in an online environment, it had to be saved as a .png file, which is a web-ready file format.

Bitmapped (also called rasterized) images are made up of pixels (on screen) or points of ink (on paper). Bitmap and raster are used interchangeably in the industry; they mean the same thing. The term rasterization means the process of turning a file into a bitmap.

Digital photos and scanned images are bitmapped images. Photos are automatically rasterized because they’re pixel-based; there’s no such thing as a vector photo.*

*NOTE: You can vectorize a photo, but that means turning the photo into an image of lines and shapes; the final result will look something like a digital painting.  To convert a photo or other bitmapped image into a vector, graphic artists use a tracing option and other tools, combining XML and other sophisticated methods.

Examples of pixel-based programs used to edit bitmaps such as photos are Adobe Photoshop, Corel PaintShopPro, Cyberlink PhotoDirector, GIMP, and the dozens of free online photo editors available now.


bitmapped image of cat
Photos are bitmapped images.

Images Rasterized for Output

Before an image can be rendered, or displayed, it has to be rasterized. All final images must be rasterized for output, which means what you see on a computer screen or printed out (even on a plain, old desktop printer) is rasterized. The rasterization process for print involves ink (dots on a page); the rasterization process for web involves pixels (pixels on the screen).  So, what you see in a printed book and what you see on-screen is technically a rasterized image. Again, on final output (on screen or in print), all images are bitmapped images.

Even if your original file is a vector, it has to be rasterized for output. A vector is a vector up until you save it for print or web; in other words, the working file is vector, not the final image. This is why many graphic designers use the term vector-based; a vector image saved for print or web becomes vector-based. A vector in print is only a true vector if its final output is rendered in lines, curves, etc. For example, plotter printers are true vector printers because they print by moving a pen or other instrument across the surface of a piece of paper, unlike modern printers, which use drops of ink (dots). Because the plotter pen actually draws lines, curves, etc., the printed image is a true vector.

Again, images have to be rasterized to be printed or displayed on a webpage. At a printer, the prepress department rasterizes all files, such as PDFs or InDesign files, by sending them all through what’s known as a Raster Image Processor, or RIP. When you’re designing for web, you rasterize by saving your image files generally as JPEGs, GIFs, or PNGs.

Image Filetypes Generally Used for Print and Web


What’s Considered an Illustration?

This seems like an obvious question, but the term now means more than just traditional hand-drawings. An illustration is any image that is drawn either by hand and then scanned in or drawn using illustration software. In simple terms, it is anything that isn’t a photo.

An illustration doesn’t automatically mean it’s a vector, and vice versa. Illustrations can be either vector or bitmap, depending on the program used. Using a vector-based program such as Adobe Illustrator is the ideal way to create illustrations. In fact, you should never use Photoshop or any photo editing program to draw line art; it’s best to do all drawings in a program specifically designed for vector drawing.

If an illustration is bitmapped, then you do have to use Photoshop or another pixel-based editing program to edit it.

How Can You Tell if an Illustration Is a Vector or Bitmap?

The short answer is, you can’t tell. It’s nearly impossible to determine whether an image is a vector or bitmap just by looking at it, especially if the quality is high.

The easiest way to find out is to open the file in an illustration program. If the image is made up of lines, points, curves, etc., you’ll see the various paths, endpoints, and anchor points, indicating it’s vector-based. If the image is just a square or rectangular with no paths, endpoints or anchor points, it’s made up of pixels, indicating it’s a bitmap.

That being said, though, right off the bat when you see a photo, you’ll know it’s bitmapped because photos are always bitmapped, right? Well, maybe not. How do you know that what you’re looking at is a photo in the first place? You’d be surprised at the photorealistic images out there, ones that could fool even the most trained artistic eye. Some photorealistic images are vectorized images created from bitmapped images.

Here are some examples of photorealistic vector images created from tracing a photograph.


 DPI, PPI, and Everything Else in Between

DPI means dots per inch; ppi mean pixels per inch. It refers to the resolution on print and on-screen, respectively. DPI refers to the dots of ink per inch on paper; ppi refers to the number of pixels per inch on a computer screen. Unfortunately, most image editing programs nowadays interchange the terms dpi and ppi, which is confusing. Don’t worry over whether it says ppi or dpi in the program. All you need to be concerned with is the number before it.

For print, 300 is the ideal number, although a bit below is ok, depending on the quality of the image. Don’t go below 200, and below 180 is unthinkable for print.

For web, 72 ppi is the standard, but why such a low resolution? Because a higher resolution means a bigger file size, which in turn can cause long load times for images on a webpage, depending on the user’s Internet connection. Keeping the file size low ensures that most people will be able to see the webpage load quickly.

Resampling an Image

When you try to increase the ppi of an image, Photoshop will require you either reduce the print size or resample the image to keep to the size you have it at.  

Resampling means adding pixels to the image. This is usually done when you want to increase the size of the image, from a lower ppi to a higher ppi. To add pixels, Photoshop “manufactures” pixels by emulating the pixels already present in the image—it is generally not a good way to go for print because photo editing programs aren’t sophisticated enough (yet) to reproduce pixels. In fact, designers avoid it unless there’s no other choice, especially for print. Here is a good article describing resampling.

Increasing the pixel depth—in other words, scaling up—rarely does anything for quality for print. Resampling photos often produces horrific print results, even though people try to do it all the time.  When you see a fuzzy, poor quality photo in print, resampling is likely the culprit. (See the pixelated image below, which was caused by resampling.) That said, however, if the photo is very simple, with little differentiation in shapes and colors, resampling might work. “Might” is the operative word here, though. You might have to play around with it to see if resampling will work ok or not.

Resampling for web works much better than it does for print. Again, though, it’s best to play around with the image.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When working with JPEGs, save separate copies each time you work with the image. Every time you open and save a JPEG, there is some loss in quality; the reason for this is that it reduces the size on a webpage, making loading on a page quicker.

Ferris Wheel image
Image originally at 350 ppi.
Ferris Wheel image resampled
Image, originally at 100 ppi, resampled to 350 ppi.

Optimizing for Print and Web

Every image has to be optimized for either print or web.

Optimizing images for print Photos – save as TIFF, 300 dpi

Vector illustrations – save as EPS , 300 dpi

Bitmapped art – save as TIFF, 300 dpi

Color: grayscale for black and white images, CMYK for 4-color, spot color for 2-color.

Optimizing images for web Photos –  save as JPEG, 72 ppi 

Vector illustrations – save as PNG (or PNG-24) , 72 ppi

Bitmapped art – save as PNG , 72 ppi

Color: Use Web colors only in photo and illustration programs. Web colors are automatically RGB. However, the good thing about using the Save for Web and Mobile Devices option is that the program automatically converts any CMYK or print-related image data to web-only—so a print color gets automatically converted to RGB when you use PNG, GIF, or JPEG.

Final Notes

  • Use a photo editing program to edit the pixels in bitmapped images.
  • Use an illustration program to edit vector art.
  • Use a photo editing program to edit photos.
  • Do not use word processing programs or layout programs to do drawings. Any drawing should be done in a program specifically designed for illustrations.
  • Keep your original illustrations as EPSs, then export/save them to whatever file format is necessary for your purpose.
  • Be sure to talk to the friendly neighborhood graphic designers or prepress techs at the vendor with whom you’re working. Ultimately, they will advise you on the best ways to optimize images for high-quality, save files, and make the overall process a lot more headache-free for both teams.

The Swing (1913) by Robert Louis Stevenson

Right behind our house there’s a pretty park, and during warmer days, my husband and I can hear kids laughing and playing (which are the best sounds of summer, really). It always reminds me of this sweet old poem:

The Swing

HOW do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

(This poem is in the public domain. Source:

Using Free Images with Restrictions and Public Domain Images

Millions of free images are available online for anyone to use. Many are in the public domain; many are not.

“Free images” are not the same thing as public domain images; they’re usually not free from stipulations. For example, images may be bound by various Creative Commons licensing conditions. Organizations or individuals who post images for anyone to use may have restrictions on their use.

Before using any of the images on any sites, be sure to carefully read the individual’s or organization’s policies on using their digital items. Even if you want to use content just for personal or educational purposes, it’s always, always best to double-check the allowable use for any image or other media before publishing it to be 100% certain that you’re not violating any copyrights. This information is often called “Terms of Use” or “Acceptable Use Policy.” Email the organization or person to get further clarification if you need to. Keep in mind that copyrights, public domain, licensing, and other restrictions differ from country to country.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being diligent in checking copyrights, licensing, and other restrictions. Unless the individual item information explicitly tells you that it’s in the public domain, don’t assume it is. And even if it says it’s in the public domain, verify it by evaluating the site and the site owner to see if they’re reliable resources.


Painting of British Madras 1833
William Daniell, 1769–1837, British, Madras, or Fort St. George, in the Bay of Bengal — A Squall Passing Off, 1833, Oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. This image is in the public domain.


Guidelines for Using Free Images with Restrictions and Public Domain Images

The guidelines listed below are useful when you’re using any images, including public domain ones. Before you use an image, be sure to do the following:

  1. Check the acceptable usage depending on your purpose:
    • Will it be displayed on a website? (including password-protected websites)
    • Will it be printed in any type of paper-based publication?
    • Is it for educational, nonprofit, personal (your own website), or commercial purposes? [Even if a nonprofit organization is using an image for educational purposes, stipulations for nonprofits may differ from those for strictly educational institutions (.edu schools).]
    • How long will the image be displayed on your website or printed in the publication? What is the length of time you can use the image?
    • Are you planning on editing the image (cropping, changing colors, adding layers, etc.), or do you want to use the image in its exact original appearance?
    • How do you plan to use the image in your page layout? What are the acceptable dimensions of the final image or layout? (Determine inches if it’s a print image and pixels if it’s a web image).
    • Determine the specific attribution statement or caption required. (See #3 below).
    • Determine any model or property release agreement information.
  2. Save the information. Save a PDF of the webpage that contains the usage information and keep it in a folder with the downloaded images.
  3. Credit the source. The organization/owner of the collection or image often kindly requests an image credit; be sure to honor that request by including the citation in a caption, even if it’s not required to do so. Even if they give suggested wording, be sure to include all the relevant information.
  4. Link to the source. When using an item online, link back to the original source if you can. You can link to the item data in the digital collection by inserting the URL in the image display settings. You can also add the link in the caption or in a references section if you have one. This information isn’t just a courtesy to the organization—it’s also helpful for a reader who may want further information on the image.

More info on the public domain:

What is Public Domain? (a nice, concise article by Yale Digital Collections Center)

The Public Domain  (article by Stanford University Libraries)

The book The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More by attorney Stephen Fishman is an awesome resource.

Public Domain: Frequently Asked Questions (Teaching Copyright, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Public Domain (Creative Commons)

Public Domain Images Collections

Finding free, high-quality historical public domain photographs or illustrations for personal, educational, or nonprofit use can be daunting. Editors, instructional designers, and teachers know all too well the copyright issues and costs associated with using images in materials. However, over the past decade acquiring images has become a lot easier as organizations have been making their public domain image collections available online. Thanks to libraries and museums, thousands of free images are increasingly becoming available for any use, including commercial purposes.

For example, the New York Public Library recently released to the public about 200,000 public domain images from their online digital collection. Anyone can download and use high-res photographs, maps, manuscripts, sheet music, streaming video, and more. You don’t need to obtain permission from the NYPL or any other copyright holder to use the public domain materials. For more information, visit their info page on the collection, Public Domain Collections: Free to Share & Reuse.


Using the NYPL’s Search Options

Ballroom dancers, 1915
Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. “Irene and Vernon Castle partnering each other” New York Public Library Digital Collections.

The easiest way to look for public domain images on their site is to do the following:

  1. Go to the collection‘s Home page.
  2. Click Browse.
  3. Choose Items.
  4. Once you’re in the Filtered search, click Shown Only Public Domain in the upper lefthand corner.
  5. Narrow your search by choosing the Topic, Name, Genre, Type, or any of the other options. You can also search by keyword(s) and choose public domain as an option.

Collections similar to the NYPL’s are:

The Public Domain Review

The National Gallery of Art Open Access collection

The Getty’s Open Content Program (choose “open content images”)

Yale Center for British Art

Like most history buffs, I’ve visited these sites and have gotten immediately sucked in, spending hours viewing photographs and illustrations related to dozens of topics. Even if you don’t plan on using the images for any particular purpose, you’ll still enjoy perusing these collections.

You’ve Found the Perfect Image—and It’s Free! But Before You Use It . . .

Be sure to read the organization’s policies on using their digital items. Even if you want to use content only for personal or educational purposes, it’s always best to double-check that you’re not violating any copyrights. Check the “Terms of Use” or “Acceptable Use Policy.” Email the organization or person to get further clarification if you need to. Unless the individual item information explicitly tells you that it’s in the public domain, don’t assume it is. I talk more about images in a related blog post: Using Free Images with Restrictions and Public Domain Images.

Helpful Resources:

What is Public Domain? (a nice, concise article by Yale Digital Collections Center)

The Public Domain  (article by Stanford University Libraries)

The book The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More by attorney Stephen Fishman is an awesome resource.

Click here to see my LiveBinder tab for more links to images collections.

Use Tackk to Create Web Pages Quickly

Next week, my Purdue advisor, Dr. Staci Trekles, my colleague Kathleen Gordon, and I will be presenting at the 12th Annual SLATE conference in Naperville, Illinois, October 22, 2014. The SLATE conference is an annual learning and technology conference for educators and trainers integrating various technologies with both F2F and online courses.

To create an announcement for our presentation, Staci suggested I use I signed up, and within five minutes I was hooked. I love Tackk! It’s ridiculously easy and fun to use–and it’s free to sign up.

As an ed tech tool, this one is perfect for both students and teachers to create announcements, fliers, posters, and other types of web pages for various assignments. You can embed videos and other media, create buttons, add forms, and modify colors easily and quickly. The nice thing is, you can embed the whole Tackk into another web page.  To embed, just grab the embed code and paste it into the HTML of your site. Below is our announcement embedded: