Showing posts with label research skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label research skills. Show all posts

Monday, September 9, 2013

Apps for the Inquiry Process

Our school just unrolled the first phase of our 1:1 iPad program tonight.  In preparation of this big event, I spent some time this summer looking into how I could support and guide students through the research process using apps.

It was tougher than I expected to build a list like this....  

Apps come and go.

Opinions vary.
And upgrades can leave a favorite app on the bottom of the heap.

But it was also a lot of fun to read through suggestions, try new apps, and build a chart that includes all phases of the research process.  You are welcome to take it, use it, and share it:

At my school, we follow Kath Murdoch's Inquiry Cycle so I have grouped the apps according to the steps of that model.  But I think they can easily be adapted to other models. 

My simple hope in sharing this is that I get you thinking about which apps you use with students during the research process.

And let's keep the conversation going...

Because apps come and go

Technology evolves.
But the need to be able to locate, evaluate, and use information will continue.

What would you add to the list?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

App of the Week: Diigo

I first got excited about online bookmarking when I completed a 23 Things course about four years ago.  And while I really liked the idea, it fizzled out for me.  

Then I took this job, and in February, I found a NEED for social bookmarking (to support our Extended Essay students) as well as a TOOL (via Katy Vance's blog) with which to do so.  

At Diigo, I have created "groups" for each of the six Extended Essay general topics.  While student use is slow to get off the ground, I can see that some teachers and students have already joined and are adding sites.  As I continue to meet with EE groups, I anticipate more will join.  But I expect it will really be next year's group that benefits from this tool.

Since joining, I have added Digolet to my Chrome toolbar and downloaded the app.  Both are easy to use, but in all honesty, I prefer to use this tool via my computer.  The app, however, keeps improving and is an easy way to access my favorite sites while on my iPad.

In addition to curating websites for our six EE groups, I have created a number of lists for myself - library related as well as personal interests.  Some are public, others I have chosen to keep private.  

I can't put my finger on why this bookmarking site is working for me when others have failed, but Diigo has become my new favorite tool.

What bookmarking tools do you use?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Trailers... Who is Doing the Learning?

Thursday was one of those days that, despite the busy-ness, I was invigorated at the end, rather than exhausted.  The teachers and students I work with inspire me!

Once again, Mr. R, a Grade 6 English teacher, and I teamed up for a collaborative project: student-made Book Trailers.  Up to now, I had learned how to make trailers, promoted books via trailers, and offered to teach trailers, but the opportunity to actually TEACH how to make book trailers to real students had eluded me.  Making trailers takes TIME, of which no one seems to have enough.  But Mr. R decided his students needed this opportunity to use their 21st Century skills to share their recreational reading, and he took me up on my offer.

Using resources I have gathered from Teresa Schauer's workshop at TxLA as well as Mrs. H's website, I consulted with our Tech Coordinator to better understand with which software applications most grade 6 students are familiar.  Mr. R and I discussed how designated classtime would be used, and when I asked about evaluation criteria - to make sure I addressed what was necessary - he told me he had not planned to evaluate this assignment, since it is part of the students' recreational reading.  Can you believe that!?!

Our Plan


Before he brought his students to the library, Mr. R instructed his students to begin thinking about which book they would like to use, to select a partner if they so wished, and to watch a few trailers to identify what they liked and didn't like.


Students were given a story board outline to help them think about the sorts of images they would like to use.


Class was held in the library, where we reviewed the definition of copyright and plagiarism.  Students were shown two sources for copyright clear images and how to properly cite them.  They created folders in their EDU2.0 accounts to hold the images as well as the Word document with the citations.


Serendipity brought the same students to the library with another teacher to research images.  Students are in the process of desgining and creating robotic bugs, and used their library time to find inspiration for the color scheme and overall design of their insects.  Although royalty-free images and proper citations were not necessarily REQUIRED for the specific project they doing in Design Technology, their wonderful teacher seized the opportunity to have students practice their searching and citing skills.  I introduced Google advanced search, and how to select "free to use or share" under usage rights, as a third source of images.


Students returned for a double period.  The Tech Coordinator joined us to help with trouble-shooting issues, so there were three teachers on hand to assist.  It was suggested to students to use Keynote, since they are all familiar with this program, but they were allowed to use any software application of their choice, such as Animoto or iMovie. What could have been disastrous was a wonderful informal assessment opportunity for me.

Four students were able to complete their projects by the end of class, with many others very, very close.

This was one of those "Hollywood" lessons, where the students were completely absorbed in their work, they were teaching each other, and the teachers spent a lot of time observing... and learning from the students.  Students would ask questions of us, all the while looking around at their classmates, and ending their questions with, "X knows how to do that... I'll ask him!"

What I Learned Today

  • Where to locate royalty-free music (see below)
  • How to access and save on our school's groups drive
    • I knew this was possible, but had never actually done it.
  • How to embed music on a Keynote presentation as a soundtrack
    • I have been a PowerPoint girl for years.  But I am at an all-Mac campus, so I have committed myself to learning Keynote this year.
  • What my students need from me.  Students here are well-equipped with tech skills, so I found that what they needed instruction with was:
    • The books they choose.  We suggested they choose a book they could picture in their minds as a movie.  Many chose books that had already been made into movies, and therefore wanted to use movie images and video clips... which, as a plus, did create teaching moments about copyright issues.  In the future, I would make it a requirement that books that are already movies not be used for their first projects.  
    •  The types of photos they choose.  Often, a LOT of time was spent finding the "perfect" photo of someone/something that precisely matched the book's description, rather than accepting a representation.  Helping students focus on one or two details (the feathers on the wings) rather than the whole scene (a girl with a 14-foot wingspan soaring over a cityscape) was a frequent conversation. 
    • Proper MLA format.  There is a great variety of citation formats in this first batch of trailers.  While credit is given to sources, we still have some work to do to get it right.
  • Application of visual bookmarking program:
This was also the class for which I built my first Symbaloo.  While not outstanding, I am comfortable sharing:

Next Steps

Students are expected to polish and upload their trailers to the groups drive in the upcoming week.  I will be reviewing trailers, uploading them to our YouTube channel, and then embedding them in our Digital Hub.  The Tech Coordinator is going to take students through the process of creating QR codes, and my assistants will attach the codes to the books.  A blurb will go out in our weekly newsletter to our greater school community.  And then it will be time to begin the process again...

Grab the Popcorn

Here's a sneak preview...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Infotopia - My type of search engine!


I was at  a the Region One Service Center  recently when Dr. Michael Bell and his wife Carole Bell came to give a talk on their joint project, Infotopia.  Two retired librarians who have done a wealth of research to produce a great search engine.  If you aren't familiar with Infotopia, take a look!  The URL for this site is:

Are there other great search engines you know about?  Tell us about them!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Myth #7: Library Skills Take 15 Minutes to Master

When school resumes each year, one common request I receive is for an overview of the resources in the library.... "Maybe for the first or last 15 minutes of class."  These requests are not asking for a library orientation, rather a crash course in subscription databases.

Well, sure, I can do that.  Just like you can teach me World History in 15 minutes...  Explain calculus in 15 minutes...  Give me an overview of plant DNA in 15 minutes...  Unless your students are already proficient library users, familiar with when and how to use subscription databases, it will be a wasted 15 minutes.

I do my best to accomodate any and all teacher requests - even the 15 minute overview.  But, naturally, I do a little educating along the way.  I begin by asking questions... what is the teacher's objectives and goals?  Which resources would they like spotlighted?  With which resources are students already familiar?  Are students currently doing research?  About what?  If not, when will they begin their next project?  The best time to introducing resources is when the learning will be applied.

I much prefer to introduce one resource at a time when they are relevant to instruction.  Then provide time for students to use them, practice, ask questions, make mistakes, and get comfortable.

My goal is to communicate that a more effective approach is a frequent 15 minutes (or full class period) several times throughout the year, introducing individual resources that apply to and enhance what is currently being taught in the classroom.  It takes collaboration to make library resources an integral part of the classroom curriculum, not something you find some spare time to do.

Think of the last inservice you sat through where information you might need "someday" was thrown at you (i.e. staff handbook).  Do you remember where to find that information?  Do you even remember what was covered?  Probably not.  But if you ever have had an on-the-job injury or a possible situation involving harassment, I bet you can quote page numbers and paragraphs in the handbook.

Please, if you want to use library resources, give them the time that is due.  You can't even read a newspaper in 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Myth #3 - With Everything Becoming Available Electronically, We Will No Longer Need Librarians

There have been many articles and blog posts lately debating the future of libraries. It is hard to imagine a school without one of these learning centers (where else would faculty meetings, testing, and baby showers take place?), but this post focuses on busting the myth that librarians will become obsolete.

With the threat of Kindles, Nooks, and Google taking over the world of research and reading, do students need to be taught Information Literacy skills, or are they doing fine without librarians? I believe that as our access to information grows, the need for teachers of Information Literacy will only become more crucial.

In searching for data to back up my claim, I read three articles that highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world of librarians and research:


In the March/April 2012 issue of Knowledge Quest, published by the American Association of School Librarians, three teachers shared their co-teaching project at Prosper High school. The librarian (Stacy Cameron), the English teacher (Adria Butcher), and the instructional technology coach (Christine Haight) collaborated and co-taught a multimedia project in which student created their own public-service announcements that included evidence of ethos, pathos, and logos, contained correctly selected and cited copyright-friendly music and images, and used a variety of technology for the final product. After the initial collaboration meeting, Stacy and Christine created web pages together, with the links and tools students would need. 

This  article brilliantly outlines the power of co-teaching. Each teacher focused on her area of expertise while supporting the others, modeling for the students what a group project should look like. With three experts in the room, students were charged with taking responsibility for their learning, seeking out the support they needed for their personal areas of weakness.  By bringing in the technology coordinator to instruct students at the beginning, much of the chaos that comes with technology productions was avoided.  And throughout the project, Adria was able to focus on teaching the elements of english, rather than simultaneously become a resource and technology expert, to ensure all students learned the targeted objectives.  

This is the ideal of teacher-librarian collaboration.  Who would not want this type of instruction and learning for their students? 


Moving from the ideal to the reality, at too many school libraries, is the article What Happens When Media Positions Are Cut? from the May/June 2011 issue of Library Media Connection. In her article, Mary Alice Anderson notes that librarians are often cut when budgets are tight, and then itemizes the cost to students when Certified Librarians are cut.

  • Less research takes place in the school.  Teachers become frustrated by the growing burden of finding resources alone
  • Staff development provided by the librarian is cut or may not occur, leaving teachers without the knowledge to share online resources
  • Collaboration occurs by e-mail only 
  • Library hours are reduced
  • Collection development suffers with less time for librarians to read reviews, seek suggestions, weed, browse, and perform collection analysis. This results in duplicates or holes in the collection.
  • Para-professionals, who may lack the necessary content knowledge to do so effectively, are left to locate resources and fill requests
  • Loss and theft of resources increases, costing precious dollars
  • Priorities shift... MARC records may or may not be accurate, making it difficult to locate materials
  • Websites and databases fall into disrepair, with dead links or unused subscriptions
  • Advocacy diminishes.  "How do you spread the word when you are spread thin?
  • And worst of all, as one librarian said, "We have lost students and teachers seeing us as partners."

Ann and I have faced each of the consequences above as we moved from being responsible for one library then four libraries then six and now we each face the task of overseeing eight libraries for the upcoming school year.  Yet, as the article concludes, librarians continue to make the best of their situations. In our district, we continue to work to build relationships and strive to fill all requests, but it is not the same.


So what is the long-term effect of cutting librarians? What happens when students in grades K-12 are not being taught information literacy?  Students enter college without the skills they need to be successful. Professors must teach skills that were once introduced in elementary school.

In her 2004 article for College Teaching, It's the Information Age, So Where's the Information? Why Our Students Can't Find It and What We Can Do to Help, Jill D. Jenson addresses students' inability to distinguish between types of materials for research.  Unlike the differences between print journals versus print magazines, which can be seen and felt, distinguishing between online resources is difficult for students because one computer screen looks much like the next. Students lack the experiential background in a real library with real, print materials to make the jump from traditional research to electronic research without instruction. 

Students rate themselves computer literate, but they are unaware of how much they do not know.  Current teaching objectives need to include what students must learn to simply begin their research. Jenson explains that "Whereas students could previously get by with learning terms such as "periodical," "journal," "index," "bibliography," "citation," "card catalog," "Library of Congress Subject Headings," and "call number," they now must learn a whole new language in addition to that previously required: "Boolean operator," "meta search," "general database," "specialized database," "text image," "verbatim image," "full-text image," "access date," "marked list," "search wizard"the list certainly could go on."

I am happy to note that part of Ms. Jensen's suggested solution included collaboration with a librarian as well as taking students to the physical library building.  As someone who sends high school graduates off to college, I feel it is my role to teach many of these terms and skills. Teaching freshmen or graduate students these skills so late in their education robs them of learning opportunities along the way. Information literacy includes skills a life-long learner needs to sate their appetite for knowledge.

What does the future hold for librarians?  I wish I could predict.  With so much more for students to learn, who is going to teach it, if not a librarian?  

What do you think?

Works Cited
Anderson, Mary A. "What Happens When Media Positions Are Cut?" Library Media Connection 29.6 (2011): 16-19. Print.
Cameron, Stacy, Adria Butcher, and Christine Haight. "In Their Own Words." Knowledge Quest 40.4 (2012): 28-33. Print.
Jenson, Jill D. "It's the Information Age, so Where's the Information? Why Our Students Can't Find It and What We Can Do to Help." College Teaching 52.3 (2004): 107-12. Web.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Things People Say

"We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out."

Sometimes we are slaves to what others say...

Recently, another department member stopped Ann and suggested that she and I "ought to teach classes on research skills to secondary students."  This comment left my partner momentarily speechless, wondering what sort of vacuum we have been working in all year.

Just a few days later, another colleague commented to me that "librarians are really becoming like technology specialists."   LIKE?  Like technology specialists?  As our conversation continued, he noted that what he remembered about his school librarian was "she only talked about reading and the Dewey Decimal system."  His comments left my head spinning.

Rather than be offended, I strive to use these tidbits as reflection tools. What am I doing well?  Where have I missed the mark?  What do I need to do differently?

Ann and I have worked hard all year to collaborate with content leaders and classroom teachers to make research skills an integral part of more classroom content.  We have participated in content meetings at the district level, we have presented at faculty meetings, we have worked one-on-one with teachers and taught lessons directly to students.  To spread our message we have utilized every tool we can get our hands on...  We have emailed teachers directly and submitted blurbs to weekly newsletters.  We have created webpages, wikis, blogs, and facebook pages.  We have tweeted and scooped.  We have conducted monthly trainings with our library assistants that cover everything from the nuts-and-bolts of running a library to the newest apps for library resources.

And yet.... someone just a few cubicles away is unaware that we teach research skills.  So I ask myself... what ELSE can we do?

The second person's comments reflect the greater state of librarianship:  The role has changed but the perception has not.  I dug up an article I published nearly 10 years ago and reread it.

Surprisingly, I found most of this article still relevant...very little has really changed in the library world in 10 years.  (Ok, I no longer think the OPAC is the greatest piece of automation.  Being able to access it via an app on my iPhone is!)  But if so little has changed, why are people just now recognizing me as a technology specialist?  What have I not done to spread this message?  I am constantly learning about technology and how to apply it to education, but have I really been a LEADER in technology?

The speaker's memory of his librarian talking about reading and the Dewey Decimal system prompted several thoughts.... Librarians STILL promote literacy and information access.  Our job really hasn't changed, but the tools sure have.  Book talks and story times have remained important, but are they essential?  And what about eBooks and audio books?  Am I providing students with the books they want/need in the FORMATS they want/need?  And how can I be sure?

As for the Dewey Decimal system, Melvil Dewey created his system as a means of quickly and easily accessing information.  Do students still need to learn the Dewey Decimal system?  Should my libraries be arranged by Dewey or by genre?  I've tried both (and may blog on this later), but I think the greater question is: Do students (and teachers) realize that the Dewey Decimal system is a means to a greater end: information access?

So I ask myself....Do my students and teachers know how to access the best information available?  Do they have the most recent weblinks and passwords to databases?  Do they know how to search the World Wide Web effectively?  Can they limit their search results?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, what am I going to do next?