Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What's going on at New Canaan High School

We hope that everyone had a wonderful summer!

The NCHS football team helped us with a project a couple of weeks ago. As they entered the library, they greeted us warmly asking about our summers, and then one student asked, "What's new at the library this year?" We love that he asked the question because it shows that our students expect a dynamic and responsive library program. So yes, there are quite a few new things in the library this year.

Rams football & the Rams library join forces #strengthinnumbers

Ms. Sheehan is our new librarian. She is coming to us from the Saxe Library. She has decades of experience teaching inquiry to students and she knocked out several awesome booktalks for sophomore English classes this week.

A new familiar face in the library!

Makerspace reorganization: We reorganized the makerspace following last semester's Interior Design class recommendations (thank you, Ms. Zilly!). Students were given a budget and they worked in groups to develop and present proposals. Using their recommendations, the library faculty then developed a plan for a makerspace makeover. We are very excited to see student's ideas driving makerspace workflow.


Ms. Zilly's interior design students presenting their makerspace makeover proposals

A new media lab: The green screen and Virtual Reality lab was so popular last year, we felt compelled to create a second one. We hope to train student volunteers to become Virtual Reality VIPs (VRVIP, pronounced ver·vip) who can help facilitate student use of the VR equipment. If you love virtual reality and you have one free period per 8-day cycle, please ask about this opportunity!

Biology students exploring anatomy in virtual reality

Ms. Burns switched her office to "the other side". She is now outside of ColLabB.

Ms. Burns in her new office

Ms. Sheehan and Ms. Luhtala became permanent nomads, meaning that we removed our fixed desks and now have mobile standing desks. We work where we are needed.

Ms. Luhtala at her mobile standing desk

THE ANNEX@ has a new face. This is a process. We are still fine tuning the default project template. We think that our instructions for the Philip II Global History project may be the model we will use for all projects. We invite students to give us feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Library instructions for the Philip II project

There are new procedures for getting librarian feedback on bibliographies. They follow.



We are personalizing the booktalk experience. Before meeting for a booktalk, each student completes a questionnaire about their reading preferences. Then the librarian(s) make book recommendations for each student based on their questionnaire responses. Student responses also guide our book selection for the featured book talk, then at the end of the day, the librarians generate a circulation report for the class (just the titles, not student names). The recommendations, featured books, and circulated are then posted on THE ANNEX@ to guide future booktalks with the same class. Here is an example.

Personalized booktalks are documented


Speaking of booktalks, we had record turnout for our first Somewhat Virtual Book Club meeting on September 5th. Our next NCHS book group will meet in the high school library on October 3rd at 6PM. The History of Jane Doe is our featured selection. The author, Mike Belanger, who graduated from NCHS in 2004 and teaches history at Greenwich High School, will join us live for the discussion. Please check out a copy of the book, and join us for this exciting event.





Mike Belanger (NCHS Class of 2004) signing his book at Greenwich Library

Somewhat Virtual Book Club meeting on September 5, 2018




Saturday, August 11, 2018

Desperately Seeking Balance Balance

While I periodically cross post content from my school library blog, I have not written fresh content for this blog in over a year. It is not that I am short on things to write about. I did co-author a book, News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News last year. Yes, that kept me busy for a bit, but my co-author Jacquelyn Whiting and I wrapped that project up a while ago so that is no justification for not writing blog posts.

Gwyneth Jones once said that you should never apologize for not having posted to your blog. I agree - mostly because it seems presumptuous to assume that someone may have noticed the silence, but this is not an apology. I am not sorry. This is a reflection about time, media, and balance.

My hiatus extended to Twitter and Facebook. As of this morning I was still trying to sort out why. Originally, I explained that being on those platforms made me feel as though I was not doing enough. Given that I was doing as much as I could, I withdrew. But I watched Manoush Zomorodi’s 2017 TED talk about boredom and brilliance today, and that may have given me deeper insight into why I checked out of Facebook and Twitter. It was a brilliant talk, by the way. I posted it below. I’ve been a Manoush fan for years. I found her through her Note to Self podcast (formerly know as New Tech City) out of WNYC, New York’s National Public Radio station. Now she is co-authoring a captivating narrative podcast with Jen Poyant called ZigZag. It is outstanding. I binge-listened to the first five episodes yesterday.



That brings me to another point. Podcasts... they are cannibalizing my ear time. This would be fine if I was not a school librarian, but I am so it is not okay. When I say cannibalize, I mean it. My ear time used to be dedicated to staying on top of my reading. Because of my work, I try to read 50 books a year. Ask me how many books I read this summer. Go ahead, ask me. NONE! That’s how many.

You may be wondering why I don’t read with my eyes. I used to do that all the time, but I lost the time/ability/focus/all-of-the-above to do that with any regularity a decade ago. Reading a print book is now a luxury in which I only indulge during beach time which, as of this summer, is now consumed by paddling (SUP and kayak). So yeah. Now I am not even reading at the beach.

Do you see where I am going?

The ear time battle actually started when Audible introduced Channels to subscribers. My book consumption started to dwindle once I was able to get the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal read-by-a-real-live-human every day. That was a couple of years ago. My daily papers are delivered to me by Keith Sellon-Wright, Kristy Burns, and Sam Scholl, among others.

I once rationalized that I did not read with my eyes because I had more ear time than eye time. Now it seems as though I don’t have enough of either. Did I mention podcasts? I’ve spend my summer (when not on a paddle board) with Anna Sale and Marc Maron accompanied by the host (no pun intended) of comics, actors, authors and artists he interviews. I only have another 800 or so WTF podcasts to go before I am caught up.

Cable television and streaming video producers, such as Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc., downright scare me. My blood pressure rises when someone tells me about a new great show to watch. I (generally) trust the recommendation. It is, in all likelihood, indeed a great show. I just don’t know how to fit it in. It is always a relief when I discover that a recommended program is several seasons along. It gives me a pass. There is no way to catch up on that!

After unwisely accepting a challenging line up of commitments last fall, I have given time management quite a bit of thought this year. I am trying to develop strategies, set boundaries, prioritize. I keep thinking that this should come easy to a librarian, but it doesn’t - at least not to this librarian.

I cannot count the times I have seen, heard or read something worth sharing, picked up my phone, start to open Twitter, then close it and put the phone away. I cannot bring myself to restart the conversation. This is the opposite of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). This is FOBO - Fear of Being Overwhelmed.

The irony of course is that my dog has a very active Instagram account and I have the capacity to squander a full 40 minutes looking at all the adorable doodles "he" follows (doodles are poodle hybrids, in case you are not a dog person). I suppose I should give that up. I rationalize that it is a harmless guilty pleasure but it is accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame once I snap out of an “episode” and calculate the lost minutes. They matter, those minutes. I have a lot to do in real life.

So that’s it. I have no solutions. I have nothing to offer but a very frank account of my struggle to find balance while bombarded with an abundance of really terrific media content, the pressure to re-engage with my social media accounts (and relinquish my dog’s), and the need to be fully present in my real life. And read. And blog. And... no. I will stop there.

There is one thing I know for sure. I am not alone.

PS If you are wondering where I found the time to write this, I missed my O’Hare connection on the way home from a professional development gig in Florida. Once I was rebooked and my initial frustration subsided, I experienced a vague sense of relief. Four free hours? Wow!  I started to write a post about using student data to inform instruction, but it turned into this. 😳

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Junior Research Paper, Round Two

As Juniors begin working on their second research paper, New Canaan High School librarians are facilitating the transition between the English and social studies research experiences.

During the first semester, students participated in a flipped learning unit of instruction. They watched videos, took mini quizzes, were assessed in class, and earned digital badges. Students then submitted their works cited list to the library Moodle for feedback. Additionally, students completed an exit ticket at the end of the semester.

As a result, librarians were  able to gather several data points from each student.

Number of digital badges
Score on in-class quiz
Grade(s) on works cited drafts
Responses to exit ticket questions
Score on the English junior research paper
They are compiling this information into customized learning plans for each student. 

From the open-ended responses to the exit ticket, we are able to glean what kind of support each student wants from the library for the second semester research paper. We found that there are essentially six categories of help requested.

Finding good sources
Advanced search strategies
Writing the research paper
Creating embedded references
Citing in MLA 8
Work independently
Combining this information with student performance on various checkpoints such as the MLA 8 quiz, the bibliography, or effort, we are organizing students into learning groups. This allows us to run mini-workshops and offer lots on one on one help to better tailor our instruction to individual students learning needs. We are sharing this information with both the English and the social studies teachers.


In the meantime, we continue to document our days in photos:



And here are some photos of New Canaan High School library learning this week:

















Thursday, March 1, 2018

How will Your Librarian Help You?

Two years ago, we did a 44 day experiment. We set our alarms to ring every period of the school day and one more time at 3PM. Each time our alarm went off, we took a snapshot of what we were doing. At the end of the experiment, we analyzed how we spent our time. Here was the resulting post.

We wanted to see what changed over the last few years. Are services changing? Are we using our time differently? There was only one way to find out so we are rebooting our experiment. We are now three days in and this is what we have so far. It will continue to grow throughout the day, every school day through the end of May. We hope you will follow along!




On February 16, while students were on vacation, teachers spent the afternoon brainstorming strategies to personalize learning at New Canaan High School. Here are a few photos of what teacher learning looks like:

#PLPL18
Here are some photos of library learning this week














Friday, January 26, 2018

Searching & Researching in Google

This week, we had a chance to review some useful Google search and research tips with Tasha Bergsen-Michaelson, the the former Search Educator at Google, and we thought we would share a few here. Parents, students and teachers are likely to learn something they did not know before. So here goes:

First, we should probably explain the difference between searching and researching. Search is what happens on the fly. It answers those "I wonder..." questions. We all know the routine, right? Here is an example, "What was the name of that Zac Efron movie with Amanda Crew from a few years ago?" Then we search for that answer. In other words, we look it up.

Research is so much more than looking something up. It is a process. At New Canaan High School, we follow an agreed upon research protocol -- a research model -- that guides members of our learning community through the research experience with some degree of systematization. We acknowledge that the process is recursive, and that researchers may need to modify their steps depending on their learning goals, but having a guide helps learners internalize what it means to do research. This skill will serve them for the rest of their learning careers.

NCHS Research Model

Our students often use Google for Web searches and Google Images to locate... wait for it... images! It should be added that Video search is becoming increasingly important as an increasing number of teachers ask students to include multimedia content in their resource lists.

Google Web queries can be refined in very useful ways. There is an advanced search option. The link is located in the bottom right corner of the Google Search window.

Where to find Advanced Search
Google Advanced Search is incredibly powerful. You can find pages with...

  • all these words
  • this exact word or phrase
  • any of these words
  • none of these words
  • numbers ranging from
Then narrow your results by...

  • languge
  • region
  • last update
  • site or domain (.edu, .gov, etc.)
  • terms appearing
    • anywhere in the page
    • in the title of the page
    • in the text of the page
    • in the URL of the page
    • in the links to the page
  • SafeSearch
  • file type
  • usage rights
You can also...

  • Find pages that are similar to, or link to, a URL
  • Search pages you've visited
  • Use operators in the search box
  • Customize your search settings
Unfortunately, many students do not know these options exist, and yet we have evidence that they would benefit from using them for research. 
Google Advanced Search
Image searching is widely used across disciplines. Images searches can be filtered in powerful ways as well. The "Tools" option allows for the following refinements:

  • size
  • color
  • type
  • time
  • usage rights
  • more tools
SIZE COLOR TYPE
TIME RIGHTS MORE


Google Images Tools

It helps to know your operators. Most of our students have learned basic Boolean operators (AND, OR, & NOT) by junior year, but Google has its own operators, and they are a little different. Click on the image below to learn more about Google operators.
Google Operators

Over the past few weeks, many NCHS 9th graders researched themes addressed in nonfiction books they read. The titles follow:ge
We built a research guide in our new THE ANNEX@, but we did face one challenge. We have the option of building two kinds of custom Google searches. The first kind confines student searches to specific sites. The other searches a predefined set of search terms to which our students can add their own terms. 


The first option piqued our interest because students were asked to locate one article in the New York Times, and we thought we could create a custom search restricting their results to that publication. But Google offers a site search operator, so we taught them the operator instead:  

site:nyt.com "North Korea"

The second option - the one that allows us to pre-filter student searches with relevant search terms - was more appealing. Students were assigned to locate Web sources about a topic of global concern, 
for example, child poverty in India (Behind the Beautiful Forevers), human rights in North Korea (Nothing to Envy), unaccompanied migrant children (Enrique's Journey) that were not news articles, so advocacy websites, think tanks, etc. We designed and embedded custom search boxes that limited student searches to sites that featured the terms [nonprofit] or [nonpartisan], two terms that typically lead searchers to advocacy websites. This was helpful to learners. 

While we ultimately want our learners to be able to master both site search (New York Times, in this case) and signal phrases ([nonprofit] or [nonpartisan]), it is helpful to introduce these strategies one at a time. We do not need to teach all of Google search in one lesson, and thus we helped students concentrate on one new skill: site search while using technology to simplify one of their other research tasks (for now): finding an advocacy website. 

Sophomores researching Imperialism were introduced to a few new strategies for the early stages of research, including:

  • Signal phrases
  • Threshold concepts
  • Pattern recognition
Click on the bulls-eyes in the image below to learn more. 



Finally, we know that Wikipedia is immensely popular with our learners. It is great for looking up information, but we caution learners to beware of inaccuracies and editor infighting. Students are encouraged to do their due diligence when using Wikipedia as a reference tool. They should always check the "View History" tab (top right). We teach students to look for arguments between editors. This teaches students how Wikipedia works, and increases their skepticism which is a highly desirable disposition among researchers. 


Here are a few pictures of library learning: