Saturday, February 16, 2019

Test your (and your students') News Literacy and Close Reading Skills

This is a great activity for news consumers of any age!

This started as a simple screenshot experiment back in the fall. Then I started to see its potential as a lesson.

At this time of year, our students move into units on op-ed writing in their English classes. I anticipation, the New Canaan High School information and communications technology team has been developing instruction on language choice and close reading. This lesson, which is a work in progress, is a simple, replicable, and adaptable one that will help your students' improve skills in
  • close reading
  • news literacy
  • reading comprehension
  • awareness of the intention(s) behind author word choice
This lesson should also heighten their skepticism when analyzing the messages their devices flash at them throughout their waking hours. 

1. Introduction Part I
You can start the lesson with a discussion about what is meant by "left" and "right" political leanings. The 2010 infographic below, created by David McCandless and Stefanie Posavec and published on Information is Beautiful can be found on Slide 2.

Questions to consider:
  • What do we mean when we say a person leans “left” or “right”?
  • Examine this infographic and create a persona for each side in one paragraph. 
2. Introduction Part I
Extend the conversation to focus students' attention on how media outlets can lean "left" or "right". The 2019 AllSides Media Bias Chart below can be found on Slide 3.

Questions to consider:
  • What do we mean when we say a publication leans “left” or “right”?
  • Review this graphic, making a note of your “surprises”
  • Which news outlets are familiar? Which are not?
  • What is the difference between newspapers, magazines and Internet news agencies? Does it matter? How can you tell the difference? 

3. Introduction Part III
Explain to students which of these news outlets we will focus on for this activity:
  • New York Times
  • Washington Post
  • FOX News
Note: I tried to include the Wall Street Journal (a New Canaan favorite), but their mobile notifications so seldom align with the other three publications that I ultimately left it out of the experiment. 

4. Introduce the activity by showing slide 5

Questions to consider:
  • Read these three headlines. 
  • Compare the language. 
  • Which words stand out? 
  • Does language choice change the message? 
  • How so? 
  • To what extent does the message point to the editorial slant (left or right) of its publication?  

5. Introduce the activity (cont.) ...and slide 6

Concept to highlight:
  • What a publication chooses to not publish can be as telling as what they choose to publish.

6. Activity:
Note: This can be done on paper, or Google Form (I haven’t created one - yet). Feel free to open the Document, make a copy, and pull out as many rows as you wish. As it is, it is far too long. 

Review the directions, and set the students to work. I would have them work individually, and then compare their answers in small groups before a class share.

Directions (slide 8): Each pair of mobile notifications (distinguishable by shading) cover the same story as delivered via different media outlets (FOX News, New York Times or Washington Post). By analyzing word choice in each alert, try to infer the posting publication’s political leanings. In the Clues column, write the words that helped you decide. In the right-hand column, compare how word choice changes the readers’ understanding of the story before reading it.


7. Review
Once students have completed their individual, group work and class share, you can review the headlines with publication branding with them. Remember, there is a key but you need to request access. 



8. Reflection:

"Republicans are more likely to trust The New York Times and Democrats are more inclined to trust Fox News when they do not know which source they are reading, according to a new study by Gallup."

Questions to consider:
  • Does this align with your experience? Explain. 
  • How will this activity change how you read your mobile notifications?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

An MLA 8 Question (or two or three)

Yesterday, I sent an inquiry to the MLA Style Center. It follows:

Section 1.2.3 in the MLA Handbook 8th edition implies that a bibliographic citation for a U.S. Supreme Court Case should begin with the named parties in the case (pp. 70-71). If we want to include author information, should that be pushed to element 4 (additional contributor)? This is what that would look like:

What follows is a continuation of the question I posed yesterday. I am citing legal documents. Clearly, MLA is not the citation format of choice for these materials, but because the bulk of New Canaan High School's instruction on citation style comes through the English department, the library exclusively teaches MLA 8 to students in grades 9-11. It is more effective to teach students to master one thing before showing them the alternatives. We do switch it up for some Advanced Placement courses, UCONN Early College Experience courses, and senior year curriculum.

Soooo... for my question:

I rethought my U.S. Supreme Court case citation after emailing yesterday's inquiry and working on a few more examples for our (temporary) MLA 8 Help Page. We are building a better one in LibGuides, but it is not finished.

Given the nature of our students' research task, I would want the title of legislation or a court opinion to appear in an embedded parenthetical reference. This would help strengthen the evidence and support teachers who are grading the work. So the citation should start with the name (not number) of the legislation or opinion (e.g., “Civil Rights Act of 1964.”, “Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.”, “Miller-El v. Cockrell.”).

This presents a challenge when determining how to classify the other elements of the citation. Can, for example, we use the legislative body - US Supreme Court or 115th Congress as a element #3 (container)? This allows the student to include more detail about authorship under element #4 (contributing author):

In the above example, we pushed the Web storage information to the second container.  Otherwise, the citation would feel disjointed: title, Web container, contributing author, number, publisher, etc. The Web container information would clumsily break up related author and title information (see the first citation in this post).

Continuing with the sequence used in the above citation, other legislative documents would be cited like this:

In the case of an executive action or order, the enacting president’s name should appear in the parenthetical reference (Bush, Obama, Trump, etc.) because authorship contextualizes the order. Therefore, the citation should begin with the author (president) name. This follows the 8th edition Handbook instructions, "If your discussion of such a work focuses on the contribution of a particular person - say, the performance of an actor or the ideas of a screenwriter - begin the entry with his or her name, followed by a descriptive label." (MLA Handbook, p.24). The title of an executive order about immigration policy is not as telling as the name of the president who issued it. An immigration order from President Obama sets up very different expectations about its content than one from President Trump.

Does this make sense? Do you agree? What would you do differently?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Measuring Librarian Impact on Student Learning

Last year (as in all the years before it that I can recall), I set out to measure the impact of librarian instruction on student learning outcomes. This time, I think I made some headway. I included my end-of-year reflection, but the slideshow below summarizes it more succinctly.  

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:

Here are some photos of library learning this week