Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The REAL Power of the Exit Ticket

In my last post, The Power of the Exit Ticket, I described what we learned from a ninth grade research assignment exit ticket. But learning alone does not transform instruction. Incorporating what we learn into our program is the real power of the exit ticket.

We've been thinking about that. A lot.

When helping students craft thesis statements, I have a go-to exercise that really works. I ask them to, without looking at their notes or resources, describe what their research taught them. I transcribe what they say into a bullet list. Then I hand them the list and tell them to turn it into a statement a ten year old could understand. If they can't do that, they are not ready to develop a thesis statement, and they have to go back to researching. That is what I am about to do here. Without looking at my notes, here is what I learned in no particular order:
  • Citing sources properly helps students evaluate their sources more critically.
  • Teaching MLA 8 is much easier than teaching MLA 7.
  • When citing sources in MLA 8, online citation generators are not as effective as students think.
  • Students who understand the elements of a citation and the correct sequence of those elements document their research more accurately than those who don't.
  • Our library needs to better promote its online instructional resources.
  • Our students think they would benefit from additional face-to-face instructional time with librarians.
  • Teachers could help make online library instruction more visible.
  • Giving students feedback on first drafts and all subsequent revisions improves learning outcomes by nearly 25 percent.
  • Librarians and faculty should work together to calibrate their assessment of student work in MLA 8.
I have long held that online citation generators free up librarians to focus on teaching the higher-order thinking skills required for inquiry, close reading, and publication. I assumed that teaching citation formatting was a misallocation of instructional time. After all, there were low-cost tools available to facilitate that task. But feedback from our students taught me something I had not considered. Online citation generators are to student researchers what swimming pool floaties are to toddlers: They give learners the false impression that they can do it (swim/cite) independently, but they do not teach them how. Dependence on the tool impedes skill mastery.

Is citation mastery critical? Probably not, but it is valuable to achieving other critical ends - namely resource evaluation. By determining how to align all nine elements of an MLA 8 citation with each consulted resource, students are challenged to evaluate those sources more critically. This supports learners with their embedded references as well.

So yeah. We are now teaching students how to build citations from the ground up. I am not sure we would have tackled this with MLA 7, but MLA 8, which was released in April 2016, makes it a whole lot easier because the elements and their sequence do not vary, regardless of the source format.

Last spring, I created an MLA 8 slide show to introduce teachers to the new guidelines. Lately, we've been working on instructional materials for students. We are warehousing it all in this webpage, which is part of what will become the new THE ANNEX@ once we sunset the existing one.

The basic slide show:


The narrated abridged slide show in video format:


Using student inquiries - those "How do I cite...?" queries from the library's text messaging service - we are building a works consulted exemplar. Where need arises (and time permits) we offer a QR code and a shortened link to an image explaining the citation in detail, element by element.

Screenshot of document
One of the QR codes from above
Example of what a QR code links to

We are still sorting through our interpretation of MLA 8. If you see something you think we ought to change, please tell us! Thank you.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Power of the Exit Ticket

Leading into final exams, many freshmen prepared for a speech on a controversial issue. It was a fairly simple assignment: read an entire non-fiction book, research using three sources (newspaper, video, and a website) to better understand the issue addressed in the book, document research, outline and give a speech. Texts included:
Librarians worked with each class for 4 days:

Day 1 - Support students with research
We visited classes and helped individual students as needed. The teacher assigned very specific resources down to the newspaper publication name (New York Times), so many students were able to find what they were looking for, but a few groups, those who read Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai UndercityEscape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, and Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, struggled to find newspaper their articles and videos.
Day 2 - Teaching students how to cite sources
We paused this three part lesson (below) after each section to help individual students cite each resource type (newspaper, video, and a website). For homework, students finalized the works cited they had nearly completed during the lesson. They submitted their works cited drafts the next day. We met with the classroom teacher to review and calibrate our feedback on a few sample assignments, and then we (librarians) reviewed all the students work and gave them feedback. We did this with hard copies, which I found difficult because we tend to visit the sites students cite and doing  without hyperlinks on which to click was impractical. In the future, we will ask for Google Docs submissions.



Days 3 and 4 - Revisions, revisions, and more revisions
Once the drafts with comments were returned to students, the revision process began. It took two days of revisions, working one-on-one with individual students before their were able to submit correct final drafts. For some students, this meant generating as many as nine drafts.

Unless they are annotated, works cited lists and bibliographies are assessed in three areas:
  • resource selection,
  • page layout
  • citation format. 
Here is the rubric. The revision process was rigorous as students were asked to obtain librarian approval before submitting their final drafts. In looking at the revision history for each works cited in Google Docs, we noted that 40% of the students revised their drafts once or twice and 26% revised them five or more times. Through the revision process, students brought up their grade by an average of 24 percent.

In an exit ticket, students rated the value of NCHS library services. While the majority of students found all our services helpful, face-to-face lessons and one-on-one help rated the highest.


To what extent were these library services helpful?
Twenty-two percent of open-ended question respondents said they would have benefitted from more time with librarians. Forty percent used the word “helpful” to describe the librarians in their narrative. Another 22% said they would have benefitted from more detailed instruction. While 89% said that they would rather correct flawed EasyBib citations than create them from scratch, we also had feedback suggesting that  students wanted to know more about citing sources:
  • I did not understand how to write citations very well after I wrote them.
  • I just corrected what the librarians told me to correct.
  • Would have been beneficial for you to explain in more detail the order of things within our citations.
  • Explaining why the citations need to be so specific would probably helpful.

To what extent did these impact  my learning?
There was one glaring gap for us. Only 57% of respondents said THE ANNEX@ was helpful (lowest ranking of all library services) and yet 16% of respondents said our instruction would be enhanced if we provided online access to our lessons. All our lessons are posted on THE ANNEX@, including those we presented in class for this project. A related suggestion urged teachers to remind kids about library services. One student advised us to facilitate format-based mini workshops (e.g., newspaper articles, websites, videos) for students who needed help on specific citations.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Teaching students to understand bias

Cross-posted from my colleague Jackie Whiting's blog, Beyond the Stacks. We co-taught the lesson, but Jackie wrote this.

Students frequently ask: can you help me find a source that's not biased? When they ask that question we know what they mean, what it shows us the students need to learn is that 1) there are degrees of bias and 2) everyone has bias, so 3) there is no such thing as unbiased. Instead, we need to teach students to recognize what a text creator's bias is and how or whether that bias negates the usefulness of that source for the student's purpose.

Today we worked with a class of grade 11 students doing research for an in-depth research paper. The focus of the class unit is on the relationship between socioeconomic status and educational experience so this topic will frame the research questions the students are seeking to answer. To facilitate the students' resource selection and understanding of the impact of bias on source credibility we worked with the class unpacking an editorial from the "Room for Debate" section of the New York Times in response to the question: "Is School Reform Hopeless?"

We scaffolded this exercise to help students begin to understand their own biases on this topic and how their bias will influence how they understand what they read and how they convey what they ultimately write. We selected one of the editorials and provided the students just the conclusion to that text. We selectively removed words from the paragraph and asked students to replace the blanks with whatever word they each thought would best convey the meaning of the paragraph. When they completed this exercise individually, we asked them to work with 2 or 3 other students in the class to compile their words on one document and compare how they each completed the paragraph and how their choice of words changed the meaning of the paragraph. The pictures below are of the excerpted paragraph with the students' words on post-it notes.


Here is an example of a phrase with blanks to be filled:

...too many are climbing stairwells with broken handrails and missing steps, tripping and falling as they ________ to keep up, while others are _________ up on elevators...

In one group students said:

  • struggling to keep up, while others racing up
  • trying to keep up, while others rising up
  • attempting to keep up, while others moving up

The students were able to see that racing implies competition, rising implies progress and maybe increase in status, while moving is more passive. They were surprised that none of those were the words that the author used but they couldn't think of another word to use.

The actual sentence is: "...too many are climbing stairwells with broken handrails and missing steps, tripping and falling as they work to keep up, while others are zooming up on elevators..."

Certainly working implies a conscious sense of purpose and purposefulness to the effort that is not reflected in struggle, try or attempt. Work may also imply a degree of success and ability absent in those other terms. Zooming also has a very different connotation than the words the students chose, particularly in contrast to working. So, we asked students to compare their bias with that of the author and consider how differing opinions might influence their assessment of the source's credibility.

For the next phase of this exercise, we provided the students with the rest of the editorial where we had highlighted words or phrases and added questions to invite students to discuss the writer's choice of word and how those words affected the meaning of her editorial.

Here is an example paragraph:
"In addition to attending to these basic survival needs, schools have to attract experienced teachers and leaders with the right sensibilities and training to educate youth from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Successful school districts also enhance youth development through extracurricular activities and additional enrichment. When families cannot afford costly after-school programs, personal tutors and experiential summer vacations, effective school-communities invest in programs to offset these opportunity gaps." 

Here are the questions we posed corresponding to each of the highlighted phrases:

  1. What does this phrase imply? (basic survival needs)
  2. What do you think these are? (right sensibilities)
  3. How is this different than education? (youth development)
  4. What other gaps have you heard of? (opportunity gaps)

As they shared their conclusions and questions the students raised questions like: what does equity mean? One student said it meant equality. At that point, we directed the class to the Allsides Dictionary. Here is how Allsides describes their dictionary:


Click to see how Allsides defines equity and the cartoon they use to distinguish "equity" from "equality". We think this resource is incredibly valuable to students as they learn to navigate the information they encounter and develop information literacy -- particularly in the face of fake news!



Carter, Prudence L. “Poor Schools Need to Encompass More Than Instruction to Succeed.” The Opinion Pages: Room for Debate, New York Times, 14 Sept. 2016, www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/09/14/is-school-reform-hopeless/poor-schools-need-to-encompass-more-than-instruction-to-succeed.

Future Ready Libraries Facebook Group

I shared this email with my librarian colleagues, our Director of Digital Learning, and our building principal this morning. Feel free to repurpose and reuse in our own district!

Good Morning Colleagues, 

I just joined the Future Ready Librarians Facebook Group, and it is overwhelming, but quite fantastic. My friend Shannon Miller was just hired by Follett to spearhead the Future Read Libraries movement. With 50K+ Twitter followers, she has a huge audience, so within a week the group has garnered 2,000 members. 

Yesterday, she asked members to post pictures of their library entrance. This one caught my eye. 



This was posted by James Allen (@TLJamesA), the past president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians, and he is a school librarian at Eminence Independent Schools (the landing page features a photo carousel with more images). I have cc'd him here so he knows why his ears are burning 😉. I cc'd Shannon as well. 

As we consider innovating our programs and spaces, I thought this might fuel our imagination. 

Just some food for creative thought...

Have a great Thursday, and a restful three day weekend. 

:-)ML

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Meet the S.T.E.A.M. team and more

Cross-posted from nchslibraryinfo.blogspt.com and coauthored by Jackie Whiting.

The S.T.E.A.M. Club formed this year by merging the MakerMajors and TechXperts into one club. We meet each Wednesday after school and the collective work of these students is transforming the library. We are so grateful for the talents, personalities, and work of these students that we wanted to introduce them and their contributions to you. Here they are:

Reilly: our PR maven!
Greetings! I'm Reilly O’Neill, and I enjoy long walks on the beach. Just kidding, I hate the beach. What I do love is being a part of the library student staff and making the library program as great as it can be. I'm a junior and a library intern, you can find me sorting books for our annual Vide collection or helping out behind the circulation desk. This year I've been assisting the librarians as much as possible and working with the STEAM club to improve our already great library program. Outside of the library I'm an editor for the school paper and member of the varsity cheerleading team.
Theo: Renaissance Man

Hello, My name is Theo. I joined TechXperts this year in order to support and expand the technological community at New Canaan High School. I mostly deal with software, testing it and showing others how a program works. My technological passion has always been programming, and I now instruct younger students in the fundamentals of scratch programming. When I am in the library, you will mostly find me at the help desk. This winter I am working as a Ski Instructor, as well as continuing my exploration of the German language.

Oh Captain, TechXpert Captain
Hi, my name is Spencer. I helped found the TechXperts because I love to help people out with technological problems. I enjoy working the on-call help desk, teaching professional development, and I am really looking forward to helping expand the library's Makerspace, as well as making technology-based video tutorials. When I'm not at the Help Desk, I enjoy leading my Boy Scout troop, Working in and around NCPS in the Technology Department, and biking. Follow me on Twitter for more @spencerree.

Sophia, our Zen Master!
Hi. I'm Sophia and I became a member of the Maker Majors just this past school year. Before coming to NCHS I had never heard of Maker Majors and TechXperts. I had actually never heard of STEAM club at all but was happy to learn about it and become an official member. Currently I am working on a project about the making of therapy dolls and the method behind using them with children in hospitals. So far I have learned the process of making the dolls as well as the background of the project. The therapy doll are said to be a great way for doctors and nurses in the hospital to show the children the procedure that is going to take place on them first on the doll so it is less scary. They can communicate their feelings and understand with a visual representation what is going to be done on their body. As I continue my project I hope to learn and explore the process further.
Casey is currently building
a desktop computer at the
TechXpert station

Howdy, I’m Casey. I joined the TechXperts because I enjoy helping people with techy problems. During middle school at New Canaan Country School, I was the go-to unofficial tech support. When I found out that NCHS has the TechXperts, I immediately joined. One of my goals on the team is to be able to expand the library’s technology department, specifically with virtual reality. When I’m not helping students with tech problems, I enjoy staying inside with a cup of hot tea and watching Netflix. Hello!

Mary's independent study
project involves creations
with beads
My name is Mary Cross, and I am a Maker Major, this year. I am in my junior year, and I was told about STEAM and decided join, and learn more about it so I can contribute in my own way. The three major things that I'm focused my project on are making or Religious artifacts, mail and/or greeting card design, and finding ways to create or combine different art projects. I feel that this can be fun for other students, and good for personal creativity. I enjoy doing art in general, and creating new ideas and trying out projects. I hope people enjoy my projects and ideas cause I certain lay know I will XD.

Claudia is a tremendously 
talented artist;
she drew this avatar of
 herself on her phone!
Hello there! My name is Claudia, I’m  from the Dominican Republic and I’m a Maker Major. I was one of the first students to use the Makerspace when it was first introduced and I fell in love with it. I love to have a creative area in the school, a place that allows me to create things and exercise my talents freely. I’ve been helping the Makerspace since the beginning by giving ideas and organizing/cleaning when needed as well as helping other students. I joined the STEAM club because I love the makerspace and I am always looking out for it, always thinking of how we can make it even better. If you want to know more about me, things that interest me are art, music, and fantasy stories. I like things that are colorful or shiny-even better-BOTH. I really hope that other students can enjoy the makerspace as much as I do and I hope that more people are encouraged to use it and take care of it like the other members of the STEAM club.

In other library news, we have had lots of requests from administrators, teachers, librarians, and parents from other districts to visit our library and learn from our program. To help these other districts obtain the information they need to make decisions for their schools we have begun building this website, NCHS Library: the ins & outs, to explain what we do and what the library program is all about. We particularly enjoy the "Meet the Librarians" page!

Instructions for uploading assignments to library Moodle

On Friday, January 13th, NCTV Morning Announcements will broadcast the following message. Students might want to get a head start and prepare one works cited, one research question, and one thesis statement for submission.  
"This morning, all NCHS students will receive instructions from the library to upload 

    • one works cited
    • one thesis statement
    • one research question
from fall semester 2016 to their respective graduating class in the Library Moodle. Students can choose from any assignment in any subject. All work must be submitted by the end of the marking period, on January 23rd." 


No update would be complete without our bi-weekly Tech Tips; this installment: more on being a Google power searcher!
  • Chrome accounts: Sign into Chrome. It makes it much easier to toggle between school and other Google accounts.
  • Multiple browsers: Have at least two browsers on your computer. It helps troubleshoot when you run into problems navigating websites. 
  • Protect your AirDrop: Make sure your Airdrop is private unless you are sharing. 
Please follow us!



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Gearing up for Holiday Break & More

Cross posted on nchslibraryinfo.blogspot.com and coauthored by Jackie Whiting.

Research challenge of the week (a new regular feature):
The prize goes to Charlie Adl who was looking for literary criticism on an obscure satirical writer named James Pinkerton, whose work How to Write Suspense was published in a now defunct online magazine called Modern Humorist (2000-2003). Beyond the original text itself, we were not able to find what he was looking for (it doesn't seem to exist), but using the database Literature in Context, we were able to find analysis of satire as a genre, which helped Charlie complete his assignment. This new feature was inspired by Dan Russel's blog, SearchReSearcher.

We are thinking of re-naming December: National Research Month! There are lots of really interesting research projects going on across the disciplines, and we are helping students through these processes.

In Social Studies, Ms. Arastu's Global II students are creating the OP-ED section of an 1833 newspaper in which they critically review and extoll the virtues of the effects of industrialization in England. Their newspaper is being modeled on the "Room for Debate" section of The New York Times and will be published within the NCPS domain on a Google Site.

Honors Earth Science students in Ms. McLellan's class are researching the impact of climate change
 on different regions of the globe and making predictions about the future of that region. Research is complete and predictions are being drafted. Ultimately, the students will publish their findings on a Google My Map so that they can reflect on the bigger picture by comparing their regional information and conclusions.





The Game Design UX (user experience) station in the library was a hit! Thanks to all of the students who volunteered as beta testers and gave feedback to their peers! Each day, the names of the students who played games and provided feedback were put into a drawing for some rather cool prizes. The winners were:
  • Monday: Thomas won a portable charger
  • Tuesday: Spencer won Krispy Chicken
  • Wednesday: Gabe won Rams Cafe lunch
  • Thursday: Finn won $10 to Tony's Deli
The game design students are now returning to their games to incorporate the feedback they received before submitting their final games as their course exam. Good luck, gamers!


Tech Tip of the Week:

Since Dr. Marc Brackett's visit to the high school on November 30th, we've been talking about EQ (Emotional Intelligence). But in our planning discussions about our February professional learning, we discovered a tool that measures Digital Quotient Intelligence (DQ - not Dairy Queen!). For more on Digital Intelligence, check out this article from the World Economic Forum.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hour of Code & More

Cross-posted from nchslibraryinfo.blogspot.com and coauthored by Jackie Whiting.

  Hour of Code
 makerspace is ready for #hourofcode
December 5-11 is designated as 2016's Hour of Code week. Students are encouraged to try a one-hour self-led tutorials each day of the week to begin understanding the basic elements of coding. We moved six computer stations to the makerspace for the week, and posted instructions to access a wide array of tutorials. Our NHCS Techxperts will be on hand to field questions and help troubleshoot.

Question Formulation Technique
Word cloud of student responses
As a follow-up to the election day professional learning workshop we facilitated on inquiry, we launched the English junior research paper by asking students to engage in an exercise called the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to develop research questions (lesson). This activity was inspired by the book, Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana and The Right Question Institute. The strategy helps learners deepen their thinking about the research process on a topic, and many succeeded in using the activity to turn research "topics" into research questions. We surveyed participants after the activity asking them for feedback, and learned that over 93 percent enjoyed the lesson, and 82 percent were able to use the activity to generate research questions. In a follow-up activity using question stems and research question drafts, all students were able to generate their working research questions, and thus move from the "Wonder" phase of the research process into "Inquiry".

Research on Students' Research Skills
Juniors developing research questions in English
In November, Stanford University's Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) released its Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning report. In their own words, civic online reasoning is "the ability to judge the credibility of information that floods young people’s smartphones, tablets, and computers." Over the course of eighteen months, SHEG "administered 56 tasks to students across 12 states. In total, we collected and analyzed 7,804 student responses." Their field work involved students from underserved communities to those matriculated in well-funded high-performing school districts. They included college learners in the study as well.

Stanford SHEG Report
Their findings alarmed even their own researchers. Questions originally dismissed as "too easy" were eventually reintroduced to the instrument because their field work data consistently failed to meet their lowest expectations. We encourage parents, teachers, students and administrators alike to read the report, but this sentence from the "Big Picture" introduction states that "Our “digital natives” may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped." Sadly, this is not a revelation to NCHS librarians. For years, we have co-taught with classroom teachers to help learners distinguish reporting from opining. This study reveals that the disconnect is even greater than we imagined. Students often struggle to distinguish paid content (advertising) from journalistic content. As we begin our work with junior teachers on the first of two required research papers juniors will be expected to complete this year, we will fold these new findings into our instructional planning.

Searching with EBSCO Discover Service (EDS)
In our last post, we shared information about our simplified EDS, and how students signed into Google can access all of our electronic content without having to re-authenticate with usernames and passwords. This month, while planning for junior research paper instruction, we developed the following tutorial which explains further how EDS works.



Spanish Language Resources
To support English Learners (EL), we created a tutorial on how to find Spanish reference and periodical articles using EDS. It follows:



Lexile help
We met with the special education teachers to review strategies that will help teachers and aides find resources at various reading levels (Lexile levels). Ms. Whiting created this handy guide to help our learning community better understand Lexile levels and how to match content with students' abilities. We posted them on the nchslibrary.info website (under teachers in the left navigation menu) 



No update would be complete without our bi-weekly Tech Tips; this installment: more on being a Google power searcher!
  • Chrome accounts: Sign into Chrome. It makes it much easier to toggle between school and other Google accounts.
  • Multiple browsers: Have at least two browsers on your computer. It helps troubleshoot when you run into problems navigating websites. 
  • Protect your AirDrop: Make sure your Airdrop is private unless you are sharing. 
Please follow us!



Friday, November 18, 2016

EBSCO Discover Service Gets Even Better & More

Cross-posted from nchslibraryinfo.blogspot.com and coauthored by Jackie Whiting.
 
Guess what question students most frequently text the library? If you guessed, "What is the user name and password to the database page?" you are correct. Another frequently texted question is, "How do I access eBooks?" Well, we are very proud to announce that we finally found a way to simplify accessing library resources. We are still fine-tuning our new systems by working closely with the folks who provide these services, so it is very important that students and teachers notify the library when they run into bugs (and there are bugs!). We can be emailed at contact@nchslibrary.info and texted at (615) 669-6670.


This week, we added a search box to the library home page at nchslibrary.info. Any search entered into the search box will cross search most of our databases. While this has been in place for a couple of years, the search box itself was only accessible through the password protected Database Page. Now, it is public. Before searching, we recommend that students log in to their @ncps-k12.org account. This will automatically sign them on through to all the databases, eBooks, and magazines in the NCHS library collection.

We added individual links to all our databases in the right column of the search results in case students prefer searching that way. Each link in the list includes hover text with a description of the database. A digital carousel featuring our magazine collection appears above the search results. Students only need to click on the image of the magazine they want to read and flip through the content.

We made changes to the Destiny (the library's online catalog) sign in process as well. Students no longer need type in their authentication. So long as they are signed in to Google with their @ncps-k12.org account, they only need to click on the large button to sign in with Google. Students using the Destiny Quest app for their handheld mobile device will need to sign out, and re-authenticate using the updated URL destiny.newcanaan.k12.ct.us (leave out the http://)

Our digital magazine collection is featured among the search results as well. The list includes:

             
The AtlanticEsquire New Yorker
Automobile Design Food Popular Photography
Bloomberg Businessweek Forbes Rolling Stone
Car& Driver Horse & Rider Vanity Fair
ESPN Motortrend The Week
Wired









No update would be complete without our bi-weekly Tech Tips; this installment: more on being a Google power searcher!
  • Chrome accounts: Sign into Chrome. It makes it much easier to toggle between school and other Google accounts.
  • Multiple browsers: Have at least two browsers on your computer. It helps troubleshoot when you run into problems navigating websites. 
  • Protect your AirDrop: Make sure your Airdrop is private unless you are sharing. 
Please follow us!



Friday, November 4, 2016

Gaming User Experience & More

Cross-posted from nchslibraryinfo.blogspot.com and co-authored by Jackie Whiting.

We visited the Shark Tank at Saxe Middle School to serve as critical friends when the students presented their STEM projects. This year the seventh grade workshop has been redesigned to challenge students to create authentic solutions to problems they experience. The students define and research the problem, establish a vision for their solution, build a prototype, and pitch the final product. We are so grateful that they trusted our insight and our pedagogy so much that they welcomed us as panelists for these pitch sessions! For us it was a chance to see the learning that our future students are already doing and build connections with our middle school colleagues.



On Monday, November 7th, our online catalog, Destiny, will have an additional sign in option: Google! As students do in EasyBib, they will be able to click on the Google button without having to type to log in. Given that the most texted questions to the library involve passwords, we expect that students will be very pleased about this upgrade. We like being at the forefront of innovation. We like bringing new and exciting opportunities and services to our students. We like that providers trust our insight as active power users of their products. Sometimes that means we spend a lot of time on the phone with tech support getting everything to work as it should. When it does, it is excellent!

The game design class is gearing up to create their own video games. Ultimately, there final exam will be the creation of a game that either updates and improves a game from the early days of gaming or helps players experience and understand a current global problem. This is where we come in! We can work with the students to do the necessary research to understand these problems and reflect them accurately in their game. Furthermore, we are working to get a beta testing UX station running in the library so the game design students can get authentic feedback on their games and continuously improve them before their exam is due.

Some of the ninth and tenth grade biology students have been busy in the updated ColLaB (the former Lab B) doing research on infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance, and responses to spillover viruses to prevent global pandemics. Mrs. Cebulski and Mrs. Chieda are drawing upon the research skills the students have been developing with us and their social studies research projects to develop creative authentic assessments for these students in their science classes. We are enjoying supporting this creative work and gratified by the interdisciplinary transfer of research skills!

We can't let Halloween go without sharing our costumes! Día de Muertos inspired by Frida Kahlo. Even scarier than our makeup is that we can just go to our closets and keep finding these matching outfits.

No update would be complete without our bi-weekly Tech Tips; this installment: more on being a Google power searcher!


Please follow us!


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mario, Luigi, Destiny, & More

Cross -posted from nchslibraryinfo.blogspt.com and coauthored by Jackie Whiting

In our last post we invited the community to help us choose our attire for costume day. Some people voted for Marcia and Jan Brady. Others liked the Double Mint Twins. Many people offered unique suggestions that we hadn't even considered. We really appreciate everyone's participation and contributions! Without further adieu...  the verdict was: Mario and Luigi by write-in suggestion! Our hats were a bit oversized and our moustaches very itchy, but it sure was fun to spend a day in comfy overalls! Thanks to everyone who contributed to choosing our spirit week costume day attire. There were many popular suggestions. Maybe one of them will make an appearance for Halloween.

We've been working with EBSCO to improve our search results in EBSCO Discovery Service, or EDS (the "search widget" at the top of the database page). While extremely useful, the search results sometimes feel overwhelming to younger high school learners. It cross-searches 36 of our databases and approximately 125,000 ebooks all at once, providing very detailed filtering options. Until now, students would have to enter the username and password for most results before accessing them. We are currently developing a system for students to authenticate once, early in the search process with their @ncps-k12.org Google sign in, which would automatically open subsequent results for that search session without additional authentication.


We spoke at the Parent Faculty Association meeting this week. Its theme was, "Know Your School Resources", and each department chair was invited to share one slide and five minutes with parents. We made a video highlighting the top ten things students, parents, and educators should know about New Canaan High School Library. It follows: 



We opened a photo album for the school year, and added it to the library website. It streams on our "Photos" page (left navigation menu) at nchslibery.info. 

Teachers continue to use the makerspace with their classes. This week, Mr. Stevenson brought AP Psychology students to create 3D models of brains. Students worked in groups in ColLaB (formerly known as Computer Lab B) in the library to design their brains, and then used materspace resources, including the 3D printer, to create their models. 



Our online catalog, Destiny was upgraded on October 12. While school was closed, our virtual library was active. The new version features single sign on with Google, a Chrome extension in Google search results, topic search, and MLA 8 citations. Students searching for eBooks texted the library (615-669-6670) to inquire about the new interface. We created a couple of tutorials to help them navigate the desktop and mobile applications.






A critical aspect of the research process is source evaluation. You may be aware of the C.R.A.A.P. test students learn to apply to sources they encounter while researching. In a nutshell, students learn to assess a source's currency, relevance, authorship, accuracy and purpose before incorporating information from that source into their arguments. When we are coaching students in the application of this test we are reminded of a growing movement to introduce alternatives to textbooks into the collection of encyclopedic or reference materials commonly used in classrooms. Matt Miller is one of the people at the forefront of this approach; his movement, Ditch That Textbook, and the pedagogy behind it are gaining national traction. As our database collection becomes increasingly rich, students have wider access to sources that have been vetted, which makes the students savvier consumers of non-textbook material they find on their own.

We are very proud of the program we continue to build and finesse. At the root of all we do is a commitment to student learning, to helping to prepare the students to engage in the digital world that awaits them after NCHS. It is gratifying when practicing and aspiring librarians and other teachers around the country solicit our feedback regarding programs they are developing. Over the last couple of weeks we have been shadowed by visitors from many different schools and certification programs so that they can learn how to better meet the needs of their own students by observing what we do here. We know that teaching and learning is collaborative, not competitive, and embrace what colleagues can learn from each other.

Tech Tips:
  • Did you know that just like our database search tools prompt you to use limiters to improve your search results, so does Google? Try Advanced Search!
  • Try using country top level domains to search for information outside of the US. For example, a news search in Google.ca returns Canadian news sources!
  • Will introduced us to a newsfeed app we LOVE! Check out 


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