Thursday, January 23, 2020

What High School Juniors Want to Know

Cross-posted from the New Canaan High School Library blog.

As juniors continue working on the first of the two major research papers they will complete this year, we provide feedback as they reach the following checkpoints:
  • Research questions
  • Works cited lists
  • Thesis statements
This research paper, which is assigned in English, uses The Great Gatsby's examination of social class, equity, and The American Dream as a launchpad for research. Students choose their own topics for research. We classified our juniors' research questions into 11 broad categories:
  • Civil/Equal rights/Discrimination/Social justice
  • Cultural messaging
  • Education
  • Family
  • Law enforcement/Military/National security
  • Mental/Physical Health/Wellness
  • Politics
  • Prosperity/Business
  • Science
  • Social pathology
  • Technology
The chart below shows how many students gravitated to each topic. 

As one reviews the above classifications, it is surprisingly easy to let ones' personal viewpoints influence expectations about the subcategories that could nest under each parent classification. Go ahead. Give it a try.
... pause

Our juniors are independent thinkers who are grappling with current issues in their own way. They are bringing their experiences, interests, and ideas to their understanding of, and predictions about the world they will inhabit as adults.

We compiled all 138 research questions we have seen so far into word clouds, which are images composed of research questions in which the size of each word indicates its frequency of use.

This deep dive into our junior's curiosity provides us with ideal collection development information. We are building a research pathfinder to help our learners access seminal work on their topics in a variety of formats.
  • articles
  • books
  • radio or podcasts
  • video
and also ideas and people that/who are getting a lot of traction in the media.

The pathfinder is a work in progress. This exercise will guide our next additions and revisions. For example, our book recommendations need to be reorganized. We have the right books, but our classifications do not consistently align with students' research questions. For example, we placed books on race relations under civil rights, but student research questions in that category focused on women's rights. Students who chose to examine race did so through the lens of either education, law enforcement, or prosperity.

Student work informs our practice. Co-teaching with our colleagues empowers us to improve our collection, our instruction, and ultimately student achievement. We are very fortunately to teach in such a collaborative learning community. Have a wonderful holiday. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

How is Our Collection Being Used?

Cross-posted from the New Canaan High School Library blog.

As we move into budget season, we reflect on how students use our collection. This year, we noticed a few trends we wanted to share.

Students are borrowing more books!

In response to a slight dip in circulation in 2017-2018, we amped up our independent reading program this year. As of October 18, 2019, our booktalking activity is up 220% (16 classes in September and October), our print book circulation is up 20%, and our eBook circulation is up 25 % as well.

While the graph below shows that student use of ABC-CLIO, EBSCO, and Statista dipped last year, use of Gale (social studies research database), the newspaper collection (Christian Science Monitor, Hartford Courant, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post), and JSTOR (peer-reviewed academic journal articles) doubled.

This may sound like a mixed report, but it is a great one. It tells us that our instruction has been effective. In 2018-2019, we learned from reviewing student work that students were not selecting resources that were appropriate to their inquiry tasks. We built new instructional experiences designed to improve higher order thinking, and source selection skills. This graph shows that students used fewer reference resources and doubled their use of more challenging materials. Here are some sample lessons:

While we would ideally love to have all students shift their research to the rigorous databases, we still need to subscribe to materials that will meet the learning needs of our incoming 9th graders. Britannica, ABC-CLIO, and EBSCO help us meet their needs.

  • Is Geography Destiny (9th grade Global I)

  • It is clear that we are visiting 10th grade history classes with these lesson on distinguishing reference from more substantive content quite regularly. For most classes, we will see them at least once more for Imperialism, and possibly also before that for the Industrial Revolution. Our aim is to have our current sophomores ready for their two required research papers (English in the fall and social studies in the spring) right at the start of their junior year so that we can focus our junior year instruction on inquiry synthesis, not source selection.

    If we were to create a macro picture of our library program's inquiry instruction, it would look something like this:

    We construct this learning around social studies and English because those are required courses. Students have more flexibility in selecting their Math, Science and World Languages classes, so we tend to focus our assured experiences in other disciplines. This is not to say that we do not work with other disciplines, only that we acknowledge that our instruction in those course will not have universal impact. 

    Thursday, October 10, 2019

    APA Style: the 7th edition

    On October 1st, the American Psychological Association (APA) released the 7th edition of its APA Publication Manual. Our New Canaan High School library copy is on order and we are eager to start pouring over it. So far, we see two major changes in the citation format.

    1.  The words "Retrieved from" are removed from citations for sources found online
    2. The place of publication is removed from citations for books

    At New Canaan High School, we tend to focus our instruction on MLA for the first 3 years of high school, then we introduce APA to seniors across disciplines. We did our best to update our LibGuide on APA today. We will add more when we get our book!

    The @APAStyle Twitter feed has done a great job of building hype around the release, as you can see in the video below. They aggregated their Tweets about the new manual into one feed here.

    The APA Style website features a bounty of instructional aids on its website including the useful Quick Reference Guide in PDF:

    The Reference Examples page categorizes examples by material type: 
    • journal article
    • magazine article
    • newspaper article
    • whole book
    • edited book chapter
    • dictionary entry
    • government report
    • YouTube video
    • Tweet
    • Facebook post
    • webpage on a website
    The last one in the list above - the web page on a web site - is new. This was not well covered (or covered at all, really) in the 6th edition. 

    We suspected (totally guessing here) that the APA's decision to omit this information from the last edition had to do with scholarship. Many webpages on websites are not considered "scholarly" and are therefore not worth referencing. Date of publication and authorship are extremely important in APA. If a web page does not feature this information, one should probably reference something else instead. We teach students to consult and reference books, magazines, newspapers and scholarly journals. 

    Having said that, there are times when open web content is pertinent and appropriate for an inquiry task. It is a relief to have guidelines for citing it. 

    The Instructional Aids page also features links to sample papers. These are exceptionally helpful as they are annotated with lots of detail that contextually informs the reader about APA Style.

    That's all I have for now. Stay tuned! We will update when we receive our book. 

    Wednesday, June 5, 2019

    School Librarians Can Save Democracy

    This year, I had the extraordinary experience of attending the TED conference in Vancouver. I was inspired. Truly. This is my response to one of the running themes of the conference. 

    At TED2019, reporter and feature writer for the Observer, Carole Cadwalladr, told tech billionaires - calling out each one by name - they had broken democracy in Facebook's Role in Brexit -- and the Threat to Democracy (Cadwalladr, 2019). Her talk left a rippling undercurrent that coursed through the rest of the conference. Is democracy in jeopardy? If so, what role does social media play in the crisis?

    When Carole finished, I leapt out of my seat with the rest of the audience and cheered. It was an emotional response. This is the new normal: social media companies profit off of our attention, relying on our emotional triggers to keep us swiping for a date, a couch, a rescue pet, and certainly for news - including, of course, fake news and alternative facts. We choose to believe some stories over others, but the choice is too often an emotional one. Placing our stamp of approval or rejection on our discoveries - participating in an ever-growing culture of outrage - is emotionally empowering, and we are hooked.

    Two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media channels (Matsa & Shearer, 2018) and while 57% of those folks expect the news they see on social media to be inaccurate, 42% think it is "largely accurate" (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017).

    Fifty-six percent of college students said that they accessed news for their personal consumption (as opposed to academic use) via social media. These students reported that they applied different source evaluation strategies to news content accessed through social media channels than they do to news accessed via their college library's periodical databases (Head, Whibey, Metaxas, MacMillan, &  Cohen, 2018).

    Confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories, may play a role in media consumers' ability to evaluate the news they access online. According to British academics of psychology, Ben Tappin, Leslie Van Der Leer and Ryan Mckay, "Confirmation bias is often conflated with 'telling people what they want to hear,' which is actually a distinct phenomenon known as desirability bias, or the tendency to credit information you want to believe." They conducted an experiment hoping to learn "whether a reluctance to revise political beliefs was a result of confirmation bias or desirability bias (or both)." Their results "suggest that political belief polarization may emerge because of peoples’ conflicting desires, not their conflicting beliefs per se." (Tappin, Van Der Leer, & Mckay, 2017)

    National Public Radio's On The Media host Brooke Gladstone summed this up succinctly, "Confirmation bias has nothing to do with thinking and everything to do with feeling." (Gladstone, 2018).

    The Pew Research Center reports that political polarization is on the rise, "Partisan antipathy remains extensive. The shares of Republicans and Democrats who express very unfavorable opinions of the opposing party have increased dramatically since the 1990s." (Pew, 2017). Antipathy is a feeling. It is emotional. This antipathy manifests itself at the polls. When citizens seek emotional gratification from the news they read, they view political candidates as personalities who stand for, or against their political team. Political consultant and pollster, Frank Luntz - whose TED2019 talk followed Cadwalladr's - said, "Populism is a great way to get elected, and it is a horrible way to govern.” Great personalities are not by default great leaders (Luntz, 2019).

    When Carole's spell broke and I gained some perspective, I started to push back. I am not expert enough to gauge whether social media has led us to a democratic crisis, but teaching inquiry to high school students for nearly two decades lends me sufficient expertise to know that education can remedy a crisis of democracy.

    Calling on Silicon Valley tech moguls to curb their capitalistic motives in order to protect democratic principles is unrealistic. Call me a cynic, but it just ain't gonna happen. Teaching the citizens of tomorrow to consume news with skepticism is a more realistic strategy to safeguard democracy.

    The Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) affirmed this in 2016 when they published the results of a two-year study on young people's (middle school through college) ability to evaluate online information. They summarized their findings this way:

    Never have we had so much information at our fingertips. Whether this bounty will make us smarter and better informed or more ignorant and narrow-minded will depend on our awareness of this problem and our educational response to it. At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish (Stanford History Education Group, 2016).

    Here is the rub: who is going to teach this?

    Classroom teachers have prescribed content to teach. Assuming that all teachers in all schools will enthusiastically embrace yet another instructional mandate is... well... just as unrealistic as expecting Mark Zuckerberg to redesign Facebook because Carole Cadwalladr told him to. As it is, classroom teachers are struggling to stay afloat. Teaching is really hard work. The data confirms my claim. Teacher attrition has been a problem for nearly two decades. The Learning Policy Institute describes the problem in its 2016 report, Solving the Teacher Shortage: How to Attract and Retain Excellent Educators, "national estimates suggest that between 19% and 30% of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, with turnover much higher in low-income schools." (Podolsky, Kini, Bishop, & Darling-Hammond, 2016).

    If teachers aren't in a position to embed lessons that teach learners to read and think critically about the news they consume with logic and a dose of healthy skepticism rather than emotions, who can?

    School librarians have the training and expertise to teach precisely this. They have the pedagogy, classroom management skills, content knowledge and technical know-how to co-develop and co-teach engaging and authentic inquiry driven project-based experiences for every student in their learning community. In the right environment, they can partner with classroom teachers to embed news literacy across grade levels and content areas.

    School librarians teach kids to learn how to learn.

    School librarians teach inquiry. They teach students how to formulate questions, then to question the information they select to answer their questions. They teach students to infer author purpose through word choice analysis, to distinguish opinion writing from reportage, and to select information sources critically. They teach students how to process information with skepticism. I know this because I live it. In 2017, my friend and colleague Jacquelyn Whiting and I pooled our cache of lessons together to create our book of replicable inquiry lessons, News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News.

    School librarians teach every single student in the building(s) they serve. As an experiment, I tracked my time usage over a 35-40 day period for three consecutive years and I discovered that I spend over 80% of my school day helping students develop these inquiry skills - skills that safeguard the future of democracy (blue slices in graph below) .

    Librarian time spent teaching

    Unfortunately, school librarians are frequently first in the line of fire when school leaders decide to eliminate instructional positions. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) does not have data on this, but I did a quick, informal survey in my home state of Connecticut, which has the the highest per capita income of any state in the union (Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2018). Survey results indicated that a total of 197 Connecticut school library positions have been eliminated since 2000. If this is the inquiry infrastructure in Connecticut schools,  I am left wondering how learners are being taught inquiry skills in states with less funding.  Will learners from these communities blindly scroll through their social media feeds to learn about political candidates and take their emotionally-formed impressions to the polls?

    School librarians provide a feasible and thoughtful solution to a universal concern. Given the opportunity to do their job, they can ensure the future of democracy, regardless of what social media feeds deliver. Here is the uncut version of my idea pitch (1:34 minutes).

    Bureau of Economic Statistics. (2018). Per capita personal income in the United States in 2018, by state (in U.S. Dollars). Retrieved June 5, 2019, from
    Cadwalladr, C. (2019, April 15). Facebook's role in Brexit -- and the threat to democracy. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from
    Gladstone, B. (2018, September 28). Your moment of Zen. Retrieved from
    Head, A., Whibey, J., Metaxas, P. T., MacMillan, M., & Cohen, D. (2018, October). How students engage with the news: Five takeaways for educators journalists and librarians. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from
    Luntz, F. (2019, April 15). TED2019: Bigger than us - session 1: Truth. Retrieved from
    Matsa, K. E., & Shearer, E. (2018, September 21). News use across social media platforms 2018. Retrieved from
    Pew Research Center. (2017, October 5). Partisan animosity, personal politics, and views of Trump. Retrieved from
    Podolsky, A., Kini, T., Bishop, J., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2016, September). Solving the teacher shortage how to attract and retain excellent educators. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from
    Shearer, E., & Gottfried, J. (2017, September 7). New use across social media platforms 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from>
    Tappin, B., Van Der Leer, L., & Mckay, R. (2017, May 27). You're not going to change your mind. The New York Times. Retrieved from>

    Tuesday, May 14, 2019

    Using Design Thinking to Think About Design Thinking

    This is long overdue. No, not this post. I have no guilt about extended lapses between posts. It is overdue because back in 2014, when I interviewed ten Maker experts (MakExperts?) to prepare for my 54th edWebinar, I noticed the similarities between the Stanford Design School's design thinking model and our Barbara Stripling-inspired New Canaan High School inquiry model).

    At the time, I thought I should spend some time thinking about that alignment. Spend time is exactly what I did. I wondered about that alignment for five years! Over the years, I visited and revisited the idea of an "overlay project" that would involve animating superimposed Design Thinking models... maybe? I hardly ever made these visits alone. Many friends hashed this out with me at conferences, via Hangouts, over the phone, and right in the library where I teach. 

    And this is what I love about webinating: my May webinar (slides, resources) at edWeb focuses on Design Thinking, thus forcing me to deliver on what I promised in the description - to "explore design models that guide innovative thinking... examine points of intersection and divergence." Clearly, I had run out of thinking time, so I buckled down and got to work. 

    I am an independent worker, but a social learner. I knew that I needed help with the content of my webinar so I invited one of my favorite tinkerers of all time, Bill Derry, to present the webinar with me. 

    Bill was one of my first instructors in the library science program at Southern Connecticut State University (where I now teach). Later, I shadowed him for a day in the library where he taught at Greens Farms Elementary School in Westport, CT. Still later, when he became the Library Coordinator for the Westport Public Schools, we collaborated on a project although embarrassingly, I cannot remember what that project entailed. I only remember working on something with his team. Still later, when he became the Director of Innovation at the Westport Public Library, I was dazzled by his leadership, which led me to reach out and interview him for the aforementioned 2014 webinar on maker culture. Shortly after that, Bill invited me to speak at a TEDx event at the Westport Public Library, which was quite an honor. Since then, we have remained connected through two separate "projects." We walk our dogs together, and Bill co-facilitates innovation workshops in which our district participates. 

    Ziggy and Hero are fierce!
    I had seen Bill present on Design Thinking, the Entrepreneurial Mindset, tinkering, and innovation. I knew he had much to share, so we met online to review the organization of our upcoming presentation.  I asked tons of questions and, as I'd hoped, he shared a plethora of incredibly valuable resources. I researched, investigated, took notes, analyzed, outlined, made charts, sketches and then I dug deeper and then deeper still into Design Thinking hoping to discover, among other things, the key to my "overlay project."

    Let's pause for a minute. Why was I so fixated on this "overlay project"? What did I hope to accomplish? There was an empathic element to this quest. A Google Image search for Design Thinking produces results that look like the screenshot below. As a maker leader in our school, I was expected to integrate Design Thinking across disciplines, yet I could not envision how to help teachers who already relied on their own discipline-specific workflow guidelines to adopt an unfamiliar model on the promise that it would promote creativity and innovative thinking. 

    Innovation was my priority. Theirs was content. We needed to find the points of intersection between their templates and some of the Design Thinking models that aligned with our common educational objectives. I theorized that the alignment had to be there. After all, I didn't have to look too hard to find the parallels between inquiry and Design Thinking so we should be able to identify similar connections in other content areas. This was my thesis (I'm gonna do this like a teenager): While design thinking purports to promote creativity across disciplines, it is important to help teachers see where Design Thinking intersects with their current practice before asking them to adopt an unfamiliar model. 

    I was finally ready to tackle the "overlay project" I'd long envisioned. I used Google Slides because I figured I would start with one of those handy little diagrams they provide (Haha! Get it? Figured?). There was one problem. I was looking at well over a dozen models and their step count ranged from 2-9. The Slides diagrams feature a range of 3-5 step options, so I knew I was going to have to do a lot of tweaking before inputing the stages. If you are wondering which models I used, here they are:

    So I spent a ridiculous amount of time on graphics. This is pretty typical. I suspect that I would not have a time management problem if it weren't for trying to get the visuals right (I didn't, by the way. I hate these diagrams). Ask anyone at about this and they will laugh out loud. And then cry just a little bit. You'll get the same result if you ask my daughter about her wedding invitations. 

    I got through 5, 6, 7, and 9 step models before realizing that I hated the project. Oh sure, making the diagrams was a pain, but more importantly I wasn't learning anything new. Plus, did I mention they were super ugly? My longed-for overlay project was no more productive than looking at the screen shot of a Google Image search for Design Thinking (see above). The connections were not materializing for me at all, and if it wasn't happening for me, it sure wasn't going to help teachers! It was time to start practicing my #failforward skills.

    It occurred to me that if I layered the elements of each model in rows, I could align like tasks in columns and find connections, so I tried a table. I started to make one in Google Docs, but the aesthetic value wasn't worth the time it took, so I just sketched my table on a large notepad. 

    I soon realized that if placed the model with the most steps on the bottom and the one with the least steps at the top, I could reshape my table into a pyramid - a Design Thinking pyramid that looked a little bit like the old food group pyramid if the carbohydrates were broken into many subgroups. Remember back when carbs were the most important food group? Yeah, I miss that too. 

    Click to enlarge
    Well this was an improvement, but I still could not see the connections as clearly as I'd hoped. The structure was sound, so I decided to rainbow-ify my pyramid. 

    Click to enlarge

    This was a super helpful revision. I could now see what I was pining for during all  those wonder years.  There were strong connections! Some models (mostly education models) scaffolded the problem side of the pyramid with additional steps. Others (mostly business models) emphasized the solution side with incrementalization (yup, I just made up that word). This makes sense. Businesses need to provide solutions to problems while educators focus on teaching the process of problem solving.

    But wait. There's more!

    That pyramid is a list of verbs that describe what kids will be doing while Design Thinking. Isn't that a taxonomy? Could this be a taxonomy of Design Thinking? What if teachers could build their own design thinking models to suit their disciplines, tasks, learners, chronological proximity to a holiday/lunch/nap/Friday?

    What if kids personalized their learning by using this taxonomy to customize their own plan for creativity and innovation?

    Isn't this what Design Thinking is all about? Empowering the learner with ownership of the creative process?

    Click to enlarge

    Natasha Jen, a graphic designer for Pentagram gave a talk in June of 2017 called Design Thinking is Bullsh*t. I want to thank Bill Derry for sharing this with me. Ms. Jen has a few issues with Design Thinking, but this is the one that caught my attention.

    “The problem with design thinking as a diagram is that you
    really cannot understand the outcome of it and without
    an outcome, you cannot critique how good it is.”
                                                                ~ Natasha Jen, 2017

    If I was a graphic designer and my livelihood depended on a product as an outcome, I would probably agree with that statement. 

    But I am an educator and this is what "products" look like on good days. Teaching helps us focus on process rather than product.

    Isn't this the product of Design Thinking in education?

    Click to enlarge

    And if this  is the product, how can we "critique it to know how good it is"? Should we? Or should our learners? Well... I thought about that. How about this as a self-critiquing guide?

    So there we go. I used Design Thinking to think about Design Thinking and now, I am sharing this with you. 

    This process helped me identify a new problem to solve. I loved our inquiry model when we first made it, but I've noticed lately that students are not often afforded adequate time for revision. This comes into play when we offer them feedback on their research but they do not have time to make revisions based on that feedback. Unfortunately, the students who need it most are those who get discouraged and give up on one of the most valuable services we offer. We need to give kids time to revise their work. 

    So yeah. Now I want to change our Inquiry Model. Damn! I promise to share after I wonder, investigate, theorize, produce, and revise. Hopefully, it won't take five years.

    Cross-posted on Medium 


    “Design Thinking: The Process to Innovate.” SAP Design,, Accessed 13 May 2019.

    Hoffman, Libby “10 Models for Design Thinking.” Medium, 29 July 2016,

    Holcomb, Sarah, et al. “Design Thinking Bootcamp.” Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, Stanford University, 2019,

    “IDEO’s Human Centered Design Process: How to Make Things People Love.” UserTesting, 5 Dec. 2018,

    Jen, Natasha. “Design Thinking is Bullsh*t.” 99U, 7-9 June 2017. YouTube,

    Jenkins, Martin, and Nicole Halliday. “Design Thinking — Silver Bullet or White Whale?” From the Exosphere, Medium, 17 Dec. 2017,

    Michaels, Phil. “Stanford D.School.” Medium, 11 Jan. 2017,

    Saveker, Dani. “A More Beautiful Question – Warren Berger.” Visual Synopsis, 2019, Accessed 13 May 2019.

    Spencer, John, and AJ Juliani. “The Launch Cycle: A Design Thinking Framework For K-12.” The Launch Cycle,  2016,

    Find additional resources referenced in the webinar at

    Wednesday, May 1, 2019

    The 2019 Summer Reading List is Here!

    Post your video review here!
    It is summer reading time! That's when we get to catch up on what’s new and exciting in publishing. Our summer reading list is primarily recreational. Its purpose is to connect our learners with resources they may enjoy.

    We generally keep the list relatively short – under one hundred books so as not to overwhelm. We are mindful of genre and diverse interests. We focus on contemporary publications - the last two years or so, but we also include a few classics. We aim for balance between young adult and adult literature.

    Keeping in mind that our library users include young teens and adults, our list is thematically comprehensive. Not every book is for every library user. Selection is part of the reading process and we encourage young readers to be reflective about their choices - to contextualize them with their personal and family values. Readers are encouraged to consult reviews and publisher notes to make predictions about whether a book will suit their interests and to switch to a different book when one falls short of their expectations. There are so many books to enjoy. Summer is not the time to slog through a book that holds little appeal.

    As in previous years, New Canaan (town) Library runs a dynamic Summer Reading Program. We send our copies of the summer reading books to the town library so students may borrow them over the summer months. We carry as many titles as are available in both eBook and audiobook format. Students may use Destiny, our online catalog, to access those formats. They can text the library at (615) 669 6670 if they need help.

    As always, we aggregated our summer reading list in GoodReads - which is a social book recommendation site (see right). The entire NCHS learning community is invited to connect, share what they are reading, rate books, and write reviews in GoodReads and this year, we invite students to post video reviews to Flipgrid. Members of our learning community can use their login to add a 90 second clip telling us about a book they read over the summer.

    Again, the list is here (below), and the tabs at the bottom of the sheet allow viewers to switch organization – title, author, genre, etc.

    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