Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Pedagogy’ Category

Cite nonsense

Posted by lpearle on 5 December 2011

Last year a friend asked for my help with a paper she was writing for a class – how should she cite a YouTube video? Her professor didn’t know the proper format, and my friend knew that “Go to YouTube and look for [title of video]” wasn’t correct. At the LIRT session I attending during ALA10, the student voice on the panel said “there are more citation styles than MLA!”, and Joyce Valenza’s survey backs up this poor student’s experience. What wasn’t discussed (or asked) was how one cites in the paper itself: footnotes, endnotes or parentheticals?
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Posted in Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff | 2 Comments »

#AASL11 Reflections: HS – College Information Literacy

Posted by lpearle on 8 November 2011

First of all, this wasn’t really about the entire continuum, it was more about the 12-13 disconnect. In other words, what we HS librarians think our students leave knowing, and what first year professors actually see when our students get there. The caveats of the study are that the students were from Catholic schools that essentially fed into the University of St. Thomas – I would love to see this replicated in other combinations (eg, independent schools to their top 20 acceptances or top state universities and the top high schools in their states).

The UST study found some differences from Megan Oakleaf/Patricia Owen’s research (see their article on TL). They approached it from the viewpoint of “what expectations should UST librarians have regarding the info lit skills of incoming freshmen”? (vs. the what do colleges expect = what HS wants to know approach) There has been much research into HS-College transition (the emotional issues, for example) but little empirical library research; there was a lot of introductory/trends/how I do it here/etc articles and presentations.

One practical suggestion was that students were lost when doing database research, as they’d come in looking for a product by provider/vendor name. Databases should never be arranged by vendors; they should be arranged A-Z or by subject, mimic academic libraries. This reiterates what I’ve heard at other presentations, when students get so comfortable with one database in high school that they don’t know there are others out there, or that the one they love may not be the most appropriate for their current research need.

The most interesting part was that UST looked at the comparison of HS librarians reporting to faculty reporting: we may think that we’re graduating information literate and skilled students, but their first year professors don’t see that. It was also interesting that for a large number of the faculty, the sense was that they could teach the appropriate skills in the classroom rather than bringing students (or sending them) to the library for instruction and assistance. I’ve seen this in high schools as well, from both “revered old timers” and “sweet young things” (and while some can teach the skills and guide students, often they really can’t or they don’t understand the school’s desired style and thus confuse students with competing expectations).

The ARCL standards were used, not AASL; I know there’s been a lot of work correlating AASL to NETS and AASL to Common Core, but how much work as there been on AASL to ACRL? I know one independent school that correlated NETS to ACRL, ignoring AASL completely. Radical thought? It might be really beneficial for HS librarians to ignore AASL’s standards and focus on ACRL’s as we prepare students for the next phase of their education.

Their research and presentation is online here (bibliography included). We were also advised to check out Megan Oakleaf’s work, Oakleaf’s work with Patricia Owen, and Head/Eisenberg’s Project Information Literacy.

Posted in Conferences, Pedagogy, School Libraries | 1 Comment »

#AASL11 reflections: assessment/evaluation

Posted by lpearle on 4 November 2011

Having worked in several NYSAIS evaluation committees (and written on the evaluation for accreditation process, I was interested in what my public school peers were doing vis-a-vis the NYS School Library Media Program Evaluation (SLMPE) Rubric. NYSAIS has recently updated its process and libraries aren’t mentioned (why? this is a huge mistake, imvho) and looking at this assessment piece reminded me that there’s little difference between independent and public school programs in terms of what we do – it’s funding, testing mandates and curriculum that changes. So in lieu of specific NAIS-sponsored assessments (although we do have the Guidelines of Professional Practice for Librarians), it would be a good idea to borrow from this as we self-assess/self-evaluate.

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Posted in Conferences, Pedagogy, School Libraries | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Have I done my job?

Posted by lpearle on 15 June 2011

This past year I’ve worked closely with our History 9 teachers to integrate skills into the curriculum, with a secondary goal of lessening the panic that sets in when a research project is announced.  We broke things up into several short pieces:

When I told people that I was grading the papers, the surprise was evident.  So why was I?  Because the teachers know content, I know process: did the students follow MLA format for their title page?  were the facts cited properly? was the bibliography correct, or was it missing information (or out of order)?  did they proofread, or did they just trust spellcheck?   To make it easier on the students, I strongly recommended that they share their projects with me via Noodletools (I could see – and comment on – their bibliographies and their papers).

Gratifyingly, many students did use Noodletools and I think that their papers were improved as a result.  Those that didn’t?  Well, let’s just say their grades were lower.  Here’s what keeps me up: what of all this will they retain over the summer?  and what could be done better next year?  Maybe there needs to be more on-line tutorials and in-class instruction on the basics of MLA formatting.  It’s clear that many didn’t understand that it’s not just quotes, but ideas that need to be cited.

In April I attended a seminar at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on College Bound Students and Independent School Libraries (notes to follow).  The librarians there, from prestigious institutions, are asking themselves the same questions I am asking.  Whether or not I’ve done my job will only be evident to them, as my students graduate and head off to college on their own.

Posted in Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 12 October 2010

In which I attempt to clear my GoogleReader…

Wish I had more time to implement these ideas for a more relevant library… getting some help with creating things like this would be a good start (and I think I know some students to ask!)  Another thing to integrate into our website: Book Trailers

While this might not be every tablet worth knowing about it’s certainly a start… I’m still waiting for an iPad/netbook combo that makes producing and consuming information easy … and it’s good to know that not everyone is on the iPad bandwagon (E-Tech has given hers up)

More to think about in terms of how we prepare our students for college And thanks to Doug for sharing this pdf on the lifelong role of libraries

There was a kerfluffle over Netflix and it got me thinking.  We have a subscription for our teachers, but I also have a Movie USA License and I think between the two we’re covered.  My rationale is that sometimes teachers need to preview a film before making the decision to use it (or ask us to purchase it).

We use Noodletools at Hackley, despite my students preference for EasyBib (why?  because you can add an ISBN or an URL and get the metadata in much the same way Zotero works).  Buffy posted a few reflections on the citation issue, which made me think about a conversation I had with the creator of Noodletools, in which he argued against EasyBib because the accuracy wasn’t quite there (so when our students get to college and use Zotero, they’re in trouble?).  I agree with Buffy et al.: citation shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all, the goal should be that of pointing people to additional/credited information.  As Aravis said, “why can’t I just say… Google it?”

Thanks to Sassy Librarian, I’ve got two new screencase tools to play with: Screencastle and Screenr (Jing just isn’t doing it for me).

Posted in Links, Musings, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Community feeling

Posted by lpearle on 27 September 2010

Yesterday I spent several hours with a group of women I’m proud to call classmates – we didn’t all graduate at the same time, but we all feel connected to each other and to our school.  The reason for our gathering was to begin preparing for the bicentennial of the school, in 1814.  One of the things we continually came back to was how much of an influence Emma Hart Willard and the school she founded (fittingly called Emma Willard School) have had on the lives of many more people than have actually attended, and how our time at the school has profoundly affected our lives.

As I drove home, I started thinking about other schools I’ve known either through personal involvement or through the involvement of others.  One friend calls it the Cult of Emma Willard; I think it’s not quite that, but we do seem to be an incredibly committed group.  When I talk to the students with whom I’ve worked over the years, their ties to their alma maters is less than mine is to Emma.  Yes, they feel a closeness with their classmates or with people in their “generation” (those that were 1-2 years ahead and behind them).  Often there’s a teacher or two they remember with particular fondness.  But the depth of a feeling of community is not there.

Here’s an example: in a few weeks, Hackley will host Alumni Weekend.  Many people from different classes will attend, but the mingling between the classes isn’t quite the same as it was at my reunion last June; the same holds true for college reunions.  This cross-generational mingling is something that I think is unique to Emmies.

Yet it’s a different sense of community than the one my friend K told me exists at Sudbury Valley, the school her daughter attended.  We weren’t all one big happy family at Emma, and there was a sense of Us v Them vis-a-vis faculty/administration and students.  At Sudbury, one of the things that attracted my friend was that when there were infractions of the rules, the discussion wasn’t a top-down “you bad person you!  you broke a rule!!” but one of a community discussion centered on “you’ve hurt the community and how can we heal this?”  – two very different approaches.

While I think the things that make the Emma Willard community special can’t necessarily be duplicated at other schools, it should be possible to repeat the Sudbury Valley community.  As the school year progresses, I’m going to do my best to work to create that collaboration between faculty and student. Perhaps one will follow the other?

Posted in Ethics, Life Related, Pedagogy | Leave a Comment »

College Prep?

Posted by lpearle on 26 July 2010

Tomorrow we start moving from the Chapel to the rebuilt library, and as we’ve drawn closer to the move I’ve been thinking about our program and preparing our students for college. This summer has also been one of going through the Hackley archives, organizing them and putting things in acid-free boxes and folders.  In several of our evaluation for accreditation documents, we talk about preparing our students for college with a rigorous, traditional education.

I’m sure that most of our peer schools also consider themselves to be preparing their students for college with a rigorous education (perhaps not always “traditional” – see, for example, the Dalton Plan).  In this day of multiomedia tools and cloud computing, and Buffy’s Media 21 class, what exactly does “college preparatory” mean?  I’ve also been talking to several of my nieces, nephews and assorted other recent high school graduates about their experiences in college and the workplace.

I’m concerned that in our rush to use all the new toys (and yes, they’re both toys and tools), we’re creating a generation of students that has unrealistic expectations of their college experience and their work lives.  Yes, we absolutely must teach students to evaluate information (as Doug points out, the ugly episode with Shirley Sherrold might have been avoided had adults had that skill!).  Buffy’s letter to President Obama stresses how little attention this skill has gotten, and how needed it is.

We’re failing to prepare our students for life when we fail to teach them how to find and evaluate information.

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Posted in Musings, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Shooting the messenger

Posted by lpearle on 30 June 2010

One of the programs I attended at ALA was a joint panel sponsored by ACRL and AASL on K-20 information literacy. The first speaker, David Loertscher, has been speaking on the topic of “information commons” for quite some time now, and I’ve heard his spiel at three different conference. I’ve also heard (and edited an article by) Valerie Diggs on the IC at her school, Chemlsford.

This is a worthy idea, and one that I’m trying to implement in my library.

The problem was the presentation that David gave: he talked about getting away from the old lecturer/lecturee model, yet that’s exactly what he delivered. With a PowerPoint, no less. There’s a perfect example of cognitive dissonance (aka “don’t do as I do, do as I say to do”). Even worse was that one of his examples was the idea that entering data contributing to a class wiki or Google Doc spreadsheet was somehow new, radical, different.

It isn’t – people have had similar projects for quite some time. Perhaps the data doesn’t live in the cloud, editable in real-time, but these types of collaborations have been around before. I remember doing similar projects in the pre-computer era I call high school. So does the fact that it’s live editing/cloud computer magically change the assignment? I think not.

His claim that when you do this type of work, “plagiarism doesn’t matter” because students are forced to think about the essential questions being asked also struck a nerve. You know the one: the one the dentist hits when he’s poking around trying to find the perfect pain-filled spot? I really, truly hope that he misspoke, or that I (and several others) misheard, because any time you ask students to “write” you run the risk of plagiarism. It’s about the question, not the product, and unless the question is constructed in such a way as to not be plagiarizable (ok, that’s not a word but tough), any student can plagiarise. Adding a new technology doesn’t make the fact of plagiarism go away.

Here’s an example. Our 9th grade history class covers the Early Modern Era, and looks at people, places and events through the prism of PERSIA. We’ve been considering creating a wiki for students to be able to add examples of each as they come across them in their research/classwork, so that by the end of class they’ll have a grid showing the political side of the Glorious Revolution, Cortes v. Aztecs, etc. and the religious side and the artistic side, and so on. GoogleDocs or a class-editable LibGuide would be another way to go, and I’m sure that there are still others I haven’t thought about. Anyway, what’s to stop students from cutting/pasting information from the web into this document? Nothing.

So while I’m in agreement with the idea of a blended setting where students can learn and create and analyze and evaluate, I’m not in agreement with the idea that simply changing the format or adding 2.0 tools to the process changes anything in terms of real student learning. It’s our job – as librarians, technologists and teachers – to collaborate and create projects that lead to better understanding of the subject and ways to internalize and present that information, as well as to increase students respect for others’ intellectual property.

Posted in Conferences, Ethics, Pedagogy, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Inching closer to the end

Posted by lpearle on 1 June 2010

It feels as though I’ve been neglecting this blog, but that’s only because so much has been happening at work!  First (and looming large) is the upcoming move to the rebuilt Goodhue – we’re in inventory mode, as well as packing up the non-book stuff in preparation for the Big Day.  Of course there’ll be more on that as it gets nearer.

Second, and in some ways more exciting, has been the spate of year-end research projects.

For some years now, one of our 10th grade history teachers has done a project based on Sinclair’s The Jungle.  Essentially, he asks students to find modern-day examples of the same sorts of abuses Sinclair chronicles (the caveat is that the example has to end in a guilty verdict or plea).  This year, another teacher decided to do a Jungle-based project, only this time he had students researching muckrakers contemporary with Sinclair.  So of course that meant another LibGuide – and he’s just informed me that the students did well, that JSTOR was a great resource, and that we’ll do even better next year as we flesh it out (seriously?  I learned about the project at 10:30 and by 11 was in his room with the LibGuide and a quick “here’s how to use JSTOR and Google Books” lesson!).

I was also thrilled with the Enlightenment Project, the final 9th grade history paper.  This was a new project, and with something so broad (papers covered everything from Lord Jeffrey Amherst’s use of smallpox-laden blankets against the Indians to the use of the astrolabe as a new navigational technology to whether capitalism is just economic system to Savonarola’s Bonfire of the Vanities as a means of religious domination) it’s always touch-and-go with what we’ll have in terms of the collection.  Words cannot express how thrilled I was with the students’ reaction to this project: so many of them were focused on their research and realized that print (including our digital collection of eBooks and databases) was a great source.  So much so, in fact, that up through the last day there were new books being pulled from the shelves.

There were a number of interesting moments during their research (none the least of which was seniors realizing that there were no free computers, because the busy reading/writing/researching 9th graders were using them all!), including the number of times students said “[topic] isn’t in the index” only to have me point out that there was an entire chapter in the book.  I also watched them struggle to narrow their topic down, to create keywords that really would help them (“capitalism” is a little broad, but “Adam Smith” might work), and to analyze their findings.  For some this was really the first in-depth paper, and that so many of the best sources were print is a message I hope they remember next year.

I had the pleasure(?) of reading/grading almost half of them and I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the work.   What saddened me was that some of them did not use Noodlebib and lost points by having incorrectly formatted Works Cited lists.  Now, Noodlebib is not the only tool out there, but so many of them seemed to just cut-and-paste the citations from databases and didn’t pay attention to whether it was in MLA7 format, or whether they were in alphabetical order.  There was also an insistence that nearly everything have an author, so Gale or Oxford or ABC-CLIO was slotted in (as though the publisher also wrote the article in question).

When I do my Noodlebib dance for them, I stress that the things that I’m teaching them are the things they should work hard to ingrain, so they don’t lose points on the stupid stuff.  Learning how to cite sources, proofread properly and format a paper are like getting dressed in the morning: I teach you how to put your shirt and slacks on, leaving you to worry if the outfit matches.  Having looked at these papers, I wonder if they need another metaphor.  Any ideas?

Still, the teachers seemed very pleased, and the students continually told me how invaluable my help was (which is, of course, a wonderful thing to hear at the end of a long year!).  Even better, we have a year to fine tune all of these projects and make the experience even better for the students.  Watch this space for updates.

Posted in Pedagogy, Student stuff, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Is this the “killer ap” for research?

Posted by lpearle on 9 May 2010

Last year, after much to-ing and fro-ing with some of the faculty, Hackley adopted Noodletools as a citation maker.  As one teacher said to a class just yesterday, “if you use this, you won’t stupidly lose points for not formatting your bibliography properly!”  (and, on a personal note, it frees me up from having to explain exactly where the periods and commas go – boring at the best of times – and allows me to focus on why citing is important and what type of resource things are).

When I talk to students, particularly those in tenth grade and above, I remind them that in college they’ll probably use RefWorks, or Endnote, or Citation Machine, so getting used to using Noodletools is good college prep.  I know that this doesn’t always sink in, but hey – it’s a start.

There’s been buzz about Zotero (the E-Techer is very much in the pro camp) so when HVLA arranged a demo at METRO, I was happy to go see what was going on.

Zotero is one of those aggregators for web clippings, pdfs, etc. that you can use when you’re doing research.  The problem for me was several-fold, the most important of which was the learning curve.  I could see the utility if, for example, our 20th Century World class was told in, oh, November, that they’d have a 15-20 page paper due in June on a topic, and then had several months in which to find appropriate resources.  But using Zotero for our usual 2-3 week papers seemed like overkill (and the trainer did say that it was more useful for long-term research projects).  I also didn’t like the idea that it was linked to Firefox – I have nothing against FF, but to not also have it available for users of Chrome or Safari or any other browser felt a bit odd to me, particularly as I know that not everyone uses FF.

I could definitely see our teaching teams using it as a way to share resources, clipping sites and articles for future class use.

This got me thinking about other such aggregators…

The Librain, for example, uses Livebinders.  I haven’t really played with them, but the “free” part worries me: how long before you have to pay?  what about privacy (Zotero does offer some privacy controls, which I think is important if you’re a student)?  She’s created one to highlight the use of various on-line tools and that might be a good way to start using them.

Buffy and WillR both love Evernote.  The Unquiet Library was abuzz with students using Evernote as part of their Media21 course (so envious that she gets to teach it!) and Buffy’s also used it as a collection development tool.  Will is considering the implications for his reading/notetaking habit.  Me, I use it and love it for certain things, but haven’t played with it enough to think of the research possibilities.

Diigo is better set up for groups to share links (and comments), but doesn’t really get screenshots (something that Zotero does, so you can prove that the site said what you say it said when you saw it).  Delicious doesn’t really have a group component, but you could share a username/password.

And then there’s Sente, which I haven’t played with at all – no matter how much E-Tech raves about it – because I’m a PC, not a Mac.  Finally, Yolink, which is new to me and may just have it all… except that it merges with EasyBib not Noodletools.

So, what am I looking for?  I want a program that will clip items from the web, allowing students to aggregate their sources (they could create a bookshelf from our library and GoogleBooks, scan in some articles, find sources on the web) and comment on them.  They should be able to organize them and take notes on them, and have an easy way to create a bibliography from all this.  Zotero does some of this… Diigo other bits… Evernote still other bits… There are several other issues (is this going to remain “free”?  what about privacy?  student sharing?  is there a pay-for model for schools, the way Glogster and VoiceThread have? where is the information stored: computer or cloud?  is there syncing between home and school and vacation and cloud? any smartphone aps on the way?) that also need to get sorted.

End result: lots to play with and think about over the summer, but for right now I think I may show some of these tools to our more advanced teachers only.  Perhaps they’ll play, too, and we’ll figure out how best to use these in school.  Or not.

Posted in Musings, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness | 3 Comments »

 
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