Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Pedagogy’ Category


Posted by lpearle on 27 August 2013

Over the past year I’ve taken classes towards a certificate in eLearning and Online Teaching.  The most interesting thing has been seeing  different approaches to being an online teacher – each of my teachers has had different interaction techniques, different ways of posting and making the material available, different rubrics for in-class discussion and (obviously) different strengths.  Sometimes the class didn’t meet my expectations, sometimes it exceeded it.

Here’s the thing that puzzled me the most: in two classes that were not about instructional design, we were asked to create a module and essentially do instructional design.  And for each of those classes, we were asked to essentially make every part adhere to what Bloom’s Taxonomy refers to as Higher Order Thinking Skills.  The problem for me was twofold, one of which I’ll talk about later in this post, and this one: Lower Order Thinking Skills, like reading and writing and absorbing material were being devalued.  In order for any student to really apply HOTS, they need to use LOTS first.  I’ve seen students struggle with analyzing and synthesizing material while doing research because they don’t have time to completely understand the material.   This is part of what the Common Core is expected to correct, that we’ll be graduating students who have plenty of HOTS and can apply them in any situation.  Not so sure this is going to be the case, because in our rush to implement, we’re neglecting LOTS.  And that the design of a module should solely focus on the HOTS?  Problematic.

The other problem I have have is that if the class is about assessment, then what we should have focused on in designing a module was the assessment piece: why weren’t we concentrating on rubrics? modeling a good final product? authentic assessment over recitation of facts and quizzes? self-assessment for both teacher and student?  why chose one form of assessment over another? etc..  And if the class is on communication/collaboration, then let’s spend our time working on how to, within a created unit, pose leading questions and direct the conversation, what the best collaborative tools for that module are and why (and why other tools won’t/don’t work for that module), etc..   That’s not to say we didn’t cover some of those, but on those two courses creating modules that emphasized HOTS made me think about how confused students must be when we focus on something that seems irrelevant but is perhaps mandated by the state, district or department chair.

My big takeaways were to encourage teachers to include time for absorbing the material and applying it, and to create assignments/assessments that make sense in the context of the class.


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

Progressive Education

Posted by lpearle on 10 September 2012

My cousin’s son has just started his high school career at BHSEC, following a year of testing and interviews and worry about the next phase of his academic career. In learning more about what he’d be experiencing there, I started thinking about schools and progressive pedagogy and “flipping classrooms” and all the things that we’re told make for quality education.

During my public school career I was in classes that frequently taught to the middle ground: the students who most needed help were still lost, and those who were extremely capable were bored. Depending on the class, I was either learning something or doodling in my notebook. The teachers were, for the most part, uninspired and uninspiring. My 7th grade history teacher was one of those few inspiring teachers. The English teacher I had in 9th grade tried to be inspiring, holding special sections of instruction on graphology (how we girls could tell if a boy was interested in us) and using Pyscho-Cybernetics as a text (I kid you not).

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Posted in Musings, Pedagogy | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 9 September 2012

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech, Tools and Other Stuff


And finally, I just loved this quote from an interview on Powells:

Straub: I had to do so much research. I had no idea how much fun research could be. It turns out, to my great delight, that if you write a book about something that is really fun and interesting, research is also fun and interesting. [Laughter] (Emma Straub on Laura Lamont)


Posted in Books, Ethics, Musings, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Don’t blame the students

Posted by lpearle on 21 June 2012

I’ve mentioned before that I’m on this year’s YALSA Excellence in Non-Fiction for Young Adults award committee and will be spending eight hours over this next weekend discussing the over 40 books we’ve read (ok, not all of them – we’ll concentrate on the ones that have been nominated).  In other news, I’ve been asked to join the LIRT Transitions committee, which focuses on the high school to college transition.

What’s the connection?

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Posted in Ethics, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff | 1 Comment »

Nothing new under the sun

Posted by lpearle on 27 April 2012

I’m sure everyone’s been reading about the recent plagiarism issue over on Story Siren (thanks to Liz Burns for the great round-up).  My friend Chuck talks about the “kitchen sinking” that often happens when something like this occurs.

It’s beyond the question of citation, though.  There’s the question of consequences. When I was at Hamilton College, we signed an Honor Code statement that the school took very seriously.  So seriously, in fact, that the President, Eugene Tobin, resigned when his lack of citing a book review was caught.  More recently, the President of Hungary was forced to resign. The examples go on and on… but then there’s the case of Doris Kearns Goodwin who has managed to evade serious consequences from her plagiarism issue.

So ultimately, what will the consequences in this case be?  Or in this case, highlighted in the WSJ’s Best of the Web column.  Both writers have taken the questionable content down.  In the Story Siren case, there’s been a lot of vitriol between her supporters and those of the two victims.  In the WSJ case, this “apology” was issued: Note: Creators Syndicate mistakenly sent through the wrong text for Joe Conason’s column.  The following is Conason’s updated column for this week.

In thinking about how to approach this with students, it’s important to differentiate the plagiarism from the public outcry.   It’s always been important to speak with them about what plagiarism ishow to avoid it and what the consequences could be –  now it’s equally important to work with them on protecting their own on-line work and how to respond appropriately (whether they’re responding to someone accused of it or being accused themselves.

Posted in Ethics, Pedagogy, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

It’s not just about the awards

Posted by lpearle on 26 March 2012

Perusing my twitter feed today, I saw this from @TheDaringLibrarian:


My response was that J.K. Rowling isn’t American, thus her work is excluded as per the Newbery rules, and that it was too bad that some parents see award-winning books as automatically being better reads than those that haven’t won awards.

@Sophiebiblio then added:


And that’s the problem, isn’t it?  Books that are popular (Hunger Games, the Harry Potter series, Twilight, Percy Jackson series, etc.) are often discounted by parents simply because there’s no award attached to the book but – and this is really important – often the rules mean that really great books aren’t eligible or are considered and set aside for various reasons (like the consensus rule, or the limits on numbers allowed to be nominated/named).

As a librarian, I get to read Booklist and School Library Journal and VOYA and other review sources and see starred reviews.  As someone interested in finding great books for my students, I read book blogs (like the SLJ Newbery and Printz blogs, as well as others devoted to great YA reads) so I can get different opinions about the various books.  It’s difficult keep on top of all this, because over 4,000 YA books were published in 2010 alone (the exact number is in dispute), so I need help.

Parents need help, too.  Too often I’ve had parents tell me that their child isn’t ready for [genre or title], when I’ve seen that the child really is ready for it.  Or that the parent would prefer that their child stay away from [genre or title or series].  Or that the child should only read “award-winning books” because clearly those that have won awards are better than all the others that haven’t won an award.   While it’s not my place to tell them that their child has the freedom to read anything they want (ALA’s Rights aside, it is not my place to overrule a parent!) it is my place to help parents understand the collection and that an award – or lack of an award – doesn’t determine what books go into the collection.

Every January we do big displays of that year’s award-winning books… we do Newbery and Printz and Caldecott units… we run mock award groups.  We purchase those books we don’t already own that are on the various awards lists.  Perhaps it’s time to stop doing that?  Maybe we’re contributing to the problem by highlighting all those past award winners and stressing the criteria and the potential winners for the upcoming years.

And maybe we need to be more proactive about promoting the idea that it’s not all about the awards.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Pedagogy | 1 Comment »

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 »