Venn Librarian

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Archive for the ‘Pedagogy’ Category

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 »

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 »


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