Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Student stuff’ Category

Not quite a day off

Posted by lpearle on 13 February 2017

When you live in the Northeast, you get used to snow.  Lots of snow.  I grew up in Central New York’s snow belt and have spent my adult life in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  And – no surprise, I’m sure – snow days are as exciting for teachers and librarians as they are for students.

Except…

February is when our students do their US History paper.  That’s 7 – 12 classes a day, 170+ students.  Some periods, we have three classes in at once.  Luckily, we have a large enough space for them to spread out and do research in (book sharing is a must on a few topics, but for others, we have more than enough).   We already lose a day to President’s Day, a week before the paper is due.  Then we had a snow day last Thursday, and a delayed opening/shortened classes on Friday.  The weather forecast for today wasn’t heartening.

But this is the 21st century, right?  So when the email/text/phone call (I get all three) stating school was cancelled today, I – and the other two librarians – was prepared.  This morning, I sent out an email to the USH students and teachers, offering online reference help.  Just to be sure people saw it, I sent out a photo on Instagram:

 

snowday instagram

Yes, I could be sleeping… reading books for Alex or the SF award… but instead, I’m online, waiting for students to ask research/reference questions.  Thus far, one student has contacted us – but we were able to help.  And that’s the important thing, isn’t it?

What do you do on your snowdays?

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

Best. PD. Ever.

Posted by lpearle on 6 February 2017

I’ve had a lot of professional development over the years, in a variety of industries (there was a 12 year gap between college and getting my MLS).  A few times I’ve felt as though I should demand a refund for hours of my life absolutely wasted.  Most of the time there’s been something I can take back to my work, sharing with others or simply using in my own practice.  Then there was last summer and the AISL Summer Institute at Emma Willard School.  Katie has already blogged elsewhere on the overall experience, so I won’t cover everything.  And I’ll be part of a panel presentation at the upcoming AISL Conference in NOLA in March.

What made this the best PD I’ve done in memory (I’ll stipulate to getting old and perhaps not remembering how wonderful I thought something was at that time) was not just the setting – although I am partial to my alma mater – was what we refer to these days as the takeaway.  And OMG how useful it has been and will continue to be.  After introduction and discussion about what design thinking is and how to do it, we divided into groups linked by common problems and began to brainstorm.  My  group decided to focus on how we, as librarians, can help panicked students do research.

When I introduce students to research, even during a 10-15 minute rushed talk, I mention that I understand their plight (as I’ve blogged before, we often forget what that’s like). The problem then becomes how do they remember what I’ve gone through as they work on their projects? Many are afraid to disturb us, particularly when they see we’re busy processing new books or working on other stuff – all stuff we’re happy (eager?!) to put aside to help them.  And teachers frequently don’t emphasize our role as partners or resources, so… Luckily, my AISL group all felt my pain.  And we decided to come up with an infographic that helped the students go from stressed to successful.

I brought that infographic home with me, and we created bookmarks from it.  Those bookmarks went into each teacher’s mailbox at the start of the year and are now being handed out to our US History students as they begin their Big Research Paper.  But bookmarks alone aren’t good enough.

For each project we use Springshare’s LibGuide’s platform to create a Resource Guide and each year we update it.  Here is this year’s guide.  Notice that right column!  Yep, we took the infographic, added live links and posted it on the guide (full size version here).  And we’ll be adding it to our other guides.

It’s too early to figure out how successful this will be.  But I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to help students stress less, succeed more.  And that’s what makes for good PD: something you can use immediately, something you can customize to your situation easily, and something that will have a positive effect on your students.

 

Posted in Conferences, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 23 January 2017

I’ve been busy planning for ALAMW and the YMAs – while I usually avoid the crowds, this year I need to be there as part of my Alex Award committee work.  So here’s a little something to think about and explore while I finish the 2017 award work (feel free to get ready for the Big Reveal!).

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Links, School Libraries, Student stuff, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Not paperless – paperMORE

Posted by lpearle on 8 January 2017

I’ve been hearing about the “paperless” office (and, by extension, paperless school) for nearly 40 years. Doug even talks about it in his recent The Next Big Thing(s) post.

To which I say, HA!

Here’s the reality: we’re using more paper.  Vast quantities of more.

Example?  Teachers are encouraged to create a syllabus and post it online (in addition to adding assignments to the LMS, but that presents problems for those trying to plan forward as those only go assignment by assignment without providing an overview).  So, they post it as a .doc or .pdf, or include it in a class online folder.  So far, so good.  But… many students want to see it in paper, or to add teacher comments about assignments.  So they print it out.  Then they lose that copy.  Solution?  Print another copy.  Etc..

Example? Teachers find an article, essay, short story or something similar and (as with the syllabus) post it online so students can read it for class discussion.  Guess what?  Yep.  Multiple printings.

We have a print management system at Milton.  And it works… sort of.  The problem comes when the student doesn’t see the document in their print queue immediately, assumes it never got there (there’s a delay, sometimes of about five minutes) and sends it again.  Rather than deleting the duplicate, they Print All.  Or it takes forever to actually download and print, so they leave and print elsewhere (we had a 100+ page document print that way).

At my last school, students would send a document to print and when it didn’t, send again.  All too frequently, the printer had run out of paper.

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was in school, we got one copy.  One.  And we took care not to lose it because there was no way to get another one (copiers were scarce, so often it meant hand copying the original).  I suspect that if you looked at school paper budgets over time – even the past decade, as more schools have gone to laptop or tablets for everyone – you’ll see an increase.

The reality is that students don’t want to read on their screen (for longer pieces) or it’s cumbersome to access the document/information.  Teachers, encouraged by their schools, post more and more because, hey, it’s online and they’re not printing.  But that just moves the cost of paper and tone and time onto families and students.

I’m not recommending a return to those Dark Ages.  But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we’ll ever be paperless in the way Doug means – paperLESS would be nice,  PaperSAME perhaps achievable.

Posted in Rants, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | 1 Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 3 January 2017

Wow.  It’s been a year since I did one of these!  I’ve been squirreling away links and things to share, and using Schoology at work to share them with my team.  Now, here’s some sharing with you…

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Etcetera

  • Thought-provoking post about deciding if traveling for PD has a good ROI.  Networking isn’t covered, but should have been.
  • This is the second school I’ve worked at that touts the presence of Harkness tables, yet no one has been trained in the method.  I suspect that many schools are in the same position.  So here is one way “to Harkness” (hint: it’s not about the table!!)
  • Why streaming music (I may be one of the few who refuses to) is going to harm music creation.

Posted in Links, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

More from the mailbox

Posted by lpearle on 28 November 2016

Part of reenergizing the program at work has included purchasing the LibGuides platform to create what we’re calling Resource Guides (it’s the Kleenex/tissue issue – who knows if we’ll stay with the same platform, so why confuse students with a brand name?).  This is the third school I’ve used these guides in, and they’re an amazing way to collect resources and guide students to them, as well as teaching them how to do research.  The usual sequence is: teacher approaches us with a topic, we create the guide, we meet with the class, and then we forget about it until the next year or next time the project is done.  So imagine my surprise when I found this in our mailbox the other week:

Crucible thankyou

Here’s a guide I whipped up in a few moments, presented and hadn’t thought about in several months that has had an impact on someone completely unrelated to our school!  I’m… pleased.  Stunned.  Thrilled.

Here’s proof that what we do matters in ways we don’t always anticipate or see. And proof that adhering to our mantra of sharing resources (via ILL, online, etc.) is one that serves us well.

So here’s what puzzles me: why do school libraries keep their resources hidden?  Why aren’t all school libraries easily findable on the school’s homepage?  If you’re using the LibGuides platform, why aren’t your guides public (there are ways to hide database passwords and login information that still make the rest of the guide public)?  It’s such a surprise to me when I look for a friend’s website, attempt to search a catalog or try to see what databases a peer school has and I can’t find more than a publicity page created by the communications people.  It saddens me that all that’s available to the public is a few facts, maybe a photo.  Allowing others to see what’s going on and what you have is such a help to those of us looking to find books on a topic that work for a certain education level (“will this work with our 7th grade?”) or ways to present information for a research project.  And it’s free pr for your school and its program.

We’re considering a third revamp of our website in two years, asking students for input on usability and comparing our page to peer schools and colleges.  Are we using similar language? What’s important to share, and what can be hidden? One thing we know for sure is that links to our Resource Guides, our catalog and our databases will be available (we use EZProxy, so you can’t access our database content without being a member of our community).  We want to share that with anyone looking because we know how important that can be.

And if anyone asks why, that email is response enough.

Posted in Collection Development, Musings, Rants, School Libraries, Student stuff, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

Thankful for the little things

Posted by lpearle on 23 November 2016

One of the things I heard – loud and clear – when I was interviewing at Milton was that the library needed to change.  It needed to be more the heart of the school, more comfortable for students and teachers.  It’s one of those concrete-and-glass late 60s/early 70s brutalist buildings, no “curb appeal” as all those HGTV shows say.  Inside, I found a wonderful 20th century library and library program – and in 2015 that’s not a great thing, right?  So my staff and I went to work, upping the digital offerings, removing the microfilm/fiche collection, weeding the overgrown collection so that the incredible useful resources we have shine through.  Then I had to hire new staff, one of whom has the charge of energizing our Middle School program and getting involved with the daily life of that division.  And it’s working.  People are responding, perhaps slower than we’d like but still… baby steps, right?

One innovation (for Milton; I freely admit to “recycling” this idea from elsewhere) was to create two pop-up libraries, one in the MS break room and one in the US dining hall, so that busy students and faculty could easily get some vacation reading.  For two days we sat there, encouraging people to “not leave Milton without a vacation read!”.  Not as many takers as I’d hoped, but enough for us to continue this before Winter Break in a few weeks.

And then, this in our mailbox, from S, a senior:

You're awecome

*blush*

 

 

Posted in Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

It’s all worth it

Posted by lpearle on 2 September 2016

Years ago, at another school,at a difficult time professionally, I led a Mock Newbery group for some interested Middle School students.  The excitement (literal jumping up and down in the dining hall) when the winner was announced puzzled those not involved with the reading, but I knew these kids had had a great experience.

Flash forward to last night, when I got this message from the mother of one of the girls in the group:

MOW.jpg

What a wonderful message to start the school year: no matter how difficult it may be in the moment, ultimately, it’s all worth it.

Posted in Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Getting my Alex on

Posted by lpearle on 9 March 2016

In addition to getting to know a new collection and a new school’s way of doing research, I’ve been working on the 2017 Alex Award Committee.  If you’re not looking at adult reads being published in 2016, you’re missing out (trust me on this).

The charge of the Alex Award is to find books with teen appeal, something that is at times difficult for me to suss out.  As someone in her second half-century, putting myself in the mindset of a teen isn’t always easy!  There have been occasional meme-based responses to our Instagram posts and, well… luckily I have staff who are much closer to that age group and get memes.  With Alex, I’m looking for a plot that might interest them – even in non-fiction, as I learned working on the ENFYA Committee and as I’m telling our sixth graders, there can be a narrative arc! – with characters that make sense.  That doesn’t mean I’d expect them to “relate” to Hannibal Lecter, but so many teens love to read Silence of the Lambs thanks to the horror and “creep factor” that it’d probably have gotten the Alex, had it existed when the book was published.

A few weeks ago I booktalked some recently published novels by American authors to an American Lit class.  We came up with twitter “reviews” to pique their interest (eg, “Orange blossoms mean fascination. Chrysanthemums mean you’re a good friend.  More subtle than emojis, flowers speak volumes” for The Language of Flowers, a 2011 nominee)   and they were asked to choose one, read it and then present (to the class and others) on how that book mimicked or expanded on themes in the books they were reading for class.  Talking with them as they chose these books was interesting, with many excited to read something new and not being taught in class.  One or two have even asked for more by that author, or in that genre.

Our fiction collection here was not necessarily bought with teens in mind – Ferrente’s Neopolitan novels, for example – but traditionally we have had a lot of faculty who use our collection for their pleasure reading.  As I continue to read for Alex, I’m wondering about that “teen appeal” part and reflecting on some of the books I’ve read in the past, like Millay’s Sea of Tranquility, which (to my mind) had little adult appeal but was not published at a YA book and thus won the award in 2014.  It will definitely guide my purchasing for our collection in future, as we try to balance “adult appeal” with what will actually appeal to our students.  It will also be interesting to see how we can market these books to both faculty and students without one or the other feeling as though their needs are not being met.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Student stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

More testing thoughts

Posted by lpearle on 9 February 2016

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a friend about my job and recent developments in library land, and the topic of testing arose.  As always, I’ve been very happy to not be working in a public school with all that mandated testing, but we still do see students studying (and taking classes) for AP exams.  Only one school I’ve worked at had a full compliment of AP courses, while the others have had more or less depending on their focus.  Hackley, for example, had gotten rid of the humanities AP classes but still had science and math courses (although that was under discussion); PCS only offered an AP for Calculus, but didn’t classify the course as AP.  My current school has many “honors” and “advanced” classes but nothing called AP (which is a designation that only those who submit a curriculum for approval can use).

I’m of two minds about the AP.  As my British and French friends have repeatedly said, having some sort of national test allows universities to determine the academic readiness of the student.  That’s a fair point: knowing that someone in rural Kansas has the same knowledge as someone at an elite East Coast prep school does help in the admissions process.  But… it bothers me no end that while we’re all too ready to decry Common Core or No Child Left Behind, we’re also all too ready to give millions of dollars to a company (College Board; not-for-profit, but still!) to not only test our students but to approve our curriculum!

Following on that conversation, a colleague told me that he had to submit his curriculum to the College Board but hadn’t quite followed their rules and guidelines.  He’d learned that they’d sent it back unapproved and so, over a long weekend, he’d spent about 30 hours dotting ever i and crossing every t they required… submitted it late Sunday and got approval early Monday.  So clearly “they” didn’t even really look at what he’d done, just made sure that the ‘tasks’ had been completed.  Says quite a lot about the company that also administers all the SATs, doesn’t it?

Over the next week or so students are going to start thinking about their courses for next year.  Some will have to take required classes to meet graduation requirements, most will have some leeway with electives.  The advanced and honors classes will be filled with those who are thinking about taking the AP in April, looking to prove their academic worth to college admissions counselors.

I wish that weren’t the case.  I wish that one company didn’t hold so much power over our students academic careers.  I also wish there were some way we could come to a consensus that would take their power away while still allowing for some sort of level playing ground in terms of education, so all students have an equal chance to prove they know US History or Biology, or whatever.

 

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