Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Student stuff’ Category

The Reader’s Advisory I Hate

Posted by lpearle on 16 November 2017

The other day, a student came in asking for a new book to read.  She’d read a book and enjoyed it, so did we have any other books like it?

Well… yes… probably.  What was it about the book she liked?  There were several things going on in the book, and any of them might have been what appealed.  The last thing you want to do, when recommending a next book, is to assume that the thing that appealed to you about a multi-layered book is what appealed to the reader about the first book.  In this case, I got the infamous preteen shrug coupled with “I dunno…. everything I guess.” Ooookay.  Did you like this aspect?  That theme? The writing style? Which character?  “I dunno…”  Eventually, we found a book that she seemed happy with, although I couldn’t tell you whether there’s anything there that relates at all to the first book.

Now, that’s ok as long as she enjoys the second book.  As long as there’s something for her to connect to, enjoy and keep her reading, it doesn’t matter if there is or is not a connection to the previous book.  I do a lot of genre switching, a lot of reading that doesn’t feel connected except by one thing: is the writing good (a purely objective thing)?  do I buy the world and premise that the writer has created?  And those are totally objective criteria.

But wow, do I hate not being given more direction from readers as to what they liked, so I can recommend books that will continue to appeal to them!  The last thing I – or anyone doing Reader’s Advisory – want is for them to stop asking.

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Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 3 October 2017

Doug has a wonderful post entitled Just another shill for educational companies? that I encourage everyone to read. Here’s my policy: all ideas in any of my posts, from these Minor Musings to other, more detailed commentary, are mine – possibly inspired by others but not paid for or encouraged by a company.  One of these days I’ll go back and do a round-up of what’s worked and what hasn’t (and what sounded good at the time but now… not so much).  The results will probably surprise me, possibly surprise you.  But they won’t be “paid for”, I promise.

Books, Reading, etc.

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

  • As we start to think about building a new space and how to work with the space we have, it’s always timely to remember the Five Laws of Librarianship and working with our faculty and administration to understand what our mission is.

Posted in Books, Ethics, Links, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 5 September 2017

In December I bought myself a new laptop, and this summer I finally cleared out my old files and programs. Yes, I procrastinate. A lot. Anyway, prior to using Feedbin, I used RSS Owl (which is great, but lives on a machine not in the cloud). Some of these links have been stored there for, well… here they are anyway. Along with some new ones just because.

Books, Reading, etc.

  • Summer’s over Time to start planning next summer’s travel. Perhaps the Lake District? Or any of the trips you can find on BookTrails?

School Life

Tech Stuff

  • So cool: text “Send me [keyword, color or emoji]” to 572-51 and the SFMOMA will send you back a piece of art (I did this early one morning).
  • I’m always in favor of bringing art to everyone, and apparently the Met’s Open Access experiment is working!
  • If only I could use my own pens, I’d grab a Rhodia Bamboo Smart Folio.

Miscellany

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

The Art of Not Caring

Posted by lpearle on 24 August 2017

Many years ago as a newly minted school librarian I had the incredibly great fortune to work with and learn from an English teacher who’d been working in schools longer than I, a sort of informal mentor. The school we were at, Professional Children’s School, is a bit of a weird place, having been established over 100 years ago to provide an academic education for children already working in the arts (founding myth). It’s frequently confused with what was once Performing Arts and is now LaGuardia (aka “the Fame school”) or Professional Performing Arts, the NYC public version of PCS. Over the years, the school had become an amazingly diverse place, with a wide range of socioeconomics, religions, ethnicities, talents, learning styles and other things.

In order to make the academics work for students with professional lives, there is a program called Guided Study. Using email and other technologies, teachers and students can work together at a distance; when I was there, that was more difficult as email wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, but I did institute after hours reference sessions using AIM. If you were out on Guided Study, you got a two-week extension, starting on your return to class, for your assignments. Sweet, right? And without going into the stereotypes of which students were more (or less) driven, we all knew than when Student A was on GS, they’d come back to school pretty much on schedule and caught up while Student B would take longer than the permitted extension.

And that’s where my friend’s sage advice came in: I can’t care more than they do. If she assigned an essay on the role of the landscape and snow in Ethan Frome, Student A would come back with a nearly perfect rough draft, while Student B would still need to purchase a copy and figure out how to open the book. Some teachers – at PCS, at every other school I’ve worked in or heard about – would expend a lot of energy working with Student B, cajoling and nudging and bending over to help them “succeed”. Not this teacher. She cared… enough. If the student was willing to do the work, make appointments or stop by to talk and get advice, ask questions, etc., she was 100% with that student and bent over backwards to help. But if that student didn’t care, didn’t put forth any effort and worked the system’s loopholes, she found other ways to occupy her mind and time.

Over the years I’ve had students who are seriously lost doing research. If they ask me for help, I’m happy to do what I can, sharing resources and shortcuts. But I’ve also had students who have – quite literally – asked “will this topic get me an easy A?” (actually, it’s the paper, the finished product that will get grade, but hey, I’m just the librarian so maybe I’m wrong!) or otherwise made it clear that they wanted me to do the research work for them because it wasn’t their priority. And remembering that I can’t care more than they do, that if this isn’t a priority for them, it can’t be a priority for me, helps.

As the school year starts (today is Day One of New Faculty Orientation), and new research projects are discussed and my department begins to work with new students and teachers, I have to remind myself not to care more than they do. It’s not just students, it’s teachers: it may be my goal to have every student graduate with great research, analysis and information/data literacy skills. But if it isn’t my teacher/colleagues goal, too, I can’t care more than they do.

Posted in Musings, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Thinking About Plagiarism at #ALAAC17

Posted by lpearle on 10 August 2017

Just before creating this blog post, I read A Guide for Resisting Edtech: the Case against Turnitin which poses some interesting moral and ethical questions for us to ponder.

Courtney Lewis presented at ALA’s Annual Conference on international students and plagiarism. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a few years, because how we think about as plagiarism – or, as we call it at Milton, academic integrity – is not always how our students, particularly those from other areas of the world, think about it. Thanks to other commitments, this was the only learning session I was able to attend but I’m so glad I did! You can view her slides here.

First thing she mentioned, our concept of plagiarism is actually fuzzy as it doesn’t take info account collaboration, editing, academic co-authorship, programming languages, oral preaching traditions, journalism (especially today, with “sources close to…” rather than named people), political speeches, peer editing in class, authorship in the age of usernames and avatars and mash-ups. In other words, the playing field is constantly evolving.

As we all know, institutions are made up of people. People are messy. And that’s what drives policy. We need to do better.

Think about not only about the above, but also these impediments to students doing completely original work: short assignment times, Pass/Fail classes, poor study habits, the text as authority not us, inadequate practice, lectures are often hypocritical (when does the teacher cite their sources? almost never. plus, see handouts that are missing citation information), English is the language of occupation and colonialism. So there’s that. And let’s not mention the number of library resources that are helpfully highlighted (even lightly in pencil) by previous researchers.

Plus, in most Asian countries, social hierarchy by age is important, so it helps to know who is older and can help younger students understand all kinds of social and academic issues. It’s not just social, but in age is important in other ways: old is revered and seminal while new is less valuable. In former Soviet countries, corruption (and plagiarism could be considered a form of corruption, as is academic theft) is a huge problem and one people learn about early on. Faculty must be taught about social and cultural differences, which lead to an understanding of a way forward.

Here’s an idea, one that would take more time than teachers may want to allot to an assignment but… as students to summarize an article in 1-3 sentences. Then create a paragraph from those sentences. Then a paragraph with quotes. Then share it with classmates and watch them learn from each other what the critical information in the article is. Guaranteed: no two students will have the same quotes or interpretation.

Posted in Ethics, Student stuff | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The next level up: #ACRLNEC17

Posted by lpearle on 8 August 2017

Working in an independent school, particularly one usually considered an “elite college preparatory” school means extra pressure to be aware of what my students will be expected to do and know in their next educational institution. It makes sense to spend the day at the ACRLNEC conference because many of the colleges and universities represented will be where my students end up next.

Keynote: Bringing Down the Empire: Remaking Our Work, Our Libraries, Our Selves

What is the Empire in our world? The idea that libraries no longer matter. Now, how do we fight it?

  • Remake Our Work
    • as users change, we have to change, adapt and educate
    • is higher education worth it? or is training (internships, apprenticeships, etc.) better? there’s been a huge change since the 50s, with the current expectation being “of course you’ll go to college” – however, more hands-on, critical thinking tools are needed
    • digital literacy is important: faculty are finally embracing this and the role of librarians in teaching these skills. NOTE: First Year students need research skills and are coming with subpar skills and understandings.
    • the University of Oklahoma has a virtual reality lab – think about using VR as a tool for teaching language, archaeology, history, etc.
  • Remake Our Libraries
    • with all these changes, what you’re doing with your buildings: we are not just print warehouses, so we need to become an exciting destination.
    • think about this problem/conundrum and the pace of change because what works today probably won’t work in a few years – flexibility is critical
    • one idea: use BrightSpot to rethink space; another idea: create rooms for students to Skype/FaceTime with family, friends, potential employers (or colleges)
  • Remake Our Selves
    • managing is a team sport – we need to support training and opportunity to use new skills later (in other words, don’t train then stuff the skill in a drawer)
    • the 23Things idea (BYU turned it into a contest!)

So: what is a librarian? And what is our role in the academic institution of the 21st Century?

The next two sessions were interesting, but one was (again, as at NEAISL) on archives/digital initiatives and the other was not relevant, so we’ll skip those.

New Model for Library Orientation

We don’t really have a library orientation, but that’s something I’d like to try to create. My college library orientation was four days of one hour instruction in a lecture hall, followed by at “quiz” that took several hours (albeit made easier by all the others doing the same quiz and marking answers or sharing). Did I learn anything? Not really, but I’d been using that library for a few years thanks to my father’s being on faculty there and because my high school library used Library of Congress and was, like my employer, an elite college preparatory school. But… we have students coming to us from a variety of backgrounds and levels of preparation, and while the school can test for math and language skills they have no test for research or literacy skills for incoming students. An orientation might help them feel comfortable in the space, with us as learning partners, and with the resources inside.

  • Step One: get away from library jargon, passivity and lack of real need connection
    • the early days at school are overwhelming, and the library shouldn’t contribute to that stress
    • recognize that the library and resources won’t/can’t/shouldn’t compete with their first stop for information (Google and Wikipedia, duh)
  • Step Two: find a model that works for your institution
    • the presenters work at the UVM Medical School library, so they use the clinical care model that students will be using in their every day classes – it’s a format they’re familiar with, so it makes sense and it’s “special stuff” in their lives
    • what does this look like?
      • Need (what information is sought)
      • History of Need
      • Past Information History – social, previous education, family
      • Diagnosis of Needs
      • Review of Information Systems
  • Step Three: ask for feedback from students and teachers
    • does this make sense?
    • does it help?
    • will you remember it?

Other models? The Scientific Method, Literature Review, Annotated Bibliography, Pathfinder/LibGuide, SWOT, Design Thinking.

Other ideas? Consider using Instagram or other social media to post a Research Question of the Week or Information Resource of the Week.

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations, School Libraries, Student stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

#NEISL17 Reflections

Posted by lpearle on 3 August 2017

I love the NEAISL conference. I love it even more when I’m not hosting, as I did in 2015 and 2016. For those who don’t know, it’s a 40-year-old conference that brings together independent school librarians in New England (and a few from NY). We meet and talk and learn together for one day and then disappear back to our respective schools until the next year. For some, it’s the only professional development during the year, so organizers take it seriously. This past year we went to Cheshire Academy.

Embedded Librarianship (panel discussion)

This is an idea I’ve been excited about for a few years now and sadly, because of changing jobs and changing staff, haven’t been able to really get into before but this year one of my goals is to create an action plan with the department and start to begin the work over AY18 and AY19. So here’s what we need to start thinking about as we move forward:

  • ask questions of the department heads – what skills do you teach? how does the library fit in? (move from support to teaching)
  • reinforce what’s being taught in classes, using ACRL/ISTE/AASL standards to support our involvement
  • create a booking system for reference opportunities on the website, one that asks students to do some thinking rather than just posing a question
  • work with a local academic library on a Day of Research
  • try to get faculty to allow us to grade rough drafts for process, and be as tough as a college teacher would (it’s eye opening for teachers and students to see what’s really required) – one idea is to put all notes and bib in NoodleTools, but require a printed final draft so you can see the changes between the rough and final version

The big takeaway: teacher buy-in is critical, so we need to form a focus group with friendly – and unfriendly teachers!

Critical Media Literacy (Allison Butler)

What is it? It’s continued inquiry into the “behind the scenes” of ownership, production, audience and distribution of media – getting the broader picture because media does not occur in a vacuum.

One idea? Ask students to pull apart a fashion magazine to separate content from ads. Difficult, right? Thing is, we’re still consuming a lot of traditional media, just not in traditional ways: the audience is no longer well-known, so risk-taking is difficult (think: could Archie Bunker work today? maybe. audiences either were in on the joke or saw him as one of them, which might be the case again today).

It’s equally critical to look at what’s not there, which stories aren’t being told and why. What gets prioritized? who does that prioritization? Think: what’s on Fox vs MSNBC vs NPR vs Breitbart. Part of critical medial literacy is to critique power, not to be partisan.

Critical Media Literacy (panel discussion)

  • We need to expand spaces for students to interact with the library
  • Create “Calling BS” posters for all subjects, all topics (get all departments involved) – why stats, data, news, etc. are “BS”
  • You probably will, at some point, retweet fake news – it’s ok. Learn from that failure how to better check sources and biases.
  • Think about how we ask questions: if I can’t find get the information, is that my fault or is there deliberate obfuscation going on?

Critical media literacy isn’t bashing, it’s questioning.

The last panel was on Archives, which I’m sitting on for a while. That’s next summer’s Big Project, my third school archives reorganization. One of these years, I’ll get it right.

Can’t wait to learn with these people next year.

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations, Student stuff | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 28 July 2017

Summer is a great time to binge watch while digitally organizing/reorganizing/decluttering, isn’t it? So here’s what I’ve bookmarked and saved over the past few months.

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

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

The Very Overdue #AISLNO17 Post (part 2)

Posted by lpearle on 26 June 2017

My goal: to blog all the PD I’ve done this year before the academic year ends.  In eight five days.  Get ready!

****

Day One: What Keeps Me Up At Night (Courtney Lewis)

Courtney started by talking about some of the things that keep us all up at night:

  • faculty still referring to their experiences doing research, ignoring changes that have taken place since (and insisting students do it the way they did research “back when”)
  • budgets
  • what is the mission of the library, and does it mesh with the school’s mission?

She’s started to also think about other things, like discovery (how do students and teachers find our resources), tools and what students really need, as opposed to what we think or are told they need.  To find out, she reached out to the First Year Experience librarians at the schools her students matriculated at most, using a personalized letter with a link to a survey; she also posted it on the ACRL list.  There were many responses and as of March, she was still getting data.  No surprise: selectivity in schools matters, particularly in this regard (“selectivity” as defined by US News & World Report and Barrons).

I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of her results, but it was interesting to see how we, at a relatively selective independent school, align already with some of the results at the lower, less selective level.  The question I have to ask myself (and my staff) is how high up we want to reach, and can we differentiate between what we do with our Middle Schools students, our 9/10 graders and 11/12 graders? One big complaint – or, perhaps more accurately, concern – was that students don’t always come with the level of ability that FYE librarians/teachers need for them to have, which (IMVHO) is a result of not being able to mandate specific learning and skills for all high school students, in all high schools.  We run into this challenge with our Upper School students entering from schools other than our Middle School, so why should college be any different?

The biggest thread was that students need better understandings of what resources are useful for what types of information retrieval, to be able to transfer skills from one thing to another.  The idea that you are part of a community of learners, sharing knowledge and resources, is more critical than knowing exactly how to use a specific citation generator or style.

She learned that students will be asked to create traditional research papers (number one response), visual presentations (number two) and DIY science experiments (number three). BUT: the traditional paper, while still the top response, was favored by older professors (see about re: referring back to your own experience) and younger professors were asking for more digital types of responses (blogs, videos, etc.).  There is a critical need to make these types of products part of our curriculum!  Again and again, she heard that the end goal of all research was to make students part of the global community of scholars.  What can we, in K-12, do to ensure our students start on that path?

The other things she learned?

  • format is invisible to students (the UVA Source Death exercise, for example)
  • students need to know what librarians do and how to ask (corollary: they need to know that not everyone working in an academy library is a librarian, or does reference!)
  • skilled searching
  • how to create a topic
  • what the community of scholars is
  • how do you pace yourself when writing a paper (5 pages is different than 20 pages)
  • oral presentation with visual aids skills (don’t silo things)

Next?  She’s looking at a larger sample size, plus cross-referencing with NSSE/BCSSE/FSSE data (they have great research questions), using the data to make smart budgetary choices.  Bigger challenge: changing faculty and students from a local to a global mindset.

As I sat there, I wondered how we can do similar work at Milton.  There are schools around the country wondering that as well.  Maybe we team up and tackle this as a group?  And how can I get local buy in on changing some of how we do research and teach research skills so we know our students are better prepared for their FYE than the average student?

Day Two: Building Community (Claudette Hovasse)

For the past few years I’ve been in awe of what Claudette’s built at Cheshire and tried to think of ways to replicate it at my school.  At Porter’s we were working on it, with some success; at Milton, we need a more concentrated effort.   So, what’s she doing that’s so great?  well…

Example one: she started with a station to create a card for Faculty Appreciation that has grown into cards for Valentines, Thank Yous, Mother’s Day, etc.

Example two: Zentangle (purposeful doodling), book folding, trivia nights, games, stamping, candy sushi, cupcake decorating, pumpkin decorating, vision boards, Lego Nights, coloring book table, comic book artist, bingo, Banned Books Scavenger Hunt.

How is she doing it?  By “starting with Yes“, which has led to program and space changes.  By starting with “what if…” – students felt ownership of the space and program? what are local libraries doing (take classes and crib)?  It stemmed from a desire to build bridges between day/boarding, American/International students and has grown!  Even non CA students come to some events.  She promotes them with signs, in the parent weekly email (and has found that parents push students to attend, which helps build community and leads to greater visibility for what the library is doing).

Some final thoughts:

  • work with what you have – staffing, furnishings, facilities/maintenance, etc.  It doesn’t have to be fancy!
  • puzzles on casual tables have led to new friendships
  • when I started saying “yes” it changed how I saw myself and how the students see [the librarians]

Day One: Design Thinking (many, including yours truly!)

This was an opportunity to report and reflect on the AISL Summer Institute I attended, so here are a few bullet points:

  • Design Thinking is not a magic bullet, it really needs thought and planning (ie. it’s just another tool in the toolbox) – it is a way to give and get better feedback that is more constructive and is very collaborative
  • You don’t need to use DT language, you can create language that works for your school and your population
  • Empathy is the end product, woven throughout the project.  It is not a step.
  • What you’re really asking is not “what do you need” but “what’s missing”

I’m currently taking a Space Planning class that is using DT methodology.  Not because I need it, but as an attempt to get my staff to learn more about DT as we plan for the future of our space and program.  More on that when it’s all over.

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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 20 March 2017

Winter hit.  More accurately, a winter cold hit.  And wouldn’t let go.  But luckily things are back to normal and I’m able to enjoy our Spring Break (two+ weeks in March, unlike public schools nearby that get a week in February and a week in April).  There’s the AISL conference in NOLA later this week and a Faculty Forum when we return – stay tuned for things learned from the amazing people at AISL as well as the library department’s Fake News presentation for my colleagues.  Until then…

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

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