I have seen the future….

…and it is filled with me having difficult conversations.

While I get phone calls about donations from time to time, a recent reunion on campus allowed me to connect with a number of wonderful alumni who are downsizing and eager to find a new home for their considerable book collections. These are tremendously supportive members of our school community – how to respectfully respond to these offers, considering our responsibility to maintain a current and appealing collection that fits 2016 curriculum and reading interests?

As I’ve shared before, with the exception of my dog-eared Lucy Maud Montgomeries, I am not sentimental about print books, so I have to step away from my perspective and appreciate the intent behind these offers, despite the fact that unfortunately, many of these books are not a good fit for our collection.

Wanting to handle each situation with grace and sensitivity, I have been trying to relinquish my anxiety about the outcome of these conversations (“very sorry, but we can’t accept 15 boxes of 1970-era political science texts”) and focus on the following: –

  • Gratitude > Thank them for their thoughtfulness and generosity
  • Curiosity > Ask about reading interests,  how the collection developed, which books are favourites…this usually leads to an interesting conversation, and both potential donor and I enjoy the chance to chat about something about which they are so passionate
  • Commiseration > “I know, isn’t it a shame that the Grade 10 Canadian History curriculum begins at WWI?” (which is why, in the interest of shelf space, we have to maintain a small section of pre-1914 Canadiana;  suggest that perhaps a university library may be a better fit)
  • Careful consideration > “I’d love to take a closer look at our needs in this area, may I follow up with you by phone at the end of this week?” Sometimes a bit of time allows me to feel more confident about my decision, and better able to frame a proper response
  • Spirit of sharing > Some of our faculty have been grateful to receive uniquely subject-specific texts that aren’t a good match for the library, but are wonderful to have in class or office

My hope is that the potential donor feels valued and appreciated, even we aren’t able to accept the donation: we are truly fortunate to have people in our midst who so love the printed word, and want to share a lifetime of treasures with us.

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Thinking about design & delivery

At the end of this school year, like many of you, I compiled a summer reading list for my Lower School students and an annual report for their families. Though this is something that I have been doing for the past six years, I’m always reinventing how it’s done so that it’s most effective for my current community. To that end, I believe design matters.

For my summer reading lists, I have previously used Goodreads, in-text blog posts, and shared Google Docs – nothing too fancy or elaborate but what was simply needed to deliver the message. For the annual reports, I’ve exclusively used Pages, either modifying templates or creating my own design. Last year, I designed my summer reading list in Pages to look more like a magazine, something like the BookPage or the The Horn Book‘s publications, something more visually appealing. For this year’s summer reading list, I knew that I could essentially use last year’s template and just change the books. Nothing about the design really needed to be updated. But I challenged myself, used a new-to-me tool, and changed the look of it because I want to grow in the same way I teach my students – as a creator and designer and someone who thinks intentionally about audience and purpose.

I think that we, collectively, look for and appreciate well-designed media. Free tools like Canva help amateurs like me design something beautiful and professional. Honestly, I wish I had known about it sooner. Though it’s been around a few years, I hadn’t heard of it until recently – but I had seen many examples of banners and flyers created with it. Before this turns into too much of a Canva commercial (no, they’re not paying me), I will say that there are probably many other similar design tools out there. This is just the one that I decided to try out! Because I wanted my products to look like a magazine, I also tried out FlipHTML5 to create the flipping pages.

Lower School Summer Reading 2016

(Click the image for the FlipHTML5 version. Here’s the doc version.)


LS Library Annual Report 2016

(Click the image for the FlipHTML5 version. Here’s the doc version.)


Though I’m particularly happy with these two promotional products, I know that next year, I will be trying something new yet again. I have yet to brand myself like some libraries and librarians, and I don’t know if that will be my next step. I enjoy the freedom to be creative in whatever way inspires me and connects with my audience at the time.

As a side-note, I appreciate that this is also a way for me to grow as a technology leader in my school, to try out new tools and be able to knowledgeably recommend them to students and teachers.  For these two products, I learned how to use Canva for the design and FlipHTML5 for the delivery.

Is anyone else out there thinking design? Share your work! I’d love to have something new to try out over the summer. 🙂

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The Purge, or I Love CSV Files So Much I Want to Marry Them (sorry Brian!)

With apologies to those of you who may serve in *twelve-month positions . . . IT’S SUMMER! WHOOPEE! *flings hat towards sky and does happy dance.*

(OK, to be honest, I do check work email at least once a day, and I’m actually awaiting a call from the facilities manager alerting me to when I’ll be able to shift the entire collection into new bookcases before the start of school, so I’m not totally checked out. Still.)

So, how did I work towards this oasis of delight, and what am I doing to prepare for the autumn that will inexorably arrive? Many of you, I’m sure, have a year-end routine, so at this point feel free to either compare yours to mine or dismiss this post entirely and grab your summer reading instead.

I didn’t do inventory this year – given that I’m moving the entire collection for the third time, I figured I had handled each and every book in our library quite enough and like Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about that another day. I also handled the usual renewals and cleared my desk of personal effects – I’d hate for my Jane Austen bobble-head doll to go walking this summer. As for the rest, here are some helpful hints for users of Follett, Questia, NoodleTools and other common library resources. The real lowdown: CSV files. I love them. I loooove them. Each May like clockwork I walk into my work-bestie’s office and declare once again my love for CSV files, because they save me so much boring, repetitive data entry work.

The first step is purging, hence the title. I begin by purging all the seniors from Follett using its global update criteria feature. Then I increment the sixth through eleventh grades upwards using the same global update. I’m sure everyone has a variant of this, but mine has a peculiar twist: our lower school is on another campus on Siesta Key, and although we both use Follett as our LMS, we have it divided into a lower school catalog and a Middle/Upper school catalog. Instead of adding the entire incoming sixth grade one at a time by hand, the lower school librarian exported the fifth grade patrons as a .out file and emailed it to me, and with the magic of CSV files I was able to update their patron info and then simply import them into my side of Follett. Poof! Welcome, sixth grade! How did I do it? Keep reading.

One of the best things I have done for myself as the Questia administrator is divide our upper school users by class level instead of adding them all as one massive group. Although we only have about 350 ninth through twelfth graders, it’s much easier to deal with their accounts if they are divided into smaller packages. For example, I can easily delete all the graduating seniors, increment the other students upwards into their respective grade levels, and add the new ninth graders coming up from eighth grade. It’s very easy to extract data from Follett and turn it into a CSV file and use that to bulk-upload all the new users. Here’s the trick, because Follett will give you a .out file, which I defy you to open and use. Save the .out file to your desktop, manually change the file extension to .csv (it will ask you if you really mean to do this – you do. Forge bravely ahead!), and then you can open it in Excel and manipulate the data fields any way you want, adding or subtracting whatever columns you need to in order to conform to the template for uploading users.

Armed with CSV files at the ready, you can update or add NoodleTools folders easily too – the possibilities start to look endless. Stop yourself before you discover that it’s July and you’re still looking for ways to exploit CSV’s in every aspect of your library life.

*Twelve-month librarians, do you have a particular routine you attend to in the slower summer months? Here’s your chance: weigh in and share your approach, and ease your burden by sharing your tale of woe with your cohort – I promise virtual tea and actual sympathy.

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A Professional Reading List

In the board survey this spring, there was a request for more book recommendations on the blog. While it’s always fun to think about reading by the beach over the summer, it’s also when we might have more time to delve into professional books. Each year, my school requires a professional read for faculty, and while these have been fine, none have been overtly influential. I thought carefully, and mined my Goodreads shelf, and here are the five books library management/education/productivity books that have made the biggest difference in how I teach and organize the library on a day-to-day basis. They’re not new or flashy, but they have for me been “the right books in the right hands at the right time.” Perhaps they’ll do the same for you, or I’d love to hear your selections below!AISL-UCUnderstanding Comics: the Invisible Art by Scott McCloud (1993)

We do a lesson on visual analysis with the AP Lang students and show selections from McCloud’s Ted talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_mccloud_on_comics?language=en). They are teens, so they immediately notice that he’s a lot older now than when he wrote this book. But then they settle down to listening to his message. I think the first graphic novel I read was Lynda Barry’s What it Is when I was in library school, and I honestly didn’t know how to parse the visuals and text. McCloud demystifies the genre, sharing its history and common conventions in graphic novel format. I’ve realized that my facility and speed with print does not translate to the visual realm, and some of my students are more adept at picking up the nuances than I am. It’s been helpful in understanding how comics work and for convincing teachers to take them seriously. As culture today becomes more and more visual, this book shares insights that translate to human psychology and marketing.AISL-TSISThey Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein (2006)

I may have bought a copy of this book and read it before cataloging, at which point I may have handed it to the English department chair who immediately made it his own and included it in the AP writing curriculum. Though written by teachers at community college, there is tremendous applicability for high school writing assignments. It’s also a teeny-tiny book, full of writing templates. The writers’ premise is that students are often entering a conversation when they begin writing, and they need to recognize their position in respect to what has already been said. The structure of a template isn’t confining but instead encourages students to be more creative and original as they are learning writing skills. This book probably isn’t groundbreaking, but it is accessible for both teachers and students as they work to improve their writing.AISL-GoTThe Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why by Richard Nisbett (2003)

This is a book written by a psychologist, and it isn’t specifically focused on education, but it approached an idea that was new to me: that the way we physically view the world is not universal but is strongly culturally dependent. The way that this is presented is not obvious as it might seem from that summary and begins with Ancient Greek and Confucian philosophies and carries through to present-day child rearing and business transactions.  The author is an academic who draws heavily on his own research: http://www.pnas.org/content/100/19/11163.full to deeply explore notions of attention, independence and cognition. The idea of Western independence compared to Eastern interdependence recurs throughout the book, starting from Western children learning nouns first while Eastern children learn verbs first, emphasizing the interconnectedness of items that they are taught from birth. I work in a multicultural school, and reading the ways that some of my students may see what I present in different ways was helpful to me.AISL-SaWThe Students are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract by Nancy and Ted Sizer (2000)

This was the first book I read from the Sizer family, and the main idea is timeless. It’s about the growth that we want to see in our students, not in knowledge, which is covered in many other books, but in morality, ie. character. Unlike They Say/I Say, there are no templates here, just a thoughtful contemplation about the ways that schools are set up and the structure of the school day. This book looks at informal teaching and the ways teachers model the behaviors they expect (or don’t) throughout all their interactions with students. Students look up to us as examples, and they don’t stop paying attention the second the bell rings. The authors believe that relationships are important in schools, and that getting to know students makes a huge difference in what we are able to teach. As independent school librarians, I think we’ll all agree. One of the main reasons that I work in a school is my ability to get to know the students personally and having the chance to help them navigate the confusion of teenagerness to end up as confident and caring adults. This book gave me specific strategies for doing that. AISL-GTDGetting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (2001)

I read this book at the recommendation of a friend in grad school, and it’s a sneaky bugger. I didn’t know until a Wired article this year that there’s a whole GTD community on the web. Frankly, at the time I thought the book was similar to many self-help/organizational books, repetitive and self-evident. But Allen tugged at my mind with his accurate diagnosis of the items keeping me from being as productive as I had hoped. Allen has a process for everything, outsourcing the nagging section of your brain. Wikipedia, at this writing, has a good overview, and I’ll try to trim it down even further. I don’t follow everything and my inbox is never at zero, but these are the direct changes that have definitely amped my productivity.

-Break your “to do” list into next steps. If you are hung up on a specific step, write that step down exactly as it’s hanging you up. Inventory is not an actionable item. For me, the tasks went something along the lines of:
        1. Find inventory netbook and get it updated.
                       2. Start inventory in Follett.
                       3. Create circulation type .rtf files.
                       4. Scan fiction, Scan 900s, etc and front the shelves as I scan…
If you take nothing from this book except this, this advice can be targeted specifically to help struggling students. Too often, they think the next step is “write research paper.” It never is.
-If a task is not complete but you are waiting for a step from another person, put the action you are “waiting for” on a separate list. You won’t forget it, and you know the status of item in question.
-Don’t put something on your calendar unless it needs to be done that day. All else is added to the “to do” list where it best fits.
-Ideas and big picture items go into the “someday/maybe” file. This is my personal Pinterest for ideas I want to keep for the indefinite future. Set a reminder to review these items if you’re worried you’ll forget about them.

Like many librarians, I love to talk about books. Rather than standing up on a podium and talking about books that have influenced me, I want to follow Katie’s lead. Do any readers have thoughts on the books I’ve mentioned or suggestions of their own? It’s tough not to ramble while summarizing several thousand pages of texts into five paragraphs, so let’s continue the conversation below.


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on knowing (not) what I am doing…

I’ve been struggling to figure out what to write about this month. While I’ve been doing a lot of professional development, I don’t know what to do with all of it yet, which is nothing new. Therefore, what follows is a lot about the reality that, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…”

I’m guessing that some of you are probably on summer break, and some of you may be finally finishing up with school year 2015-2016. Our school calendar is a bit of an oddity in that we finished school in May, had a week off, and are already in our second week of summer school.

As a very young child, summer for me meant “summer fun” (day camp). As I got older, it became pretty clear that I was a student for whom learning didn’t come very easily–old report cards indicate that I read extremely poorly until sometime in about the 5th grade. I think that starting sometime around the 4th grade instead of summer fun, I was always enrolled in summer school classes to help me catch up to my peers. School wasn’t easy, but I was blessed with good teachers and enough parental cajoling, love, support, and demand that I always managed to make it through.

I know that others’ experiences may be different, but it’s pretty clear that, for me, the adult that I’ve become is, fundamentally, not so very different than the struggling learner I was as a child. I’ve wondered recently, whether all of those schooling and learning struggles were just ways for the universe to prepare me for life as a school librarian because I don’t know about the rest of you, but…everyday I wake up, get dressed, and come to work, and spend most of my day secretly feeling deep down inside that, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…”

As of the end of May, I’ve been an educator for 29 years–16 of which have been as a librarian. As a 20 year old with a newly minted BEd, I stood in front of my 22 first graders on the first day of school and thought, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…”

I SO MUCH didn’t know what I was doing that I kept taking classes to figure all the teaching and learning stuff out until I ended up with a second Ed degree and still, I thought, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…”

Through a whole bunch of weird twists and detours, I ended up in library school and a job as a middle school librarian and thought, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…” and then 14 years later moved into my current job where we’ve already established that, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…”

I actually feel like I could probably end this post right here with “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…” but clicking the publish button here would take more guts than I actually possess so I’m going to qualify this a bit before pressing publish.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…” because in a world where the way information is created, published, disseminated, accessed, and used is, literally, changing everyday…

  • What does it mean to be “information literate?”
  • What does it mean to be “college ready?”
  • Are colleges truly doing a good job of preparing young adults to be thoughtful and productive citizens?
    • If no, do we continue to build PK-12 curriculum around helping students be “college ready” or do we bravely go where other schools have not?
  • How much of my collection should be eBooks vs. print vs. databases vs. audiobooks?
  • What platforms should I use to host my eBooks and audiobooks?
  • How many eBook and audiobook platforms is too many?
  • Should I have my own “library research process” like Big6 or ISP or should we be aiming to contextualize library skills/concepts/tasks into a broader framework like Design Thinking?
  • Is it okay to rip the DVD of our legal copy of Supersize Me so students can view it within Vialogues on our Moodle site?
    • Guidelines don’t count. I want someone to tell me yes or no and if they’re wrong, they get fired or sued instead of me.
  • Is the return on investment for EBSCO Discovery worth it by measurably getting many more student eyeballs on my expensive database content or is it still a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time thing that everybody is excited about and signing on for until two years from now when we’ll all want to move on to something else that is still not-quite-ready-for-prime-time?
  • I know library research skills are necessary and important for students’ future success, but how do I get teachers to believe what I believe?
  • Why do we have to change libraries into “Learning Commons” rather just calling them libraries and adding/evolving the functionality and work that happens within a “library?” (Modern hospitals seem to still be called “hospitals” without the messy historical baggage associated with the fact that physicians used to use leeches to suck blood from sick people. Things change, people, move on!).
  • Is coffee bad for me or is it good? What about salt? Butter? I’m a librarian. If I can’t figure out what to eat or not eat, how am I supposed to teach students in a health class what sources of information are to be believed?
  • MLA 8 has landed. Should I stay with MLA 7 for this year or make the jump in August?
  • Easybib Schools got murdered. Easybib Scholar didn’t look worth the cost difference for my school needs so we planned to migrate to NoodleTools, but now Easybib whatever it is called now is, supposedly, free. Go or stay?
  • What am I not doing that I should be doing? I don’t know what I don’t know…

Okay, so, that’s just a small sampling of my particular brand of crazy-librarian-mind-thinking and that’s what I mean when I say, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…” 

Please click on the comment link and weigh in.

  • Do you actually feel like you know what you’re doing? How did you get to that space?
  • What do you do to make decisions when you feel like you don’t yet know all that you need to know, but have to make a decision one way or another?

Somebody at least post a comment if only because otherwise I’ll spend the rest of the summer worrying that:

  • I have no idea what I am doing…

and that

  • I’m the only one that has no idea what he is doing…

Happy summer, all!

By the way, the AISL Summer Institute Design Thinking @ Your Library hosted by Katie Archambault at the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY starts in a week! Hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it this year follow the goodness at #aislSI16

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The Best of 2016: A Collaborative Year in Review!

I would *really* love to plug the AISL Summer Institute that is taking place at my school in 8 days(!!), but between last minute plans for exactly that, grades and comments being due like now, end of year book donations, and faculty meetings galore, I’m going to need YOUR help to get this blog post done.

Are you up for it? I need you, friends!

Let’s talk about the best of the best that we found this year. Maybe we can add some books to our vaca to-read list, maybe we can play with some apps in our ample free time, maybe we can plant seeds for lessons to take place in the fall? Let’s see where this goes. Come on, it’ll be fun! Just copy/paste this, replace my answers with your own and if you think of something I missed, add it! The person who comments below you can copy YOUR list and this ‘best of’ thing can grow and grow.

Best fiction: “Salt to the Sea” by Sepetys (reading now)
Best non-fiction: tie for me–“The Boys in the Boat” by Brown and “The Organized Mind: thinking straight in the age of information overload” by Levitin
Best YA fiction: “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Nelson
Best Graphic Novel: “Smile” (my reluctant reader 5th grade daughter loved it!)
Favorite App: Nearpod for presentations & Netvibes for blog aggregation (Overdrive for audio books, a big duh, I know, but I got really into ebooks this year.)
Most Improved App you should check out again: Evernote
Top Circulating Magazine in your library: Mental Floss & People
Favorite Database: Gale’s Global Issues in Context
Most excited to try out in ’16-’17: Personal Librarian Program, Ebsco Discovery Service, hosting an author
Most popular book display: Blind Date with a Book (February)
Favorite Non-AISL Blogs: Free Tech for Teachers, The Unquiet Library, the 21st Century Library
Most binge worthy Netflix/Prime Show (hey, Librarians are human too): Poldark, Mozart in the Jungle, Catastrophe, The Good Wife
Programmatic Success in 2016: Pop Up Maker space with monthly challenges (low–>high tech)
Most dreaded end of year task: Inventory (cue dramatic music)
Book I most want to read this summer: Outlander, book 1

O.k. your turn! Copy/paste, modify, add to, do what you like, but use the comments to let us know what was a big hit in your world in 2016!

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The Difference Between Failure and Goofing Up

The US army experimented with use of camels instead of horses and it failed.

The US Army Camel Corps tried using camels, instead of horses, to deliver supplies. Epic fail! The Camel Express, 1857. Bridgeman Art Library/Universal Images Group. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 8 Jun 2016.

I am all for failure in theory, but I hate when it happens to me! Actually, it isn’t honest failure that I find hard. Most examples of failure, as the word is used today, mean trying hard, missing your goal and persevering. But failure has another side: I’m going to call it goofing up. Honest failure is planning an after-school Sudoko competition, and no one shows up. Goofing up is trying something new, but putting the wrong date on the signs, or not displaying them where students will see them. Honest failure is trying a new trick in a presentation, and concluding viewers find it annoying. Goofing up is throwing a presentation together the night before, and finding mistakes with your audience present. Continue reading

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Lions, Tigers, and Cheetahs ? Oh, My…

IMG_4188 IMG_4189IMG_4007 (1) IMG_3972IMG_4239 (1)                                                   (a mosquito)

What happens when K students visit the makerspace to create a project about their favorite animal which they have researched? Their list consisted of lions, tigers, cheetahs, elephants, deer, sharks, wolves, lizards, giraffes, bats, monkeys, parrots, sloths, crocodiles, and mosquitoes. Some of the students worked in groups and some worked individually depending on their choice. Watching them turn clothespins into trees, plastic bags into animal bodies, straws into grasslands, pompoms into trees, clay into animals, tiles into water holes and mud areas, and gems into animal spots was absolutely fascinating. Using their imagination the students decided to make animal masks, actual models, and habitats for their animals.


Each student had access to the same materials, but everyone took a different approach to solve their problem. They shared the information they learned about the animals’ predators, the food they eat, as well as how they hunt and live, in their displays. The results were absolutely amazing and they could explain every detail they created. Visitors to the media center were in awe as they admired the final displays. They attracted the attention of the JK students and teachers and they wanted to know who designed them. One of the wishes the JK students made in the beginning of the year was to learn about some of these animals. Arrangements were made between the JK teachers and the K teachers to have the K “experts” share their knowledge with the JK students. This made the project a full circle experience for everyone.

IMG_4227 IMG_4226 IMG_4225 IMG_4224 IMG_4223IMG_4222 IMG_4221 IMG_4228                                                                                                                     ( a parrot)

Felix Adler in 1892 was adamant about about kids becoming discoverers of knowledge by learning how to make things as opposed to being passive recipients of it. This lines up with the current thinking today in our 21st century schools. The self confidence that each K student displayed was apparent as they transferred their expertise to their younger audience. This culminating activity reenforces the power children have on their learning experiences when we just “Let Them Go and Let Them Make.”


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Props to Edison

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. (T. Edison)

We’ve all read plenty recently about how experiencing failure allows our students to build resiliency. A recent article referenced the idea of a “failure resume”, an idea offered by Melanie Stefan (now a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh) as a result of this realization:

“My CV does not reflect the bulk of my academic efforts — it does not mention the exams I failed, my unsuccessful PhD or fellowship applications, or the papers never accepted for publication. At conferences, I talk about the one project that worked, not about the many that failed.”

I truly value failure as a tool for learning, and encourage students to take calculated risks. Personally, I fail regularly in a number of arenas; my contribution to this year’s school cake auction was the very definition of failure. However, I’ve only recently realized how difficult it is for me to put it into professional practice. It is much safer to ‘fake it until I make it’ on those occasions when I mess up. But how are my students supposed to embrace failure if they don’t actually see me fail?

So, I have pledged to fail more enthusiastically. I’m getting better about asking colleagues to explain to me what I don’t understand (today at lunch, it was a discussion about blockchains – still working on that one). And working with a class recently, I did a poor job of narrowing the search terms in my example, ending up with an overly lengthy list of inaccurate results. One of the students was delighted to call me out on it, and was pretty surprised by me being equally delighted that he did so. It led to a wonderful class discussion about how we all get some things wrong, which can help us to move forward. We also touched on perseverance, one of the ‘habits of the heart and mind’ from our school mission. Like you, I have to remind kids that I don’t have research mastered, I recognize the critical role of perseverance in the research process (and life in general).

So persevere, I will….and role model failure, I must.

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Creating Presentations That Resonate

A Closeup of Handblown Glass. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 19 May 2016.

A Closeup of Handblown Glass. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 19 May 2016.

Are you zombified by student PowerPoint presentations and a bit dizzy after viewing spinning Prezis? This year I have been rethinking the librarian’s role as literacy expert.  Whether you use the term media literacy, digital literacy, data literacy, or New Literacies—all of these concepts have in common an emerging need:  librarians guiding students to grapple with meaning, communicate their insights in multi-modal formats, and, potentially, share and publish their work digitally.

This article suggests books and online resources to more effectively plan and animate presentations, thereby creating messages that will resonate with your audiences.

Nancy Duarte is a persuasive presentation expert who maps the structure of effective communicators (see her TED talk comparing the structure of great speeches by Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King). Duarte presents her strategies in two books Slide:ology and

Duarte, Nancy. Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. http://www.duarte.com/book/slideology/.

Duarte, Nancy. Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. http://www.duarte.com/book/slideology/.

In Slide:ology, Duarte estimates that an effective  presentation requires 36 or more hours to research; evaluate audience; brainstorm ideas; organize; solicit feedback; storyboard; build slides; and rehearse.  Tips include brain-storming with sticky notes and by sketching diagrams; highlighting data; designing with color and selective choice of text; and crafting a story flow through animations and slide transitions. Though 36 hours may seem unrealistic with demanding class  schedules, sharing tips will aid students in message making.


I was able to demonstrate some of these techniques in a serendipitous teaching opportunity; a freshman physics teacher asked me to advise students on incorporating their science experiment data into slides. I rented a Kindle version of Slide:ology and projected on a large screen examples of data graphs and charts, inviting freshmen to evaluate ineffective/effective design and to keep in mind Duarte’s mantra: “Data slides are not really about the data. They are about the meaning of data” (64).  Visually highlighting or emphasizing a part of the data can show an emerging trend or complication–a moment when data results challenge assumptions and cause a rethinking for the student scientists. As students discuss the highlighted data, they begin to show the audience the meaning behind the data.

Duarte, Nancy. Resonate. http://www.duarte.com/book/resonate-legacy/.

Duarte, Nancy. Resonate. http://www.duarte.com/book/resonate-legacy/.

In Resonate, Duarte  explores the power of stories to connect with audiences and to deepen under-standing.  I adapted a suggestion from the book, “amplify the signal, minimize the noise,” to aid freshmen in reading and assessing a quote by Adolph Hitler on the power of persuasive media messages (170).  In the slide example below, the quote was first read and then a series of animated graphics appeared in an equation format to distill meaning of Hitler’s message:

(All images from Britannica Image Quest.)

(All images from Britannica Image Quest.)

If you desire to share an example of how we perceive images based on entry into a slide (scene), show this movie clip from Hitchcock’s thriller, Strangers on a Train. Notice which direction the “good” character enters the scene versus the “bad” character’s entrance.  Since Westerners’ eyes are use to a left to right movement, entries from the right are viewed as disconcerting.  Students can consider this as they animate visuals or text appearances on their slides (left to right and top to bottom are more familiar ways of reading messages).

Hitchcock, Alfred. Strangers on a Train. 1951. Photography. Encyclopedia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 19 May 2016.

Hitchcock, Alfred. Strangers on a Train. 1951. Photography. Encyclopedia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 19 May 2016.

Explore more ideas on storytelling and making meaning from data in this archived webinar, “Storytelling with Infographics,” presented by Debbie Abilock and Connie Williams.  Abilock and Williams will also be presenters in an upcoming conference:
Virtual Conference on Data Literacy: Creating Data Literate Students hosted by the University of Michigan School of Information and University Library (see website for free registration to this virtual conference).

And for something totally different, listen to NPR’s interview with artist/rocker David Byrne as his explains his use of PowerPoint as Art.  Wising you a summer filled with stimulating reading and rethinking the tools we use to communicate meaning.

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