on “meanwhile, back at the library…”

When last we came together in this space, I was happily going about making plans to reopen my library for face-to-face service to limited numbers of students.

The world out there…

We watched with horror and empathy for our neighbors in the Pacific Northwest the Northeast as the virus raged through communities and overwhelmed their medical systems. In Hawaii we had daily counts of new COVID-19 cases of 5, 10, and on bad days a dozen new cases per day. Like much of the rest of the country, we locked down to flatten our curve. Travel to Hawaii was, basically, shut down. Rather than the roughly 33,000-35,000 passengers to the islands that arrive by air on a spring/summer day in a typical year, Hawaii was seeing in the very low hundreds of air passenger arrivals per day–most of them were thought to be residents returning home or essential workers moving to the islands.

A strangely empty Waikiki…

Meanwhile, back at the library…

We set about planning for reopening by distancing all of our furniture so that masked students could be 3 foot distanced if facing the same direction or 6 foot distanced if they were facing each other. Computers were removed from our desktop area. Tables were rearranged in our Library Classroom, and plexiglass dividers were ordered for our library tables and circ desk.

Our socially distanced desktops…
And their friends that didn’t make the cut…

After accomplishing our directive and goals, we proudly sat back and I started to rest and recharge for the start of the 20-21 school year!

The world out there…

About the time, that I started getting ready to enjoy my summer staycation (because, you know, I’m not a fool that’s going to fly to virus plagued NYC when I live on an isolated archipelago with almost no COVID and my condo has a pool…). At about this time, schools in many locales began seriously looking at 6 foot social distancing all around and REQUIRED, rather than just RECOMMENDED, masks in classrooms. I was extremely grateful that my school administration had, by then, VERY EXPLICITLY established that any return to campus would include a requirement that any child or adult on campus would be REQUIRED to wear a PPE at all times.

Our masks and shields arrived!!!

Meanwhile, back at the library…

With emerging guidance from the Hawaii Department of Health my administration took the lead in asking our reopening committee to go back to the drawing board and reconfigure all spaces on campus for 6 foot social distancing all around.

The library staff developed policies for class visits, plans for materials purchasing, plans for circulation, plans for tracking students entering the library. Our IT and ET staff helped us remove more computers, we removed more tables from our classroom space, got rid of all of the library’s “comfy” furniture, and we began rethinking ways that we might tweak delivery of services to students from K-12.

At the same time, other groups on campus worked on plans to keep students monitored at all times during the day to help them maintain safe social distancing and even more furniture (including teachers’ desks) were removed from classrooms to allow every single square inch of space to be used for social distancing in classrooms. A new schedule that might lend itself to an easier transition to virtual learning in a worst case scenario that saw us return to fully virtual instruction was developed and rolled out, and our AC units were upgraded with UV cleaning systems and higher quality filters.

The world out there…

People, for whatever reason, were growing weary of life under lockdown. As our community started to reopen from lockdown and people began to return to parks, stores, restaurants, and streets (still under a required mask mandate) little by little people just seemed to grow weary of the social distancing and masking that had kept our COVID rates so enviously low. Reports of things like huge beach parties in protected shoreline areas. A huge rock jumping contest attended my many kids without social distancing or masks. Predictably our rate of new COVID cases began to skyrocket.

From single-digit averages to not single-digit averages…

Meanwhile, back at the library…

We put the finishing touches on our direction arrows. Put down our socially distanced “stand here” dots to facilitate queuing in various areas of the library, and were pretty much ready for school to start. Just over a week out from the first day of instruction, all of the public schools and just about all of the independent schools on Oahu announced that almost everyone would be starting the school year virtually so, once again, EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.

We’re getting our money’s worth out of our investment in our Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutting machine!
I kinda LOVE that my co-librarian, Nicole, created direction arrow decals that play off our school logo!

Meanwhile, [NOT] back at the library…

I’m writing this as we prepare to switch from Google Meet to Zoom as our online instruction platform; my co-librarian, Nicole, and I are putting together our new Library and Technology 6 class that we will be teaching for the first time; and I’m preparing to be a virtual librarian for at least the next few weeks.

Physical cues matter… (At least to me, they do…)

As I’ve worked IN my library for the last few days, one of the things I’ve come to realize is how important the physical separation of my library life and my home life is to my personal mental health, my wellbeing, and my productivity–I get SO MUCH MORE done when I am working at school. While we were on lockdown and virtual librarian-ing from home in the spring, I truly struggled to stop librarian-ing each evening so I ended up thinking about work for, what seemed like, 20 hours a day. I’ve come to realize that when I’m working in the library the physical space tells me that it is time for me to work. When I get home, the change of my physical space signals my subconscious self that it is time to stop working and be a spouse/son/uncle/friend. As we enter a new phase of virtual education, I’ve decided that I will probably try do quite a bit of my virtual work from the library if we are virtual, but not under broader shelter-in-place orders. It is just something that seems that it will work better for me.

I’ve also made the decision to take all work accounts off my personal electronic devices. When I am working, I will be on a school device and when I am using digital platforms to visit with my friends and family, I will do that on personal devices. I seem to be a person that has a brain that needs physical cues in order to switch gears.

Sometimes we can solve, but sometimes we just cope and that’s ok…

It’s really exhausting and stressful to have everything you know how to do suddenly feel null. In a PD session earlier this week, an educational psychologist that Zoomed in to work with our faculty on our own mental wellbeing asked us to differentiate between problems and dilemmas. His point, as I understood it, was that problems have solutions so we should work on finding ways to solve problems. Dilemmas, though, are part of the fabric of life. They are things, like pandemics, that we as individuals have little ability to solve based on our individual decisions or actions, so we should focus instead on how to cope with the dilemma. With dilemmas we work to mitigate the negatives, but we simply cannot look at a future need to revisit and change how we’ve tried to cope because our reality is that there are no solutions for us to suddenly find.

Finding solutions to invisibility…

One of our biggest problems when we went to emergency virtual teaching last spring was that we, as librarians, felt like we became suddenly invisible (and believe me, my colleague and I are very different by personality, but we aren’t typically people that are easily missed within our school community). One way Nicole and I are trying to make ourselves more visible to our students and teachers in our virtual environment is that we’ll be rolling out short 5 minute or less videos for teachers to show to their classes. We’re planning to try targeting teachers in different subjects depending on the topic, theme, or skill being emphasized in each video. It, honestly, feels really weird to have your face in the corner of your screencasts, but we decided that it was important for students to see our faces in order to be a visual presence as well as a voice. We hope that students will feel like they “know” us a little better over time and that will serve us well when we finally get to work with students in a 3-dimensional space.

Click here to see Nicole introducing Google News…
Click here to see me trying to explain why cake that doesn’t look like cake might be problematic…

The production values are admittedly low. I don’t want us spending too much time making things perfect and pretty so I’m trying to get over my slow talking, weird phrasing, and awkward pauses. I just want to have a way to get info lit concepts out to our kids that’s relevant, authentic to our personalities, and a little informal, without too much fussing…

On the horizon…

I talk a good game, but honestly, I’m struggling with the idea of going back to virtual learning. Here’s the thing, though, this afternoon, I realized that we actually won’t be “going back” to what we did in an instant back in March when we had to implement “emergency virtual learning.” Last spring, teachers and students just didn’t have the “bandwidth” to switch everything online AND think about incorporating library and research work into that mix.

As we move toward opening school year 2020-2021… virtually … we’ve already been approached for research lessons and support than was our pre-COVID-19 norm at the start of a year. So let’s work on moving forward with hope and let’s be kind to ourselves.

Hahaha!!! That last sentence, “So let’s work on moving forward with hope and let’s be kind to ourselves.” sounds EXACTLY like something that would be posted on the Typical EduCelebrity Twitter feed ( @educelebrity ) which is sooooo worth following!!! But sometimes what makes parody funny is that it is based in truth.

So let’s work on moving forward with hope and let’s be kind to ourselves!

Take care everyone! And Happy New School Year!!!

on library reopening plans…

Happy summer, all!

This is the time of year when I’d typically be off looking for a new restaurant in New York or searching for super cheap airline flights from New York to some exciting sounding country that I’ve never had a chance visit with the hope that I could chuck some clothes into my beat up carryon rolley bag and go on an international adventure for a week or two.

This is 2020 so, yeah, EVERYTHING’S CHANGED this year.

Any travel out of the state of Hawaii means a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon your return so this summer finds me staying put (Hello, #RockFever) doing some virtual summer school librarianship and working with committees of people developing plans for the reopening of school in August.

I am so incredibly grateful to work with a school administration that always gives our library program a seat at the table when there are decisions that need to be made that may impact our physical space, budget, or instructional programming. The thing about being included in decision-making when you are trying to make plans to respond to a pandemic is that, it takes A LOT OF MEETINGS! The reality, though, is that PLANS NEED TO BE MADE. They can be made with my input or they can be made for me. Given the choice, I am enough of a control freak that I’d rather take part in a lot of meetings and be able to help shape my program’s destiny as much as might be possible.

What follows is an in-process-kinda-ugly-doing-the-best-we-can-based-on-what-we-know-so-it-might-look-all-different-in-August snapshot of what our planning looks like for reopening our library in August #CrossesFingersAndToes

Stuff Needs to be Ordered…

My library is on an island 2500 miles away from the West Coast of the United States. We don’t have the luxury of flipping through a Demco catalog, ordering stuff, and having a truck roll up to the Facilities Management loading dock 5-7 business days later. I am incredibly grateful to have committees of really competent folk working on the vast majority of the logistical planning and procurement of supplies needed for reopening.

  • Masks and face shields – Our school will be providing 2 masks and a face shield to every student and faculty member.
  • Pexiglass shielding for our Circulation Desk – Our awesome facilities manager took care of measuring and ordering shielding that will be installed for us.
  • Pexiglass dividers for library tables – We have round tables that are 4-feet wide. We will be trying 4-way dividers that will allow students to be shielded from each other, but still able to see each other.

Some Behavioral, Policy, and Instructional Changes…

  • Entrance and exit – Given our library’s physical layout, one of the more noticeable changes that we are probably going to make is that we have traditionally had a single door for where EVERYONE entered and exited the library. Given the way that entrance is configured, we will be having people enter the library through our traditional front doors, but exit through what has always been a “Fire Exit Only” door in order to minimize shoulder-to-shoulder congestion.
  • Calculating facility capacity – A facilities committee is working to calculate our library’s “Corona capacity” for our space. When we have a number, we will work on signage and we are currently trying to figure out a the best logistical way to keep count of the number of students that enter the library during any single period. I’ve looked into electronic counters. Bi-directional counters are either incredibly expensive or highly inaccurate so we’re still figuring this one out.
  • Limiting co-mingling – It saddens me greatly, but like many of your school libraries, before and after school our library is a central meeting hub for significant numbers of students. One of the great joys of school librarianship for me is to get to know kids as they informally gather to commiserate on how hard the statistics homework was, to recap the great play their softball teammate executed, deliver the bigly romantic promposal, or to be consoled when your girlfriend just broke up with you… That’s not gonna be making a comeback in our library in the fall–at least initially. The current plan as I understand it seems to be that students will be assigned to “home base” spaces around campus to minimize gathering before school, after school, during lunch, and during free periods.
  • Temporarily changing our collection development priorities – We’ve decided to launch Overdrive Sora in the fall. Along with that change, we have decided that eBooks will make up the vast majority of our acquisitions for the next school year.
  • Bu-bye collaboration rooms – I’m thinking that it’ll be pretty unlikely that we will be able to allow students to use our group study rooms. We might be able to allow use as single occupant study rooms, but I’m guessing that getting students to maintain social distance or mask and shield use in our study rooms is just not terribly realistic.
  • Public library cards – We are in the unique position of being, I believe, the only state in the US with a single statewide library system. Our administration is supporting our efforts to better integrate Hawaii State Public Library System resources into our instructional work flows by requiring that all of our families acquire library cards for their students. This policy will give us some needed flexibility should, heaven forbid, we have to unexpectedly close campus and go back to an all virtual instructional model. We will, of course, continue to subscribe to our portfolio of databases but one thing that became clear from the world’s sudden move to emergency virtual instruction is that school libraries should be teaching the value of LIBRARIES–not just OUR SCHOOL’S library. Going forward, we will be teaching our students how to search the public library’s book and ebook collections and, when appropriate, promoting the occasional use of a public library database when it might be appropriate for a student’s specific research need.

To be Determined…

  • Minimizing High Touch Sharing – What do we do about the library desktop computers and our laptop cart? We’re a 1:1 iPad school. Sometimes classes need laptops/desktops to work on. We still haven’t figure this one out.

This is all very “up in the air” and “to be determined” and though I like flying to get when I’m traveling somewhere, neither are states that I typically love being in when it comes my work. I’d love to hear about the state of your reopening plans. Please hit comment below and share what you’re doing!

Be safe, but have wonderful summers, all!

on work-from-home librarianship…

I hope this post finds each of you doing as well as might be expected under the circumstances.

I live in Honolulu, Hawaii on the island of O’ahu. The City and County of Honolulu which is coterminous with the island of O’ahu has been under a stay-at-home, work-from-home order since March 22nd. The entire State of Hawaii went under a statewide stay-at-home, work-from-home order a few days later. When we began stay-at-home, my school was in the middle of our two-week spring break. Our faculty received two days of remote learning on remote learning, and we began remote learning with students on April 1st.

What follows is some random ruminating on this weird thing called work-from-home librarianship in no particular order which is probably very appropriate since there have been many days when listicles from Buzzfeed Animals like “15 Dog Posts From This Week That Quite Honestly Deserve Media Coverage” have been just about the only non-work reading I’m managing to do. So here goes, my personal listicle on work-from-home librarianship…

1 I Don’t Live in a Mansion So Here’s My Sofa – In articles about how to work from home, experienced work-from-home people tell us that working from home is work so I shouldn’t be working from my sofa. Well, I live in a condo with a significant other. I don’t have space for an office. I get that doing Google Meets with colleagues and students from my bed is probably not the best professional look around, but my sofa is as good as you’re gonna get so, “Ta-da. Here’s my sofa…” #GetOverIt #DoingTheBestICan

My work-from-home circulation and reference desk. I snatched the little table and the pouf ottoman from the library before the campus got completely locked down!

My spouse is retired and I don’t have children. How in the world are people with working spouses and remote educating their children even finding a corner in which to work?!?!?

In my search for a more office-like environ from which to do my librarian-ing, I tried working from the dining room table. We’ve had our dining room table and chairs for about eight years and I’ve always been perfectly happy with them. Only when I found myself attempting to type on a laptop sitting at what seemed to be shoulder height did I notice that our table is too high for our chairs. Now, every night when we sit down for dinner I think, “This chair is too low…” #StupidWorkFromHomeRevelations

2 A Lot More Dishes and Trash, A Lot Less Laundry – Yeah… #SelfExplanatoryThings

3 Bandwidth Is Limited – My home internet is excellent, but that’s not the bandwidth I’m talking about. I think the bandwidth in my brain is my current limiting factor. In a social chat that I had with some fellow librarians a number of folk who are very heavy readers indicated that they weren’t doing much reading. I have a stack of really exciting looking books sitting on a shelf that I haven’t touched in three weeks. The conversation and my realization about my reading harkened back to a Hidden Brain podcast where Shankar Vedantam explored “… when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing.” I’m worried about my 94-year old mom who is locked down in a nursing home. I’m worried about friends and loved ones who have been furloughed or laid off. I’m worried about friends that have had to close businesses. I’m worried about thousands of people in my community that have to line up at food banks to feed their families…

I am working from home, but my sleep patterns are weird so I get up at 2:00 am look at the ceiling, then oversleep and am late opening my library office hours Google Meet space at 7:30 am. I miss meetings (and I NEVER miss meetings IRL) even though I’m working on my laptop and everything is in my Google calendar that is literally open all day on the laptop I use for my virtual meetings. I want to do better, but for some reason, I can’t… #MyBrainIsAWOL #MaslowBeforeBlooms

4 Does Silence = Success or Failure? It’s A Mind Game Roller Coaster – As 2nd grade classroom teacher in the Hawaii Writing Project way back in the day, I remember being taught, “If you’re reading everything your kids are writing, your kids aren’t writing enough.” Over the last six years, our library has strategically and very purposefully moved to a “teach the teachers” service model. Our philosophy has been “If all of the information literacy instruction is being taught by librarians, our kids are not getting enough information literacy instruction.” Sometimes when you live by a philosophy, it can feel like you’re dying by one, too. As we’ve transitioned to remote learning, all of our teachers’ bandwidth has been taken up learning how to set up Google Meets, mute students’ mics, keep students engaged when they’re not in the same rooms, and just trying to make sure their kids are doing ok… Let’s face it, people haven’t exactly been lining up in droves to collaborate on new research projects with us of late. If I’m being really honest, part of me is very much feeling like the last six years of effort have been a waste.

The other day, I was doing “walk throughs” of virtual classes. When we walk through, we go into the class Google Meet with our cameras off and our mic muted. The classroom teacher was in the middle of outlining her project expectations and showing students how she expected OPVL annotated citations in NoodleTools for all of their cited works. If nobody asks me for help, am I a success or a failure? I dunno. Some teachers aren’t asking for help because they can do most of it really well themselves. #ImASuccess!!! Some teachers aren’t asking for help because they don’t know they need help and that good research strategies from when they did their graduate work in 1997 might be insufficient in the media ecosystem of today. #IveFlippingFailed!!! Some other teachers, still, actually want help but just don’t have the bandwidth in this particular moment to reach out to us with everything else that’s happening in their lives. #RememberEmpathy

This remote learning thing is one heck of a #MindGame #RollerCoaster

5 Email: The Digital Version of Getting Paper Cuts on Your Eyeballs – So much email. By my calculations it takes 27 emails to resolve an issue that in 3-D school world might be a 2 minute and 14 second interchange with a colleague in the breezeway between periods 3 and 4. And I know that people have the best intentions, but I kind of also feel like PLEASE, EVERYBODY STOP REPLYING ALL!” Sorry if I’m being too #JudgyMcJudgeface But so much email…

6 Philosophies That You Think Should Be Adopted by Others are Really Annoying When You Try to Live Them Yourself – I’m a big Twitter reader. Back, like, a million, bazillion, quazillion years ago in pandemic years, on March 31st, I came across this amazing Tweet thread from Angus Johnston who tweets as @studentactivism that made the point that:

… every direct-from-high-school student matriculating in 2020 and 2021 is going to have lost a semester because of this virus. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

… what’s happening right now is altering the life trajectory of every adolescent who is living through it, in ways that we’re only just beginning to grope toward understanding.

If you’re a teacher right now, your first responsibility is to your students. Not to your discipline, not your syllabus, and certainly not to some fantasy vision of a fall 2020 return to normalcy that you’re carrying around in your head.

From a reply from a locked account, lightly paraphrased: “People are freaking out about kids falling behind, Falling behind *who*?

Let me just say, that it is much easier for me to think that teachers should (of course) be understanding of students’ lives, needs, and life contexts during this crazy pandemic than it is for me to extend that same very same kind of understanding to my amazing, wonderful, but for now overwhelmed, faculty. #SelfSideEye

My information literacy instructional goals are important. They are! But I need to remind myself every frustrating remote learning minute of every frustrating remote learning day they aren’t as important as the human teachers that are giving everything they have to make it through today and making sure their kids are ok. It’s a library, not an ER so we’ll be okay if we pause our forward progress temporarily. #MaslowBeforeBlooms

7 I Miss My Library – I think I’ve come to realize that I don’t really miss my “library” so much as I miss the human beings who make my library space “my library”–even the ones who have irritated me and made me feel like crazy librarian man since they were in the 8th grade. Honestly, the ones that made my eyes roll back in my head the furthest are some of the ones that I miss most. 😃#RelationshipsMatter

8 I Wish I’d Said Goodbye When I Could’ve – As time passes, our reality is that it looks unlikely that campuses will reopen before the fall. This librarian-ing from home gig has made me regret not taking the time to offer more proper goodbyes to our seniors before we left for spring break. I know that I can reach out to them virtually and I will, but I’m mourning the fact that I won’t get to send them off from the actual physical space where we’ve spent so many days and hours together. I’ll miss the chance to say, “Hey, thank you for always taking the empty bags from the hot Cheetos you hid in your backpack and ate with chopsticks every afternoon when you thought I wasn’t looking and tossed them in the trash can outside rather than smashing them down between the seat cushions…” I want them to know that I saw them and that I enjoyed having them around even on days when it may not have seemed so. I hope they already knew that, but it’d have been nice to be able to do that more intentionally. #Sad

9 Have Faith and Keep Doing Good Work – I have a tendency to be a Davey-downer-glass-half-empty kind of guy by nature. In work-from-home librarianship, a Davey-downer-glass-half-empty attitude isn’t very helpful (and honestly, it’s kind of never very helpful). Anyway, when working from home, one needs to remember more than ever that through all the saddening isolation and frustration, if we keep doing good work, the effort makes a difference. The difference it makes might not be what we hope, but a difference for the better is a difference worth making. Sometimes that difference is bringing a little bit of familiarity and a little bit of joy to a 5-year old kindergartener at a kind of frightening time. As I was composing this rather grumpy list, I got an email from a co-worker who is also a parent of a kindergartener thanking my partner librarian, Nicole, for the wonderful read aloud time that Nicole has been doing with her daughter’s class.

In a world of work-from-home librarianship, that is work worth doing!

Story time with Mrs. Goff! Posted with permission from mom! 😃

That’s all for now. Please continue to do the good work that I know you’re all doing. Please also consider dropping into one of the wonderful AISL Zoom meet-ups and share your successes, your wonderful ideas, and perhaps something with which you’re struggling, with a sympathetic audience. Based on my experience, there’s a pretty good chance that there will be a librarian there who may well have a solution to offer.

Take care, everyone!!! Sending each of you a **hug** From more than 6 feet away, of course! 😃❤️😃

on time…

Goodness, there are so many amazing things people are sharing about out the world of AISL libraries. Reflections on ways to improve library spaces that I’d love to call mine! Ways to make citation lessons engaging! Pieces on lunch book clubs; think pieces on publishing, loan policies, and the nature of research; 3D printing collaborations based on literature; and more! Wow!

So, I thought long and hard about what i could share this month and well, we took an ugly sad wall and… We made a clock!

Hahaha!!!

Seriously, how long can your company take to fill an order? We need our seven, nine, and ten!
The offending wall…
It’s harder than you’d think to get differently-sized books to feel balanced…
Ta-da!!!

The clock mechanism was ordered online. We glued the outside edges of the books’ pages together with a mixture of1-part white glue to 1-part water so the books wouldn’t swing open while they were mounted on the wall. The books are secured to the wall with 3M hook and loop Command Strips made for mounting photo frames to walls and they seem to work fine.

I suspect that about 80% of our students and perhaps more than one or two of our youngest faculty may possibly be a tad flummoxed by the analog hands, but it’s all good! LOL!!!

Waka! Waka! Waka!

In the end, every time I walk through the front doors of the library and see our clock, It makes me feel…

We have a day of professional learning focusing on self-care so as you’re reading this I might be in a book club session with faculty and staff colleagues discussing our reading of No Hard Feelings by Liz Fosslien and Molly West Duffy, learning about healthy microwave cooking, or doing yoga with heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all!

on search resilience…

This weekend I looked at my Google Calendar and at the top the column for Monday, November 25, 2019, there was a reminder, “AISL Blog Post.”

Panic ensued and I started a few different drafts for posts on things that have been happening here in our library program. Among the possibilities:

  • Our visit to a newly built K-8 library at a school down the street from us.
  • Programming ideas I gathered from visits to 2 academic libraries here in Honolulu.
  • A gathering of Honolulu independent school librarians hosted by AISL librarian, Clarissa Sin over at her library.
  • New ideas we’ve been floating to create more information literacy and digital literacy instruction opportunities in our curriculum.
  • Working with other independent school libraries to partner with our public school libraries (we’re one statewide school system) on consortial pricing for database subscriptions.
  • A lesson that I did with a 10th grade U.S. History class where most of my demonstration searches failed.

It’s very, very weird to me, but of all of the posts that I have written for Independent Ideas over the years, the posts that seem to drive the most engagement from blog readers have been the ones where I’ve written about, lessons that have failed; feeling like I don’t know what the heck I am doing on a daily basis and having to pretend that do; and posts that essentially were long lists of questions that I wished I had answers to, but didn’t. Based on that (admittedly weird) criteria, what follows is my post about the day I modeled bad searching for 10th graders and lived…

The Context…

Our 9th and 10th grade social studies classes incorporate National History Day research as one of their projects for the year. The NHD theme changes from year to year. This year’s theme is “Breaking Barriers.” We are fortunate, here, in that teachers incorporating NHD research have either worked with us in the past and feel comfortable working on the research process with their students on their own or are willing to bring their classes for multiple 85-minute research periods over the course of the project.

I used to prep for my one-shot library lessons by taking a topic related to students’ assignments, searching databases and books, and demonstrating what the perfect search would look like for students. I never really thought much about the process. I had one single period to show kids where to search, how to search, and had to do that quickly and efficiently so that kids had class time to try some in-class searching and research. You just gotta do what you gotta do…

Over the last few years, we have almost completely eliminated the one-shot library lesson. One-shot library lessons make librarians work REALLY, REALLY HARD and, realistically, don’t result in much return on investment in the form of students learning new concepts and/or students learning and being able to thoughtfully apply new research skills. We found ourselves in a chicken and egg quandary. Our schedule was so heavily booked with one-shot lessons that we had no time to book classes for multiple sessions over the course of a projects. We took a risk and began only booking library lesson sessions if teachers could find time to bring students in multiple times over the course of a project. What we’ve found, is that doing instruction with students multiple times on the same project allows us to model a more authentic research process.

With some of our NHD project classes, we met with classes for:

  • “Presearching” Day – The process of exploring topic possibilities BEFORE one actually chooses a topic.
  • Research Day 1 – An in-class research day when we had an opportunity to introduce sources and do one-on-one reference searching with students in class as needed.
  • Research Day 2 – For many kids, the point in their research when they actually try to develop a thesis statement and learn that they have major holes in their research that they need to fill.
  • Citation/Annotation Day – A day set aside for students to take preformatted database citations from their notes pages and drop them into NoodleTools and write up their OPVL annotations.

The Ill Fated Search Lesson…

Without really realizing it, over the last few years I stopped prepping for library classes by building a perfect search. Somewhere along the line, I started showing up to class an asking students, “So… What’s your topic? What keywords have you been using for that topic? Where have you been searching to find stuff?”

In a recent research day 2 class with U.S. History 10th graders, a teacher asked me to show kids how they might search for primary sources in our databases. Students knew what primary sources were and why they needed to find them, so our focus in class was on the searching strategies and tools.

In this particular class, a 10th grader volunteered Tim Berners-Lee.

Me in my head: “Easy-peasy!!! Gale High School… Search… Point to the “Primary Source” source type… Done!”

Me in real-life: Searches Gale High School… No primary sources…

Me to class (said like Homer Simpson): “D’oh! No primary sources! listed! Now, if this dude invented the Worldwide Web, do we really think there’ll be no primary sources from or about him? No way, right?!?!?!”

Tries search in ABC-CLIO… #Fails

Tries search in EBSCO History Reference Center… #Fails

Me (feeling rather like Homer Simpson…) stands and shrugs knowing that there ARE primary sources to be found and a search strategy to be had , but unable to unlock the magical strategy in the moment…

Me to class: “Uh… Sometimes you get stuck and your searching is sucky and ugly, but that’s just the way it goes. Right now I just need a minute because my brain is stuck in a thinking rut so does someone else have another topic and maybe we’ll come back to Tim in a couple of minutes…

Lovely as they are, my class took great joy (basically, they laughed at me as I dug myself in deeper and deeper with each failed search… LOL!!!) in my inability to find us some primary sources in our very expensive databases

Mercifully, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was up next and I was able to demo looking for source types, filtering a results list for “documents”, and other fancy-schmancy search strategies that you probably wouldn’t know if you were a typical14-year old human.

When we came back to Tim we chatted about what a primary source for Tim Berners-Lee might look like since, in the words of 10th graders, “the dude’s still alive, right?” My kids hit on searching for Tim as an AUTHOR with which we found success and found that [Tim Berners-Lee] and the contextualizing term [interview] worked for us as well.

Silk Purses from Sows’ Ears…

At the end of class, I apologized to the teacher for the rough search outing to which she replied, “That was, maybe, the best lesson on problem-solving on searching we’ve ever had… Kid’s need to know that research isn’t all clean and neat and pretty so today was great!”

Sometimes, all you gotta do to have a good lesson is to show up, do your authentic best, keep smiling, and be willing to tell kids in your orbit, “Sorry, folks! I do a lot of searching and, hey, on some days my searches still suck that’s just the way it goes. The thing is, though, it’s not HOW UGLY it was on the way to finding what we needed, but that we just kept at it until we FOUND WHAT WE NEEDED.”

I tweeted about my search adventure and AISL librarian Corey Baker labeled it #SearchResilience which comes off the tongue quite a bit better than #SearchFail so let’s just go with that!

Hahaha!!!

It is Thanksgiving holiday week for those of us based in U.S. schools. Wherever you are, however, please know that the amazing community that is AISL, is one of the things for which I am grateful each and everyday of my professional life!

Thank you, all! ❤️

on news, opinion, and politics in the library…

This is the story of my library life over the past two weeks…

Social Studies teacher that works with us extensively: “Hey Dave, my kids are wrestling with what the terms left, right, and center mean on the political spectrum and what they mean when we’re talking about news sources and media. Can you work with us on something?”

Me in that moment:

Then, five days later came the moment when I had to begin figuring out how to structure a learning experience on the politics of right, left, and center, and helping 16-year old human beings come to an understanding of center, left, and right sources of news without triggering students or their parents.

Me five days later…

At that point, however, I kind of had no choice, but to get a spine and deal with politics, opinion, news, and a whole lot of personal anxiety and give this thing all a whirl. Here’s what my whirl looked like:

Lesson: Right, Left, and Center: The “Mythical American” Version

Who: IB Global Politics I (HS juniors)

When: Intended time was one 85-min block class period

Objectives:

Materials:

Procedures:

  • Play video and discuss students’ understanding of right, left and center as they apply to the political spectrum of the United States.
  • Discuss lesson/activity objectives.
  • Review class ground rules for civil discourse and mutual respect.
  • Introduce task.
    • In groups of 2-4 select a topic from one of the slides. (In practice, the selection of topics by groups took place “Hunger Games style” so the first group to put their names on a slide got to have the topic.) Groups are also invited to view the topic tab on the Allsides site and choose a topic that has not been included in the original slideshow template.
    • Groups will try to fill out the extreme left, extreme right, and center sections of their slides without looking at the linked articles or searching for position statements in other sources. Emphasis: “This is our BEGINNING understanding about positions on these topics. We will likely have to revise our thoughts as the semester progresses.”
    • After students fill out their draft “belief sections,” they will read through as many left, right, center articles as they were able.
  • Groups will share out information from their slides to the full class. Class will have opportunity to discuss or raise questions.
  • After completing share out by all groups, we will discuss How to Spot 11 Types of Media Bias from the Allsides site.
  • Students explore Ozy and Axios news sites – I chose these sources, particularly, for their very mobile-friendly and teenager-friendly (brief) formats.

Outcomes:

I can honestly say that students were EXTREMELY engaged during the full 85-minute period. Discussion within their groups was rich and thoughtful. I was pleasantly surprised that they committed themselves and spent most of the time they had really digging in and reading though and discussing the linked articles.

Students’ made observations and comments like, “This is SO confusing! This article is from Fox News which is rated center-right, but this article is completely in favor of gun control” which, in turn, lead to some really worthwhile conversations about the nature of media outlets. “Does that make you feel that Fox News might be more balanced than you had anticipated? Have you noticed that there is an Allsides rating for Fox Online News Only and a separate rating for Fox News Opinion?”

In their reading of articles from a variety of sources, students discovered that there was not always a clean alignment of a source’s rating on Allsides and what students expected based on their brainstormed policy position.
This particular group actually revised their initial extreme-left and extreme-right policy positions after reading through some of the articles. These students concluded that both the extreme-left and the extreme-right favored keeping prohibitions on marijuana use in place, but that the sides arrived at their positions through very different lines of reason. They also concluded that CL, C, and CR positions favored legalization of marijuana use, but also came to those policy positions through very diverse lines of reason.

This librarian’s observation: High school students REALLY dislike the “messiness” of our media landscape. Students desire “clean” categorization. They wanted sources rated “left” to contain works that supported policy positions on the left and they wanted the same on the right. I tried to keep it positive, but the message to them ultimately amounted to, “Too bad! Unfortunately, this is the messy world of news and media today. As on-the-verge-of-fully-grown-up citizens and voters, we all need to begin to understand it and understand what that means about how we read, use, and share.”

We also discussed that the Allsides analysis and ratings, themselves, are based on subjective judgements and we identified where we could locate information about Allsides Media Ratings and their methodology and process. Note: I choose to use Allsides with my students for this activity, but Media Bias Factcheck is a site that we also introduce to students.

Ultimately, while 85-minutes is a nice amount of time for a library class, we still ran out of time. For me, the student engagement with the Allsides site and with the sources themselves were well worth the investment of time and I would not have wanted to abbreviate any of the process. I did, however, fail to get to the media literacy content I wanted to address with much depth.

So What – Following Up:

Scheduling limitations didn’t allow us to schedule a follow-up lesson immediately, so I won’t be able to meet up with the three classes for about a week. The upside is that this will give us time to work on a streamlined lesson that focuses specifically on how to identify media bias and have kids do some close reading to see if they can locate indicators of bias in the sources they’re reading.

All in all, it turned out to be a good way to get students engaged in discussions about politics and news and to begin having new literacy conversations with them. It’s a long, slow process because, let’s face it, this stuff is hard!

Hope your school years are off to great starts! Have a great week, all!

Links to Resources:

on savoring summer like you’re 10 again…

Happy summer, all!

This post comes to you a few days late because, honestly, I was in serious need of a month to not think about school, the library, or librarianship and my blog post date came and went without me realizing it.

I think I might have shared this in this space before so apologies if it’s a repeat, but as a kid school was really hard for me. I struggled to learn to read and I was a very late reader. Much to my elementary teachers’ (and my mom’s) credit I always loved school and liked learning. Still, the “work” of school was hard and I was a 10-year old boy. Back in the day when we had, like, 3 over-the-air TV stations through our rabbit ear antennas, the local TV station that my family usually watched for news played this jingle before the news broadcast aired.

On Sunday nights, this jingle always gave me a stomach ache because, invariably, I had lied to my parents and told them that I’d finished all of my homework and calcuations in my head inicated that there was no way I was going to finish all of that homework before the 8:15 start of school on Monday morning. Anyway, 44 years later, all that’s old is new again and that’s my way of saying, “My homework is late because I was too busy having summer vacation fun…” I initially got really stressed about it, but I got a Coke Zero, sat down on the sofa, and watched a great Peruvian movie on Netflix until the feeling went away. Hahaha!!!

Anyway, now that I have started diving into our Academic Chairs’ read, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, and I finally find myself coming to grips with the end of the gloriousness that is summer vacation, I find myself slowly but surely starting to think about ways to move our students along on the information literacy continuum that don’t make them sigh and role their eyes in my presence

Tip for new HS librarians: I always fail. My high school kids always sigh and role their eyes at me, but I just laugh and tell them, “Hey, do that behind my back! It’s called manners!” and they laugh and play along with the rest of the lesson we’re doing…

While not thinking about school, the library, or librarianship, I seem to spend a lot of time following viral social media mysteries like how a perfectly preserved In-n-Out burger ended up on the streets of NYC; browsing Buzzfeed listicles for 21 items that will change my life for under $15; following the adventures of Barley the golden retriever on his adventures with his parents in Amsterdam; and discovering that people recutting movie trailers depiciting Elf as a horror movie or Harry Potter as a teen comedy is an actual thing!

I found these trailers fascinating! Sometimes the weirdest things bring inspiration, but I have a number of teachers working with students on understanding and employing ethos, logos, and pathos in media and in students’ own work and I’m thinking that it’ll be really interesting have students compare and contrast the original and recut versions of the trailers, then have them deconstruct ads or news segments of their choosing.

That’s, literally, as far as I’ve gotten with this. What would you do with these? Are you teaching ethos, logos, and pathos as part of information literacy instruction? If yes, what are you doing?

Savor the remaining wonderful days of summer, all!

on summer in the library…

School schedules out here in the the middle of the Pacific run a little earlier than is typical for most AISL schools so as I hit the button labeled “Publish..” on this post I am officially on my first day of SUMMER VACATION!!! #Yay!!!

This was actually on my laptop for a while at the end of the year. #WhateverItTakes

I don’t know how the rest of you hold up over the course of a school year, but I was running on fumes there at the end. I could not ask for better kids or faculty to work with here at Mid-Pacific. My faculty is great and kids are respectful and pretty amazing, but for me the end of a school year is still THE END OF A SCHOOL YEAR and as the end of the year approaches I tend to struggle with emotional and mental fatigue more than anything else.

If you are on a more traditional school calendar, take solace in the fact that when I fling the doors of my library open wide and welcome our kids and faculty back for the start of the 2019-2020 school year in early August, most of you will still have a month of vacation left to enjoy! It all evens out in the end!

The two MLIS librarians here are on the same contract as teachers except that we also split our six week summer session to staff the library during our six week summer session. I’ve actually come to enjoy working for a part of the summer. Summer days end at noon and there are fewer students on campus so we have time to take care of tasks that need to be done, but which always get put on a back burner in order to accommodate more pressing needs.

My Summer To-Do List:

  • Unpublish all of our Research and Project Libguides pages – I like to unpublish (but not delete) all of our project libguides pages even if I know that a project will run again in some form in the new school year. Unpublishing requires teachers to contact us when a project is being introduced which allows us to check links, add new resources, delete sources that are no longer relevant, and enter into collaborative discussions with teachers about how we, together, can work to tweak and improve on the the work.
  • Revise the Library’s Website(s) – We will be launching a new learning management system campus-wide in the fall and we anticipate major changes to students’ and teachers’ workflows. We are working on revising our web portals so students and teachers can get from their course or project pages to the tools and content they need from our library sites as seamlessly as possible. As a 1:1 iPad school, we’re focusing on designing specifically to optimize the iPad experience on Library site(s) as that is the way that our kids access our online resources the vast majority of the time.
  • Set-up and Clean-up of NoodleTools Accounts – We need to delete our recent graduates’ accounts, upload account info for new students, and revalidate accounts for returning students.
  • Inventory – It’s inventory… #Sigh
  • Paint Circ Desk with Chalkboard Paint – Primer, paint, rollers, and brushes are in hand. We just haven’t had any time to do the painting.
  • Replace Whiteboards on Carts – We mounted dry erase boards on rolling carts a few years ago. They’ve ghosted over the years so we’re treating ourselves to new boards for the fall!
  • Develop Discipline-Specific Samples of Information Literacy Instruction Concepts and Skills – Our Administration will be asking Department Chairs to schedule us into their department meetings in the fall so we can introduce new resources; remind teachers about resources they may have forgotten; and, hopefully, finding NEW, BETTER, and MORE ways to collaborate with them in the coming year.

That’s my, I’m very sure, incomplete list of things to do this summer. I’d very much like to know, however, what kinds of things are on your list so please hit reply below and let me know!

Have a wonderful, restful, well-deserved summer break, all!

This is, basically, me for the next three days…

on databases that spark joy (and some that don’t)…

A Neat Home…

My house is neat. I don’t like living with a lot of clutter. Reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up brought me joy. The book didn’t spark joy for me because it made my house look better. It sparked joy because it helped me better understand my relationship to the artifacts in my life–specifically, how to let the things cluttering my life go. The Konmari method helped me more consciously curate the artifacts in my home so that most of the things I live with spark joy.

A Tidy Library…

My library is neat. Here at Mid-Pacific, a lot of time and energy has gone into making the most of every square foot of space we have.  We got rid of as much unnecessary furniture as possible, weeded our print collection without mercy, and zoned spaces for defined purposes based on both the physical space and the time of day. As we have progressed through this process, I came to realize that I am not a librarian that is sentimental about books. Books (in whatever format they’re in) have value to me only for the ideas that they bring to life and that they communicate. Beyond that, books as artifacts don’t mean a lot to me so if a book has outdated information in it, I’m happy to see it become an art project. If a book hasn’t circulated, I’m happy to send it off to the Friends of the Library book sale so it can fulfill its destiny as an object to be enjoyed by another person or community.

In the physical world, I’m a proudly organized being. #LooksDown #Hubris

A Hoard of Databases…

When it comes to the digital world… Uhhh… Errr… Ugh… I am a #DigitalHoarder

There… I said it… I am a digital hoarder.

My Google Drives #Alas… My Google Drives (plural) are zones of shame. My email folders (AOL, 2 Yahoo, 2 personal Gmail, and my work email) are the digital equivalents of the very worst episodes of Hoarders: Buried Alive that you’ve ever seen.

When it comes to electron-based artifacts, I struggle with the concept of “throwing things away.” My brain thinks that because digital files are accessed only through a small pane of glass before me, they don’t take up a “space” so my brain thinks, “What’s the harm in keeping these on hand just in case I need them one time in the next 12 months.”

Admit You Have a Problem… 

At some point, in order to overcome that which truly is impeding your progress you need to come to grips with the dimensions of your problem. For me, this moment came when I recently met with a class researching the “costs of war” (economic, cultural, societal, etc.). Because of scheduling issues, the class was well into their research by the time I got to hang out with them for a period as they searched and took notes. After 3 reference interviews with students doing “feral” research, it became pretty clear that none of the kids in the class had looked at our World at War database. “Oh my god, I’ve been Googling for two days and it’s ALL here,” indicated that one hint put them on track, but as I chatted with them a number of kids told me that our database page has so many databases that they go to Google because they often don’t know where to start. While I find this pretty disappointing, I also can’t say that I blame my students at all. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I don’t know where to begin a search, I Google. It is familiar and it gets me SOMETHING. My kids are just taking a course of action that makes sense to them at this moment in time. 

Weed Digital Clutter to Make Room for Attention… 

I’ve finally had to come to grips with my wrongheaded notion that digital clutter doesn’t take up “space.” My digital database clutter is taking up all of the available space in the room in my kids’ brains labeled “MY NOVICE RESEARCHER’S ATTENTION ROOM.” By cluttering up the shelves in the attention room and stuffing it with so much stuff (even awesomely fantastic stuff), all my kids can see on the shelves in the Attention Room in their heads is GOOGLE spelled out in bright primary colors. 

Make Sure You’re Solving the Right Problem… 

One of the things that Marie Kondo’s method helped me understand is that my struggles with my clutter weren’t about superficial organizational issues as much as they were about HOW I think about “stuff” in my home—the items gifted to me aren’t the people I love. An object given out of friendship or love has already done its job, it’s expressed friendship, caring , and love. After that, it’s just an object so it’s okay to let it go if it’s no longer sparking joy. My problem wasn’t disorganization, it was attributing emotional value to objects in my home so thinking differently about sentimental attachments to objects helped me to deal with the real issues.

Getting students to use our database content has been an ongoing issue to be solved for years. Over the past few years, our library program has invested a huge amount of energy and allocated a significant chunk of our budget in our effort to get students’ eyeballs on our very expensive digital content. Working to address the challenge lead us to launch Libguides to give students a centralized portal to go to for all things library/information related. We installed EZProxy to streamline the authentication process for students and teachers to access our subscription databases from home. We built project-specific resource guides, and changed our instructional model to better embed instruction on accessing and using our digital content. I can honestly say that each of those tweaks to our library resources and services has helped us move forward in our quest to help students locate, access, and use better quality content. Our forward progress hasn’t ever been as fast or as dramatic as I would like, more evolutionary than revolutionary, but our persistent and consistent efforts have paid positive dividends over time. The thing is, it now feels like we’ve plateaued and in order for us to get unstuck, it’s time to dump all of our digital content out on the bed and find out which ones really still spark joy and which ones have to be moved out of the house.

Dump It all Out on the Bed… 

If you haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book or watched her show on Netflix, one of the things she recommends you do is to take every item in the one category of things and put them all out in one place. You take EVERY ITEM of clothing that you own, put it out on the bed, then hold each item in turn so you can asses if it still “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t spark joy. It needs to go!

Nicole, my partner in the library and I have decided that we’re going to take the next year to dump all of our databases out on the bed and we’re going to handle each database individually to decide whether it continues to spark joy or if it will be put into the bag of things that we need to let go. 

Good Planning Makes for Good Process… 

As we get ready to launch into this process, we’ve pulled all of our database use stats. As a starting point, I calculate the cost of the database per search. As a librarian, I know that cost per search isn’t necessarily a terrific parameter on which to base a decision about keeping or dropping a database, but I’ve found having actual numbers on hand helpful when communicating with administrators and faculty about the need to change a mix of databases. “We’re spending $1020 a year for this database. Because it only got searched 1426 times in the last 12 months at about $0.72 per search, I really think kids would be better served if we invested that $1020 on ________ instead.”

I’m very much a visual learner so I mapped our database subscription renewals so we can see when subscriptions from various vendors need to be renewed.

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I surveyed the AISL list about how all of you might consider and prioritize different factors in your decision-making when you’re deciding to renew or drop databases.

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Finally, we’ve been looking at a a variety of different database offerings that we currently are not offering. We think we’ve found some products that might work better for our students and our curriculum, than our current offerings. We haven’t made any final decisions, but I think we’re going to start subscribing to a new, more general, database that we’ll launch in the fall. As we work our way through projects in the next school year, I’d like to try to see how few databases we can actually get away with recommending to students. It goes against my instincts, but I think that for where my students are, less may be more.

And Don’t Forget to Sell… 

Finally, this process has also made clear to me that, the selling of databases is something that needs to be an ongoing and sustained effort at the forefront of this entire endeavor. As librarians, we work with database day in and day out, but our faculty (even the awesome ones) can easily forget about that perfect database because they may only look at a specific database occasionally and if it is out of sight it will be out of mind. I had a chat about this with our very supportive VP of Academics and she suggested that she ask each department chair to schedule part of a department meeting each fall with us in the library so we will have the opportunity to introduce/review the scope of our database offerings with faculty for their disciplines.

If you’ll be in Boston exploring Revolutionary Possibilities at AISL’s annual conference, please say hi! I’d love to chat about how you’re handling your database offerings! If you won’t be there this year, please hit comment below and share what you’re doing!

That’s all for now. Happy spring everyone!

on information starvation in an information obese world…

There are times when being a school librarian is not good for my emotional well being. I am one of those librarians, for example, who, after helping students research diseases in health classes, goes home and thinks that I have symptoms of every disease that we researched. Admittedly, going home from school and worrying that I might have 12 different diseases probably has less to do with my chosen line of work than my personal emotional tendencies, but the point I’m getting to here is that I tend to see a lot of myself in whatever it is that I read.

A little while ago I came across Drowning in News? Learn How to Swim in Politico Magazine. Me being me, I immediately thought, “OMG… Yes… I’m drowning and I’m suffering from the “information obesity” the article talks about! I need news water wings and I need to go on an information diet!” My search for news water wings and a healthier news diet lead me to Fatigued by the News? Experts Suggest How to Adjust Your Media Diet from the New York Times which discussed ways that different people whose livelihoods were somehow embedded in engagements with large doses of media dealt with the overwhelming deluge of news and media that has become ubiquitous in the lives of adults. One of the most intriguing solutions to “news fatigue” highlighted in the piece was to return to reading a print newspaper because,

“… editors select the top stories and spare him from reading “the incomplete, incremental, second-rate stuff often published online.”

“And when I physically turned the last page of the newspaper — such a satisfying moment — I felt as if I’d read enough to be informed for the day,” he said.”

I have been trying, for years, to find ways to build “healthy news consumption” into our information curriculum. I don’t know why, but for a very long time I assumed that although they gamed a lot and spent time on different platforms than I, that students’ digital lives were at their core ultimately similar to my digital life. In retrospect, that was not one of my all time best professional judgements.

Upon returning to school from winter break a few weeks into the partial U.S. Federal Government shutdown, an informal survey of some of our classes indicated that our students were woefully uniformed on the news of the day. While I (and many of the other adults on campus) were living large, gorging to excess, and seeing many of the unhealthy symptoms of information obesity, a significant proportion of the students we teach were suffering from information starvation!

In thinking about how to bring news and current events into our students consciousness without making them information obese I just do not believe it realistic to expect that my students would all seek out print newspapers as suggested by the New York Times article.

I’m Giving Up on News Aggregators…

In thinking about how we might help students develop healthy news diets, I have largely given up on news aggregating apps like Apple News or Flipboard. The algorithms that underpin them seem to have (IMHO) become so good at giving me what I want that I gorge myself with little awareness of how effectively I am protecting my ego and my worldview by confirming my existing biases.

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Newsletters as the New Front Page? 

In looking for ways to help my students find a curated and limited set of stories that might strike the balance between being comprehensive yet not overwhelming, we’re giving the email newsletter subscription a try.

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Click here to view the full Libguides page.

Getting Started…

We asked students to pick a source for news that had a daily email newsletter subscription option and had them subscribe. They absolutely were not limited to the choices provided in our Libguide. It was presented as a “starting point.”

Note: The sampling of sources listed were chosen because they provided content without a paywall and reports in Media Bias Fact Check and Allsides that indicated that the sources largely fell into the center, center-left, or center-right range for bias and/or factual reporting.

Learning How to Read News is Hard…

Something that we had to keep in mind is that learning to read and consume news thoughtfully is a deceptively hard task. Think about it, reading news is like watching a daily soap opera. After a number of weeks, months, or years watching a soap opera if you tune in to an episode of a soap opera on Tuesday you will likely know which characters are telling the truth about the death of the evil banker and which characters are lying to cover their involvement in his murder, but a first time viewer would likely find the storyline rather disjointed and challenging. Introducing students to news takes time and there will be lots of questions that might make you want to sigh and roll your eyes, but which, if you are 14 years old are perfectly legitimate questions.

  • Who is Nancy Pelosi and what does she do?
  • What is the Fed?
  • Why are some parts of the government shut down and not others?
  • How is trade supposed to work when there isn’t a [trade] war?
  • Why are the workers in France so angry?

Getting students to continue to read the news over a sustained period of time is completely dependent on having classroom teachers, like Billie who is piloting this effort with me,  who are committed to investing the time it take to help her students get to the point where they can make enough contextualized meaning from the news they are reading so that it will sustain their interest and drive their news reading habits to continue whether they are an assigned task or not.

Billie has been having her students read their email newsletters, then has them share a story that they are following via Poll Everywhere.

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After the initial listing of articles, students sit in small groups and chat about the stories they’re reading and following, and they’ve been trying to group the stories by relevance or themes as a class. The articles on the board move around based on new information or as they come to new understandings or contexts.

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Next Steps–News Podcasts?

This a pilot effort that we’re just trying to get off the ground. We’ve started with just email newsletters, but our students are also very drawn to non-written forms of media so in the coming weeks we will likely try having them try daily curated news podcasts to see if getting news that way works well for students.

Next Steps–Introduce Logical Fallacies?

As students get their news reading feet under them, I would love to introduce common logical fallacies and have students begin to see they can find any of them in the articles they’re reading.

This is just a beginning. I’m not sure where we end up with this effort, but my hope is that if we can get regular discussion of current events happening in different classes, disciplines, and grade levels we will find ourselves with students who might be better prepared to:

  • Thoughtfully choose research project topics
  • Vote in future elections (about half of our current high school students will be eligible to vote in the next U.S. presidential election)
  • Participate thoughtfully in civic life at all levels
  • Effectively analyze and contextualize the news they read

It’s all a bit daunting and much of this effort’s success lays with the level of buy-in and follow-through of the classroom teachers that partner with us in this endeavor.

#FingersCrossed #Hope