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

on managing the libr… “SQUIRREL!!!”

This might not pertain to many of the rest of you out there in Libraryland, but as I have been trying to figure out what to write about this month I’ve have come to the realization that the nature of school librarianship as I’m living it seems to have made me into the librarian equivalent of Dug–the dog in the movie Up. In case you don’t know the movie, Dug is a dog capable of conversing with humans, but has this habit…

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of getting distracted and off-task when a squirrel happens to come into his field of vision. As I’ve tried to figure out what to write this month, I took inventory of a large number projects that we’ve started, none of which have progressed to the point that I thought that I could write a whole post about.

I don’t think that I’m particularly lazy, disorganized, or inefficient in my work, but it seems that in my work here in the library I get started on a project, then my focus gets pulled–just like Dug’s!

So here is an off the top of my head Inventory of Projects and Initiatives That Will Someday Come to Fruition, But for Now… “SQUIRREL!!!”

  • The Silhouette Cameo Plan –  At last year’s conference in Atlanta, I mentioned that I was thinking of getting a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine thing-y to Rivka Genessen. If you’ve never met her, Rivka’s brand of quiet enthusiasm can kind of suck you in and be rather persuasive. During our conversation she said, “Oh, you’ll LOOOOOVE it…” (in the way that I talk about buttercream frosting to other people), at least three times, so upon returning to school I purchased one for our library with my well intentioned plan to learn to use it over the summer. dug2The Silhouette Cameo Squirrel – As it turned out, my summer got consumed by EBSCO Discovery set-up and an EZ-Proxy software upgrade that went sideways and broke access to most of our databases. I finally had a day not too long ago to play with the machine and got it figured out. I LOOOOOVE it!!! But … I needed to order supplies to be able to try some of the vinyl decal signage that I want to make for the library. Believe me, the pictures of our signage are gonna look GREAT in my post in May! 🙄
  • The Mobile Shelving Plan – My under-sized library space does a LOT of work for our school community. We have library classes for students from 3rd-12th grade in our space. We have kids in every look and cranny in the building before school, after school, and during periods throughout the day. We saw pictures of GORGEOUS library stacks on wheels shared by AISL librarians and though, “If we put our high school fiction on mobile stacks, we would be able to move them out of the way to give us more space when classes use the library for presentations of learning for their parents and members of the community!”  dug2The Mobile Shelving Squirrel – As it turns out, a double-sided shelf unit that is 4-feet long and 42-inches high costs approximately $1,300 to purchase and just about $1,200 to have shipped to Honolulu. To make our shelving dreams come true (because, you see, if you don’t have a dream, you can never have a dream come true…) we figured out that we could build mobile fiction shelves out of wire carts from Costco. They’re available locally and we can construct two 4-foot long double-sided shelving units for about $187 a piece! It does mean, however, purchasing two shelf units at a time from Costco (they’re LARGE and I can only fit 2 in my car at a time), ordering other needed parts online, and putting the carts together. Believe me, though, the pictures of our mobile shelves are gonna look GREAT in my post in May! 🙄
  • The Newsletters and News Podcast Plans – I’ve been looking for ways for us to help our students develop better news reading habits. Many of the kids in our school community are not regular news readers so we need to find some structured ways to bring more current events into their consciousness. We are a 1:1 iPad school and over the years I have encouraged the adoption of Flipboard as a platform for news with very limited success with a handful of teachers. Earlier this year I came across How to Stop Your Brain’s Addition to Bad News on Fastcompany. Realistically, reading a print paper is just not going to fly with my students here, but perhaps subscribing to email newsletters or subscriptions to news oriented podcasts (since some of our classes are having students produce podcasts of their own) might be a way for us to make some headway. dug2The Newsletters and News Podcast Squirrel – Good tools and good plans have nowhere to go without the right teachers building them into the right projects. As it turned out, one of our teachers who introduced podcasting to her classes earlier this year asked if we could work with her classes to research and prepare for a series of debates–IT’S PERFECT, except that we won’t be working with her classes until we get back to school in January. Believe me, I’m hoping that I’ll have some great results and outcomes to share in a post in May! 🙄

I could go on, but that’s probably enough to give you a feel for my big picture. We have a lot of fun and exciting things happening, but it sure would be nice to feel like I’ve actually FINISHED one of them.

We started our school year ’18-’19 in the first week of August. As of today, we have 3 more days of instruction and 3 days of exams to end our first semester and begin our winter break!

Wishing each of you…

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… Sorry, got distracted … a wonderful holiday season and a restful winter break!

on the long road to understanding “truth”…

Last month I blogged about introducing our faculty to a source evaluation strategy that we hoped was easy and nimble enough that they might actually employ it with kids — on growing information literate humans… We asked faculty to beta test our initial 4-move process and to suggest ways to make the process more applicable and/or student-friendly.

Drafting a Process…

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We presented the model itself along with a quick 9-min explanation of the process with examples.

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Dutifully taking the feedback from faculty and incorporating it into our process…

A Final (for Now) Daft of Our “Evaluating While Searching” Process… 

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Our “final for now” draft. We were unable to resolve the debate over “reputable” vs. “reliable” so we punted and used both. The troubling term “reading laterally” became “investigate the source.”

Taking the Process Out for a Drive… 

We tried an initial roll out of our “Evaluating While Searching” process with a section of juniors and seniors in an IB Environmental Science class, and 3 sections of frosh in our interdisciplinary MPX program. Our MPX students are studying aspects of clean water and water rights so we pulled some sample sources together.

As our students, increasingly, turn to video rather than text sources for information, we watched an “Explainer” video piece from Vox Media about water in Flint, MI, and asked students to do some investigating of Vox Media by searching Wikipedia, the media bias ratings of Allsides, the reports from Mediabiasfactcheck.com, and freeform Googling. We discussed the fact that any ratings were subjective and that sometimes ratings between the sources might conflict, but that at least there is some information about the methodologies that Allsides and Mediabiasfactcheck use. Students discovered that not all sources were rated by the tools, and teachers and librarians discovered that many frosh do not know what it means to be politically “left or right” in the United States.

We gave our frosh some additional guided practice in small groups using other sources from our Google search and had them share their findings with their peers. Our discussion lead to some “aha” moments about bias.  Many of our frosh had not considererd, for example, that sometimes a source has a bias because of what they choose to report on or choose not to report on, but what they publish can be high in factual reporting. Our discussion also helped some come to a more nuanced understanding of the term “bias.” The US Center for Disease Control might be seen as having a bias that favors vaccination, but we can probably have a good deal of confidence that content on the CDC’s website is scientifically sound.

Part II – Source Literacy… 

We sent a request out to our local library association listserv asking if any academic libraries had journals and trade journals that they were discarding and could give us. The second half of the lesson entailed taking our stack peer reviewed journals, trade journals, and general periodicals and asking the class to sort them into three stacks. They could use any criteria they wanted except for the physical size of the artifact. Every section of frosh sorted first by topic. “This stack is about science. This stack is history. This stack is culture.” We talked about that being a very useful strategy since that’s how librarians and databases classify content as well–that’s why we search a science database for science sources!

We then asked them to sort by reading level. We got, “This stack is easy. This stack is boring. This stack is super boring.” As it happens, “super boring” things tend to be peer reviewed journals. “Boring” things tend to be trade journals, and “easy” things tend to be general periodicals. This exercise served as a really useful touch stone for kids as we did some searching and sorting in our databases. “Masterfile Complete has a mix of all of these kinds of sources, but the mix leans toward easy and boring with a little super boring mixed in. Academic Search Complete is almost all super boring stuff, but that’s really good to know because when you’re juniors and seniors you will need to search for those sources for sure!”

We had students take a close look at what kind of content we could find in each category of source and talked about expertise.

What Happened… 

I recently got to see some frosh source annotations. While they were not perfect, I was really encouraged because some of the thinking showed, I believe, that our students are beginning to look at sources in context and in concert with other sources they are finding!

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Sample of a pretty nice (IMHO) frosh annotation!

Though this is very much the beginning stages of this rollout, I am excited to finally feel like we are on a path that’s seems to be providing some of the scaffolding our students need to use sources more effectively!

It’s been a LONG TIME COMING!

This is Kind of Exhausting, but It Beats Giving Up… 

My father-in-law used to say, “Growing old is not always easy, but it sure beats the alternative…”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m finding teaching source evaluation in today’s information ecosystem and political climate really, really tough and fraught with challenges that feel like pitfalls. I venture on, however, because I fear that if we don’t help students develop trust in something, that they will learn not to be skeptical, but rather cynical of all that is out there. When one is skeptical one still has reasons to continue to seek “small-t” truth and come to an understanding that a reasonable person would consider to be truth. When one is cynical, seeking understanding is a fool’s errand because everyone lies. Everyone deceieves. Everyone is the same…

I don’t believe that everyone producing information, content, and doing scientific research studies is the same. I still think it is worth my effort to seek truth. Walter Cronkite is dead so perhaps I won’t ever again find the “big-T” kind of truth that I believed he was sharing with me on the news at six-o-clock when I was a child. I still, though, believe that many small-t truths from different sources and places can bring me to an understanding that is pretty close to “truth” The world isn’t black and white and the world is not simple for those who aren’t simplistic. Sometimes I hate that, but mostly I’m learning to be okay with it.

So with that I ask… What are you doing that’s been working for you? I can use all the help I can get.

 

on growing information literate humans…

Growing information literate human beings is really hard. I’m just going to put that out there. Over the last few years the information landscape has changed so rapidly, that for the last 4 or 5 years, despite my sincere commitment and diligent efforts, I haven’t confidently known how to help students and teachers successfully navigate the yellow brick road to information literacyland.

A little Historical Context…

Our library program has the truly good fortune to be given a high school faculty meeting each year for which we get to develop and present “library programming” for our high school faculty. While I am grateful for the vote of confidence and commitment that this shows from our Administration, I can also honestly say that these sessions have proven to be the most sweat and terror inducing 50 minutes of each of the 4 school years since I arrived here at Mid-Pacific.

I’m not the Michael Jordan of librarianship. I am NOT the person you want to give the ball to, to take the final shot at the buzzer to win the the big homecoming game. Put me under pressure and I choke like the poor nameless guy in the gray Imperial military uniform who has displeased Darth Vader by foolishly letting the rag tag band of Rebels escape to fight another day. Not pretty, but you get the picture…

Year 1–Research as a Process… 

In my first year here at Mid-Pacific, we determined that there would be great benefit if all of our faculty understood research as a process so we set about planning a to embed that concept in our faculty members’ minds and practice.

Mid-Pacific embraces active, constructivist, student-centered learning. If active learning is how students learn best, why should faculty learning look any differently? With this philosophy in mind, faculty meetings here rarely involve presenters standing in front of the auditorium telling us about a concept or a new program for long periods of time so in our faculty library presentation we set out to engage our faculty with an activity intended to develop individual and group understandings of research as a process.

Embracing Constructivist Learning–Put Teachers to Work!

We had teachers sit in small groups. Each group was given 6 large Post-it notes and asked to document the steps they would follow to accomplish a research or information gathering task.

It was a long time ago, now, but I believe the prompt was something along the lines of,

“You need to buy a new car. You need to gather the information necessary to buy the right car for you. What 6 steps would you follow to find the information you need to be successful?”

I think we had 2-3 similar prompts that groups could choose and we also gave groups the option to choose in information task of their own creation. We then had each group put their steps up on a board and we clustered like-steps from various groups together. Unsurprisingly, the steps developed from most groups aligned fairly easily with steps of the Big6 and we as a faculty began the process of “co-constructing” our understanding of research as process.

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WAAAAAY back in SY ’15-’16

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We’ve since re-revised our research process language.

I find walking around and engaging with small groups of teachers puts me far more at ease than when I am required to play the role of “expert” at the front of the room. Perhaps even more significant, however, is the messaging that this process communicates to our faculty. Engaging this way says to our faculty,

“This isn’t ‘the library’s’ process. This is Mid-Pacific’s process. This is what you, as a good adult learner, already intuitively do. This process isn’t the exclusive purview of the library, and therefore the sole responsibility of the library staff. Rather, it is something we should ALL be teaching in our courses and projects, and by using common language across disciplines, we can activate and leverage students’ previous experiences with research tasks.”

Year 2–Driving Engagement with Sources…

The following year, we addressed the idea that students were probably not engaging as deeply with sources as we all hoped to see. Out of that faculty meeting, grew the practice of asking students to submit annotated works cited lists rather just a list of works cited which was our norm. The very skeletal annotation format that came out of that meeting eventually gave way to adoption of the OPVL citation format encouraged by the International Baccalaureate Program, and as of this year OPVL annotated works cited lists are being required in grades 9-12.

Our annotation format. Origin: Where is this source from? Purpose: What is the author/creator’s purpose for publishing the content? Value: What is the value of this source to me as a learner for this particular research project? Limitation: In what ways might this source be limited? (Perhaps in its perspective, scope, or age…).

Year 3–Source Evaluation, Part II (Alternative Title: That Time We put the Horse Before the Cart)…

Last year, we had our faculty work through a source evaluation process by having them take articles on the vaccination debate and place them on a coordinate grid as they saw fit. Our hope was that the technique for visibly showing our understanding of a source’s “perspective” (we’re trying to avoid using the term bias because it is proving to be too loaded a term for our students) might “become a thing,” but alas, while we got good feedback, I think the process involved too much time and preparation for the idea to scale beyond a handful of our most committed “information literacy” oriented teachers.

Year 4–Source Evaluation, Part I (Alternate Title: What We Hope is the Missing Keystone Piece of our Source Evaluation Efforts)…

We have been struggling to come up with a scalable instructional model for source evaluation that our content-area faculty might be able to use with students in the course of their everyday work.

Over the summer, we stumbled upon Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers by Michael Caulfield in which he presents a “4-move” process for fact checking web sources. We were intrigued because it gave us a potential model for source evaluation that seemed effective, yet “light, quick, nimble, and fast” enough that we believed that it might be applicable at scale beyond a dedicated “library lesson.” We worked with his process and decided that our particular population of students would likely find more success with Caulfield’s 4-Moves if we changed the order of two of the steps, so we built a prototype flow chart and decided that we’d have our high school faculty beta test the process to see if it might meet their needs.

Here’s what we did with our faculty last Wednesday…

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We quickly talked about the “why” and why this process mattered.

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We presented the model itself along with a quick 9-min explanation of the process with examples.

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We gave the faculty their task and set them to work.

After my partner librarian, Nicole, gave a brief overview of the process, we tried one together as a whole group. Looking at this article from Nature. Because we were “16 year olds” we’d never heard of the source so we decided we needed to read laterally and searched [Wikipedia Nature] where we found out that it is one of the world’s most widely cited scientific journals.

 

Informal feedback from our faculty on our session and activity has been quite positive. A few let us know that the activity itself was helpful to them for their personal knowledge and awareness as USERS of information, and we got some good formal feedback about the process as well!

A sampling of feedback from our groups of high school teachers.

Next Steps?

As soon as we have a moment, our plan is to take all of the feedback from the faculty working groups and weigh which changes we think we might incorporate into our 4-Move process itself and/or changes that we might decide to make to the document (which we envision as an 11X17 poster in each classroom). Our initial thoughts are that some of the feedback such as changing “read laterally” to some other more student-friendly term will get a lot of consideration while other feedback is primarily useful for us to consider instructionally (defining terms clearly, etc.) as we eventually roll this process out to students.

Once we have gotten our ducks in a row on the library side, I will likely seek 5-10 minutes at a future faculty meeting in order to update our faculty on how their feedback has either been incorporated into changes to the process or document(s), or how their feedback will inform our instruction as we roll the process out to students.

Some statements from faculty such as, “If you use databases, sources are already vetted” indicate that we still have some conceptual information literacy professional development to do, so we plan to work with individual department chairs to find time when we might get some department meeting time to deliver more discipline-specific professional development for our teachers in some key departments.

This Seems Really Hard and Fuzzy So What’s the Payoff?

In the bigger picture we are coming to realize that we have to get students to think about source evaluation in two main phases.

Phase 1 – When you are initially selecting sources from a results list, you should be able to very quickly apply the 4-Moves to help you choose what appear to be your most promising sources.

Phase 2 -Once you have chosen sources, you need need to slow way down and carefully apply the kind of “close reading” strategies that are employed in the X-Y “perspective” activity that we did with our faculty last year. Does the author’s evidence adequately support their claim? Are the studies cited scientifically sound? Is the sample size for the study adequate? What is the author’s primary purpose for publishing this work? …

In a broad sense both kinds of source evaluation thinking need to become part of the “always on” mental models that students employ as they do anything from find the best video gaming hacks to the policy positions they will choose to support as soon-to-be voters.

For us here at Mid-Pacific in the shorter term, we have started requiring students from 9-12th to turn in OPVL formatted annotated works cited lists. The annotation requirement is not an end in itself as much as it is a scaffold that we are employing to “encourage” students to practice the thinking that goes into both phases of source evaluation. To my mind, the information gleaned while executing the 4-moves help to inform students about a source’s origin and, perhaps, purpose; deep/close reading that is done when they engage in activities like placing their sources on a continuum or in a coordinate grid should inform both the source’s purpose and limitation; and I would hope that students would be evaluating a source’s value to them as learners throughout the research process.

Final thoughts…

Growing information literate humans is hard. We’re struggling to figure out the best paths forward, but we hope that little-by-little and step-by-step, we’re slowly but surely identifying skills and mental models that need to be in place for our students to successfully engage with a universe of information that has grown to be incredibly complex and challenging.

We need all the help that we can get and we’d be so grateful to hear about strategies you are trying with your students. Please hit comment below and share some of them!

on projects that get us started…

First and foremost, while this blog is about independent school librarianship, I’d be remiss if I did not begin by saying that I am keeping everyone who may be in the path of Hurricane Florence in my thoughts. May you, your loved ones, your neighbors, and your communities be safe through it all.

Advice coming from our neighbors on the Hawaiian islands affected by Hurricane Lane is to be sure to take pictures and/or video of both the exteriors and interiors of your homes (including flooring) that you may be able to use as support documentation to show the condition of your property and its contents before the storm should you need to file claims with insurance carriers.

This Month’s Post on High School Projects to Start the Year… 

For those of you following more typical school calendars and not doing hurricane prep, welcome back to school!

As I tap this blog post out on my laptop, here in the Central Pacific, we find ourselves in the midst of our fifth week of school. Yes, that’s right! While most of you were out lounging poolside, hiking the Appalachian Trail (Looking at you, Tara Vito!), or doing whatever it is that is your joy of summer, I got to have my first library classes with the class of 2031–you read that right… #NotaTypo; we had two hurricane days (no snow days in the Central Pacific, but we do have hurricane days from time to time); and we’ve had the chance to work with our frosh Mid-Pacific eXploratory classes on a world civilizations project.

The Project in a Nutshell…

Working in groups, students are creating role playing games based on exploration and research that they are doing on ancient civilizations–ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, Babylonia, the Shang Dynasty, the Indus River Valley, and the Aztec Empire. The development of each groups’ game is a step in their broader project-based learning on the essential question: How is water or the access to it a reflection of a fair and equitable society? 

Planning for Collaboration…

We are incredibly fortunate to work with a cadre of teachers who purposefully build collaborative teaching time into their projects and create opportunities for us to team with them as they work with their students. Rather than have students read chapters in textbooks or deliver content about ancient civilizations in a series of lectures, Mr. Cheever and Mr. Falk elected to have students collaboratively gather information about their assigned civilizations.

  • Our Desired Outcomes:
    • Social Studies: Students will understand the framework for GRAPES: Geography, Religion, Arts, Politics, Economics, and Social.
    • Information Instruction:
      • Any fact in notes has to be linked to a specific source
      • Students will be introduced to and use a variety of library sources

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Library session goals

In collaboration with us in the library, Mr. Falk and Mr. Cheever included a requirement that students’ notes needed to include notes from at least 5 different library sources.

There are Times When Collaboration Feels Like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and You Crash and Burn, but Sometimes That’s Just How It Goes…

My partner librarian, Nicole, built a Libguide and our first section of Frosh came to the library to work on the project. I tried having students read Wikipedia pages for their civilizations with the intention of having students then generate keyword search terms. It was a horrendous failure and I crashed and burned REALLY BADLY. Fortunately, Mr. Falk had enough faith to bring his class back the next day and we re-launched our work with a little more structure and  a lot more success.

What This Looks Like in Our Library…

Students set up their collaborative note taking document. All 4 students in each group took notes in a single document, but each student was required to find 3 facts per GRAPES category and use 5 different library sources.

They looked a little more excited about the work at other points in time. I promise! LOL!

Teacher-created note taking template.

Students’ “notes in progress…”

Teacher and Librarian collaboration Points of discussion on note taking:

  • Notes in their own words or copy/paste?
    • Because this is an initial project and the synthesis step is to use these facts to inform the development of a game rather than a written work. Copy/paste is okay.
    • Notes in their own words and/or in quotations for direct quotes will be introduced in a project down the road when synthesis could more easily lead to citation issues.

Library Day #1: Research in Databases…

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Project database page

Teacher and Librarian Points of discussion on databases:

  • Britannica School and World Book were treated like other databases for this project. They are “offset” here because in future projects they will get phased out. “In high school, we no longer cite tertiary sources like Britannica, World Book, or Wikipedia in our academic work…”
  • We typically prefer to start with print books and ebooks before moving to research in databases. We couldn’t start our research in this order because we had two hurricane days and we couldn’t order our ebooks from Gale. When we got back to school, we were really busy and couldn’t get the order in. When Mr. Wee finally got around to placing the ebook order, he miscalculated the time difference between HST and EST and Gale was closed for Labor Day weekend. Basically, we didn’t have access to the eBooks we needed on the first day of the project and we didn’t have enough print resources for an entire class to use at the same time. #LastMinuteLibrarian #Fail

Library Day 2: eBooks and Books…

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Gale ebook sub-collection for the project

Click on the image above to view the un-pretty, but “good enough to get the job done” slideshow that I used with the class.

Getting Meta with the Research Process… 

While much of the work (as our projects often are) in our library lesson time was location & access and note taking heavy, we also always want to incorporate some “meta-discussion” on our research process and use of information so students begin building mental maps about the research process.

On day two, we took some time to discuss the metacognitive framework of the research process.

We charted what students had done (green) in the research process so far. We looked forward to the synthesis step that they’ll be doing as they begin the process of designing their games (blue). We added the arrows in red which Mr. Cheever pointed out is the “re” in research. As we do synthesis, we typically identify new information needs that must be addressed–learning and researching is a continually recursive process.

Developing Literacies is a LONG Game…

Research on Babylon uncovered An Eyewitness To Mighty Ancient Babylon by Herodotus. Mr. Cheever paused their work to have a short discussion with the class on how, as learners in a connected world, we MAKE MEANING and come to OUR OWN understanding of our world from the information we find. “We don’t have video, photos, and we can’t interview an ancient Babylonian ourselves so how do we know what is ‘true’?”

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Primary sources

A recent Quartz article, “A Philosopher of Truth Says We’re not Living in a “Post-truth” World After All,” discusses how, in our connected world, the struggle we have in helping our students arrive at “truth with a capital T.” The article’s conclusion, if I’m reading it correctly, is that we have to learn to be comfortable with “understandings” of the world that are based, not on a big T truth, but rather on many small truths that we triangulate and contextualize to come to a thoughtful “understanding.”

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Our library program’s aspirational learner profile

As Mr. Cheever had his discussion with his class, I thought back to the “learner profile” to which our library program aspires, and I thought, “In terms of information literacy instruction, THIS MOMENT RIGHT NOW, is the point of all that collaboration, resource management, note taking template building, Libguide creation, scheduling, and all the rest of the frustrating things we endure to make programming happen! THIS MOMENT RIGHT NOW IS WHAT THAT IS ALL FOR, AND WHAT WE WANT TO HAPPEN!

Are our 14-year old frosh independently “information literate” as a result of this one project and that one discussion? Of course not because building an information literate human being is a long game and we won’t get there with a single step, but it’s a start that made me smile as I walked to my car at the end of the day, for sure!

At the end of what has been an exhausting first month of school, I must say that one thing for which I feel so incredibly grateful is that I get to work with teachers that let us play this long game with them!

Happy new school year, all!

on savoring our days of summer and books…

I hope this post finds you savoring your final days or weeks of summer. The Hawaii school year, however, starts very early and public school students across the state are returning to school today. Here at Mid-Pacific, we will have new students and high school frosh on campus on Friday and the ’18-’19 school year officially gets underway on Monday!

I very successfully savored my final days of summer. In fact, I was so successful with my “savoring” that I have been running around like a mad man addressing all of the start-of-the-year tasks that need to be done in a library that I didn’t take care of because I was successfully savoring…

Anyway, that is a long way of telling you that this post is really short because when I am in savoring mode my time management and executive function skills revert to those of a middle school boy (and not even a really academically successful middle school boy… Just a barely passing, shake your head, “Wait, what?”, middle school boy).

Anyway, over the last few days, there has been a really wonderful AISL listserv thread about building a culture of reading with students. Wonderful ideas have been shared, but it occurred to me that it would be wonderful to foster a culture of reading with my faculty as well. A few years ago Katie Archambault shared a post on how she runs her faculty book club. I followed her template and have run a very informal faculty book club for the past two years, but I hoped to add something else to our mix.

This summer I read and completely loved, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Dan Coyle.  Though written for an audience focused on business leadership, I found the book extremely accessible and easily adaptable to the needs of classroom teachers working to get cohorts/classes of students to work well together or perhaps to administrators, department chairs, or librarians working to get teams of teachers collaborating successfully.

I thought the book aligned so well with our school culture and the philosophy of learning and teaching that we try to foster, that I decided that it would be a worthwhile investment to try to just release the book into the wilds of the Mid-Pacific community and to see what organically emerges.

My original copy of the book will get cataloged and added to our collection, but I ordered 7 additional copies of the book and affixed a book plate in front of each with the following instructions:

I’ve chatted up the book and dropped them into the hands of people around campus to whom I thought the book might resonate. I simply asked them to give it a read, clarified the information already on the book plate, and left the rest of to them. After just three days, I’ve gotten positive feedback from two of them.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

Enjoy and savor the rest of your summer days! Though you might want to savor your days just a little bit less than I savored mine so you won’t find yourself waking up in the middle of the night writing reminders to yourselves down on Post-it notes that you keep next to your bed…

#Sigh… #Hahaha!!!

on summer break(ing)…

I hope that this post finds you in a chaise lounge next to a pool with an amazing summer read, hiking in the woods, traipsing through a far-flung travel destination, or in whatever happy place you choose to be for the summer.

What I Did for My Summer Vacation… 

No exotic travels to far-flung corners of the world were in the cards for me this summer, but I did get to spend a wonderful month in Brooklyn. While in New York, I took the opportunity to invite myself to visits with two #Amazing AISL librarians. I had the chance to meet up with Karyn Silverman at the Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School, and with Suzanne Crow over at The Spence School. I love opportunities to see how other librarians set up their physical spaces and I find no better professional development than just getting to chat with other librarians about their successes, their challenges, and their programming. I’m incredibly grateful for both opportunities!

Thank you both for your generosity!

The Library at Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York

A view of Central Park and scenes from the library at The Spence School

I also made it over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I am going to believe that this is the fountain where Claudia and her brother bathed and collected the “wishing coins.” Bonus points for those who can identify the book (which was my favorite when I was 10).

The fountain at The Met!

Summer Break(ing) Stuff… 

My colleague, Nicole, and I split our summer librarian coverage so she graciously took the first three weeks of summer school and I returned for my three weeks of summer school in July.

During the summer, I have the time needed to address the things in my library that get placed on the WAY BACK burner during the regular school year. Those two databases that don’t authenticate properly with EZProxy? That needs care. That database icon on the library website that is just a little smaller than the rest of the icons (which nobody else who uses the site ever seems to notice, but which TAUNTS me every single time I open the page and project it on the screen during a lesson? That needs care. That EBSCO Discovery Service search box code that our project manager sent me during finals week? That needs to be loaded and tested.

You get the picture…

Here’s the thing, though…

I’m not a systems librarian. I know what I want my systems to do, but getting them to do it? Well, that’s not my best thing. My work this summer has amounted to attempting to fix something; having about half the things on our library site break because of the fix that I applied; days of trouble-shooting to un-break the things I broke; then getting it pretty much back to functioning just like it did before I did the system update to “fix” stuff behind the scenes.

I don’t know how the rest of you feel about maintaining the back-end systems in your libraries, but I have to say, it’s not the most satisfying aspect of my work… #PaperCutsOnMyEyeballs comes to mind.

On Proxies, and Stanzas, and Config Txt, Oh My!

It started with a long overdue update to our EZProxy software. We’ve been comfortably running older EZProxy software for a while, but were increasingly having issues with https authentication which made an update imperative. The update ended up requiring us to reconfigure a good number of our database stanzas on the proxy server so tracking down the appropriate configuration stanzas and getting them installed took more time than I wished. I have to say, if you are like me and are learning your way through a systems upgrade, may you be blessed with a network administrator/IT guy who is as patient and accommodating as mine–there are always positive things to take away from every frustrating endeavor! #JustinRocks!

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Our database page

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D’oh!

On the EBSCO Discovery Service Train… 

While my EZProxy saga was playing out, I was also attempting to get our EBSCO Discovery Service configured and up and running. It’s evident to me now, but for the uninitiated, trying to configure a search interface while you in the process of updating the access point to the databases that are searched by the interface (our EZProxy server) is a STUPID thing to do. DO NOT DO WHAT I DID! Part of the EZProxy upgrade involved installing an SSL certificate on our server (I don’t get all of it, but it has to do with our database vendors wanting to use https instead of http). Bottom line is that the code EDS sent me behaved very differently when it was built for https rather than http–maybe everybody else in libraryland knew that, but I didn’t because, well, I went to library school when we were still learning to build our websites by hand with html code and ftp servers and I was SUPER EXCITED about Netscape Navigator and my tangerine iMac G3 desktop.

Anyway…

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There’s still some wonkiness in our search box code, but we’re getting closer! 

We’re still working with our EDS project manager and the set-up crew, but progress is finally coming.

My class of rising 6th graders will arrive at the door at any moment so I will have to leave this here for now. We’re learning how to login to a school laptop and how to organize our Google Drives! Wish me luck!

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, may your days of summer be filled with joy and lots of time to read whatever you want to read! Happy summer, all!

on a mid-research pause, reflect, share, and go…

Sometimes, as the saying goes, “It’s better to lucky then good.” This is a story about one of those times–a research and information literacy experience that was totally planned and developed by non-library faculty that further our program’s information instruction goals.

Who Teaches Research? – In a PK-12 school with a rather large student population, I have come to realize that as librarians here, our mission is to be sure that sound research and information literacy skills are being taught in our curriculum, but the librarians cannot, and indeed SHOULD NOT,  solely be the ones delivering all of that instruction. Everyone needs to teach research!

The IB Extended Essay (In my head, also known as #ResearchArmageddon… LOL) –  Students here at Mid-Pacific can elect to earn a full International Baccalaureate Diploma over the course of their junior and senior years. One of the core requirements of the IB Diploma program is that students must complete a 4000 word research paper on a topic of their choice. In the fall of junior year, students are paired with a faculty mentor. Students research and write through the remainder of their junior and into the fall of their senior year. Completed IB Extended Essays are submitted to the IB in the spring of students’ senior years. Faculty mentors guide and coach students through the research and writing process, but the IBEE is largely a student-driven independent study experience.

Bring on the Extended Essay Cafe – Although the Extended Essay is intended to be a student-driven, independent study experience, the IB understands that these are still 16-year old human beings–many who are writing a research paper of this extent for the very first time. The IB, therefore, encourages schools to offer an “Extended Essay Cafe” experience. Coordinated by our school’s awesome overall IB coordinator, Kym Roley, and our amazing Extended Essay Coordinator, Jessica Hanthorn, students gathered in the school seminar room along with a history teacher, the head of our science department, the head of the Mid-Pacific School of the Arts, and me. Each student prepared a 7-slide presentation as a snapshot of the state of their Extended Essay research at this moment in time.

  • Slide 1: Introduction
  • Slide 2: Research Question
  • Slide 3: Background
  • Slide 4: Chapter Headings/Working Outline 
  • Slide 5: Detail 
  • Slide 6: Problems and Solutions 
  • Slide 7: Bibliography

The Experience – Students were each given 10 minutes to introduce us to their topics and walk us through their process. What an amazing process it turned out to be! As I listened to my kids, I literally thought, “I wish every jaded adult who writes about today’s youth and their lack of passion could be here to see what I get to see and to hear what I get to hear because what I see and what I hear is passion!”

G. talked extensively, and with great passion, about the the films of Hayao Miyazaki.

Feedback from our faculty panel was that it was clear to anyone in the room that G. has a deep love for her subject, but that she easily has an 8000+ word essay on her hands–if not the makings of the start of a book. She was directed back to the IB Film: Subject-specific guide, and someone suggested that she might consider a single element of film-making in the 3 Miyazaki films she discussed or that she might consider looking at a single film rather than 3.

Click here to view JKs full IBEE Cafe slideshow

J. shared his interest in the the way that technology has impacted his learning experience as a student at Mid-Pacific. He spent a substantial amount of his time explaining the struggle he has had narrowing his topic. The panel suggested that one possible way to narrow the topic might be to focus on the effect that a particular app or type of app such as an online calendar or a “to do” app like Google Keep has on student learning. Another suggestion was for him to consider focusing on a narrower age group such as early elementary or middle school students. J. also expressed his belief that he was not finding a lot of “statistical” data about technology and learning so the suggestion was made that he seek information about the difference between quantitative and qualitative assessment data as he begins digging more deeply into scholarly sources for his research.

It was wonderful to see that our students were willing to be open minded to the panel’s suggestions, but that they also felt comfortable pushing back on suggestions as well! What could be better than students feeling ownership about how THEY want to shape their work? Almost across the board, when students pulled up their in-progress works consulted lists, they did not yet have many scholarly works in place so that was a frequent refrain. Given that their research is just now coming together lack of scholarly sources was not a surprise at all, but it was a nice opportunity to remind students that, that was what IB readers would expect to see.

The Benefits – To my mind, having students create and share an artifact that reflected their research accomplished a number of things:

  • Because they had to have something to present to an audience, some of the kids who have been frozen by indecision were forced to make some tough decisions and start moving forward.
  • Students who were frozen in place by the evils of learned-procrastination were forced to develop a plan of action that got them off the starting line.
  • Presenting to a live audience helped students come to the their own realization that their topics were too big for 4000 words.
  • Students who got overly enthused about the experimental design aspect of their science topics received guidance that refocused their work around that fact that they are, indeed, writing an ESSAY–the experimental design, while appropriate for an internal assessment is not the goal here.
  • Students who had DEEPLY back burnered the Extended Essay got to see how much progress some of their peers had made.
  • Students who had made progress, but who were feeling anxiety about being “in the weeds” learned that they were doing fine.

The Steal-worthiness and Making It Scale – I think we all understand how important reflection is to the learning experience. Too often in our instructional design, however, we ask students to reflect on their process and their learning at the END of a project. I love the fact that our Extended Essay Cafe allowed students to pause and reflect mid-way through their project which allows them to make changes that will improve the experience RIGHT NOW on THIS PROJECT rather than making adjustments to their research process on a hypothetical project sometime in the future. This kind of mid-research / mid-project reflection would have served 16-year old me far better than a reflection that came at the end.

While I do not think that it is realistic for us to replicate the Extended Essay Cafe experience fully for all of our projects, as a school that has invested heavily in the project-based learning process I see many opportunities for us to build smaller scale mid-research “pause and reflect” opportunities into our project design for students.

I’m looking forward to seeing if we can make this a reality in our students’ project experiences going forward.

on annotating our works cited…

Happy spring, all! For me, spring means:

  • Two week break!!! – I mean, I love my kids and my job. Blah, blah, blah… Let’s get real, though, not having to work for two weeks is pretty sweet, right?!?!? I was in New York City for an awesome Nor’easter that dumped 8 inches of snow in Brooklyn. Yes, I have now seen snow fall out of the sky two times. Yay! Quite a thrilling thing if you reside in the tropics and the humidity has been hitting 94%.
  • Spring Conference – The AISL Spring Conference in Atlanta starts in a week! #SoExcited #Yay!
  • Student Projects – Spring means that those of us working in project-based learning oriented schools start to drown in projects.

We are in the midst of many, many projects so I’ve been thinking a lot about works cited lists and annotations. What do I think?

Errrr…

Well..

Uh…

One thing I think is that I don’t really care if the citations are in perfect MLA 8 format. Hah!!! There, I said it… Yes, I do not care if citations are wrong exactly, precisely right.

[Insert gif of angry mob of librarians with torches and pitchforks here]

I teach my kids to take the preformatted citations from databases and put them into NoodleTools. I realize that sometimes the citations are wrong. In a perfect world, all of the citations would be perfect, but in the imperfect real world that I live in, if my kids know that they need to cite the source for the content they’ve used and they’ve provided enough information so that the source can be easily accessed, that’s enough for me for where they are as high school students. When they write for publication in a peer reviewed journal I’m confident that they’ll know to take the time to get their citations right, or that at the very least, they’ll know how to find a librarian or editor who can help them build publication-worthy citations.

In my mind, it comes down to “Why do we cite?” Very honestly, I am not a fan of the approach that many teachers take which, basically, equates failure to cite three sentences from an obscure essay on the use of horses in WWI to stealing a BMW from the neighbor’s garage and taking it for a spin out to the North Shore like they’re on an episode of Hawaii 5-0. “Failure to cite is STEALING!!!”

Now, please don’t get me wrong, plagiarism is REALLY BAD, but in most cases I see the actual harm as being more cognitive and moral/ethical, than criminal. If you’re taking someone else’s work and presenting it as your own, you’re short circuiting your own learning. As a school librarian, that’s the harm I want kids to grasp first and foremost.

If citation isn’t about “preventing theft,” then, why do we want kids to cite? After all, while I may not care much about the specifics of MLA 8 formatting, I’m still a proponent of “citation.” As I see it, for the kind of work that my students are doing, citation mainly serves as a framework for the initial work of source evaluation.

 

  • Who is this author and why should his/her ideas matter?
  • What clues about bias and orientation can I glean from the title?
  • Do the container, publishing platform, or publisher provide clues about the orientation for the information?
  • If the content is date sensitive is it past its expiration date?

You can’t evaluate any of that if you can’t or don’t locate it so that seems like a good place to start.

All of that information is important, but it’s really just a first pass. Our main interest is the point after a source has been chosen from that long list of hits and getting the researcher to more deeply engage with the sources. Unfortunately, we’ve all probably seen student papers where 90% of the content comes from a single source and there are four or five other sources in the works cited list from which the student has cited something rather trivial from the first page of all of his/her other sources. I’m sure this isn’t true of the rest of you, but to be perfectly honest, that characterizes most of the papers I wrote in my high school years. #SadButTrue #IWasNotAnAcademicStar

Two years ago we began encouraging teachers to require annotated bibliographies as a way to “encourage” engagement with sources–the whole source, not just the first page. I wasn’t really sure that the idea would be an easy sell so we came up with an annotation format that was intended to be as easy as possible.

We got a surprising degree of buy-in from our teaching faculty so at this point a majority of our teachers are now requiring annotated works cited lists.

Interestingly, our Social Studies department has decided that they would like students to use a more substantial OPVL (Origin Purpose Value Limitation) format that is often used in International Baccalaureate courses. We are currently in the midst of our first effort to use it at scale across all four years of high school social studies classes. Honestly, it is really good, but it isn’t easy by any means!

This is all very much work in progress and I’m pretty much making this up as we go along so it isn’t exemplary by any stretch of the imagination. We’re giving this a go and we’ll see what happens… If you’re doing work with annotated works cited lists, I’d love to hear about what you are doing and how you are approaching the work!

Looking forward to seeing many of you in Atlanta, but if you can’t be there this time around I’ll look for you virtually via the comments below or via the listserv.

Happy spring!

on alert…

No, not Hawaii Emergency Management Agency practice alerts! Google alerts…

One of the things I have been doing this month is working with 10th graders in one of our Mid-Pacific eXploratory (MPX) Humanities classes. Students have been building research outlines for debates on U.S. History oriented topics.

  • The US should allow undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. a pathway to citizenship.
  • The US should consider implementing a single-payer health care system for all.
  • The #Metoo movement has done more good than harm.
  • Sit-lie bans should be repealed.
  • The U.S. should have stricter gun control laws.

We recommended our standard debate and current events database for 10th graders:

  • Opposing ViewPoints from Gale
  • Issues and Controversies from Infobase
  • Issues from ABC-CLIO
  • MasterFile Complete for current events
  • Statista for statistical evidence

Given the the currency of most of the topics in Congress at the moment, it seemed like a nice opportunity to introduce students to Google Alerts.

If you haven’t used Google Alerts before you basically sign in to your Google Account then go to https://www.google.com/alerts

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Enter your initial search query.

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Once you have an initial search query, you will see an Alert preview at the bottom of the page. Check this preview to be sure that you are getting helpful results.

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If your preview results look good, you can go into your Alert options to set the Alert parameters.

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A nice option for students doing research on global topics is to set the region for a non-North American region.

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Alerts are delivered to your email inbox like this. The links take you out to the original article.

As is my wont, when I was thinking about introducing Alerts to my kids for the first time, I sent a query out to the list and received these very helpful tips.

From Tasha Bergson-Michelson:

I do teach some students to set up alerts. Make sure they look at/think abut all the options. Depending on the length of the project, I like to have them go back in about 2 weeks after setting them up and tweak their search. Honestly, they can feel aggravated by what they get, and should be empowered to change it, rather than ignore it.  Wonder if you could have them print and annotate the search results from the first several results they receive to decide how to tweak.

Or, run the search they are putting in the alert and annotate those results?

Something to make it a more thoughtful process, set up for success.

From Shelagh Straughan:

My main thing is that I encourage kids to be very deliberate with their alert query (eg. use a search string that has already had success) so that they’re not inundated with irrelevant stuff!

From Alicia Kalan:

I teach Google Alerts for a similar research / debate project with juniors and just have to remind them to set the alerts once a day instead of “as-it-happens” to keep their inbox more manageable and to set the sources to “news” instead of automatic. But I think the big thing, while it seems simple, is just reminding / showing them how to turn the alerts off after the project is done. 

If you haven’t thought about Google Alerts, give them a try. I’m considering suggesting that we have students set up an Alert for their names and user names as part of our work in the digital citizenship arena.

How are you using Google Alerts?

If they’re new to you, how might you use them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!