on revisiting hyperdocs: reduce, reuse, recycle…

Happy Fall, All!

I hope this post finds you all hitting your “It’s not the beginning of the school year anymore so here we go, people!!!” stride.

Figuring out what to post every other month is really challenging. I always hope to share something new but you know, as a “librarian of a certain age,” to be honest, I’ve reached the point where I think I might be posting about things that I’ve already posted. So, if that’s true… Sorry!!! It’s hard to keep coming up with new stuff. Besides, new episodes of The Boys (parental guidance suggested) and The Great British Baking Show (fun for the whole family) have started dropping every Friday so I kinda, sorta also have other demands on my time these days… 🤣

Anyway, back in February of 2018, Courtney Walker wrote a really fantastic post on Hyper Docs for Hyper Connection in which she shared how she was collaborating with a colleague to use hyperdocs for her research instruction. I’d played with hyperdocs a bit in the past, but we had instructional methods in place that seemed to be working for us so I kind of just tagged the idea in my #ThingsToStealAtSomePointInTheFuture and moved on.

After planning all spring and summer for an in-person opening of the 2020-2021 school year, a significant spike in Covid cases in our State forced us to open the year completely virtual. Experience from our move to emergency virutal learning in the spring of 2020 made it clear to all that 85 minute blocks of virtual synchronous instruction were just not viable or sustainable ways to deliver instruction so TA-DA!!! The time seemed right to revisit and steal the hyperdoc concept!

Emergency Virtual Instruction vs. Starting a New School Year Virtually…

I don’t know about the rest of you out there in LibraryLand, but I’m finding the way that emergency virtual librarianship manifested itself last March to be COMPLETELY different than starting a new school year virtually. Our teachers were no longer dealing with a completely unknown form of instruction and most of our faculty seemed comfortable enough with the technology that they seemed to feel comfortable going back to more project-based/inquiry-based instruction in line with our school’s philosophy of learning. Beyond that, an amazing number of teachers who had never worked with us in the past began requesting help with sources and instruction. It’s been a little like school librarian buffet of opportunity for us!

The Pragmatics of InfoLit Instruction…

Opportunities that come with requests for help are wonderful, but there is the reality that we are a PK-12 school with 1500 students and two MLIS librarians. Given those parameters, our mission as a library program is to assure that information literacy and research skills are being taught and taught well–not to teach all of the research and information literacy instruction ourselves. Hyperdocs are emerging as one tool we are using as we work to be an instructional presence in students’ research and information literacy endeavors while reducing our instructional load on procedural and “work flow” kinds of issues. Done right, much of the instructional support content can be recycled and reused on multiple projects. The goal is to make as much “library work” asynchronous-able as possible so that when we have actual face-to-face time with students we are doing instruction that is hardest to commoditize with canned tutorials–I’m thinking things like:

  • How to broaden or narrow a research topic
  • How to refine your keyword search terms to find what you need
  • How to paraphrase
  • Where else to search when you can’t find what you need in Gale High School and Academic Search Complete
  • Etc.

Addressing Just in Time vs. Just in Case Instruction: All Library Instruction that Can Be Commoditized Should be Commoditized…

What I truly love about employing hyperdocs in our instruction is that it gives us a way to offer instruction to kids just in time–just before they need to do something while also freeing us to skip laborious and torturous instruction with kids who don’t need it. I am someone who HATES having my time wasted. PLEASE don’t make me sit though another meeting about stuff I know. I get it, sometimes we need to be sure that everybody understands the school’s sexual harassment policy or other necessary basic things. That is repetition that is needed and in those cases we each do our best to learn SOMETHING from the experience. As a librarian, I sometimes feel that everything I teach rises to this level of importance, but let’s face it, if the 14 year old sitting in front of me knows how to set up a new project in NoodleTools or locate a preformatted citation for an article in a database she really shouldn’t have to sit through Mr. Wee’s lessons on those things AGAIN–you know, even though he’s super entertaining, hilarious, and easy on the eyes… #Hahaha!!! #Eyeroll

Our First Test Drive with Students…

Our first hyperdoc outing of the 2020-2021 school year was with 8th graders in a science class. Because our spring semester of the 2019-2020 school year was so topsy-turvey and we were launching the school year virtually for the first time ever, our 8th grade science teachers decided to ease students into their first “research” project. The stakes and content were purposely and wisely kept low. Many, many moving pieces–over the summer, our school transitioned from Google Meets to Zoom; a system upgrade meant that students all received new active directory usernames and passwords; and we moved to an 8-day rotating class schedule. Teachers’ desired outcomes included:

  • Introducing students to a new middle school digital work flow
  • Introducing/Reviewing database research skills
  • Making sure everybody could login to Google Drive and school databases from home
  • Reviewing note taking skills
  • Learning students’ personalities, abilities, strengths, challenges, work habits, etc.

Taking the hyperdoc out for a test drive with actual middle school students was a really interesting learning experience. A significant amount of the instructional focus with this project wasn’t specifically “library research” instruction as much as digital work flow instruction that students typically use in just about every library research project through high school. We did end up spending a good amount of time creating the tutorials that we embedded into the students’ hyperdoc, but I saw it as a very good investment of time because we were able to reuse the tutorials for multiple projects at numerous grade levels. Because the tutorials were embedded directly into the hyperdoc adjacent to each task, we were able to quickly walk students through each part of the hyperdoc; let them work on the tasks independently; and while the majority of kids worked independently we were freed to move into Zoom breakout rooms and trouble-shoot with individual students who needed extra help.

Iterating and Fixing Stuff Based on Things We Learned Along the Way…

Immediately after finishing our instructional arc with our 8th graders, we got to meet up with our 7th graders. They were working on a similar introductory project with, largely, the same desired outcomes.

We built our first hyperdocs in Google Docs using tables. We are a 1:1 iPad school and in our first outing we discovered some issues and frustrating limitations with the Google Doc app for iPad. If you begin taking notes with a numbered list, for example, if you move to a new table in the document the numbers cannot be restarted. #DearGooglePleaseFixThis

To work around this issue, we built our second hyperdoc for our 7th graders in Google Slides which worked far better than Google Docs for our purposes. Each slide serves as it’s own independent page; the slide navigator in Slides allows one to navigate to different sections of a hyperdoc very quickly and intuitively; and since students are more comfortable working with Slides than with tables in Docs, adding new slides for additional sources didn’t require any explanation.

Coloring slide backgrounds to group tasks together proved to be very helpful with 7th graders. “Right now, we’re looking at the green slide–step #2.”

A Last Google Drive Tip to Keep in Your Pocket Just in Case…

After you’ve built your project hyperdoc and you want to share your hyperdoc with students, there are few ways to tweak your Google URL to change its behavior when it’s clicked.


So far, so good. As soon as we concluded with our 7th graders, our 8th graders returned with a 2nd science project with more science and research content. We pushed a new hypderdoc out to students and we were able to get to our actual research instruction work far more quickly the second time around.

We work with some teachers building BEAUTIFUL hyperdocs. Some of those teachers build their own and incorporate our tutorials. Our hyperdocs tend to be more utilitarian, but they’re getting the job done.

If you’re using hyperdocs in your instruction, please reply below with a link to a sample. I’d love to see what you’re doing and how you’re doing it!

Have a great week, everyone!

Playing 2020 Bingo: Adjusting to the “New Normal” and continuing to “Pivot.”

Teacher-librarians have been learning to pivot and imagine their own professional “new normal” for decades now. However, 2020 has provided us with completely new scenarios to contemplate simultaneously. We have found our physical collections temporarily shuttered, our library spaces being re-used to create socially distanced traditional classrooms, and our own stand-alone courses moved to asynchronous moments throughout the week. This global pandemic experience has asked teacher-librarians to prove their relevancy to the school ecosystem every single day. My early learning librarian colleague and I have decided to see this moment as an opportunity to re-think our programs, our collection, our curriculum, and our school-based relationships.

Here are a few ways that my colleague and I pivoted that have been successful. Instead of mourning the loss of our synchronous classes, we spent that time learning how to use video tools to create virtual story times, book-talks, and ways to use our online library catalog and libguides. We put together a proposal to use our regular library budget to expand our digital offerings in terms of e-books and audiobooks. (Our proposal was accepted.) We ran our all staff book club for 90 minutes (about 1 and a half hours) for six weeks this summer instead of one hour on one day. Developing videos, expanding our collection and leading discussions, meant that we were working throughout the summer (we are both on 10-month faculty contracts) but we felt that staying front and center was especially important in this moment.

In addition to learning new tools and buying new materials, we also found that increasing our communication with students and families was both a thing we could do from home and incredibly successful to broaden our community of active readers. Our school’s summer reading challenge starts in June and ends right after Labor Day. We increased our email communication from 1-2x per summer, to 1-2x a week for 13 weeks (about 3 months). In these communications, we included new book suggestions, our own experiences of reading, and a challenge leaderboard based on reviews in Biblionasium. By the end of the summer we had a 70% increase in finishers from last year. We had a 90% increase in active participants (students who read a least 2 of the 20 required books) and two of our students read and reviewed 71 books a piece. We also re-formatted our review expectations and required students to submit reviews in an “I like, I wish, I wonder” format, this alternate format allowed for a different level of engagement with the texts and yielded reviews that were truly sparkling treasures of insight. If you are interested, here is a short video on the format: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6SYeet5KFc&feature=youtu.be

I know that this is an especially challenging time to be a teacher-librarian and a specialist in a remote learning/hybrid context. I believe we can do this– I look forward to hearing more of your experiences of re-thinking your programs, collections, curriculum, and school-based relationships.

Online Learning: My life in the HyFlex Lane

I recently came across the episode of I Love Lucy where she and Ethel have just gotten jobs in a chocolate factory. It seems simple enough—wrapping chocolates as they move past on a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt moves slowly at first, and Lucy and Ethel do a fine job of keeping up with the candy moving along in front of them, feeling quite pleased with themselves. Before long, however, the belt speeds up and things quickly go sideways, the chocolates speed by, and Ethel and Lucy are reduced to scooping them off the belt and stuffing them … well, you get the idea and if you’re in need of a good laugh these days, I highly recommend this clip. 

Since we all understand the concept of foreshadowing, I imagine as soon as you hear Lucy and Ethel say “Well this is easy, we can handle this okay,” you know things are definitely not going to be okay. 

At this point, you may be wondering what this has to do with online learning or even librarianship. A post on the AISL listserv recently asked the question, “What IS a school librarian?” For me, defining what it means to be a school librarian used to be easy. But with all the changes that COVID-19 has thrown at us and how quickly our lives have changed, it isn’t as clear-cut as it used to be. It still means having a physical presence in the library, providing readers’ advisory, designing LibGuides, keeping our library website current, and collaborating with faculty on research projects. But now, for me it also includes designing lessons and teaching based on the HyFlex model my school adopted for this year (and truth be told, probably parts of it for years to come).

It’s a Strange, New World

I have to say, Kent has done a remarkable job of creating as safe an environment as possible for faculty, staff, and students. We started bringing students back at the end of August to provide enough time for testing and quarantining to ensure we were creating a bubble that allowed us to start school September 9 with over 400 students boarding on campus. An additional 100+ students are attending class synchronously and/or asynchronously depending on time zone restrictions. I’m happy to say we’ve just successfully finished week three of our fall term and know it’s because of all the ways COVID-19 protocol makes teaching and living harder: masks, de-densified classrooms, one-way traffic patterns, testing, staggered meals and outdoor dining, campus visitor restrictions, and social distancing to name but a few.

In addition to my regular duties as the research librarian, I teach two sections of New Student Seminar (NSS), a graduation requirement completed in a student’s third or fourth form year. NSS covers everything from active study and time management to information literacy and research skills. This year, both of my sections have 15 students total—13 students boarding and attending class on campus and two remote students that join via Zoom, time zone differences permitting. Armed with two years of teaching the course under my belt and time spent this summer at Global Online Academy, in PD with Dr. Joshua Eyler on Resilient Pedagogy, collaborating on a Hybrid Learning Guide for our faculty, and re-designing my PowerSchool LMS pages, I felt pretty well-prepared and thought “I can handle this.” Well, to be honest, I really wasn’t prepared for how many things I did previously that now need adaptation: talking clearly with a mask so I can be understood, listening carefully to an answer so I don’t have to ask a shy student with a quiet voice behind a mask to repeat themselves, any pair-share or small group discussion that requires close contact—the list goes on. Here are some of the challenges so far teaching during COVID-19, opportunities they’ve provided for growth, and a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

Lesson 1 | Technology is My Frenemy

On any given day I might have thirteen students physically in the classroom face-to-face (F2F) and two students joining synchronously—OR—I might have thirteen F2F students, one synchronous and one asynchronous student—OR—I might have seven F2F, and six synchronous and two asynchronous students—OR… You get the picture—the possibilities are endless depending on factors beyond my control that impact my classroom and my teaching. The Hyflex model is designed to allow you to quickly pivot from one mode of delivery to another with the least amount of friction. This model relies heavily on technology and right now I’m using a witches brew of hardware and software that frequently seems to have a mind of its own: a Swivl robot, an iPad, a laptop, and finally Zoom combined to create as close as possible a true classroom experience. Because one of my main goals for each class is that my students will be actively engaged with the lesson, I add live group discussion, large and small group discussion boards on our LMS, Padlets, and Zoom breakout rooms to the mix. I travel to my classroom with everything except the Swivl, so now in the ten minute break between the last person teaching and the start of my class I need to get the Swivl positioned in the room, turned on, the iPad inserted and connected, remember to take the marker that controls the Swivl out of the charger, put it in a lanyard that I wear on my lapel (and try not to leave the classroom with it still attached stranding the next person teaching), place four additional audio markers throughout the room to capture class discussions, return to my laptop and start a Zoom session, return to the Swivl and join the Zoom from the iPad that’s in the Swivl and begin recording the lesson all the while students are wandering in and the bell to start the class is minutes away. Oh, did I mention I need to make sure I don’t forget about admitting my remote students in the Zoom waiting room? Or take attendance and submit it before class starts? Instead of starting class feeling centered and focused, those chocolates are already flying off the conveyor belt and I’m working as quickly as I can to wrap them all. Needless to say, three weeks in and it’s exhausting. I can see it on the faces of my colleagues and on my own. I mostly get it right, but I’ve made more mistakes than I like to admit, and many more than I’m comfortable with.

Lesson 2 | Watching Myself Make Mistakes is Humbling

On the plus side, watching the recordings that I will post for my asynchronous students and any students attending class who would like to review the day’s lesson has been a truly enlightening and humbling learning experience for me. Reviewing my classes has helped me identify mistakes I make most frequently and see first-hand how they impact the remote student experience. That’s the good news. No really, that’s as good as it gets watching yourself teach on Zoom. The bad news is there have been many cringe-worthy moments I’ve had to relive: listening to audio describing my projected screen when I actually forgot to share the screen with my remote students, watching video where I did successfully share my screen, yet my marker was placed in the lanyard in such a way that the audio was muffled—and so on. This experience has been humbling, but back to the plus side, it’s forced me to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and be kinder to myself. I’m making an effort to learn from my mistakes then let them go and really focus on my main goal—to plan lessons that allow my students to engage with the material and each other. It’s all a bit chaotic, but I’m making headway and every class runs smoother than the last, giving me lots of opportunities to practice my new mantra: Celebrate every success—even the smallest ones! 

Lesson 3 | Keep Course Goals Front and Center

One of my main social/ emotional course goals is to help my students develop into a strong cohort group. Since all of my students are new to Kent, NSS provides a unique opportunity for them to develop a sense of belonging among a smaller group with the same shared experience. This is even more crucial for my remote students, many of whom will be joining us on campus when we return in January. I don’t want my remote students to have simply been observers of the shared experience of my F2F students—I want them to be actively engaged and involved with their classmates. This means everyone works together—in live group discussions when possible, in large and small group discussion threads, in small groups in Zoom breakout rooms, on collaborative digital platforms like Padlet, Google Slides, Adobe Spark, and through student-created videos. My goal is to incorporate interactive elements at least once a week when our time zones reasonably align, i.e. a student in China joins a 9:45AM class at 9:45PM. I admire the dedication and commitment my remote students make to show up, even when they could just as easily watch the recordings. This reinforces my belief that they value forming a strong cohort group as much as I do.

Lesson 4 | Slow Down Time

One way to think of last spring is that we all learned how slow learning really is. To address this new reality, our Scheduling Committee designed a new block schedule: within the weekly schedule each class meets three times (two 45 minute blocks and one 90 minute block) and within the daily schedule three classes meet Monday, Thursday, Saturday and four the remaining three days. This schedule slows down the student experience and removes much of the friction or stress of moving through eight class periods per day that we had in our schedule last year. The reality is that you will in no way have the same class time of previous years and something has to give.

Lesson 5 | Plan The Year: One Step At A Time

In our Hybrid Learning Guide, we recommended looking at your course in the following way:

1. Look at the course in its entirety:

2. Build your first unit (account for the spring+summer slide in cumulative disciplines):

3. Plan your lesson:

Following the above recommendations, this is my lesson on plagiarism in the planning stage:

How This Translates to My LMS:

The following images are from my LMS to give a sense of how the lesson plan above translates to my course site.

I make my learning outcomes visible to my students under Key Points:

I start by engaging my students in the first step of active learning, which is to identify prior knowledge. The Padlet allows all students, F2F, synchronous, and asynchronous, to engage with the prompt and to work on a common interactive element.

I make sure that quizzes and tests are low stakes. This activity is a structured pre-test and students are allowed to demonstrate mastery of the questions missed if they aren’t happy with their score. My goal is always mastery of the skill, not assessment based on a moment in time.

I provide relevant additional information for them to explore.

The engagement activity begins by dividing them into five groups of three. Each group has a private discussion thread where they will respond to the prompt and comment on each other’s posts around two academic integrity scenarios. The groups do this in a breakout room if a member is remote. Each group is tasked with creating a PSA slide or any other media they choose. Small groups allow my remote learners an opportunity to get to know classmates on an individual basis and foster stronger personal connections.

For an assessment, I provide a single point rubric and ask each student to evaluate their own PSA and the PSA of two other groups. I give them the option of doing a third group for extra credit.

Lesson 6 | Celebrate Every Success—Even the Smallest Ones!

As much as time slows down in learning, I feel like it speeds up in the planning stages. While we have only been back for three weeks, at times it feels like three months. That conveyor belt seems to be delivering my lessons at an accelerated speed. But there are hidden gems in all of this. A valuable one is it has leveled the playing field a bit between us and our students. It’s been an opportunity for them to watch us learn something new, something we struggle with daily and (hopefully) don’t give up on. It has been an opportunity for them to offer words of kindness and reassurance, “Don’t worry, that happens all the time in my other classes” and for us to be the grateful recipients—another reminder of what it feels like to be offered kindness in a difficult moment. So as I continue to adapt my lessons, I’m trying to keep in mind my new mantra: Celebrate every success—even the smallest ones! 

What does “Sunshine” mean anyway?

Our school year started in person on August 19th, with safety protocols in place for those on campus and a virtual option for students unable to return physically. I’m loving the conversations I’m part of in the library and the hallways. Even though those interactions are much more limited than previous years, they were largely non-existent this spring. I’ve also noticed that masks seem to operate for many like a costume, something that frees people to speak more openly, to move quickly towards deeper and more personal conversations. Or maybe after 6 months interacting mainly with those in our households, we’ve simply lost the habit of small talk? I’ve always joked that there’s no routine to a library day, but last spring made it obvious that there’s a routine to a library year, and certain “interruptions” are actually “expectations” built into my understanding of what days are like for librarians. I’m surprised at how much I like being back; I was pretty trepidatious in early August. That said, I feel like I can’t turn off the fog and fragmentation that entered my mind while working from home. Much of the joy and exploration that bring meaning to my work feel muted. I can’t focus enough to trim the number of open tabs (or should I just call them uncompleted tasks?) in Chrome, clean out my inbox, or even respond to messages in the AISL listserv. (As they build, know many of you may be getting out-of-date responses soon, to the queries that intrigued me most, when I reach that Neverland state of “back to normal” or “caught up.”) Even choosing a topic to write about today felt overwhelming, rather than invigorating. But, like all independent school librarians and their clichéd many hats, my school knows me not only in the library, but also as Academic Team coach, lead advisor, Honor Council faculty rep, and relevant here, Sunshine Committee Co-chair.

Some high school musical lyrics for your enjoyment

Most of your schools probably have something similar, but our short tagline for new faculty is “Sunshine is celebration in good times and comfort when times are tough.” We send cards for events like weddings and condolences, plan Secret Santa, organize potlucks, and, well, pretty much everything else that comes to mind also involves camaraderie through food. Who doesn’t like food? COVID. Or to be more accurate, it doesn’t like people sharing tables unmasked. So we’ve been trying to think creatively about how to make people feel valued authentically during a period when we’re all feeling overwhelmed, a period when even if there was more time in our schedules, we’re discouraged from most social interactions.

It’s easy to lose a sense of time…but not a love of Alice in Wonderland.

Cue Disney – Disney has some enticing offers for Florida residents to buy seasonal memberships, something my family has done in past years. As a northern transplant, I still haven’t lost the thrill that I can leave work late on a Friday afternoon and be standing in the World Showcase of Epcot before dinner that night. Of the many websites I regularly visit is one that posts Disney updates, historical trivia, and stories of interest to the bloggers on the site. Chris Barry’s Top Five Cast Member Moments post stuck in my head because of 3 and 4 specifically. People non-ironically use the term “Disney magic” to describe vacationing there. In the article, Chris describes five moments where cast members exceeded his expectations and delighted him. The five share some characteristics. They’re surprising, not something he had been anticipating. They’re personal, related to his family and the effects on them. They’re detail oriented, noticing and responding to the moment.

Per Chris, “Not only do they (cast members) make us feel special, they go above and beyond to do so and they make it look easy. They’re probably underpaid and overworked but I like to think that the ones that really turn on the Disney magic do so because they believe in what the place stands for; that you should feel different when you pass through those arches and it’s their job to facilitate that.” Per me: Why is this exclusive to Disney? How can we bring this magic to our own schools, whether in the library, as a sponsor of a club, or through something like Sunshine?

Eagle-eyed readers from FL and CA might note these images are both from Disneyland, not Disney World.

I reached out to some teachers who I trusted to think seriously and creatively about what would make their days brighter. We’re a small faculty, one that really does enjoy each other’s company. Even with how busy people are, especially with virtual learning and a new block schedule, every teacher I asked took the time to respond. I laughed at answers that ranged from hosting after-hours Zoom happy hours to banning after-hours Zoom happy hours, from posting inspirational teacher posters to placing sarcastic teacher memes in mailboxes. But one, from a Classicist who’s brilliant and purposeful in all his actions, stood out. If I were to describe a colleague as having gravitas, it would be him.

“Some time ago you asked me what might be something that Sunshine Committee could do to brighten up people’s day.  Of course I ruminated on it for some time. My answer is flowers.  Flowers are a thing of beauty that can lift spirits in an inexpressible way. Maybe if they were out here and there in the school (in the commons for chapel, in the Library for faculty meetings, etc?) on occasion it may make some difference.  Or even a random teacher. Random chance can raise spirits in a strange way.”

What a final line. This is not a teacher I would have thought would have noticed flowers in the library. Random chance can raise spirits in a strange way. But how true. How lovely. When I was in high school, after reading The Catcher in the Rye for English class, I sought out and devoured the rest of his oeuvre on my lifeguarding breaks. In Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenter, Seymour claims, “I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.” I wrote this quotation in notebooks and pinned it to my bedroom wall. If there’s a value underpinning my work, I want to be the person plotting others’ happiness.

My handwriting has improved over the years, but the full quotation is worth reading.

But this isn’t just true for faculty. We might currently be stressed, unhappy, and critical of our own performance, but we’ve done this before. Except for those retiring in 2021, we’ll do it again. Career trajectories have peaks and valleys, and most of us are in a valley. Random chance in the form of a chocolate bar, a thoughtful note, or taking the time to listen to someone vent might brighten a day, might make it easier to get to the weekend and hit reset for another week of simultaneous instruction, mask fatigue, and worry about testing results. This is an anomaly. This better be an anomaly. But given the growth that happens each year for students, they’re experiencing this once. Student’s peaks and valleys are on a yearly cycle. A terrible 5th grade year isn’t buoyed by an amazing 7th grade experience. New 9th graders who don’t get to meet and bond with their classmates at an orientation retreat can’t recreate that experience as 10th graders who’ve known each other for twelve months. The experience of last year’s 12th graders, who lived seven months of senior year normally, leaving campus for lunch, having spectators at sports games, and building a Spirit Week float, is in no way analogous to this year’s 12th graders, who may end up with a graduation ceremony, but who are currently living a Spartan senior fall.

SSES Surprise Snack Day for the Class of 2021

Without candies, without puzzles, without after school hours, how can the library bring Sunshine to their days? My baseline is not letting the library be sidelined in this crisis, but I want the library to be something that actively makes their day better. This list is incomplete and almost embarrassingly small, but it’s not for lack of thought. I try to stand in the hall outside the library and say hello between passing periods. When I see students printing annotated bibliographies, I offer to review on the spot for simple fixes like double spacing and alphabetical order. I write to the advisor when I oversee someone doing something nice like helping with recycling. I listen to students complain about the year when they’re standing at the copier, and I empathize with their sense of loss.  I never end classes with the make sure to push in your chairs lecture but thank them for using the library. I meet with seniors about their common app essays and talk about what they want to convey. I think endlessly about my senior advisory and new privileges we could design for them. Yesterday, they all received a prepackaged cookie on the 21st to celebrate the Class of 21. It’s insufficient, but it’s something. As someone who doesn’t grade them, as one of the few faculty members who has worked with them since 7th grade, I can give them my time, I can give them my attention. ­­Because this year doesn’t look the same for them and it’s the only time they’re experiencing what it’s like to be a 7th grader, a 10th grader, a 12th grader. Even if I only hold steady this year with our research curriculum, I can build on any missing academic pieces next year when it’s the same me with a new grade of them. Which is all to say that I’m trying and it has to be enough and it doesn’t feel like enough.

Author Visits: They’ll Be Back…Live and in Person

While this might be the school year of the virtual author visit, in anticipation of better days ahead I would like to share some of the most impressive and memorable author visits I’ve experienced as a school librarian.  

There is just no one like the inimitable Nathan Hale.  In case you don’t know his work, Mr. Hale writes and illustrates graphic novels, most notably the nonfiction, history based Hazardous Tales series, ideal for students in grades three through five.  He also writes and illustrates science fiction graphic novels and illustrates books for a variety of other authors.  Nathan Hale is smart and quick;  he “gets” kids, and knows how to keep them completely engaged.  He draws “on the spot” requests, gifts his incredible autographed artwork to the library he’s visiting, and tells the funniest (but historically accurate) stories.   Teachers in the audience laughed so hard, I saw tears.  He is non-stop “on it” all day long and earns every penny of his commission.  We plan to have Nathan Hale visit again, and I know many of you have had him visit your school more than once as well because he is just so entertaining and creative.  And his books are exceptional!

Another absolutely hilarious author is Aaron Reynolds, and our day spent with him was positively delightful.  My students have not forgotten his uproarious retellings of his Caldecott winner Creepy Carrots! and the ever popular Creepy Pair of Underwear! I am a huge fan of all of his books, and more importantly, my students are too.  Mr. Reynolds was truly “in the zone” during the entire visit – role playing with the kids, engaging them with games, involving the teachers; smiles all around.  He is one of the authors that was visibly sweating with the effort of  enthusiastically and continuously sharing his talents.

Lauren Oliver came at no cost to the high school where I worked seven years ago.  She was gracious and very sharp.  She shared her outstanding writing strategies with a very large group, and outlined how her career as a writer evolved.  The audience really liked her, and I thought she was quite friendly and her presentation very relevant for our group of “would be” writers. 

Chris Grabenstein also came  to us at a very discounted price.   I had  filled out a contest entry on  his website and  sent it to his agent.  Once it was accepted, our school was responsible only for his travel expenses.  Mr. Granbenstein is all about the kids. He wanted to eat lunch with them,  visit classrooms, offer extra writing workshops – and he did all of those things along with his three fantastic presentations to large groups.  Mr. Grabenstein has a background in advertising, television and radio and this is most evident in the comedic spirit of his delivery.  I am a huge fan of his work and his commitment to kids and reading.  He is a kind, funny, multi-talented author.

James Ponti came to our school last year and he is definitely one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met.  His books are outstanding and enormously popular at Oakridge. Mr. Ponti wanted to provide a useful and memorable experience to our students.   We visited classes together and ate with a group of students in the lunchroom.  Mr. Ponti also  spoke to a group of upper school students currently taking a writing seminar,  and were expected to complete a novel by the school year. He thoughtfully spent some time with a staff member who was in the midst of self-publishing a book, answering some questions she had.  Now that the New York Times bestseller  City Spies is on the market our students were thrilled because he read the first chapter to them before it was published.  We have all of his books and this one is consistently checked out in ebook and print.

Jerry Palotta came last to our school  year also, another exceptionally big-hearted person.  His Who Would Win books are “top checkouts” in our library.  He also ate lunch with the kids in the cafeteria, and graciously went out to dinner with a second grader and his family.  Another first grader was sick the day of the visit, and devastated because Mr. Pallotta is his favorite author. In response, Mr. Pallotta sent the student a video introducing himself, reading one of his books, and subsequently sending him one of his signed books.

Sarah Weeks came to our school right before So B. It: A Novel was being released in theaters.  A group of middle school students and I met Sarah at a local theater showing the movie in its early release.  She is so smart, articulate,  great with the kids, and someone I would enjoy hanging out with!  She shared a cool story arc activity with the students that I’ve used repeatedly with my classes.   We met another school librarian for a leisurely dinner which included wine and casual, comfortable conversation. It was a terrific evening,  Ms. Weeks  is the most down to earth, transparent and genuine person.

We were thrilled to have Gordon Korman visit us two years ago because our lower and middle school students voraciously read everything he writes.  Restart is my personal favorite, and while I appreciate his incredible talents as an author, he didn’t impress me as much as a guest presenter to our middle school students.  He was the most expensive author we’ve hosted yet we did not feel we received our “money’s worth.”  While other authors arrived with interactive slide shows and activities and spent as much time with the students as possible, Mr. Korman did not connect with the kids in these ways.   Yet he certainly fulfilled his contract obligations.

Finally, I have to give a shout out to Fort Worth Country Day Librarian and AISL member Tammy Wolford.  She arranges many of these events so that local independent school librarians can share authors and costs.  I would love to hear about the authors and illustrators who inspired your students, whether in a virtual or on site visit.

The impact of connection

A connection is the key to unlocking the power of the library.  Through collaboration between teachers, authors, and public libraries, I find that we can make strong connections for our students. Last September (before COVID-19 impacted our schedule), I expanded my circle and collaborated with an amazing organization, Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center.

It started as a small idea to share with our students about some of my identifiers. As a person who wears a hearing aid and is dyslexic, I personally connect with two of the recent national months September being deaf awareness and October being learning disability awareness. Teaming up with my amazing Learning Specialist, Alex Franceschini, we created an announcement for our regular middle school morning meeting. Our goal was to celebrate diversity through learning disabilities and disabilities.

Alex reiterated the importance of this presentation in an email to our faculty, “With regards to deafness [and learning disabilities], I think it’s important for kids to understand that it’s an invisible disability, and to dig into what that means and make connections, esp. for our students who may themselves have invisible disabilities. There’s a lot [teachers] can do there with identity, first impressions, making judgments using only visual cues, etc.” (Franceschini, 2019)

As part of an announcement to celebrate disabilities and learning disabilities, Timothy Thomas, the Director of Interpreting Services at the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center, provided a look at ASL interpretation and introduced the importance of providing ASL services throughout Cuyahoga County for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Mr. Thomas gave our students a wonderful first look at ASL interpretation up close.

We also wanted to present the importance of learning strategies, the use of accommodations, and the equity created when services are provided and used.

*Franceschini, Alex. “Easy study strategies”. 5 November 2019.

We also included two inspirational authors: Cece Bell, who is deaf and wears a hearing aid, and Dav Pilkey, who has ADHD and dyslexia.

The presentation was a hit! After I had some students who were comfortable verbalizing that we shared a connection, some walked by while making made the ASL sign for “SAME” (a common sign at our school), some contacted me later on. Representation of characters is extremely important to collection development, but also the representation of authors, and even teachers, is extremely important, too. Our students connect with teachers individually, and sometimes unique shared experience is a connection that is missed. Sharing my experience as an HOH person with dyslexia made me feel vulnerable; I was nervous, but the benefits for my students outweighed this fleeting discomfort. 

As September and October roll around again, I’m reimagining how I can again present and collaborate to highlight the experiences of the deaf/hard of hearing and those with learning disabilities through hybrid learning. 

Wishing you all the best as we reimagine this school year.


Some ideas for virtual connections for Deaf/HOH awareness

As I learn more about my own place in Deaf/HOH culture, I have found that we need to be aware that within Deaf Culture there are sections.

  1. Not all American deaf people sign and if they do, they might sign ASL or SEE or PSE (Video about signing culture). 
  2. Deaf not Dumb performed in British SL https://youtu.be/zK_G-h1uep8
  3. Deaf Singer on AGT https://youtu.be/oHUuCLgfMpo
  4. Deaf Dancer https://youtu.be/p0IYSKpADMM?list=PLbpi6ZahtOH7x5cfMx4WE7oCQERxpXSvO
  5. Deaf Artist’s installation “The world is sound” https://youtu.be/3vU4TCKxZlc
  6. Black Deaf Culture (Black dialect in ASL)Celebrate Black Deaf History Month (Interviewee from Cleveland) https://www.nbda.org/content/black-deaf-history-monthhttps://dcmp.org/learn/366-black-deaf-culture-through-the-lens-of-black-deaf-history
  7. Four Deaf Actors to Watch on Netflix Right Now A wonderful suggestion from my Learning Specialist Alex Franceschini.

Deaf History Month in April

  1. Deaf History Month Important Dates (Why it is celebrated) https://www.deaf-interpreter.com/the-fascinating-origins-of-deaf-history-month/
  2. DHM Explanation Youtube Playlist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ2E3GowmKw&list=PLIpW9QfUw6zznu-Frzs2kZDBGzLyP1oxN&index=1

Best laid plans

What I had planned to write about this month: something about growing into the early-twilight stage of my career, or how to prioritize/plan for collection development. 

What I ended up writing: nothing. I’m sure this is not a surprise to anyone living the 2020 back-to-school experience.

So here, in the spirit of Oprah, are some things I know for sure:

It is SO much better being on campus than online.

I am enormously grateful for the PD communities that have kept me afloat since the world went sideways. AISL is a significant part of my library life. I LOVE that I have people I consider close colleagues spread across much of this crazy continent we call home, people I lean on as much as I do those I work with in person.

Ensuring that everyone is masked and physically distant is a challenge indeed.

I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to make my family sick. I don’t want to be online again. 

This hard. And I know that we can do hard stuff. But still.

Thinking of you all and counting the days until #DC2022,


Hybrid Library Instruction

We’re still a few weeks away from the start of classes here in Massachusetts, but I feel like the fall has been looming over since, well, last spring. We saw a sharp decline in our research instruction once we went remote last spring, and I’ve been thinking about how to make sure that didn’t happen again this fall, knowing that we were likely to be at least partially remote again.

We are going back with a hybrid schedule, with half of our students on campus on any given day. A class of students will, essentially, be split in two with half the students in the classroom with the teacher, and half at home each day. While there will be times when students Zoom in on their learn from home days, there will likely be a fair amount of asynchronous instruction happening. Those learn from home days seemed like a good opportunity to do some research instruction, and to collaborate with teachers.

I’ve never done much with flipped instruction, as we often had very few opportunities to get into the classroom with students as it was, and I wanted to make the most of those opportunities so we could build relationships and do some guided practice. However, it’s very unlikely we’ll be able to be in many classrooms this fall, and I won’t be able to lean over a student’s shoulder to help them the way I usually would. I wanted to do something that would help us connect better than Zooming into classes from our office. Also, being able to offer something to teachers as a way to do meaningful instruction with students who were learning from home will (hopefully) be a good way to rebuild some of those collaborative partnerships that suffered in the spring. 

I’ve been thinking about how to offer a “menu” of instructional possibilities to teachers for a while, and this seemed like the right time to put that idea onto paper (or GoogleSlides, as it were). My goal is to more clearly communicate to teachers what types of instruction we can do, as well as what sorts of applied practice students could do. It’s important to me that we communicate to teachers that research instruction is dynamic; a database demo doesn’t help anyone learn research skills unless they have a chance to practice and get feedback on what they’ve learned. It also means they’re doing something more than watching a video at home. 

This slideshow gives a broad overview of what types of skill instruction we do (I’m working on a one-pager that I was planning on having finished by now, but, well, here we are) along with some ideas for how students can practice those skills. The content will be delivered via video (which means students can review it at any time), and the opportunities for applied practice will be tailored to the assignment. 

The key to this for me is the last slide, which gives some possibilities for how students can get feedback. We can “visit” classes as we’ve traditionally done to answer questions and check for understanding. Or students can schedule a ten-minute “check-in” with one of us to share their work and get feedback; we’ve had great success with longer research appointments, and I like the idea of adding this option for students and teachers. Or, depending on the task, we can ask students to create a screencast of their work/process, explaining what they’re doing and why. This last option allows for some metacognition and reflection, as well as an opportunity for us to catch misunderstandings. All of these options will give us an opportunity to connect with and build relationships with students, something I’m very conscious of as I think about a socially distanced library. 

I’m still putting final touches on much of this (you all are getting a sneak peek) and I’ll be rolling it out to teachers soon. I’m optimistic that it will help start conversations with teachers about how they can incorporate research instruction, as well as make for meaningful instructional partnerships in what is sure to be a very interesting school year. 

EBSCO’s Export to NoodleTools

I’ll admit, it’s been a struggle lately finding inspiration to write. I usually have a number of ideas floating around, but lately, nothing really came to mind. This did not bode well for getting this month’s post written. I’m beginning to wonder if lack of inspiration and inability to focus and finish projects is a COVID-19 social-distancing side effect. So when I opened my email this morning there was good news. Hold on, not just good news—GREAT NEWS—the kind of news that elicits joy from librarians that are, as Alyssa Mandel calls us on Twitter, BIBLIONERDS! In the time of COVID-19, when days seems to blend into each other, good news is often hard to come by—that is if you even know what day it is. So perhaps knowing what day it is (Friday) and getting a task completed even if it’s not your best work is enough for now. Here’s hoping it is.

In the summer of 2019, I was watching a NoodleTools webinar, and at the very end Damon Abilock shared that EBSCO was working on an export to NoodleTools feature that was planned to be integrated by November 2019. I waited patiently and shared with anyone in earshot that export to NoodleTools was coming in November. The months passed—November 2019, December 2019, January 2020, February 2020—well by then I had more important things on my mind (didn’t we all?) and had completely forgotten about the release. Which made the news this morning that it was finally here that much more exciting. I was looking forward to doing a couple searches to see if the export function worked as well as I hoped.

Information is Exported, NOT Copied

An important thing to keep in mind is that when a citation is exported into NoodleTools, it isn’t simply copied and pasted. The information that is imported into the sources page comes from a file that operates much like a spreadsheet with a tag (think named row) that then aligns with the same tag on the source page interface. So, even if the pre-formatted citation from a database is incorrect—and many are—the folks at NoodleTools are wizards on properly formatting MLA, APA, and Chicago style. I don’t generally trust pre-formatted database citations, but I DO trust the folks at NoodleTools to get it right. We all know that the end citation is only as good as the data provided, so as Alyssa Mandel stated in her comment, be aware that your students need to check citations and edit as needed. Following Alyssa’s comment and an email from another AISL librarian on this topic, I’ve added this section and thank both of them for the helpful feedback. Here’s an example of the edit interface for the citation imported from EBSCO—all of the information is in the corresponding field—not copied and pasted in whole.

To Export or Not to Export

Ask any group of librarians how they feel about students exporting citations and you’ll get varied responses ranging from the belief that students should be creating their citations manually so they really understand the source they are using (true) to others who couldn’t live without bibliographic software like NoodleTools because it allows students to properly cite sources with the least amount of friction (also true). I know that I appreciate having the time to teach students how to identify the parts of a citation, but that doesn’t always happen. I also appreciate having students respond in a positive, sometimes even cheerful way when they realize how easy it is to keep their sources organized and properly cited. It’s definitely a two-edged sword, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say for most research, I’m onboard with students exporting citations. I have limited time with students and would rather work with them on mastering higher order thinking skills such as lateral fact checking and understanding how to evaluate their sources and search results.

A Trial Run

I decided to try the export function to see if it was as seamless as the ones on Gale databases and JSTOR. I searched from our EBSCO EDS search box on our library website, and in keeping with most student search behavior, chose the first article in the results list, “New Investigation …” I opened the article and you can see it in PDF format viewed on EBSCO in the third slide below.`

The Export Function is Format Agnostic

This journal article had two options for viewing: HTML and PDF Full Text. When I clicked on the Export link on the right hand side, the option for Direct Export to NoodleTools was at the bottom of the options on the Export Manager for both formats. The first image is the PDF format. Scroll through the slides to see the progression from the Export Manager to the NoodleTools interface. As always on the NoodleTools interface, there is a text box where you can submit corrections to them if you find any errors. The final two slides in this section show the bibliographic citation and the footnote pop-up window. I did a test with the HTML format and found the export worked regardless of the format. So far, so good.

Database Export vs. EBSCO Export

Next I chose an article from JSTOR (first slide), which has its own citation export to NoodleTools (second slide). I wanted to see if the citations exported were identical and found there were two differences (third slide). The article exported from EBSCO did not list the primary author’s name in last name, first name order, while the citation from JSTOR only listed the first page in the page range. As an aside, JSTOR often exports the title in all caps, which can be avoided with an EBSCO export. I guess it’s a trade-off and you’ll have to make your own decision after trying it out. A note on the Detailed Record: there are thirteen (13) authors! This is probably one of those articles students would pass over when creating a citation manually.

Tracking Down Errors

In trying to figure out the EBSCO author/ name error, I found the answer by returning to the Detailed Record. Note on the Detailed Record (second slide) all of the authors are listed first name/ last name order. This isn’t a problem as long as the names have their own unique tag that will populate in the correct field when exporting. When I opened the JSTOR export citation, the author names were correctly listed (third slide). But when I opened the EBSCO export citation (fourth slide), I discovered the first name/ last name combination was in the last name text field, leading to the error. It was easily corrected (fifth slide), but I’m not sure our students would catch this without a checklist or prompting from us. Likewise, the page range can also be corrected from the edit page.

First Impressions

So, is it love at first site? Yes, mostly. I’ll need to do a bit more testing on our various databases including Gale that currently export to NoodleTools before I can make a truly informed decision. During the end of last school year, as we pivoted to emergency remote teaching, I found I was much more lenient with students when it came to creating citations manually. I made concessions in that I allowed and even encouraged them to copy and paste citations from databases and sites like the Digital Public Library of America when I knew they were close, but not 100% correct. Does that make me a bad librarian? I hope not. Based on the disruption my students were experiencing, the fidelity of citations seems not as important to me as it did when they were working on pre-COVID projects. As we move into a new school year that feels very tenuous and uncertain, I will be thinking hard about how to maintain the academic rigor our students deserve while keeping their social and emotional well-being a priority.

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!!!