“Maker” Connections…

Finding creative ways to expand curriculum is always foremost on my mind as an educator, teacher, and “maker” media specialist. Recently, while going through my files I found a great connection for extending our yearly celebration of Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead. Last year our art teacher used our “closed” media center to display the offering table and classes were scheduled to come in to view it. This year the media center is open and the art teacher has a new display area. So when I approached her with my idea, she was immediately willing to add this “maker” feature into the student’s artwork.
I found the idea on makerspaces.com/paper-circuits. By creating a light -up paper circuit the eyes of the sugar skulls would be able to actually light up and give the artwork a totally different appearance than just a colored skull. We decided to use the projects of the fourth grade students to do this and I used part of their library check out time to do a mini lesson on circuits. I have a LED Puppet that I had purchased from adafruit named Gus the Green Led to demonstrate the positive and negative charges.

We also purchased the Paper Circuit Starter Kit from Makerspaces.com for the cooper tape, LED’s and CR2032 batteries. The students were very excited to learn the simple circuit basis and soon their colorful sugar skullls actually came to “life”. Here are some of the finished projects.

Here is the finished display – the offering table with photos, candles, sugar skulls, and special items in memory of the loved ones. The celebration also included tasting the delicious Pan do los Muertos, a sweet bread made especially for the holiday.

Another “maker” connection occurred when the MD/Upper division media specialist and myself collaborated about 3D book posters involving books that the 7th grade students were creating in the maker space. We decided to invite students in third and fourth grade to visit the display in the MD/Upper division library. They would bring their ipads, headphones, and a writing tool with them for their visit. Each poster was displayed along with the actual book and it had a QR code for the students to listen to. After viewing all the projects, students used 2 different post-it-notes which were provided to write down their favorite 3D element and which book would they want to read after looking at the posters. Their answers were to be placed on the appropriate parking lot posters. Here are some of the designs:

This was a very beneficial project for all the students since it definitely supported our literacy program while giving feedback to the middle school students. Our hope is that the lower division students will share a similar project with the middle division student in the future and continue this “maker” connection.

on source type struggles…

Helping kids understand source types is hard.

When I’m trying to teach kids about types of sources and what they do, I find myself feeling like more and more of an information dinosaur with each passing year. My reality is that the vast majority of my students’ research is digital. But… I’m a “librarian of a certain age” and my first instinct is to draw analogies to the print collection. When I’m working with kids I often want to use examples like, “These are like ‘World Book Encyclopedia’ type articles…” then realize that there is a very high likelihood that not a single student the class has ever actually used a print version of the World Book. #SoOld

Over time, I’ve learned to substitute web native equivalents to help students build mental models of source types that might be useful in their database searches. “If I imagine my perfect source right now, it probably looks like a Wikipedia article and in ‘database language’ they’d call that a reference source so let’s click on that reference link and see what we find.”

Increasingly, however, we’ve been finding that students just don’t have adequate mental models of source types to help them grow as online researchers. What follows is my messy, messy in-process of figuring stuff out efforts to help students build mental models for the information they inquire. #UnderConstruction

Putting a Tool Kit Together…

We emailed community college and university libraries in our area to see if anyone had copies of trade or academic journals that they were weeding and would share with us. We gathered two class sets worth of materials (we have two librarians and sometimes both of us are doing research lessons at the same time) and labeled magazine for a general audience with green stickers, trade/professional journals with orange stickers, and academic/scholarly journals with a yellow sticker.

When we’re working with classes we’ll typically have students take a sample of each type so they can thumb through each and maybe look through a neighbor’s. As someone who grew up (50 years ago) in a home that got, probably more than a dozen magazines a month, it’s wild to me that some of my kids seemingly very, very little experience with actual print periodicals. I’ve found that having these artifacts has been incredibly helpful for students! Sometimes #PhysicalArtifactsMatter

I’ve Given Up on Known Sources First As My Default…

Another vestigial tail I’ve had to shed because I’m old is that I clung to the idea that research always should go from print sources to database sources to web sources–in that order. In the perfect controlled world of my fantasies, this is great in theory. As a school librarian at a school with a heavy emphasis on project-based learning, a small print collection that serves 3rd-12th graders, and where projects and topics change every year, emphasizing print first just does not work for purely pragmatic reasons that are completely out of my control. Rather than die on that hill, we’ve worked on emphasizing SIFT source evaluation across the board and chosen to figure out how to arrive at instruction that fits the process our teachers and students actually use to do research rather than trying to impose my process on their assignments and projects. #NoFrozen #LetItGo

What This Looks Like When the Rubber Meets the Road…

When I’m doing a research lesson, I typically have students grab one copy of a source from each category. We have kids look through periodicals for a general audience and have them point out typical features. “There are colored pictures… It’s pretty understandable… Some are about lots of topics, but some are, like about one thing like surfing…

I then have them look at scholarly journals. “Looks super boring… Why is this only in black and white? Is this even English? …” #GottaLoveHSKids #Hahaha At this point, I like to ask the teacher to explain peer review and/or scholarly journals as they apply to their field/subject.

The last category we tackle are trade/professional publications.

Once students have some familiarity with types of print serials, we chat about who typically creates the content for each category and how each type of source might be helpful at different points in their research process.

Some on-the-fly white board notes from a class discussion on source types.

How It’s Going

We’ve got a ways to go, but I’ve been happy with the progress we’ve made by moving in this direction. One of the HAPPIEST outcomes has been that by giving students side-by-side samples of different source types, most come to an understanding that just because your assignment sheet requires “at least two citations from scholarly sources” that short circuiting the process and just searching for a peer reviewed journal article without doing the other foundational research is going to be a largely futile endeavor because if you can’t understand the concepts or vocabulary you end up with sources that are relevant, but not pertinent–they may was well be written in Greek… #Grin

A second, welcomed outcome has been that once they know that different types of print sources exist, showing students how to limit database search results by type actually makes some sense to them. By giving students reference points for “this is a magazine, but this is a trade publication, and this is a peer reviewed article” they seem much more able to parse the slight variations of source type labels used in different databases.

Again, it’s all messy and ugly and “in-process.”

I’d love so much to hear about how you are teaching source types and searching. Please hit the reply button below and share what you’re doing!

Happy Wednesday, all!

Did you hear what I said?

My school just hosted our first in-person conference day since October of 2019, and since I graduated out my previous advisees from the Class of 2021 in May, this was my first time meeting many of the families of my new group of Class of 2025 advisees. In preparation, I watched the NAIS webinar “Less Stress, More Success: Managing Back-to-School Nights and Parent Conferences for Maximum Impact” with Michael Thompson and Robert Evans. One of my main takeaways was reaffirming something I already believe. Take people seriously. They may be anxious or excited; either way, their feelings are real and valid to them. I will also put in a plug for the book Hopes and Fears Thompson and Evans released this summer. It is some of the most directly helpful professional reading I’ve done in years, and I can share with folks the five pages of notes I took as a result, particularly the toolkits that are geared towards helping educators communicate more constructively with families.

Which brings me to a conversation I had with one of my senior Capstone students, someone who is in the library 90 minutes each day building her research project. She and I talk multiple times each day, about academic sources, about college plans, about theater. One day I found a book on her Capstone I thought she’d find fascinating, but I was feeling pretty lazy as she sat twenty feet away.

Me: “Hey, can you come here for a sec?”
Student: “Yeah, yeah. I know what this is about. My 20 overdue books.”

Of my passions about library work, tracking down overdues is not in the top twenty. I run overdue notes once a month and then ramp up my attempts in December and May to talk to students directly to get the books back on the shelves. Needless to say, I don’t sit around on a random Tuesday stalking students who choose to study in the library and questioning their reading habits. My thought process was more, “I’m thrilled you’ve taken all the Psychology books home and are reading a ton. You’re a fabulous fit for Capstone.” But I can see how she might think, “I have a huge piles of books I need to return but keep forgetting, and why can I never remember to bring them in and why do I never remember. I just shouldn’t borrow books…”

Whenever the receptionist calls me to ask a student to stop by the front desk and they and their friends give the inevitable “oooh you’re in trouble” face, I remind them that I was called down earlier this year because a mom had baked cookies for a club I sponsor and had to wait until they were cool enough to pack for travel. So yes it could be detention but it could also be cookies. Cookies!

I’m counting on the inimitable Dottie Smay to confirm this next example. During the AISL Boston conference, we were eating at a bistro in the North End. When the waiter found out we were librarians, he was quick to share his memories of those dreaded buildings. He had been shushed as a child. Repeatedly. And I might be conflating library stereotypes but I’m pretty sure there was a strong association with fines and money collection. Dottie, ever the library cheerleader, offered to pay him an additional tip if he would walk through the doors of a library in the next year. Have you seen the Boston Public Library’s central branch? No dice. That negative connotation was just too strong.

 In our professional and personal lives, we’re all bringing our own histories—those hopes and fears—into the ways we approach each day and the interactions within. The words we say matter, as does the tone we use, and the subtext the listener hears. Returning to the notion of overdue notifications, my student’s response to receiving a note is grossly disproportionate to the occasion, even with the old text, “The following title is currently checked out to you. Please return to the library. If you believe you are receiving this note in error, see Mrs. Pommer.” Their worry over receiving such notes, however, did not correlate with a prompt book return rate.  On the listserv last spring, I shared how I changed my notifications.

The library is trying to locate all materials before inventory this spring.
Please return this slip to your advisor with one of the following options circled:
Thank you for using the library! Mrs. Pommer

While there were still students concerned I was judging them for keeping out books, I found many more students were perfectly willing to let me know the status of a book — including that it was lost — than ever before. Giving students the opportunity to explain themselves, even in a basic way, made a huge difference in their engagement.

Thoughts from others about ways their tone has been perceived differently than their intentions or how they’ve changed up procedures based on the responses they had received?

#GlobalFact8: Learning fact-checking from the experts

This past week, I was fortunate enough to spend four days “attending” the International Fact-Checking Network’s eighth annual conference. It was compelling and eye-opening!

Many of the discussions really could have been taking place at a school library conference: questioning how to better teach media literacy, grappling to understand why mistrust in journalism and fact-checking is so high, wrestling with necessary relationships with certain corporations to maintain funding and access without letting those companies set the global fact-checking agenda, and discussing how to do more work with less money. Other topics, like the massive mental toll of both spending your days lurking on lists that are promoting misinformation and possibly worse, and harassment ranging from insulting comments to imprisonment to death threats made or carried out, are elements I am deeply grateful are much less a part of our work lives.

I’ve been noodling on what to share with you all, but also suffering a bit from screen fatigue. Furthermore, I neither want to simply hand out the intellectual property of these individuals who work so hard to find and share what is true, and I want to be thoughtful about naming individuals who are already suffering from harassment.

Due to our very similar fields and goals, however, I am in contact with the IFCN about how our professions might work together — so stay tuned for more (and keep your fingers crossed).

A few, random hot tips, though:

  1. The preponderance of research suggests that educating people to recognize misinformation (“prebunking” or “inoculation”) is much more effective than trying to debunk misinformation in the moment.
  2. TickToc is by far fact checkers’ favorite tool for prebunking education about how algorithms work, since they say (sorry, I have to take their word for it!) it is so very, very clear what the algorithm is doing within that social network.
  3. Fact-checking videos is the hardest, YouTube is not interested in transparency, collaboration or funding fact-checking, and their algorithm very decisively recommends videos that blatantly run afoul of their takedown policy but are up and running and being promoted.
  4. In many countries, the national statistics agencies are run by political appointees. And the resulting statistics may be re-tabulated and/or deleted by subsequent administrations. May be whole different agencies, as well.
  5. The absolute best video for teaching the technicalities of researching if a video is real or a deep fake is this aerobics class. (Reach out if you want more about doing so — don’t want to just share out someone else’s lesson, but here is the actual fact-check on the video.)

In the meantime, at the risk of giving you just a list of resources, I would like to share a slightly annotated … list of resources. The following are some of the most compelling reports, slide decks, and videos that were shared over the course of the conference:

Some context on US situation from the American Press Institute:
*Report: A new way of looking at trust in media: Do Americans share journalism’s core values?
Slides – not from this talk, but much of the same content in shorter form
*Also check out:
–2016 Report: A new understanding: What makes people trust and rely on news
–2018 Report: Americans and the News Media: What they do — and don’t — understand about each other

Sponsors of the conference: International Fact-Checking Network – Poynter
*IFCN Code of Principles
*International Fact-Checking Network YouTube Channel — lots of great content!
–Including: Fact-checking in school: Best practices from around the world (I have not watched this yet, but I did see some of these speakers on other, related topics)
*MediaWise – Poynter – they have a teen fact-checking group

Verification Handbook – a detailed primer by a number of strong professionals in the field.

Inoculation Theory – one researcher argued there is the most evidence that this is the most effective, others have supported the approach in their talks. One paper, as an example. A field that can really guide us in thinking about the most impactful use of our limited time with students.

First Draft News
*A guide to prebunking: a promising way to inoculate against misinformation
*The psychology of misinformation
*Many other useful reports – worth a look!

Global Trends in Fact-Checking: A Data-Driven Analysis of ClaimReview by Thomas Van Damme
*Data visualizations

Why Gendered Disinformation — #SHEPERSISTED – Explains the issue of gendered disinformation that targets female politicians, etc.

Lead Stories – has a “red feed” and a “blue feed” and is clearly run by a beloved and respected member of the fact checking community

Disinformation for Export: how false content generated in the United States reaches Latin America

YouTube Regrets – how YouTube algorithm surfaces and recommends misinformation
*Press release for shorter read

A typology of caveats (from FullFact) – We’re continuing to investigate the type of contextual information that statistics need in order to be meaningful and used correctly.


Is it a Marvel film or a fact-checking newsroom? How Maldita.es uses its readers’ ‘superpowers’
This reminds me of some programs that could be built on preexisting TA programs, etc. in schools

A framework for information incidents – exploring how fact checking organizations should best respond in different incidents that can give rise to misinformation

GlobalFact 8 talk – Why good national statistics are so important for fact checkers – 2021-10-12
Gives insight into why it is so hard to use different country’s statistical data

Fact-Checking – Duke school of journalism

A comparison of reverse image search tools – has a handy summary chart if you scroll down

Weaponizing fact-checking: What Canada needs to know

https://fcl.eun.org/facts4all: The Facts4All – Schools as community hubs against disinformation is a one year project co-funded by the European Commission’s Media Literacy for All Programme project, which aims to increase awareness and critical thinking in relation to online disinformation across generations – in particular young people and their (grand)parents. — There is a MOOC

Headlines Network – Drive conversations towards improving mental health in the media and communications industries.

A Lower School Library: Renovated!

A photo essay.

First Day at my new job August 2017 – lots of potential!

Immobile furniture, no soft seating, awkward browsing, but lots and lots of great light, a solid collection, and it’s an octagon!

At the start of my job as Lower School Librarian and Information Specialist in August of 2017, I was in meetings about a possible renovation. I reached out to everyone I knew who had completed a reno recently, researched furnishings and finishes, and, later, took detailed notes at AISL ATLANTA. Visiting Atlanta area independent school libraries made a lasting impact. In the mean time, I encouraged my space to sing as best I could.

Year after year went by. No renovation. Meeting after meeting. Promises not kept. Then COVID.

And then, the renovation magically made it to the top of the CFO’s to do list!

In the Fall of 2020, there was a glimmer of hope. I started updating all of my planning documents. The fun part happened in Spring 2021. We met with architects, and held listening sessions. I shared a slideshow and a document of the vision with stakeholders:

Come May 2021, the packing began. I was on my own – thanks to mentors from my past roles, I had a system: box books spine up and in shelf order. Label each box exhaustively with contents and number order.
This is what I returned to in August 2021: boxes in scary heaps, but the carpet was down and the walls were painted! Supply chain issues plagued our furniture…
waiting and waiting and waiting…then the day came!

The first two months of school I held “library classes” in the library. I gave public library website browsing lessons to older grades, borrowed books from the public library, and taught my digital citizenship lesson earlier in the year than usual – figured might as well get the nuts and bolts of non-library space instruction completed before furniture arrived!

Two months into the school year, after multiple false starts, we got the call! Would we accept delivery of we-don’t-know-what-will-arrive…? Of course I said SEND IT!

I was able to get help from our maintenance crew to open boxes, and take and break down empty boxes. Over 200 boxes of PK-5 library books were unpacked over 2 days.

The space is reflective of my library program: warm, welcoming, open, vibrant, inviting, curious and exciting!

Circ desk area
The Last Box. #moodattheend

All in all, this project was 5 years in the making. Folders and folders of quotes, scribbles, ideas, furniture books and linear feet measurements! 3 months for wall removals, painting and carpet. 1 full day of assembly from the furniture company. 3 days to unpack and put everything away. And all the months of the school year ahead to share and celebrate!

All that is left is some soft seating still “stuck somewhere in the COVID supply chain disruption” and art for the walls.

There were many silver linings to the delay – I learned more about my students, my school, my space. I developed tastes and interests in ways to reflect the library program with the space and furnishings.

And grand opening week has been magical! Here is an album from one class visit!

Renovation was an exhilarating experience. Reach out with questions!

Facebook and Insta were DOWN!

My students are still reeling from the fact that Instagram was down for HOURS a week ago. (Apparently the longest hours of their lives.)

WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram have been down for so long even Twitter's  Jack Dorsey is now making jokes - Technology News

I’m still reeling by how much more focus I had for work, conversations, my dog, etc.

In fact, I was shocked at how liberating it was to not be present on social media. I do not consider myself addicted (and only suffer from FOMO a tad), but I realized that during downtimes I’d mindlessly scroll on Facebook, etc. instead of reading or, well, thinking.

I decided to experiment with my “free time.” Instead of going online, I’d simply do something else and limit social media time to the evenings after dinner for no more than an hour. (This was completely arbitrary, but seems to mostly work.) This meant I had scads more time during the day for other stuff. I’ve already finished a book, listened to one and a half others, and thought about stuff. You know, lived in my head instead of being distracted by the cute thing so-and-so’s kid did that morning.

My daughter at one point asked me what I was doing, and I had to laugh when I replied, “thinking.” I know it’s not reasonable to expect that we would stay off social media completely, because life (and #BookTok, for goodness’ sake), but it was a valuable experiment for me to realize exactly how much time I spent distracting myself. I felt it gave me insight into my students, too, at least in terms of how their brains are pulled every day.

I guess the real question is: how can I use this information for my students? For now, I’m looking into low-tech activities with face-to-face time. (StickTogether posters have been really effective in a low-pressure way.) How do you inspire tech-free time in your library?

Making Connections with Virtual Museums

Museums are fascinating places. The curation and design of a museum display has the potential to captivate viewers and engage them in looking closely, thinking critically, expanding perspectives, and building empathy. For me, an epiphany moment occurred at the Frist Art Museum in the hands-on Martin ArtQuest room. One activity contained a blank map of Gallery Rooms, a collection of art reproductions on magnets, and the invitation to “Be a Curator!” This became an intriguing exploration of ways to organize the artwork in the empty gallery rooms. Should one curate by time period, art movements, thematically, or even as a comparison/contrast of artists? How would Van Gogh’s expressionistic field of iris dialogue with the abstracted desert landscapes by Georgia O’Keefe or the thrilling iceberg and volcano landscapes romanticized by Frederic Edwin Church? A 2019 visit to the National Museum of the American Indian provoked a different type of response as I viewed an expansive wall of merchandise, posters, commercials, and movies that throughout history had “branded” indigenous peoples to sell an American product and a perspective about these people. Part of the power of this display was the opportunity for viewers to linger with the images that they felt compelling and invite them to make their own meaning.

Curation is an art in itself, calling upon skills of discerning relevancy and critical thinking, and AASL recognizes this in the Curate Standard, part of which states that “Learners add value to a collection of resources by organizing and annotating them.” This school year provided an opportunity to immerse students in curation. As part of a Civil War investigation, 7th graders are being challenged to use their research notes to create a digital presentation (a virtual museum) of primary source images, historic documents, and analysis paragraphs. Though this type of multimodal exploration could be done in GoogleSlides by linking content to slides within the slide deck, these 7th graders will use ThingLink. With Thinglink, interactive tag markers can be placed on locations in an image to allow viewers to link to additional text boxes, images, or media (audio, video). Here is one example of a ThingLink by the Smithsonian Institution:
Fort Sumter Telegram. The organization of this ThingLink invites close analysis of a single primary source document.

Virtual Museums

For our students, the goal is to simulate the experience of a museum so that viewers can explore the students’ own thinking about the Civil War. Making Thinking Visible, a book describing Harvard Project Zero’s research, offered several helpful routines to deepen students’ thinking. One thinking routine, Generate–Sort–Connect–Elaborate, delineated the type of thinking students would use in this curation of a virtual museum.

In the note-taking phase of student research, students generated several ideas as they researched questions about the Civil War.

Students used the NoodleTools note card feature and titled note cards with brief descriptions. These note cards were used in the sorting process. Students sorted main ideas and supporting ideas; or gathered notes in groups for a comparison/contrast or cause and effect organization. This diagram shows an example of sorting into main and supporting ideas for a discussion of Civil War Technology:

The next step is to connect ideas and explain connections. Here is an example of how the sorted ideas would be connected in Thinglink. Note that links are not active on the following screenshots.

Example of ThingLink Link 7 that expands to a discussion of strategy. (See next screenshot.)
Strategy: Civil War Band Music
Discussion of how military band music was used by General Grant as a strategy to conceal the sounds of troop movements. Note that an additional link on the slide accesses an audio clip of the band music (links not active on screenshot, but you can click this link to hear the music).

A final text box (indicated by Star tag) links to a paragraph that elaborates on connected ideas and shares insights (see following examples). The more information tag on the ThingLink (indicated by an i tag) links to a bibliography of sources.

Example of elaborating on connections with own insights.

This is just the beginning phase as our students curate their research. It will be exciting to watch their thinking evolve as they generate, sort, connect, and elaborate their ideas in ThingLink and share with an audience their insights about the Civil War.

Who has History? And who has Issues?

Last week, I was preparing a lesson for a Global History class that’s doing some research on South Africa. I’m new at my school, and we’ve just added several Gale In Context databases to our collection, so I wanted to introduce students to how those resources are organized. So I navigated to the Topics list on Gale In Context: World History and boldly scrolled to where the South Africa Topic should be.

I say “should”, because there was no South Africa Topic. In fact, all of Africa – all 64 countries – was under four Topics, separated by time periods. Germany alone has four Topics (also separated by time periods), in addition to separate topics for the Holocaust and Hitler. The British Isles have a total of 13 different Topics (two for Great Britain, three for England, three for Scotland, and five for Ireland). It does not get better when I look at the individuals who have Topic pages. The only three Africans I could find were Nelson Mandela, Idi Amin, and Musa, Sultan of Mali (but there are no Topics for either Uganda or Mali).

I have not gone in-depth on all of these pages, but I will also note that the African History during the Colonial Period Topic has a total of 534 sources. Germany: The Middle Ages has 777 news articles alone.

Next, I moved over to Global Issues in Context, where I did find a Topic for South Africa. And the Congo. And Zimbabwe. And Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Mayotte, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and others. 

So, who has History, and who’s an Issue? 

After showing students what I’d discovered, I posed that exact question to them. One student pointed out that Great Britain has been a pretty major issue in global history – and has, in fact, made significant “contributions” to the issues in other countries. But there is very little representation for Great Britain on Issues in Context.

There are two issues here: what’s being collected, and what’s being curated. I’m guessing that there is a fair amount of overlap in terms of sources between these two databases, but the way they are organized is very different. And that framing matters. It’s similar to having a diverse print collection, but only displaying and promoting books with cis, hetero, white protagonists. However, I also suspect that the collection of resources that Gale is pulling from to curate these Topics could stand to be significantly more diverse in any number of ways. It’s hard to curate materials you don’t collect. 

Other than being mad, what do we do with this information? Like many of you, I’m taking a close look at my database collection, and which voices are included (many thanks to Tasha Bergson-Michelson for her leadership in this work), and also pushing our vendors to expand the representation in their collections. But that kind of change does not happen quickly. So until that change happens, we have an obligation to be transparent with our students and our teachers about the shortcomings of our database collections. We need to actively resist the “if it’s in a database, then it’s trustworthy” messaging that many teachers and students have internalized, because that includes an implicit message that resources found outside of databases are less trustworthy – and that’s simply not true. If we give more weight to databases sources, knowing full well that our databases do not include a full range of perspectives and sources, we are discounting those perspectives. Endorsing the idea that database = “quality” reinforces the systems of inequity that got us here in the first place.

UPDATE: I’ve been in conversation with some folks at Gale, and they’ve added Topic pages on South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Ghana to World History in Context! There is still more work to be done, but Gale has been responsive to questions and concerns. If you’re noticing issues, I encourage you to reach out to your rep!

A Framework, a Protocol and a Tech tool walk into a library…

While not the opening to a joke, but a learning punchline nevertheless. This summer I attended the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy,co-lead by Renee Hobbs and Julie Coiro from the University of Rhode Island, and I am still processing the wealth of information I received. It was a weeklong intensive focused on digital literacy. While there were participants from different fields a good portion were librarians, and I highly recommend this program for relevant librarian professional development. There is still so much for me to unpack, but for the sake of organization and clarity I chose a few pieces to share.

A framework: 

Personal Digital Inquiry created by Julie Coiro, Elizabeth Dobler, and Karen Pelekis

Permission to Use:
Personal Digital Inquiry Framework image by Julie Coiro, Elizabeth Dobler, and Karen Pelekis in From Curiosity to Deep Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K–5, 2019.

Since many of us are educational leaders in our schools when it comes to inquiry learning and processes, finding a new framework is a great way to model to our faculty and students effective and reflective ways of searching, seeking and investigating information.  The second day of the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy the theme was how we “guide” our students in the learning process. Julie Coiro presented the keynote that morning on the Personal Digital Inquiry Framework based on the work and book she created with her colleagues Elizabeth Dobler, and Karen Pelekis. The educational model or image above is an entryway into a useful structure for making intentional instructive choices to guide and promote inquiry. So while this is only a brief sampling of the framework from the image above, the philosophy of crafting a culture of inquiry is paramount to the whole framework of Personal Digital Inquiry. It emphasizes that learning  does not take place in a vacuum, but that what each individual (teacher and students )bring to a text or learning situation is vital so there is a relational element to the framework. Delving deeper into the framework Coiro and her colleagues enumerate eight cultural forces to consider when building a culture of inquiry. In fact, the technology component or the “digital” is framed as a reflective choice and not just a straightforward “how-to” component because of the cultural awareness of the personal aspect of the framework. Finally, inquiry is the modi operandi of the framework emerging from core relationships built from awareness of “the personal.” So that while research and inquiry is a messy process it does not have to be anxiety producing because there is always a reflective loop back to the teachers and students modeling, questioning , and sharing their inquiry process together. The presentation and book offer tools like the “Planning Triangle,”  “PDI Self-Reflection Tool, ” and  a companion website to make the theoretical actionable, applicable, and transferable to the everyday classroom. To learn more about the framework with examples and resources, preview the first section of the book, From Curiosity to Deep Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K–5 from the Stenhouse website and visit the companion website.

A Protocol: 

the Questions Formation Technique (QFT) developed by the Right Questions Institute

As far back as Socrates in Plato’s Republic modeled probing questions, every teacher education program since has emphasized the importance of crafting questions as vital to knowledge attainment. And while many of us know it is important to our instruction, it is a powerful tool when students can develop quality questions. However, I know from experience it is often relegated to the back corners of our practice when the daily grind of teaching is grinding. As librarians it is also the cornerstone of research instruction as we all have seen firsthand when students form limited questions they get limited results. Often at the beginning of research we prompt students to develop research questions, but due to time constraints of a research project we might not get to delve into the questioning forming process to help students refine and reflect on them. During one of the sessions of the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy a presenter shared the Question Formation Technique from the Right Questions Institute. The Right Questions Institute developed a clear, sequential protocol that pauses judgement and slows down answering the question so that time is spent reflecting on the type of question it is and the kind of response it elicits. Some of you may be familiar with QFT from the 2011 book, 

Make Just One Change By Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana from Harvard Education Press; the institute was my first exposure to it. If you are familiar with it, it bears repeating and revisiting because I think it is a simple, yet powerful process that has many uses in research and beyond. Visit the “Teaching+Learning” tab of the Right Questions Institute to see the steps and find examples of the protocol in action. I am grateful that the institute did not just mention it, but had us experience the process through questioning one of our teaching aims in  one of the projects participants were developing. In reflecting with a partner during the session we both agreed it could even be a protocol used in faculty or team meetings.

A Tech tool:

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark icon from website

Another aspect of the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy was that every session had a “create to learn” portion. So participants were applying information and tech tools in close proximity to learning a concept. I picked up many tech tools along with best practices, experiential programs,and great news/media literacy resources. To spare everyone from infobesity, I wanted to share one simple, fast, and multi-use tech tool: Adobe Spark. Adobe is known for industry standard creative software for professionals, artists, and educators with rich and complex tools. There have been tech manuals and whole courses dedicated to learning the ins and out of Adobe products. However, Adobe Spark is a nimble, easy-to-use express, design studio. While it looks social media creation heavy; in which, it does have many tools and templates- it offers design applications for graphics, websites, and video. Right now there is Adobe Spark for Education that lets teachers or schools set-up accounts for free. In our session we had 15 minutes to make a quick video with another participant digitally.Collaboration was quick and easy to do remotely or in-person. This creative platform is an easy entry into design elements for research and other learning projects.

I hope to implement and integrate this framework, this protocol, and this tech tool that walked into my library, so that I can follow up with specific, grade level activities to share in future posts. In the meantime, enjoy experimenting with them and please feel free to share a comment if you have used one of these specifically in a library setting.

Shaking up the PD game

I could swim in a sea of professional development for librarians and never tire of it, and yet last spring I felt I needed a change, so decided to take a 2nd-year university statistics course to better support our AP Research students. I liked stats in grad school and it would exercise some neglected grey matter – how bad could it be? (TL;DR bad then not bad).

By week 3, I had learned what I came for which was unfortunate as there were 9 weeks left to go. However, this spoke to one of the most valuable takeaways: 

It was very helpful for me to re-live the student experience.

As Courtney noted in her most recent blog post, “it’s important to place ourselves in the shoes of our students”. Taking one little course reminded me of the deft juggling required to manage a full course load. Managing one’s time, seeking extra help, pushing through dense material and continued stepping up to the plate while regularly striking out – I had seriously forgotten what this all felt like from a student perspective.

Online asynchronous learning is not a vibe for me.

Online is one thing, but asynchronous is a whole other, and the combination was not conducive to good learning in my case – but this may just be me. I’d love to ‘hear’ a comment from someone who’s had a different experience.

I am definitely the turtle, not the hare.

Slow and steady wins the race for me. Bombing most of the timed tests was balanced out by thoroughly completing weekly assignments; knowing this, I’m curious how I can apply it other areas of my life.

I can do hard things.

Despite there being many, many moments when I may not want to.

I’m glad I tried something different; it felt great to exercise some long-dormant brain cells. And while I struggled mightily (including failing a midterm), I finished stronger than I thought possible. More importantly, I developed much empathy for our students in the process.