Thursday, April 27, 2017

Summer Reading 501

Can you believe it?

It's summer reading time already!

A couple of years ago, I did an webinar on innovative library programming to promote summer reading. I featured a number of inspirational librarians and their fabulous ideas. 
Jane Lofton

This year, I am revisiting that topic on Wednesday May 24 at 5PM with the help of next month's guest, Jane Lofton.
We would love to feature as many library programs as possible in this, thus we are looking for folks willing to submit to a 15 minute Skype interview about innovative strategies to promote independent reading.

Please complete this form if you wish to be included!

We hope to hear from you. :)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Strategy for Evaluating Student Work (Cont.)

In my last few posts, I reflected on what students understand and know how to do in terms of research. I apologize for the redundancy, but we added a few elements to what I posted earlier.

It may seem as though a bibliography is a fairly superficial instrument to measure student learning, but it can reveal a great deal about the students' approach to the research process.

New Canaan High School's research model
For example, when researching how today's nations have been impacted by a legacy of imperialism, currency is of paramount concern. When we see bibliographies featuring books such as Iraq: a Country Study or Libya Since Independence with publication dates of 1998 or earlier, it raises questions. Those books do not exist in New Canaan High School Library's collection. We would have removed them years ago as it would be hypocritical for us to carry such outdated materials while instructing students to focus on resource currency. A quick search for those resources reveals that they refer to book reviews published in academic journals which are indexed in our databases.

Such citations indicate that students are not doing one or more of the following:
  • citing their sources correctly.
  • evaluating the sources they find.
  • analyzing the relationship between their research task and the resources they use.
  • reading the sources listed in their works cited.
Lately, we've been collecting bibliographies using a very simple Google Form.

Students upload a link to their visible, but not editable bibliography. This provides us with a spreadsheet of data describing the nature of the assignment with which the bibliography was aligned and links to each learner's bibliography.

We set up a comment bank to provide students with speedy, yet comprehensive feedback on their bibliographies/works cited lists. We are still fine tuning its elements, but this is what we have so far:

Using the spreadsheet functions, we created a drop-down menu in 61 columns listing all the possible comments from the aforementioned list. While reviewing student work, we click across that student's row adding coded feedback. Ultimately, we hope to embed links to instructional materials for each comment so that the feedback does more than tell them what they did wrong,  it tells them how to fix it. This will take time, but it is a worthy goal.

We aggregated common mistakes. They are detailed in the chart below. We are working on creating a script to automate this process so that it updates live in our Research Help page. The most common mistakes for sophomores follow. They are different from the juniors' most common mistakes, which we interpret as positive news.

Using what we learned from the chart above, we built a lesson to help students revise their bibliographies. Then they resubmitted them. Once we review the revised drafts, we will look for overall growth within the cohort and individual growth for each learner. Here is the lesson. 

We recorded the lesson as a video for the teacher to use in class.

While creating a bibliography is a fairly mechanical task, the bibliography reflects more than just the mechanics of citation creation. Unfortunately many, many students lose points on critical assignments because their bibliographies do not reflect the hard work they invested in the research process. We are constantly looking for ways to help students understand why it is important to master this skill, and how to be successful. In college most students are expected to complete 3- 5 research papers per semester, and it is our aim to equip NCHS students with research skills that will follow help them succeed not only in high school, but in life beyond high school.

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Finding the story

This is a follow-up to How to Grade 75 Bibliographies in Jiffy. We graded 10th graders' bibliographies last week. This week, it we graded the juniors'. The common mistakes are quite different. There is a story here. I am just not sure what it is yet. It may have to do with

  • Higher order thinking?
  • Depth of knowledge?
  • Growth?

A taxonomy might help me better understand it.

Still thinking....  (here is the comments bank)

If you like this post, please add a testimonial (scroll all the way down) to my "Curriculum Champion" nomination for the AASL Social Media Superstar award. Voting closes on April 14, 2017. Thank you!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Twitter is the New Bus - the lesson

In November, the  Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) released the executive summary of a study they had worked on for the past eighteen months. I've included the results in a few presentations lately and it keeps reminding me of a lesson I co-taught with a student teacher from my school back in 2012. Here are a few of the slides I use to reference the SHEG study in my presentations.

The SHEG instrument included a task that required college students to analyze a Tweet that featured the results of a public opinion survey about gun control. In their analysis of student responses, SHEG said:
  • Only a few students noted that the Tweet was based on a poll conducted by a professional polling firm and explained why this would make the Tweet a stronger source of information. 
  • Less than a third of students fully explained how the political agendas of and the Center for American Progress might influence the content of the Tweet. 
  • More than half of students failed to click on the link provided within the Tweet.
Researchers said responses "suggest that students need further instruction in how best to navigate social media content, particularly when that content comes from a source with a clear political agenda" (SHEG).

So because of the this study and the current frenzy to tech teachers how to help students recognize fake news, this really old lesson keeps coming up in conversation. I think it is time to resurrect and update it.

I co-created the lesson with our then student teacher, Danny Ambrosio. He now teaches in Foxborough, MA. Danny was a fantastic instructional partner. For one of his observations, we collaborated with a new English teacher who wanted her freshmen to microblog on Twitter about Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. As a fierce advocate for the integration of social media into K-12 learning, I was not about to tell the teacher or Danny what I really thought: "Are you nuts?" Encouraging ninth graders to Tweet about institutional racism and rape seemed like a really terrible idea - even to me.

Instead of nixing the idea, we created a lesson to help students Tweet carefully. They needed to understand how Twitter works, and to be mindful of its potential drawbacks as a medium for this particular activity as they created content.

If you are wondering about the title of this post, wonder no more. The phrase was coined by Anne Kornblut of The Washington Post during a 2012 interview with Steve Inskeep on NPR. Inskeep interviewed three reporters on the 2012 campaign  trail about a 40 year old book called Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse, which was about the 1972 Nixon/McGovern campaign. I transcribed the relevant segment below (it was also included in my February 22, 2017 post. I apologize for the redundancy but it contextualizes the Twitter lesson):

Steve Inskeep: “There’s another thing that strikes me about this book,  and it’s the way that there were a few reporters who are identified who seem to influence other reporters. In 1972, I think I think the leading guy was R.W. Apple - Johnny Apple of the New York Times.” 

Jonathan Martin of Politico: “Walter Mears too of the AP. There was a saying about, ‘What’s the lead, Walter?’ which was sort of the stock phrase these guys would say on the campaign trail - and that was to Walter Mears, ‘What is the news out of this event?’ ‘What’s the lead of the story?’ I think that there are still those individuals on the campaign trail, certainly. I think there is much more fragmentation now in the political news media and there are just so many outlets that you don’t quite have the same pack journalism that you probably did back in 1972.” 

Steve Inskeep: “Oh wait a minute, let me just challenge that and you guys tell me if I am wrong. I think if I follow the coverage there are many, many outlets who all will obsess over the same irrelevant story at the same time.” 

Martin: “Oh that’s fair. Oh sure.” 

Ashley  Parker of the New York Times: “But that’s less of turning to one person who's sort of the pack leader and I think part of that is a result of Twitter. Which is that anyone with a handle can Tweet out a story and generate buzz for a story so it doesn’t matter if you’re the senior correspondent or you’re a blog with a scoop. And then it all sort of gets retweeted.” 

Steve Inskeep: “If you see lots and lots of Tweets about something, do you feel compelled to jump on that story?”

Anne Kornblut: “ I think we at least feel compelled to look into it, if nothing else. In a way, Twitter is the new bus.” 

Even now, five years later, I regularly refer to that piece when talking about news literacy. During Emerging Tech webinar #74 on media literacy, I asked my guest, USA Today's National K-12 Education Writer Greg Toppo, about Ms. Kornblut's comment. He agreed that it was A bus, but maybe not THE bus.

"Twitter is the new bus." served as a possible answer to one of our lesson's essential questions "Why Twitter?"

We began the lesson with a mini lecture. I was a big fan of SlideRocket at the time (whoops!), and Danny and I created the slides in that now defunct software. I still have some of the screenshots we used, so I did my best to recreate it below.

After the 15 minute mini-lecture, we introduced the following activity. This was in the fall of 2012 and the presidential election campaign was in full swing. I searched Twitter with the hashtag #election for an inventory of 30 or so contiguous "clean" tweets (this SO would not have worked in 2016!), and I screenshot three sets of ten Tweets, which we arranged into one image:

Only ten of these Tweets were used in this lesson.

Students were asked to analyze the ten Tweets marked by a box with a letter. They are transcribed below:

KofiAnnan Foundation @KofiAnnan
US #election system criticised over finance rules and voting restrictions.…
View summary @ColorOfChange
RT @adv_project: make sure your #vote & voice are counted this election! Register to vote: MT @ColoOfChange

Truly @trulia
Is the Housing Market Better Off Today Than 4 Years Ago? Surprisingly, Yes. via @trulia #election #housingmarket

AlertNet @AlertNet
Somali militants brand new president a “traitor” #somalia #election

Matthew C. Nisbet @MCNisbet
In speech in Buffalo, Karl Rove offers interesting observations about role of turn out in upcoming #election: buffalo… #Romney Expand

Trevor Cox @Trevor_R_Cox
I’ve really bee struggling on who to vote for this year #decisions #election
View photo

Jeff Brady @jeffbradynpr
A pie chart showing why more than 46% don't pay taxes #election
View summary

MIT press @MITpress
Newsgames coauthor @iblogost on political games and communication (or lack thereof): #election

ElectionGear @ElectionGear
Anti #Obama Anti-Obama Confuse a Liberal Use Facts and Logic Bumper Stickers US #Election

Hans-MartientenNapel @hmtennapel
A Tight #Election May Be Tangled in Legal Battles
View summary

We designed 10 simple questions to help students identify 9 of the 10 labeled Tweets. I included the questions along with the correct answers below. We included this bit of instruction at the end, "There are more Tweets marked with letters than required. Omit one."
  1.  C_Which Tweet is from a real estate location service?
  2.  I_Which Tweet is selling a product?
  3.  __What is URL shortener (Short answer) 
  4.  F_Which Tweet includes a picture?
  5.  G_Which Tweet was posted by a National Public Radio reporter?
  6.  B_Which Tweet is from an organization that advocates for the political rights of black Americans?
  7.  A_Which Tweet links to British News publication?
  8.  E_Which Tweet was posted by a conservative Republican?
  9.  J_Which Tweet was posted by a Dutch liberal and links to a New York Times article
  10.  H_Which Tweet was links to a university publisher
There were a few challenges. The open-ended question threw a lot of folks off because they did not realize that there was one unaccounted for Tweet (D). Question 8 was impossible. It made the assumption that students would know at least one of the following four things and they did not. 
  1. Conservatism and Republicanism were often connected.
  2. Romney was a conservative candidate.
  3. Buffalo, NY was, to a large extent, a politically conservative town.
  4. Karl Rove was a conservative political figure.
Question 9 was tricky as well. The Tweet did not indicate that its author was a) Dutch or b) liberal but it was the only Tweet with a link that contained a url shortened with the root. Danny and I assumed that students would pick up on that but they didn't.

Were I to write this today, I would change question 6 to make it more inclusive. I (I vaguely remember Danny and I struggling over the language on this one, but I made the call and in hindsight, I think I called it wrong) chose not to use the term "people of color" in the question because I thought it would make it too easy since the Tweet contained the word "color".  Color of Change "design[s] campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, and champion[s] solutions that move us all forward" but features the photo below on its home page. I would phrase that question differently today.

Oh how I wish we'd done a decent job of collection data from student responses. I remember just handing the answer sheets off to the teacher with the key. I never knew how the kids did. What a fantastic baseline that would have made! Arrgh! That is a mistake I would not make today. I collect data on everything now. I guess that's the upside of the teacher evaluation system overhaul.

Students were asked to complete a little exit ticket after the lesson:

Tutorial on how to set up your Twitter account:

Pew Research Center
Last Fall, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published  Five Laws of Media and Information Literacy (MIL). The first rule struck me as acutely relevant to the ongoing conversation about "fake news."  

Law #1
Information, communication, libraries, media, technology, the Internet as well as other forms of information providers are for use in critical civic engagement and sustainable development. They are all equal in stature and none is more relevant than the other for should be ever treated as such.

As Dr. Joyce Valenza puts it in her outstanding Never Ending Search post, Truth, Truthiness, and Triangulation: A News Literacy Toolkit for a “Post-Truth” World, "There are no guarantees of truth from any source." and we must "guide students in navigating a growingly nuanced universe of news."

According the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Americans get their news from social media. As UNESCO's rule number one states, this is not a bad thing - so long as we follow Joyce's call to action and teach students how to mine all kinds of media for information that is relevant and truthful. Lessons like the one outlined above are an important first step on that path. Unfortunately, there is much work to be done with K-12 administrators to make widely used social media portals accessible to students, but that's for another blog post.

If you like this post, please add a testimonial (scroll all the way down) to my "Curriculum Champion" nomination for the AASL Social Media Superstar award. Voting closes on April 14, 2017. Thank you!

Friday, March 24, 2017

How to Grade 75 Bibliographies in a Jiffy

This is super quick and a little sloppy, but super helpful. Sydnye Cohen and I started this system back in 2013-2014, and I thought someone else might find it useful. It is not tech-y or sexy. It's pretty old school, but it is efficient.

Problem: You've promised a teacher who is struggling with mediocre researchers (75 students, 10th grade, social studies) to help her evaluate bibliographies and provide students with feedback BUT you've had a crazy week and you've been pulled in 17 different directions and here it is, Thursday evening at 8PM, and you need to be done by morning. 

All nighter? No way. Those days are over for me. 

Let's just start with how we collected the assignment. The teacher's plan was to have students print their bibliographies, bring them to my colleague Jackie or me, and have us "sign off" on those that "met goal".We nixed that. It would have been a logistical nightmare - particularly given all those 17 directions I mentioned. 

Teacher form
So we created a very simple Google Form for her. Literally, this is the form. 

We sent students an email with a link to the form. The teacher gave students time in class to add their link to the form. You may have noticed that we did NOT ask students to give us editing rights. That was intentional. It takes too long. I don't know about you, but if I have editing rights to 75 bibliographies, I am going to spend 8-10 hours correcting them. This was a self-preservation strategy. 

So... using the student responses to the form, I now have a spreadsheet full of links to bibliographies. Cool. Well, not really, but let's pretend.

I split my screen into two browser windows. I open the spreadsheet on the left, and a blank document on the right. I spend some time on the first five works cited lists (to avoid redundancy, I will use the terms bibliography and works cited list interchangeably even though they are not interchangeable), typing into the blank sheet on the right all the comments I would have posted if I had editing rights to the bibliographies.

Then I use the "bullet" function to number them. Once I have the first 12 (or so) comments in the document on the right, I add a few columns to the right of the students' links in the spreadsheet on the left. Now I go back and review the bibliographies I already looked over.

Using lined notebook paper, I note in one row all the numbers of "comments" that apply to that bibliography. For example, in the one above, I would indicate an 8 and a 9 without having to read a word, but I would add more as I scanned the entire work. I do not recommend going in order. Just jot down the numbers as you notice things. Also, don't try to address everything. Hit the big things. The whole point of this exercise is to avoid getting bogged down by minutia (unfortunately the task itself is all minutia - therein lies the time-suck factor).

OK. I now enter the comment numbers into the column to the right of the link in the spreadsheet. Then I reflect on the comments and I assign the student work a holistic score on a 1-4 scale (this rubric needs an overhaul, but it was what I used -   loosely). I add the score to one of the other columns to the right in the row with the link for that bibliography.

Then you hustle on through the rest of the bibliographies. It goes faster and faster, because you start to memorize the numbers as you revisit them. Before you know it, you have given 75 students comprehensive feedback, and a teacher a holistic score for each student. Everyone is happy. Well, the kids usually aren't but hey, it's school and we're talking about bibliographies after all. You can hide the score column to preserve the students' dignity or just make a copy of the spreadsheet, removing that column and share that with the students instead. There is instructional value in having all students see what comments other students receive. One in-class work day with this spreadsheet will encourage students to help one another fix their mistakes. It's kind of messy - a lot of chaos and shouting across the room, "Hey, who got 18 wrong? How did you fix that?", but it is worth it.

One more thing: This only works if you have comprehensive online instructions for your students. Telling them what they got wrong is only helpful when you can provide access to tools that will teach them how to get it right. We are expanding this into a more fleshed out online research guide (Soon! It's coming soon!), but this is what we link to in comment #6.

Later... I crunched the numbers and here were our areas of concern:
So I created a slide show

Which became a video lesson for the teacher to use in class (I will be out the day she wants to teach it). 

If you like this post, please add a testimonial (scroll all the way down) to my "Curriculum Champion" nomination for the AASL Social Media Superstar award. Voting closes on April 14, 2017. Thank you!

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Unpacking" with Joyce Valenza this Week!

On the weekend of  Thanksgiving 2016, a Tweet caught my attention with the word "Truthiness." Originating from one of of my two favorite episodes of the Colbert Report (linked below), the "wØrd" prompted me to do a double-take.
The Colbert Report Sea. 1 Ep 1 - 10/17/05
The Colbert Report Sea. 2 Ed 96 - 7/31/06
It was posted by Dr. Joyce Kasman Valenza, Assistant Professor in the Masters of Information Program at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information. Before Rutgers, Joyce worked in special, public, and school libraries from which she taught not only her students and faculty, but all of us in K-12 library world some of our very best literacy lessons. Joyce is the author of the NeverendingSearch Blog for School Library Journal, which was the subject of that Tweet.
Even though I had a house full of relatives, I sat down and I read "Truth, Truthiness, Triangulation: A News Literacy Toolkit for a “Post-Truth” World." And I read. And I read. Then I read it again. This was no blog post. For school librarians, this was a bible.
SHEG's Study
When planning this year's's syllabus, I was determined to spend some time focusing on information literacy. Joyce's post, along with the release of the Stanford History Education Group's (SHEG) publication of Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Online Civic Reasoning were the driving forces behind that decision.

I started last month by interviewing Greg Toppo, USA Today's National Education and Demographic Writer. We "tackled the big thorny issues" (as Joyce would put it) in journalism today. It was a really great discussion and I encourage you all to check it out. It was covered by eSchool News on March 10. Every week new webinars surface on how to keep kids from consuming "fake news" as if it were real news. Very few of them include conversations between journalists and educators. The webinar might have left a few participants with a nagging "Yes, but how?" Well that's what this week is about. On Wednesday, March 22 at 5PM, eastern time, I will have a chance to unpack Joyce's information literacy masterpiece with her. I am so excited to have this opportunity, and I hope you will join us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Media Literacy Part I

During my webinar today (5PM, eastern), I will interview Greg Toppo, the National Education Writer for USA Today, and author The Game Believes in You. “Fake news” is the buzz phrase of the season. For librarians, this is not a new topic. Teaching source evaluation is our bread and butter. So when I started thinking about what to discuss with Greg during this webinar, it occurred to me that I’ve been stockpiling questions for over five years. I am honored that Greg was able to join us today. Here are my questions for today's discussion:

1. About five years ago, I called the editor of a Wyoming newspaper, and asked him if his publication represented a conservative viewpoint. He bristled. He explained that this was an entirely new phenomenon; that he’d been in the news business for over three decades, and that he resented my assumption that all newspapers had a political slant.*

Question: Does objective journalism exist?

2. The newspaper business is apparently volatile. Interestingly, the Modern Language Association stopped requiring publisher information for periodical citations in April 2016. I can only wonder if that is because ownership changes so rapidly, In 2013, the Washington Post was bought by Jeff Bezos, the Boston Globe was bought by John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox (from the New York Times). In 2015, the Economist which had been owned by Pearson, was sold to the Agnelli Family (owners of Fiat).
Newspapers, which used to focus exclusively on article writing, are now expected to produce content that competes with a variety of other online journalistic entities. Newspapers compete for “readers” with cable and network television, streaming and podcast radio, and strictly online media outlets in ways that seemed unthinkable two decades ago.

Question: Do you consider yourself a newspaper journalist? What distinguishes the newspaper journalist from all the other kinds of media reporters out there? 

3. At the 2016 New Yorker Festival, Susan Morrison interviewed now retired late-night talk show host David Letterman. The interview was broadcast on the December 22, 2016 edition of the New Yorker Radio Hour podcast. During the interview, she made this statement,  “One of the things that is different about the crop of late night shows out there now … [they] seem to exist to create a batch of YouTube clips that everybody watches the next day.”

Question: To what extent, if at all,  does that pressure apply in the news industry? 

4. I had a conversation with an editor at the Wall Street Journal several years ago. She explained that while most of the publication’s journalistic content remains behind its paywall, they keep much of the editorial content, Review & Commentary and blogs, available to non-subscribers. She also explained that the publication periodically (no pun intended) released exclusive, or high-interest  journalistic content to the public for free for a short period (12-72 hours) hoping to drum up subscriptions once the article received extensive attention through social media and then dropped it back behind the paywall.*

Question: As a reporter, do you think we ought to explain the difference between “free news” and subscription news to our students, and if so, what is that difference? 

5.  This is a follow-up to the last question, and I will talk about this more next month, but it is very difficult to teach students how to differentiate between media producers. They do not understand the difference between NPR, the BBC, MSNBC, Newsweek, and USA Today. To them, they are all generating news either in video, audio, text, infographic, or some other format.

Question: Should students know the difference between the various formats of news or is news just news?

Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief
6. In the January 27 edition of the New Yorker Radio hour, David Remnick interviewed Ben Smith, BuzzFeed’s editor-in-Chief. During the interview, Smith made this statement: “There are certain kinds of decisions that I’ve certainly made through my career and that I think a lot of places that grew up in this new ecosystem have where the fact that older institutions have a reflex that’s rooted in their history and their traditions in this notion that they are - this sort of vestigial notion - that they probably wouldn’t even say aloud -  but that is in their culture and that their job to keep the gate and keep information from their audience at certain times.”

Question: Do you agree that long-standing news providers feel a gate-keeping responsibility when it comes to releasing stories? If so, is this sustainable? 

"In a way, Twitter is the new bus" - Anne Kornblut
7. Several years ago. NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed three reporters on the 2012 campaign  trail about a 40 year old book called Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse, which was about the 1972 Nixon/McGovern campaign.

Steve Inskeep: “There’s another thing that strikes me about this book,  and it’s the way that there were a few reporters who are identified who seem to influence other reporters. In 1972, I think I think the leading guy was R.W. Apple - Johnny Apple of the New York Times.”

Jonathan Martin of Politico: “Walter Mears too of the AP. There was a saying about, ‘What’s the lead, Walter?’ which was sort of the stock phrase these guys would say on the campaign trail - and that was to Walter Mears, ‘What is the news out of this event?’ ‘What’s the lead of the story?’ I think that there are still those individuals on the campaign trail, certainly. I think there is much more fragmentation now in the political news media and there are just so many outlets that you don’t quite have the same pack journalism that you probably did back in 1972.”

Steve Inskeep: “Oh wait a minute, let me just challenge that and you guys tell me if I am wrong. I think if I follow the coverage there are many, many outlets who all will obsess over the same irrelevant story at the same time.”

Martin: “Oh that’s fair. Oh sure.”

Ashley  Parker of the New York Times: “But that’s less of turning to one person who's sort of the pack leader and I think part of that is a result of Twitter. Which is that anyone with a handle can Tweet out a story and generate buzz for a story so it doesn’t matter if you’re the senior correspondent or you’re a blog with a scoop. And then it all sort of gets retweeted.” “If you see lots and lots of Tweets about something, do you feel compelled to jump on that story?

Question: What drives the lead these days? This interview is five years old. Was Twitter the new driver for media then? Is it still? What other forces are out there? 

8. There was a time when the newspaper was delivered to us on our doorstep and that an editorial board in a nearby city controlled the content in that publication. In that world, we read the paper, which was not tailored to our individual opinions, but rather designed to appeal to the widest possible readership. Ad revenue depended on that. We were exposed to information with which we did not necessarily agree, and content that may not have fit within our realm of interests. This is how we made discoveries about new perspectives and information.

In 2011, Eli Pariser did a little experiment that turned into a book called The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. Here’s a quote, “Ultimately, democracy works only if we citizens are capable of thinking beyond our narrow self-interest. But to do so, we need a shared view of the world we cohabit. We need to come into contact with other people’s lives and needs and desires. The filter bubble pushes us in the opposite direction – it creates the impression that our narrow self-interest is all that exists. And while this is great for getting people to shop online, it’s not great for getting people to make better decisions together.”

The concept of the Filter Bubble resurfaced shortly after the election.

Question: What role do you think our mechanisms for news retrieval have played in the political polarization of this country? 

9. This fall, The Stanford History Education Group published a study called Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning. Here is an excerpt from the executive summary:
“Our “digital natives” may be able to fit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped. We did not design our exercises to shake out a grade or make hairsplitting distinctions between a “good” and a “better” answer. Rather, we sought to establish a reasonable bar, a level of performance we hoped was within reach of most middle school, high school, and college students. For example, we would hope that middle school students could distinguish an ad from a news story. By high school, we would hope that students reading about gun laws would notice that a chart came from a gun owners’ political action committee. And, in 2016, we would hope college students, who spend hours each day online, would look beyond a .org URL and ask who’s behind a site that presents only one side of a contentious issue. But in every case and at every level, we were taken aback by students’ lack of preparation. For every challenge facing this nation, there are scores of websites pretending to be something they are not. Ordinary people once relied on publishers, editors, and subject matter experts to vet the information they consumed. But on the unregulated Internet, all bets are of. Michael Lynch, a philosopher who studies technological change, observed that the Internet is “both the world’s best factchecker and the world’s best bias confrmer— often at the same time.”1 Never have we had so much information at our fingertips. Whether this bounty will make us smarter and better informed or more ignorant and narrow-minded will depend on our awareness of this problem and our educational response to it. At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish.”

Question: What role does education play in the “gullibility” of news consumers? 

10. In 2008, Nicholas Carr wrote a piece for The Atlantic called Is Google Making us Stupid? Three years later, he published the follow-up book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Here is a quote:

“The Net’s interactivity gives us powerful new tools for finding information, expressing ourselves, and conversing with others. It also turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment.”

Question: Do you think our attention spans are shrinking? If so how does that change the way news outlets deliver media? 

11. Very recently. Teen Vogue recently shifted its focus toward social issues, identity, and activism.

Question: What lessons can we as educators, and media outlets learn from Teen Vogue’s choice to focus more on social consciousness and civic awareness? 

12. That’s all I have for questions.
Question: What should we add before we close? 

* Had I known I would refer back to these two conversations over and over again for years, I would have approached them more "journalistically"and documented the names of my sources, and the dates of the conversations, but sadly, I approached them both as a school librarian trying to get questions for my next class. I will always regret this.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The REAL Power of the Exit Ticket

In my last post, The Power of the Exit Ticket, I described what we learned from a ninth grade research assignment exit ticket. But learning alone does not transform instruction. Incorporating what we learn into our program is the real power of the exit ticket.

We've been thinking about that. A lot.

When helping students craft thesis statements, I have a go-to exercise that really works. I ask them to, without looking at their notes or resources, describe what their research taught them. I transcribe what they say into a bullet list. Then I hand them the list and tell them to turn it into a statement a ten year old could understand. If they can't do that, they are not ready to develop a thesis statement, and they have to go back to researching. That is what I am about to do here. Without looking at my notes, here is what I learned in no particular order:
  • Citing sources properly helps students evaluate their sources more critically.
  • Teaching MLA 8 is much easier than teaching MLA 7.
  • When citing sources in MLA 8, online citation generators are not as effective as students think.
  • Students who understand the elements of a citation and the correct sequence of those elements document their research more accurately than those who don't.
  • Our library needs to better promote its online instructional resources.
  • Our students think they would benefit from additional face-to-face instructional time with librarians.
  • Teachers could help make online library instruction more visible.
  • Giving students feedback on first drafts and all subsequent revisions improves learning outcomes by nearly 25 percent.
  • Librarians and faculty should work together to calibrate their assessment of student work in MLA 8.
I have long held that online citation generators free up librarians to focus on teaching the higher-order thinking skills required for inquiry, close reading, and publication. I assumed that teaching citation formatting was a misallocation of instructional time. After all, there were low-cost tools available to facilitate that task. But feedback from our students taught me something I had not considered. Online citation generators are to student researchers what swimming pool floaties are to toddlers: They give learners the false impression that they can do it (swim/cite) independently, but they do not teach them how. Dependence on the tool impedes skill mastery.

Is citation mastery critical? Probably not, but it is valuable to achieving other critical ends - namely resource evaluation. By determining how to align all nine elements of an MLA 8 citation with each consulted resource, students are challenged to evaluate those sources more critically. This supports learners with their embedded references as well.

So yeah. We are now teaching students how to build citations from the ground up. I am not sure we would have tackled this with MLA 7, but MLA 8, which was released in April 2016, makes it a whole lot easier because the elements and their sequence do not vary, regardless of the source format.

Last spring, I created an MLA 8 slide show to introduce teachers to the new guidelines. Lately, we've been working on instructional materials for students. We are warehousing it all in this webpage, which is part of what will become the new THE ANNEX@ once we sunset the existing one.

The basic slide show:

The narrated abridged slide show in video format:

Using student inquiries - those "How do I cite...?" queries from the library's text messaging service - we are building a works consulted exemplar. Where need arises (and time permits) we offer a QR code and a shortened link to an image explaining the citation in detail, element by element.

Screenshot of document
One of the QR codes from above
Example of what a QR code links to

We are still sorting through our interpretation of MLA 8. If you see something you think we ought to change, please tell us! Thank you.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Power of the Exit Ticket

Leading into final exams, many freshmen prepared for a speech on a controversial issue. It was a fairly simple assignment: read an entire non-fiction book, research using three sources (newspaper, video, and a website) to better understand the issue addressed in the book, document research, outline and give a speech. Texts included:
Librarians worked with each class for 4 days:

Day 1 - Support students with research
We visited classes and helped individual students as needed. The teacher assigned very specific resources down to the newspaper publication name (New York Times), so many students were able to find what they were looking for, but a few groups, those who read Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai UndercityEscape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, and Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, struggled to find newspaper their articles and videos.
Day 2 - Teaching students how to cite sources
We paused this three part lesson (below) after each section to help individual students cite each resource type (newspaper, video, and a website). For homework, students finalized the works cited they had nearly completed during the lesson. They submitted their works cited drafts the next day. We met with the classroom teacher to review and calibrate our feedback on a few sample assignments, and then we (librarians) reviewed all the students work and gave them feedback. We did this with hard copies, which I found difficult because we tend to visit the sites students cite and doing  without hyperlinks on which to click was impractical. In the future, we will ask for Google Docs submissions.

Days 3 and 4 - Revisions, revisions, and more revisions
Once the drafts with comments were returned to students, the revision process began. It took two days of revisions, working one-on-one with individual students before their were able to submit correct final drafts. For some students, this meant generating as many as nine drafts.

Unless they are annotated, works cited lists and bibliographies are assessed in three areas:
  • resource selection,
  • page layout
  • citation format. 
Here is the rubric. The revision process was rigorous as students were asked to obtain librarian approval before submitting their final drafts. In looking at the revision history for each works cited in Google Docs, we noted that 40% of the students revised their drafts once or twice and 26% revised them five or more times. Through the revision process, students brought up their grade by an average of 24 percent.

In an exit ticket, students rated the value of NCHS library services. While the majority of students found all our services helpful, face-to-face lessons and one-on-one help rated the highest.

To what extent were these library services helpful?
Twenty-two percent of open-ended question respondents said they would have benefitted from more time with librarians. Forty percent used the word “helpful” to describe the librarians in their narrative. Another 22% said they would have benefitted from more detailed instruction. While 89% said that they would rather correct flawed EasyBib citations than create them from scratch, we also had feedback suggesting that  students wanted to know more about citing sources:
  • I did not understand how to write citations very well after I wrote them.
  • I just corrected what the librarians told me to correct.
  • Would have been beneficial for you to explain in more detail the order of things within our citations.
  • Explaining why the citations need to be so specific would probably helpful.

To what extent did these impact  my learning?
There was one glaring gap for us. Only 57% of respondents said THE ANNEX@ was helpful (lowest ranking of all library services) and yet 16% of respondents said our instruction would be enhanced if we provided online access to our lessons. All our lessons are posted on THE ANNEX@, including those we presented in class for this project. A related suggestion urged teachers to remind kids about library services. One student advised us to facilitate format-based mini workshops (e.g., newspaper articles, websites, videos) for students who needed help on specific citations.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Teaching students to understand bias

Cross-posted from my colleague Jackie Whiting's blog, Beyond the Stacks. We co-taught the lesson, but Jackie wrote this.

Students frequently ask: can you help me find a source that's not biased? When they ask that question we know what they mean, what it shows us the students need to learn is that 1) there are degrees of bias and 2) everyone has bias, so 3) there is no such thing as unbiased. Instead, we need to teach students to recognize what a text creator's bias is and how or whether that bias negates the usefulness of that source for the student's purpose.

Today we worked with a class of grade 11 students doing research for an in-depth research paper. The focus of the class unit is on the relationship between socioeconomic status and educational experience so this topic will frame the research questions the students are seeking to answer. To facilitate the students' resource selection and understanding of the impact of bias on source credibility we worked with the class unpacking an editorial from the "Room for Debate" section of the New York Times in response to the question: "Is School Reform Hopeless?"

We scaffolded this exercise to help students begin to understand their own biases on this topic and how their bias will influence how they understand what they read and how they convey what they ultimately write. We selected one of the editorials and provided the students just the conclusion to that text. We selectively removed words from the paragraph and asked students to replace the blanks with whatever word they each thought would best convey the meaning of the paragraph. When they completed this exercise individually, we asked them to work with 2 or 3 other students in the class to compile their words on one document and compare how they each completed the paragraph and how their choice of words changed the meaning of the paragraph. The pictures below are of the excerpted paragraph with the students' words on post-it notes.

Here is an example of a phrase with blanks to be filled:

...too many are climbing stairwells with broken handrails and missing steps, tripping and falling as they ________ to keep up, while others are _________ up on elevators...

In one group students said:

  • struggling to keep up, while others racing up
  • trying to keep up, while others rising up
  • attempting to keep up, while others moving up

The students were able to see that racing implies competition, rising implies progress and maybe increase in status, while moving is more passive. They were surprised that none of those were the words that the author used but they couldn't think of another word to use.

The actual sentence is: "...too many are climbing stairwells with broken handrails and missing steps, tripping and falling as they work to keep up, while others are zooming up on elevators..."

Certainly working implies a conscious sense of purpose and purposefulness to the effort that is not reflected in struggle, try or attempt. Work may also imply a degree of success and ability absent in those other terms. Zooming also has a very different connotation than the words the students chose, particularly in contrast to working. So, we asked students to compare their bias with that of the author and consider how differing opinions might influence their assessment of the source's credibility.

For the next phase of this exercise, we provided the students with the rest of the editorial where we had highlighted words or phrases and added questions to invite students to discuss the writer's choice of word and how those words affected the meaning of her editorial.

Here is an example paragraph:
"In addition to attending to these basic survival needs, schools have to attract experienced teachers and leaders with the right sensibilities and training to educate youth from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Successful school districts also enhance youth development through extracurricular activities and additional enrichment. When families cannot afford costly after-school programs, personal tutors and experiential summer vacations, effective school-communities invest in programs to offset these opportunity gaps." 

Here are the questions we posed corresponding to each of the highlighted phrases:

  1. What does this phrase imply? (basic survival needs)
  2. What do you think these are? (right sensibilities)
  3. How is this different than education? (youth development)
  4. What other gaps have you heard of? (opportunity gaps)

As they shared their conclusions and questions the students raised questions like: what does equity mean? One student said it meant equality. At that point, we directed the class to the Allsides Dictionary. Here is how Allsides describes their dictionary:

Click to see how Allsides defines equity and the cartoon they use to distinguish "equity" from "equality". We think this resource is incredibly valuable to students as they learn to navigate the information they encounter and develop information literacy -- particularly in the face of fake news!

Carter, Prudence L. “Poor Schools Need to Encompass More Than Instruction to Succeed.” The Opinion Pages: Room for Debate, New York Times, 14 Sept. 2016,