Friday, March 24, 2017

What is THE ANNEX@?

In our last post, we casually mentioned that we were building a new THE ANNEX@. It occurs to us that only NCHS students and faculty know what that is. THE ANNEX@ is our learning portal. When we meet with classes which happens on average 3 periods per day, our lessons include a walk-through of the instructional materials assembled/created for that specific research task.

Most lessons are organized into a "playlist" (we use LessonPaths). When students need a refresher on what we covered in class, they can navigate through the steps to locate the one they wish to review.  We like this software as a learning tool because it helps students find exactly what they need without having to dig through a long narrative.

Before LessonPaths
With LessonPaths:


THE ANNEX@ is a simple blog. We use Blogger because it is part of the Google for Education Suite. It is easy to access. There is no sign on process so students, teachers, instructional aides, parents, and member of the New Canaan community and folks beyond can all access what we teach. We deeply value that transparency.

Posting to LessonPaths is great for students, but clunky for us. What is coming next

To be continued later this afternoon.... In the meantime, check out these fun photos of students learning in the library.

Working on a video project for Mr. McAteer

Rebuilding the monster truck AGAIN!

Double-header in the ColLabB with Ms. Bacon & Dr. Shwartz's 9th graders

Makerspace ordering in progress

Building a VR station from scratch

47 translations of Harry Potter books on loan from Dr. Foster

This odyssey of the Mind team won first place with their makerspace creation

Because they wanted to be Tweeted!

Why you need math in real life

Unpacking that order from last week

After school time is maker time at NCHS library

Mr. Tesbir checks out awesome new interactive eBooks called Lightbox



Friday, March 10, 2017

New MLA 8 instructions

We hosted the English Department on Eight Grade Parent Night last week. Mr. Remley cycled through five presentations about the English program which included a plug for the English teachers' collaboration with NCHS librarians. We were so excited to have library visitors during open house that we made a pamphlet about library services. Here it is.


In our last post, we introduced new materials to help students build their citations from scratch. In this post, we will showcase where we are warehousing those resources and a few more tools we created. As mentioned earlier, these resources were created in response to student feedback collected from exit surveys completed as classes wrapped up two benchmark research assignments: the 9th grade Speech on a Controversial Issue, and the Junior Research Paper (English 1st semester). As juniors begin working on their second research paper in social studies and freshmen begin working on their Collapse Project (based on Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies choose to Fail or Succeed).

Introducing the Collapse project to Ms. Bacon and Mr. Schwartz's classes in ColLabB

Let's start with the portal for all this content. Ms. Whiting has been working on THE ANNEX 2.0. While Blogger has served us well as an instructional portal since 2011, we've been thinking it may be time to upgrade. We are experimenting with the Beta version of the new Google Sites. Once the product is  a little more fleshed out, we will migrate our content. We welcome student feedback and suggestions for this project. Students can email the library to offer suggestions. We created an MLA 8 help page in this new space as our pilot.

Here is a little Walk through:


Last spring, we 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 them 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:



We created a one-page handout to help students understand the elements of MLA 8. We made posters of these instructions for teachers to post in their classroom. Here is the graphic:


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. These resources were built to help students learn and will continue to evolve in response to student needs.
Screenshot of document
One of the QR codes from above
Example of what a QR code links to

We grouped these citations on the webpage itself by material type for students who prefer to explore one category at a time:

Online citation generators such as EasyBib and NoodleTools arrange the citations themselves in correct order and format the page for students so students will need to know how to do this. The rules are simple:

  • One inch margins
  • Size 12 font
  • Times New Roman font
  • Arrange citations in alphabetical order on the page according to the first word in the citation (after "a", "an", or "the")
  • Hanging indents (see video below to use page ruler, not space or tab key)



Finally, we wanted to make sure students understood how to cite each of our databases. While the databases themselves provide citations, we have found them all to be incorrect. See below.


We created the Database Cheat Sheet to help students understand what each database does, provide the username and password to access it, links to tutorials on how to use it, a correct citation for each one, and what that citation might look like as an embedded reference. Below, we included the public version, which omits the username and passwords.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What we Learned from Freshmen

In our last post, Freshman Learning, we described what we learned from ninth grade research feedback. Since then, we've been considering how to to apply what we learned to program improvement.

Here is what we learned from the freshmen 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 can work together to assess student bibliographies.
We 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. We 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 us something we 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.

We are now teaching students how to build citations from the ground up. It is unlikely 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, we 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 them 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

These resources were built to help students learn and will continue to evolve in response to student needs.

Thursday, February 2, 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.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Meet the S.T.E.A.M. team and more

The S.T.E.A.M. Club formed this year by merging the MakerMajors and TechXperts into one club. We meet each Wednesday after school and the collective work of these students is transforming the library. We are so grateful for the talents, personalities, and work of these students that we wanted to introduce them and their contributions to you. Here they are:

Reilly: our PR maven!
Greetings! I'm Reilly O’Neill, and I enjoy long walks on the beach. Just kidding, I hate the beach. What I do love is being a part of the library student staff and making the library program as great as it can be. I'm a junior and a library intern, you can find me sorting books for our annual Vide collection or helping out behind the circulation desk. This year I've been assisting the librarians as much as possible and working with the STEAM club to improve our already great library program. Outside of the library I'm an editor for the school paper and member of the varsity cheerleading team.
Theo: Renaissance Man

Hello, My name is Theo. I joined TechXperts this year in order to support and expand the technological community at New Canaan High School. I mostly deal with software, testing it and showing others how a program works. My technological passion has always been programming, and I now instruct younger students in the fundamentals of scratch programming. When I am in the library, you will mostly find me at the help desk. This winter I am working as a Ski Instructor, as well as continuing my exploration of the German language.

Oh Captain, TechXpert Captain
Hi, my name is Spencer. I helped found the TechXperts because I love to help people out with technological problems. I enjoy working the on-call help desk, teaching professional development, and I am really looking forward to helping expand the library's Makerspace, as well as making technology-based video tutorials. When I'm not at the Help Desk, I enjoy leading my Boy Scout troop, Working in and around NCPS in the Technology Department, and biking. Follow me on Twitter for more @spencerree.

Sophia, our Zen Master!
Hi. I'm Sophia and I became a member of the Maker Majors just this past school year. Before coming to NCHS I had never heard of Maker Majors and TechXperts. I had actually never heard of STEAM club at all but was happy to learn about it and become an official member. Currently I am working on a project about the making of therapy dolls and the method behind using them with children in hospitals. So far I have learned the process of making the dolls as well as the background of the project. The therapy doll are said to be a great way for doctors and nurses in the hospital to show the children the procedure that is going to take place on them first on the doll so it is less scary. They can communicate their feelings and understand with a visual representation what is going to be done on their body. As I continue my project I hope to learn and explore the process further.
Casey is currently building
a desktop computer at the
TechXpert station

Howdy, I’m Casey. I joined the TechXperts because I enjoy helping people with techy problems. During middle school at New Canaan Country School, I was the go-to unofficial tech support. When I found out that NCHS has the TechXperts, I immediately joined. One of my goals on the team is to be able to expand the library’s technology department, specifically with virtual reality. When I’m not helping students with tech problems, I enjoy staying inside with a cup of hot tea and watching Netflix. Hello!

Mary's independent study
project involves creations
with beads
My name is Mary Cross, and I am a Maker Major, this year. I am in my junior year, and I was told about STEAM and decided join, and learn more about it so I can contribute in my own way. The three major things that I'm focused my project on are making or Religious artifacts, mail and/or greeting card design, and finding ways to create or combine different art projects. I feel that this can be fun for other students, and good for personal creativity. I enjoy doing art in general, and creating new ideas and trying out projects. I hope people enjoy my projects and ideas cause I certain lay know I will XD.

Claudia is a tremendously 
talented artist;
she drew this avatar of
 herself on her phone!
Hello there! My name is Claudia, I’m  from the Dominican Republic and I’m a Maker Major. I was one of the first students to use the Makerspace when it was first introduced and I fell in love with it. I love to have a creative area in the school, a place that allows me to create things and exercise my talents freely. I’ve been helping the Makerspace since the beginning by giving ideas and organizing/cleaning when needed as well as helping other students. I joined the STEAM club because I love the makerspace and I am always looking out for it, always thinking of how we can make it even better. If you want to know more about me, things that interest me are art, music, and fantasy stories. I like things that are colorful or shiny-even better-BOTH. I really hope that other students can enjoy the makerspace as much as I do and I hope that more people are encouraged to use it and take care of it like the other members of the STEAM club.

In other library news, we have had lots of requests from administrators, teachers, librarians, and parents from other districts to visit our library and learn from our program. To help these other districts obtain the information they need to make decisions for their schools we have begun building this website, NCHS Library: the ins & outs, to explain what we do and what the library program is all about. We particularly enjoy the "Meet the Librarians" page!

Instructions for uploading assignments to library Moodle

On Friday, January 13th, NCTV Morning Announcements will broadcast the following message. Students might want to get a head start and prepare one works cited, one research question, and one thesis statement for submission.  
"This morning, all NCHS students will receive instructions from the library to upload 

    • one works cited
    • one thesis statement
    • one research question
from fall semester 2016 to their respective graduating class in the Library Moodle. Students can choose from any assignment in any subject. All work must be submitted by the end of the marking period, on January 23rd." 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Full Steam Ahead to Holiday Break!

Research challenge of the week (a new regular feature):
The prize goes to Charlie Adl who was looking for literary criticism on an obscure satirical writer named James Pinkerton, whose work How to Write Suspense was published in a now defunct online magazine called Modern Humorist (2000-2003). Beyond the original text itself, we were not able to find what he was looking for (it doesn't seem to exist), but using the database Literature in Context, we were able to find analysis of satire as a genre, which helped Charlie complete his assignment. This new feature was inspired by Dan Russel's blog, SearchReSearcher.

We are thinking of re-naming December: National Research Month! There are lots of really interesting research projects going on across the disciplines, and we are helping students through these processes.

In Social Studies, Ms. Arastu's Global II students are creating the OP-ED section of an 1833 newspaper in which they critically review and extoll the virtues of the effects of industrialization in England. Their newspaper is being modeled on the "Room for Debate" section of The New York Times and will be published within the NCPS domain on a Google Site.

Honors Earth Science students in Ms. McLellan's class are researching the impact of climate change
 on different regions of the globe and making predictions about the future of that region. Research is complete and predictions are being drafted. Ultimately, the students will publish their findings on a Google My Map so that they can reflect on the bigger picture by comparing their regional information and conclusions.





The Game Design UX (user experience) station in the library was a hit! Thanks to all of the students who volunteered as beta testers and gave feedback to their peers! Each day, the names of the students who played games and provided feedback were put into a drawing for some rather cool prizes. The winners were:
  • Monday: Thomas won a portable charger
  • Tuesday: Spencer won Krispy Chicken
  • Wednesday: Gabe won Rams Cafe lunch
  • Thursday: Finn won $10 to Tony's Deli
The game design students are now returning to their games to incorporate the feedback they received before submitting their final games as their course exam. Good luck, gamers!

Audio book page

Tech Tip of the Week:

Since Dr. Marc Brackett's visit to the high school on November 30th, we've been talking about EQ (Emotional Intelligence). But in our planning discussions about our February professional learning, we discovered a tool that measures Digital Quotient Intelligence (DQ - not Dairy Queen!). For more on Digital Intelligence, check out this article from the World Economic Forum.




SCOTUS
Frosh speech
Seniors Lit

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Early December

Hour of Code
 makerspace is ready for #hourofcode
December 5-11 is designated as 2016's Hour of Code week. Students are encouraged to try a one-hour self-led tutorials each day of the week to begin understanding the basic elements of coding. We moved six computer stations to the makerspace for the week, and posted instructions to access a wide array of tutorials. Our NHCS Techxperts will be on hand to field questions and help troubleshoot.

Question Formulation Technique
Word cloud of student responses
As a follow-up to the election day professional learning workshop we facilitated on inquiry, we launched the English junior research paper by asking students to engage in an exercise called the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to develop research questions (lesson). This activity was inspired by the book, Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana and The Right Question Institute. The strategy helps learners deepen their thinking about the research process on a topic, and many succeeded in using the activity to turn research "topics" into research questions. We surveyed participants after the activity asking them for feedback, and learned that over 93 percent enjoyed the lesson, and 82 percent were able to use the activity to generate research questions. In a follow-up activity using question stems and research question drafts, all students were able to generate their working research questions, and thus move from the "Wonder" phase of the research process into "Inquiry".

Research on Students' Research Skills
Juniors developing research questions in English
In November, Stanford University's Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) released its Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning report. In their own words, civic online reasoning is "the ability to judge the credibility of information that floods young people’s smartphones, tablets, and computers." Over the course of eighteen months, SHEG "administered 56 tasks to students across 12 states. In total, we collected and analyzed 7,804 student responses." Their field work involved students from underserved communities to those matriculated in well-funded high-performing school districts. They included college learners in the study as well.

Stanford SHEG Report
Their findings alarmed even their own researchers. Questions originally dismissed as "too easy" were eventually reintroduced to the instrument because their field work data consistently failed to meet their lowest expectations. We encourage parents, teachers, students and administrators alike to read the report, but this sentence from the "Big Picture" introduction states that "Our “digital natives” may be able to flit 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." Sadly, this is not a revelation to NCHS librarians. For years, we have co-taught with classroom teachers to help learners distinguish reporting from opining. This study reveals that the disconnect is even greater than we imagined. Students often struggle to distinguish paid content (advertising) from journalistic content. As we begin our work with junior teachers on the first of two required research papers juniors will be expected to complete this year, we will fold these new findings into our instructional planning.

Searching with EBSCO Discover Service (EDS)
In our last post, we shared information about our simplified EDS, and how students signed into Google can access all of our electronic content without having to re-authenticate with usernames and passwords. This month, while planning for junior research paper instruction, we developed the following tutorial which explains further how EDS works.



Spanish Language Resources
To support English Learners (EL), we created a tutorial on how to find Spanish reference and periodical articles using EDS. It follows:



Lexile help
We met with the special education teachers to review strategies that will help teachers and aides find resources at various reading levels (Lexile levels). Ms. Whiting created this handy guide to help our learning community better understand Lexile levels and how to match content with students' abilities. We posted them on the nchslibrary.info website (under teachers in the left navigation menu)