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.

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 website (under teachers in the left navigation menu) 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Mid November

Guess what question students most frequently text the library? If you guessed, "What is the user name and password to the database page?" you are correct. Another frequently texted question is, "How do I access eBooks?" Well, we are very proud to announce that we finally found a way to simplify accessing library resources. We are still fine-tuning our new systems by working closely with the folks who provide these services, so it is very important that students and teachers notify the library when they run into bugs (and there are bugs!). We can be emailed at and texted at (615) 669-6670.

This week, we added a search box to the library home page at Any search entered into the search box will cross search most of our databases. While this has been in place for a couple of years, the search box itself was only accessible through the password protected Database Page. Now, it is public. Before searching, we recommend that students log in to their account. This will automatically sign them on through to all the databases, eBooks, and magazines in the NCHS library collection.

We added individual links to all our databases in the right column of the search results in case students prefer searching that way. Each link in the list includes hover text with a description of the database. A digital carousel featuring our magazine collection appears above the search results. Students only need to click on the image of the magazine they want to read and flip through the content.

We made changes to the Destiny (the library's online catalog) sign in process as well. Students no longer need type in their authentication. So long as they are signed in to Google with their account, they only need to click on the large button to sign in with Google. Students using the Destiny Quest app for their handheld mobile device will need to sign out, and re-authenticate using the updated URL (leave out the http://)

Our digital magazine collection is featured among the search results as well. The list includes:

The AtlanticEsquire New Yorker
Automobile Design Food Popular Photography
Bloomberg Businessweek Forbes Rolling Stone
Car& Driver Horse & Rider Vanity Fair
ESPN Motortrend The Week

Friday, November 4, 2016

Early November in the Library and Beyond

We visited the Shark Tank at Saxe Middle School to serve as critical friends when the students presented their STEM projects. This year the seventh grade workshop has been redesigned to challenge students to create authentic solutions to problems they experience. The students define and research the problem, establish a vision for their solution, build a prototype, and pitch the final product. We are so grateful that they trusted our insight and our pedagogy so much that they welcomed us as panelists for these pitch sessions! For us it was a chance to see the learning that our future students are already doing and build connections with our middle school colleagues.

On Monday, November 7th, our online catalog, Destiny, will have an additional sign in option: Google! As students do in EasyBib, they will be able to click on the Google button without having to type to log in. Given that the most texted questions to the library involve passwords, we expect that students will be very pleased about this upgrade. We like being at the forefront of innovation. We like bringing new and exciting opportunities and services to our students. We like that providers trust our insight as active power users of their products. Sometimes that means we spend a lot of time on the phone with tech support getting everything to work as it should. When it does, it is excellent!

The game design class is gearing up to create their own video games. Ultimately, there final exam will be the creation of a game that either updates and improves a game from the early days of gaming or helps players experience and understand a current global problem. This is where we come in! We can work with the students to do the necessary research to understand these problems and reflect them accurately in their game. Furthermore, we are working to get a beta testing UX station running in the library so the game design students can get authentic feedback on their games and continuously improve them before their exam is due.

Some of the ninth and tenth grade biology students have been busy in the updated ColLaB (the former Lab B) doing research on infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance, and responses to spillover viruses to prevent global pandemics. Mrs. Cebulski and Mrs. Chieda are drawing upon the research skills the students have been developing with us and their social studies research projects to develop creative authentic assessments for these students in their science classes. We are enjoying supporting this creative work and gratified by the interdisciplinary transfer of research skills!

We can't let Halloween go without sharing our costumes! Día de Muertos inspired by Frida Kahlo. Even scarier than our makeup is that we can just go to our closets and keep finding these matching outfits.

No update would be complete without our bi-weekly Tech Tips; this installment: more on being a Google power searcher!

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Mario, Luigi, Destiny and more

In our last post we invited the community to help us choose our attire for costume day. Some people voted for Marcia and Jan Brady. Others liked the Double Mint Twins. Many people offered unique suggestions that we hadn't even considered. We really appreciate everyone's participation and contributions! Without further adieu...  the verdict was: Mario and Luigi by write-in suggestion! Our hats were a bit oversized and our moustaches very itchy, but it sure was fun to spend a day in comfy overalls! Thanks to everyone who contributed to choosing our spirit week costume day attire. There were many popular suggestions. Maybe one of them will make an appearance for Halloween.

We've been working with EBSCO to improve our search results in EBSCO Discovery Service, or EDS (the "search widget" at the top of the database page). While extremely useful, the search results sometimes feel overwhelming to younger high school learners. It cross-searches 36 of our databases and approximately 125,000 ebooks all at once, providing very detailed filtering options. Until now, students would have to enter the username and password for most results before accessing them. We are currently developing a system for students to authenticate once, early in the search process with their Google sign in, which would automatically open subsequent results for that search session without additional authentication.

We spoke at the Parent Faculty Association meeting this week. Its theme was, "Know Your School Resources", and each department chair was invited to share one slide and five minutes with parents. We made a video highlighting the top ten things students, parents, and educators should know about New Canaan High School Library. It follows: 

We opened a photo album for the school year, and added it to the library website. It streams on our "Photos" page (left navigation menu) at 

Teachers continue to use the makerspace with their classes. This week, Mr. Stevenson brought AP Psychology students to create 3D models of brains. Students worked in groups in ColLaB (formerly known as Computer Lab B) in the library to design their brains, and then used materspace resources, including the 3D printer, to create their models. 

Our online catalog, Destiny was upgraded on October 12. While school was closed, our virtual library was active. The new version features single sign on with Google, a Chrome extension in Google search results, topic search, and MLA 8 citations. Students searching for eBooks texted the library (615-669-6670) to inquire about the new interface. We created a couple of tutorials to help them navigate the desktop and mobile applications.

A critical aspect of the research process is source evaluation. You may be aware of the C.R.A.A.P. test students learn to apply to sources they encounter while researching. In a nutshell, students learn to assess a source's currency, relevance, authorship, accuracy and purpose before incorporating information from that source into their arguments. When we are coaching students in the application of this test we are reminded of a growing movement to introduce alternatives to textbooks into the collection of encyclopedic or reference materials commonly used in classrooms. Matt Miller is one of the people at the forefront of this approach; his movement, Ditch That Textbook, and the pedagogy behind it are gaining national traction. As our database collection becomes increasingly rich, students have wider access to sources that have been vetted, which makes the students savvier consumers of non-textbook material they find on their own.

We are very proud of the program we continue to build and finesse. At the root of all we do is a commitment to student learning, to helping to prepare the students to engage in the digital world that awaits them after NCHS. It is gratifying when practicing and aspiring librarians and other teachers around the country solicit our feedback regarding programs they are developing. Over the last couple of weeks we have been shadowed by visitors from many different schools and certification programs so that they can learn how to better meet the needs of their own students by observing what we do here. We know that teaching and learning is collaborative, not competitive, and embrace what colleagues can learn from each other.

Tech Tips:
  • Did you know that just like our database search tools prompt you to use limiters to improve your search results, so does Google? Try Advanced Search!
  • Try using country top level domains to search for information outside of the US. For example, a news search in returns Canadian news sources!
  • Will introduced us to a newsfeed app we LOVE! Check out 

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Early October: We Need YOUR Input!

It is time to choose look-alike costumes for spirit week and we are inviting you to help us decide what we will be.

Check back in two weeks to see pictures of us in the winning costumes!

Constructed a tool
for measurement in science
We have been very busy with on-going research projects and new ones that are being introduced. We are excited to be collaborating with the new members of the various departments and continuing the great work that has been on-going with veteran colleagues. This week we have begun working with American Studies (AMSTUD) on their junior research paper focused on the Bill of Rights and its place in contemporary society. Increasingly, the products of students' intensive research is including artifacts rendered in the makerspace. This week Ms. Patrizzi's Global II classes created representations of the many faces of absolutism and Ms. Steidl's students furthered their exploration of character complexity with their layered, symbolic constructions.
Nearpod student learning report

BYOD has enabled us to present our library lessons in a way that is interactive with the students. Using Nearpod we are able to collect instant feedback on students' understanding of the steps of the research process and their ability to access the array of resources the library supports.

NCHS makerspace has a 3-page spread
in  School Library Connections.

The reach of the library program is being extended by our independent study STEAM initiatives. The TechXperts and Maker Majors (M2) met for a luncheon last week to kick off these programs for the 2016-2017 year. We are so pleased to see so much interest from students in all four grades who each bring unique experiences and talents to our library offerings. By joining one of these programs students are committing to their own learning as well as to supporting the learning of their classmates through service at the TechXpert desk, facilitating project work in the makerspace, or teaching workshops to interested students and teachers.

Lots of independent reading is happening and new book displays appear regularly. We are opening October with two new displays. One pairs books from our collection with national month-of-October observations. The other is a display of book recommendations featuring the Science Department. From fiction to non-fiction, military to sci-fi, serious to light-hearted, they managed to find something for everyone. We are very grateful that they so enthusiastically participated in this initiative. Stay tuned to see which department we feature next! We continue to expand the ways in which students can access the library collection. By downloading the Destiny Discover app (also available in Google Play) and inputing the NCHS library information, students can access over 1,000 eBooks, and 130 audiobooks from our collection. There are so many ways students can take their reading on the go! 

#SWVBC 10/5/2016
On October 5th, at 6PM NCHS students met with us both face-to-face in the library, and virtually from home to connect with book clubs from James Caldwell High School in New Jersey and Paul M. Dorman High School in South Carolina to discuss Some Boys by Patty Blount. The author joined us online for the entire hour, helping us better understand her motivation for writing the book. Our Somewhat Virtual Book Club meets on the first Wednesday of the month to discuss a pre-selected book. The November selection is I Will Save You by Matt de la Pena. To learn more, Contact us at

Club Fair 2016
The 2016 Club Fair was a huge success. The library advises four co-curricular groups:
  • Maker Majors
  • Techxperts
  • S.T.E.A.M. Club
  • Somewhat Virtual Book Club (see above)
Our first S.T.E.A.M. club meeting, which includes both Techxperts and Maker Majors, will take place on Wednesday, October 26th at 2:15 PM in the makerspace. We will select officers, clarify our mission, establish expectations, and provide sweets to eat.

Bob Ross fans abound at NCHS!
Bob Ross. Did you know he was a thing? It turns out that many students find his voice soothing and his majestic landscapes calming and centering. Many times during the day clusters of students gather to study and work on projects and display Bob Ross painting tutorials in the background as they work. We must admit, on a particularly frenetic day when we are running back and forth to many different classes, a couple of minutes watching Bob Ross and his fan brush nudge a weathered cabin to emerge from a cluster of pines is rather palliative. And, the library has a revolving collection of oil paintings on display!

Tech Tips:

  • Download eBooks & Audiobooks with Destiny Discover!
  • It's almost time to change your password
  • Check your privacy settings in social media and apps!

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mid-September: Going Strong!

We were very excited to meet so many parents at Open House. Thanks to all the parents who shared favorite books with us. You are all part of a new display in the MakerSpace called "New Canaan Parents Recommend..." It is hard to resist reading a book that someone heartily endorses!

EasyBib is back! Due to corporate shifts that occurred last year at EasyBib, we had decided to transition to NoodleTools for student citation work. Unfortunately it became apparent in just the first two weeks of school that NoodleTools was not a good fit for us: we were sacrificing too much instructional time in NoodleTools guidance to make it worthwhile. Last week, as research projects ramped up, we needed to make a decision and make it fast. With the release by the Modern Language Association last April of a new citation protocol (MLA 8) it is essential that we maintain a quality and easily accessible service. EasyBib, missing us, was amenable to restoring our relationship and we were able to resume their use. Favorable responses from students abound! We consulted as many people as we could in making this decision, so if you are pleased about it, please thank Garrett who served as the spokesperson for the students during these conversations!

With the familiarity of EasyBib restored, students are engrossed in many different research experiences. Many of the ninth graders are wondering: RU What U Eat? and are getting their first exposure to our databases in pursuit of answers to this essential question. In tenth grade, student sleuths are seeking the murderer of Philip II or preparing to serve in a symposium on Absolutism. In this grade, the students are challenged to extend their skills beyond reporting to deeper research and reflection. Grade ten students will learn to synthesize the information they find to create unique meaning and show their insight. Our juniors, having already experienced the research projects of freshmen and sophomore year, will soon be undertaking the first of their two junior research papers. We are eager to get into classes with them, too!

School-wide there many places students can connect their BYOD devices to projectors for presentation or collaboration purposes. In order to take advantage of this utility students need to bring an HDMI cable with them. Please be sure that the cable adapter matches the device ports. If your student has any questions, anyone in the library and tech services is happy to assist!

Did your student participate in The Big History Read? Through this program, Ms. Goldhawk energized students in ninth and tenth grades to independently read fiction and non-fiction that complimented and extended their history studies. This year, Ms. Goldhawk is teaching  civics and law to upperclassmen so we have worked with her to develop a corollary to TBHR called TBLR (The Big Law Read). We are excited about the expansion to our vibrant collection this venture has inspired.

NCHS's bookshelf: tblr

The Abduction
tagged: nchs-legal-thrillers and tblr
Absolute Power
tagged: nchs-legal-thrillers and tblr
tagged: nchs-legal-thrillers and tblr
After Dark
tagged: nchs-legal-thrillers and tblr

We added two new database suites to our digital collection. Global Newsbank includes three modules - Access World News, Latin American Newspapers, and Foreign Broadcast Information Service. Students will find all three of these resources indispensable for weekly current events reports, as well as assured learning experiences throughout the NCHS curriculum. We also subscribed to a new suite of Gale products for several reasons. First, they organize search results into categories that align well with the NCHS research model, and also because it integrates seamlessly with Google Drive and Google Classroom Google integration.
Destiny, our online catalog has a new interface for students. We think it will simplify searching for materials print or digital materials in our collection. It is important for students to

On Wednesday, October 5th, our Somewhat Virtual Book Club (#swvbc) will gather face-to-face in the high school library at 6PM to meet virtually with students in South Carolina, New Jersey, and California to share thoughts on this month's book, Some Boys by Patty Blount. The author has agreed to join us virtually! Author participation plays an important role in our club. This month, we included the author handle in a twitter post about a #SWVBC member wearing a book-inspired outfit. The author enthusiastically responded. It was a great moment for our NCHS reader!

Our club seeks new members. We meet on the first Wednesday of the month at 6PM in the high school library.

We have a Google Photos account! We linked it to our website, and we hope to add a carousel of library activity pictures to our home page within the next few weeks.

Tech Tips of the week:
  • Set up multiple Google Chrome accounts and toggle between accounts to save time. 
  • Download extra browsers to your device to help troubleshoot when you cannot access an online resource. 
  • Mac users: Protect your AirDrop. Keep it locked down when not using it to avoid exposing your files to everyone in the BYOD network. 
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