Friday, April 28, 2017

While the End is in Sight, We Are Still Focused on Instruction

Changes in the Library

We anticipate two significant changes in 2017-2018.

  • A very large incoming freshman class
  • New carpet in the library



This prompted us to consider which changes to make in the library over the summer in preparation for next year, so we hosted three 20 minute open meetings during lunch on Wednesday, April 26 in the American Studies suite to invite students and faculty help us brainstorm ideas. Turnout was low. Two students and three teachers stopped in, but they did have quite a few ideas to share. Their feedback is linked here. In order to make this process as inclusive as possible, we are opening the opportunity for further input through this form. If you missed the meeting, please add you thoughts by Friday, May 5.



Bibliography Feedback

In our April 1, 2017 post, we featured some changes we've been working on to help students get timely and detailed feedback on their bibliography drafts.  Here's what we developed next, and here is what we hope to add.

We showcased the system at last week's faculty meeting, and over 70 students have used it thus far. We hope to make two further and important modification over the next few weeks:

  • Script an automated email response into the form response spreadsheet to send students their score and coded feedback as soon as we post it
  • Generate an graph that interacts with the spreadsheet featuring most common NCHS bibliography mistakes. We would embed into the MLA 8 help page

While grading, we discovered that students who received library instruction on accessing library support resources performed 30% better on their assessments than did those who did not.


Summer Reading

Summer reading is around the corner. That's when we get to catch up on what's new and exciting in publishing. Our summer reading list is primarily recreational. It's purpose is to connect our learners with resources they may enjoy.

We generally keep the list relatively short – under one hundred books so as not to overwhelm. We are mindful of genre, audience, reading levels, and diverse themes. We focus on contemporary publications - the last two years or so, but we also include a few classics. We aim for balance between young adult and adult literature. Please feel free to add your suggestions here

Keeping in mind that our library users include young teens and adults, our list is thematically comprehensive. Not every book is for every library user. Selection is part of the reading process and we encourage young readers to be reflective about their choices - to contextualize them with their personal and family values - to read reviews and publisher notes, to make predictions about whether a book will suit their interests, and also to switch to a different book when one falls short of their expectations. There are so many books to enjoy. Summer is not the time to slog through a book that holds little appeal.

As in previous years, New Canaan (town) Library runs a dynamic Summer Reading Program. Kathleen Crouse, New Canaan Library’s Teen Librarian will facilitate that, and we sent our copies of the summer reading books to the town library so students may borrow them over the summer months.

We aggregate our summer reading list in GoodReads - which is a social book recommendation site. The entire NCHS learning community is invited to connect, share what they are reading, rate books, and write reviews. Again, the list is here, and the tabs at the bottom of the sheet allow viewers to switch organization – title, author, genre, etc.

Here are some recent pictures from the library:

Checking out our new robotic Sphero

Teaching Cricut

Sphero is quite popular!

I figured it out!

Can I try?

Building an alien for science

More alien building

Look what we got!

Art for Mr. Joshi's classroom

We made slime!

We love that the makerspace had the ingredients!

ColLabB learning

Student teaching

More ColLabB learning

Movie making (and having fun too!)

Friday, April 7, 2017

New Approach to Teaching Research Documentation

For the past several posts, we've shared our reflections on what students understand and know how to do in terms of research. 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.