Thursday, November 30, 2017

Flipping & Badging

On the surface, one would think that creating a list of consulted resources is a mechanical, lower-order thinking task, but creating citations involves resource evaluation.

The chart below cross-walks Essential Questions (EQs) with the nine Modern Language Association (MLA 8) elements of a citation, and the widely used C.R.A.P. Test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Purpose). The citation seldom helps learners evaluate the accuracy of their source, but it does tell them something about currency, relevance, authority, and purpose. Creating a citation will not help researchers evaluate a resource as a stand-alone activity, but it will help learners think more analytically about what they are consulting.

Learning, practicing, and perfecting research documentation habituates students to reviewing author bios, reading "About" pages, checking dates, and deconstructing URLs. This goes a long way toward sharpening students’ skepticism – a disposition that serves researchers brilliantly.

Back in October, we introduced a new strategy to teach all students in grades 9-11 how to create a bibliography following the new Modern Language Association's guidelines (MLA 8). This has been a year long process. Each week, we think of new ways to improve the system.

Digital badges work! If we'd known the degree to which digital badging would incentivize learning, we would have introduced them ages ago. In our last post on this topic, we were just about to launch a digital badging program in the library Moodle. Moodle is one of the high school's current learning management systems.

"My badges" in Moodle

Showing off an IRL badge

15 Digital Badges Earn 1 IRL Badge!

Students watch our 14 instructional videos (as a homework assignment in grades 10 and 11; in class for 9th graders). After watching each video, students take a mini quiz. A sample question follows:

When students click the "check" button, feedback appears. Correct responses generate validation feedback, whereas incorrect responses generate additional instruction on that concept. Students may re-attempt each quiz as many as three times.

When a student's quiz score meets the established criteria, he/she is issued a digital badge. This is automated, so it occurs instantly. When class meets again, students should theoretically have 14 badges. Then, one of the librarians administers a 10-15 minute quiz in class. A score of 75 or higher will earn students their fifteenth badge. Nearly 400 students have taken this quiz since October 17, 2017.

We encourage students to submit their bibliographies to the library Moodle for feedback. In fact, many teachers require it. In a recent analysis of 65 bibliographies, we learned that the program is effective in improving student learning outcomes.

The table above features data for three ninth grade history classes. This is brand new learning for these students. They have never created bibliographies from scratch before. In middle school, they relied on EasyBib, an online citation generator, to do this work for them. The learning curve is steep and it will require many tries and much practice before the process feels seamless to them. Given that context, a 60% success rate is excellent this early in the school year. While we did not collect data last year, anecdotal feedback from teachers assures us that we are on the right track.

Nearly 200 students have submitted bibliographies for review since October 23, 2017. In order to provide timely feedback to each student, we embedded grading criteria into Moodle to establish clear expectations for student success. It follows:

We embedded a comment bank to support learners and teach them how to improve their work. We had one last year, but we streamlined it by cutting to half as many comments. The list is embedded below.

Because this list is embedded in Moodle, we can click relevant comments into each of the ten grading criteria fields to personalize feedback. This not only helps students understand what they got wrong, but how to fix it, and for those who need further explanation, each comment includes a link to examples, such as the one below. 

What learning looks like at New Canaan High School Library: 

NCHS Library 2017-2018

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Many Faces of Absolutism
"Maker education fosters curiosity, tinkering, and iterative learning, which in turn leads to better thinking through better questioning."~ Laura Fleming

Timer Task

Cell Membrane Model
Our library Makerspace is really booming! We now have space and materials for 3D printing, virtual reality, coding, robotics, and creating with maker materials. Teachers have been scheduling their classes in the makerspace, as well as the collaborative spaces in the library to work on exciting projects that tie in with their learning objectives and curriculum. Some of the projects completed in the Makerspace so far this year, with teacher and librarian collaboration, include The Many Faces of Absolutism (Global 2), Timer Task (Earth Science), Board Game Prototypes (Game Design), Thoreau Children’s Book (AMSTUD), River Valley Museum Exhibit (Global 1), Cell Membrane Models (Biology), Writing Prompt Creation (Creative Writing), and Principles of Economics Posters (Economics). Click on the assignments to see more information about each project.

River Valley Museum

In addition to teachers scheduling our space for their classes, students drop in and out regularly to work on academic assignments, school-wide activities and personal creative projects on their own time. Our TechXperts and Maker Majors are preparing to set up Maker Challenges and educational workshops for students who want to learn coding, create videos, and make circuits, among other things.

TechXpert Independent Study Project

Our calendar is available to view online. If you follow this link you can see what is scheduled, as well as the classes that have been through the Makerspace. Click on any event and "more details" to see an attached assignment document.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Meet our Databases!


This has traditionally been our most popular database. We actually have to DIScourage students from using it once they get past the reference phase of their research. It has, to a large extent, replaced our print reference collection.
    1. World History The Modern Era
    2. World History Ancient and Medieval Eras
    3. World at War
    4. American History
    5. American Government
    6. World Geography
    7. Modern Genocide
    8. Daily Life
    9. World Religions
    10. Issues
    11. American Indian Experience
    12. U.S. Geography


  1. OpenAthens
OpenAthens is the third party software that enables students to log on to ALL databases simply by being logged into their account in the browser they are using to access them (see lesson). Until we subscribed to this Single Sign On (SSO) service, database use was impeded by authentication issues. Since SSO, our database usage is up by 34 percent.
  1. EBSCO Modules
    1. Points of View
This database provides opposing points of view on contemporary issues. It is similar to the New York Times’ Room for Debate and Gale’s Opposing Viewpoints in Context, but it features different content than the others. Students find these resources particularly helpful when working on OP-Ed pieces in 10th grade English and the Junior Research Papers in 11th grade.
    1. EBSCO Discovery Service
This is a service that permits students to cross-search most of our database content through one search widget. In tandem with OpenAthens, this service streamlines database searching for students and generates extremely relevant search results. It also generates fairly accurate MLA 8 citations for all its content.
    1. Academic eBook Collection
Through this collection, students have access to over 123, 000 ebook titles. The collection includes texts in world languages, highly specialized manuals and technical information as well as reference materials. It is impressively inclusive.   
    1. Flipster
This is the portal that provides our learning community with access to our online magazine collection (there’s an app for that!). The list grows a little each year. This year, it includes

The Atlantic
Automobile Magazine
Bloomberg Businessweek
Car & Driver
ESPN Magazine
Food Network Magazine
Gentleman’s Quarterly
Horse & Rider
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
Mother Jones
Motor Trend
The New Yorker
Rolling Stone
Vanity Fair
The Week

    1. Poetry and Short Story Finder
Students searching for poems and short stories are often surprised to find that what they seek is not always available on the free Web. Authors frequently withhold their work from the open Internet to protect their intellectual property. This database provides learners with access to full-text poems and short stories. They use it 11th and 12th grade English classes.


  1. Gale is the only database provider that recognizes the limitations Library of Congress’ resource classification and chooses to label reference resources as they are: Reference. This amplifies our message that there are appropriate times in the the research process to use reference materials and that there are other times, as students move through the research model, when reference materials are inappropriate.
  2. Gale Opposing Viewpoints - Students love its interface. We gave this up for one year because we felt the state of Connecticut provided us with a similar product, but we brought it back in response to student and teacher demand.
  3. Google Classroom and Google Drive are now integrated into Gale so students can highlight and annotate their readings, create citations, and send them on to their school Google Drive account. Teachers can send articles and resources to their Google Classroom and share them with classes. It is the most seamless integration of Google into database services we have seen. We added the following modules to our collection.
  1. Gale Global Issues in Context
There is no comparable product on the market, and it is aligned with our 9th and 10th grade history curriculum
  1. Gale Literature Resource Center
Literary criticism and author biography
  1. Gale LitFinder
Similar to EBSCO’s Poetry and Short Story Finder, but more navigable interface and more K-12 aligned content
  1. Gale World History in Context
  2. Gale US History in Context
  3. Gale Science in Context


This database features copyrighted scholarly and peer-reviewed periodical articles. It is the gold standard in higher education libraries. Our students will be expected to know how to navigate its admittedly clunky interface as they move into the next phase of their academic careers. This product is integral to our learners’ high school to college transition.


We have a long and proud history of NOT using subscription resources to publish our instructional content. But our LessonPaths/Blogger combination has failed us this past year on two fronts:
  • Ad content on Blogger
  • Downtime in LessonPaths
We want to provide students with the best possible user experience when it comes to library instruction. Therefore, we are adding a subscription to LibGuides (the industry standard across K-12 and higher education libraries).


This subscription includes three very distinct modules.
  1. Oxford English Dictionary
There is no other dictionary like it, and we no longer carry it in print.
  1. Oxford Art Online
This is the only database we have that specifically targets the Visual and Performing Arts curricular program. It supports learning in 9th and 10th grade history courses as well, particularly the museum project, which asks students to defend their selections for a hypothetical museum exhibit about Mesopotamia and other River Valley civilizations.
  1. Social explorer - This database allows students to interact with demographic information through maps, charts, and graphs. It helps learners discover new strategies for consuming, mashing, and publishing census data.


After a long hiatus, we resubscribed to this service because they overhauled their interface. Newsbank allows students to cross search most English Language periodicals and news sources (including televisions and radio transcripts) from specific countries and/or regions of the world. This is an essential research tool for 9th and 10th grade English and social studies learners as they are expected to do country studies over and over again, each time from a  different perspective - not an American one. Access World News also includes regional American newspapers including local publications and these serve the Civics classes as they work on regional politics for mock elections and senate simulations. Our collection includes 3 modules:
  1. Access World News
  2. Latin American Newspapers
This historical newspaper collection is used for the Revolutionary Diaries Project (10th grade history)
  1. Foreign Bureau Information Service (FBIS)
Historical newspapers from around the world - extremely useful for point of view comparisons during world conflicts such as World Wars, civil wars, and/or genocides.


We primarily use ProQuest for its newspaper collections. These play a vital role in our news literacy instructional program.
  1. Research library:
    1. The Economist Archive (1992 - present)
    2. Another 692 publications including
      1. Scholarly Journals (‎502)
      2. Trade Journals (‎85)
      3. Magazines (‎82)
  2. Historical Newspapers
    1. Christian Science Monitor‎ (1908 - 2004)
    2. The Washington Post‎ (1877 - 2000)  
    3. New York Times (1851 - 2013)  
    4. Hartford Courant (1764 - 1922)
  1. National Newspapers
    1. The Christian Science Monitor‎  (1988 - current)
    2. Hartford Courant‎  (1992 - current)
    3. Los Angeles Times‎  (1985 - current)
    4. The Wall Street Journal‎  (1984 - current)
    5. The Washington Post‎  (1987 - current)


Database of public opinion surveys, such as Gallup, the New York Times, Quinnipiac, ABC, etc. information starts in 1930. This is an excellent resource for examining change over time (demonstration of how students can use this resource to generate change over time statistics).


  1. CQ Researcher
A Staple in the 11th grade curriculum to complete an assured experience called Congress and the American Dream.
  1. CQ State Stats
Widely used among Civics classes for senate simulations


This database aggregates polling and census data from around the world and presents search results in a variety of formats, including spreadsheets so students can sort, reorganize and mash-up their findings (example).