New Publications, Fall 2014

I am delighted to share two recent publications I’ve co-authored that have recently hit the press this fall!

First, my Cleveland Public Library colleague Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz and I have co-written a chapter for Reimagining Reference in the 21st Century from Purdue University Press that is part of the Charleston Insights in Library, Archival, and Information Sciences.   Our chapter,
“Participatory Approaches to Building Community-Centered Libraries,” focuses on an expanded conceptualization of “reference” and how community needs and the data we can glean from our community can drive library programming, services, and instruction.   A heartfelt thank you to our editors David A. Tyckoson and John G. Dove for the invitation to write and for their encouragement.

Secondly, Kristin Fontichiaro (University of Michigan) and I have co-authored an article for the September-October 2014 issue of Knowledge Quest, the journal of the American Association of School Librarians.   Our article “Undercurrents” calls into question the traditional precepts of defining school librarian success and invites our fellow librarians to be part of a larger conversation to rethink what it means to be a “good” school librarian today.   A sincere thank you to guest co-editors Beth Friese and Melissa Techman for their efforts with this issue.

Pre-Search and Mindmapping to Narrow a Topic Focus

mindmapping17

In my last post, I shared how we were moving deeper with our second round of more targeted pre-search after students had narrowed topic choices to one from their work with the first phase of pre-search.  To help our students begin to make sense of the information they had collected during their second round of pre-search, Sarah and I introduced mindmapping to our two classes.   There were a couple of factors that influenced this decision:

Getting Started and What We Did

mindmapping19

We introduced the concept of mindmapping by defining what it was, discussing ways we could use utilize it, looking at examples, and then offering three approaches to give students a starting point.  We gave them the choice of using one of our approaches, mashing and mixing up those options to make it their own, or mapping in an original that made sense to them.  We encouraged them to go deeply back into their annotations and KWL notes as they looked at their work both horizontally and vertically through the mindmapping processes.  We provided them oversized blue sticky notes although a few students selected a larger version of the easel-sized Post-It Notes.  In addition, we provided a small tub full of different colored Sharpies, and Sarah provided a jumbo box of Crayola markers.  We also gave students many choices in sizes of smaller sticky notes they could use if they wanted to identify patterns they were saying or to incorporate into the mindmap as an organizational tool for smaller bits of information.

Note:  In hindsight, I would introduce Evernote to students as a tool for organizing or capturing their work on the Post-it notes and purchase the sticky note types recommended by Evernote so that students could later easily search their handwritten notes (also see these recommended oversized Post-It notes that would be perfect for this activity).  Evernote would be a perfect way to help students archive and organize these types of notes, and it would be a great medium for students to take advantage of our district’s new BYOD policies this year.

Students spent roughly 3.5 days working on their maps.  We were struck by how intensely they worked and how focused they were in class on drafting their mindmaps as well as the diversity in the ways they organized their ideas.  While some students worked alone, most chose to partner with a research/inquiry buddy as they composed their mindmaps.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the end of each day, we asked students to hang their works in progress in the windows of our rotunda area for safekeeping; these maps, though, quickly became a conversation piece in the library as well as a form of art!   The mindmap gallery is something I highly recommend if you have wall or window space to do it.  We were a bit awestruck that nearly every student came in on the second and third days and grabbed their mindmaps with no prompting before immediately settling into their work.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sharing Our Thinking Aloud in Small and Large Groups

The next step in our process upon completing our mindmaps was to have students pair up and interview each other about their mindmaps.  We asked students to share with each other:

  • how they approached their mindmap
  • how the mindmapping process helped them hone in on their topics
  • how the mindmapping process helped them think more deeply and/or differently about their topic
  • what was clearer to the student about their topic after completing the mindmapping process
  • patterns or themes that might have emerged through the mindmapping process
  • gaps or missing pieces of information/questions still lingering after the mindmapping process

We provided the students a handout to help them take notes about their responses, but after seeing how our 2nd period students were stymied from verbal conversation by having this handout during the interviewing piece of the activity, we waited until after they had to time to discuss before giving it to students with our 3rd period class.  Once students finishing interviewing each other and recording their responses, we asked them to look at the topic triangle/funnel on that same handout and to to share/discuss/record how they had narrowed their topic through the mindmapping process. This part of the activity took roughly 25 or so minutes.

We then moved to large group share with each pair of students coming up to the Verb easel board, hanging their mindmaps, and sharing their responses from the pair-share interviews with the entire class.  This part of the activity served a couple of purposes:

  • We wanted students to hear each other’s thinking and processes aloud so that they could hopefully gain insights from each other and to see the diversity in the way they approached the task and how the mindmapping was helping them toward a more focused topic for further research.
  • It was an opportunity for Sarah and I to constructively pose questions about the ideas they were sharing and “conference” aloud with the students as part of our efforts to confirm they were heading on the right track or to “nudge” their thinking if they were still a bit unfocused or too broad with their topics.  Students could also ask questions of those speaking or to offer suggestions.  Most students were very comfortable with this aspect of the group share, but we did find there were those who were pushed out of their comfort zone since many of their previous “research” experiences were somewhat superficial and did not require them to really focus a self-selected topic.  While it is a challenging endeavor, we know that students building resilience in developing a topic is an academic skill they will need for future academic experiences.  We will continue to follow-up with individual or small group conferences over the next week with those who still needed some help in further focusing their topic.
  • We like giving them opportunities to speak in front of their peers–these experiences are gentle “rehearsals” that help them warm-up for larger presentations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This large group share took about a class period’s worth of time over two days.   I hope to have a follow-up blog post to this one up tomorrow or Monday with some student feedback/interview with their reflections on these processes and activities.

In the meantime, I want to share just  a few things Sarah and I have observed in this extended inquiry unit so far in recent days and that we’re contemplating:

  • As energizing as inquiry-based work is for some students, it can be frustrating or even threatening to other students because this approach disrupts the traditional ways of academic success and learning in our test driven culture (I know, you’ve heard me say this multiple times in the past!).   Finding the balance between gently pushing students and honoring that discomfort as you try to help students work through it is not always easy, especially when their frustration may even manifest itself in negative behaviors toward you as an instructor or even toward fellow students.
  • We’ve both been thinking more intentionally about assessment and struggling with the realities of grade-driven school experiences that impact both teachers and students.   Helping students keep their eye on what they are learning, encouraging them to risks as learners, and asking them to have faith in you during this process can all be challenging tasks, but we believe they are all worth our efforts to help our students.  I’ll also write more about formative assessment related to their annotating skills and KWL charts in an upcoming post to share dilemmas of assessing this kind of “process” work in a way that is true to the spirit of our inquiry unit as well as what we have learned in looking at these pieces of work.
  • It is an absolute joy to work with another teacher in this way—I have learned so much from Sarah over these last few weeks and so admire how well she knows her students and how that factors into the way she not only responds to them and interacts with them but how those insights inform the way we shape and tweak our learning activities to meet them at their points of need as learners and individuals.  I also love that I’m learning from the students and genuinely appreciate the opportunity to have extended time with them in this unit.

As part of our efforts to give them some strategies for narrowing their topics or to look at their topics through different lenses or perspectives, we utilized a strategy from my friend and colleague Heather Hersey, a school librarian in Seattle.  I’ll discuss this strategy and how it led to one final activity in this progression of learning experiences for helping students narrow a topic in my next blog post.  Overall, we are very pleased with the incorporation of mindmapping into the inquiry process—so much in fact that students will actually be incorporating them into their multigenre projects they’ll be creating soon (yes, a blog post forthcoming on that, too).  We hope you’ll continue to follow our journey of learning through our LibGuide where our Tweets, photos, resources, videos, and previous blog posts are all housed.

What strategies are you using to help students narrow their topics and take an inquiry stance on learning?  I would love to hear from anyone who is using mindmapping or other techniques to help students focus their topics and their pre-search in an organic and authentic way!

Written Conversation Strategies PD with Our NHS Faculty

write-around-faculty-oct2014-1

My fellow librarian Jennifer Lund and I were delighted yesterday to have the opportunity to do an hour PD session on Harvey Daniels’ written conversation strategies with our NHS Faculty.  Roughly 25 teachers, our principal, and one of our assistant principals attended the session; the mix of different departments, including Modern Languages, Science, Math, Language Arts, ESOL, Special Education, Social Studies, and Health and Physical Education, created a wonderful energy as all of our participants were truly engaged and enthusiastic!   This session was just one of many tasty offerings on our “Connect and Engage” staff development menu jointly offered by the Media and Technology Team with our awesome colleagues Logan Malm and Hope Black (our building Local School Technology Coordinators (LSTCs).

We kicked off the session by doing an actual write around text on text activity around the current hot topic of Ebola.  Our texts for annotating and discussing included:

  • Print copies of news articles
  • A PBS NewsHour video teachers could watch
  • Infographics
  • Photographs
  • A curated Storify from the Cleveland Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com
  • Charts

After reviewing the protocols for the first part of the activity, our faculty dove right into quietly annotating the different “texts” and responding to their peers’ comments and questions.

write-around-faculty-oct2014-3

write-around-faculty-oct2014-4

write-around-faculty-oct2014-2

After roughly 12 minutes of quiet writing, we then invited teachers select a table and to sit with at 2-3 other people.  Teachers were invited to look over the content (the texts and the responses from their peers) at their table and to discuss what stood out to them.  We then gave each group one of our Verb easels and asked them to summarize what they saw, thought, and wondered as well as questions they had about the content at their table.

write-around-faculty-oct2014-7

write-around-faculty-oct2014-6

write-around-faculty-oct2014-5

We then invited each group to do a brief large group share out:

share-out2

share-out

We took some time to answer questions about what we had just done from teachers, including some incredibly thoughtful questions about differentiating for different learner needs and ideas for scaffolding the activity.   We then did a short presentation of about 20 minutes to outline best practices, tips and strategies, and profiles of how we had utilized this learning structure with two of our faculty.

We were thrilled to get immediate positive feedback yesterday and have already signed up one teacher to come to the library next week to try the strategy!  Our day has been made today by several emails from participants sharing how much they enjoyed the session and how they are planning to implement the strategy in their classes soon.   We all look forward to seeing what collaborative partnerships may grow from this session and thinking about new ways to support our teachers and students through this learning structure!  We also want to extend a heartfelt  thank you to our colleagues Hope and Logan as well as our administration for supporting us and for their encouragement.

Below are our slides for the entire session:

Simple Yet Powerful Formative Assessment of IR with Sarah Rust

IR Sticky 3

Every Wednesday is Independent Reading (IR) day here in our Language Arts classes here at NHS.  Today, Language Arts teacher Sarah Rust, one of our awesome collaborative partners, did this very simple yet interesting formative assessment with her students.   The instructions:

IR Post It Instructions Rust

Students selected a sticky note of a color of their choosing and then composed their responses.  As an extra touch to celebrate the concept of IR, Ms. Rust then took their responses and fashioned them into the letters “IR.”   While this idea seems simple on the surface, the student responses were revealing and showed a wide range of book selections as well as reactions to the IR experience.  These can be a springboard to future IR learning activities and learning experiences for book selection and peer sharing.

IR Sticky 2

 

IR Sticky 4

 

It’s another reason why sticky notes are my favorite “technology” as of late!  This approach is a great way to do a quick individual assessment of student learning or where they are with their current IR as well as make an artistic class statement that represents every student voice.

Pre-Searching Round Two: Moving Toward a More Specific Topic for Research and Inquiry

presearch round 2students

After introducing students to some basics of information evaluation, we began our second phase of pre-searching on Monday, October 6.   Our learning targets included (based on our district content area standards and the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner):

  • I can use prior background knowledge as context for new learning.
  • I can find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions.
  • I can read widely and fluently to make connections with self, the world, and previous reading.
  • I can use my library time wisely to think deeply on my work and stay on task.

We began the conversation by discussing how this next-round of pre-search was going to be a little more strategic and structured since our first phase had given us a topic commitment and now it was time to start “cropping” the big picture to narrow our topic (hat tip to Pegasus Librarian for this wonderful metaphor and to my friend Kristin Fontichiaro for pointing me to it).

We then introduced our structures , steps, and resources for helping us go more deeply into our pre-search to help us read and reflect more intentionally while evaluating our information sources.

pre-search round 2 directions

 

We required students to print or create a hard copy of any information sources they were using so that they could highlight and annotate the text.  We then took time to discuss strategies for annotating informational text and how annotations help us think more deeply and purposefully about a text.  We drew heavily from reading and literacy expert Cris Tovani to create this handy “help” sheet on annotating texts for our students:

Annotating Text Strategies

We then shared with the students how the text annotations would be the bridge to our modified KWL for pre-search and how this reflective thinking, while time intensive for the present, would be essential and instrumental to building our existing knowledge of the topic so that we could hone in on a more specific focus.

On the backside of the hard copy of this chart was the information source evaluation checklist we had worked with the previous week in our research/inquiry circles.   We explained how we would use the CRAAP test and our assessment tool to evaluate the information source.  Once students had read and annotated an article, completed a KWL for that article, and completed the information evaluation assessment tool for that article, we asked them to staple that together as a “packet” and then add the information source to their EasyBib working bibliography.  We ended with a short EasyBib refresher and pointed students to specific tutorial videos we’ve created for a variety of resources.  

tempcheckWe then turned the students loose, and they began immersing themselves in the work.  Over the next few days, the primary role for Sarah, Jennifer, and me as instructors was to facilitate; most of our efforts were spent answering 1:1 questions and individual conferencing to help students keep moving forward or adjust their searching.   After doing a “temperature check” on Friday, October 10, we realized students needed one more additional day for searching, reading, annotating, and doing their metacognitive work with the KWL and information evaluation tool. This was an opportunity for students to wrap up their work while others took advantage of the extra day to get some additional  intensive and extended 1:1 help—most requests were related to search terms and techniques.  For these students, the personalized help was beneficial in moving them from a place where they felt stuck to discovering new sources.

The content in these pre-search “packets” will be the fodder for helping us move forward with the next step in narrowing topics:  mindmapping. We formally started this process of mindmapping today, and I’ll be writing more about that soon as well as the assessments and self-assessments we’re designing to think about where we are in our learning before moving forward into our next phase of inquiry!

Follow our journey:

Hashtag:  #rustyq

Our LibGuide

Blog post 1:  Inquiring with Students: What Do or Can “Good” Research Projects Look Like?

Blog post 2:  Beginning Our Research and Inquiry Experiences with Pre-Searching

Blog post 3:  Sticky Notes as Formative Assessment for Information Literacy Instruction: Coding Student Responses

Blog post 4:  Collaborative Information Source Evaluation: Research/Inquiry Circles and the CRAAP Test