research pathfinders

Extreme Monthly Library Report Makeover

Since opening my library in August of 2006, I have compiled a monthly report as part of my efforts to share what is happening with the library program and as a tool for reflection and action.  I have always completed paper reports using Microsoft Word and posted them on the library website as Word document or Adobe Acrobat PDF; each year, I have added tweaks and additional data.  Last year’s reports (you can see here or here) represented a somewhat dramatic improvement as I incorporated more images, improved graphic design, some additional quantitative data, and a correlation of collaborative lessons (and the accompanying research pathfinders) to assorted standards, including AASL, ISTE, and state performance standards (Georgia Performance Standards or GPS).

While I was pleased with the monthly reports and the culminating annual report for 2008-09, I wanted to add more depth and dimension for this school year to better illustrate what is happening with the library program.  In addition, I felt that a reporting format with more than just print data would help me evaluate my program more effectively and consequently, engage in more thoughtful decision-making.

Originally, I envisioned adding only a master a multimedia video format full of images and data to accompany the print format.  By late October, though, I had this vision of creating a web page in Google Sites for every collaborative assignment that would showcase the link to the pathfinder, student work, assessment tools, video, photos, and any other relevant material and to house these individual pages under an umbrella “month” page.   In addition, I wanted to complete a lesson or unit plan using the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learner template for each collaborative effort and to embed this on these individual pages as well.

While I had good intentions and grandiose visions of this form of reporting, the reality of library life , which has happily been more time-consuming than ever, prevented me from actually following through with my reporting ideas.   Until this year, I have been fairly punctual in creating and posting my reports, but I am sad to say that has not been the case this year!  About a week ago, I finally got a slight break in the action to get all my data together since August and to set about the task of getting caught up.  I realize more than ever that somehow, I must designate a day a month to make sure I stay on track with my reporting and reflection efforts whether I do so at work or at home.  While I feel guilty for letting the reports slide so long this year, I think I did so because I felt preparing the lessons and learning resources for all the collaborative lessons we’ve been doing this year took precedence.

So here is what I’m now including in my monthly reports, which I am generating via LibGuides:

  • A tab featuring an embedded print report (which I’ve uploaded to Slideshare and also attached as a PDF file), a photo show of events for that month, and a link roll to each research pathfinder
  • A tab featuring student video interviews
  • A tab featuring teacher video interview

I still need to catch up this week (I am on vacation) on the November, December, and January reports.  However, in the process of getting the August 2009, September 2009, and October 2009 monthly reports created, I’ve come to recognize several significant insights:

  • I have come up somewhat short in being consistent in incorporating student self-assessments and feedback tools (such as polls) on a regular basis in each research pathfinder; I am determined to correct this shortcoming by making it a tab/element in each LibGuides pathfinder.
  • I have not been consistent in creating links or space for student work to be featured on the pathfinder pages at the end of a project; I want to include a tab in each LibGuides pathfinder for this element.
  • I need to do a better job of collecting those student and teacher quotes so that I can incorporate more as qualitative data into the print report.
  • I have not been as consistent as I would like in documenting projects and gathering feedback from students and teachers with photos and videos; again, I can include a tab in each LibGuides pathfinder to document this qualitative data with multimedia.
  • I now want to include a tab in my each pathfinder I create to reflect the lesson plan (using that AASL template) and the standards we are addressing through the project.

In other words, all the elements I originally envisioned as parts of multiple pages in Google Sites can simply be embedded  as  essential parts/elements of the LibGuides research pathfinder.

One other insight I’ve gained from this process relates to the standards documentation.  While I need to take ownership of documenting the AASL standards the collaborative lesson or unit addresses, I need to give the ownership of documenting state performance standards to the classroom teacher.  I have now devised a simple, low-tech, and already effective method for doing this:  I simply print a copy of the state standards from the GPS website, attach a friendly note on top of the printout to the teacher, and have the teacher highlight all the course standards he/she feels the collaborative project addresses.  In the past, we’d talk about the standards we’d cover, and I’d jot down notes as I did not want to force teachers to fill out a collaborative planning form, but many times I’d realize my shorthand was not terribly effective.  Now that I’ve started asking teachers to use this method, both the teacher and I find the process of documenting the GPSs painless and easy!  In addition, this exercise has really opened the eyes of my teachers as to how many content standards they are addressing through our collaboratively planned research projects.    Last week, one of my 10th grade English teachers came by to tell me how excited he was about how many standards his students were mastering in a hands-on, meaningful, real-world sort of way and not through the superficial  means imposed upon him by the test-driven approach.  I am now “backtracking” in include these standards on all project we’ve engaged in since January 1 and incorporate this process into each collaborative effort from this point forward.

These “light bulb” moments of recent days are energizing and exciting for me!  I feel that the tweaks to the pathfinders will not only improve the pathfinders themselves but will support my endeavor of creating dynamic and multifaceted monthly reports that tell the story of my library program rather than merely reporting facts and figures.

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More Research Pathfinder 2.0 and Social Media: Travel Across the USA

My latest research pathfinder, Travel Across America USA, came together rather quickly, but it is one of my favorites to date.  Although I did not get to collaborate as much as I had hoped with the teacher on the project as of this evening, I feel confident we will conference next week and make any adjustments that may be needed since we have worked together, and he is really enthusiastic about using Google Docs and now moving on to Google Sites.

In this project, the students essentially must research and collect information about travel destinations between Juneau, Alaska and Key West , Florida.   You can see the requirements on the pathfinder page, but students are responsible for collecting multiple forms of data and representing it in an interesting and meaningful way.   I think the use of Google Docs (the presentation and spreadsheet tools) , Google Sites, and Google Maps can be instrumental in this project!  I am hopeful that I can confirm we will be using all three sets of tools to embed content and showcase the student projects.

This research pathfinder incorporates some of my favorite forms of social media:

  • A widget featuring a travel guide via Google Books
  • RSS feeds from Frommer’s and Lonely Planet Twitter accounts
  • RSS feeds for blogs from these two travel powerhouses
  • RSS feeds for travel podcasts and vodcasts
  • Widgets featuring Flickr photo group pools sponsored from Frommer’s and Lonely Planet
  • The use of “kwout” to highlight key websites that can be helpful for the assignment
  • A Google Map I created to show some of the travel destinations I would choose if I were doing the assignment to model how students might use Google Maps; in addition, I have provided links to tutorials although students will have to use some of the instructional videos at home since they are embedded from YouTube
  • An iTunes iMix of “travel music” created by National Geographic music (fun!)

I find it incredibly exciting to create a pathfinder that integrates so much social media to help students see how helpful and fun these resources can be.    What else would you add to this pathfinder?  Your suggestions are welcome!

Netvibes Recognizes Its Use As a Virtual Library/Research Pathfinder!

We already knew this, but I loved seeing this on the Netvibes blog today!

http://blog.netvibes.com/?2009/06/19/282-using-public-pages-as-virtual-libraries

Using public pages as virtual libraries! – Netvibes.com Blog via kwout

Don’t forget to check out The Unquiet Library on Netvibes; I have also updated my first pathfinder, Iran Election 2009, to include some additional Twitter feeds, new videos, blog entries, Citizentube, and a Yahoo Pipes mashup.

My First Netvibes Research Pathfinder: Iran Election and Riots 2009

While the mainstream media has been slow to pick up on the coverage of the historic Iran riots in reaction to the latest election results, social networks are brimming with the latest news.  Check out my new Netvibes research pathfinder portal to get the latest scoop on the Iran riots, including You Tube videos, Flickr photos, Tweets, delicious bookmarks, and Google News.

I have been using Pageflakes for these kinds of pathfinders, but since I am moving to Netvibes for my Media 21 project, I thought it was time to create a pathfinder for The Unquiet Library using Netvibes.   Thanks to Mashable and the ReadWriteWeb for their information and for alerting us about this developing situation.   Let me know what you think!

Presentation to Student Teachers: Collaboration and Research Pathfinders

In February 2009, I did a presentation on Research Pathfinders 2.0 at GCTE (Georgia Council of Teachers of English) at Jekyll Island.  Dr. Katherine Mason, Assistant Professor of English Education, who attended the session, asked me to come and share my presentation with her student teachers at my undergraduate alma mater, Kennesaw State University.  I will be discussing the importance of collaboration between teachers and school library media specialists, and I hope to showcase a tour of examples that will get them fired up about tapping into the power of their school libraries.

The resource/presentation page is housed at http://theunquietlibrarian.wikispaces.com/researchpathfinders .  I have updated the presentation and embedded it below.  I am extremely excited about speaking to the student teachers tonight and having the opportunity to share what librarians and libraries can do to help teachers and students!