Assessment and Metacognition: Blogging Research Reflections

Last year, I piloted Research Reflections blog posts with our Media 21 students as a means of getting students to actively reflect and think about their information literacy skills and research processes.    Susan Lester and I decided to incorporate these blog posts once again into our Fall 2010 Issues in Africa research project; the directions for blogging research reflections below are nearly identical to the ones we used last year.

However, after reading the first round of research reflections with this year’s Media 21/ Learning 21 students, I quickly realized that more scaffolding was needed in the writing directions and the assessment rubrics to nudge students to think more deeply and to avoid repetition in their reflections.  For the second and third research reflections, I created more specific writing prompts and corresponding rubrics [see below]:

While I hate being so prescriptive with the directions for writing and reflection, I’ve come to realize that few students come with enough prior experience in actively reflecting on the research process:  the information literacy skills they’re acquiring and using, strategies for evaluating information sources, and decision-making processes as they engage in inquiry.  The experience of articulating the how and why of information seeking behaviors and participating in active self-assessment of how they are demonstrating standards for learning and specific information literacy skills is one that has required some intense scaffolding this fall.

As you can see from the rubrics above, the emphasis is on the content and thinking reflected in the blog posts.  However, I also incorporated evaluation criteria for grammar conventions and usage as well as sentence structure since these are reflected in the course Georgia Performance Standards; in addition, we want to reinforce the expectation that clear and coherent communication as well as careful editing/proofreading are hallmarks of quality blog posts.  Although we emphasize that blog posts are read by a global audience, this concept is still new and abstract for many of our students as this is their first experience writing in this type of public space for an audience beyond the classroom teacher.

The research reflections not only provide students an opportunity to engage in metacognition, but they also provide me meaningful insights into their thinking that help me understand their perspectives on information sources and how they evaluating those sources through student eyes, patterns of research skills problems/challenges they are encountering as a group, topics for writing and grammar mini-lessons, and any gaps in understanding that we might need to address as a whole class, small group, or one on one.

As you can imagine, it is fairly time-consuming to read, evaluate, and provide written commentary on each post.  I have been evaluating and providing the detailed feedback for each set of research reflections; I provide written commentary on a printed copy of each blog post as well as the corresponding rubric.  With roughly 65 students in both sections, I’ve been knee-deep in assessment the last month, but the experience of taking even more of a hands-on approach in the creation and structuring of the writing prompts and rubrics (these were all spearheaded by me and then rolled out with Susan’s approval as my c0-teacher) has been one that has given me important glimpses into how students are evaluating information and applying the information literacy skills we’ve been introducing and emphasizing in class.    Although they have not necessarily been thrilled with all of the individual assessments I’ve provided, many of the students have taken the constructive criticism to heart and shown progress in moving forward on the continuum of deeper and more critical thinking.  I have tried to stress to our students that the feedback is intended to help them grow as learners and to challenge them to engage in more specific and thoughtful self-assessment and inquiry.

Below are a few of the exemplary blog posts from our students; these posts are linked here with permission from each student:

I’ll provide some additional links as I receive additional student permissions in the next week from Research Reflections 3.

I think the research reflection blog posts have also encouraged students’ participation literacy in being active agents in the research process rather than passive beings who aren’t thinking through their information seeking behaviors.  In addition, these blog posts are a springboard to the annotations they will compose for each information source on their final Works Cited page created in NoodleTools , a digital learning portfolio,  and a cumulative VoiceThread portfolio assessment they’ll be creating after the Thanksgiving holiday.

I’ll be blogging soon about the final set of research reflections (#4) that students submitted this past week; I’ll also be blogging about the learning portfolios and VoiceThread assessment projects students will be creating in the next six or so weeks as well.   In the meantime, how are you assessing students’ information literacy skills and processes beyond a traditional quantitative tool?  Are you as a school librarian actively  involved in the creation and evaluation of assessment tools?  What qualitative assessment tools or pieces are you using with students to encourage active participation in the learning process and to gain insights into their thinking?   Please share your experiences and insights in this space!

On the Eve of Our Kindle Pilot Project

Anticipation and Patience

After a couple of months of delays in balancing purchasing rules/restrictions from Amazon and the purchasing policies of our district (as well as time crunch in which I have time to coordinate with my bookkeeper for the order because I’ve been so busy teaching), we finally are ordering our Kindles for our initial ereader rollout.   I am cross-posting from my Unquiet Library blog the contents of a post I just shared in that space, but here are some additional pieces of information you may find helpful.  There are no words to express how grateful I am to librarian Kathy Parker who has been nothing but generous in sharing her experiences, insights, and pearls of wisdom with me—a heartfelt thanks to this pioneer!

Why Am I Doing This?

Dr. Bob Fecho at the University of Georgia taught me to frame every decision making process with this line of inquiry back in 2002-2003.   I want to implement this pilot project to provide our students the opportunity to read on a device that they otherwise might not be able to access and to provide them an alternate reading experience in hopes that we can meet the needs of all students.    After reviewing the pros and cons of this pilot Kindle project, my principal, Dr. Eddy, agreed with me that that the possible benefits outweighed any drawbacks , and I am thankful for his support in this endeavor.  I’m truly excited to hear the students’ feedback on their experiences with ereading and the Kindles, and their input will be used to guide future steps in our efforts to provide reading materials both in print format as well as ereading containers.

Circulation Details and Other Helpful Hints

Because I’ve been receiving quite a few emails and want to share the entire Kindle pilot process with you, here is a brief synopsis of where we are; we hope to be in full circulation within the next week or so as we finalize the details of our purchase.

We are classifying the ebooks from Amazon for Kindle as a separate material type in Destiny, our OPAC.  We are using the prefix KIN for the books; the ereaders are classified as EQ for equipment.  We also keep a folder for each Kindle with a hard copy of the titles and also manage it through our library Amazon Kindle account.  We’re also planning on making a resource list for each Kindle in Destiny OPAC (i.e. Kindle 1) and adding each ebook to each list.
Here are three great blog posts that will be helpful in getting the ball rolling:
Also, here are some great tips Kathy shared with us:
  • For my own purposes I did label them Kindle 1 etc. This way I could keep track of which teachers had which Kindles when it came to downloading titles for them.
  • I did label the covers with Kindle 1, etc. Just don’t cover up the serial numbers when labeling.
  • You’ll need to register each one & you need the serial number.  We named/registered each Kindle: Seneca 1, Seneca 2, etc.
  • It was suggested to keep the boxes because if one is defective Amazon wants it shipped back in the same box it came in.
  • Don’t give any out until you get them all registered and labeled.

Next Steps

Intense data collection will inform and drive our decision-making processes over the next few months.  As I collect data and student permissions to share their insights and experiences of reading on the Kindle, I will share that data with you in this space.  I will also collect data on the types of books (fiction, nonfiction) students are requesting and reading as well as our efforts to personalize the reading experience with the Kindle.

The Unquiet Library Blog Post:  The Kindles are Coming

Image used with permission from

The long wait is nearly over!  We will soon be offering Kindle eReaders for circulation!  We will be purchasing the latest generation of Kindle that offers you 3G and wireless access to the ebooks.  The Kindles may be used at home or at school.   How will the checkouts of Kindles work for you as students?

1.  You will need to come by the library to get a checkout permission and information form [see below]—this form will need to be read carefully and then signed by both you and a legal guardian before we can circulate the Kindle to you.   Please note that all overdues and fines you may currently  have must be cleared before we can loan you a Kindle.

2.   Once the form is returned, we will place you on the waiting list as we will be starting with a small pool of the Kindles; we will notify you ASAP through your first period and/or English teacher that the Kindle is ready for you to checkout.   Either Ms. Hamilton or Ms. Johnson will give you a quick demo and “get started” one on one tutorial so you feel comfortable and confident using the Kindle.  We will also be posting some tutorial videos as needed on our Unquiet Library YouTube Channel.

3.  If there are specific titles you want, you can also complete a Kindle Book request form available in the library; we will do our best to accommodate all Kindle book purchase requests for students.  You can browse the Kindle ebook store to see if the book you want is available for the library to purchase in Kindle format.

4.  The loan period will be for one week.

5.  When you return the Kindle, we will ask you to complete a short survey and an optional video interview about your Kindle reading experience.  Your input will help us make an informed decision on future Kindle and/or other ereading device purchases!

Questions?  Come by the library or email Ms. Hamilton at !

*Many thanks to librarian Kathy Parker who has been in invaluable source of information and encouragement in our efforts to roll out Kindles to you, our students!*

Crowdsourcing Your Library Challenges

I and my co-presenters Elisabeth Abarbanel, Michelle Fromme, and Andrew Shuping would like to thank all who attended our  Crowdsourcing Your Library Challenges session this past Tuesday at Internet@Schools West in Monterey, California!  The session featured an interactive hands-on experience in which participants got to engage in actual crowdsourcing of library challenges they selected from challenges submitted by our peers or self-selected topics generated within groups.  I’d also like to give a special thanks to Phil Goerner, Carolyn Foote, and Diane Cordell for Skyping in as a group to serve as our virtual panel who also interacted with our participants.  Check out scenes from our session!