Thursday, October 21, 2021

Soup to Nuts: The entire research process in 70 minutes


I initially balked at the idea.

Model the entire research process in one lesson? With students producing a paragraph with sources, cited in-text (!) by the end of the block? 

Absolute craziness. 

But, when a teacher approached me with the idea, I said YES. I figured I would come up with something

Was it do-able? Kind of.

https://imgflip.com/tag/soup+nuts

Here's how it went down:

The preparation for the lesson consisted of me actually doing  the task: "Find information about Planarian and Light" (grade 9 Science).

By crafting my guiding questions, selecting sources, searching, note-taking, organizing, writing, and citing, I experienced the task as if I were the student. Along the way, I documented my thinking and my solutions to the obstacles I encountered and these became my "talking points" for the lesson.

I created a guide with the process & resources we'd use in class and a shortened version of my work for students to type into as we did the task together.

This was a "listening" and "doing" kind of a class. 

I told them to work with their eyes glued to my large screen and their laptop screen like a tennis match - my screen/your screen - are we in sync?

Their document had the following key steps:

Guiding Questions to gather background information

Source Selection for background 

  • Where do YOU like to go to learn something new?

Brief notes for background 

  • Probably won't be used or cited in the paper - just to get a sense of what we're talking about

I knew ZERO about the topic, so my background information was extremely basic. The students had done a lab with these little flatworms, so they were way ahead of me. I just briefly narrated my thought process of getting familiar with the topic.

Focused Guiding Questions 

  • Narrower questions based on learnings from the background information

Source Selection 

  • What types of sources do we need for our new questions - experts? articles?

Here, I explained that I chose targeted databases for them, based on the teacher's request that they find "scholarly" science articles. 

Search for & Gather Information (the meatiest part of the process)

I showed them how to...

  • Navigate database filters: "full-text", subject, search within
  • Use quotation marks in notes to indicate text cut/pasted from a source
  • Use a source number in notes to track sources
  • Grab pre-formatted citations
  • Paraphrase (they practiced paraphrasing one of my quoted facts)

Organize Information 

  • Read over the information gathered
  • Determine categories
  • Make an outline with the source codes next to the facts/evidence

Write the paragraph 

  • Copy the outline and add sentences around the headings and facts, keeping the source numbers intact

This was a revelation to them - to see how I didn't bother to retype any of the evidence from the outline and how the source numbers stayed with the facts.

Create Citations in Noodletools 

  • Pre-formatted citations are easy! Copy/paste into the manual section and add the source number in the annotation section - this keeps the sources with the coded source numbers

Create Works Cited and copy/paste it below the paragraph

Add in-text citations to the paragraph 

  • Replace the source number in parenthesis with whatever comes first in the full citation

It was a MAD RUSH but somehow we completed a lot of this - but, not all

The students did not have time to...

  • Take extra notes on their own 
  • Organize their information 
  • Write it into a paragraph 
  • Complete their citations in Noodletools

But, they saw me do these last bits and clicked into how it all fits together.

Here is the teacher version of the document (my full notes) and the student template (forced copy).

For max efficiency, all tabs I planned to show were open to the exact right spot in an incognito window (research guide, student template, my notes, each site, noodletools).

Will I do this again? 

YES but with a much easier topic with two sources only. 

I liked that they saw how one document could contain everything, and that lightbulbs went off when they saw how my red "source numbers" acted as a code that made the in-text citations very easy at the end.

Before I left, I asked the teacher to promise to invite me back to teach about steps we skipped: 

  • source evaluation
  • strategies for reading scholarly articles
  • more database tips and tricks
  • more note-taking options
  • more practice with paraphrasing
  • more question generation techniques 
  • (and so forth!) 

She said ok :)


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Against My Instincts: Maximizing Shelf Space for Display

Dedicated Top-Shelf Display,
via Kevin Hennah

In planning our new library, one aim was to increase circulation through better "merchandising" or "selling" of what the library has to offer. 

We hired Kevin Hennah for a virtual session to help our design process and explain some key elements:

  • Front-facing books
  • Signage
  • Flexible shelving
  • Genrefication
  • End display spaces

Having heard Kevin at a conference several years ago, much of the talk included concepts I have used in previous libraries with good results. The bonus for me was that our admin and building design team also heard the same messages.

Dedicated side and front-facing display, via Raeko
When it came time to purchase our shelving, we limited ourselves to vendors in China, so the recommended vendor, Raeko, was not an option. Still, we wanted to use the concepts Kevin recommended, so we designed rolling units with slanted tops to maximize display space.

When the shelving arrived, we unpacked by filling each shelf 3/4 of the way, leaving space for 1-2 front-facing books. 

With the slanted display space on top it looked great. I was happy with it. 

But I shortly made a big change due to some....

Extremely-Mini Action Research

We are an open library (zero doors!) so I leave the space extra tidy to be able to notice if anyone has been there after school. We always end each day by filling the empty display spaces. Since we were doing that anyway, I figured, let's COUNT how many books are coming off the displays each day.

For a week, we did a daily count of our empty display spaces and compared it to our circulation data. We discovered that 35-40% of our circulation came from displays. This was true on days with high circulation from a class coming in AND on days when circulation was lower. 

With this clear evidence of the importance of display space, I decided to see if I could maximize the display space even more.

Shelves "too empty", via Kevin Hennah
I remembered an off-hand remark Kevin Hennah made about the shelves in another library - shelves that looked like mine, half to three-quarters full of books.

He said, "There's way too much space on those shelves." 

I remember thinking, "Huh? No there isn't! That empty space is needed for front-facing books and books that will get returned!""

But no. 

I realized he was right. 

I realized his style of shelving is possible if I pack the books tighter to create dedicated display spaces, not accidental display spaces. A front-facing book at the end of a row is fine, but it's even better when LOADS of front-facing books are viewed together in a dedicated area. It's purposeful. It has impact. It screams "Grab me!"

After my action research and remembering his comment, I packed my shelves almost full to open more dedicated display space.

Here are some "before and after" photos of our shelving with my new system.

Before, in Realistic Fiction

Shelves are 3/4 full and bottom shelves are empty when possible
























After, in Realistic Fiction

Books are packed more tightly to open an entire unit for display and an extra row at the top for more display (slanted top, plus the row underneath, if possible)



Bottom shelf is full - students don't browse along the bottom anyway. This opens the top shelf for another row of face-out books, at eye level.

Another example:
Before, in Speculative Fiction
Speculative Fiction, After...

And after more squishing!



Post-Change Results

Did the expanded displays increase our percentage of circulation from displays?

Yes, after a week of counting, we saw a slight increase to 40-45% of our circulation coming from displays (a change of 5-10%).
  • Our overall circulation in the new library has increased from last year by 39%
  • Our overall circulation since the change in displays has increased 13%  
My take-aways:
  • Students do not browse the bottom shelf, so I either put displays or pack a row of books there. I think a row of books is best to allow more display at eye level.
  • Front-facing books are best when grouped together
Next Steps:
  • Small tables around the library with books flat and standing up - something about a table says "take me" even more than on a shelf
  • Find out: What's the ideal amount of time for books to be on display before doing a big overhaul of all titles? 
Stale displays won't have the same impact BUT I can't change all of these books daily! or even weekly!

Right now, some of the books have been on display for two months (!) without moving. I plan to do a total overhaul once per month. I can't imagine more than that, but maybe I'll need to. I will keep tracking to see if there's an uptick when I put out fresh covers.

Thanks for reading, and happy "Squishing" to create more 
dedicated display space in your library!




































Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Listening to Alarm Bells: Internalizing Source Evaluation

I've been on the journey about how to "do" source evaluation for 20 years now. 

Checklists! Acronyms! Do's and Don'ts! Domains matter - actually, they don't. Wikipedia is trash - actually it's a gold mine. 

We've evolved in our fact-checking abilities as information has become increasingly fed into our personalized feeds and misinformation has become increasingly sophisticated. 

Inspired by other librarians, I've been teaching evaluative "moves" rather than focusing on fixed items to look for in a source. It's much better. 

The moves include strategies like lateral reading and reading upstream. 

But there's been a step of the evaluation process that I've missed, and that is: When is Source Evaluation necessary and how do I know? 

Until students internalize that answer for themselves, my teaching is incomplete.

The answer for when to use evaluation "moves" isn't simple

  • Do I evaluate everything I come in contact with? 
  • Do I evaluation only if I have a doubt about the information? 
  • Do I evaluate information I agree with?
  • Do I evaluate based on the purpose of my information task? (schoolwork vs. personal entertainment vs. things posted to my feeds?)

Answers might be determined by...

  • Time (I don't have time to check this)
  • High Investment (I'm re-sharing this so I want to check it)
  • Low Investment (I'm just watching for fun, so I really don't care)
  • Prior Knowledge (I've been to this site before and already vetted it)

The shortest answer and most teachable point is that the student must choose when to implement evaluative moves and that choice needs to be INTENTIONAL.

Acting on an intentional choice is empowering. So I try to help students identify their internal critical thoughts in the first few seconds of seeing new information.

One label I'm using is "Alarm Bells"

Where are the places on a webpage that might set off an alarm in your head? 

We draw sample webpages and star places where our eyes might quickly encounter an alarm bell. 

  • No author? 
  • Unfamiliar organization? 
  • Date updated/created? 
  • Secure URL if we're shopping? 
  • Monetized via ads? 

Listening to these alarms is the beginning to listening to our inner critical voice and making decisions about when to use evaluation moves.

This is just one step in the process to internalize the Source Evaluation process. The next step: using questions (such as the 5Ws) to make sense of the source and its possible uses.

My goal: No acronyms, no teacher reminders. Rather, students encounter content and have internalized a way to handle it based on their needs.



    Friday, January 15, 2021

    First Extended Essay launch!

    I'm new to the Extended Essay Coordinator position. It's a job that has scared me despite my several years of experience with the EE process. Although I have worked closely with my school's DP coordinator and EE coordinator in the past, now...

    I'm in charge of all of it and it's freaking me out. 

    In planning the launch of my first cohort of grade 11 students, I want the experience to be perfect for them AND I know that it won't be perfect for them. Part of the process requires independent navigation through any number of obstacles - I've never seen a student have a perfectly perfect EE journey. The struggle is real and that's part of the learning!

    But still. I want them to be successful.

    The Challenge: Create structures designed to support ...

    • independent learning
    • open communication among all parties
    • clear expectations for all
    • successful completion of the task to each student's personal best.

    Elements of our Plan:

    • Timeline with expectations for students & supervisors on the same document
      • This level of transparency keeps everyone on the literal same page
      • Timeline is published as a draft in case dates need to be adjusted
    • Formative "Gatepost" tasks in Managebac (MB)
      • Proposal (required in order to be assigned a supervisor)
      • Link to digital workspace (template provided or student-created)
        • (Students don't seem to like the research space in MB)
      • Annotated bibliography with sources showing evidence that answers the proposed research question
      • Detailed Outline (2,000+ words) 
        • research question and/or thesis statement
        • headings and sub-headings
        • supporting evidence organized under headings and cited
      • Option to submit the Draft to a "draft" Turnitin task before deadline
    • Model of task posted as part of each MB assignment
      • For example, a correct and complete annotated bibliography is linked in the post about that assignment
    • Clear Admin "triggers" to catch anyone falling behind
      • Missing any gatepost task elicits an admin intervention
    • Differentiated training for supervisors
      • Supervisors choose the workshop topics they're interested in or indicate their level of experience and have an option to help others
      • Workshop Topics: 
        • Nuts & Bolts for Newbies
        • Citation Refresher
        • Evaluation & Moderation
    • Dedicated EE work time on Saturdays
      • One mandatory session in which students rotate among research skills and supervisor sessions about various subject criteria ("EE Cafe")
      • Further Saturday sessions are optional if gatepost tasks are complete
      • School provides bagels/pizza/salad for Saturday sessions!
    • Scaffolded lessons along the way
      • Reading Around Your Topic
      • EE Introduction & Subject Requirements
      • Finding Sources & Source Evaluation
      • Developing Research Questions
      • Note-taking & Organization
      • Citations and Works Cited page
    • Digital lessons for differentiated learning & extra practice
      • Lessons are posted for future reference
    • Consistent platform use
      • LibGuides for resources, lessons, timeline, forms
      • MB for submissions
      • Teams for communication with students and supervisors
      • WeChat group (optional) for fun.
        • Students chose their preferred methods of communication: Teams and WeChat
    Armed with this plan, we have embarked! 

    As I proceed with this cohort of students, I'll post updates, links to completed lessons, and other resources.

    Until then, good luck to everyone out there who is launching a new EE group. Comments and feedback are always welcome! 


    Monday, May 11, 2020

    Online Workshop: Google Power Searching


    Our Middle School is offering student workshops related to various tech and information and organization skills. 

    Here are the documents I used, thanks, as always to the amazing librarians out there who share their work so widely.

    Boolify - a puzzle-type interface that shows how different filters impact a google search
    My video - using Boolify to learn google filters
    Google-a-Day home page - a new puzzle every day
    Google-a-Day Lesson bank - past puzzles with slideshow answers
    Padlet with Google-a-Day challenges
    My remix of that Padlet with the answers


    I linked the activities into a Bitmoji Classroom (feel free to copy and edit) and shared it with the students. 

    Workshop Steps:
    • View the boolify video or demo it "live"
    • Explain the extra search tips (truncation, wild cards, and "reading" a search string)
    • Define "stacking searches" (using the answers from one search to search again and build toward an answer)
    • Assign Zoom breakout rooms + google puzzles from the Padlet (10 minutes)
    • Regroup and share "Yays & Nays" (what worked and what didn't)
    • Share the daily google challenge page for those interested in playing on their own

    This was a 45-minute workshop that seemed to go very smoothly!