Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teacher Librarians and Technology - ISTE 2010 Day 2

I am currently sitting in my first model lesson. It's called Worlds Converge: Fusing Library and Technology in the Classroom. Next year I get to keep working with TLs (Teacher Librarians) in my new role, and one of their major focuses has been technology in the secondary group. They are doing a book club next year with a focus of rethinking libraries in a digital age, and most have developed a virtual presence for their library this year.

A model lesson is a little different than some of the other sessions I have been to so far. 20 of us are on the inside, set up at Macbooks to be "students." I am on the edge so I can blog as I go, but I will be using a clicker to participate. Jenni Swanson Voorhees (K-4 Tech Coordinator) and Angela Smith (Elementary Librarian) are the presenters. Here is the link to the library and to the materials for the lesson. Angela and Jenni teach together, as we are hoping more of our SITLs and Secondary TLs will as we are able to see more connections. Here is the research process they developed collaboratively.

The model lesson is targeted at grade 4, and uses wikis and digital storytelling as its main tool. Like many of the poster sessions and student presentations I have stopped at and not blogged, it helps me to feel secure about the work we are doing. Our Secondary TLs have been working with a variety of digital storytelling tools and many have been partnering with teachers. We still have lots of work to do in helping our teachers learn how to use these tools well to create powerful learning, as you have to use them a while before you start to figure that out.

I enjoyed watching the model lesson, because they explained what they do at each stage and why. They use a book that narrates a student researching (Did Fleming rescue Churchill? : a research puzzle, by James Cross Giblin ; illustrated by Erik Brooks. ISBN: 9780805081831 for my TL friends). The book is a great choice, because the main character reads the urban legend on the website and this leads to a great conversation about authority and veracity. I have used a hoax site for years with secondary students, but it always works well. I have younger students search for the Pacific Northwestern Tree Octopus and the first link is always the hoax site. The nice thing about that one is there appears to be a number of hits on this subject. A classic way to put together several websites in a way students don't have to type them all in is a sharetab. Much simpler to create than a web quest, it is a helpful quick tool for teachers and TLs because it just takes a minute.

The presentation suggests teachers (and their TL support) need to be sure there are both sufficient sites and books when picking a research topic. Good sites for research or books must have:
  • Authority (that means the who the author is needs to be clear)
  • Currency (that means they need a copyright date that is current enough for the type of information)
  • Relevance (alignment to topic and appropriate readability and depth)
  • Usability (easy to navigate and scan, at least 3 ways to get anywhere)
  • Lack of Bias (addresses a research topic without bias, ie is academic instead of persuasive)
The presenters suggested that we all need to learn to read websites, just as we are taught to read a book, as a part of being information literate.

The next section of the presentation focused to teaching students how to take notes from the web, use a custom search in google prepared by a TL (which I would not do at secondary for secondary research), and break jobs among their research group. They suggested brainstorming a list of synonyms to help students search (I also like Google Wonder Wheel, which helps expands searching). They also reminded the group that holding down the CTRL button and pressing the F allows you to search for a specific word or phrase on any website or in any digital document.

One thing the group did not talk about was how to make sure you had a good research question or were conducting a meaningful inquiry. In fact, the topics used as examples were just animals like Pandas and people like Alexander Graham Bell. No one moved to things like: "What can people do help prevent the extinction of Pandas?" which is a low-level inquiry. I think that continues to be a problem in much of the work we do with students, because we never get to the higher level thinking skills.

I liked where the group moved to next. They used a free package of Microsoft software to help students draw their own art using tablet PCs and avoid copyright variations. I don't think it we'd do it that way as art isn't integrated with science much and we don't have tablets. The resulting wikis allowed students to comment on each other's work and see what each other had done without taking a lot of class time for presentations.

I think the more we have TLs and SITLs working together as a team to help teachers, the stronger our work will be. It certainly makes a big difference for teach and student learning every time in happens. Information literacy and 21st Century skills in general continue to be a place where students need stronger skills.

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