Thing 45: Google Keep

Since I have used most of the major Google programs, I decided to dig further into Google Keep. This was a good choice as I really didn’t have any idea what it was or how it could be used with my students. After a quick look around my first thought was why on earth do I need another way to takes notes. But this article helped me understand some of the great features available and why I should use Google Keep instead of the notes app on my iPhone.

Color Coding

When I found that Google Keep provides different colors which can be used to organize the notes under different categories. My primary reason for using the notes app is to keep brief notes when I’m attending a conference and don’t have paper or a computer with me. I often take photos and insert them right into my notes. But I also tend to use the notes app when I need someplace for a quick note like a grocery list or when I want quick access to something I will use infrequently like my son’s mailing address.

So how does all this relate to the color coding? For me, I would just separate my personal, work, and conference notes so that they are easily found. But for my students, they could use this as a tool when taking notes for a research project. I teach my students that when doing research, a fact that directly answers the question is important (say green). Then I explain that facts related to the topic but don’t really answer the question can be placed into two categories: interesting (yellow) or completely irrelevant (red). A good exercise would be to have students take notes on their topic and then ask them to take five minutes and color code them using this system. It would be a great tool to evaluate how well they understand the task. Then when they go to use the information in their final product, they can be sure to use all the notes labeled green and can fill in with the yellows if they find they need more information.

Syncing Capability

For those of us old enough to remember “before Google”, this is probably one of the most useful functions. I downloaded the app onto my phone which is where I usually take my notes at conferences, created a new note just to try it out and then opened Keep up on my computer and voila, my note was already there. How convenient with very little effort on my part.

Save to Keep Extension

When using Google Chrome, you can also add the “Save to Keep” extension. The extension lets you save a website as a note that you can go back to anytime you need it. I now there are things like Evernote but this requires me to have yet another login and although Evernote has more functionality, I never use it. Where this extension will be most useful to me is when I find something on Facebook or the web and want to save it for later. If I see an idea on Facebook, I often click save post and then can’t find what I looking for a later date. In Keep, it is easy to scroll through the different thumbnails to find what I’m looking for. Instead of saving the post, I’ll be clicking on the save to keep if it is external link.

Going back to research and students, this would be an easy way for students to keep all of their sources in one place so that they can go back to them if by chance they forget to include the source in their notes (yes, they do this all the time in middle school). It would be easy to teach students to click on the extension and it even lets them add a quick note to go along with the link.

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Other Useful Features

Google Keep also has a voice recorder, handwritten notes option, the ability to add photos, and the option to makes notes in the form of a checklist. Although I probably wouldn’t use the voice recorder often, I like that it is still an option. The checklist option is pretty cool too and I would use it more as a bulleted list than a checklist but still very handy. You can easily share your notes with others in your contact list which could be useful. Lastly, the ability to pin a note to the top makes this app a winner for me. I can now pin my son’s college address to the top and will never again have a hard time finding it like I have in the past.

Conclusions

I will add this to my toolbox for students as a better way for them to take notes for their research project. It could help them with their organization and if nothing else, it could be a central location to keep their sources — just a click of the extension and their website is saved for them to refer back if needed at a later point. Looking forward to exploring this Google tool further and put it to good use.

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Thing 44: Book Stuff

Wow, what an overwhelming array of resources to look at and explore. Happily I have seen and used many of the different resources listed like Overdrive, NYPL card (my go to resource for audiobooks), Goodreads, LibraryThing (lifetime member), BookBub, NetGalley, FictFact, and a few more. I love all of these resources mostly because I love to read books and although I will never finish all of the books on my bookshelf, I’m always looking for the next great book.

Audiobook Sources

As someone who commuted for two hours every weekday for 7 1/2 years, I am an avid audiobook listener. So much so, that I actually have a favorite narrator — Edward Hermann and have listened to books I wouldn’t have otherwise because I absolutely love his voice. As you can see in the post, I am not the only one who found his voice mesmerizing.

Luckily I live in NY and have access to a NYPL card and their vast numbers of audiobooks through Overdrive. I also have my local library, the public library near work, and my school’s Overdrive account set up in the app. I use Overdrive almost every day whether it is driving to work, walking to get my steps, or cleaning the house. I always have at least two books on my listening bookshelf so that I don’t run out of something to listen to. Over the years, the app has gotten much easier to use and today I downloaded their new app Libby. Overall the new app is more intuitive although I couldn’t add my school’s Overdrive account so that would be a problem for my students.

If I can’t find it on Overdrive, then I look on Hoopla next as they seem to carry different publishers. My local library allows me to check out up to 6 items during a single month. With Hoopla, I can also get ebooks, comics, movies, TV shows, and music so there is a wider variety of options available. The other advantage is every item is available at all times so there is no waiting list.

Lastly, if all else fails, I head to Audible to purchase books I can’t find anywhere else. Don’t get me wrong, I love Audible but I don’t like paying for a book I’m only going to listen to once if I can find it for free somewhere else. Actually this is one of the frequent arguments I have with my husband is that he doesn’t look for a book on Overdrive first before he buys it from Audible. If I’ve been having trouble locating the audiobook through the other resources, I’m usually able to find it on Audible which is a huge plus. I just wish they had a pricing system for people who would like to listen to the book once and then have it removed from their library or have it expire after a certain length of time. Until that happens, I’ll put holds and wait as long as necessary to borrow it from my local public library.

Social Booksharing

I run an afterschool book club with an average of 6-10 students twice a month. Last year, I tried having the students choose the books but found they didn’t pick books that would appeal to most members of the group but only to themselves. I ended up choosing the books with more success but during meetings, the students were often off task. So this year I worked with a sixth grade teacher and we decided to have students read paired books on the theme of family. Between the two of us, I think we managed to keep the group more engaged and we also managed to read some really great books. Some of the activities included building a story tower, describe the perfect cake for a friend, draw an image from the book and fill it with words describing the book, and book snaps. We ended the year with everyone bringing in food that reminded them of one of the books. Having another person to share ideas with helped make a successful book club.

 

BookSnaps

This was probably one of my favorite activities from book club and my inspiration came from a random FaceBook post. With the popularity of SnapChat, we decided to have the students use the technology in a positive way. As you can see from the example above, the only requirements I gave to the students was that they had to find the most important page in the book, highlight the important lines, and add the cover of the book. They were given free reign on adding emojis or other decorations. It was amazing to see how thoughtful they were when choosing the page as I thought they might just randomly pick something and use that. This is a fun and engaging way to assess student learning.

Litsy

Litsy is an app on my phone that I don’t use very often but I like to think of it as an Instagram for book covers. As they describe themselves, Litsy is a place where passionate readers leave quotes, reviews and blurbs about the books they love (or hate as the case may be). The more you add, the higher your influence becomes and the more you can connect with other readers. I don’t participate frequently but when I read a good quote in a book, I like to upload it onto Litsy.

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This quote captures this book so well!

Conclusions

As you may be able to tell through my blog, I do not have a huge presence on social media nor do I want to be for many personal reasons. I use many of these tools as a reminder for me and to look back later to see how I did. But in person, I hope that I heavily influence my friends and colleagues with my many recommendations and broad reading range. I also do my best as a librarian to ensure that students have reading materials that will interest them and meet their needs. As far as I’m concerned, this is so much more important than being a giant media star.

Thing 43: Google Drawings

I first learned about Google Drawings at NYSCATE in 2016 as a way to make Google Docs more interactive in a manner similar to a SmartBoard. I used it for an assignment where students had to match objects with their definition. I also had students create a short cartoon using the drawing tools in three separate boxes within a Google Doc.

During a recent project on Westward Expansion, some of my seventh grade students used it to create a newspaper. One of the limitations they discovered was that there was only one canvas and since they needed multiple pages, it didn’t seem to work. If only I had read these links sooner, I would have discovered that they could import their Google Drawing into any of the other Google Apps suite and embedded it there with multiple canvases (or pages) at their fingertips. Oh well, at least I know better for next year.

AutoDraw

Since I don’t take the time to practice and don’t have a natural talent for drawing, I decided to check out this tool to see how it worked. Taking inspiration from my art teacher who is currently having her students use a pair of sunglasses and various shades of the primary and secondary colors, I decided to try my hand at drawing a pair of sunglasses. The one on the left is my drawing and the one of the right is the closest picture to what I drew. Not an exact match but a good facsimile nevertheless.

I could see this being useful when you are having a difficult time finding a specific line drawn picture that you need or if you want/need specific coloring that is often difficult to find unrestricted on the internet.

Google Drawings

Continuing with the theme of “shades of summer,” I created this Google Drawing using the tools that were available. It was easy enough to use for this purpose although it would have been nice to be able to add layers to the drawing. Untitled drawing (1)

Teachers in my building have discovered Google Drawings and students have used it to create posters on an element from the periodic table and posters about the water cycle. For some reason, students find it easier to use to manipulate pictures and text within Google Drawings versus Google Slides.

Conclusions

As a longtime user of PowerPoint, I see the versatility of Drawings and will continue to encourage my students to use it whenever appropriate. I’m also tired of seeing them use Google Slides to present their information and this might be a good alternative to get them to put only the necessary information on one page instead of using multiple pages with too much information. I was going to encourage my students to use Canva if they really wanted to create a poster but Google Drawings is a suitable alternative and something they are already familiar with using.

My first research project of the year was using biographies and last year most of the students created a Google Slideshow or a large poster to present their work. Although these tools are useful for the students to understand how to create them, I also think they are often used by the students as the easy way out of an assignment and quite frankly they are overused and boring. Using Google Drawings to have the students create an interactive poster similar to a ThingLink would be a more interesting way for the students to showcase their learning. Although this requires more upfront teaching on my part, I think the end result would be worth the effort and will try it in the fall with next year’s fifth grade students.

As a standalone tool, I think it is similar to many other programs available. Where I think it excels is in the ability to embed it within other Google Apps. Also, since it is a Google product, it will probably continue to be free and not disappear one day due to the owner discontinuing its availability as has happened with many excellent tools over the last ten years.

Thing 42: Going Global

This topic is close to my heart for many reasons but most specifically because of my own experiences living abroad in Japan for 18 months. Although I experienced culture shock many times during my time there, I also gained so much from the experience that I believe all Americans should live out of the country for at least a year to gain a better understanding of this world that we line in and to understand that for all its fault, the United States is a great place to live but so are most places if you take the time to step out of your comfort zone. In a country that I see becoming more insular and less tolerant at times, it is important to ensure that our students understand how they fit into the world at large and not just their small communities.

Peace Crane Project

As you might imagine, this project spoke to me with its connection to Japanese culture and I immediately sent an email to one of my colleagues to see if this is something that we might be able to do next year as my school is looking for ways to increase student empathy and civility.

The Peace Crane Project connects your group with another group somewhere in the world and you exchange folded cranes, doves, or hearts with messages of peace. The Peace Crane Project encourages schools to connect on United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21 every year but any day of the year is also a good time to exchange. It also hopes groups will connect through other means to foster a better understanding of the different cultures.

Cranes
Paper Cranes at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, Japan (October 1998)

So if we do join the project, I’ll update this post with photos.

Global Oneness Project

Looking for more resources that will help teach empathy and cultural understanding, I read the article 4 Tools to Help Kids Develop Empathy and Cultural Humility and decided to look further at the Global Oneness Project. With the changes in the social studies curriculum asking students to look at an issue through the passage of time and globally, I thought this might be a good resource to use in preparing students for this difficult task. According to their website, the purpose of the Global Oneness Project is to “provide opportunities to examine universal themes that emphasize our common humanity—identity, diversity, hope, resilience, imagination, adversity, empathy, love, and responsibility”.

The project provides free lesson plans to go along with much of their content. A short exploration of the website found a photo essay on poverty, a film on the symbolism of clowns, and an article on climate instability. Intrigued by the photo essay on poverty, I clicked through the photos and found that the artist depicted images of California towns in an area rich in agricultural resources but with a population of people frequently living in poverty. The attached lesson plan asks students to view the photos and then reflect on whether or not the photographer was successful in depicting poverty. An assessment provides writing prompts for students to reflect on a photo and show that they understand the lesson and use critical thinking strategies to demonstrate this.

I think there are so many ways that students could use this project. One of the writing prompts on the above lesson plan asked students to reflect on how they could use photos to tell the story of their community. This would be an excellent way for students to step away from their small world and to learn that there is more than one story in the community.

Gapminder

From the same article listed above, I also decided to look more closely at Gapminder. At the website, the first thing I did was take their Gapminder test which I promptly failed and only got 31% of the questions correct. Why is this important? For me, it showed how uninformed (or ignorant) I was in how the world is doing and I had a much more pessimistic view of things than how they were in actuality. Take the test and see how you do (the second time around I managed to get 100% correct).

There is a wealth of information on this website and so much so that it is almost overwhelming. I looked at the Dollar Street tool and played around with the various income levels. I chose to look at how a family in Kenya lives with a monthly income of $3,268 U.S. and a family in the Ukraine with a monthly income of $10,090 U.S. It was interesting to see the differences but also the similarities in the two families given the disparity in income and where they live. I think this would be a great tool to use to show students that their impressions of other countries and how the people live may be wrong and one-sided.

The website also provides videos of Ted Talks, copies of their slides that are free to use and modify, lesson plans, and links to where they get their data. Since many of our students are visual learners, this would be a great website to use to teach how people live around the world.

Students Rebuild

I wanted to add this website as I have used it in the past to provide my students with the opportunity to help people around the world that are in need. A few years ago, the challenge was for students to create pinwheels which raised money for Syrian refugee children. For each pinwheel, the Bezos Foundation donated $2 to help this cause. Students Rebuild provides resources to help teach students about the topic. My second grade students learned about the refugee crisis and although it was a tough topic for them to understand, in the end they wanted to help as much as they could.

Thing 41: Powering up Chrome!

Living in the Syracuse area, I am usually able to attend Heather Turner’s Google Camp every summer where she shares different resources to help make better use of the tools that Google provides. Although not explicitly part of the assignment, I’m going to share some of my favorite extensions and apps and why I enjoy using them.

Chrome Extensions

When I first went to the Chrome extensions store, I decided to narrow my search down to apps that worked with Google Drive. I tried out three different extensions and for various reasons ended up quickly deleting two of them despite their positive reviews.

CloudHQ’s Sync Google Drive with other clouds

I picked this extension because with multiple personal and work emails, I also have multiple cloud spaces that it would be useful to be able to reach without logging into each of them seperately as needed. At the time I added the extension, it had 670 reviews with an average rating of 4.36 stars. Sounded good to me so I decided to add it and check it out. The first thing I noted was that the permissions that they required seemed pretty excessive (see screenshot below) and with everything that is happening in the world, I decided to press allow and check it out. I followed the steps they outline and added my Dropbox account as I don’t really have anything in there that I would worry about if it was stolen. In the end, I decided to remove the extension and delete my account more for my own feelings on security. After some research, I found that CloudHQ is a legitimate company based in San Francisco so although I deleted it because of the permissions requested, that doesn’t mean that the service they are offering isn’t worth the risk. It just isn’t for me.

cloud hq

Next, I decided to look at extensions created by Google and added the Google Scholar and Google Similar Pages.

Google Scholar Button

Google Scholar is a handy way to find scholarly articles with the quick click of a button. When you click the scholar button, a search window pops up for you to type in your keyword or the article you are looking for. The window will show the top three results or you can open it up in a new tab for all results. Pretty handy and an easy way to get students to use it for their research.

Google Similar Pages

If you are familiar with a Google reverse image search, then this should be pretty easy for you to understand. Essentially this extension takes the website you are currently browsing and searches the Internet for similar pages. I can see several uses for this in a middle school setting as my students are quite eager to use Google for everything. I think it would be a great way for students to verify the information they found on one website. Using the fake website All About Explorers, I got some interesting results back from this extension including some valid websites the students could use and also links to other fake websites. So although Google recognizes that this is a fake website, not all of my students were able to tell earlier this year. This would also be a good way to allow the students to use Wikipedia to find other websites on their topic beyond the references found on the Wikipedia article they are reading.

Must Have Extensions

My essential extensions that aren’t necessarily related to school are Honey and AdBlock Plus. When you are shopping for items on a website, Honey will apply various coupon codes trying to help you save money. Honey will even watch items for you and let you know when the price is at its lowest. Even better, sometimes Honey will even reward you with a percentage back on your purchase and once you accumulate $10 you can choose a gift card from a variety of well known stores. If you are interested, feel free to click my affiliate link.

AdBlock Plus is essential these days as more and more websites use numerous advertisements on their pages to increase revenue. So many ads causes the website to slow down and increases the likelihood that you will accidently click on one of them. AdBlock Plus stops the ads from loading although more and more websites won’t let you read their content without turning off the ad blocker. At least this provides me with the opportunity to decide if I want to continue reading or go elsewhere.

Chrome Settings

I find Google Chrome to be a pretty no nonsense browser and I like the ease of use. I periodically delete my browsing data as a form of maintenance and the computers at work delete this data every evening. When I first started using Google Chrome, I checked the privacy settings to ensure that they were secure but I hadn’t looked at them in a few years. Under advanced, I noticed a setting called, “Protect you and your device from dangerous sites.” Obviously this is something that I definitely want Chrome to do but I wanted more information on how this is done so I read the help section on safe browsing protection. I have seen the red warning box pop us so it was interesting to learn how Google determines if a website is potentially harmful or not. In the end, I didn’t feel the need to do anything with my settings but I did delete my browsing data as it had been a while since the last time I had done that. In the end, the ease of use, customizability, reliability and simplicity of Chrome keeps me using it every day. Thanks for the reminder!

 

Thing 33: Taking the Lead

I really like Jennifer LaGarde‘s idea to schedule time devoted to data collection. As someone who uses the app Tody to keep her house clean, it should have been obvious to me that I need to schedule specific tasks into my calendar so that they will get done. This tip couldn’t be more timely since it was announced this week that all district library clerks are being laid off. My library clerk is so much more than someone who sits at the desk and checks out books. Not only does she act as a TA and disciplinarian but she also makes it possible for me to focus on teaching and not the administrative aspects of running a library. Taking the time to create a schedule for the tasks that she currently does will ensure that at least the most important tasks are completed.

Losing my clerk has also given me the incentive to create a club for library helpers so that they can do basic tasks and free me of more mundane, boring work. I currently have a student who runs the circulation desk during morning check out but every year, I have many students asking if they can help but because of my clerk’s competence (and OCD tendencies), I don’t really have anything for them to do. Come September, I will have more work on my hands and will relish providing students with a skill and maybe someday when they are looking for their first “real” job, they will remember helping in the library and look for a job there.

When I first heard that I was losing my clerk, my thoughts went to what I would no longer be able to do — Battle of the Books, the Spelling Bee, open library. But after looking at the various readings, I think this would be the wrong tact to take not only with my principal but also with my fellow teachers and students. The loss of the clerk will no doubt make my job that much harder and I struggle with the thought of letting things lapse to prove how important the clerks are to the every day smooth running of the library. But at the same time, I don’t want my students (or teachers) to suffer any more than they already will so with that in mind, I know that I need to look at how to better structure and organize myself so that I can continue to provide library instruction and services at the highest possible level. A Library Helpers Club and scheduling time for everyday tasks will help me achieve this goal.I will continue to advocate for a clerk but until my efforts are reward, I will do my best to be the best librarian and teacher that I can be.

My “Elevator Speech”

When you enter the library, please don’t expect silence. The school library is place for active learning, collaboration, positive socialization, and creative exploration. Depending upon when you visit, you will see students completing research, playing with robots, looking for that just right book, or creating something using all of the manipulatives in the library makerspace. These activities support the district goal of providing students with the skills they will need to be college and career ready.

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Students creating monsters using salt dough, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners.

 

What do you think of my elevator speech? I struggle with being pithy while also providing the information needed and I’m not sure I got it right.

Advocacy and Marketing

Another idea from the readings was about providing professional development to my teachers. This year, I have provided a little bit of instruction to my teachers on vocabulary and some of the library databases but I know that I haven’t done enough. At the district level, I am not comfortable teaching a class to people I don’t know but I also know again, that I need to step out of my comfort zone and offer to teach a class. I attend a lot of great professional development and I need to be better about sharing what I have learned with my fellow teachers.

So how can I do this? In the readings, I liked the idea of a schedule of offerings to teachers with a short description of what will be taught. There are so many resources paid for by the district that aren’t being used probably because either the teachers don’t know about them or they don’t understand how they can be used in a classroom. I can begin with these resources and provide my teachers with a  quick introduction on how to use the resource but also with links, lesson plans, etc… to show how these technologies can be used by them and/or their students.

Currently I try to put notes about the library in the school newsletter at least 3 times a year. I know this isn’t enough and will work on increasing this to every issue but this is something that I struggle with every year. I also liked the idea of providing parents with an app or website that they may find helpful. With the prevalence of smart phones and tablets even in the poorest of homes, I think my parents would find this helpful and I know that I could easily find one app or website a month.

As a department, we put out a newsletter twice a year and I am the one who puts it all together. I like the idea of using Smore to keep track of how many people actually look at the newsletter but the newsletter as it currently stands has almost too much information and lends itself to not being read completely. Over the past year or so, I have encouraged my fellow librarians to include quotes from students and to make everything more students centered because that is where we have the greatest impact and what the administrators care about the most. This is relatively easy for my fellow elementary librarians because of our scheduled classes but is difficult for the middle and high school librarians who have a flexible schedule. I will continue to encourage newsletters that are student centered.

I have never done a year end report because I haven’t quite grasped how to collect the statistics necessary to include in the report. I am really bad about writing I don’t write down quick notes to remind myself about the different conversations, collaborations, technology troubleshooting, and other activities that I do that aren’t directly related to instruction. I also don’t keep track of how the library is being used by other people within the building. I can, however, gather evidence to show the direct impact my teaching has had on my students. I teach every grade level at least one research project every year and the research projects get more difficult with each grade level. Upper elementary classes conduct research that requires them to complete different tasks and culminate with some kind of overarching, synthesis question. With a little bit lot of hard work on my part, I will find the evidence to back my belief that I truly do make a difference in my students’ lives. Now I just need to share this definitive proof with the right people.

Thing 32: EBP – Collecting Data

Exit Tickets


Exit tickets are something that I used last year for about 3 months until all classes began to work on their research projects.Why did I stop using them? Because I thought I wasn’t getting any meaningful feedback from the students. My exit ticket asked students to reflect on something that they had learned in class that day. Inevitably with my younger classes, many of the responses said, “We read a book,” even when I hadn’t read a book. I was so frustrated by these responses, that I stopped doing the exit tickets.

But after reviewing all the reading materials, I realized that I stopped using a powerful tool to show my students’ learning. Although there were a few students in every class writing the same thing every week, more than half of the students were writing down something they did learn in class. I have to ask myself now why didn’t I see this positive side and only the negative?

This goes back to my organization and time management with classes. One of the marks that I consistently have difficulty with on my performance reviews is closure meaning I do not provide meaningful closure to a lesson. I struggle with this for several reasons:

  1. Although most of my classes are scheduled for 40 minutes, in reality most of my students only receive at most 30 minutes of instruction. Quite often I plan too much into a lesson and we don’t finish at a good closing point so I skip the closure.
  2. Many of my lessons are done over more than one class so finding a place to provide closure can be difficult or seem disconnected.
  3. My library clerk used to complain about the wasted paper and thought it was stupid. Yeah, I know — that isn’t part of her job but this is a frequent subject of discourse between us.

But in reality, these are just excuses. As a school librarian who was not a teacher first, this is an area of teaching that wasn’t really taught in graduate school. Even after years of observations, no one has sat down and explained to me why this step is critical. But intellectually I understand that closure is a way for students to grasp that the teaching part of the lesson is over and the time for independent practice has now begun. Closure is also a good way to quickly summarize the lesson and reinforce with students what they were learning in class that day.

I will begin using exit tickets but this time I think I will provide students with some options to choose from like some of the ones suggested by Joyce Valenza in “Evolving with Evidence: Leveraging New Tools for EBP“:

  • What is one thing you still don’t understand?
  • What would you like to learn more about?
  • What did you accomplish today?

I especially like the question asking students what they accomplished that day because it makes them reflect back on not only their learning but also their own behavior which may have impacted how much (or little) they accomplished that class period. I also think this will negate some student’s inclination to say the same thing every week.

Portfolios


As a graduate student, I was required to create a online portfolio and I chose to use Google Sites. Since I graduated there are so many other, better choices but I never considered the need for me to have one, especially since I already have a job. But just because I have a job today, doesn’t mean that I will have a job next year or the year after that. Having a portfolio completed and up-to-date just in case seems like a pretty good idea right about now. If I was a consistent blogger, that would be the perfect avenue for me to showcase my work and my thoughts. Maybe someday.

I have often thought it would be nice for high school seniors to have a portfolio of work from their entire school experience that they could look back and see how much they have truly learned. Actually, I think this would be powerful for all students to look at their work from the beginning of the year to their work six months later. I think all of them would be astonished to see how much they really have learned in such a short period of time.

One of the best/easiest tools I have found for student portfolios is Seesaw. It is very easy for students to join and it is available on multiple formats including iPads, Google Apps, and Android. Once students have an account, they are able to take pictures of their work, add videos, or add digital content and Seesaw is designed with the student doing all of this independently. What a powerful way to empower their students in their own education. Seesaw has also added a blog component which makes this tool even more powerful. All content can be viewed by classmates, the teacher, and their parents after being moderated by the teacher. All of this is for free. They do offer a school account which allows work to stay with the student throughout their time at the school but at this time, I don’t have any idea on cost. If affordable, I would definitely consider upgrading to a school account.

Another more practical and cost effective portfolio that I could use is Google Drive because I am lucky enough to work in a school district that has provided a Gmail address for all students. Once students have learned to navigate through Google Drive, it is quite easy for them to add different types of media to store work that they have been completed. This can also be done on multiple platforms using the Drive app. At the end of each year, students could create a folder for all of the work they completed that year and it would be available to them as long as they had this Google account. This is definitely a low frills portfolio but in the long run may be the most practical one for my students.

Online student portfolios would provide a way to document evidence on student progress and skills learned throughout a school year. With my aging memory, they would also refresh my memory of all the lessons taught throughout the year and provide a way to assess what can/should be changed for the following year.

NoodleTools


NoodleTools flew under my radar until about a week ago when I saw a post on Facebook where my fellow librarians were raving about it and how useful it was for creating citations. With further investigation, I discovered that NoodleTools is so much more than that. NoodleTools helps keep track of a student’s progress through the research process and a place for students to keep their notes, outlines, citations, and their written document. Another positive is that NoodleTools is available for free but also provide a school account for a minimal cost. I have placed it on my wish list for databases that I would like to have and hope to be able to purchase it next school year.

With the prevalence of plagiarism due to the ease of copying and pasting directly from the Internet, NoodleTools could provide a way to teach students good habits that they will be able to use in high school and/or college. Although I teach students the importance of citing their sources and require them to write down the link that they used, they find it exceedingly difficult to create a citation and don’t grasp the implications of not properly attributing information from online resources.

One of the readings suggested using the student’s bibliography to assess the resources they used and I think this is a fabulous idea. I personally struggle with allowing students to select their own resources because invariably they end up at Ask.com or another website like it instead of seeking out reliable sources as they have been taught. To combat this problem, I usually pre-select sources for my students but I know realize that I really am not doing them any favors as they don’t get to practice evaluating resources which is something they desperately need.

Exit Interview


I really like the idea of an exit interview with my sixth grade students mostly because this is the first group of students that only had me as their librarian. The only downside with this is that there are only a handful of students that have been in my school since Kindergarten and I don’t think it would be fair to only include these students in the exit interview.

It would be interesting to discover what skills and/or projects the students enjoyed the most. My practice has changed a lot over the years and although I have adjusted lessons based on my perceptions, its would be interesting to see the students side of the same project.

 

In my mind, an exit interview is a good starting point to establishing a library advisory council which is considered a best practice for school libraries. How are the two related? One looks at what has been done over the past 7 years and the other looks at what will be done in the next 9 months. Once I have feedback at the end of this year, I can take this information to the advisory council and get their input on how to improve based on the feedback.

An exit interview is also one of the EBP that would be difficult to “fudge” the results. Children can be brutally honest and in this case, that is what I am looking for them to do. As much as I would like to only hear from the students who have been in the school since Kindergarten, I also think it would be valuable to get feedback from students that have had a different librarian. Even within my school district, the librarians all have different styles and methods and although I believe I provide the instruction my students need, it would be interesting to hear how someone else did it better and adapt it to my situation.

Plans for EBP in the near future


The school year is almost over so I will be hard pressed to find all the evidence that I wished I had been gathering since September. But over the next few months, I will use exit tickets with my upper elementary students to gauge their perceptions of their learning. I will also be contacting the 6th grade teachers to set up a focus group for the exit interview as I am totally intrigued by what my students might say. I will be using Seesaw with my first grade students and provide parents with information on how they can access the work their child completed in the library.

My district is looking ahead at tough financial times and I think it is necessary for me to start gathering evidence to show how much impact the library has on my students’ ability to answer questions. As this is a skill that I work had on with all of my students, I think the evidence is there. I just need to gather it all into one place and share it with all of my stakeholders.