Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Teacher-Librarian is Your Best Tech Resource

This week I am away on an offline vacation. Rather than let the blog be dormant or rerunning old posts I decided to give some other people a chance to share their experiences and ideas with you. I hope you enjoy the posts. 

The school librarian, once known for handling books, is now responsible for both print and nonprint resources. My job description has changed more in the last two decades than any other teaching position.

If you are a K12 educator, you are aware of the term "technology integration", but did you know that perhaps your greatest assistance can come from the school media specialist (
or teacher-librarian)?  Let's talk about what kind of help you can expect:

1. You have assigned your students a research paper and have given them the requirements. Now what? If your class has questions about how to evaluate a website they'd like to use, what would you tell them?
Many school librarians have set up pathfinders on the school's website to aid students with a myriad of topics. The pathfinder lists information on that topic, including the Dewey Decimal number, (books) book titles in the library, and websites, which have already been approved by the librarian. If your school subscribes to EBSCO, Facts on File or any other databases, we can give a tour and explain the best way to search for a specific topic.

One lesson that I have done for grades 7-12 
is on searching.  My students are very quick to use Google, without understanding Boolean logic.  Here is a simple explanation from
 Kent State University's libraries on the left.

This type of search can be done in databases including EBSCO, and is the way that Google's advanced search is set up.  I always offer other search engines that are best for scholarly work, because they are specific to academia.

Students will believe that Google is all they need to research their topic.  Wrong. I explain to them that Google will merely provide results it thinks they are looking for without saying whether or not the website can be trusted.  After showing them some hand-picked sites which are hoaxes, (here's one which looks like the White House website and has links which are real, except this one) and mentioning that anyone can make a website and put it on the Internet, the students begin to see why it’s important to know what they can and can’t  trust. The anatomy of a URL (web address) is also discussed so students can understand how an address is created.

Once classes have begun to research their topics, I talk to them about curation (collecting information to share later on) and various sites to assist them, such as LiveBinders, Evernote or Zotero

Since today's kids are digital learners, I will also suggest apps for their phones, which will make the research process easier on the go.  EBSCO, LiveBinders, Evernote and Follett Destiny have mobile apps available. Students can check the card catalog for books remotely. (Boy, so much easier than when I was in school!)  Even the citation process is easy for them, with BibMe, and EasyBib creating the bibliography for the student.  There is an app for only EasyBib right now.

2. Information Literacy: Are your students information literate?
With budgets being cut across the nation, many school librarians have lost their jobs. This mapdepicts how bad the situation is.  Students in elementary school enter middle and high school without the proper skills and are then are lost when they need to attach a file to their email account.  I make it a point to create posters on how to do various things in the computer lab, such as checking the spelling and grammar in Word for a Spanish document, things students should know about EBSCO, HP smart printing made easy, finding images on the web with high resolution for inserting into Word documents, and how to search for a job online.  When I worked in another school, I actually taught a class in Information Literacy. In my opinion, this class should be mandatory for every student, now that the 21st century has arrived.

3.  Looking to make presentations easier for your students and yourself?
It's no secret around my school that I dislike PowerPoint.  With the PC version much easier to use than the Macintosh version, (and students still finding it difficult to locate where things can be found in the interface) I have introduced SlideRocket to quite a few classes with great success. You will never have to worry about lost presentations, because they reside in the cloud on SlideRocket's server. The interface is clean, and adding images, video and audio are a snap. No more excuses from students about forgetting their USB drive. Compare SlideRocket's interface to PowerPoint:

4.  Trying to keep up-to-date on all things related to technology in education?
It's a daunting task for anyone, especially when lesson plans, quizzes, teaching duties and more fill up your schedule.  Your librarian can find resources that are best for you to try.  Many of us have blogs or websites where we post thoughts, ideas, and information on tech tools and apps.  Edmodo is loved by our students because the interface emulates Facebook.  I demonstrated this program and many others, including Pixton, (Spanish classes created comics using their vocabulary words) and took the students through the registration process.  I posted the winning cartoon on our school's website. (Only 2 frames shown here)

I have only touched on a few of the  many things that your teacher-librarian can offer you and your students. Use us. Take time to visit your library-media center. Make it  the focal point of your school.

Julie Greller is a Media Specialist at Ridgefield Park Junior-Senior High School  in N.J. and  has been teaching for 22 years. Her blog, "A Media Specialist's Guide to the Internet", has won numerous awards.  You can find her original CD, "Welcome to the World: A Musical Collection for the Nursery" on iTunes, and CD Baby.