Looking Back @ Modeling Digital Literacy & Technology Tools

Looking Back @ Modeling Digital Literacy & Technology Tools - It's crucial for school librarians—and teachers—to model technology correctly when delivering a lesson. Here are some practices I model to build digital literacy with students, along with a lesson that integrates technology in order to enhance a student product and increase student engagement. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #digitalliteracy #educationaltechnologyModeling is the second step in the AASL-recommended lesson sequence, so it’s importance is evident. But I wonder if most educators realize that how they present lessons is as important a part of modeling as the content they present. This is especially important when we are using technology—we can’t expect our students to build digital literacy and technology competence unless we properly model it. I offer here some practices to build digital literacy with students, along with a lesson that integrates technology in order to enhance a student product and increase student engagement.

Modeling Slide Presentations

I believe it’s crucial for school librarians—and teachers—to model technology correctly when delivering a lesson. When we wonder why student presentations are simply a reading of text off a slide, we have to question how we present material in slide presentations!

Lee Hilyer, profile photoI learned the best way to do slide presentations from Lee Hilyer, University of Houston librarian, in a webinar** sponsored by the Texas Library Association. His 3 simple rules are:

  1. Say the words – create a script of what you want to say
  2. Show the pictures – use relevant images that fill the slide
  3. Text is for take-away – minimize slide text and expand topic with a handout

So…

  1. I create my script for each slide using the “Notes” feature of the slide application, then later on I print them out as prompts during the presentation.
  2. I limit the text on slides and use visual representations that cement the concepts into students’ minds. I also try to keep my presentation under a dozen slides because students won’t pay attention nor remember more than that.
  3. My take-away is the student activity sheet, which is also their daily grade for the library visit.

Hilyer also recommends standing to the left of the screen so students use their natural left-to-right reading pattern to see us first, then the slide. To facilitate that, I use a remote control to advance slides; it also allows me to move around, as needed. (Having two remotes allows students to use one during their own presentations.)

I know many educators think that providing text on a slide allows students to take notes during the presentation, but brain research shows that is not the best way for students to learn. Learning happens much better when we pair our speaking with highly engaging visuals and provide students a guided notetaking sheet or graphic organizer on which to record their understanding. Give students a short time after the presentation to compare notes so they all have the pertinent information.

Click here to download PDF notes of Lee Hilyer’s webinar

As we present improved lessons, students will intuit the most engaging way to create their own slide presentations. Students see so many slideshows in their other classes, that it’s easy to ‘tune out’ in the larger library classroom, so I limit how many slideshows I use for my Library Lessons. Students do occasionally enjoy a short, auto-timed, narrated slide show—perhaps it’s more like a video—so I sometimes do that for variety. But if I can find a better way to instruct than slideshows, I do so.

Modeling Online Tech Tools

I believe it’s crucial for school librarians to uphold the rules we expect students to follow regarding the use of online services. It’s important that my digital & technology lessons for under-age-13 students use in-house applications, or online services provided by the state/district for all students, or online services that do not need accounts created.

Keep in mind that some technology tools require the use of multiple apps to accomplish something, like creating screencasts with one tool or videos with a different tool, and needing a YouTube account to which we can upload them. We may need to create a school account for our under-13 students, and share the login & password with them so they aren’t obliged to create illegal accounts. Careful evaluation of tools and the grade levels with which to use them with is how we model good digital citizenship for both teachers and students.

Introducing a New Tech Tool

School Librarians are often the most tech-savvy person in the building, so often we are the ones initiating use of a new tech tool. To decide with whom I’ll present a new tool, I ask myself 2 questions:

  1. “What subject or curriculum standard will this tool best support?”
  2. “Who is my most accommodating teacher of this Subject?”

Once I’ve answered these questions, I use my Library Lesson Planner to create a lesson and show it to the teacher during their planning period. They are often, coincidentally, looking for something to “refresh” the lesson, unit, or activity, and greet my well-prepared lesson suggestion with enthusiasm. I offer to show them how to use the tool before the visit, so they can help students during the lesson and when they aren’t in the library, and they are usually eager to try it out.

Cloud Computing Slide Sample

During the lesson I’ll use animated slides to introduce the digital literacy concept, the type and purpose of the technology tool, and its form of audience interaction. Since the best way to teach technology is to demonstrate how to use it, I then close the slides and open the online service.

Tech Lesson Worksheet Example

I have students take a handout from a stack on the table which has tool images to help students follow the demonstration. Students use the rest of the period for a daily grade activity that guides them into features the teacher wants them to use for the assignment.

Once students are introduced to a service, they often ask other teachers to give them assignments using it. The teachers come to me for help, and I’m able to expand student use of the service through short integration lessons during library visits with those other Subjects.

To keep Digital Literacy concepts fresh in students’ minds, I print out and laminate chosen slides from lessons as educational signage and display them near library computers. I use clear, acrylic, letter-sized sign holders, wall-mounted and free-standing, so I can change signs to highlight particular elements I’m presenting. The signs are reminders which activate and reinforce terminology, concepts and processes, and legal and ethical responsibilities. Teachers like them, too, and they had me mount some on the walls in their computer labs.

Technology-Enhanced Project

Sometimes a project can be done without technology, but technology makes the project more authentic and meaningful. Such is the case with the Dream Vacation Project. This is a cross-discipline project with ELA, Math, and Social Studies that is an authentic and meaningful use of online resources and apps.

  • The initial library visit is with Social Studies classes to Investigate a country. I present a problem-solving model and our online subscription services, and students browse maps and information on geography, climate, main cities, and natural wonders so they can decide which country they want to choose for their “dream vacation.”
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  • A few days later Math classes visit to Plan the Dream Vacation and I introduce an online Resource List I created that lists websites of travel service providers and tourist bureaus. I show them how to use those online travel sites to find the cost of air flights, hotels, and ground transportation, and how to use travel bureaus to find popular tourist destinations and prices for tours. Students have a certain dollar amount they can spend on their trip, so my Resource List provides currency conversion websites so they can calculate and keep track of trip costs.
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  • The following week English Language Arts classes visit the library for the create phase of the problem-solving model. I discuss Academic Honesty regarding citation of text and images, and then show students how to Create a Webpage to present their project in one of two ways: as a travel agent promoting a Dream Vacation for clients, or as a tourist who is sharing experiences from their Dream Vacation. Teachers distribute a checklist of product requirements and an assessment rubric, which I also have on the project’s Resource List.
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  • At the end of the project I load Student Webpages to our school website and during ELA classes students use computer spines and the library to view their class’s site and Evaluate using a rubric what they and their fellow students recommend as a Dream Vacation.

Using multiple technology tools makes this project more authentic, more exciting, and more successful for students, especially since they receive credit in three different subjects for one product. I incorporate several Information Literacy components into the project, and I can adapt it to other grade-level Social Studies classes by having the vacationer visit destinations in our state or the U.S.

**Acknowledgments to Lee Hilyer of University of Houston for permission to use information from his TLA Webinar.

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Looking @ Essential Supplies To Have in the School Library

Looking @ Essential Supplies To Have in the School Library - There are some things you just can't live without...and that's especially true in a school library. Here are the essential supplies and tools I always have on hand for students, for teachers, and for myself. #schoollibrary #schoolsupplies #librarymanagement #schooltoolsThere are some things you just can’t live without…and that’s especially true in a school library. When we talk about supplies and tools for librarians, we usually mean items for processing or repairing books or to make the facility more usable. After 25 years in education, half of them in the library, I have my own list of essential supplies and tools that I always have on hand, for students, for teachers, and for myself. If you haven’t discovered the usefulness of these supplies and tools yet, I know once you invest in them you’ll never regret it.

Supplies for Students

We expect students to have their own school supplies, but often students don’t bring those to the library. In order to make sure students have writing implements to complete a library activity, I always have available:

  • golf pencils & small sharpenersGolf pencils – These are the 4½” ones with no eraser. A box of 144 costs about $10 at any office supply store. I usually get a couple boxes at the start of school to last the whole year. Since kids don’t really like them (no eraser & hard to sharpen) they rarely carry them out of the library.
  • Small pencil sharpeners – These are perfect to sharpen golf pencils. I got a couple dozen for well under $1 apiece at the start of school one year in order to have one for each table plus a few extra. (I do need a few replacements each year because they break or “walk away”.) Students use them for their own pencils, too, and it’s a lot quieter than electric or hand crank sharpeners.
  • small plastic basket from TargetSmall plastic baskets – These 4”x5” baskets are so useful. I place one on each table, one between each pair of OPAC computers, and one at the circulation desk, so I have about 2 dozen. Each one holds a few golf pencils and a sharpener, along with several copies of my IT IS FOR ME checklist. They stack inside each other, so I can easily gather them up and store them on a shelf when they aren’t needed. I got mine at Target in the dollar aisle, but I’ve also seen 5″x5″ ones in cool colors at the dollar stores.
  • Tiny sticky notes – The 1½”x2” ones are the perfect size to write down a call number, so I always have a pad in each of the baskets by the OPAC computers.

We also do more elaborate activities for Library Lessons, so I keep these student supplies stored in a closet, and set them out when needed:

  • Color pencils – When we have a graphic organizer for a library activity, being able to use colors makes these simple worksheets into a fun experience for students. I get these very cheaply through my school district warehouse, and have one set of assorted colors per table. I’ve also seen golf-pencil-size ones in a dozen assorted colors for a buck and a half at the office supply store.
  • Color markers – A great dollar store item…around a dollar for a set of 6-8, depending on the tip. My middle schoolers prefer the skinny ones with pointed tips, but I also keep a supply of chisel-tip ones for poster projects. I discovered some of the cheap ones don’t bleed through paper as much as more expensive permanent markers, so a double benefit.
  • Small scissors – I set out 4 per table so each student has a pair. I get the cheap utility ones through our warehouse, and because they’re ugly, the kids never take them out of the library. You can also find them for around 60¢ apiece at office supply stores, and they’re even cheaper in bulk.
  • small metal buckets for holding scissors and color pencils & markersSmall metal buckets – I use the 4” tall decorative ones on each table for scissors, color pencils, and markers. By having 2 per table—one for color pencils and one for markers—I can use the smaller size and put scissors, if needed, into whichever one we’re using that day. I find these for about $1 at various places, especially at the start of school or just before the holidays.
  • Glue sticks – I have a few cut-and-paste activities, and using tape just doesn’t work well, so I invest in about 3 or 4 dozen glue sticks at the start of each school year. I put a couple in each table basket when we need them, and they’re so much cleaner than glue in a bottle. They last all year if kept in gallon sized zip-lock baggies when not being used.
  • library clipboardClipboards – Another really cheap warehouse item, I have a storage bin full of these in the back room. I use them for my 7g orientation scavenger hunt and other walk-around activities to make it easier for students to write on worksheets. With a barcode on the bin cover, I can also loan them out to teachers.

Taking care of, and setting out, these student supplies is an excellent task for student aides or to have a student work off the cost of a lost book. One day the baskets & buckets of supplies were out on tables when we had a faculty meeting, and my principal liked having them available for teachers, so she asked me to put them out for future meetings, too…and she’d cover the replenishment cost!

Tools for Teachers

In addition to those clipboards, there are a few other items teachers don’t need in their classrooms, but when they want them, I’m their one-stop-shop:

  • Sidewalk chalk – I find big buckets of assorted colors for a couple bucks at different stores, so I always kept 2 or 3 of them on hand. Invariably in late spring a teacher wants to take students outdoors for an unplanned drawing activity, so they come to the library knowing that their handy-dandy librarian will have the chalk they need!
  • Mirror – You know those hand-held mirrors with normal view on one side and close-up view on the other? Well, I’ve got one and it’s borrowed all…the…time.
  • long-reach & heavy duty staplersSpecialty Staplers – I have 2 of these. One is a long-reach stapler for stapling in the center of a sheet of letter or legal paper. The other is a heavy-duty stapler for stapling up to 50 sheets of paper. I use the long-reach one quite a bit for the various library information booklets I create for teachers, aides, and volunteers. The biggest user of the heavy-duty one was the counselors!
  • small-size glue gunElectric glue gun & glue – I can’t tell you how often during my first couple years I was asked if I had one, so finally I purchased 2 small ones. I discovered they’re also a great way to make quick binding repairs for books with loose covers!
  • Extension cords – A school librarian can never have enough extension cords. I keep various lengths, from 2-pronged 6′ lightweight ones to 100′ 3-pronged heavy duty ones. I also found it advantageous to keep a few surge protectors handy, especially ones with very long cords. And I barcoded every one of these for teacher checkout, because when I didn’t, I never got them back! Velcro ties in different lengths are very handy to keep each cord neatly wrapped.

Tools for the School Librarian

The items listed here are not typically included during a library set-up, but once I acquired them, I realized how valuable they are:

  • desk bellDesk bell – This actually sits on my computer presentation cart for use during lessons. I do a lot of discussion activities, and this is the best way to regain students’ attention—high-pitched enough to be heard over voices, but not too loud. I give it 3 quick taps then wait, and within a few seconds students stop talking and turn back to me. It’s even distinctive enough to gain their attention when in the aisles browsing for books!
  • Paper cutter – Cutting apart sheets of overdues, cutting apart my IT IS FOR ME checklist, cutting apart cardstock bookmarks, trimming signage, even paring down protective book covers. This item stays on a shelf behind my circulation desk because I use it so often.
  • reacher assistive toolReacher assistive tool – I’m average height, but I have trouble reaching DVDs and kits on shelves above a bank of computers along one wall, as well as things on top shelves in my back room. Once I got this gadget, I was amazed at how often I used it!
  • Etching tool – When the school decided to purchase class sets of calculators for math classrooms and enough individual ones to check out to algebra students, they wanted me to keep track of them. I knew paper barcodes wouldn’t last long, so I invested in this tool and etched a barcode on the back side of every one. It works on headphone headpieces, too; in fact, I kinda went nuts etching a lot of things!
  • Tool box – I love tools. I’d rather visit a hardware store than a dress shop. I even keep a tiny (1¾”) bubble level on my key ring! I got no-name-brand tools on sale, so I didn’t shell out much for such valuable items. Over the years I’ve fixed everything from audiocassette tapes to audio/video carts to tables and desks, but you know who uses my tool box the most? The custodians!!
    tool box toolsMy library tool box holds:

    • a set of screwdrivers, from very small for digital equipment to huge for adjusting my back room metal shelves;
    • small pairs of regular and needle-nosed pliers;
    • a fold-up set of hex wrenches;
    • a box cutter and a razor-blade knife;
    • a tiny hammer and a larger lightweight one;
    • both a cloth tape measure and a metal locking one;
    • the cutest little hacksaw for PVC pipe or lightweight metal.

This completes my list of the 20 essentials that made my life so much easier as a School Librarian. It made students and teachers very happy, too…and isn’t that what “wise professional decisions” are for?

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Looking @ The School Library Environment – a Guest Post by Susan Harris

Looking @ The School Library Environment - Welcome all students to visit the school library for pleasure reading, research, and study. Learn how to create a clean, inviting environment that is accessible to everyone and available when needed, so students want to come in. #schoollibrary #libraryfacilitymanagement #librarydesignA recent edWeb contribution from Susan Harris, Librarian at Ridgeway HS in Memphis TN, was full of helpful information about the library setting, so I asked if I could publish it on my blog. Graciously she agreed. I hope you readers find it as enjoyable as I did.

I am going to provide a few tips that I hope will be helpful to you. I always try to allow as much natural light in as possible, I always try to have “designated” spaces in my library, and I always try to make everything handicap accessible by leaving enough space between bookcases and tables and by not placing books on top or bottom shelves when possible.

I try to leave open shelving by my entrance so that I can create monthly book displays, and I have a bulletin board that I change monthly and use to promote literacy.

Ridgeway HS Library Halloween Display

Halloween Display click to enlarge

RHS Thanksgiving Bbd

Thanksgiving Bulletin Board

RHS Library Reading Corner

Reading Corner

When I was an elementary school librarian, I actually had a gazebo that children could sit in and read while other children checked out books. At my current library, I have a designated area for computers (like a lab setting), a “classroom” or meeting area where I have all of my tables and a mounted SmartBoard and projector, a “reading corner” and open space. There are so many furniture choices now for children and teen reading spaces if you can afford it. There is also portable furniture (tables) now so you can make your space more accessible (if you can afford it).

I suggest that you always attempt to have sight lines when you arrange your library because you want to be able to see what all of your students are doing from where you spend most of your time. I fortunately have a monitoring program on all of my library computers so I am able to monitor the students’ computer use while I am at the circulation desk. Of course, the placement of your power outlets, wireless access points and/or Ethernet ports will determine where your technology goes.
Ridgeway HS School Library

When I was an elementary librarian I always had a colorful carpet for the students to sit on while I read aloud to them and I placed plush book characters on the shelves in the children’s area. For my high school students, I place greenery on top of the shelves and use Ficus trees and paintings for decor.

I know that some places now like to offer a cafe setting for students to encourage them to use the library but I prefer to ban food and drink from the library setting as much as possible. A maker space would be a good way to attract students of all ages if you have the funds and the space for it. I have a conference room for small group meetings for social workers, recruiters, book club meetings, PLC meetings, etc.

I strongly suggest signage to assist students with locating materials, and I suggest the use of colorful literacy-related posters. Remember to host as many literacy-related programs as possible: National Library Card Sign-Up Month, Teen Read Week, Banned Book Week, National Library Month, Read Across America, Read for the Record, Drop Everything and Read, etc.

Ridgeway HS Library Reading Interest SurveyI also do special things like trick or treat the librarian, and I have a library orientation scavenger hunt. I find that hosting annual orientation is the best way to make students aware of what you offer, your policies and your procedures. I also try to include students when ordering books by asking for recommendations from them. I have a survey on my school website for students and for teachers to complete about their interests and needs. I provide a link to the OPAC on my library website.

Many people are using social media now to strike up interest in the library. Let the children know that you are there for them. I try to go the extra mile by posting scholarship information on my website and by reading over students’ papers when they ask me to.

Providing a clean and inviting environment is one of the best ways to get them in the door. Make sure your collection is up-to-date. Offer a book swap basket where you place paperback books that can be exchanged (no strings attached) for paperbacks that students have already read and have sitting around the house.

RHS Library - a welcoming space

RHS Library – a welcoming space

Come in early, stay late, and leave the library open through all lunch periods so students know that they are welcome and you are available. Host a teacher library orientation session so you can get teachers on board with library use. Co-teach classes when possible. Many students will come to the library as their “safety zone” if they are loners or if they are trying to avoid trouble. Make everyone feel welcome.


Susan Harris, Ridgeway High School Librarian, Memphis TNSusan Harris is in her 26th year as a school librarian.  She has served as a public librarian, an elementary school librarian and a high school librarian.  Mrs. Harris graduated from Northwest Community College, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi.  She holds a Master of Library and Information Science Degree.  She welcomes all students to visit the library for pleasure reading, research, and study, and is willing to stay after hours to assist students when needed.