Looking @ Best Online PLC for Librarians

Looking @ Best PLC for Librarians - So much of the knowledge and many of the ideas I've gathered over the years are a result of, not formal professional development, but rather my online Professional Learning Community! Come see my list of blogs, Facebook sites, and other communities that have been the most influential for my Library Lessons and School Library Program.As I was writing my series about the 5 Essential Literacies for Students—reading, content literacy, information literacy, digital literacy, and media literacy—I realized so much of the knowledge and many of the ideas I’ve gathered over the years are a result of, not formal professional development, but rather my  Professional Online Learning Community!

School Librarians need to keep abreast of changing subject and library standards, of useful strategies for research & information skills, and for new technology. Membership in my State library association and in ALA/AASL are advantageous for that, but the international LM_NET and Texas State TLC listservs provide my most valuable learning about how to infuse Information Literacy into my Library Lessons. In addition, my district Library Director schedules monthly meetings for our district librarians, and we learn about and discuss issues that affect us, such as educational trends or curricular needs/changes for different grade levels and subjects.

Another wonderful organization for school librarians is edWeb.net. Through their School Library Network and Emerging Tech for Schools and Libraries communities, they offer at least one FREE webinar every month on new ideas, best practices, and valuable resources. School Librarians need to keep up with the constant innovation and diversification of technology, and to keep our professional skills one step ahead of students. I seek out new tools to integrate technology into assignments and ideas for new or better ways to implement my technology lessons. I do take advantage of district training, but online videos and Webinars from vendors, curriculum providers, online services, and professional organizations help me learn much more.

Next to my listservs, my most essential professional learning tool is an RSS feeder that allows me to subscribe to and gather together blogs about School Libraries, education, and technology.  I’ve used feedly for several years and recently began also using Bloglovin’; through them I can read numerous blogs that provide insight and ideas for improving my Library Lessons and my School Library Program.

My Favorite Blogs:

Jennifer Gonzalez, blogger/author at Cult of Pedagogy.Cult of Pedagogy — Jennifer Gonzalez, education specialist and National Board Certified teacher. Best overall teaching blog ever, plus great technology implementations.

Joyce Valenza, blogger for Never Ending Search at School Library Journal.Never Ending Search — Joyce Valenza, the guru of all school librarians, writes this blog for School Library Journal. She’s a long-time tech leader and co-creator of #TLChat, TLChat Live, and TL Virtual Café. First as a high school librarian and now as professor of library science at Rutgers University, she keeps us all on our toes!

Stony Evans, librarian/blogger at Library Media Tech Talk.Library Media Tech Talk — Stony Evans, librarian at Lakeside HS in Hot Springs AR and a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator, offers great ways to use technology in the library to engage students and expand their global connections. Every blog post is a new inspiration!

Naomi Bates, librarian/blogger at YA Books and MoreYA Books and More — Naomi Bates, a Texas high school librarian with a wide range of knowledge about books and reading, library skills and technology. One of these days I’ll get in my car and drive across town to visit her library!

Doug Johnson, technology director/blogger at Blue Skunk Blog.Blue Skunk Blog — Doug Johnson writes on all things library and technology. I became inspired by Doug during a group chat in one of my library courses. For many years he had the closing article in Library Media Connection [now School Library Connection] which was the first thing I read when I received the magazine!

500 Hats image.500 Hats — Barbara Braxton, an Australian school librarian, has 3 Master’s degrees and over 40 years experience. Her posts on the LM_NET listserv always offers excellent professional guidance for school library programs.

Shannon McClintock Miller, teacher/blogger at The Library Voice and spokesperson for Future Ready Librarians and Follett.The Library Voice – Shannon McClintock Miller, school librarian and currently the Future Ready Libraries & Project Connect spokesperson. She offers great resources for school librarians to become leaders in the digital transformation of learning.

Hilda K. Weisburg, author of her name blog.Hilda K. Weisburg — another long-time guru, Hilda is a retired school librarian with over 25 years experience. She has a way of making us see the big picture!

Nikki Robertson, librarian/blogger at The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian.The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian – Nikki Robertson, a Georgia school librarian and Instructional Technology Facilitator, is co-creator of #TLChat LIVE! and TL News Night.

Gwyneth Jones, librarian/blogger at The Daring Librarian.The Daring Librarian – Gwyneth Jones, a teacher librarian in Maryland, has a passion for edtech and shares all her creative and wonderful lesson ideas with the rest of the library world.

Diana Rendina, librarian/blogger at Renovated Learning.Renovated Learning — Diana Rendina, a media specialist/teacher librarian in Tampa, Florida is the guru of Makerspaces. Her ideas for redesigning the school library into a participatory learning environment with hands-on STEM learning experiences are the best!

Larry Ferlazzo, teacher/blogger at Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day.Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day — This long-time ELL/ESL/EFL teacher is a librarian’s best resource for online curation. He has thousands—yes, thousands—of sites organized in dozens of categories on his website and in his Pinterest boards. He’s better than Google!

Richard Byrne, author/blogger at Free Technology for Teachers.Free Technology for Teachers — Richard Byrne in Maine. The very best resource for all things technology, he also has a channel on YouTube with dozens of video tutorials for tech tools. My go-to guy when I need to know how to use a tech tool!

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning - logo.Educational Technology & Mobile Learning — Meg Kharbach, a doctoral researcher with 10 years of classroom experience, writes from Nova Scotia, Canada about dozens of technology tools for iPads, Smartphones, and Google/Chrome/Chromebooks. You need it, she can recommend something!

PLCs on Social Media

Many librarians rely on Twitter, but I’m not as enthusiastic, though I do follow a few dozen folks. I’m also starting to follow more librarians through Pinterest. My main social media outlet for library learning is Facebook and these 4 Groups consistently provide great professional learning ideas and links:

I just recently transitioned to my new Facebook professional page at www.facebook.com/barupatx because my personal family stuff was getting lost among so much of the phenomenal library and education information coming to me!

I hope these online professional communities help you as much as they’ve helped me. Happy Professional Library Learning!

Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 5 – Media Literacy

Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 5-Media Literacy - In our modern world students need to understand and be proficient in 5 Essential Literacies, and School Librarians need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit. In Part 5 we look at Media Literacy as a way that students can be successful in future coursework and as global citizens.In our complex, information-rich, culturally diverse world, students need to understand and be proficient in these Five Essential Literacies:

  • Reading and Writing (the original literacy)
  • Content/Disciplinary Literacy (content & thinking specific to a discipline)
  • Information Literacy (the traditional library curriculum)
  • Digital Literacy (how and when to use various technologies)
  • Media Literacy (published works—encompasses all other literacies)

As School Librarians we need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit to the library, so I’m addressing each of these literacies in a separate blog post to offer examples/suggestions about how we might do that. Previous blog posts covered reading, content/disciplinary literacy, information literacy, and digital literacy, so this final post of the series looks at Media Literacy.


Media literacy during the last half of the 20th century focused primarily on print and television advertising, but in the 90s, with the growth of computers and the Internet, organizations such as the Center for Media Literacy appeared and promoted an expanded view of media literacy. Still, for the first decade of the new millennium, media literacy took a backseat to computer hardware & software and concern for “digital citizenship.” When introduction of the iPhone (in 2007) and Android phones (in 2008) put ready access to social media in the hands of teens & children, media literacy became a major issue for educators. And the “fake news” epidemic surrounding the last presidential election thrust media literacy into the spotlight and brought about its current “hot” status.

I must admit to limited experience with media literacy. As a middle school librarian, I started a short media literacy unit on print & TV advertising in 2006 with 8th grade English/Language Arts classes, and when I retired in 2013 I was developing a more expansive program coupling media literacy with digital citizenship. I’ve continued to follow the increased interest in media literacy and can offer a few insights for integrating it into Library Literacy lessons.

Defining Media Literacy

  • Media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending. Common Sense Media
  • Media literacy encompasses the practices that allow the media consumer to access, critically evaluate, and create media to improve their communication effectiveness. Wikipedia
  • Media Literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, communicate and create using all forms of communicationNatl. Assoc. for Media Literacy Education

Here is the definition of Media Literacy in our National School Library Standards:

  • Media Literacy is…a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms—from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy. Center for Media Literacy

Media is one of 5 specific literacies defined by our new National School Library Standards. Along with information literacy and digital literacy (defined in earlier posts in this series) the NSLS includes:

  • Text literacy: ability to read, write, analyze, and evaluate textual works of literature and nonfiction as well as personal and professional documents. [related to my earlier post on reading]
  • Visual literacy: ability to understand and use images, including the ability to think, learn, and express oneself in terms of images. [related to my earlier post on content literacy, i.e. charts, graphs, maps, etc.]

Media literacy encompasses the other 4 literacies—either by type of material or by skills needed—as well as civic responsibility, so I believe we can have a broader appreciation of media literacy by encompassing it within UNESCO’s definition of Literacy (per the National School Library Standards) and its 5 Laws of Literacy.

The United Nations 5 Laws of Media & Information Literacy

click to enlarge

Literacy: the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, and compute, using materials associated with various contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society. (UNESCO 2006)

Integrating Media Literacy

School Librarians may wonder why the sudden pressure for media literacy—surely our Information Literacy lessons on evaluation help students decipher the true from the not-true resources. Such is not the case for two reasons: first, school librarians rarely have an opportunity to deeply immerse students in Information Literacy skills, and second, because sifting information requires a certain command of subject matter that students often lack. No amount of website evaluation—RADCAB, or CRAAP, or my own ABC—overrides well-rounded knowledge of a topic or issue, and a particularly interesting article explaining that is Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?

A lack of full understanding makes it all the more important to integrate our Literacy Lessons with classroom content, with the standards and objectives the teacher is using for the unit, and to coordinate our lessons with classroom activities. We need to not only teach students how to analyze media, but also how to effectively and ethically communicate their own narratives through various forms of media. Regarding media literacy, I’m not quite there yet. At this point in time I am simply curating online resources for creating media literacy lessons for students, and have a few that I can recommend to help you construct your own Library Literacy Lessons.

Civic Online Reasoning or COR uses everyday digital content, the COR paper, and online assessments to engage learners in credibility decision-making around three COR Competencies: Who’s behind the information? What’s the evidence? What do other sources say? The free assessments include Google Docs assessments to copy and digital rubrics to download. These tasks are perfect for learning across the curriculum and especially for librarian-led learning.

Common Sense Education's News & Media Literacy Curriculum Resources Common Sense Media’s News & Media Literacy Curriculum Resources offers strategies to equip students with the core skills they need to think critically about today’s media. Built on more than 10 years of expertise and classroom testing, these lessons and related teaching materials give students the essential skills to be smart, savvy media consumers and creators. From lesson plans about fact-checking to clickbait headlines and fake news, we’ve covered everything.

Project Look Sharp is a media literacy initiative of Ithaca College that develops and provides lesson plans, media materials, training, and support for the effective integration of media literacy with critical thinking into classroom curricula at all education levels, including integration with the new common core standards.

In an EasyBib blog post Identifying Fake News: An Infographic and Educator Resources10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Article, Michelle Kirschenbaum states, “You want to be informed, but a good deal of the information out there is incorrect or biased. Here are some things to keep an eye out for when reading a news article.” The infographic at right was created from the article.

The National Association for Media Literacy Education sponsors a yearly Media Literacy Week in the U.S. and Canada during the first full week of November. They have events and resources that can help introduce media literacy to your students early in the school year.

I hope this blog article is helpful. I’ll continue adding resources to this list as I develop my own media literacy lessons for middle school students.

This concludes my series of blog posts on the 5 Essential Literacies for Students. I invite readers to offer comments and suggestions about any or all of these literacies.

Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 4 – Digital Literacy

Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 4-Digital Literacy & Technology Competency - In our modern world students need to understand and be proficient in 5 Essential Literacies, and School Librarians need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit. In Part 4 we look at Library Lessons that help build the Digital Literacy & Technology Competency that students need to be successful with current and future coursework.In our complex, information-rich, culturally diverse world, literacy is no longer just knowing how to read and write. Students need to understand and be proficient in these Five Essential Literacies that are important in our global society:

  • Reading and Writing (the original literacy)
  • Content/Disciplinary Literacy (content & thinking specific to a discipline)
  • Information Literacy (the traditional library curriculum)
  • Digital Literacy (how and when to use various technologies)
  • Media Literacy (published works—encompasses all other literacies)

As School Librarians we need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit to the library, so I’m addressing each of these literacies in a separate blog post to offer examples/suggestions about how we might do that. Previous blog posts covered reading literacy, content/disciplinary literacy, and information literacy, so this post looks at Digital Literacy and its associated Technology Competency.

Defining Digital Literacy & Technology Competency

The definitions of Digital Literacy are multitudinous. Here are a few:

  • Digital Literacy-the ability to use technology to navigate, evaluate, and create information. Common Craft
  • Digital Literacy is the ability to understand, use and safely interact with technology, media and digital resources in real-world situations. Learning.com
  • Digital literacy…includes knowledge, skills, and behaviors involving the effective use of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs for purposes of communication, expression, collaboration and advocacy. Wikipedia
  • Digital literacy…specifically applies to media from the internet, smartphones, video games, and other nontraditional sources. [It] includes both nuts-and-bolts skills and ethical obligations. Common Sense Media
  • Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills. ALA Digital Literacy Task Force
  • AASL National School Library Standards doesn’t define digital literacy, but defines Technology Literacy as the “ability to responsibly use appropriate technology to communicate, solve problems, and access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information to improve learning in all subject areas and to acquire lifelong knowledge and skills.”

These definitions include Technology Competencyknowing how to USE technology equipment, applications, and online services, but too often we show students how to use a tool within the narrow confines of a particular assignment and fail to teach them why that tool is being used. Consequently, today’s students have and use digital devices, but they don’t really comprehend the digital world. We must, as the above definitions clarify, go beyond mere tech competence and build Digital Literacy: a full understanding of the type and purpose of technology tools in order to create original multimedia products for a variety of communication needs.

With the increase in cloud computing, students can only achieve digital literacy if they understand broad digital and online concepts, such as:

  • Purposepersonal use, group collaboration, or presentation.
  • Audience interaction. 1-to-1, 1-to-many, or many-to-many
  • Delivery method. 1-way broadcast or 2-way exchange
  • Response interval. synchronous (same time) or asynchronous (different times)
  • Scope/Efficacyall potential uses vs. the best use
    For example, a word-processing tool’s best use is to record information, but it can be a collaboration tool by using comment and track-changes features, it can be a multimedia tool by including charts, images, and hyperlinks, and it can be a presentation tool by publishing to a larger online audience.

Integrating Digital Literacy

Creating lessons that integrate technology in an authentic way can be daunting. I find that models such as SAMR, TPACK, LOTI, and TIM are more theoretical than practical. As busy librarians we certainly need practical! For us the fundamental question is always, How can we create Digital Literacy Library Lessons that:

  • are short & simple and can be scaffolded over time?
  • focus on the objective of the assignment and the purpose of the library visit?
  • have a classroom-related activity so students can practice what they learn?

With such lessons, teachers, who otherwise might not know about or use the tools, can see how to integrate them into their own lessons.

ISTE provides Technology Standards for Students as 7 Student Outcomes, under which we can organize our in-house and online tools, as shown in this example table:

designer /maker
Flipped learning
Mind map
Images Animation
Interactive poster
Photo editing
Video production
Text document
Online forum
Survey tool
Video conference

By emphasizing the type of a tool, rather than a brand name, students learn what it is and why they use it regardless of who makes it. Though I created this table, I find it’s still impractical for organizing digital literacy concepts for students.

The simplest way I’ve found for students to understand technology is by introducing these 3 Conceptual Groups:

  • Personal individual tools (1-to-1) for organization, communication, learning, and reflection: email, digital documents, and digital storage.
  • Group tools (many-to-many) for collaborating with others: chats, discussion forums, wikis, social networks, and Web/video conferencing.
  • Presentation tools (1-to-many) to create and publish original multimedia products: blogs, audio pod-casts, slide shows, animations, videos, and live broadcasts.

This organization incorporates broad digital concepts into short, simple lessons, and makes it easy to introduce a variety of media & technology tools for students to express themselves and add creativity & value to their products.

Practices to Promote Digital Literacy

♦ Test a new technology tool with students by using it as an alternative for a non-tech task; later it’s easy to interest them in new ideas using the familiar tool. I often try new tools with ELL and SpEd students: these teachers are very flexible with curriculum and eager for new experiences with their students; lessons must be short, simple, and specific so these students grasp what I’m showing them; and classes are small so I can work with each student individually. Initially I was surprised how quickly these students learned and began using the tools for other classroom activities, but now I understand it’s because technology is visual, interactive, and adaptable for every learner.

♦ To integrate a new technology tool, I use my Library Lesson Matrix to determine which Subject would most benefit from it, and I prepare a Library Lesson Plan to convince teachers to visit the library with their classes. I did this for the 6g Spanish teacher who asked how students could give online written responses to practice vocabulary, and now “Cloud Computing” with a district-provided online service is the first 6g technology lesson of every school year.

♦ When technology is to be the end product of an Info-Lit project, I introduce the technology tool during the Create phase of the problem solving model. I show students the tool while the teacher distributes a checklist of end product requirements and an assessment rubric, both of which include my input for the technology tool.

♦ When integrating technology into a project that requires work outside the classroom or library, we need to be cognizant of the digital divide in our schools. Always offer options: a hands-on product OR a technology product that both meet the assessment evidence, but are completely different in nature. (When offering options to middle school students, we find that 3 choices gives variety without being overwhelming for students—or for teachers to create guidelines and rubrics.)

♦ Think about how to scaffold lessons in small chunks across subjects within a grade level or across different grade levels. For example:

  1. 6g Social Studies students learn that landmarks and monuments represent the culture of a country and its collective memory. I show students how to search for copyright-free images online, then, working in teams, they use the images and an in-house tool to create a picture calendar of landmarks from 12 countries. This project is used again the following year in the 7g Social Studies course on State history as a tech refresher for students.
  2. A 7g ELA project offers students the option to create a song for a novel they’ve read. Students learn to find copyright-free soundtracks online then use an in-house audio tool to create and sing the song. (7th graders like singing, even into a computer!) Students also create a cover for a CD container, using prior knowledge to find copyright-free images.
  3. When 8g ELA students create a video book-talk, I just need to review how to find copyright-free images and sounds online. I show them how to upload files to an online video-creation service then copy the URL into an online QR-code generator so others can view their book-talk.

♦ Convince teachers to integrate technology into lessons early in the school year so we can gradually build skills in students. So often big technology projects happen after State testing, but a school only has so many computers and kids can only learn so much new stuff at a time!

Toward a Digitally Successful Future

In spite of the abundance of technology tools, educators still have obstacles to overcome: availability and reliability of tools, wide variation in teacher comfort, and the digital divide among students having home access to the Internet. And while we educators use digital tools every day for professional and administrative needs, what students need for their work is quite different. Thus, our challenge is to equip students with the digital literacy that will help them achieve success in school and in their future.

For further reading, try these 6 Books on Digital Literacy.

This is the fourth entry in my series of blog posts on the 5 Essential Literacies for Students. I invite readers to offer comments and suggestions about any or all of these literacies.

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Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 3 – Information Literacy

Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 3-Information Literacy - In our modern world students need to understand and be proficient in 5 Essential Literacies, and School Librarians need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit. In Part 3 we look at Library Lessons that help build the Information Literacy Skills that students need to be successful with current and future coursework.In our complex, information-rich, culturally diverse world, literacy is no longer just knowing how to read and write. Students need to understand and be proficient in these Five Essential Literacies that are important in our global society:

  • Reading and Writing (the original literacy)
  • Content/Disciplinary Literacy (content & thinking specific to a discipline)
  • Information Literacy (the library curriculum)
  • Digital Literacy (how and when to use various technologies)
  • Media Literacy (published works—encompasses all other literacies)

As School Librarians we need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit to the library, so I’m addressing each of these literacies in a separate blog post to offer examples/suggestions about how we might do that. Previous blog posts covered reading (Part 1) and content/disciplinary literacy (Part 2), so this post looks at Information Literacy.

In its new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) defines information literacy as “knowing when and why information is needed, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use, and communicate it in an ethical manner.” (p. 277.) We can embody this definition in our Library Lessons using these 3 Components for Information Literacy:

  • Problem-solving Models that help students plan a project, select sources and materials, create a unique product, and reflect on product and process.
  • Search and Evaluation Skills that help students access and evaluate resources in a variety of formats.
  • Academic Honesty Guidelines that give students an understanding of, and respect for, intellectual property, copyright, and fair use when creating and presenting their work products.

Integrating Information Literacy

We School Librarians face several obstacles to teaching Information Literacy Components to our students:

  • The Information Literacy curriculum is often embedded into subject curricula, but not identified as taught by the School Librarian.
  • Class library visits are arbitrary and haphazard, making consistency and continuity of lessons difficult.
  • Teachers are ignorant about collaboration with a school librarian or have had negative experiences.

To overcome these obstacles, our Information Literacy lessons need to be short purposeful chunks that provide only what students need for the assignment. Such lessons encourage teachers to collaborate often so we can scaffold the necessary Info-Lit skills for each grade level through the school year. I’ve written previously about an organization tool I use to plan & track my lessons, so let’s look at some specific strategies we can use for each Information Literacy component.

Problem-Solving Models

I’ve used many Problem-Solving Models, and each has its benefits and flaws, but all can achieve our goal to develop a problem-solving mindset in students. Some PSMs have more steps, some fewer, but all problem-solving models have 4 basic phases:

Problem-Solving Models Comparison Reduced Image

PSMs chart

  1. plan
  2. aggregate materials
  3. create a product
  4. analyze outcome.

Use a chart of various problem-solving models (free download on my Library Resources page) to choose a model most suited to grade level, subject, and assignment, then give students an infographic of the chosen one to make the process clear and understandable. I use only 2 simple problem-solving models for 6th graders and scaffold the planning process throughout the school year. During 7th & 8th grades I present new models, so before they leave our campus, students have learned how to use a variety of models.

Teachers rarely include planning as part of a research assignment—students have a single topic, gather the same information, and regurgitate the same product. We can change that by showing teachers quick planning strategies to incorporate into a library visit. Simple brainstorming with Post-It® Notes, a Thinking Map Circle©, or a KWL chart stimulates students to think in terms of problem-solving and are quick & easy ways to begin a project.

My 6-Question Topic Planner

6Q? Topic Planner

Use a graphic organizer to help students formulate questions for research. Questions help students sift through resources for specific information, and because they require analysis and decision-making, they also lead to a problem-solving mindset. Here are 4 graphic organizers I’ve used to generate questions:

The PSM plan phase is followed by selecting and using sources & materials, and we move seamlessly into that Info-Lit component when presenting resources students can use for their assignment.

Search and Evaluation Skills

Clipped KWHL chart for Alternative Energy Research unit.

WH from a KWHL chart

We need to teach students 3 different elements of this Info-Lit component: source selection, search strategies, and resource evaluation.

Source selection may be proscribed by the teacher, the grade level, or the assignment. Based on the type of resources students need, we may offer a book-cart of library materials, an online Resource List of Web-based sources, or a KWHL chart (add How to a KWL chart as shown at right) with a variety of resources.

To convince students they will “save time and find better information” by using subscription databases and e-books provided by our state and school district, use this 2½-minute video from Yavapai College: “What Are Databases and Why You Need Them.

My own Keyword Search Form with search modifiers.

Keyword search form

The most important lesson we can teach students about search strategies is how to generate keywords. For a quick lesson students can write keywords on a Post-It® Note (which can be used as an Exit Ticket!). When we use a graphic organizer—such as the KWHL above—have students highlight or underline important words in their questions. Once students have learned the basics, provide a keyword search form at library computers to remind students of the importance of keywords. (free download on my Library Resources page)

Pre-HS students don’t need to know the term “Boolean operators, as long as they know what they are and how to use them. I simply include the search modifiers AND-OR-NOT on infographics, in graphic organizers, and as part of my keyword search form.

We can quickly teach students to sift top-level domain extensions when searching the free Web by typing site:gov, site:edu, or site:org into the search field of a search engine. This provides a perfect segue into resource evaluation, a topic with many Internet resources and acronyms. To keep things quick, easy, and memorable, try using this simple 3-letter “ABC” acronym which I believe is enough for evaluating the quality of any resource:

  • Authority — Who is the source of the information?
  • Bias — Why is this published, for what purpose?
  • Currency — When was this information published or updated?

I don’t include validity/usefulness because it’s implied when students select sources that answer the planning questions for their topic. (If a source doesn’t provide answers to any questions, they don’t need to evaluate it; if it does, then they use ABC.) I don’t include reliability because it’s part of Currency and Authority. (If the site creator has the proper authority, then we can accept it as reliable.) I don’t include accuracy because that takes place during the “create” phase of a PSM, when students analyze and compare information after it’s been aggregated from sources.

The create portion of a PSM—how to use the gathered information—provides an entry point for discussing Academic Honesty Guidelines with students.

Academic Honesty Guidelines

It’s important to give students an understanding of, and respect for, intellectual property & fair use so they legally access and ethically use information & media, and properly cite copyrighted text, images, music, and video to avoid plagiarism or piracy when producing their end product. For years I struggled through these lessons, but as soon as I began using the phrase “academic honesty,” students gave attention to these lessons—I believe it empowers students to meet high standards and builds their self-esteem.

A previous blog post about how I teach Academic Honesty includes examples and resources, but here’s a quick overview of the 3 conceptual elements of Academic Honesty, organized in the order that best complements the problem-solving mindset we’re trying to implant in students:

My quick & easy notetaking tool for students.

Notetaking Tool

  1. Intellectual property – creations of the mind that belong to the originator or other designated owner.
    1. Citation
    2. Bibliography
  2. Copyright – legal rights given to owners of creative work so it can’t be used or stolen by others.
    1. Note-taking by quoting/paraphrasing, in-document citation
    2. Note-taking by summarizing
  3.  Fair Uselimited legal use of copyrighted material.
    1. Public domain – works whose intellectual property rights/copyrights are expired, given up, or excluded.
    2. Creative Commons
    3. Plagiarism – presenting someone else’s words, ideas, or creative expressions as one’s own. An ethical (not a legal) issue of academic dishonesty/fraud.

This conceptual separation of Academic Honesty can allow us to incorporate a short lesson on any concept throughout the school year.

What’s Next?

Problem-solving models, search and evaluation skills, and academic honesty complete the Library Information Literacy curriculum, but in our modern technological and global world students need more. Technology skills are crucial for future schooling and employment, and students also need to learn how to ethically interact with and evaluate all the media around us, so come back for Parts 4 & 5 as I offer ideas for incorporating digital literacy and media literacy into library visits.

This is the third entry in my series of blog posts on the 5 Essential Literacies for Students. I invite readers to offer comments and suggestions about any or all of these literacies.