Modeling 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!
I 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:
- Say the words – create a script of what you want to say
- Show the pictures – use relevant images that fill the slide
- Text is for take-away – minimize slide text and expand topic with a handout
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- “What subject or curriculum standard will this tool best support?”
- “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.
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.
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.
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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.