How a School Librarian Can Teach Online Subscription Services

How a School Librarian Can Teach Online Subscription Services - Here are 3 ways School Librarians can introduce specific relevant features of subject and grade-level appropriate resources to teachers & students to support classroom content learning, along with a review of how to use them correctly. #NoSweatLibraryAt first glance, a School Library today looks much as it did a century ago: rows and rows of books. But, a second look reveals the influx of technology with desktop, laptop, and tablet computers. By the turn of the millennium, computers and their associated digital applications significantly changed School Libraries. Nowhere is this more visible than with online subscription database services available through the Internet.

Online subscription resources in K-12 schools began as add-ons to familiar print resources—digitized copies of encyclopedias, periodicals, biographies. They were costly, so most schools had only one, or maybe two. As online subscription services proliferated, they became affordable, and now are the primary reference resource in most secondary schools. Eventually service providers combined different types of reference into their own brand-name tools, so now a single resource can provide multiple forms of reference beyond what the tool’s common name would suggest.

SCHOOL LIBRARIANS ARE THE INFORMATION SPECIALISTS

In my medium-sized district, our middle schools alone have access to more than 40 different online subscription services—4 encyclopedias, 9 periodical databases, and more than 30 specialty reference databases and e-books. Imagine being a student or teacher seeing that long list of resource names on a school webpage. They are too bewildered to determine which service to use for their information need, so it’s no wonder they become discouraged and simply type some search terms into Google.

School Librarians Are (Online) Information Specialists - It's our responsibility as School Librarians to know what each of our online subscription services offer, and to determine when and with whom to use each feature of each resource. Here's how I do it... #NoSweatLibraryIt’s unrealistic to expect intermittent users to know our online subscription services and their features, or take the time to learn—on their own—how to use these database services. These services are usually chosen and funded by the District Library Department or the individual School Librarian, so it’s our responsibility as School Librarians to know what each of these online subscription services offer, and to determine when and with whom to use each feature of each resourceAfter all, we are the Information Specialists; we are the Instructional Partners, familiar with everyone’s curriculum; we are the Future Ready Librarians who curate, manage, and integrate digital resources for our students and teachers.

We can’t just run through the list, telling teachers and students all that’s available: if it isn’t immediately relevant to classroom learning, it’s meaningless and quickly forgotten. Instead, we need to create Library Lessons that integrate particular features of specific tools with a classroom activity.

INTEGRATING ONLINE SUBSCRIPTION RESOURCES

I treat online resources the same as the print collection. I don’t introduce all the Dewey Subject books at once, but rather, each topical group as it applies to a classroom assignment. So also, I introduce online resources during subject area visits, focusing on features that fulfill the purpose of the library visit, avoiding others that do not.

My Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - Composite example of an older version for the 1st grading period.

Sample Library Lesson Matrix

I use my Library Lesson Matrix to organize online resource lessons. Just as I examine each subject’s curriculum to identify a possible library lesson to enter into my Matrix, so also I examine each online subscription service. I utilize any trainings offered online and try out each feature to see which curriculum need it can satisfy and for which grade level. I record brand name and features into the subject units, then move on to the next online service.

It takes time to go through all the services, but I become comfortable enough with each tool to integrate it and teach it. By mapping these out in my Matrix, I can progressively build online skills so students are proficient in using our online subscription resources before they leave our campus.

USING INFORMATIONAL MATERIALS CORRECTLY

Focus on Content, Not Format, for Information Sources - School Library Lessons that emphasize content type--encyclopedia, topical source, periodical--are more beneficial to students than dwelling on format--print, digital, online. It's an important distinction. Learn more... #NoSweatLibraryThere’s continuing controversy about requiring students to use print or digital or online sources for assignments. We must help teachers realize that the format of information (print vs digital vs online) is NOT important, but rather the TYPE of resource and its content value:

  • Encyclopedias for general information and overview of topic;
  • Content-specific resources for in-depth information;
  • Periodicals for focused, condensed, and current information.

Encyclopedias and periodicals, in print, digital, or online versions, are pretty obvious, but content resources aren’t as obvious to students and teachers, so I always include specifics about these:

  • Print content includes all those specialty tomes we have in our reference area or topical books in the Dewey area.
  • Digital includes CDs and DVDs that we got primarily for teachers but students can be using them, too.
  • Online includes e-books, subscription services (like a biography database), and Web-based books (like Google Books, Project Gutenberg, Digital Book Index).

When I collaborate with teachers, I articulate the different types of resources and recommend what’s best for students to use for the assignment. In my Library Lesson I teach students about types of resources and how to use whichever format is accessible when working on the assignment—print version, in-house digital version, or online version. This is important in a digitally-divided school where some students may not have online access from home.

With Library Lessons that focus on type rather than format, students and teachers learn that print, digital, and online information sources all contribute to student success.

HOW I TEACH ONLINE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES

Scaffold Lessons for Online Subscription Services - Students learn our Online Subscription Services better when School Librarians scaffold Library Lessons as WebQuests, with Curated & Bookmarked Articles, and through Resource Lists. Here's how I do it... #NoSweatLibraryCarefully crafted Library Lessons, customized for each grade level, scaffolded throughout the school year, and aligned with classroom curriculum activities help students (and teachers) become familiar with which online subscription resource feature to use for their information need. It takes time and curriculum savvy to create these lessons, but we can use them year after year for the same online services.

I’ve discovered the best way to scaffold these type of lessons is to use WebQuests to introduce online services a few at a time, use curated folders of bookmarked articles within each online service for specific assignments, and to create Resource Lists of online services and other Web-based tools for longer research assignments.

WebQuests to Introduce Services

WebQuests are my favorite way to introduce online subscription database services. Using the term “WebQuest” to introduce our online resources emphasizes to students that they are the first, best choice to find information on the WorldWideWeb. Each of my WebQuests is designed for a single class period, presents just 3 different online tools with 1 or 2 features of each, and satisfies a particular classroom assignment. Teachers appreciate this guided introduction to high-quality resources that is integrated into their lessons, and, because students respond on a printed or digital worksheet, there’s a daily grade for the class period.

I believe an encyclopedia is the best reference tool for students to begin research, so the first WebQuest of the school year introduces a grade-appropriate online encyclopedia, and I use it for that grade’s online lessons throughout the school year. Repeatedly using a familiar tool activates prior knowledge so students become comfortable using various features of the tool, and we develop online browsing and searching skills that they can apply to other online resources.

As an example, my first two 6g WebQuests—one for Science, one for Social Studies—occur about 2 weeks apart. The only difference is in the features I introduce to meet the needs of the two different subjects.

6g Science Biography WebQuest 6g Social Studies Countries WebQuest
  • introduce WebQuest concept
  • introduce WebQuest structure
  • introduce grade-appropriate encyclopedia
  • 2 features of encyclopedia & their search strategies
  • biography database
  • periodical database
  • same WebQuest concept
  • same WebQuest structure
  • use same grade-level encyclopedia
  • 2 new features of encyclopedia & their search strategies
  • countries database
  • map database

Subsequent 6g WebQuests begin with the same encyclopedia and offer 2 additional subscription resources that meet the needs of the subject, the project, the research, and the lesson. Eventually 6g students learn all the subscription services relevant to their grade-level, how to locate them on the main library page, and how to use their features. (If they ask about other tools they find on the resource homepage, I say I’ll teach them in higher grades, but they’re free to examine them on their own.)

Curating & Bookmarking for Specific Library Lessons

User-created folders is a feature now offered by most online subscription services, where we can curate folders for subjects and grade levels, and then bookmark into them articles chosen from their database. I love using curated folders & bookmarked articles to guide students who have a limited time frame for certain assignments. Once I create a named folder within a service, we can use that same folder and its articles for the same lessons in following years, for as long as we have the online service.

An example of such curating is our English/Language Arts expository text unit across all 3 middle school grade levels. Bookmarked online articles are a perfect match for the unit’s elements:

  • Unit theme=Technology & the Power of Information.
  • Content skills=summarization, inference, and interpretation.
  • Required resources=non-fiction books, newspapers, magazines, memoirs, speeches.
  • Final product=an expository written instrument.

At successive library visits during the grading period, I progressively build Info-Lit skills using different resource formats to activate prior knowledge and then lead students into new experiences to create a final product unique to each grade:

6g ELA Visit 1) Examine components of non-fiction print books (table of contents, index, glossary, graphics).
Visit 2) Learn how to summarize a print magazine article.
Visit 3) Access the chosen online service, go to named folder, read a bookmarked article, and create an expository essay poster with your table group.
7g ELA Visit 1) Compare non-fiction print books and e-books.
Visit 2) Locate new online service, access named folder, and summarize bookmarked magazine article
Visit 3) Using the same online service, do a topical search, read at least 2 articles, and create a written essay.
8g ELA Visit 1) Examine print memoirs from the Biography area.
Visit 2) Access and compare a topical non-fiction print book, an e-book, and a free Web-based memoir.
Visit 3) Access online services and read bookmarked and self-searched articles to produce an online e-zine.

Resource Lists for Longer Research Assignments

Once students have learned how to access and use grade-appropriate online subscription services, I guide them less formally to relevant online resources through customized Resource Lists. Others may call this a Subject Guide, Library Guide, or Pathfinder. (Academic librarian Patricia Knapp devised and named the “Pathfinder” in the 1960s as course resources for college students.) I call it a “Resource List” because it’s a list of resources which support a research assignment.

I build a Resource List using my Library Lesson Planner, just as I would any library lesson. Why so much work?

  • I want to be sure the Resource List fulfills subject & information literacy standards and meets research requirements of the final product.
  • Teachers typically intend a library visit as an introduction to a research project, so I want a short, meaningful lesson to cultivate the requisite Information Literacy skills along with presenting the Resource List.
Resource List Example

LibLessonPlanner example

As I fill out my Library Lesson Planner for “Resources students will use,” I refer to my Library Lesson Matrix to glean print and online resources I’ve already selected as grade and subject appropriate for the assignment. I also enter any guidelines from teachers or subject curriculum guides to help me choose other Web sites that will be helpful for students.

I organize my Resource List according to the problem-solving model I’ve chosen as best for the particular research assignment, and I create it as a webpage so students can access it 24/7 (and so I can make changes or additions without issuing a new handout). Here is a brief enumeration of what I might include on my Resource Lists, as applicable to the project and the problem-solving model:

1. Problem-solving model as organizational structure
2. Recommended resources for background reading/investigation
3. Guidelines for creating questions about the research topic
4. Search strategies for different resources
5. Reminders about citation and creating a bibliography
6. Reminders about paraphrasing and summarizing
7. Resources available in the library (books, reference, other)
8. Recommended online subscription services
9. Recommended Web sites chosen by the librarian or teachers
10. Reminders about assignment requirements (from the teacher’s checklist)

USING OTHER ONLINE SERVICES FOR SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES

When I began creating my Library Lessons for online subscription services in the early 2000s, we used printed guides, but over the years I’ve transmuted them into digital and online documents. For example, WebQuests have become HyperDocs, bookmarking & curation lessons also use tools such as TES blendspace, elink.io, or Wakelet, and my Resource Lists are Symbaloo webmixes or Webjets.

Regardless of the subscription services we have or the other online tools we might use to facilitate lessons, the essence of teaching online subscription services to our students is this:

  • Limit lessons to grade-appropriate services
  • Refine choices to only 2 or 3 different services
  • Focus on content-relevant features

line of books laying down - indicates end of blog article

 

Join my mailing list to get a brief email about new posts on library lessons & management. You'll also gain access to my exclusive e-Group Library of FREE downloadable resources!

41 Useful Websites for School Librarians

41 Useful Websites for School Librarians - School Librarians will find these 41 quality Websites very helpful to gather information & ideas on professional development, library advocacy, library lessons & activities, reading promotion, and educational technology. #NoSweatLibrarySchool Librarians accumulate dozens of great websites as we read education and library listservs, bloggers, Facebook group comments, and Twitter feeds. The hard part is trying to keep these sites organized in a logical manner.

I’ve tried numerous curation tools, but for personal use I find a simple browser folder—Library & Librarian—with topical subfolders is faster than an external site for storing and using my most useful sites. Alas, always in a hurry, I often just save a URL to the main folder, so I have a lo-o-ong list of uncategorized sites to organize into topical subfolders.

While I do that, I’m sharing out these valuable resources on professional development & advocacy, library lessons & activities, reading promotion, and technology, accompanied by short annotations on why they’re helpful. So here they are: 41 Useful Websites for School Librarians.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, ADVOCACY

AASL eCOLLAB51 Free Webinars from the American Association of School Librarians on professional learning topics. 

Library Impact Studies Infographica compact advocacy tool from Library Research Service. Available for print & online viewing.

Library and Information Science EncyclopediaIf you encounter library terminology in your readings, but may not be quite sure what it is, consult this brief list for an explanation! From internationally-known blogger librarian Salman Haider.

Mackin CommunityBook vendor Mackin’s blog with resources for libraries & classrooms, makerspaces, and professional learning. Add this site to your feed!

Project ConnectSponsored by Follett, this site offers guidance for the Future Ready Librarians framework, including PD and teaching ideas.

School Librarians: Why we still need them!article by Jamie McKenzie with some strong support to use for advocacy.

School Libraries WorkWhile you can still download the 2008 version directly, the newer 2016 version wants you to submit your email address and other info. Still, a valuable document to use for advocacy and justifying (alas, we need to) having a certified School Librarian in a school library.

Top School Library BlogsA list maintained by Laura McPherson with 50 librarian bloggers you can add to your blog feed!

Virtual Middle School LibraryWith dozens of links to useful resources for school librarians, this site, maintained by Linda Bertland, retired school librarian, has an especially valuable resource page for professional learning.

Web JunctionA free learning site from OCLC Research offers self-paced courses, webinar recordings on a variety of topics related to library services and management.

What Works Clearinghouse (WWC)a U.S. Dept of Education website with research on programs, products, practices, and policies that answers the question “What works in education?”

LIBRARY LESSONS & ACTIVITIES

AASL Best Websites for Teaching & LearningEvery year our national association picks, what they consider to be, websites of ” innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration. … free web-based sites that are user friendly.” What’s especially nice is the little icons that show which of our Shared Foundations each one addresses.

Bingo Cards & Word Searches are quick ways to engage students for reviewing content. Here are 3 sites that generate customized bingo cards on a 3×3, 4×4, or 5×5 grid: BingoBaker & ESLactivities both generate cards with words or graphics; MyFreeBingoCards has thematic backgrounds for words or numbers. WordSearchLab has already created searches, or create your own of any size and number of words.

5 Minute Lesson Plan Series37 different downloadable graphic templates to quickly create a lesson plan. Whatever your admin wants, you’ll probably find it here.

HyperDocs Interactive Content & MultimediaAs stated on the site: “The most difficult and time consuming part of creating a HyperDoc … is finding the content to engage your students in the learning process. I’ve curated several lists that I hope will help get your started.” There are a dozen categories with a varying number of websites with resources and tools.

Interactive Learning Menus (Choice Boards)Ideas for differentiated learning that give students a menu or choice of learning activities; can be part of a HyperDoc. From Shake Up Learning.

Makerspace Starter KitThe Daring Librarian, Gwyneth Jones, provides a list of great tools for starting a makerspace in your library.

Primary Source Setsthe Digital Public Library of America has more than 35 million digital resources including these curated collections on topics in history, literature, and culture, with teaching guides for class use.

Skype in the ClassroomMicrosoft’s FREE go-to source for Virtual Field Trips, Guest Speakers, classroom connections, and live collaboration projects. I first heard about this from Stony Evans, and think it’s one of the most engaging activities you can do with students.

Smithsonian Learning Labfree, interactive, easy-to-use tools using the millions of Smithsonian resources to adapt one of thousands of existing collections, or to create your own lessons, like digital research skills with built-in tools for creating & using proper citations.

Spruce Up Learning Centers w/ Tech – Tony Vincent’s blog post with lots of specific information and examples to make any learning station in your library that much better with technology.

READING PROMOTION

Biblionasiumsort of a GoodReads for kids; free, protected site for ages 6-13 to encourage independent reading. Use their tools to create book reviews, reading logs, and personalized reading lists.

Classroom Libraries: Best apps for keeping trackWe Are Teachers blog post offers 6 apps teachers can use to keep track of their class books. Hey, they’re gonna have ’em, so we might as well support them…and they’ll love us for it and support the library even more! 

NEW!Educational Resources For Individuals Working With Blind & Visually Impaired Childrenchildren who are blind or visually impaired navigate a world primarily designed for sighted individuals. This site provides a comprehensive guide of resources, techniques, and organizations to help these children, including lessons & reading materials. Read the Comment below from William Moore to learn where this wonderful resource came from. 

Librarians Lovenifty book talks and display ideas from secondary school librarians.

Library of Congress Center for the Booka rich resource for librarians with recommended books, author webcasts, book awards, and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled.

The Online Books Page –  Plain website listing over 3 million free books on the Web, along with archives & indexes in languages around the world. This large database is maintained by a digital librarian at UPenn.

Social Justice BooksBooklists and other resources to help librarians build a diverse collection of titles and encourage a more culturally responsive reading experience for students.

State Award Reading ListsThis Simon & Schuster site has current Award Reading Lists from every state, along with curriculum, teaching, & reading group guides, themed collections, & reading levels. If you need labels for your State Award Reading List, they’re available as a customization in my Reading Promotion for ELA product at No Sweat Library, my TPT store. 

SYNC If you’ve never heard of this site, you are in for a treat. SYNC offers FREE audiobooks for teens every summer—2 complete audiobooks a week for 14 weeks. I always told students about it at their last library visit of the school year and provided a bookmark with a QR code link to the site.

TECHNOLOGY

AASL Best Apps for Teaching & Learning – As with the websites, AASL picks, what they consider to be, apps of “exceptional value to inquiry-based teaching and learning.” They also have little icons to show which of our Shared Foundations each addresses.

BEAM Chart MakerYes, we teach students how to make spreadsheet data graphs, like MS Excel, but this online app is quick & easy. Just choose the style, click the graph element, and fill in the information. Graphics like this can add so much to those end-of-grading-period library reports for principals & teachers. (If you don’t do that, this is a great way to get started!)

GooseChase EduFree and reasonably priced options to create educational scavenger hunts with mobile technology (IOS or Android app). Students (or teachers!) earn points by submitting a photo, video, or text.

Internet Archive Digital Library – Hundreds of millions of important webpages and media. Their Wayback Machine is a searchable database of 20+ years of web history.

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to EverythingIf you need information or guidance on educational technology, this is the place to go! Kathy has been blogging about edtech for more than 20 years and is still the best one-stop spot for general edtech info.

Media Literacy Educator CertificationDeveloped by PBS/KQED & Digital Promise, you can earn 8 media literacy micro-credentials to become a PBS Certified Media Literacy Educator.

Minecraft Education EditionIf you want to use Minecraft in your library, this site is the gateway to the education edition of the popular game. Special features for educators such as easy tutorials, classroom management tools, secure sign-in, classroom collaboration and tons of sample lessons, plus a global network of mentors and tech support.

100 Useful Websites for Educators and Students – With YA Books & More, Naomi Bates blogs about books, websites, and anything else a librarian might need. This page is a list of what she considers the most valuable website collection a librarian can have. It’s about 3 years old, but most of the links are still valid…and on my own “best” list!

Top 20 PowerPoint AlternativesPost from the Visme blog offers an open-minded examination of free & paid apps to use for presentations. Video demos are helpful. (Heavy content, allow time to load in browser.)

You may be wondering about sites for information literacy or subject areas. Those are also huge unorganized lists, so we’ll save them for future blog posts. For now, have fun looking these over and adding them to your browser bookmarks. If you have some bookmarked sites on these 4 topics you’d like to share, add them into the comments!

line of books laying down - indicates end of blog article

Join my mailing list to get a brief email about new posts on library lessons & management. You'll also gain access to my exclusive e-Group Library of FREE downloadable resources!