Sunday, February 12, 2017

8th Grade Intro To Research Using Chromebooks

For many years, I have taught research skills to high school students. I have always wanted to make it a more interactive experience for learners when teachers bring classes to the library. This year, Mrs. Mari Simmons requested to bring her 8th grade ELA class to the library to begin their World War II research project. She asked if we could teach them about some of our many resources in the library. Mrs. Simmons had recently received a Chromebook cart for her class to use. This was an added bonus since I had been anxious to incorporate devices into such a lesson. In this article, I want to share how we designed a research lesson around the Chromebooks and Google Classroom.

HyperDoc in Google Classroom

I brainstormed during the weekend prior to the lesson. I kept thinking back to the HyperDoc session I attended at the Google Summit during summer 2016. It seemed an interactive document like this might be a nice way to keep Mrs. Simmons' learners engaged all through our research project lessons. I decided to use a HyperDoc that contained links and brief information to the resources the students would be using. Mrs. Simmons also allowed Kaitlyn Price (partner teacher librarian) and myself to join her Google Classroom. I thought this was a great opportunity to become "embedded librarians" so students could message us at any time if they had questions. This is a link to the HyperDoc we used. It seemed very helpful for the learners to see an outline of what we covered in their classes on this document. In addition, if they required explanations, we could insert brief definitions. The document was posted in Google Classroom, so at any point during the project the document was accessible. We also used as an added method for students to ask questions.

These students found the books they needed!
OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)

I shared the basics of searching in our OPAC. I showed students how to find the call number and also how to tell the difference between fiction/ non-fiction materials. We looked at a few examples of the contents of books while using the OPAC. By having the link to the catalog on the HyperDoc, students were much more engaged than in years past!

Britannica School

I showed them how to login to Britannica School and how to search by using different keywords for their topics. Students seemed to like that Britannica School's cite tool creates a nice MLA citation automatically for them. We also looked at the "Web's Best Sites" tool for websites that have been approved by Britannica editors.

Mrs. Price and Mrs. Simmons introduce citations

On the fourth day of research, Mrs. Price showed students how to access EasyBib. She also showed them how to create their works cited page using the tool. They were highly engaged for this activity since they had already found several sources by this point in the week.

Google Advanced Search

Many students did not know how to utilize Google Advanced Search. I showed them how to access it and also how to specify .edu or .gov domains for more credible sources. One of the things I always like to do is compare the number of sites found between a normal Google search and a Google Advanced search by filtering out the .com and .org. This presents results that showing only the .edu (or .gov) domain links. This always turns up significantly fewer results for students to choose from.

This class took advantage of Padlet for asking questions!

Since the students had Chromebooks, we decided to create a Padlet ( for each class period. We encouraged students to ask questions on the Padlet. We found that this empowered many students since some may not want to ask a question in front of the entire class. One period filled up the screen with relevant questions. It was a wonderful addition to the lesson!

Student Feedback

We created a short survey using Google Forms to get feedback on the research lessons and tools that were presented all week. Below are some of the student responses:

"Really enjoyed EasyBib, makes citing a whole lot easier."

"It was great! I liked the new question website (Padlet) so you don't have to wait on a teacher."

"This really helped me and made it a lot easier to do my project."

"One of my favorite websites for research is the Britannica School website. BY FAR!!"

"Everything was really good but next time maybe you could do an example of taking notes on a notecard."

"I thought that it helped us find trusted sites to use."

Click on the video above to hear our reflections after the first lessons.

Teacher Reflection (Mrs. Mari Simmons)

This week in the Lakeside High School Media Center, my six 8th English classes have been learning the process of writing a research paper.  The topics are based on people and events during World War II.  Students chose topics in class before meeting in the library.  Mr. Evans snd Mrs. Price introduced the lesson by joining Google Classrooms and posting links to OPAC and Encyclopedia Britannica for finding sources. Mr. Evans and Mrs. Price modeled the information on the big screen for students.  There was also a Padlet posted on Google Classroom which allowed students to ask questions about the lesson or sources.  The questions were answered in a timely fashion, and sometimes addressed to the whole group.  Mrs. Price explained for students to create the Works Cited page.  Once students found sources, she demonstrated how to create citations for books, encyclopedia articles, and websites.  Students then submitted the Google Document to their individual Google Classrooms for me to grade online.  One of the improvements this year was students followed instruction by using an individual Chromebook, which I brought from my room.  Students learned quickly, as it was a hands-on experience instead of a listen and learn lecture.  The expertise of Mr. Evans and Mrs. Price with research greatly added to the student learning experience.  It was an extremely successful week, and a great introduction for writing a research paper!

Next Steps

Now that we have had a successful integration of these interactive tools in the research lessons, we want to do more. We are already brainstorming what this might look like in upper grades and also other subjects. We hope that students will take advantage of our "embedded librarian" status in their Google Classroom by messaging us if they have research questions. Perhaps we can try embedding ourselves in other teacher's Google Classrooms in a similar way during research projects. This provides excellent evidence to our stakeholders of the value of the library program. We cannot simply wait for students (and teachers) to come to us, we must find them and serve them where they are (even if that means asking to join Google Classrooms)! I can't wait to see Mrs. Simmons' finished student research products!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Connect your library with Skype!

Collaboration sharing research tools with 8th grade English classes in 2015.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Krystyna's Connection Reflection

Krystyna visits with Robyn Hrivnatz via Skype
The 2016-2017 school year has been the most powerful for connections using Skype in the library. Several classes have utilized our services to Mystery Skype or just to connect and collaborate. I have noticed a change in our learning community since these connections have become more frequent. First of all, students always seem to want more. They frequently ask, "When will we Skype again?" In addition, teachers are beginning to think beyond our state to connect their classes to far away states or countries.

Presentations and Skype-a-Thon

Earlier this year, I wrote about student makerspace presentations in the library for two education cooperatives that had visited us. Our learners did such a wonderful job, we started arranging for them to share their presentations with schools in other states via Skype. These students even had opportunities to present their innovations to the Follett Corporation and Microsoft. During the Skype-a-Thon, students had the chance to present to Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft. On a separate Skype connection, students visited with Robyn Hrivnatz, Marketing and Educator Programs Manager, US Education at Microsoft. During that session, Krystyna, one of our high school students, asked several questions about the potential career paths to work for a major technology company. I remember she was clearly empowered by these connections during the Skype-a-Thon. She talked about the experiences for weeks following the events.I was curious to hear more about these experiences through the lens of a high school student. I decided to ask Krystyna to write a reflection so I could share it on this blog. She finally completed it this week. It was wonderful to learn about the impact of connecting through her voice. Her narrative follows in the space below:

How Meeting with Microsoft Changed My Life
Krystyna presents her robots to visiting teachers
A few months ago I had a life-changing moment along with other students from Lakeside. The library joined a Skype-a-Thon with Microsoft. I got to present my robots to Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft. He virtually traveled more than 9 million miles around the world to answer questions that students like myself had. I would like to thank everyone that put the Skype-a-Thon together on the other end and my educators who help me find opportunities to expand my experience and share knowledge with others. I was completely amazed by the effort of the whole Microsoft community and I’m excited to see what comes next.
The 2016 Skype-a-Thon with Microsoft blew my mind. I was able to talk to a big time company that has done many amazing things for people. I never thought that I, a 15 year old girl, would be able to present my robot friends to Mr. Salcito. It made me feel significant and made me realize that distance is no reason not to connect. The Skype-a-Thon event really expressed the idea that connecting schools is important because it lets kids see outside of their own school. There are so many creative events that Microsoft comes up. These events make them a community of inspiring people who are willing to teach kids from around the world. Microsoft is a huge education sponsor that goes way past products. They make programs like Onenote, hold Skype-a-Thons, and sponsor school events for students to be able to be educated. The people at Microsoft come up with amazing ways to show how beautiful the minds of students are.
I love the idea of spreading the message across the world that connection and education is important. They dream big at Microsoft and I love the ideas they have to spread technology and knowledge. A few days after the Skype-a-Thon I Skyped with Robin Hrivnatz who also works at Microsoft. I asked her what the standards are to get a job at Microsoft. Mrs. Hrivnatz told me that there are so many branches in Microsoft that I would be able to get a job there even if I didn't go to college, though I am still going to college. It gave me a huge confidence boost to know that there are many more dreamers like me in the world and that I could connect with them. I knew for a long time that I wanted to work with innovative technology and program robots to help others, but now I have an idea who I want to work with and where I want to do it.

I hope that I get more amazing opportunities to share my voice. Thanks to amazing educators and opportunities like this, kids have a chance to have a powerful voice in this world, and I hope that never goes away. They really did change the lives of many students and showed them what they are capable of including myself. I, along with many other students, got a confidence boost from talking to such encouraging people who show us the possibilities of working hard and following our passions.Thanks to this event I learned that I love presenting to people about technology and the advantages of innovation. I am so glad that I could share my passion with Microsoft, and I am very thankful that they took time to listen to kids around the world and encouraged kids to continue sharing their works with others.

Next Steps
I have shared many times how connecting with other educators has enriched my practices and changed me professionally. Krystyna's account gives us all a glimpse into the potential power that awaits our libraries and classrooms. I want to give more learners the opportunity to present and connect to new distant school friends. Perhaps, one of the most important things we can do is invite students to share about the impact of
Krystyna with the library team
their experiences. How many other students might be willing to write a reflection I could publish here?

Libraries are wonderful places to connect people with information and technology. A new goal for me will be to seek out students that have connected with resources that interest them in the library (technology, books, and more). I want to give students a voice when they connect in the school library. There are so many valuable stories waiting to be told. I can't wait to share them here.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Connect your library with Skype!

A recent graduate shares her library story.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

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