Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Shallows Library Collaboration

A few years ago, one of our English teachers (Mrs. Jennifer Garner) approached me about having her students lead a learning activity based on The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. This was one of the first student-led collaborations that we attempted in the library. I was delighted when Mrs. Garner approached me about having the program again this school year. In this article, she joins me in describing how her students held this program in the library.

Description of the Program (Mrs. Jennifer Garner, English Teacher, Lakeside High School)

Students present a video about the history of the Internet

Students in my senior-level English 12 Transitions class read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, as a part of the curriculum designed by the Southern Regional Education Board’s College Ready course. Working with this text prepares students for college-level work as they gain skills in reading and writing claims and evidence. Students in my junior-level AP Language and Composition course also study this text as they study sources and evidence in preparation for writing the synthesis essay. The English 12 students read the text early in the year. The AP students read it at the beginning of the second semester. As a capstone for the unit, my English 12 students design, plan, and execute a collaborative event designed to introduce the AP students to the text. This event is planned with the assistance of our school media specialist, Stony Evans, and takes place in the Media Center. Based on their understanding of the text and what students need to know in order to have some background schema, the English 12 students created four stations based on major claims and information presented in The Shallows: multitasking, e-texts vs. print texts, the history and development of the Internet, and Internet use. The students determined which concepts were important and created the stations based on those concepts. They consulted with Mr. Evans and shared with him their needs for media and supplies. The multitasking station required participants to perform multiple cognitive tasks, such as drawing, watching a video, listening to music, and listening to a presentation, all at the same time. Students conducting the station then asked a series of questions about how well they completed each task. The etexts vs. print text station required students to read an e-text with hyperlinks and then answer a series of questions that assessed their comprehension of what they read. The history station traced the development of the Internet via a video; student leaders then lead a discussion with the students about the content of the video. Finally, at the Internet Use station, students completed a Google survey about their Internet use and habits, the results of which were immediately shared and discussed with the student leaders. Students spent approximately 10 minutes at each station and rotated through all four stations during the 50-minute class period.

YouTube video from our Facebook Live broadcast of the event.

Teacher Reflection

Having taught students on all levels of learning, I realize the importance of building background knowledge and creating some level of enthusiasm before reading difficult texts. I also believe students learn best when they take some ownership in their learning. This collaborative project enabled my on-level seniors to take ownership as they developed and implemented this project. It also gave students who are often unmotivated and sometimes feel “less than” – because they are in an on-level course – to make an important contribution to the learning of other students. The project gave my AP students valuable information about the content of the text, which they have frequently referenced in class discussions. As a result of the collaboration, my senior English students experienced confidence and satisfaction in having contributed to an important project while reinforcing their understanding of the text. I witnessed growth in several of my seniors and realized many of them have skills and abilities that aren’t revealed in the classroom setting. For example, one student really stood out as she led discussions about multitasking. Her enthusiasm was evident as my AP students listened intently and engaged in discussion with her. She is a student who never would have had an opportunity to interact with advanced students in a class because she has always taken on-level classes. In fact, she has struggled with and even failed English classes in the past. She now has an A in English.

As teachers, we often feel we must control and implement every aspect of students’ learning. We undervalue students’ gifts and abilities when our classrooms are teacher-centered rather than student-centered. There are times when we must be the focus for learning, but giving students an opportunity to learn from one another in projects such as this not only brings out their skills and confidence, but strengthens them as learners and valuable members of a classroom and school community.

Students discuss the impact of multitasking
Student Reflection

The Shallows has influenced me alot. It has put alot of thoughts in my head. I think of all the pros and cons of the Internet. It makes me think "is it worth it?" There are some serious cons to using the Internet all th time. But there are great pros to using it also. The Shallows collaborative event really showed some light on the effects of using the Internet. I sat with groups of kids, and some it didn't really get in to their brain of what I was trying to say. But a couple of groups really got into it and I think expressing some of my experiences that I've gone through. The Internet can be a blessing and a curse. (This program) has made them think and change their perspective on using the Internet. - Lissie

Teacher Librarian Reflection/ Conclusion

This program is an excellent example of how the school library can support a student led collaborative learning event. We have so many resources in our library spaces just waiting to be utilized by visionary students. I believe this is an important mission for the Future Ready Librarian. It is so crucial that we assist teachers in giving their students a voice in the classroom. The library is a perfect staging area for such events since we have resources on every subject in addition to vibrant technology. I will be using Mrs. Garner's students as an example for other teachers (and students) in our learning community. I can't wait to see how this program inspires others to step out of their comfort zones!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Close the year with student voices!

Connect your library with Skype.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Close The Year With Student Voices

As the hectic pace of May continues to build, it is easy to get wrapped up in end-of-the-year procedures. During this time teacher librarians everywhere are making lists of overdue items, teaching classes, completing library inventory reports, and more. What if we also used these last few weeks as a time to invite students to give us feedback on how the year went for them in the library? This is exactly what we have done at Lakeside High School for the past few weeks, and the feedback has been informative. We wanted to know how our services impacted the students. We also want to know how students think we can improve. Read on for a brief description of how we have heard their voices.

Google Form Survey

We decided to create a Google Form to email out to all of the students. We asked only four questions (3 multiple choice and 1 optional short paragraph written answer).

  • The library media center has a warm and inviting climate for the LHS learning community. (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)

A large number of students agree that the library climate is warm and inviting!

  • The student resources in the library media center serve your needs (both academic & recreational). (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)
The majority of students that responded gave positive reviews of library resources.

  • The library staff demonstrates a good understanding of technology and assists students with technology problems in a timely manner. (Always, Sometimes, Rarely, Never)

The majority of students that responded seem to be happy with our technology assistance.

  • Please tell us how we can improve our services. (If you should have a complaint, please provide a possible solution). 41 students responded to this optional short answer response.

We emailed the link out to approximately 1360 students. 110 voluntarily participated! I must admit, I was a bit nervous to open ourselves up to anonymous feedback in this format. The results were very encouraging. We also identified a need that our users indicated in their written responses. Several students requested that we provide a quiet space for study before school and during lunch. I can understand this request since the library typically has well over 60-100 students in its spaces during those periods. We have always had a "quiet zone" available to students, but few have asked for it. This feedback lets us know it is still a need to a small population of our users. We are already advertising the "quiet zone" again even though there are only a few weeks left of school. In addition, we have been brainstorming additional quiet spaces for next year and have been consulting with our administrators on future possibilities. This process has let me see the value of seeking our user's voices! If I wouldn't have taken a risk in posting the survey for everyone, we may have not learned about this need!


We also decided to create an opportunity for students to share their voices in a more personal way. Kaitlyn Price (co-librarian) and I have been experimenting with Padlet this year. We thought it would be interesting to ask students what they will remember most about the library from this school year. We decided to make this a fun activity with the opportunity to win something. (If students give feedback, they get to enter a prize drawing.) We posted this question on a Padlet, "What will you remember about the library this year? Tell us what stands out to you." We put this on an iPad at the front desk and announced the drawing for anyone that participates. So far, 14 students have participated. They have written some wonderful things for us to read. It has made our library staff realize how much being consistently friendly and supportive can make a difference to young people. Here are some of their responses:

"I like to sit in the library and read or study while listening to music. The librarians are always really nice, whether it's letting me leave my stuff in the library or suggesting books. I'll remember the book that I was suggested with one week to read, and of course the librarian who suggested it." 
"I will remember the book club. I was introduced to a new book called Unwind and the discussions we had and getting to talk to other schools about the book Wonder."
Padlet Screenshot

"I will remember how welcoming all the librarians are. Each time I come it I feel at home and I never feel like I'm going to be turned away. I will always remember how they helped me come out of my bubble this year and encouraged me to participate in school events." 

"I will remember the first time coming here for a tour of the campus. The library was the most memorable thing about the school. I could not wait to come in here and feel comfortable reading with everyone else. Also, me and my friends eat in the library for breakfast and lunch and we always enjoy being in here." 


Kaitlyn and I also decided to give students an option to respond on Flipgrid by creating short videos. So far, students have favored the Padlet more. (Most say that they don't like making video responses.)  Previously, I had also used Flipgrid to allow students to answer this question, "How has the school library changed you this year?" We had 8 students and 1 teacher respond. I recently used some of these as part of a keynote presentation at a library conference! Special thanks to Microsoft Education for providing Flipgrid to Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts this school year. It has made a difference for me and our learning community through these activities.

Incorporate Feedback Into An Annual Report

Now that we have this data, we must do something with it! Kaitlyn and I can't wait to share portions of these results on our annual report. The survey shows areas of strength according to our learners; in addition,  we know the areas that we need to improve for next year. The Padlet and Flipgrid entries share specific stories from students. Such endorsements from student users are gold to library stakeholders! These wonderful quotes and stories share the value of the school library program to our administrators and school board. Now that we have tried this with success, I want to improve our surveys in the future. There are so many ways we can solicit student feedback!

I hope you will also consider stepping out of your comfort zone and invite your student users to give feedback. You never know what ideas they may present to you. It is true that all feedback will not be useful. One thing is for certain, if students see you acting on their feedback and/ or appropriate requests, good things will happen. Such actions show them that their voices are important and the library is for them. I think you will be surprised how little input students typically have in public school. Why not lead this process from the library?

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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