Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Guest Post on Free Technology For Teachers: The Teacher-Librarian-Your Best Tech Resource

Thank you to Richard Byrne for allowing me to make a guest post today on his very popular blog, Free Technology For Teachers. (Two images were left out of that posting but are visible in this one.)

When I first began my career as a media specialist, the Internet was just beginning.  Now, 22 years later, technology is an integral part of our lives. The school librarian, once known for handling books, is now responsible for both print and non-print resources. This is the biggest change in a job description any teaching position has seen.  If you are a K12 educator, you are aware of the term "technology integration", but did you know that perhaps your greatest assistance can come from the school media specialist (or teacher-librarian)?  Let's talk about what kind of help you can expect:

1. You have assigned your students a research paper and have given them the requirements.  Now what? If your class has questions about how to evaluate a website they'd like to use, what would you tell them?

Many teacher-librarians (yes, we ARE certified teachers) have set up pathfinders on the school's website to aid students with a myriad of topics. The pathfinder lists information on that topic, including the Dewey Decimal number, (books) book titles in the library, and websites, which have already been approved by the librarian.  If your school subscribes to EBSCO, Fact on File or any other databases, we can give a tour and explain the best way to search for a specific topic.

One lesson that I have done for grades 7-12 (I work in a junior-senior high school) is on searching.  My students are very quick to use Google, without understanding Boolean logic.  Here is a simple explanation from Kent State University's libraries on the left.

This type of search can be done in databases including EBSCO, and is the way that Google's advanced search is set up.  I always offer other search engines that are best for scholarly work, because they are specific to academia.

Let's get back to Google.  Students will believe that Google is all they need to research their topic.  Wrong. I explain to them that Google will merely provide results it thinks they are looking for without saying whether or not the website can be trusted.  After showing them some hand-picked sites which are hoaxes (here's one which looks like the White House website and has links which are real, except this one) and mentioning that anyone can make a website and put it on the Internet, the students begin to understand the importance of being able to trust the information.

Once classes have begun to research their topics, I talk to them about curation (collecting information to share later on) and various sites to assist them, such as LiveBinders, Evernote or Zotero

Since today's kids are digital learners, I will suggest apps for their phones, which will make the research process easier on the go.  For example, EBSCO, LiveBinders, Evernote and Follett Destiny have mobile apps available. Students can check our card catalog for books remotely. (Boy, so much easier than when I was in school!)  Even the citation process is easy for them, with BibMe, Noodle Tools Express and EasyBib creating the bibliography for the student.  There is an app for EasyBib only right now.

2. Information Literacy: Are your students literate?

With budgets being cut across the nation, many school librarians have lost their jobs.
This map depicts how bad the situation is.  Students in elementary school enter middle and high school without the proper skills and are then are lost when they need to use the Internet and don't know how to even attach a file to their email account.  I make it a point to create posters on how to do various things in the computer lab, such as checking the spelling and grammar in Word for a Spanish document, things students should know about EBSCO, HP smart printing made easy, finding images on the web with high resolution for inserting in Word documents, and how to search for a job.  When I taught in another school, I actually had a class in Information Literacy. In my opinion, this class should be mandatory for every student, now that the 21st century has arrived.

3.  Looking to make presentations easier for your students?

It's no secret around my school that I dislike PowerPoint.  With the PC version much easier to use than the Macintosh version, (and students still finding it difficult to locate where things can be found in the interface) I have introduced SlideRocket to quite a few classes with great success. You will never have to worry about lost presentations, because they reside in the cloud on SlideRocket's server. The interface is clean and adding images, video and audio are a snap. No more excuses from students about forgetting their USB drive at home. Compare SlideRocket's interface (left) to PowerPoint .

4.  Trying to keep up-to-date on all things related to technology in education?

It's a daunting task for anyone, especially when lesson plans, quizzes, teaching duties and more fill up your schedule.  Your teacher-librarian can find resources that are best for you to try.  Many of us have blogs or websites where we post thoughts, ideas, and information on tech tools and apps.  Edmodo is loved by our students because the interface emulates Facebook.  I demonstrated this program and many others, including Pixton (Spanish students created comics using their vocabulary words) and took the students through the sign up process.  I posted the winning cartoon on our school's website. (only 2 frames shown here)

There are so many things that your teacher-librarian can offer you and your students.  USE US. Make time to visit the library-media center. It should be the focal point of every school.

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @cybrarian77

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