Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Big Takeaways on Personalizing Instruction through Use of Technology

As the year comes to an end, I am reflecting on how I worked to personalize instruction through the use of
Photo taken while visiting colleges
with my daughter
technology as an instructional tool.

Technology for Demonstration of Mastery:
In working with an English teacher on her op-ed unit for her sophomore classes we discussed and planned ways for students to select topics that are meaningful and interesting to them. This unit is key for enabling each student to focus on a personal topic of interest or concern. Furthermore, we planned for digital writing, informed by Troy Hicks' book, Crafting Digital Writing, so that students would be creating for an audience beyond the teacher and include multimedia extensions of the their writing to expand the discussion of the issue they selected.

Technology and Media Information Influences:
With another member of the English department, we planned a unit that focused on student exposure to media and advertising through various outlets -- print and digital. We guided the students to choose an aspect of their lives and American society and examine the influence that media has on it. This unit enabled students to practice their research skills and apply them to an aspect of their own lives particularly influenced by technology and digital media. Together we watched and discussed advertisements for the products of companies like Apple and analyzed how those ads changed over decades in response to current events, societal concerns, and target audiences.

Technology Tools for Feedback and Formative Assessment:
For all classes, whether they were working on the junior research paper or other research-based projects, we streamlined the feedback loop for the steps of the research process. When students were brainstorming topic ideas, they submitted these ideas and the reason why those topics were interesting to a Google Form. This allowed me to review their ideas, use the Google Sheet that held the Form responses to provide feedback, and pose questions to help the students refine their topic selection when I visited class. The classroom teachers also began adding their feedback to the Google Sheet when they realized the utility of the sheet for tracking feedback and the students' revised thinking. The next step was for the students to add a draft of their research questions to the Sheet so I could provide feedback on their question development. Entries into the sheet were followed by a class session where I co-taught with the classroom teacher. Working one-on-one with students in class helped to ensure that students were choosing fruitful and manageable topics. As the research projects evolved, I joined the classes for multiple days dedicated to source location and provided instruction on citations and works cited. We developed a research journal as a Google Doc to help students organize their sources, notes, questions, citations, and thinking about their topic. These journals were excellent formative assessment opportunities for the classroom teacher and I to give students feedback on the depth of their questions and sources, gaps in their thinking or understanding, and next steps in the process.

Tech Tools for Conveying Information:
Second semester we built a rich MLA 8 citation website. After our first semester frustrations with Noodle Tools and EasyBib, we agreed that students would be better served by learning to build their citations from scratch. Doing so pushes them to thoroughly examine the scope and quality of their sources of information and become savvier consumers of information. Teachers in the Social Studies and English departments value accurate citation protocols and several of them supported our initiative by granting us class time to work one-on-one with students and recognized the value of the students' increased access to educator (librarian and content teacher) support and feedback in class. 

The Google Site includes a slideshow that steps students through the citation building process, an infographic illustrating the nine elements of an MLA 8 citation, a video showing how to create a hanging indent, copious models of works cited pages and citations, and a form for receiving librarian feedback on works cited and warnings about most common student errors. This site continues to be a work in progress as we refine the resources and streamline individualized student feedback.

Our Google Form for submitting final works cited for feedback before submitting the product of their research to their classroom teacher gave us insight into the most common errors that students were making so we could supplement the resources in the MLA 8 Citation Google Site that we created during second semester. The data we collected showed a dramatic difference in the quality of works cited being submitted by students who had received library instruction as opposed to those who worked only with their classroom teacher. The average score out of 5 for students receiving library instruction was a 3.34; those who did not receive this instruction scored an average of 2.33.

The Value of the (Virtual) Library:
My use of forms to collect individualized information from students on their stages in the research process and provide feedback combined with one-on-one in-class instruction and the library texting service were key elements differentiating library instruction. Teachers benefited by having me provide feedback to their students throughout the research process which essentially means I shared their grading load. Students benefited by having increased access to educator support and copious feedback to help them refine their work. At a time when districts are eliminating library media specialists and our profession is being maligned, my first year in this role is evidence of how vital information literacy skills are and necessary a library media specialist is to this skill development.

Supplement: Anonymous Feedback from Our Colleagues:
Thank you for all of your help with the research process. Having never taught this before, I would have been lost without your help! I greatly appreciate every lesson and helping hand you gave to me and my students during this process. Additionally, you both have such a knowledge of a range of books, and it helped open the variety of books I could offer for book groups!
 Additionally, you both have such a knowledge of a range of books, and it helped open the variety of books I could offer for book groups!
Library services are crucial to the mission of the social studies department. I would love it if there were quizzes for the most frequently used videos so that we can ensure students understand and access the information.
The opportunity to work together with library staff is invaluable to my teaching
I believe the Media specialists are all knowledgeable and collaborate with both each other and the teachers. It has been a pleasure working with them this year.
It was a great unit -- I appreciated the support and the help on this inquiry based learning!
The planning stage went very smoothly as my library/media collaborator was attuned to my specific goals and even to my work style. The lesson she planned was focused directly on the needs of my particular students at that particular stage of our unit.
With the failing implementation of MLA8 by easybib, working with the librarians on building a citation from scratch was important.
The question generator was awesome Help with MLA 8 citations was absolutely excellent! Teacher and students ALL benefited immensely from the face-to-face interactions with incredibly knowledgeable librarians.
There are so many skills students need to learn to be effective researchers that it is easy for them to be overwhelmed. By presenting kids with tools they can use to ensure the validity of their sources, the collaboration allowed me to focus my instruction on the reading skills necessary to master the research essay task.
having librarians in the class room during the start of the jr research project, assisting with research question tweaking and thesis development was incredibly helpful
I found it effective to have multiple perspectives on research questions, thesis statements and citations.
I like the op-ed format to create a dialogue in writing.
Yes, we chose new texts for the speech unit, which were excellent!!! And your help on MLA 8 with both the freshman speeches and the junior research paper were invaluable!
Keep listening to individual teachers and customizing your presentation so it dovetails with the individual teacher's experience and eccentricities.