Monday, November 27, 2017

Slow start and slight pivot

When I packed my bags in Stockholm back in early October to begin the trek home from the Google Innovator Academy (#SWE17) I was experiencing information and idea overload. I was inspired to revolutionize teacher-student relationships and conquer students' digital media illiteracy, and I set a goal for the end of the first quarter of my year-long project that I thought was modest. When I shared the goal with the cohort during one of our final sessions, Becky Evans said, "Wow. That's ambitious." Really? I thought, but didn't say.

My goal: by the end of the quarter I will have recruited at least two teachers to form think tanks in at least one of their classes. Students will be posting regularly and the teachers will have begun to introduce ideas from the think tanks into class which has encouraged student voluntary membership in the think tanks to grow organically.

That's it: two teachers, two classes. I built this Google Site to explain the concept of class-based social media think tanks and shared it with some colleagues. I met with a building administrator to explain the concept and received administrative sanction to roll-out my plan.

In a nutshell, here is what I proposed:

To create a class think tank.
  • Invite members of your class to join - everything is voluntary and nothing is graded!
  • Choose a social media platform that will work for the group's members: a closed Facebook group, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • As a team, create a name for yourselves.
  • Decide upon a team hashtag (#)
  • Invite think tank members to share reflections about what you are doing in class via the social media platform, using your think tank's chosen hashtag. 

In addition I provided a page with ideas for maximizing the positive classroom impact of the good work happening in the think tank and expand how the think tank could be used (scale it up!).

Well, I am now at the 6 week mark. I haven't revolutionized anything. Of the three teachers who initially expressed interest in creating social media think tanks for their classes, only one remains involved in the planning. She has backed pedaled from the idea of a class-based think tank and instead, since she is one of the co-advisers, invited me to pitch the idea to the student council. These colleagues who co-advise the student council are new to those roles this year. One of their goals, developed with the council, is to increase the leadership training and experience of council members. To support that initiative we are going to launch (actually I made the group this morning) a closed Facebook group that will serve as a leadership think tank for the council members and, when the council decides it is time to grow the group, other leaders among the student body will be invited to join.

After I introduced the idea to the students this morning, we brainstormed ways the Facebook group could be used:

  • students could read and discuss books about student leadership, books like Social LEADia and By Any Media Necessary.
  • when students learn about a conference they can post it in the group
  • when students attend a conference they can post notes and ideas gained at the conference in the group
  • students who are struggling to gain or motivate followers for an initiative can use the group to share who they gained empathy with, the cause they are addressing, what feedback they got from stakeholders, what methods they have tried, and then get help from their peers.
  • TED Talks! Who doesn't love a good TED Talk discussion? Like Derek Sivers on how to start a movement.
  • Models of leadership: when students see leadership in action, they can capture it and post it to the think tank so leaders-in-training can dissect what makes an effective leader.

It is a start. I am excited to get started. If all goes well, the leadership think tank will take off. The teachers involved will be excited about the potential of a similar group in their classes and the initiative will grow. We'll see. I am cautiously optimistic.

Collaboration through Making

I am preparing to facilitate another meeting with our school's new teachers the focus of which will be ways the library learning commons can support their teaching and students learning. My focus for this meeting will be about Making. The guiding question to my presentation is: "How can making help my students learn?" I hope this opportunity to talk with the new teachers -- not all of whom are new to teaching -- paves the way for increased collaboration with colleagues and use of our innovation lab.

I have put together a "what if you asked your students to..." thought experiment and outlined it in these Google Slides:

 The teachers will be visiting the Innovation Lab for the first time since their orientation at the beginning of the year. Since then, I have collaborated with a few of them when their students were involved in research projects -- always in the teacher's classroom. The focus of our work on those occasions was accessing databases, savvy Google searching, and citation protocols. I am hoping that today's conversation inspires new ideas about what personalized learning means and how the library learning commons space can support all learners and teachers.

I appreciate any thoughts you have about library advocacy, working with new teachers, and helping high school teachers infuse making into teaching and learning.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

If you could teach a course on media literacy... what would it include?

I am in the process of planning a media literacy course. In this post, I am sharing what I have developed so far. What follows is a broad brushstrokes outline a one-marking period in duration (approximately 8 weeks) course. I envision this course becoming a required experience for all incoming 9th graders. Or, at least, a prerequisite for enrolling to work at a student help desk. Please leave comments about how this course can be improved or expanded. Thanks!


Our innate need to receive and share information seems to go hand-in-hand historically with censorship. From Martin Luther’s revolution made possible by the printing press to digital media distributed via the small computers we euphemistically call phones, the power of creating, curating, and distributing information is immense. Napoleon once said, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” As librarians, each year we promote banned books and websites in order to increase our students' understanding that their access to information is a privilege -- while it should be a right -- that they need to safeguard. Furthermore, when choosing to exercise that right, we tacitly accept responsibility for participating in a manner that advances civil discourse. The challenge of teaching cyber citizen students to be good digital citizens is helping them create space, a moment of reflection, between stimulus and response. Teaching them to be mindful. You might remember the days of walking down the hallway at school and shoving a note through the vents in a friend's locker. Some people shoved unkind notes through locker vents. But, more often than not, the time it took to walk the halls of the school and find the target locker created that space between the stimulus that prompted the writing of an unkind message and the response of slipping it through the vents of the recipient's locker. That hallway walk created the space necessary for better angels to prevail in many cases. What makes today different is the immediacy with which a response to a stimulus can be created and disseminated. A challenge of digital citizenship education is to prompt students to be mindful, to breathe before posting, to reflect on their response before sending their response, to consider whether that response is something they want to be permanently etched into their digital profile.We need to help our students to approach every digital interaction with the same caution that they might employ when they hear the buzz of a tattoo needle. Building empathy is the key to helping students hit the pause button rather than acting (or posting) on impulse.To that end, Unit 1 addresses these questions:
  • What is my online persona and how can I be sure it represents me accurately?
  • What is news and how do I know when something is true?
  • What is my role curating information? (consumer, producer, disseminator)

What is true evolves as a news story unfolds. Journalistic truth provides information consumers with the best available account of an event based on the available, verifiable facts at any given time. Even when publishing objective news stories, journalists exercise editorial judgment balancing what their audience wants to know with what they need to know. The target audience for any publication of information is a critical element in determining the manner in which the content is portrayed and disseminated. Professional journalists are trained to remain neutral when reporting; their bylines assure information consumers of their accountability for impartiality or bias. News consumers must remember that opinions included in reporting don’t always indicate bias and that commentary is a part of reporting. One important gauge of the quality of an information source or news outlet is whether or not that publication or agency separates objective reporting from editorial content. News consumers need to know that the content of the editorial pages does not influence the objective reporting of the news.
  • The many faces of me: when can I have an opinion and when must I refrain from bias? Which platform is for which purpose (or which face of me)?
  • When I encounter new information, how do I know when the author’s bias interferes with the meaning and substance?
  • How can I hold my own biases loosely so they do not interfere with what I can learn and understand?


American Press Institute: Understanding bias and tools to manage bias
Interesting dialogue about the future of news reporting and the relationship between reporters and their stories
Switched front pages - how we are framed to see and understand media

We all have our preferred modes of communication. Frequently those preferences may vary generationally. Creators of content understand those variations. Ads play on television on certain networks at certain times of day to reach the demographic audience most likely to be watching at that time. The same principles are true of other modes of information transmission. The products and ideas sold to a 19-year-old within the video game he is playing (yes, advertisers can and do infiltrate your games) aren’t the same or aren’t portrayed in the same way as the products sold to his 50-year-old mother in her Facebook feed. The same principles apply to fake news or intentional misinformation and hoaxes. The creators of this type of information rely on digital manipulation of images and video and digital transmission to reach wide audiences through viral re-sharing. Message, audience, and medium are inextricably linked.
  • How do advertisers use different media to sell the same product or message?
  • How has the evolution of media changed the way in which information is created, distributed, accessed and used?
  • When deciding how to share what I have learned, how will I consider my audience? Message? Purpose? And create a product that meets all of these needs?

Fake News. It's Complicated. (First Draft News)
Urban Legends (
Grasswire examines social media images in real time to expose hoaxes

Digital media has transformed our relationship with information and therefore with the global community. We are instantly aware of events happening around the world, we can hear the sounds of war and terror as well as those of harmony and jubilation. We are moved to act by the video footage we see of natural and human-caused disasters. And we join movements for change because we see them playing out on our devices in our hands. Professional conferences even have hashtags for the people not in attendance to follow! (#notataasl7) As we equip our students with the tools and skills requisite to recognize and not be duped by hoaxes and misinformation we must go further and empower them to be digital leaders. The most effective way to combat purposeful, ill intentioned misinformation is by elevating and magnifying the voices engaged in informed civil discourse. Students must learn to use social media not just for interacting with friends far and wide. They must also learn to engage and organize through digital media, researchers, advocates, fund-raisers, politicians, non-profit organizations, and other problem solvers in order address the needs of their communities.
  • What issue, problem, or cause do I care about? Why?
  • How can I take informed action?
  • How can I contribute to a solution or remedy?
    • Design cycle
    • Presentation of plan
  • Whom am I trying to reach (who is my audience)?
  • How do those people most frequently access information? Why?
  • What is the best media for conveying my evidence and conclusions? Consider:
    • Do I need photographs or other artist renderings?
    • Do I need data visualization?
    • Are voices, music, or other auditory files important to understanding my message?
    • Is there a need for video footage?
    • How much text do I have? Does it require hyperlinks or interactivity?
  • How will my product reach my audience?
    • Will it live on a website?
    • Post to a video sharing forum like YouTube?
    • Be delivered via email?
    • Exist in printed form?
    • Be performed or delivered to a live audience?
    • Something else?
  • How will the talents of my team combine to create a successful product or presentation?

By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism by Henry Jenkins and Sangita Shresthova

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Big Takeaways from #AASL17

I have returned from three days communing with my library peeps and tweeps at the AASL conference in Phoenix carrying a (way too pricey) book of the new AASL standards, a little schwag, some signed picture books, a couple of Google docs of notes, lots of links to presentations, and a timeline of tweets highlighting the sessions I attended.

On Saturday I had an opportunity for a lengthy conversation with my friend and colleague Michelle Luhtala about news literacy. If you are an attendee of Michelle's edWeb webinars then you know this is an important topic to us both that we frequently discuss on and off the air! This private conversation was a warm-up to our presentation, delivered along with our other friends and colleagues Joyce Valenza and Shannon Miller, about helping students develop the research skills that are critical in the digital information age. You can access our slides and join our padlet community to continue the conversation and research curation around this topic.

We arrived in Phoenix on Thursday with a presentation outline ready to be delivered on Saturday. In the interim, we spent some intense time both in and out of conference sessions examining the newly released and much anticipated standards. This release necessitated a revisiting of our presentation which we were pleased to discover aligned with the shared foundations. Given our focus on research, we emphasized "Inquiry" and "Curate," and, as happens with most standards, found that the others (Include, Collaborate, Explore and Engage) were infused throughout our conversation because of the natural interweaving through the domains (Think, Create, Share, Grow). I took this coincidence as validation of both the development of solid inquiry models in our respective districts and thoughtfully developed standards that reflect the needs of learners and educators striving to be critical thinkers in the digital information age.

The Inquiry Model that informs my instruction has five phases. Each phase is a step in the process from topic selection to final product, and each step is infused with opportunities for students to collaborate and reflect.

Step 1: Wonder - Topic Identification & Question Formulation

What do I...

  • wonder about? (curiosity)
  • wish I could change? (problem solve)
  • wish I understood better? (critical thinking)

How can I...

  • generate possible questions?
  • provide innovative solutions to authentic problems?
  • pose a clear, well-developed research question?

Question Generation Protocols


  • Have I solicited feedback from other people about the scope of my questions?
  • Have I discussed or brainstormed about my topic or the problem I am trying to solve with other people studying a similar or related topic?

Reflection and Metacognition

  • Regarding Time Management
  • Have I planned backwards from the due date to give myself progress check points along the way?
  • How do I schedule my homework?
  • How can I fit regular work sessions into my plan?
  • Would work days in class be helpful to me or are they not productive time?
  • How can I capitalize on meeting, conferencing, and collaboration in order to get the input or inspiration that will help me?

Step 2: Curate: Locate All Relevant Media

Where will I:
  • gather background information and begin my investigation?
  • locate information from multiple and differentiated quality sources?
How can I:
  • “tweak” my search terms as needed?
  • find a range of sources in various types of media to be sure I am including a wide range of perspectives?
Finding What You Need
Accumulate Good Search Terms
  • Start with Wikipedia
  • Imagine your dream source: what words would be in it?
  • Already found a good source? What new keywords does it contain for you?
  • What are synonyms for the keywords you already have?
School and Local Resources
  • Destiny
  • Our Databases
  • ResearchITCT
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Wilton Library Association

Make Google Do Your Heavy Lifting
  • Site searching
  • Search by Filetype
  • Go back in time
  • Use Advanced search for truncation, wildcard, and Boolean operators
  • Google Scholar
  • Google Books

Extending Your Search
  • Move past reference sources into scholarly and primary using Advanced search functions
  • Mine the citations from a good source you have already found
  • Search by author; who is an authority on your subject? Who is the author of good sources you have already consulted?
  • Stop searching… can you interview an expert?
  • HASHTAGS! What advocacy organizations, interest groups, think tanks or other agencies address your topic? What hashtags are associated with the topic? Start trolling social media!
  • If I am trying to solve a problem through my research, have I identified and interviewed stakeholders who represent a range of perspectives on or experiences with the problem I am addressing?
  • Have I asked someone to challenge my conclusions and help me expose how my own biases might interfere with my research?

Reflection and Metacognition
  • About Reading & Note Making Strategies:
  • How is the content reading going?
  • Have I learned anything (content or process) from my secondary source reading and primary document examinations?
  • How have my presuppositions been challenged?
  • Am I allowing my preconceptions to be challenged?
  • Are my views changing?
  • When I read HOW did I read?
  • Do I print out the documents or read them on line?
  • What did I do to prepare to read them? how did I know what to look for or focus on?
  • If I printed them out, did I have paper to make notes one while and after I read?
  • If I read them on line, did I copy them into a file where I could annotate such as Google Docs?
  • If I highlight is it just to keep my eyes focused on the page? How do I know what to highlight?
  • What do I write down? what questions do I ask? what do I write about when I finish reading?
  • If the document is long, do I read it in sections? What do I do at the end of each section?

Step 3: Explore the Information Superhighway: Evaluating Sources

How can I:
  • assess the authority, accuracy, relevance and purpose of my sources?
  • organize my notes and know that my consideration of perspectives is thorough?
  • include multiple and informed perspectives?
The Information Superhighway

Thinking Like a Fact-Checker

Reverse Image Searching

Citing Your Sources
  • Noodletools
  • OWL Purdue

  • What changes have I made in response to feedback from other people? How did I undertake those changes? How did they improve my work?
  • Is there any perspective I have yet to consult? Who can help me access this point-of-view?

Reflection Questions about Critical Thinking:
  • What are the major content/critical thinking/writing issues that I have been confronted with in this project?
  • How well do I understand the content/substance of what I have been thinking about for this project?
  • What is my plan or strategy to address issues I am encountering with this project? Is this plan similar to the plans I have used in the past? How, and why, did I know these steps would work? Is my plan working?
  • What do I think my main goals should be as a thinker given what you have experienced so far in this class? Why are these my goals?
  • What is my criteria for quality work? What areas of the rubrics are still unclear to me? How am I attempting to reach clarity about these areas?
  • What was the most important thing I have learned about yourself as a thinker so far?

Step 4: Create an Argument: Applying Learning

How can I:
  • select and effectively use tools to organize myself?
  • synthesize what I have learned from my research?
  • create an arguable thesis?
Tools & Techniques:
For Your Thesis:

For Citations, Note Organizing and Outlining:
  • Noodletools
For Outlining, Webbing & Other Planning Strategies:

  • From whom did I solicit feedback on my thesis and/or my outline? Why?
  • What feedback did I incorporate? How did it improve my plan?
  • How might my opinions have had an impact on whether or not I stayed open to conflicting information?
  • How did I check myself to be sure I held my bias loosely?

Step 5: Communicate, Share & Grow

When deciding how to share what I have learned, how will I consider my:
  • audience?
  • message?
  • purpose?
And create a product that meets all of these needs?
How can I take informed action?
Things to Consider:
  • Whom am I trying to reach (who is my audience)?
  • How do those people most frequently access information? Why?
  • What is the best media for conveying my evidence and conclusions? Consider:
    • Do I need photographs or other artist renderings?
    • Do I need data visualization?
    • Are voices, music, or other auditory files important to understanding my message?
    • Is there a need for video footage?
    • How much text do I have? Does it require hyperlinks or interactivity?
  • How will my product reach my audience?
    • Will it live on a website?
    • Post to a video sharing forum like YouTube?
    • Be delivered via email?
    • Exist in printed form?
    • Be performed or delivered to a live audience?
    • Something else?
  • How will the talents of my team combine to create a successful product or presentation?
 Frankly, as much as the announcement of the new AASL standards validated and encouraged this research process as a model for working with high school students, the keynote address by Google Education Evangelist from Hell's Kitchen, Jamie Casap, inspired the bulk of my tweets as well as the metacognitive food for thought that nourished me through lots of sessions and late nights in Phoenix.

I work with high school students so I don't think I have ever asked a student what s/he wants to be when s/he grows up. But, I have certainly asked, "what will you do after graduation?" or "what do you want to study?" Still, Jamie's question: "what problem do you want to solve?" not only by-passes the issue that we have no idea what jobs will even be possible for our students when they "grow up;" it also infuses students with empathy and agency. I know if there are two qualities I hope my teenagers have or develop it is empathy and agency!
And so, I return to our inquiry model and ask: at every stage, are students developing empathy and agency? Will they graduate from four years working with these protocols prepared to engage with other people's point of views, able to gather (with fidelity) the insight and opinions of stakeholders, and apply themselves to solving the problems in their communities in the interest of improving the educational, socioeconomic, political or environmental  conditions of their day?

As long as I can keep answering yes to those questions, then I know I am on the right path.