21 Century Learner Toolbox: EasyBib.com

easybib_2One of my goals this year as GA’s media specialist is to equip students with various Web 2.0 tools and skills that they can apply to their everyday learning and information needs.  The idea is they will take what they learn in the computer lab/library and use it in other areas in and out of school — whether it’s writing a history paper, finishing a multimedia presentation for another teacher, or researching the latest tech toy to hit the market.

One of the tools we’ve been using in the Academy is EasyBib.com, a free website that helps students generate citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago formats for their bibliography page. By doing a little detective work (e.g. who’s the author of the information, when was this information published, etc.), students can easily and quickly cite anything from web pages and books to video recordings and magazine/database articles.  Citations can be saved when students sign in with their G+ accounts, and even shared with collaborators in a group project!  This is a relevant skill for the 21st century learner since we consistently remind students to practice the responsible and ethical use of information (AASL Learning Standards 1.3.3, 2.3.3, 3.1.6, 4.3.4).  By citing resources they have used during the research process, students not only give due credit to the sources of their information, but enable themselves (and their readers!) to access that information in the future.


An Open Letter to My 21st-Century Learner in Action

Dear Ella,

Before you read the rest of the letter, please accept my apologies.  I am about to gush about you a little bit.  I know you hate being in the center of attention — good or bad — but I can’t help myself.  I am well aware that as parents, we can go a *teensy* bit overboard with our children and what you can do better/faster than all the other children.  I know this is kind of uncool, but rest assured that this letter is not about that.

This letter is about what you, a middle-schooler, can already do better at 12 than *I* can ever dream to do at almost-40, with all sorts of ease and nonchalance and almost-smug self-confidence (“What do you mean, where did I learn how to screencast?  I just did it.”).

The information scientist in me is jumping up and down with joy.  I want to shake you and say, “Wow.  Look at you and what you can do!  We learn about YOU in library school — a 21st century learner! — and here you are, in flesh and blood!”

See, some of us me included — balked at the idea that librarians now have to take time away from books and learn/teach emergent technologies and new ways to search for and use information.  We kind of pouted through having to adopt new standards for your generation, because we really loved our books and how they smelled and felt in our hands.

But the reality is, you and your 21st century learner friends are going to do your thing, whether we are there to guide you or not.  We can sulk all we want, but you are still going to find your own tools and ways to create, interact, and learn in this new landscape.  In fact, if we don’t adapt, you might end up being the ones teaching us.  (Actually, you’ve already taught me a number of times.)

You don’t have a lot of subscribers or views on your channel or website, but that should not be your goal anyway.  Your products are not perfect, but then again, you’re only 12, and you have created something tangible without ever opening up a software manual.  You use more likes and yeahs and basicallys than a “good speaker” might, but for someone who used to throw up the night before school presentations, who could not speak at more than a whisper, who hated talking to people in general — you sounded more comfortable and confident than I have ever dreamed you’d be capable of.  My media specialist friends and I have warned students about the dangers of the computer screen (“Online predators hide behind those!” “People are not always what they seemed online!”), but you have shown me that sometimes a screen offers the protection someone needs to show their best selves.  You might still be a little scared to talk in front of people face to face, but with a little bit of anonymity, you are learning to communicate your ideas and knowledge effectively.

And that’s big for us introverts.  No longer are you a passive recipient of information — you are an active contributor.  Know that you might be shy, but your creativity and ideas are important to the world.  Know that you might be quiet, but you can still share, participate, and collaborate.  Technology can be your door into community of like-minded thinkers, makers, and world-changers.

If you are already hosting your own YouTube channel and making fan vids and screencast tutorials at 12, imagine what you might be doing at 15, 18, 25….  I know that as your mom, I cannot wait to find out!


Your very proud (and humbled) librarian mama

P.S. I know you have heard my speech a million times about online predators, digital footprint, internet safety, etc. etc.  But PLEASE, do be careful when you are online!  This mama can’t lose you!

Assessing Collaboration

Starting in February, 3rd through 5th graders were put into groups of 3 or 4 to collaborate on author studies.  They were given guidelines on what information they need to include in their final presentations, and groups were given graphic organizers to take notes on.  I taught a lesson on collaborating using Google Slides, where group leaders have to create the initial document and share it with group members using school email addresses. Group leaders also have to work with their members to figure out who will work on each slide: one introducing the author, one on his/her life, one on his/her writing, etc.

Group Assignments: I made up the groups based on what I know about the students’ personalities and performance.  Though the students groaned a little about not being able to work with their friends, I wanted each group to have a good mix of high and low kids. Because there is a considerable ELL population at the school, I also made sure they didn’t end up in their own group.

Working in Google Slides: Setting up the project in Google Slides proved to be a big learning curve for the students, even for those who are usually tech-savvy. We also ran into problems where students were working outside their assigned slides, or deleting them accidentally/on purpose. Even though Google apps have a “See revision history” function that allowed us to restore lost work, it still created some tension among the students. This was a good way for students to learn what it’s like to collaborate in the “real world”: they needed to be responsible and accountable not only to and for themselves but to and for their teammates as well.  In the real world, even if honest mistakes can be reverted, one still has to deal with possible repercussions.

Group Dynamics: Because students did not get to choose their teammates, certain groups worked more effectively than others. I allowed students to decide their roles on their own based on how confident they are about their abilities to create and share Google Slides, as well as their ability to lead other group members.  For the most part, the natural leaders of each group emerged and were able to help their members stay on task effectively.  Some groups, on the other hand, did not work well together at all, and the constant battle within the group are clearly reflected in their finished products/presentations. There is usually a lack of content, effort, and cohesiveness.

As we come to the end of this group project, I posted a survey in Google Classroom for each of the students to complete. I am hoping that this final piece of the assignment will not only give me insight as to the success (or lack thereof) of their collaboration process, but also allow the students to assess their own contribution (or lack thereof) to this experience.  Findings will be posted soon!


For more on assessing collaboration, see:

Siko, Jason. “Assessing Collaboration: More Than Just Lip Service.”MACUL Journal Winter 36.2 (2016): 8-9. Web.

Practicum Week 7: Into the Classroom!

(This post was written back in February/March.  I am a bit behind on the practicum updates but hope to catch up this week!)

This week at Hart was a perfect storm of March Reading Madness (a month-long reading program), a 1 1/2 week long Scholastic Book Fair, preparations for Authors in April, digital citizenship classes, and the 8th grader’s research gallery walk (where parents are invited to see students present their research papers).  The media specialists and I were all juggling multiple projects during the day and communicating through Google Docs by night.  I am starting to see that I prefer interacting and teaching students, even though the busy work of putting together different programs (making posters, raffle tickets, book brackets, setting up for the bookfair, selling books, calling vendors for donations, etc.) is in some ways easier/less stressful.  (When I have a lot to get done in a short amount of time, to-do lists comfort me.  They are great visual reminders to take one step at a time, that everything will get done, that there’s an end goal in sight, etc.)

I really enjoyed getting to teach digital citizenship classes to four 6th grade classes and 2 7th grade classes.  Some I taught by myself, some I taught with the media specialist, and one I taught with the health teacher.  I really liked teaching solo and with the media specialist, but not so much with the health teacher, mainly because I had to teach his material.  It was really hard to go through someone’s slides, because the health teacher had different stories that he wanted to share with the students that I couldn’t possibly know about, so he kept interrupting me to add his points.  Though he did this politely, I thought it made me looked unprepared in front of the students.  I felt that it would’ve gone better if he let me insert my own anecdotes when I was speaking, because ultimately we were both giving students examples of online safety, netiquette, etc. and it shouldn’t matter whether they heard his specific stories or not.

When I co-taught with the media specialist, we used a presentation I had put together, but she and I had sat down a couple of times to discuss each point, and together we added or took out information that we thought were important or redundant.  We collaborated well, and in the classroom, when she was speaking she’d ask me if I wanted to add anything, and I’d do the same when I was speaking.  The process seemed easier with her…possibly because I have been working with her now for two weeks, whereas the health teacher and I have never crossed paths before the first class.

In our sessions with the 6th graders we also decided to let the students talk instead of us lecturing them about the topic.  For the most part, the students enjoyed the interaction…they had many stories to tell!  We also decided to use a simple exit ticket to assess whether they were paying attention to our presentation, whether they learned anything new, had any concerns or questions, or had suggestions for topics we didn’t cover.  I was impressed by some of the students’ feedback, and concerned too that so many of them (still babies in my mind!) were worried about being bullied, or having to stand up to bullies, etc.

Overall, this was a great week.  I’d heard many horror stories about middle-schoolers, but they were actually pretty cool to work with!

Digital Citizenship: Student Exit Tickets

This week I got to go into 4 different 6th grade classrooms to deliver lessons on digital citizenship.  The media specialist and I decided to have students fill out exit tickets at the end of the class to see what they have learned, what they are still wondering about, and/or what they think we could talk more about next time.  Here are some sample tickets.  I’ll only post 6 here (they are all anonymous) but you can see a longer list of the most common responses here.  I feel like the students were really engaged and listening to what we had to say, but at the same time I feel heartbroken that these babies (yes, 6th graders are still babies!) already have to deal with such serious issues (cyberbullying, suicide, online predators, etc.).  We try our best to protect our kids, and we equip them with all these tools that they can use to protect themselves, but are those bubbles strong enough to keep them safe?

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