Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Best Practices


The Digital Public Library of America is a relatively new aggregated collection of digital resources in varied formats from more than 1,600 contributing institutions, including libraries, archives, museums, and entities such as public radio stations.  DPLA released 30 primary source sets for educators last fall; additional sets were recently released.

The sets are designed by educators and an education advisory panel to help teach content, facilitate inquiry, and support research in overlapping curriculum topics related to American history, literature, and culture.

The set landing page has a clean, uncluttered look. An easily identifiable pictorial icon for each set invites a quick browse through the available titles.  Each set includes 15–20 resources represented by an icon, a teaching guide, and additional resources for research.  Set topics include the Panama Canal, Chinese immigration, the atomic bomb, A Raisin in the SunLittle Women, and  the postwar rise of the suburbs.

All Primary Source Sets have the same layout and features. As an example The Impact of Television on News Media  includes photos, text, and video and audio recordings. A brief black-and-white video clip of President John F. Kennedy urging the press to use discretion when covering news events intrigued me. In an audio interview, a journalist  explains the increasing power of television network news. Photos depict early television personalities and televisions; a text chapter addresses the impact of television on news. These resources all invite close reading, viewing, and listening while also offering multiple approaches to learning at different levels. The set teaching guide includes discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis suggestions. There are also links to Document Analysis Worksheets from the National Archives and Using Primary Sources materials from the Library of Congress.

Excerpted from  THE NEW MEDIA CENTER: Resources for the New Media Specialist–DPLA’s Primary Source Sets and Ben’s Guide, Refreshed! January/February 2015, Published by Information Today    Full article

Learn more about using Primary Source sets in your classroom


CD Rom Encyclopedia

I loved being an early adapter and introducing technology to students when technology first became available for school media centers. We piloted a circulation system on an Apple II, the text only CD-ROM  version of World Book on CD-Rom, and Gopher Internet with its text driven commands.  We explored software, collaborative initiatives and multimedia.  We  tried out a few non-computer innovations such as video disks and created a video production studio with a mix of scavenged old and new technology.  Cutting edge technology was not without it stress and there were a few failures But, through trials, errors, and frustrations we learned what works, what doesn’t work and what’s best for real learning.  We expanded possibilities for students and the media program. We were part of change and it created change.     The Verge post of photos and animated GIFs of old-school technology (including a few audio visual items) are worth a few seconds of reminiscing. Be thankful for wireless, and no longer hooking up zip drives or pry jammed floppy disks out of drives.
Enjoy  Reboot: these stunning still-life photos will take you back to the future

Photo: The CD-ROM still worked after a  dunking in a boys’ bathroom toilet!  Remember making signs with Print Shop?


On My Mind! The NEW MEDIA CENTER, Internet @Schools, Dec/Nov. 2013

I just wanted to thank you for your article in this months Internet @ Schools, “Questions, Musings, and Other Things On My Mind”.  It was fantastic and I couldn’t agree with you more about what you said about library media specialists and our jobs. I have been the LMS at my school for two years now and feel that libraries in schools are vital to the life of our schools. Though we have clerical duties as you pointed out in the article, our main focus should be on the students and staff in this building—helping them.  
Keep up the great work.  Sincerely,
Kimmie Vogt, Library Media Specialist, Hastings Middle School

Interacting with History; Teaching with Primary Sources, edited by Katharine Lehman.   It was a lot of fun writing the chapter bookcover Discovering Local History in your own Back Yard.  The types of local history treasures like those I’ve written about on this blog are included along with  stories of how media specialists and teachers are bringing local history resources and activities into their schools.  Other chapters are by Sara Suiter, Sherry Galloway along  with contributions by Library of Congress American Memory Fellow and an introduction by Barbara Stripling.  Other selected content: Overview of the Library of Congress Resources ~ Teacher Pages Resources ~ Professional Development Materials  and Lessons ~ Teaching with Primary Resources Partners ~ Interacting with History is available from ALA , Spring 2014. 

(Originally published as a guest post on  A Media Specialists Guide to the Internet,  Julie Greller’s Award Winning Blog!)

Addressing a statewide group of media specialists, my former principal said, I have two simple wishes for my school–that when the students wake up in the morning they want to go to school, and when the staff wakes up in the morning they want to go to school.  He also talked about the importance of technology, staff development, and media specialists partnering in the school and beyond. Scott Hannon wanted the media center to be a place where kids wanted to be, where things were happening; joked that something was wrong if it was too quiet. I was fortunate to work with him; I miss middle school as I hear about exciting possibilities for today’s media specialists and for our students.

And, something is on my mind. Why are so many people still entering the field because they love books? One administrator told me she would not hire that person. I love books, too. That is not enough for today’s media specialist. Why do I read comments such as, I didn’t know technology and advocacy were part of my job. Do you mean I have to learn how to use all of this technology?

A soon-to-be media specialist now teaching third grade knew the teachers she worked with did not know how to access electronic books for their iPads. She knew the current media specialist would not help. She saw this as an opportunity to provide staff-development sessions; she recognized that staff development is always an important role.

Why, moving towards our third decade of Internet access in the schools are so many media centers lacking enough technology for even one class to do 21st century research? Why are there concerns about giving up shelving for more technology? Why are so many educators, including media specialists, not aware of the wealth of free database resources provided to their schools by their states? Why are still discussions about when to close for inventory? Technology has long made that unnecessary. A university professor said it well. I’ve visited many media centers; the thing teachers dislike the most is when the media center is closed at the end of the year for inventory.

The other day I caught a bit of a public radio discussion about accessing information. A panelist shared a discussion between two children. A boy said, I go to our school library and they only let me check one book out. His friend replied Why don’t you just steal? Why do people who want students to read put up barriers? It saddened me to hear this public dialog from non-educators. Perhaps the public airing will do some good. It saddens me that after many years of profound change in our careers I still hear about media centers that are unwelcoming and underutilized. It’s a wonderful opportunity for a new media specialist to make change.

When I discussed plans with Scott he often said, Do what’s best for kids. Along those lines, a few lost books are the cost of doing business. Teach responsibility, but fight problems that are worth fighting.

A few other nuggets of wisdom from administrators and other educators have stuck with me for years:
1. If people see you doing clerical tasks that’s what they will think your job is. (Yes, some of it needs to be done; some does not.)
2. It’s all about relationships.
3. We want a media specialist to help us with technology. We can take care of the literature.
4. Just do it; that’s why we hired you.
5. You can have any kind media program you — or you and principal — want to have!

Now nearing retirement as the district Superintendent, Dr. Hannon said,  It’s just a pleasure coming to work every day . . . and trying to do good things for all of the students in the district. **

I hope that all media specialists love going to work every day, are good things, and making your media center a place where kids – and teachers — want to be.

November/December Internet @Schools column, THE NEW MEDIA CENTER: Questions, Musings, and Other Things On My Mind  (Full Text)

Dr. Scott Hannon, Minnesota Educational Media Organization Conference, October 1996
Winona Daily News, Winona Area Public Schools begins search for new leader

growingschoolsStaff development is an important, exciting role for school library media specialists. Media specialists have a unique perspective of the school and curriculum; they work with all learners and staff and have the expertise in technologies, literacies and information resources.

I was excited to see that Noodle Tools founder Debbie Abilock, along with co-editors Kristin Fontichiaro and Violet Harada have compiled sixteen essays by a diverse group of contributors that address both the why and practicality of the staff development role. I enjoyed the “real-life” examples, tips, and sample lessons.

This welcome book is available from Libraries Unlimited. It’s a great addition to all professional development collections and for media specialists who want to be instructional leaders and impact change. It will be a wonderful resource for me as an online educator.

A few personal real-life examples.

As the school year begin a media specialist posted a request for help on LM_Net.*

I know [we] used to be able to set up free accounts to databases such as EBSCO and must admit, I just never seemed to get around to taking care of this  . . . Are any databases still available at no charge to school libraries ? And if so, which ones?

A new media specialist was thrilled by the resources available, but, the topic that has been the most taking my brain has been developing and organizing how to advocate the materials and tools.  I’ve wanted to do it, but I don’t have any ideas about how to do it. Another media specialist also sought help. Our databases are on school websites, we have brochures and instruct students doing research projects, but the school tech support people and I know we need to do more.  

Many years ago, when I taught an English class along with my media job I spotted a video I could have used to teach concepts in the novel the class had just read. My oversight is a reminder of how easy it is for busy educators (and media specialists) to forget what’s there for us. Now with far more choices, it’s even easier to forget or ignore what is available.

Even when we know what ‘s available  it can be challenging to get students and teachers to use them. Database underutilization is a common discussion topic among media specialists.  There are easy solutions.

Making the horse drink

The most effective way to reach students is direct instruction with students at the time of need.  My memorable experience with younger students was a teachable moment inspired by a You Tube April Fool’s video. Penguins can Fly was the perfect introduction to research for a rain forest project.    The students “got it” in seconds; they knew why it’s a good idea to begin research with World Book Student or Kids.  Enjoy the flying penguins! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG5dzybHgTo

Other solutions:

  • Reaching out to teachers through collaboration and staff development
  • Sharing ideas with colleagues
  • Less is more — just promote what is really needed and will be used
  • Promote with tangibles — flyers, book marks, newsletters, stickers

More ideas and details are described in Subscription Databases in the Age of the Internet: A Problem with an  Easy Solution,  Internet@Schools, September/October 2011,  The NEW Media Center column.   Partial column  now available online.   Full text is available through EBSCO.

Previous post on flying penguins!

*LM_NET, August 20, 2011

. . . The links I wanted my students to use were dead.  We went back to the classroom and didn’t use the lab that day.

It’s new, but “old” and familiar story.  It never hurts to double check to make sure everything is in working order, even if your students are using resources you have used for years.  A few years ago a colleague and I prepared a “Tips for a Successful Technology Experience” checklist.  Our original list still makes sens

Tips for Planning A Successful Student Internet Experience

Have you. . .

•  Determined that the Internet is the most appropriate resource for this assignment?

• Checked to see what is already linked on your school’s Web site?

• Asked your school’s media/technology specialist for his/her suggestions?

• Selected and evaluated more than one relevant Web site?

• Selected Web sites that are age and ability appropriate?

• Selected safe sites?

• Made sure the links are not out-of-date or moved to another location?

Getting organized. Have you . . .

•  Scheduled the use of the computer labs or computers?

• Scheduled the use of projection devices?

• Cached files you plan to use for demonstration and presentation?

• Created bookmark files, or worked with the media specialist or Webmaster to be sure the links are on the school’s Web site?

• Checked the sites to be certain everything works with the browsers and computers the students will be using?

• Checked to be sure the sites are not blocked by filtering software or do not require plug-ins the filtering system blocks.

• Used the sites on the computers your students will be using to be sure made sure the necessary helper applications and plug-ins (such as Real Player or Acrobat Reader) are installed on the computers?

• Designed thinking questions and activities for the students?

• Instructed or reviewed the mechanics of using the Internet (for example, how to save and download text and graphics; copy and paste text, data and URLS; and print only what is necessary?)

•Recommended the best or most appropriate search engines to use for students who will be searching independently?

• Explained that all search engines and directories do not provide the same results?

• Provided instruction about good search strategies?

• Arranged for team-teaching with the media or technology specialist or others who can assist you, if necessary?

• Talked with your students about the school’s Acceptable Use Policy, including guidelines for downloading, saving, and printing?

• Talked with your students about copyright guidelines?

• Taught them how to take notes and cite their resources?

• Developed “Plan B” for students who cannot use the Internet or if technical problems occur?

Developed by  Mary Alice Anderson  and Cathleen Wharton.

More practical staff development ideas for Media and Technology Specialists 
Real Staff Development and YOU! June/July 2011

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