Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Collaboration


I recently participated in a discussion with a group of media specialists who met virtually to engage in some conversation with a few HS librarians who are actively teaching to the CCS with their teachers.  Sharing was facilitated by author/speaker and former school media specialist Toni Buzzeo.

School media specialists want to be involved and work with teachers, but many are overwhelmed. They want to know how to collaborate with teachers and what to do to get started.  Several shared what they are doing. Examples include focusing on standards, what resources will support them, and meeting with teachers. Others are updating media center web sites to meet new needs, aggressively updating collections, and acquiring more resources to meet the CCS informational text requirements.

Throughout our discussion I thought of how this is not that different from what we’ve long been doing– collaborating with teachers to integrate and infuse information literacy throughout the curriculum. I would apply my “work with the living” philosophy and reach out to those who are interested in trying new things and using new resources such as digital primary resources from the Library of Congress.

But, what may be familiar is not all the same.  High stakes testing and the emphasis on accountability in the classroom and media center place a greater importance on successful and educational meaningful collaboration and integration.  The CCS standards are more complex and more far-reaching than the  others.

After our discussion ended I came across The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8. It’s a very practical book that makes CCS very understandable.

I am impressed with this book! It clearly depicts the alignment/integration of Common Core Language arts standards in reading, science/technical subjects, speaking/listening and writing.  Many clear examples, including several involving technology are included.  The format and layout clearly shows the cross-disciplinary nature of CCS.  The easy-to-read bulleted text and generous note-taking spaces are a plus. I shared the book with a social studies teacher/future media specialist. She instantly saw its potential as a tool for her own teaching and as a PLC leader.

I examine many books as a reviewer for LMC magazine; this one stands out! Debbie Abilock said Burke’s a pro – his teaching strategies and student-focused instructions are a proactive, intelligent approach to synthesizing and integrating information while avoiding plagiarism.



I can’t help it!  When I see historic artifacts online I think about how media specialists can use these resources in the media center when they instruct students or when they collaborate with teachers. When I saw the movie 42 I instantly thought of Baseball Across a Divided Society, a primary source set available as one of the classroom materials on the Library of Congress Teachers Page.  When I saw The Butler I thought about how I could have used The NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom when I worked with social studies teachers. Or, I could have used From Slavery to Civil Rights; A Timeline of African-American History, a Teachers Page presentation.

Primary source sets are groups of photos, documents and other primary sources compiled to support commonly taught topics. Presentations are designed for guided student use; lesson plans are in-depth, on a vast range of topics, and aligned with common core standards. The bottom line: Someone else has found the resources and designed materials for you! They are ready to use now!

Read more about these helpful, time-saving resources in the current  NEW MEDIA CENTER: column “Classroom-Ready Materials on the Library of Congress Teachers Page,” in the September/October Internet@Schools.
Full Text, Internet @Schools Web Site.    Or, select the  Power of Primary Sources link  above for this and other articles about finding and using primary sources.
Media specialists will want to become familiar with these  wonderful material as you help  teachers and students make powerful curricular connections with primary sources.

Online class for educators: Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources


Absolutely! A media specialist just asked about the logistics of using Library of Congress professional development resources to deliver professional development in her own school!  The Teachers Page Build and Deliver materials and the Interactive Online Modules were both developed for that very purpose.

The PDF Build and Deliver files, along with the highly interactive multimedia materials, will help teachers and media specialists learn how to search and use The Library of Congress American Memory Collections effectively.   Both PD formats have  extensive selections of professional development resources that educators can use individually or to teach others. These resources are ready to use and free!

Engaging Students Through Photos, my guest post on Julie Greller’s  Media Specialists Guide to the Internet blog, describes adult learners participating in a photo analysis activity using Lincoln’s Pockets, a Build and Deliver Module.  You will also learn a bit about ready-to-use Primary Source Sets and Primary Source Analysis Tools.  The Power of Primary Sources tab above has journal articles on these PD  tools.


Frustrated by endless email threads that result from even the simplistic scheduling process?  Finding a meeting time for as few as three people can be more work than it should be. It gets worse if phone tag is part of the problem.  As several of us often do, send a Doodle!

Doodle’s Scheduling option makes setting a meeting time as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Log in to your free account
  2. Enter a list of options,
  3. Send a password free email to colleagues or friends

Recipients need only select the link and check the times the work.   You, the originator of the invitation, can view results in a convenient visual format and announce the meeting date.   If 5 of 6 people are available at 10:00 Tuesday that’s when you meet!

Need to schedule a group of volunteers?  Enter the time slots and job descriptions; send the link to the group, asking them to indicate their choice and add an optional comment.

Doodle is efficient for planning large group or classroom activities.  Teachers who give students a choice of project options can ask students to check their choice from a list.  The choices can be limited to one or several participants.

Doodle Poll is free and practical.  Make a Choice and MeetMe Requests are other options.  The premium version includes additional options such as email reminders.
Check it out at Doodle.Com to see what else you can do.
You really will wonder how you got along without Doodle!!

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

Amazing. I  have just viewed the Draft of the National Educational Technology Plan.   A project I coordinated in 1995 is cited on page 30. A group of teachers and I worked with a history professor and the County Historical Society to create the content about demographic groups in Winona, Minnesota.   A local web site developer created the web site.   We still receive feedback and inquiries from people living far beyond Winona.

Contrary to the sidebar on page 30 of the National Educational Technology plan, students were not  involved in the project.  An exception was ESL teacher who inolved Hmong students and their families to prepare the content about the Hmong culture   Students did not develop the web site or a searchable database; there is no ongoing student involvement.

As noted in the sidebar, we did leverage simple technology and the project continues to be used as a resource.

But, it was a wonderful project!  We all learned so much about our community and technology.  It was “real” staff development.  The project is at the top of my list of “best practices” and making effective use of primary sources. It’s an example of creating community awareness and pride through the study of local history. It’s an honor to be cited in the National Plan.

To see the “real thing” and read about the real story about Winona’s Cultural History project go to:


To see the overstated, but complimentary description you can read the draft on page 30  of the National Educational Technology Plan.


More information about this  rewarding and educational collaborative project is available on my web site:

Winona Middle School and Winona County Historical Society Local History Project. (Minn. Media)

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