Thursday, April 21, 2016

PLN Journal Week 13: Research as Inquiry and Taking Time for Discovery

This past January, a couple of Teacher Librarian colleagues in my district attended a two session "High School Information Literacy Skills" workshop hosted by the California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) Library. While I did not get to participate then, these colleagues found the workshop so valuable that they helped coordinate a special professional development session with the CSUSM librarians for all of our district Teacher Librarians, including me, and it took place today.

I was not quite sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a great learning experience and conversation starter for our high school level library team. The CSUSM librarians shared about the work that they are doing with college freshman, and what resonated with me is how they approach research instruction by prioritizing mastery of core foundational concepts, which are well summarized by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy. While this framework is designed for higher education, I love the ideas and want to infuse them into my own instruction at the high school level.

Below are some key takeaways from the day:
  • Focus on mastery of key concepts over specifics - A clear example the CSUSM librarians shared is focusing on the idea of attribution over citation style details. It is not that they don't help students with citation and bibliography questions, but they concentrate on students understanding the importance and purpose of attribution over punctuation and capitalization. Along these lines, they focus on keyword development with searching as opposed to complex Boolean logic.
  • Research as inquiry - The point of research is not to find facts, but to generate questions. In helping students recognize knowledge as being dialogic, we must help students recognize and value their own experiences so that they see how they may add value to the dialogue. In doing so, we need to remember that students do not have the same life experience that we have and meet them where they are at.
  • Context is everything - We need to get away from binary thinking of labeling information as "good" and "bad." Authority varies based on the value systems of a given community, and the appropriateness of a source must be determined based on the information need and audience. Empowering students to engage in information evaluation and curation also reminded me of the East County Tech Fest keynote, during which Jen Roberts shared a lesson learned that "Information students find themselves is always more engaging."
  • Bias is everywhere - "Bias" comes up often when librarians teach about evaluating information sources, but it is actually a very complex, high level concept. The CSUSM librarians advise focusing instead on identifying opinion and perspective. And, if we do talk about bias, we should recognize how bias is everywhere and our work is in seeing it.
  • Bust the .gov, .org, .edu schema for authority - Students need to more substantively evaluate resources beyond making unreliable assumptions based on domains. A good starting point is simply being able to identify different types of electronic content. Students may equate all web-based content as alike due to the shared delivery mechanism without differentiating between blog posts, news features, journal articles, etc. They need to start by knowing what they are looking at.
  • Question CRAAP - I have used the CRAAP test as a tool with my students, but I appreciated the questioning of this checklist tool in favor of a more holistic approach. One of the CSUSM librarians explained how with CRAAP, students may view the list hierarchically and presume that the "C" for currency is most important when it comes to evaluating information sources even though currency may or may not be a priority depending on the information need. NOTE: This also led to some talk about the information timeline, which is something I haven't touched upon with students, but I think would be of interest.
  • Increase time devoted to discovery - It is common that students select topics and jump right into thesis development before they even have adequate contextual knowledge. One way to increase attention to the discovery phase is by giving students requirements to read and cite ten sources, for instance, even though they are only allowed to use two. This reminded me of work an English teacher at my school is currently doing. She has required all of her students to add ten resources per research topic to shared Padlets. They are required to add notes regarding each resource, and then will be dragging-and-dropping sources to group them by sub-topic and also weed out sources. This keeps students from just using the first few sources they find regardless of appropriateness.
It was energizing to have a day with my fellow Teacher Librarians engaging in such a high level of discourse. As we debriefed, we shared our excitement regarding how this reframing of our research instruction ties into larger movements toward inquiry-based and discovery learning.  We are grateful for having had this professional learning experience today, and we intend to carry the momentum forward into developing curriculum resources to share with classroom teachers at our sites.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

PLN Journal Week 12: Writing for the Web and Killing Birds with Stones

Starting With Bird Killing

This post does not condone the killing of life, but it does idiomatically kill about four metaphorical birds as one metaphorical stone:

    Four pigeons
  • PLN Journal - It is another entry in my PLN Journal Assignment series for INFO 233 School Library Media Centers.
  • INFO 240 - The research I present was collected in conjunction with INFO 240 Information Technology Tools and Applications. In that course, we are studying design issues this week, and I chose to focus on reviewing research related to writing for the web.
  • Student Project - I am currently collaborating with a teacher at my school who is implementing a project-based learning experience that involves students creating a website for the authentic audience of our local middle schools. Students have been discussing tailoring content for their audience, but this information can add awareness of crafting writing based on the delivery platform.
  • Library Project - The GUHSD Library Council, made up of site teacher librarians, is creating a research website resource for students. These findings may help guide us in developing a website that is more usable.

People Don't Use XYZ!

I will sometimes hear people complain about users - particularly students - not using XYZ service or resource, but I see lack of use as evidence of at least three things:
  1. Users don't know about XYZ - This may mean that more marketing is necessary. How can I get the word out better? How can I link to XYZ web resource more or differently?
  2. Users don't need XYZ - XYZ may not matter to them. Have I analyzed user needs? Can I help users see the value and relevancy of XYZ?
  3. XYZ is not usable enough - How can XYZ be better designed? How can I make content more visually appealing? better organized? clearly written?
In this spirit, the content below focuses on usability, but with a particular focus on writing for the web. The curated resources cover why writing for the web needs to be approached differently and present tips for writing for this delivery platform.

Writing For The Web Is Different...

...or at least it should be different from writing an essay, for instance. Why? Because people read websites differently than they read print material. Below are some key research findings regarding online reading.

Web readers read both faster and slower.

Web readers read less.

How To Write For The Web

Since people read differently on the web, it is important to write differently in order to effectively convey information.

Here are some helpful introductory articles:

Writing With Teens In Mind

Working with teens, I thought I would also share one final article related to this audience: Teenage Usability: Designing Teen-Targeted Websites. Findings show that with teens, it is even more important to make writing succinct, to use formatting wisely, and to integrate interactive features while keeping design uncluttered.

Friday, April 1, 2016

PLN Journal Week 11: APALA Strategic Planning Town Hall

When I checked my email today, I received a "happening now" email about an Asian Pacific American Libraries Association (APALA) online strategic planning town hall. I clicked on the link to join the live meeting thinking that I would simply lurk and see what it was like. But, at least in the beginning, I was the only participant (two other people joined as the meeting continued), and so I was immediately greeted by name.

As this is barely my second year as a teacher librarian and I am just halfway through my MLIS program, I have limited experience with the various library professional organizations. In fact, I only joined APALA within the past few months. Furthermore, it's not only new for me to participate in library professional organizations, I am also not accustomed to being involved with culture-centric groups in general. When I was in high school and college, I never felt like I would fit in with the Asian student clubs and so I never joined them.

In retrospect, some of my early reservations were probably due to my need to prove my "Americanness." For instance, I have vivid memories from my childhood of speaking loudly on purpose so that people would hear that I did not have an accent, as if that were somehow proof of my worthiness. In contrast, my shame made me mute on other occasions. I can still picture sitting in my junior high history class learning about World War II, when a student turned to me and asked, "So, why'd you bomb us?" I remember feeling caught off guard and embarrassed, and yet I didn't say a word in response.

Through the years, I have more fully embraced various aspects of my identity, including my "Asianness." I have come to use to my voice with greater ease and intention, and as I gain more life experience, I feel increasing motivation to participate more actively as a community member of multiple communities, which brings me back to showing up at today's meeting. The purpose of the town hall was to gather input regarding APALA's current strategic plan. I mentioned that I am a new member and so I may not have much to add, but the moderators encouraged me to simply speak from my own experience in terms of what I hope to gain from the organization. My answer really ties into several streams of thought.

"Public K-12 School State-Certified Library
Media Specialists by Characteristic, 2009-10"
Source: ALA's Diversity Counts
First of all, when I started the MLIS program and began applying for scholarships, I was uncertain whether or not I would qualify for various library "diversity" scholarships. In undergraduate programs, being of Asian descent is not compelling when it comes to diversity-based recruiting efforts, but what I learned is that Asian Pacific Islanders are in fact quite underrepresented when it comes to librarians and particularly teacher librarians. With this in mind, I acknowledged in today's meeting the importance of APALA's strategic goal related to recruitment, and I inquired about the possibility of mentorship opportunities.

Next, I am currently working at a high school with few Asian Pacific Islander students and staff members. Looking at 2014-15 statistics, Asian, Filipino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students combined accounted for only 3.7% of the total enrollment. Holding onto this figure, I reflect upon last year's school multicultural fair. After the event, several students from the Asian American Club reached out to me even though we had never spoken previously. They shared at length about having felt tokenized by the experience and we formed an immediate connection. Since we did not have an existing relationship, I can't help but think that part of the reason they felt safe approaching me is because I am Asian like them. This event resonated with me powerfully, encouraging me to embrace my responsibility to show up as a role model and leader for these young people and others. Needless to say, I am glad to see how APALA's drafted strategic plan includes an emphasis on leadership.

My grandma with my kids
Finally, since becoming a teacher librarian, I have also been inspired by learning about my grandmother's work in a World War II Japanese relocation center school library. I love the idea of libraries promoting diversity, inclusion, and social justice - all of which are specifically included in APALA's draft vision. This also prompted my suggestion during the online meeting that the organization not only support members in an inward-focused way, but perhaps find ways to work in an outward direction to connect with the greater community. I cited how, as a Japanese American, I am sensitive to current anti-Muslim sentiments and threats such as banning immigration and implementing surveillance. My thinking is that it's not just about Asian Pacific Americans* in terms of a subject to advocate for and on behalf of, but also the unique agency provided and informed by the Asian Pacific experience.

As I continue to test out different professional organizations, I am not sure how I will end up dividing my time and energy over time, but I am happy to report that my initial introduction to APALA has been a positive one. And, as I anticipate completing my MLIS next year, I believe that these organizations will only assume an ever-growing role in my ongoing professional learning. 

*NOTE: APALA is also currently polling and discussing preferred terminology.