Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mock Senate Spring 2009

Today the Government classes held their Mock Senate exercise in three different places around the campus. One of the sessions, featuring the students in Mr. DeNardo's classes, was held in the library.

It's always great to see the students dressed up like young ladies and gentlemen and taking part in this "exercise in democracy." The Mock Senate gives the students an opportunity to debate issues which the country is grappling with and they do it with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm.

Ian Kaufman talks to fellow Senators about changing the drinking age. Mr. DeNardo looks on in the background.

The students in all the government classes use the resources of the Library extensively in preparing for their debates and it show in the evidence that they present to their classmates.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Weeding, Teaching, Searching, Mock Senate Preview

Today was fairly quiet in the library.

I'm continuing to weed items from the library. I'm focusing right now on the 500s--especially the 580s, Botany. A lot of the items were given new call numbers in the 333 (Environmental protection area). We have a lot of material on the rain forests which were purchased in the 1980s and 1990s which had been classified with botany but are more properly located with forest conservation. Next year I will look into updating this collection with some newer titles.

Another area with a lot of older titles is the wild flower guides and other general botanical guides. Books such as these are used when Integrated Science students are doing their ecological transect projects. I've set up a Category in the catalog which brings many of these items together under the topic of California field guides. I tried to tag all of the appropriate books I reviewed today with that topic. It makes it easier to find the titles when the kids are working on the project--for them and for me.

I helped Jean, an aide in the Sheltered English class (ELL students), to explore the library's home page with its wealth of resources. She was a bit overwhelmed so I showed her some specific databases and how they work. We accessed periodicals through the library catalog, Sequoyah, as well as playing around with PowerSearch Plus, Gale's federated search engine.

Robert Winkler came by with copies of an article he had seen in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books about the treatment of terrorism suspects in the War on Terror. He wondered whether the secret report it referred to could be found online. It was produced by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2004 and all of their reports are officially secret. I looked using various search engines and databases but couldn't find the specific report he wanted. I did find some other documents so I printed them out and will add them to the Pamphlet file on Torture. His students are producing reports on topics related to Orwell's novel, 1984, and current events.

Tomorrow the Mock Senate will be held in several different locations at Redwood. One of the venues is the Bessie Chin Library where students will present, debate and vote on various bills they have been working over the past several weeks. They have been using CQ Researcher and Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center intensively for this project. The main library portal for information on Congressional resources can be found on the Library's Government page.
Look for pictures in tomorrow's blog posting.

Several classes were in the library today. Emily Satterstrom brought her AP Language and Literature classes in to continue doing research on their controversial topic papers. I had questions about educational law, environmental law, and suburbia in the 1950s among others. It's great when students are willing to ask for help and realize they don't have to do it all on their own. I'm looking forward to seeing the completed papers.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. has finally hit the book stores and there's a great deal of energy being expended on the library listservs about the changes to MLA style. We had a preview last year when the 3rd ed. of the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing came out. The Library has begun to change its web page about Citing Sources to reflect the new style. We have also developed a presentation which explains the new conventions and which is available for anyone to use. Updates will be provided as soon as we get our copy of the Handbook.
The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University has an interesting page on the changes.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Busy Day for Kids and Teachers

Today I had four classes in the library.

Two of Mr. Winkler's classes came on a follow-up visit to continue finding information about their papers related to their reading of Orwell's 1984. Robert had started this project last year and this year gave his students four sheets with directions for the project including one specifically about library resources. He is requiring that they use Opposing Viewpoints Resouce Center or CQ Researcher to find information on several topics related to the post-9/11 world including the PATRIOT ACT, torture, privacy rights, etc. The students will relate the issues they have been reading about in their text to similar contemporary issues.

So far the kids really seem to be using the resources very well; specifically steering away from Google searches which bring them too many hits which they realize they can't really begin to read or undertand in the amount of time they have to produce the paper.

The students are also encouraged to use library print materials about the topics and today were able to check out library books for the first time since the project began.

Sharing the library today were two other classes. Mike Keleman brought his U.S. history classes in for their second day finding primary source documents for their research project on various civil rights topics. Some are looking for info on the women's movement, others are researching the African American civil rights movement, still others Hispanic Americans or Native Americans. I didn't have as much time to show them how to find primary source documents online but did show them how to identify books with primary sources in the library's catalog by searching for subject headings which include the term "Sources." Most seemed to be finding enough material. Mike commented today that helping the kids was real exercise in patience--theirs and his. Most find it quite difficult to go beyond the obvious--the first link in a Google search being a familiar favorite--and digging deeper when they are looking for such resources.

We all know this is a modern syndrome--the inability or reluctance to go beyond the obvious--but it's our obligation to give the kids the motivation to go beyond the easiest and head for things which are not so accessible to those which have meaning for what they are trying to demonstrate in various papers and projects they are working on.

The kids from Emily Satterstrom's Non-fiction class are also beginning their research papers (12 pages--fairly daunting) and are coming one-by-one to inquire about topics and possible resources. I know she's encouraged them to seek me out as a resource and I think I'm up to the task. One boy had decided to investigate the relationship between music and current events and I had to think about that for a while. After sharing insights about the likes of Bob Dylan and hip-hop as reflecting the events of the times I told him I'd do a bit more research and he could check back with me. He then suggested I email him some suggestions which I thought was brilliant. I did find a terrific page at About.com about folk music which supplied some interesting jumping-off places. I also suggested that he use terms like "civil rights movement" and "music" in a search to locate more resources. I hope to find out whether these tips were useful or not and will let you know.

All in all an interesting and productive day. Some teaching, some learning. What more can one ask for?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Good Friday

Friday was a very busy and productive day in the library.

I spoke to five classes--all 9th graders--which are my favorites.

Three English classes came in earlier in the week to take the TRAILS information literacy assessment survey. The teacher, Jeanne Woltering, is my peer evluation partner this year and I decided that I was going to work with her classes on information literacy skills. Earlier I had done a couple presentations with them on the new MLA format for citiations which went over quite well.

During 9th-grade orientation last semester, I had requested social studies teachers to have their students do the survey as a pre-test of info lit skills for all incoming students to Redwood. Not enough actually did the survey to provide an adequate base for data comparison. I find that if I don't follow up personally with each class I really don't get the response we need. Since I knew Jeanne, whom I've worked closely with over the years, would follow up I decided to give the survey another attempt.

Since 9th-grade English classes at Redwood are 20-to-1 classes there were a total of fifty students who took the TRAILS-9 survey. Scores ranged from 25% to 88% so we realized a quick follow-up would probablly be useful for the kids. The weakest sections of the test were on the evaluation of information sources and the ethical, legal, and responsible use of information. The sections where the students tended to do better were the sections on topic development; the identification of potential sources; and the developent and use of various search strategies.

The three classes came in on Friday and the plan was to go through the test question by question so we could discuss the questions and help the kids see why the correct answers were correct. As usual in these situations we were able to learn from the first presentation and adapted for the later ones.

The first thing I discovered was that we couldn't go through the entire test in one fifty-minute period and still allow for adequate discussion. For the 2nd and 3rd classes I quickly covered the sections the kids did better on and then spent most of the time on the last two areas mentioned above.

I did not intend this to be a lesson in place of regular library projects which the kids are doing on a regular basis but it turned out to be an excelent teaching and learning experience. It seems that the issues brought up by the evaluation questions were mostly about the notion of bias in information sources. Delving into the questions gave the students the opportunity to explore what constitutes bias and hopefully clarify the ambiguities in some of the questions and answers. The other major area of confusion or general lack of knowledge was copyright--what it is, when it goes into effect and how to prevent violating copyright (including a discussion of fair use in the classroom setting).

I'm looking forward to working with these cclasses againt and bringing this exercise to the other English classes as well.

I'll post more on the results and my work with the other two classes later.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Public Libraries vs. School

Interesting point of view from a young man which I saw on Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk blog and which he discovered at Walt Crawford's Liminal Librarian blog. I actually came to it via the AASL (American Assoc. of School Librarians) blog through a comment by Deborah Stafford! The wonderful world of blogs. Enjoy!?

The original (AASL) posting was about a grant opportunity available through AASL for gaming in libraries. The headline was "97% of your students want you ..."

What do you think about game playing in the library?