Thing 10: Productivity Tools

Civilian Conservation Corps Members Learning the Difference Between Fir and Pine Trees.

Norr, Roy. (1936). The Civilian Conservation Corps boys are being taught the difference between fir and pine trees on the Columbia National Forest, Washigton. USFS photo #340009. From the Gerald W. Williams Collection, OSU Special Collections & Archives: Commons. No known copyright restrictions.

When I initially saw that this lesson was productivity tools, my initial thought was ‘well, that’s rather subjective’ since many (most?, all?) the tools we’ve looked at during this online course could be used for productive purposes. So what exactly does productivity tools mean to me and to my students? I think it means collecting and organizing digital information for research projects and that means social bookmarking. For this final lesson I explored Evernote and Instapaper.

I remember seeing Evernote on many iPad advertisements before I bought mine. I was not sure what it was or what it did but it looked cool (hey, an elephant never forgets) and the app was free. Although I did download it, I did not have an opportunity to explore it, until now. I discovered that with an Evernote account, one could access items bookmarked through the web browser, a tablet computer, or a smart phone. It would also ‘remember’ photos and voice memos (at least on smartphones and tablets). Web pages could be  bookmarked and everything (web pages, voice memos, photos) could be annotated, tagged, and shared with others through email or some social networking services. This is indeed a cool tool.

Instapaper is a similar bookmarking tool which advertises itself  as “a simple tool to save web pages for reading later.” While the mobile app is available for purchase, I only explored the online version. This service only bookmarks web pages, these also can be annotated and shared through email. Users can also link and share through several different social networking services. In addition, many social networking services and newsreaders can send items to one’s Instapaper account for later reading (I did not investigate this feature).

I could see myself easily using both of these tools for different purposes. I could easily see myself using Evernote as a research tool because of its scope of media that can be saved and the ability to tag items. I could even see myself introducing this tool to High School students working on research projects. I see myself using Instapaper as a professional development tool. If the mobile app works as well as the online service, this would mean that I could easily bookmark articles and web pages of interest to be read later.

For me, social bookmarking tools are important productivity tools when one considers all of the online information that one is exposed to on a daily basis. As a teacher librarian, I feel that these are often under utilized. I see people bookmarking websites with their web browsers and many times sharing just URLs with others through email (hey, how about some metadata?) or through print with really long URLs that are difficult to retype. While well intended, this can be frustrating for the recipient. The other day I received an envelope at school through the interoffice mail. Our BOCES had recently invited Kathleen Odean to introduce educators in our area to the best new YA books for 2012. I was unable to attend this workshop and I heard that it was excellent. Inside this envelop was a copy of the resource book that Odean had shared during the workshop. As I opened the booklet and noticed a QR barcode inside which linked readers to her bookmarks on Diigo. It was a pleasure to see another person using a social bookmarking web site to share resources with others. I do, indeed, look forward to her next visit to our area.

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Thing 9: Databases & Search Tools

Student Using the Card Catalogue in the Library, 1981. London School of Economics. No known copyright restrictions.

Student Using the Card Catalogue in the Library, 1981. London School of Economics. No known copyright restrictions.

At my library, we have access to the NOVEL NY databases, several encyclopedia and reference databases, and a set of streaming media databases. At last count, my students have access to 123 different research and periodical databases and periodical collections (subsets of periodical databases).

To make it easier for students to find the best databases to meet their needs, I organized these databases in a social bookmarking website. Together by using a combination of javascript and RSS feeds, I have been able to easily create and post specific sets of these databases onto my class project pages (web pages, wiki, blog, and now LibGuides) for specific classes and projects.

I have also explored numerous database widgets and I use several of these on my library webpage to provide my students with instant access to these resources. Several database publishers have also created apps for mobile devices and I use these with students in my library. My catalog also does federated searching, simultaneously allowing students to cross-searching most of our databases. As long as my teachers are willing, I have numerous different tools available to connect their students to high-quality database resources. However, connecting students to the library databases is just part of the educational picture.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with a new representative from one of my database publishers. He wanted to introduce himself and to show us some of the special features and curriculum-related resources available on that particular vendor’s database. I was familiar with many of the resources found in that database since we subscribe to it, I really had not really explored these curriculum-related and information-literacy resources. I know that other publishers of K-12 library databases also have similar instructional resources available.

With this in mind, I plan to create a second set of bookmarks for these other supplemental resources for my classroom teachers. This will enable them to easily connect to high-quality instructional resources as they plan their CCLS lessons. This would also allow me share resources with school administrators, parents, and others when the topic of student instruction is discussed.

While the publishers write their supplemental instructional resources for their products, these could easily be used with other databases or instructional materials. By connecting my teachers to these instructional materials, we can more easily create rich, meaningful learning experiences for our students that use high-quality library resources that are designed to improve student learning.