Thing 18- Digital Tattoo & Digital Citizenship

Last summer as we wrote curriculum for our new media literacy course for 6th grade students, we decided to that online behavior and online communication would be central themes in this course. Through out this school year, these two ideas were always in mind when I reflected upon what worked (or didn’t work) and when I developed my lessons for this class.

The other day, someone forwarded an article about something called “Digital Driver’s License” (DDL). It is an online tool for students designed to teach students, through case studies, about digital literacy and safety while encouraging them to become independent and cautious digital learners. One could access this information through the Internet or via an app.  It includes resources from Common Sense Media (I use many of their resources in my class) and others. It appears to be customizable.

This sounded interesting to me since it was similar to our guiding philosophy for our media literacy course. So I created an account in DDL to see how it worked and I took a look at one of the Middle School-level cases. It presented a really nice info graphic with a set of questions related to it. This info graphic was indeed information dense and came from an outside source. The attached questions required careful reading so that you could properly answer them. Probably best not attempted after a long day just before one goes home.

I did like what I saw in this case study. I believe that it might be a valuable addition to this course. If the other case studies are similar to the one I experienced, we would need to spend more time in class deliberately reading for understanding. I do need to further explore DDL to discover how I might use it with my students.


Thing 15: App-palooza! The Snapguide App

As a school librarian, I know that learning comes in many different forms. Sometimes it is more formal, like when I’m delivering bibliographic instruction to a class, or more informal, like when a student has a ready reference question. Often I am readily available to assist my students face-to-face. Many times my students have real complex questions related to their research, and often they just need how-to directions to complete a task. Then there are times when I am not available in the library (e.g.: weekends, holidays, etc.),  learning is an asynchronous activity that may not follow a clock or a calendar. An app that I recently found that could address these needs for how-to directions is Snapguide.

I do not remember where I first saw this app, but it intrigued me. Here were how-to guides that people had created and posted. guides about crafts and recipes, how to fix a fence and make a martini. These contained step-by-step guides with pictures and text, complete with supply lists. These guides displayed nicely on smartphones, tablet devices, and computers. Like other forms of social media, these could be shared with other services and embedded on web pages and people could add comments. You could easily search Snapguide by keyword or category. While it does not have a section for education, it does have one for technology.

Creating a guide is easy. You need an idea, a collection of screenshots or photographs to illustrate your project, and text to describe the steps involved. I decided to build a guide about using library ebooks. We started developing our ebook collection last year and I need to find ways to better promote them. Perhaps this could be done with Snapguide. Using only an iPad, I took screenshots, annotated these images using A+ Signature, imputed these into a Snapguide, added directions and published my first guide. Later I shared this with my High School mobile tech students, made some quick edits, and re-posted my guide.

Thing I like about Snagguide includes:

  • Ease of Use. People can be used to easily find instructional information on a wide-variety of topics. Materials view well on any device.
  • Ease of Creation. The app on the iPad is fully functional, providing all of the options found on the web site
  • Flexible End-User Experiences. Several of the details of my images appeared at the edges off the screen. Clicking on the  image will display it full-size with these details now in view. Clicking on ‘print’  will display each slide with the text instructions, just like we often created for how-to instructions.

It would be nice if there was a Snapguide for education, this service does indeed have some interesting applications in a school library. Guides could easily be created for searching the library catalog and the various research databases. Guides could be created for providing instruction on information literacy and media literacy topics. Some of these may already exist in Snapguide. I’m going to enjoy finding ways to use Snapguide as part of my library and media-literacy instruction and as a vehicle to expand my library program. It is an excellent tool for use in both flipped classrooms and mobile technology friendly situations.

Thing 17: Coding and Coding Tools

"This Is a Card Puncher, an Integral Part of the Tabulation System Used by the United States Census Bureau to Compile the Thousands of Facts Gathered by the Bureau."

“This Is a Card Puncher, an Integral Part of the Tabulation System Used by the United States Census Bureau to Compile the Thousands of Facts Gathered by the Bureau.” Census Machines (Record Group 29). Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census. Circa 1950. No known copyright restrictions.

I remember my first introduction to computer programming. I was taking an undergraduate introduction to computer course. It was the early 1980’s. Computers were only seen in print or on TV. Personal computers, if you had access to one, were difficult to use. There was not Internet or email, no mouse or graphical user interface. Computers were found only at universities or places like NASA, or in science fiction stories.

As part of this course, we learned some BASIC programming using Commodore 64 and saving our programs on audio cassette tapes. We learned about variables, arrays, loops, and conditional statements. Had I been able to see the future at that time, I probably would have changed my major from management to computer science.

My next exposure to coding was when I learned html in the early 1990’s using a text editor. I was soon dabbling around with some JavaScript, later some XML, and most recently with some RSS. I was self-taught and I knew enough to do what I wanted to do. By no means was I an expert nor did I want to be, yet I found having some background knowledge in coding to be valuable as a librarian.

In late winter of 2013, I began developing a mobile technologies course for High School students. I intended to introduce my students to concepts of information literacy, media literacy, and computer science. If I could create a curriculum integrating these topics, my students would be more successful in school and perhaps would discover potential career paths.

I had clear ideas of the information and media literacy aspects of this curriculum, I knew I wanted to do something with coding. While I could teach some HTML, this alone would not provide the ideal experience for my students. I’ve been incubating on this problem without the development of meaningful ideas until I the codeacademy app (

This interactive app is designed to introduce students some of the various aspects of coding that had originally hooked me. It demonstrates that coding relates to computer programing, app creating, and creating web pages. It provides students with enough information so that my students will know if computer science might be something they would like to further explore in college.

Coding is something that should be taught in schools. Just like music and the arts, it teaches students about thinking and learning. Like math and literature, it teaches students about problem solving. These are valuable, cross-disciplinary skills that they will indeed find useful as productive citizens in society.

Thing 14: Social Reading & Book Stuff

Brooke, John Warwick. 'Good Friends' An Artillery driver and his horse enjoy a rest' [circa 1918]. [Official Photograph Taken on the British Western Front in France.] From the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928). First World War 'Official Photographs'. National Library of Scotland, no known copyright restrictions.

Brooke, John Warwick. ‘Good Friends’ An Artillery driver and his horse enjoy a rest’ [circa 1918]. [Official Photograph Taken on the British Western Front in France.] From the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928). First World War ‘Official Photographs’. National Library of Scotland, no known copyright restrictions.

This topic covers a lot of interesting items subjects, so for this activity I will focus on ‘Book Stuff’, my personal experiences with vendor ebooks and how these might be implemented in my school library.

I remember my first experience several years ago with borrowing audiobooks from the local public library. They had just implemented OverDrive for ebooks and audiobooks. Although I do own both an ebook reader and a tablet computer, I still find myself  purchasing print books. I guess I like the experience of wandering through the isles of the bookstores better than browsing online. I do, however, find myself regularly checking out audiobooks from the library so I was interested to explore what was available through OverDrive.

My initial findings were not very affirmative at that time. There were not many titles available in this collection that were iOS compatible and of those that were, they were not titles (or authors) that I was interested in reading. I did notice earlier this winter that more items were iOS compatible, and upon digging, I did notice some titles and authors that I might find of interest to me. I have since enjoyed titles like “Soon I Will Be Invincible” (Austin Grossman, 2007), “Gods Behaving Badly” (Marie Phillips, 2007), “The Diviners” (Libba Bray, 2012), and several Terry Pratchett novels.

I did notice again, that I could not find  several popular-press authors that I currently follow nor specific titles that one might consider as seminal works of science fiction. Perhaps this was because of a collection-development practices of either OverDrive or the library system, or maybe my tastes are ‘too eclectic’, I don’t know but I continue to monitor these holdings.

With this in mind, I think about the ebooks currently available in my library collection. As a result of being in the ‘right place at the right time’ last year, I have numerious nonfiction, reference, and literature titles to support the Common Core. These available from several different vendors. When I mention to others at school that we’ve got ebooks, the first thing they ask about are fiction titles for their ebook readers. So with this in mind, I am currently exploring collection development practices for fiction ebooks so that I can better meet this need.

As for OverDrive, I do have the app installed on my tablet computer right next to the Nook app. I am currently teaching an experimental elective for High School Students on using mobile technologies and we will be examining both how to access ebooks from the library and how to create ebooks. I’m looking forward to working with my students on this topic.

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.