Using Advanced Search in Google

A short demonstration on how Google’s Advanced Search can retrieve more precise results.


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February 13, 2014 · 11:29 am

Evaluating Apps, Putting Them To Use, and Knowing How Students Use Them

Over the summer, I try to take a few steps back from everything library related and recharge my brain by gardening, walking, and swimming with my dogs.  I try but fail, because I continue to follow all kinds of library blogs and wind up reading the works of other librarians.  There’s amazing work being done in using technology to make the learning process a creative process.  Teachers are flipping classrooms, librarians are turning libraries into maker spaces, and scientists who study the brain are making us all rethink how our students learn.  It’s exciting, it’s overwhelming, and we use technology as one tool to keep students engaged and make learning as exciting as it really should be.

This summer, I came across some blogs that I thought gave very practical information that could be used right off the bat. For example, here’s one problem and one online solution:  My school board is giving iPads to Grade 6 and Grade 7 students, and my team of Pedagogical Consultants was asked to evaluate and suggest apps. My question was how do I evaluate an app properly.  What are the criteria?  I found help from instructional designer, Mayra Aixa Villar’s column, 7 Essential Criteria for Evaluating Mobile Educational Applications

1. Content.  Within content, there are six areas that should be evaluated: “…synthesis, presentation, accuracy, relevance, its connection to the learning objectives and its adequacy for the target audience.”

2. Personalization – Does the app engage the learner, contribute to the acquisition of new knowledge, and supply real-life experience by being interactive?

3. Feedback – Does the app give meaningful, timely and complete feedback?

4. High-order thinking skills – Does the app teach skills and/or provide a situation in which the learner can solve a problem using certain resources

5. Usability and technical performance – Have the interface elements been appropriately selected? Is the app easy to learn and pleasurable to use?

6.Interactivity and engagement – Does the interactivity and relevance of actions allow for long term engagement?

7. Integration of social interactions – Villar points out that people use mobile apps to search, gain information and be connected with others.  To what extent does the app allow for this?  Can students safely interact with one another with this app?

In the column, Villar uses these seven criteria to evaluate the app, Nutrition Guru.  This makes it easy to see how the criteria can be used to make a checklist or rubric of one’s own to systematically evaluate potential apps for classroom use.

Next problem, what kinds of creative ways can apps be used to in the class?  Forget the drill and kill stuff.  I’m looking for that higher order thinking that’s mentioned above.  Here’s another fantastic list of classroom activities in the Language Arts:  23 iPad Alternatives to the Book Report

What I like about this article is the simple way that garden variety apps are listed and linked with a variety of creative ways for students to convey what they think about literature that they’ve read. By using Screenplay, Puppet Pals, and/or iMovie, students can write a screenplay, rehearse it and dramatize a scene from the book that they’ve been reading.  High school students can use  to make a fake Facebook page for a character in a book.  Students can write songs reflecting a character or plot line using GarageBand.  There are twenty more ideas listed in the column with a variety of options for apps to use for each idea, everything from writing an alternative ending to the book to making a silent movie of the story.

Finally, it’s always good to have an eye on the big picture. The Nielson company came out with the results of a study in August that showed how students use tablet devices in their studies: A Computer in Every Classroom and a Tablet in Every Backpack? (see table below) I found it very interesting that the lowest use (12%) was for creating and presenting documents/presentations. With the implementation of iPads, we hope that the devices will be used  creative tools, not an end in themselves.   As teachers look for more creative ways to allow students to find and present information, that 12% statistic is liable to change

.Use of tablets

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Citing Information Found on an App

How do you cite information that you’ve found on an app? This link provides good solutions when using MLA.

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Teachers’ Guide to Selecting Digital Content

This infographic provides a step-by-step methodology for evaluating and implementing technology in the curriculum :

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May 13, 2013 · 12:31 pm

Nonfiction Matters – The Infographic

Last week, I wrote about the importance of nonfiction.  I decided to prove that old dogs can learn new tricks and even teach themselves new tricks!  Here’s my infographic on the importance of nonfiction in a collection. For those of you who aren’t from Quebec, the QEP Progression of Learning is the curriculum in our province.

I hope that this infographic will be useful for other library personnel who are trying to prove that you can’t have an entire collection made of wizards, zombies, vampires, fairy princesses and talking animals.  Don’t get me wrong – they have their place, but nonfiction has a lot of magic in it too.


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Nonfiction Matters

Living in Canada, I sometimes feel out of touch with what’s going on down south of the border.  Today, as I was researching the importance of nonfiction in elementary school libraries, I did quite a bit of reading on the core curriculum in the United States. The new Common Core Standards that impact the educational systems in most states stipulates that 70% of books studied should be nonfiction.  This is a huge turnaround.

It’s accepted practice in most libraries that 50% of the collection should be nonfiction.  Yet with years of budget cuts, I’ve seen many collections with very old books whose time had come years ago.  I had to hold my breath when, as a new school board librarian, one library volunteer informed me that the students got most of their factual information on the Internet; the library was not a research library.  I found this very shocking, but as I travelled to other school libraries, and saw how old the collections were, I realized that it was better to have no nonfiction, than very outdated nonfiction.  Yet even the international organization, UNESCO still prescribes the 50% non-fiction benchmark for school libraries.  Some experts say it should be more.

According to The Whole Library Handbook, “A reasonable collection for book resources should comprise 10 books per student.  The smallest school should have at least 2,500 relevant and updated items to ensure a wide, balanced book stock for all ages, abilities and backgrounds.  At least 60% of the stock should consist of curriculum-related non-fiction resources.” (Woolls and Loertscher)

Does nonfiction matter in developing reading skills? Yes!

Interestingly enough, I found reference to a study cited by the New York Times in March of 2012, that found that 1000 students who learned to read using an experimental curriculum that emphasized nonfiction texts performed better than those who did not.

Marc Aronsen, who lectures at Rutgers School of Communication and Information commented on the importance of nonfiction, “As you may know, there was a study in 2000 about the amount of time spent on nonfiction reading in elementary school classrooms. It was 3.6 minutes a day on average, and in poorer districts, it was 2.7 minutes. We have a situation where schools have only been spending 3.6 minutes on nonfiction, and now it’s supposed to be 50%?  This is not happening, and it’s especially not happening without the librarian.  Every librarian knows some subset of kids who love nonfiction. Why do librarians buy The Guinness Book of World Records every year? Because we can’t keep it on the shelves. We know that there are kids who like weird and wacky facts, knights, warfare, whatever it is.” (Corsaro)

Nonfiction matters, and there is a wealth of books that are informative and fun to read.  While it is imperative that students are exposed to great literature, whether it is award-winning picture books or Shakespeare, nonfiction can open up the world to children and teens and help them develop the reading and analytical skills that will serve them well throughout their academic careers and their lives.


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Pew Survey on How Technology Is Used In the Classroom

This is an interesting survey that has an impact on what libraries do:

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Alexander Galt Regional High School Library Has A Wall of Love

Alexander Galt Regional High School Library celebrates February as Caring Month with a Wall of Love. Students volunteer to write Love on their arms and have their arms photographed as a way to show support to those who suffer from depression or are victims of bullying.Image

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The Importance of Libraries in Film

The link below describes a new documentary that will emphasize how important libraries are to Americans.  It’s heartening to think that non-librarians are advocating for libraries.

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Next up in my newsletter – Graphic organizers and Note Taking

I am absolutely convinced that most students are never taught how to make notes in a style that suits how they learn.  All right, maybe that was a strong statement and one that might be changing, but when I taught a high school level social change class, I watched students struggle with note taking.  What was important?  What wasn’t important?

As a teacher, I found myself going old-school, writing on a white board and I heard myself saying things like, “This is important.”  I believe that I was responding to the high school student that lived inside of me, the one who was concerned about what would appear on the test in a few weeks.  My complaint even in university was that if I only knew what the teacher wanted, I would give it to him or her.  As an adult and as a librarian AND as a teacher, I feel that these concerns had more to do with marks anxiety than about learning and retaining.

Tell me that kids don’t have marks-anxiety today and I will ask you what planet you live on!  Yet, as an educator, I am more concerned that learning be more than regurgitation and I’m far from being alone in this.  It is very rewarding to see the projects, essays, and use of technology make this happen.  One way that we can prepare students for the next step in their academic careers is to provide them with note-taking tools such as graphic organizers.

Last month, I suggested some apps in my monthly newsletter to my schoolboard, but at this web site, you can find a list of various graphic organizers that are free to download. Pick the right one for the right project, whether it’s flash cards or a timeline template, and you’re giving a student a leg up in organizing and retaining facts.

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