Friday, January 29, 2010

Fun with Bibliographies!

"How is this possible?" you think. Doing bibliographic citation correctly is quite possibly the most detail-ridden, hard to remember, big-picture useless skill learned in school. It will not make anybody more money in their next lives (the ones after high school) nor get them a date to the Bash. But in the past few weeks I have loved seeing students' faces light up in joy over a beautifully displayed MLA-formatted bibliography.

The magic word is NoodleBib. Last fall the library subscribed to the online research helper, and I've been preaching its merits ever since. Many students had already been using free online services to create their "Works Cited" or "Sources Used" pages -- EasyBib is one, BibMe is another. There is also a free version of NoodleBib.

The paid subscriber version is superior to the free versions, though, in that students create personal accounts so they can save their citations to edit, add to and print in the future. Plus, subscription NoodleBib includes note-taking and organization capabilities, a way to make an outline of your research, "virtual" notecards that can be tagged, sorted and moved around into subject piles -- it brings back memories of doing exactly this with stacks of real index cards, back in the olden times when I was in college. At 3 am, in the science center. Existentialism, was it? or the Spanish Civil War? Doesn't matter which paper -- with NoodleBib students can create and work on multiple projects, keeping all the citation and notes in separate lists. Individual lists can be shared online with the course teacher, who can track and comment on the student's research process well before the final product is due.

On Monday, both sections of Cullen's 10th grade American History classes came in for a library work day. I had done a full period presentation to his upper level classes last fall, when they were working on their French Revolution research, but for this class time was short. Cullen couldn't give both an "information" day and a "hands-on" day, so we came up with a solution that worked, both in theory and in execution. They came to the library, and while some students looked for sources and others worked with Cullen, I worked at the computer station with small groups of 4-6 students at a time. We went step-by-step through setting up a NoodleBib account and entering a citation and annotation, required for the assignment due in 2 days. Talk about "urgent need to know."

At the final step, "save as Word document,", those faces lit up. A perfectly formatted, alphabetized and printable bibliography. Truly a thing of beauty.

"This is SO cool!"

"This is awesome!"

I love my job.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trying Something New:
Board Games in the Library Collection

The ideal school library is best described as a "learning resource center," a place (physical or virtual) where students and teachers can find needed tools, information, assistance, guidance, study space, and all kinds of other support for learning. In the olden days, library collections included realia (real things, like rocks or collections of pressed leaves), ephemera (items only useful temporarily), and other non-print information sources that could be checked out just like books or videos. Anybody remember the vertical file?

One of the sessions I attended at the AASL meeting in November was all about board games for learning. The neat thing about board games is that the teaching is implicit in the competition, and they include visual, auditory and kinetic learning strengths (pictures on the board, talking about the moves you're making, picking up cards and moving playing pieces).

Jennifer and Tony's junior high class does a lot of geography, so that's a natural area for jumping into the board game world. Students just learned about East Asia, and are now moving to South and West Asia. The game 10 Days in Asia just arrived, and Tony's students will be giving it a trial run later this week. The object of the game is to connect a series of country and transportation tiles to create a possible 10 day journey across the Asian continent. Most impressive to me is that the game includes ALL of Asia, from Turkey to New Guinea! A game should take 20-30 minutes to complete for 2-4 players -- perfect for a class period.

Because I tend to buy in threes (what? we have nothing on the Triangle Shirt Factory fire?? we'll need at least 3 books for that research topic!), we now also have 10 Days in the USA and 10 Days in Africa. Experienced players suggest connecting two or more games in this series for playing a longer and more complex game (20 Days Across Asia & Africa?).

I can't wait to play.