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14 Ways K-12 Librarians Can Teach Social Media

(I thought I’d share this article, just cross posted @TechLEARNING.com)

This is the best time in history to be a teacher-librarian. Major shifts in our information and communication landscapes present new opportunities for librarians to teach and lead in areas that were always considered part of their role, helping learners of all ages effectively use, manage, evaluate, organize and communicate information, and to love reading in its glorious new variety.
 
A school’s teacher-librarian is its chief information officer, but in a networked world, the position is more that of moderator or coach, the person who ensures that students and teachers can effectively interact with information and leverage it to create and share and make a difference in the community and beyond.
 
For background, take a look at the Standards for the 21st Century Learner. These information-fluency standards scream inquiry, critical thinking, digital citizenship, creative communication, collaboration, and networking.
 
For librarians, and for most other professionals, the game has changed. There is no textbook for new practice, and it is absolutely true that some of us are a little more retooled than others. Nevertheless, there are at least 14 retooled learning strategies that teacher-librarians should be sharing with classroom teachers and learners in the 2009–2010 school year.
 
1. New fun with intellectual property.
Teacher-librarians must be able to guide their learning communities in the areas of respect for and creative use of intellectual property. Whether it is communicating the results of inquiry and research or composing and sharing a digital story, we now guide learners as they create and share media products in a mashup, remix world. Librarians have always advised students on information ethics, but, unfortunately, in the recent past we’ve acted more as gatekeepers than cheerleaders. Two major intellectual-property shifts allow us to emerge as media-creation cheerleaders.
 
Creative Commons: a new world of voluntary content sharing
Happily, artists, writers, musicians, educators—content creators of all kinds—now opt to share their work in a copyleft manner, using an approach far more liberal than the traditional big ©. Instead of the default all-rights-reserved assumption, Creative Commons  offers creators a variety of some-rights-reserved licensing options. (These licenses are briefly defined on Flickr’s Creative Commons Portal) Librarians should be teaching about the icons attached to these licenses and making it easy for teachers and learners to access major portals for CC content.
 
I don’t think a single day goes by that I don’t lead teachers and students to our Copyright Friendly Pathfinder  for media to use in their teaching or projects. Use of Creative Commons demonstrates respect for intellectual property while recognizing a more open information landscape, the desire of content creators to share, and the need of content users to build on prior knowledge.
 
Fair Use: rethinking the use of copyrighted material 
My students also want to (need to!) use copyrighted materials in the communication products they develop: to create satire using familiar cartoon characters; to write song parodies; to analyze the way groups of people, for instance Native Americans, have been portrayed in popular media; to use the actual book covers in their book trailers and reviews. And my students now have an ever-multiplying array of digital tools with which they can create.
 
My teachers want to (need to!) use copyrighted materials in instruction: to analyze campaign ads, to present examples of dramatic elements or unusual plot structures in feature films, to examine carefully constructed media messages.
 
Fair use is more generous than we once imagined, and librarians must spread the word. Fair use allows us to use copyrighted material without asking permission if that use adds value to or repurposes the original work. Released in November 2008, the new Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education helps us understand when our use of copyrighted material is fair. It helps untie the hands of creative educators and learners who want to thoughtfully live and learn and create in a media-rich world. One of the tools I and other librarians will use with students this year is the Tool for Reasoning Fair Use. (See my post on the release of the new code.) American University’s categorized list of examples of transformativeness (Center for Social Media) further explains the creative possibilities of rethinking fair use. (Also see our NECC session on copyright confusion)
 
2. Documentation doesn’t have to be a miserable task.
For digital citizens, attribution is still the right thing to do. Careful documentation builds academic integrity and prepares learners for scholarship. Online citation generators make that work a bit less onerous and more collaborative. NoodleTools, a subscription but highly affordable service with a free MLA Starter feature, not only generates citations in APA, Chicago, and seventh-edition MLA style, it now allows learners to tag and cluster and share note cards with each other and with their teachers, making the research process a little more transparent. And it automatically helps learners analyze the composition of their reference lists for balance.
 
Though we teach with NoodleTools at our school, among the alternative free citation generators your own librarian may be sharing are:

  • Bibme: Free citation generator that anticipates sources and pulls reference content from a database of resources.
  • EasyBib: Automatic bibliography and citation maker covers a large variety of source types and is updated for MLA, seventh edition.
  • Son of Citation Maker:  David Warlick’s interactive tool does MLA (7th edition), APA, Chicago, and Turabian.
  • OttoBib:  For books only; enter the ISBN and the tool will complete the citation.

3. Moving beyond one-trick, single-search mode.
Librarians have always helped students develop thoughtful questions, turn those questions into search strategies, and choose the right tools for particular information tasks. Librarians worth their salt must be leaders in the world of search. And it’s a whole new world. Searching has become more interactive, and searchers can be far more powerful than ever before. It’s never been more fun to teach.
 
In a long-ago article, I wrote that Google rocks but that it’s not the only band in town. That statement has never been more true. In fact, most folks don’t even realize how much Google itself has evolved. This spring I shared Google’s new Wonder Wheel and its other remarkable “Show Options” features with our students and staff. Tools like the Wonder Wheel and other visual and clustering engines can compensate for learners’ limited vocabularies and subject context. (See this post from last spring.)
 
Librarians should offer their constituents an array of appropriate search tools. At the high-school level, that array reaches into social search—blogs and wikis and Twitter —as well as copyright-friendly media and scholarly content. Like other librarians, I continually update and teach about a categorized-search tool kit. For instance, our film-search pathfinder reminds teachers of many fabulous new options for finding instructional video, including Snagfilms’ full-length documentaries and the inspiring thinkers archived on TED.
 
We have new primary sources to analyze and evaluate. I want my students to be able to locate and contact experts and to follow conversations about breaking issues in the news via Twitter or by using the new real-time search tools.
 
And I want my learners to appreciate that some stuff still is not on the free Web but is wonderfully accessible through the databases many of our schools and library systems and state governments support. These databases lead students to a wealth of developmentally appropriate, curricular-relevant content. My own students tell me they couldn’t live without the scholarly content they get through JSTOR; the variety of articles they get in Gale’s Opposing Viewpoints, Literature, and Biography Resource Centers; the historical content they get from our ABC-CLIO sites; the contemporaneous reporting they get from ProQuest’s Historical Newspapers; the sheer wealth of articles they get from eLibrary and EBSCOhost; the current events they get from our Facts on File databases. There are so many others!
 
Like other new-age library types, I’ve begun to create new custom search engines using Google Custom search. I recently created one that searches across the major primary-source portals  and plan to create (with student help) custom searches for ebook and video portals in the fall. Custom searches may be especially useful in leading young searchers to sources that best meet their learning needs.
 
4. Pushing information and working with widgets.
We can show students and faculty how to work smarter, and how to make search tools work harder for them, by sharing the power of RSS feeds and feed aggregators. Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate push is by creating a Google Alert, eliminating the need to continue to re-search Google for new content. Many databases, EBSCO for instance, allow students to set up RSS feeds to automatically update searches for long-term projects. For their major projects, and for teacher research, I also suggest they set up Google Reader  feeds on their iGoogle pages.
 
iGoogle is a particularly sticky search and organizational tool at our high school. As a librarian, I work with content-area teachers to help students create customized iGoogle tabs for the various classes they take each semester. These tabs may gather RSS feeds, critical bookmarks, games, maps, and organizational tools. Students love changing their themes and establishing tabs for their personal interests—sports, music, games, etc.—as well as their classes. (See the wiki for our ALA session on Personal Information Portals.)
 
iGoogle pages are composed of widgets (“gadgets” in Google lingo). Widgets themselves function as powerful new information strategies. I embed and share our database widgets everywhere: on the many lesson wikis I build with classroom teachers, and on many of our library pathfinder pages. Students (and teachers too) can grab database widgets—JSTOR, for instance—and install them in the places they themselves live, play, and work: their own wikis, Nings, and Facebook. (I’m planning to roll this out with our AP classes this fall.)
 
In addition to creating personal-information portals using widget-based tools like iGoogle, libraries can broadcast information portals as pathfinders using tools like PageFlakes and NetVibes.  These 2.0 pathfinders exploit the power of widgets to gather research and content-area materials in customized ways. Flakes transformed the way our students and teachers look at current events. In the old days, our students generally visited CNN and perhaps one other news source to discover an interesting story. Now, by visiting one page, they access several news feeds in several media formats. Take a look at our Global, Current Events, Science News, India, Environmental, and French Resources Flakes.

Buffy Hamilton, the librarian at Creekview (GA) High School uses PageFlakes, NetVibes, and LibGuides for her pathfinders. Check out the wide variety of media and feeds she presents on this pathfinder on Afghanistan, created recently for a social studies class. Her timely pathfinder on the Iran elections allowed her students to view events through many lenses as events occurred this past year. (See my posts on PageFlakes as current-events pathfinders and database widgets: My dream comes true.
 
5. Searching yourself.
What does your digital footprint look like? During the college-search lesson I regularly present with our guidance department, I have students search themselves. They’re likely to have done this before, using Google. But by using metatags, a semantic-search tool digs a little deeper into social-network profiles and images and video and more. People-search engines can help students assess, and possibly clean up, their footprints before the admissions officer or the human resources department gets a look. They also can help a student celebrate the positive stamp of his or her footprint. Among my favorite people searches are Pipl and 123 People.
 
6. Scouting and networking.
Through their social networks—Nings, listservs, Twitter, and social-bookmarking activities using Diigo or Delicious  sharing—today’s librarians are, or should be, on the lookout for resources tools with which to serve the curriculum and engage learners across content areas and grade levels. I make exciting discoveries for others nearly every day. That’s my job. Librarians should help students and faculty develop similar networks for academic and professional sharing, modeling collaborative information-seeking behavior. Librarians should also encourage students to use social-bookmarking tools, like Diigo and Delicious, to organize and share sources when they research and learn. Using these tools also presents a wonderful opportunity to teach about the importance of tagging. The Unquiet Library shares its social bookmarks  and tags with teachers and learners as a pathfinder strategy.
 
Many of my best discoveries for our teachers (and for my own blog) come from regular scans of my own beloved Twitter network (I drank the Kool-Aid on this one). Twitter can be a powerful networking tool for research, current awareness, and professional development if students and teacher learn to leverage its power to meet their learning needs. Librarians can help build relevant networks by sharing a growing number of search and network-building Twitter tools .

I work with classroom teachers to find Nings relevant to their content areas and to create Nings for their classes and clubs. The language-arts workshop we discovered on the Classroom2.0Ning in the past school year—Remixing Shakespeare for 21st Century Students—provided a wealth of curricular inspirations. Our own (partly private and now defunct) GlobalStudiesNing hosted student video, class discussion, relevant news feeds, and four literature circles. These media-rich networks help students access news, collaborate, discuss, and share within in a dynamic environment. (As a bonus, they act as parking lots for our media products and generate code that can be embedded.) Check out our OneBookOneSpringfieldNing, which we hope will become a community-literacy hub this school year.
 
Among my favorite Nings to share with classroom teachers and fellow librarians:

7. Transparency and the research process.
The Web makes research a far more independent effort. Students work at home in their rooms, often late at night. They may not get, or ask for, the adult support they got in the old days. Over the past three years, for major research projects, I’ve helped our faculty move the research process online.

When you use either blogs or wikis, the process becomes more interactive and transparent. Most of our teachers and students prefer to work with wikis, probably because we’ve been working together to build lessons and resource pages on that platform. Wikis are easily edited and updated. They hold media in all formats, including bookmarking widgets, video, and images of their mind maps. They preserve links. The discussion tab permits conversations between teachers, librarians, peers, and mentors, as well as intervention when a crisis is imminent or when praise is called for. I can guide learners as they find, evaluate, and organize their information, even if they don’t actually see me and ask for aid.
 
Students use the wiki’s navigation bar to create and edit pages that ultimately build their final projects. At Springfield we suggest that their pages include some of the following:

· Driving questions
· Topic brainstorm mind map
· Title, introduction, scope
· New vocabulary
· Search terms, tags
· Working thesis
· Preliminary sources (annotated)
· Primary sources
· Journal, magazine articles (annotated)
· Books, ebooks, reference sources (annotated)
· Social-networking leads, experts (Twitter, Nings, etc.)
· News/RSS feeds
· Media (video, art, audio, etc.)
· Progress reports
· Final proposal
· Working draft
· Acknowledgments
· Conclusions and findings
· Reflection
 
8. Organizing tools.
We’ve long used Inspiration as a tool for brainstorming questions prior to research and for organizing the results of research. A new array of mind-mapping options is available, creating opportunities for collaborating and sharing. In addition to employing Inspiration’s new, Web-based Webspiration, librarians can help teachers integrate a wide variety of mind-mapping and time-lining options to help students organize their thinking and their work.
 
9. Survey tools for research and learning.

I absolutely adore Google Docs. I am using the new templates to create a new calendar for our library. I am also using spreadsheets in Google Forms to create surveys (like our genre poll–scroll down and look on the right–and our Current Awareness Service) I plan to share this super-easy, highly interactive tool with our faculty this year.

A new variety of survey and polling tools can help teachers assess interest and knowledge without having to set up clicker devices. New survey tools also allow students to perform original research. Over the past couple of years, I’ve worked with students to construct, analyze, and evaluate survey instruments designed for their independent senior projects.
 
10. Connecting with authors and experts.
Over the past three years, I’ve helped content-area teachers bring experts and authors into our classrooms and our library via Internet2 and Skype. This post describes an exciting experience we shared with several other high schools last March, an interview with an Afghan women’s-rights activist, Suraya Pakzad, prior to our students reading A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner.

Recently the process of inviting authors into the library or classroom has gotten even easier. Librarian Sarah Chauncey ( and author and library educator Mona Kirby developed the Skype an Author Network, radically simplifying the challenge and decreasing the cost of scheduling a personal author visit. I recently discovered Skype for Educators and will share that with our faculty in the fall.
 
11. Communicating research and telling new stories.
The read/write Web means audience. Our students no longer write for their teachers’ eyes only. They script and blog and tweet and write, building knowledge for others in our school community and beyond. Librarians have always been involved in working with classroom teachers to design student projects. Librarians have always been involved in storytelling. Because communication is the end product of research, librarians guide learners in creating projects that best present their new knowledge.

Today’s libraries are not only places to get stuff. They are places to make stuff and do stuff and share stuff. Think kitchen rather than grocery store. Think libratory rather than library. (See Library as Domestic Metaphor)

As librarians work with classroom teachers to design research projects, we are thinking of the new communication tools available and how to share with them.

With a broad knowledge of the school curriculum, teachers’ teaching styles, and learners’ learning styles, the teacher-librarian is beautifully positioned to help the classroom teacher make solid instructional choices. And having two professionals working on these new projects can be key in making sure that they actually get done, that the technology works, and that the learning happens. I find I can focus on the teaching of effective storytelling, scripting, sharing and evaluating resources, and ethical use of information while the classroom teacher focuses on the content learning.
 
For more examples of library involvement in digital storytelling and sharing, visit our wikis from the ALA Web 2.0 Meets Standards Smackdown and our NECCLibraryToolsSmackdown.
 
And what happens to these student productions when the semester ends?
 
12. Rethinking collection.
My collection expanded dramatically in the last three years. It is both physical and virtual. In addition to expanding the notion of what books physically look like by using audiobooks, Playaways, and ebooks, we also lend flash drives, microphones, and Flip cameras.
 
Through the pathfinders I mentioned earlier, we create new collections as we organize the Web for particular groups of learners. Some examples are AP History, Reference, Literary Criticism, Elements, Current Events, ebooks, and Primary Sources.
 
Collection also includes and validates students’ work. Student-created projects and digital stories—video, art, images—are all shared on various clouds, like VoiceThread, Flickr, Glogster, and Slideshare. They are also shared as collection on our Virtual Library. In addition to sharing research projects, and book trailers, and student-developed instruction (see our Math and Grammar Videos, one or two student curators each year volunteer to manage our two interactive student galleries. Our Flickr Art Gallery represents student painting and three-dimensional works networked with artist descriptions and visitor comments. The yearbook committee shares their photographs with us to help us maintain a gallery of student life. This gallery is used by students as well as Central Office and houses some of our PSAs as well as our images.
 
13. Reading 2.0.
Over the past three years, I’ve worked with our classroom teachers to move our literature circles into blogs and wikis and Nings. Our students promote our reading-list books by creating book trailers. (You can find similar student-created trailers, reviews, and book talks inspired by librarians all over the world on YouTube, TeacherTube, TeacherLibrarianNing, VoiceThread, Animoto, and Glogster. We’ve had students blog as characters in plays and novels. Last year our students’ experience (and enjoyment) of Shakespeare was enhanced by their presenting and sharing soliloquies using VoiceThread in our Hamlet Remixed research project. (Take a look at Josh’s project. We lead learners to ebooks through our pathfinders and new-title and author information in our BookLeads wiki. This year I will be working with our German teacher as his students explore and share picture books in the German language on the International Children’s Digital Library.
 
Buffy Hamilton’s Unquiet Library Blog always features new-book reviews and book widgets. (See my widget page for embeddable book widget options.) Buffy is just one example of the many librarians who are networking their enthusiasm for books and reading with learners and teachers.
 
One of my favorite resources for what reading promotion and celebration looks like in a networked universe is Anita Beaman and Amy Obert’s Reading 2.0 ( wiki. These librarians share innovative strategies for using technology to celebrate the reading experience, including social bookmarking, interactive book sites, author blogs, and bookshelf-sharing widgets, like Shelfari and LibraryThing. Other Reading 2.0 ideas were shared by our team at our NECC Library Tools Smackdown.
 
14. Intellectual freedom extends to Web 2.0.
This is perhaps a librarian’s most critical social-networking role. For years librarians have been fighting the good fight relating to intellectual freedom. When a parent or an administrator tells a librarian to remove a book from our collection, we are likely to fight.
 
Web 2.0 is an intellectual-freedom issue too. Librarians should be willing to fight for open access to new information and tools with the same energy we use for books, helping our districts develop reasonable filtering policies and demonstrating models of effective use of online tools. Librarians who get what intellectual freedom looks like in a socially networked world can present these tools from our own national organizations, ALA and AASL, as evidence: New Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights and AASL’s Top 25 Tools for Learning and Teaching.
 
Joyce’s related blog posts, wikis, and documents

Other resources from wonderful library folks:

And a couple of posts that recently got us thinking more about our roles:

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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is the teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School, a technology writer, and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

Comments

  1. Donna Baumbach says:

    WOW! What an amazing post! You’ve hit 14 nails on the head and have built one of the best articles for school library media specialists and FUTURE school library media specialists and school library media educators I’ve read….ever! This is a must MUST MUST read. Thank you, Joyce, for summing it up so nicely! Tweet and retweet, everyone!

  2. SANDRA CARSWELL says:

    This is a wonderful resource for all school librarians. This is one I will have to keep to read and re-read because there is just so much to digest. Joyce, how do you find enough hours in the day?
    Thank you!

  3. Tracy Poelzer says:

    Wow! This is just an excellent post, Joyce. I’ll be sharing it with my teacher-librarian colleagues as soon as I finish posting this message to you! Thanks!

  4. Fran Bullington says:

    As always, Joyce, an excellent post. Wish I had read it earlier in the week as I prepared for my presentation on Copyright and Designing Student Projects to Prevent Plagiarism for my faculty. However, your slew of links provides much to consider offering a supplemental preso for those interested!

  5. Dr. Jacqui Cyrus says:

    As a part of a new course I am creating for classroom teachers, called Information Literacy, I intend to include this site as a required resource.

  6. Shelley says:

    Dr. Valenza, your curatorial work here is fantastic and much-appreciated. Intend to tweet it out and forward it along like crazy. Thank you.

  7. tinatalk says:

    This is a great resource and advice on how to use all the technology on the web. Thank you for the great tips. you should see about publishing this list in a livebinder.

  8. Katy Koskela says:

    As always, Joyce, I’m stunned by your wide ranging expertise! I also wonder when you sleep!! Passing this along with pleasure.

  9. Lori McCall says:

    I remain in awe of all the wonderful things you share with your faculty and students as well as with those of us in cyberspace. I just attended the FETC online conference, and the final session was:

    Building 21st Century Classrooms in the Clouds! – A Desktop Sharing Presentation*
    John Kuglin
    Senior Educational Consultant
    Retired, University of Montana

    I thought of you throughout the presentation, and as soon as they post the “On Demand” link, I’ll send it to you.

    Thanks you for being my teacher/mentor even though you didn’t know it. :-)

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