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On capturing evidence in a few new containers

If we’re truly reflective practitioners, we think a lot about what happens in our libraries. In the old days we counted things–books we circulated, people who walked through our doors.

But there are richer measures and more clearer lenses through which we can share and through which we can learn answers to such questions as”

  • What does learning look like in the library?
  • What do your constituents think of your program?  Your collection? Your space?
  • What are the real impacts of our libraries?
  • How can we use what we observe to improve our practice, enhance learning, plan for change?
  • What is its value to the school’s learning culture?

Around this time each year we share the year and we report on accomplishments.

Last year I shared my takeaways from Jennifer LaGarde’s  TLVirtual Café session in a Show me the data! post.  Back in the January/February issue of Knowledge Quest I shared a rather lengthy article on evidence-based practice.

I thought this might be just the right time to share a list of some of the new tools you might use

1. First of all, your camera, your camera roll and the spaces you choose to archive and share your images and videos tell powerful stories of the life in your library.  You may also use a tool like Hyperlapse to capture time lapse opportunities, for instance, the action before and after school.

2. Exit tickets/responses:  Traditional (and still effective) approaches include dots or markers on flipchart paper or a whiteboard, and index card responses.  While clickers or physical student response systems, continue to help us take a pulse or capture on-the-spot evidence of learning or consensus, an assortment of digital tools function as less expensive, perhaps more flexible, exit ticket options. They’re great for pre- and post assessments, but you can

  • Socrative  This free tool works across devices using quizzes, quick questions, a competitive game, or a pre-designed exit ticket to assess learning and understanding. It also generates spreadsheet-based reports.
  • Padlet: A very flexible, free tool for gathering sticky-note responses.  Notes may include links (to projects) and media.
  • Exitticket:  This student response system offers real-time feedback and performance metrics. Assessments may be shared with multiple teachers and tracked longitudinally.
  • TodaysMeet  This backchannel favorite allows users to create a room and add responses to any prompt.
  • Kahoot: An engaging game-based response system
  • Nearpod:  Embed quizzes and surveys into presentations and share in mobile labs.
  • Flipgrid: Reasonably priced and built for education, this flexible video response tool allows for students to record 90-second video responses in a grid, no sign-up necessary.  Multiple questions in a grid offer opportunities to show growth from a baseline or formative assessment.
  • Idea Paint: Transform nearly any surface into a dry erase canvas and archive any visual evidence of learning.

3. More sophisticated surveys: Sometimes you need to ask more complex questions and go a little deeper

4. Portfolio tools: We have an array of new strategies for archiving, evaluating, reflecting on and sharing artifacts of student work.

  • Seesaw: Elegant and simple, these learning journals allow students to upload of take photos of their work, include text, audio or video comments.  Teachers approve new items before they are added.  Parents may opt in to see student work as it is shared
  • Easy Portfolio: Selected as one of AASL’s Best Apps for Teaching and Learning (, the app makes it easy to create classes and gather visual evidence of student work within a portfolio regardless of the medium in which it was created.  Records might include: photos, videos, audio, music, web links, text entries, or digital files from Dropbox or email.
  • Educlipper:  This Pinterest-like web-based tool or app allows teachers to create assignment boards on which students clip or add their content.  Educators can offer video, audio or text feedback.
  • Pathbrite: Users can aggregate and showcase all digital evidence of what they have created, achieved and mastered

5. Collaborative bibliographic and writing tools facilitate transparent sharing: It used to be that we couldn’t  or didn’t have the opportunity to see student work in process or when it is finished.  Work has become far more transparent.

  • NoodleTools:  This integrated suite for note-taking, outlining, citation, document archiving, annotation, and collaborative research and writing allows students to easily share their work with teachers for comments and guidance.
  • EasyBib School Edition:  This premium version of the free tool, allows students to share their notes, outlines and sources in an environment that integrates with their Google Docs.
  • Google Classroom: Introduced in the 2014/15 school year, and available to schools with Google Apps for Education accounts, Classroom simplifies creating, collecting and sharing student work with easy to create Google Drive folders, real-time feedback and assessment.
  • Biblionasium:
  • Kaizena: Integrated with Google Docs and Slides, this feedback application offers opportunities for both voice and text conversations around student work. Artifacts are organized into boxes by course, grade, team, etc. Powerful, newly launched features allow teachers to tag, track and rate skills and save feedback for future use. Tags can connect to rubric criteria, Common Core or local standards.

6. Exit interviews: Don’t miss a critical qualitative opportunity at the end of the school year. Each year I’d interview my seniors.  It isn’t hard to solicit (and feed) small groups of students at the end of the semester.  Grab your graduates and students who are moving up.  AP teachers are particularly willing to share theirs following the big test.  You can interview 5th and 6th and 8th graders too.  I got permissions and I videotaped.

Here are the questions I asked on a regular basis:

  • What have you learned during our years together?
  • What have you learned about finding information?
  • What are your favorite databases? Which ones have been the most useful?
  • How do you know when you’ve found a quality source?
  • What have you learned about communicating what you learned during your research?
  • What have you learned about technology applications from our library program?
  • Have you learned anything that friends from other schools did not?
  • What did you use on our library website?
  • What did you like about our library website?
  • What would you improve about our library website?
  • What parts of the research process are you comfortable with?
  • What parts of the research process do you feel are the most challenging?
  • Which was your favorite research project and why?
  • Which was your least favorite research project and why?
  • Do you feel ready for university research?
  • What is the one thing you most wish you could have changed about our library?
  • What will you miss most about our library?

Transcribing, and later coding the data, is so much easier.  Check out:

  • oTranscribe: a free, open source app that allows you to import video and audio files into a player and easily pause, rewind, edit and export.
  • Dedoose:  allows you to collaboratively code, sort and visualize transcribed data.
  • ELAN: allows for textual analysis and annotation of audio and video evidence.

7.  Analytics.  You can add counting to the mix.  Each of the databases you subscribe to, your catalog,  your wikis, sites and LibGuides, as well as your social media activities offer under-the-hood metrics.  Look for them or ask your vendors how to  generate reports and use these metrics in combination with those above to tell the richer story of your library this past year.

Here’s a Pinterest board on Annual Reports my grad students are building for inspiration.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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