Inspiring Curiosity: A Librarian’s Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning

What is the school librarian’s role throughout the inquiry-based learning experience? How can we impact the learning experience for our students and make a difference?

The book Inspiring Curiosity: A Librarian’s Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning hopes to provide inspiring stories and practical examples of how school librarians can go beyond teaching students how to access and evaluate sources to become an essential contributor of the instructional team.

Not every inquiry-based lesson will develop into an in-depth research project or essay. Many will result in engaging Socratic Seminars where students debate and explore ideas with their classmates. Other inquiry-based lessons might lead to investigate scientific phenomena or the creation of “wonder walls” to document new questions of inquiry. I am interested in finding those key entry points where librarians can insert themselves into inquiry-based lessons and offer expertise and insights unique to our position.

Librarians can do more than just guide learners towards digital and print sources. We work directly with every student and every teacher in our school. We see the bigger picture and can view the landscape of our school through the lens of inquiry. We can influence the tone and direction of how students see themselves as researchers. Every librarian can focus on personalized learning and ensure we are preparing teens for their future.

How do you inspire curiosity?

New Chrome extension for Opposing Viewpoints in Action

Check out the new Chrome Extension (beta) from Gale Cengage for the database Opposing Viewpoints in Action. Many of the classes at my school use this database as jumping off points for students selecting topics for research.

Traditionally, we have directed students to access the database from the Sunset Library webpage and I will encourage to continue to do that but the new Chrome extension now displays results from Opposing Viewpoints in Action alongside Google search results.

This is a game changer! We can now teach students the concept of “triangulation” and comparing the credibility of open web results with published articles from essays, academic journals, and reference books.

 Here are the directions of how students can install the Chrome extension.

Your students will need to fill out the database credentials listed to authenticate to your District account. Include:

  • Library Name
  • Gale Library Location Id
  • Gale Library Password Id

Note: This only works for Google searches on the Chrome browser (Chromebook, Mac or PC) with Opposing Viewpoints!

  I am VERY excited about the possibilities of utilizing this for research and also teaching other information literacy strategies, including source evaluation and advanced Google search techniques.

 The extension is in BETA but I heard from the Gale Cengage rep that other databases will be added after a thorough review.

 Happy Searching!

AASL National Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries

I felt very fortunate to be able to attend the 2017 AASL Conference this year. I was very interested in the pre-conference workshop around the newly released AASL Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Learn more at

The AASL National Library Standards for Learners are framed around the Shared Foundations of Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Explore, and Engage and embrace progressive pedagogies.

Our challenge is to create a learning culture centered on innovation, collaboration, exploration, deep thinking, and creativity.  I am considering how I embrace this notion: “School librarians are key to the success of this educational paradigm shift because they provide resources and instruction to all learners through an inquiry-based research model that supports questioning and the creation of new knowledge focused on learner interest and real-world problems” (44).

One of my primary goals, when I am collaborating with classroom teachers this year, is to bring the concept of relevance to the lessons and more student agency. I want my students to be self-directed thinkers who investigate and consider real issues and empower them to develop solutions or expand their understanding.

I look forward to diving into the Standards and share how they will be implemented in my high school and district.

Stay tuned!

Turtles All The Way Down

I recently had a chance to see YA author, John Green, at an event for his new book Turtles All The Way Down. Hearing John Green speaking about his own anxiety disorder and how it impacts his life was heart-wrenching. Green shared that somehow we as a society have immortalized creative people as having to be a bit crazy in order to be imaginative and create. He said, when his disease is in full bloom, he can’t work and he can’t think straight. He urged anyone suffering from mental illness to get help.

The story of Turtles All The Way Down gives us some insight into the mind of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Aza Holmes is a 16-year-old girl who wrestles with anxiety and obsessive thought spirals. Aza struggles to with dating, fretting about college, calming her overbearing mother, and appeasing her demanding best friend. She is frequently overcome by extreme dread and certain that she’s contracted a fatal intestinal bacteria. She picks at a sore on her hand & constantly checks and rechecks it for infection.  Aza begins spiraling and starts drinking hand sanitizer. She thinks to herself: If she can’t direct her own thoughts, who is really in control?

The story is well written with smart dialogue between the characters. You ache for Aza as you witness her disease progress. I think many teens will relate to Aza and the turmoil of her inner thoughts.

Seeing Green as funny and crazy on his Crash Course videos and then seeing him share something so personal to a crowd of strangers makes me realize — we have no idea the hurt some people carry from day to day.

Treat each person with kindness — maybe your friendly smile is the best thing that happened to them that day.

Encouraging Curiosity

As a Librarian, I am often asked to help with research projects with my high school students.  Some projects are truly great and engaging but too often I wonder just how interested are the students in learning something new or are they “just doing enough” to get the grade.

Creating a culture in your Library, classroom or school that embraces curiosity and celebrates learning can spark the imagination of students — especially when they have CHOICE in choosing what to research.  Teachers can do a lot to establish and model regular curiosity by asking questions, wondering aloud, sharing cool things they have learned, showing videos that are inspiring, etc.  When students see their Librarian and Teacher excited by their new discoveries they, in turn, will want to share what they have learned.

Former Social Studies teacher from Sunset High School and now District TOSA, Matt Hiefield, had every student create their own digital “Curiosity Board”  for 9th grade World History using a website called Linoit (  Linoit is similar to Padlet ( and is like a digital corkboard where you can post images, text and embed videos. If an interesting question came up during a class discussion, Hiefield would direct his students to add it to their own curiosity board for investigation later on. Occasionally, he would have students research a chosen question and share what they learned during a gallery walk. What a great way to celebrate being curious!

If we want our students to be excellent researchers and be authentic in their interest in learning, we must make every effort to build a culture that acknowledges and celebrates deep learning. How do you create this culture in your classroom?

TLchat: new faces and new voices

Last December, fellow Librarian Tiffany Whitehead put out an all call for some Teacher Librarians to step up and help bring some new blood to the TL Virtual Cafe — which had been on hiatus.  I said I would help out and two months ago we launched the updated TL Virtual Cafe & #TLchat Twitter Chat.

In February, I called upon a few Library Instructional Technology Teachers from Beaverton School District to help talk about Passion in Your Future Ready Library (webinar archive available).  We had a few technology glitches in Blackboard during the webinar but the Twitter chat was going strong!  Thanks for helping:  Benjamin Lloyd, Highland Park Middle School, @SenorLloyd – Virtual Reality Projects; Rosa Rothenberg – Whitford Middle School @rosarothenb; and Jason Hohnbaum – McKary Elementary School @mrhohnbaum.

In March, Stony Evans had some of his students present for the webinar and it was FANTASTIC!!!  Wow — we need more student voices in our teacher professional development. Check out the webinar here!

The April webinar will be Monday, April 3rd and the topic is eBooks. Here is the Blackboard Participant link and the webinar will be archived here.

Join us if you can!

12 Ways Librarians Can Promote Digital Literacy

I am doing some research for an upcoming publication and ran across this excellent list of ways that Librarians can teach and promote digital literacy, including digital citizenship, within the community.

  1. Serve on curriculum development and professional development committees

  2. Contribute to school and district technology plans (which, among other reasons, are required for e-rate discounts).

  3. Survey the school community about their physical access to technology

  4. Provide in-school and remote access to digital resources

  5. Circulate technology, such as e-readers, cameras, and mobile devices.

  6. Produce and disseminate webliographies about digital literacy, including digital citizenship.

  7. Provide face-to-face and online instruction on the evaluation and selection of digital resources.

  8. Provide face-to-face and online instruction to the school community on using technology as a learning tool.

  9. Explain to the school community about intellectual property and ways to give people credit for their ideas.

  10. Promote the Creative Commons ( and contribute to its database of documents.

  11. Teach the school community about cyberbullying and ways to respond to such bullies.

  12. Support and supervise youth social networking and podcast productions (e.g., book talks, library promotions, tech tips).

From Lesly S. J. Farmer.  Information and Digital Literacies (c) 2016

For me personally, the most challenging aspect from the list above is to get involved in the instructional lesson very early in the planning process.  This requires attending grade level meetings – offering resources – tracking curriculum – offering a variety of instructional strategies for integrating technology — be available to co-teach or help — the list goes on and on.

Luckily I am very involved in the professional development planning for our faculty and my staff sees me as a technology leader but it’s developing that consistent scope and sequence of informational literacy skills and lessons that are essential at the high school level. The key is to meet with department leaders, determine grade level indicators for research, develop assessments to check for understanding, and create a comprehensive 9-12 curriculum map for our school.  This takes time because you need to build trust and relationships with the faculty, and it takes administrative support to make it a priority.  I have been at my school for 1 1/2 years now and I am just beginning to get a grasp on our curriculum map and this will be my priority for the remainder of the year.

Do you have a curriculum map that you can share?  If so, please share — and stay tuned — I will publish mine when it’s done.

First Look: The NEW Google Sites

When I first looked at the NEW Google Sites last Fall I wasn’t overly impressed.  I was used to CLASSIC Google Sites (comparison chart) and loved the ability to create templates for class projects.  I had created my Library website at my previous school using Classic Sites and it didn’t seem like I had a lot of the same options so I ignored it for awhile.

But then I started seeing some pretty cool Sites made with the NEW Google Sites and some blog posts by Eric Curts — so I decided to give it another look. Once I really started playing around with the features I liked it more and more.  First of all, the drag and drop ability to grab items from Drive and move them where you want is the best feature of the NEW Sites.

I love how easy it is to create a photo collage or embed a Google Slide deck into Sites.  The Themes remind me of the simplicity of Adobe Spark Pages and you are limited to what you can embed (Drive items, images, YouTube, etc) but it’s SO EASY – and just wait — you know Google will add more features soon.

I think educators should consider Google Sites for Student Portfolios.  How great would it be for students to choose which items they have in their Drive to feature on their Portfolio?

Here is Google Site I made to teach others how to use the NEW Google Sites for the #NCCE17 Google Summit Conference.

Here is a NEW Google Site I made for our school-wide literacy program called #SunsetReads.

Check it out and enjoy!!!

Student-Centered Learning Experiences

Student-centered learning experience

I want my students to work collaboratively together on a project and get the benefits of common knowledge, process and critical thinking
  • Use collaborative Google Apps for Education tools (Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings) where every group member can work on the project at the same time
  • Use collaborative technology tools where multiple students can access:  Prezi, ThingLink, Padlet, EduBlogs, Wikispaces, LMS Digital Portfolio, Shared albums in Google Photos
  • Use online discussion forums (Edmodo, Canvas) to extend discussions beyond the class period
  • Host a backchannel chat during Socratic Seminar using Today’s Meet
  • Brainstorm ideas and post to digital bulletin boards (Padlet, Linoit, Dotstorming)
  • Hold asynchronous debates by recording opening arguments & rebuttals using video webcam
  • Use polling software (Socrative, Poll Everywhere, Google Forms) for surveys, opinions, voting, or polls. Collectively analyze data in Google Sheets and graph results
  • Use commenting on Google docs during the peer review process.
  • Use project management software (flow charts, brainstorm maps, graphic organizers, etc)
I want my students to have an authentic audience for their learning or to “do the real work of the discipline”
  • Have students blog and/or podcast about what they are learning in class for a real audience using EduBlogs or AudioBoom.
  • Find online collaborative projects with another class, global partners or other IB schools.
  • Bring in, record or Skype with experts in your field or host webinar using Google+ Hangouts.
  • Research real issues, participate in community projects then present solutions or steps to solve problems.
  • Design newspapers, presentations, PSA’s, a marketing plan or creative displays for organizations, business or outside groups
  • Submit writing to teen websites, publish books, eBooks or websites
  • Build 3-D models or simulations that others will use; Apply math concepts to real world problems
  • Participate in online challenges (EconChallenge, Global Math Challenge, Google Science Fair, etc.)
  • Collect real data & create graphs; analyze statistics or polling data & make inferences; present research to panel
  • Access Library of Congress source material, statistical data from Gov’t or NASA, explore research in electronic databases
I want to give students more ownership or choice in their learning and create a performance task instead of a traditional written paper or test.
  • Provide options for how students can demonstrate their understanding by offering a variety of performance tasks:  Video project, newscast, online simulations, research & role play, design, build & create, digital art projects, interactive posters, Infographics, multimedia presentations, digitally record a written narration, place-based content embedded on map, build a class website, drama
  • Have students “teach” classmates by making “Khan Academy” style videos, Create online how-to guides using, start a YouTube channel
  • Create time for “Genius Hour” or passion-based research projects; showcase projects at Learning Fair.
  • Allow for self-selected print reading material, eBooks or Audiobooks

Digital Workflow Options

With all the equipment coming to our school in the coming month, teachers need to decide how they are going to push out digital information to their students.  Below are some options whether you want a complete digital solution for daily use — or use some ideas for occasional use.

Complete digital solutions:  Google Classroom, class website, Canvas LMS, Seesaw

Google Classroom (simple):

If you want the ability to post daily announcements and/or share assignments to your students, then set up a simple Google Classroom.  In Google Classroom, use the announcement feature to post the activity of the day or a reminder of the homework.  The announcements will appear in chronological order but not show up on the calendar because there are no due dates attached.  You also have the option to post an individual question to the class where students can respond to each other after their initial post.

Google Classroom (All Features):

If you want a online blended classroom with the ability to push out individual copies of Google documents, to students and have them turn them in digitally, then set up Google Classroom.  In addition to the announcement feature you create assignments in Classroom where you push out the assignment and it requires students to turn in the assignment digitally using Google Docs (See:  Understanding the Assignment Flow).

If you already have a classroom website (made with Google Sites, Weebly, Wix, etc) where you post assignments, and you want students to have copies of Google documents to work on but you don’t necessarily want them to turn in assignments digitally.  Open the document and select SHARE.  Create a “Shareable Link” but replace the end of the URL to /copy to force students to make a copy of the document for themselves.  Note:  It renames the document “Copy of TitleOfDocument” but the student can rename it if they choose.

Note:  Students could always “turn in” these type of documents with you by sharing the doc to your email address.  

If you want a complete digital solution for your class with digital handouts, multimedia options, online rubrics, annotations, etc then participate in the Canvas LMS pilot and talk to Colette or Terry if you want to participate in the Canvas pilot.  Please note:  the district LMS has NOT been chosen yet.

If you want students to have a digital portfolio where they upload copies of assignments, set up SeeSaw.  Seesaw empowers students to independently document what they are learning at school by creating a Seesaw Journal. Students can “show what they know” using photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. Learn more …


Simple digital solutions:  shared folders, save to Drive, URLs, email, playlists

If you want a simple solution for sharing “view only” copies of documents or pdfs that are stored online then create a shared Google Folder.  Directions:  Access your Google Drive.  Go to New / Folder and name your folder.  Move the digital files that you want students to have access into the folder.  Right click on the folder and choose SHARE.  Choose “Get Shareable Link” and this will give you a long URL that students to can to access your share folder.  Hint:  Use a URL shortener* to make it easier for students.

If you want to “print” copies of database articles or websites and save them to Google Drive, then access your chosen database article or website but make sure you are logged into your GAFE account and use the Chrome browser — one of the printer options will now to “Save to Drive”.  This will create a pdf of the article that you can post in Classroom or put in a Shared Folder.

If you already have paper copies of a handout and want to convert it into a digital format then visit our school copiers and choose the SCAN feature.  “Copy” your documents with the scan feature and it will email a PDF of your handout to you when you provide your email address.

If you want a simple way to share long URLs with you students then Go to the Chrome web store and install the URL shortener Chrome Extension to your browser.  Visit any website then select the icon on your toolbar and it will provide you with a short URL (and QR code!).  Another option is to use or for custom URLs.

If you want the ability to send email to students in a class period  go to and create a Group with all of your student’s email for each class period.  Send email from your GAFE email account for this to work.  Other options: Create Outlook group or use Synergy.


  • Digital workflow:  The process of providing (and possibly receiving) digital content to students who are using Chromebooks or iPads.
  • GAFE – Google Apps for Education (docs, drive, etc)  Teachers use
  • Chrome Web App –  Applications you can run inside your browser with a dedicated user interface
  • Chrome Extension – Extend the functionality of Google Chrome and the websites being viewed in it.  More about Apps & Extensions…
  • URL shortener – A website that will take a really long web address (URL) and create a short URL that will redirect users to the correct link.  Two popular ones are:  and

What Is A Chromebook?

ThingLink Project:  What is a Chromebook?  


Chromebook 101


  • Chromebook Benefits:
    • No hard drive, start up fast, work in constantly being saved, get another one, easily convertible from other platforms, touch screens
  • Chromebook Disadvantages:  
    • Limited software on the laptop, requires wifi,  must use Google suite, small screen, typing on a smaller keyboard
  • Features:
    • Everything is saved to Drive
    • Ability to use downloads for images & pdfs so you can transfer to flash drive.
    • Includes:  headphone jacks, built-in camera, USB, HDMI, and SD Media card slot 
    • Can drag Chrome apps to dock
    • If you sign into Chrome on your Mac, all your same apps & bookmarks stay the same
    • No printing from Chromebooks
  • Chromebook Distribution Options:
    • Numbered:  Accountability, placement
    • Any order:  quicker,  return plug out & up, leave them on the desk
    • Plug in at the end of the day
  • Chrome App Store
    • Google apps:  Docs, Forms, Sheets, Slides, Drive, Classroom, YouTube, Translate, Search
    • Education: Padlet, Socrative, ThingLink, Haiku Deck, Desmos Graphing Calculator, Gale Databases
    • Creative:  Canva, Pic Monkey, Pixl Editor

Student Engagement With Technology

This year the World History 9 Learning Team is investigating how technology can play a part in student engagement.  We are looking at the 5D indicators and trying to see how technology can enhance or impact the student’s experience when they are using Chromebooks in class.

Focus on Learning Targets

The first aspect to focus on the Learning Target.  Which targets contain language about discussion, understanding, providing evidence, making meaning, demonstrating knowledge, etc? Then we need to ask ourselves:  How could technology and/or student-engagement strategies impact the student learning in those targets?  Its essential that the teacher has a clear vision of what they hope to accomplish.

Choose Appropriate Technology

The next step is to choose the appropriate technology.  This can be challenging if you haven’t been exposed to what the various apps and software can do.  It can be helpful to observe teachers, view online examples or just try it out yourself.  Ask yourself:  Why choose that specific technology tool?  What does the technology tool provide that you cannot achieve without it?  The technology needs to make a difference – not just be a substitute digital solution.

World History 9 Example

To assist the World History 9 teachers in this process, I brainstormed a variety of technology tools and strategies and aligned them with the 5D Student Engagement guiding questions. For example:   SE1:  Intellectual Work:  Quality of questioning – Teacher frequently asks questions to probe and deepen students’ understanding or uncover misconceptions. Students question one another to probe for deeper thinking.


  • Use Padlet or Google Form/Doc to generate parking lot of questions or research questions around a central theme or during a class discussion.
  • Using a Google Form, a polling app to assess student’s understanding of a concept learned in class – works great as an opener which can then lead to a discussion.  (Socrative, GoFormative, Get Kahoot).  Make sure to use a variety of questions – not just recall.  Use Google Form graphs to analyze the results.
  • Another idea:  Have students create polls as part of a student presentation to engage the audience and receive feedback of the classes’ understanding of their presentation.
  • Use Edmodo or LMS Discussion Forum using the Socratic Seminar methodology for an asynchronous discussion.  Intentionally teach how to respond for this type of discussion – consider grading the responses with a rubric.  For in class seminar, require students to have digital copies of evidence to share during seminar.  Use a Google Doc or Today’s Meet backchannel for sharing during seminar

There are many more ideas on our planning document.  Make a copy for your own use


Google’s Chrome Browser vs. Chromebooks: Whats the difference?

A Chromebook is a different type of laptop. Instead of Windows or Mac OS, Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome OS. These machines are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud.

Google’s Chrome browser is a fast, simple, and secure web browser that you can use on any type of computer or laptop. Signing in to Chrome brings your bookmarks, history, and other settings to ALL your computers. It also automatically signs you into all your Google Apps for Education (GAFE) services.

What is the Chrome Web Store?  You can find apps, extensions, and browser themes for the Google Chrome browser in the Chrome Web Store. With these additions, you can do more with your Chrome browser or Chromebook.

  • These are a few of my favorite extensions:

    • URL shortener — This is a Chrome extensions that installs a small icon next to your search bar.  Click on it and it will shorten any long URL into a short one and even provide you with a QR code for the link!

    • Tech Smith SnagIt – This Chrome extension will allow you to capture a section of your screen or even a video of your screen to save as an image or movie

  • Favorite Chrome apps to use with students that can be installed directly from the Chrome Web Store

    • Newsela – published news articles with various reading levels

    • Canva – Simple templates for graphic design

    • Haiku Deck – Simple but visually stunning presentation templates

    • Socrative – Formative assessments with quizzes, polls & exit tickets

So, if you use the Chrome browser on your laptop, save bookmarks, add extensions and apps – then when you log onto a Chromebook – your browser will look the same!  This makes it super easy for our students and staff to transition back and forth between devices.


Great Features of Google Docs

With Google Docs, you can create and edit text documents right in your web browser—no special software is required. Even better, multiple people can work on the document at the same time and every change is saved automatically.  If you are new to Google Docs – check out the Google Docs Learning Center.

Helpful tips with Google Docs:

  1. Voice Typing:  This new feature allows you to talk into the Google Doc and it will type the text for you.  Go to Tools / Voice Typing and allow the use of the microphone.  I helped a dyslexic student complete their homework using Voice Typing and it was awesome.  More directions ?

  2. Research Panel:  The Research panel is a window that opens next to your Google Document and allows you to search Google for websites, images, word definitions, or quotes without leaving your document.  To open the Research Pane go to Tools / Research. The best part – it automatically creates a link on the page where they got their information. More directions ?

Want to learn more?  Every Wednesday morning join the “Breakfast Club” at 7:15 am in Colette’s office if you want 1:1 help with Google Docs or any tech situation.  Just drop by!