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 (http://creativecommons.org) 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.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker By Paolo Bacigalupi
ISBN: 9780316056212
Published by: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010
Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Literature Circle Unit description with goals

The Literature Circle unit is geared towards eighth grade students who are reading Ship Breaker (2010) by Paolo Bacigalupi.  This dystopian novel takes place in the future when global warming and climatic disasters have altered the physical landscape on earth.  Communities have forever been altered.  This is a story of a young boy who dreams of a better life and whose adventures with a young girl might change his life forever.

The goal of the three literature circle meetings is to set the stage for reading the novel, analyze the characters and their motives, predict outcomes of the ending, and analyze themes and literary devices.

Oregon State standards


  • Decoding and Word Recognition:
    • EL.08.RE.01 Read or demonstrate progress toward reading at an independent and instructional reading level appropriate to grade level.
  • Listen to and Read Informational and Narrative Text
    • EL.08.RE.02 Listen to, read, and understand a wide variety of informational and narrative text, including classic and contemporary literature, poetry, magazines, newspapers, reference materials, and online information.
    • EL.08.RE.03 Make connections to text, within text, and among texts across the subject areas.
    • EL.08.RE.05 Match reading to purpose–location of information, full comprehension, and personal enjoyment.
    • EL.08.RE.06 Understand and draw upon a variety of comprehension strategies as needed–rereading, self-correcting, summarizing, class and group discussions, generating and responding


  • Listen to and Read Literary Text:
    • EL.08.LI.02 Demonstrate listening comprehension of more complex literary text through class and/or small group interpretive discussions
  • Literary Text:  Demonstrate General Understanding
    • EL.08.LI.03  Identify and/or summarize sequence of events, main ideas, and supporting details in literary selections
  • Literary Text:  Develop an Interpretation.
    • EL.08.LI.04  Predict probable future outcomes supported by the text, including foreshadowing clues.
    • EL.08.LI.05  Identify the actions and motives (e.g., loyalty, selfishness, conscientiousness) of characters in a work of fiction, including contrasting motives that advance the plot or promote the theme, an discuss their importance to the plot or theme.
    • EL.08.LI.06  Identify and analyze the development of themes in literary works based on evidence in the text.
    • EL.08.LI.07  Infer the main idea when it is not explicitly stated, and support with evidence from the text.
    • EL.08.LI.08  Infer unstated reasons for actions based on evidence from the text.
  • Literary Text:  Examine Content and Structure
    • EL.08.LI.12  Analyze the importance of setting (place, time, customs) to the mood, tone, and meaning of the text.
    • El.08.LI.14 Evaluate the structural elements of the plot, such as subplots, parallel episodes, and climax, including the way in which conflicts are (or are not) addressed and resolved.
    • El.08.LI.15 Identify and analyze recurring themes (e.g., good versus evil) across traditional and contemporary works.

First Meeting

Book Genre:  Dystopian novels often shows a futuristic society that has degraded into a repressive and controlled state. Dystopian literature usually has underlying cautionary tones, warning society that if we continue to live how we do, this will be the consequence.  This is true in the novel, Ship Breaker.  The story takes place in a post-oil future when climate change has altered the earth and major cities are underwater.  Large conglomerate companies are fighting for control of recycled resources.  Massive iron ships are left to rust away on the shores while poor, uneducated communities break them apart and sell the materials to the companies.  Global warming has caused continuous hurricanes that further rip apart and destroy the cites.  Communities have abandoned what used to be major cities and relocated further inland.

Ship Breaker is about a poor boy, Nailer Lopez, who makes his living crawling through abandoned ducts of rusty old ships pulling copper wire for his crew.  He dreams of what life would be like on the fast, updated clipper ships he sees far off in the horizon.  Luck comes his way when he and a friend find a broken clipper ship after a Category 6 hurricane.  While looking through the wreckage, they discover a young girl, barely alive.  The two friends rescue the girl who promises that her wealthy shipping magnate family will reward them richly.  Unfortunately, Nailer’s drunken father discovers the wreckage first, captures the girl, and plans to salvage the material to make some quick money. Nailer and company escape to the port of Orleans in search of allies of the girl’s father.  Along the way they learn how to survive on their own, who to trust and the true meaning of family.

Anticipatory  questions

  1. Describe dystopian novels.  What makes them so interesting to read?  What are some other titles you might have read?  Ideas:  The Giver, The Hunger Games trilogy, Chaos Walking Series, Feed
  2. This book takes place in the future when the oceans have risen and major seaport cities are now underwater.  Why do you think the author, Paolo Bacigalupi has chosen this topic?
  3. Do you AGREE or DISAGREE with the following statements:
    1. The blood ties among families usually are strong enough to overcome betrayals.
    2. Loyalty is the most important part of a relationship between family or friends.
    3. Our successes in life often have as much to do with luck as with our choices or abilities.
    4. When in danger, it is best to play it safe rather than take a risk.
    5. In a life-or-death situation, almost any action is forgivable.
  4. Explain your rationale for one of the statements above.
  5. Watch the promotional video for this book at http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/teens_books_9780316056212.htm Were you surprised that even today there are ship breaking operations in poorer areas like Bangladesh?

Read Chapters 1- 13 (pages 1-164).  Assign roles for next literature circle:

  • Artful artist uses some form of artwork to represent a significant scene or ideas from the reading
  • Literary luminary points out interesting or important passages within the reading
  • Discussion director write questions that will lead to discussion by the group
  • Capable connector finds connections between the reading materials and something outside the text, such as a personal experience, a topic studied in another class, or a different work of literature.
  • Word wizard discusses words in the text that are unusual, interesting or difficult to understand.

Second Meeting

This is the point in the novel when Nailer’s drunken father finds the wreckage and holds his friend, Prim, hostage.  Nailer is sick with a fever and things are looking very bad for all of them.  Nailer convinces his father that the girl, Nita, is more valuable alive than dead.  Nailer falls sick but is nursed back to health by Prim.   Nailer and his friends are trying to make plans to escape but first they must deal with his father’s hoodlum friends and a strange half-man half-dog creature named Tool.

Discussion questions

  1. Each member should share something from their assigned role of the literature circle.
  2. Locate and discuss the following quotes from the book:
    1. “No one was worth keeping if they didn’t make a profit”  p18
    2. “We’re crew”, he reminded her, “We swore blood oath” p28
    3. “Being close to death made everything in his life shine”  p42
    4. “This swank girl wasn’t crew.  He didn’t owe her anything.  But now, after his time in the oil room, all he could think of was how much he’d wanted Sloth to believe his life was just as important as hers.”  p99
    5. “Pima grinned.  Damn, the swanks and the rust rats are all the same at the end of the day.  Everyone’s looking to get a little blood on their hands”  pg 163
  3. How is the relationship between Nailer and Sloth different than Nailer and Prim or Nita?
  4. What’s more important:  being lucky or being smart?
  5. Discuss the concept of:  The Fates, Scavenge Gods, Lucky Strike, Rust Saint
  6. The author compares the rage of Nailer’s drunken father to a “storm brewing. full of undertows and crashing surf and water spouts – the deadly weather that buffeted Nailer every day as he tried to navigate the coastlines of his father’s moods”.  Why does the author write this way?  Look for other similar examples.
  7. Predict what is going to happen with Nailer and Nita.

Read Chapters 14- 25 (pages 165-326).  Assign roles for final literature circle:

  • Artful artist uses some form of artwork to represent a significant scene or ideas from the reading
  • Literary luminary points out interesting or important passages within the reading
  • Discussion director write questions that will lead to discussion by the group
  • Capable connector finds connections between the reading materials and something outside the text, such as a personal experience, a topic studied in another class, or a different work of literature.
  • Word wizard discusses words in the text that are unusual, interesting or difficult to understand.

Author profile pathfinder

  1. This is author Paulo Bacigalupi’s first Young Adult novel.  Previously he has written Science Fiction for adults.  Often he has underlying themes about sustainability in his novels.  Visit the publisher’s  website at http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/teens_authors_Paolo-Bacigalupi-%281529243%29.htm .  Find out which awards Ship Breaker was nominated for and won.
  2. Read interview with Paola Bacigalupi from Denver Westword News:   Sci-fi phenom Paolo Bacigalupi has seen the future http://www.westword.com/2010-05-06/news/paolo-baciagalupi-is-the-hottest-writer-in-sci-fi-so-what-s-he-doing-in-paonia/
  3. If you like Dystopian novels, you might consider these other resources:
    1. 50+ Fantastic Young Adult Dystopian Novels – http://www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk/2009/09/30/update-best-dystopian-ya-novels-redux/
    2. YAs Dystopia – http://community.livejournal.com/yalitlovers/172111.html
    3. New Dystopian YA Novels to Pair with Old Favorites – http://www.katemessner.com/brave-new-books-new-dystopian-ya-novels-to-pair-with-old-favorites/

Final Meeting

Discussion questions

  1. Each member should share something from their assigned role of the literature circle
  2. Recap the events of the 2nd half of the book with the discussion prompt “…and then”.  The first student tells an important event.  The next person says “…and then” and continues with another important event.  Keep going around the circle until the end of the story.
  3. Locate and discuss the following quotes from the book and relate them to themes of loyalty, family, courage, betrayal, risk-taking, fortune, friendship, pain or redemption:
    1. “Sada shook her head.  Killing isn’t free. It takes something out of you every time you do it.  You get their life; they get a piece of you soul.  It’s always a trade.”  p174
    2. “They used to drill out there, too, in the Gulf.  Cut up the islands.  It’s why the city killers are so bad.  There used to be barrier island, but they cut them up for their gas drilling” p199
    3. “Spending money on the poor is like throwing money into a fire.  They’ll just consume it and never thank you”, Tool said.  p209
    4. “You are no more Richard Lopez than I am an obedient hound.  Blood is not destiny, no matter what other may believe”.  p248
    5. “Nailer made a face.  Lucky Girl’s more of a family than he is”  p251
    6. “Pima’s mom works a thousand times harder than you and she’s never going to have a life as nice as what you go on this boat.  He shrugged.  If that ain’t being born with the lucky eye, I don’t know what is.”  p253
    7. “Richard never felt a thing when he hurt people.  Just didn’t give a damn.  It’s good that you feel something.  Trust me.  Even if it hurts, it’s good.”  p318
  4. Review the AGREE or DISAGREE statements from before the students read the novel.  Does anyone want to change their opinion?  Why or why not?
    1. The blood ties among families usually are strong enough to overcome betrayals.
    2. Loyalty is the most important part of a relationship between family or friends.
    3. Our successes in life often have as much to do with luck as with our choices or abilities.
    4. When in danger, it is best to play it safe rather than take a risk.
    5. In a life-or-death situation, almost any action is forgivable.
  5. In an interview, Bacigalupi states, “We’re good at solving the short-term problem and ignoring the long-term consequence.”  How is this statement reflected in Ship Breaker.  Bacigalupi says he may have a dismal view of humanity, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a fan of man’s cooler inventions, including bicycles and computers. “It’s not technology’s fault that it’s devastating, An individual car is never a problem; it’s when we have 350 million of them.”  Do you agree?
  6. Some science topics were hinted in this book:  wind energy, genetic engineering, climate change, kudzu vines, extreme weather.  Consider exploring them further.
  7. Do you think there will be a sequel?  How do you think Tool, Prima, Sadu or Nita’s father will be involved?


Information Literacy Collaborative Unit

Copy of this entire project (pdf) I created this unit for one of Library courses but several people asked me to share my process of using Google Forms as “digital notecards” – See Lesson #2.

High School Literary Criticism Research Paper


Throughout the semester in English III, students have been reading and analyzing various literary novels and writing their own essays with supporting quotes and documentation from the novel.  In this research project, students choose an acclaimed American novel or play, read it and then use published literary criticism to help support their thesis statement about the novel.

Enduring Understandings

  • Authentic research involves an ethical and legal use of information and information technology.
  • While the purpose of research is to consider the ideas of others, the researcher should use these to support, not replace one’s own.
  • With today’s influx of information, we need to be savvy, critical users of information, paying attention to source, bias, and responsible research.
  • Utilizing the research process allows for a more authentic presentation.
  • Utilizing the writing process allows for thoughtful clarification of ideas.


Teacher’s objectives and goals

Essential Questions:

  • How can I use the ideas of others in order to support my own?
  • What is more important:  product or process?
  • Whose ideas are these? What bias do they hold?
  • When is a piece of writing finished?


  • Students will choose an American novel or play from an approved list to read and annotate.
  • Students will create an Annotated Bibliography to practice summarizing main ideas from literary criticism and evaluating a source’s effectiveness for research project.
  • Students will create an outline as the “blueprint” for their research paper. This is a sentence outline which will dictate how the paper is organized (but it does not include quotations from work or research).
  • The students will write a research paper centered on an American work (novel or play) of their choice. This 5-7 page paper will be supported with at least five outside sources and written in MLA format.


  • Perform research focused on a theme or character development in a novel.
  • Annotate a novel following a theme or character development.
  • Analyze secondary sources and incorporate these thoughts and ideas into the paper.
  • Determine when to summarize or paraphrase research instead of using a direct quote.


Library teacher’s objectives and goals

Essential Questions:

  • How do I locate relevant resources about my novel or author?
  • How can I show that my sources are quoted, summarized or paraphrased?
  • How can technology tools be used to help me sort and organize my research?


  • Students will be able to access quality print, electronic and web resources about literary criticism related to their novel and author.
  • Students will be able to evaluate these materials for usefulness and select resources that support their thesis statement.
  • Students will be able to cite the resources used in correct MLA format.
  • Students will use “digital notecards” (Google form/spreadsheet) to document sources, quotes, and summaries from print, electronic and web resources.

LMS/Teacher Unit Overview using Big 6 Model


BIG 6 MODEL Students / Classroom Teacher Librarian
JAN Students select an acclaimed American novel or play and begin reading Librarian assists students in locating novel or play
JAN Task Definition:
Big Ideas
Student annotate novel looking for themes, POV, conflict, symbols, character growth/importance/function or complexityStudents write a summary of novel to check for understandingTeacher reviews the concept of literary criticism.  Students complete quotation search and commentary assignment.
Information Seeking Strategies:
Evaluate resources for  accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs and importance.Location & Access:
Literary Criticism books
Reference Books
Students come to library to locate resources Lesson #1: Librarian introduces search strategies for locating and evaluating print, electronic and web resources.
February – wk. 1 Use of Information:
Note taking
Citing sources
Students locate 3-5 sources and create an Annotated Bibliography in a Google document which is shared with classroom teacher.Students write the first draft of their thesis statement. Librarian teaches students how to access their Google Apps accounts, plus document and sharing basics
wk2 Quotes
Students come to Library computer lab to set up their forms and practice taking notes from their novel/play. Lesson #2: Librarian instructs students in how to access the Google templates to use a form for “digital notecards”.
wk3-4 Students use form to create 50 entries from their novel, literary criticism, reference and web sources. Librarian checks with students on progress and needs for additional sources
wk5 Synthesis:
Students organize their notes and create an outline of ideas to support their thesis statement.
wk6 First draft
Students type a first draft of their paper in Google document and share with classroom teacher
wk7 Citations Students finalize their Works Cited page for all of their sources Librarian assists students in creation of Works Cited following MLA format.
wk8 Revisions
Students edit rough draft with revisions and type final paper.
wk9 Evaluation:
Self- evaluation rubric
Student self-evaluationTeacher evaluation


Lesson #1:  Locating and evaluating sources for Literary Criticism



Students will gather literary criticism from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and complete an annotated bibliography.

Anticipatory set:

You have read your novel and annotated various sections of your book while looking for: themes, point of view, conflict, symbols, character growth/importance/function or complexity.  Question to ask:   How can I use the literary criticism of others to support my own views and opinions of this novel?

Input (from Classroom Teacher):

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

  • A bibliography is a list of sources
  • An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation of a source.
  • An Annotated Bibliography is a typed document which contains bibliographic entries followed by a summary and evaluation of the source.

Why are we doing this?

  • Writing an annotated bibliography will allow you an early look at what the critics say about your novel.
  • It will also allow you to practice making MLA citations which will be required in your paper.
  • Writing an annotated bibliography demands that you paraphrase and summarize literary criticism.  These are skills you will need to use for this assignment as well as others in your academic career.

Modeling (done by Librarian):

Locating Sources:

  • Literary criticism books in our school library.  Search the OPAC for your author’s last name.  Ignore results that are fiction, instead focus on Dewey numbers 813.009.  Locate the print title on the shelves and check to see if the book is about your novel.  Some books contain several essays about a novel from various authors and each of these essays can be used as a separate source.
  • Reference books in our Library:  Frank Magill’s Masterplots, American Novelists, Contemporary Authors, Gale’s Contemporary Literary Criticism, etc., – check reference section.
  • Literature Resource Center from Gale.  Access this database from Library webpage (you will need password) and search by your author’s last name.  Look for articles marked literary criticism; avoid book reviews
  • Literature database from ProQuest.  Access this database from Library webpage (you will need password) and search by your author’s last name.  Look for articles marked literary criticism; avoid book reviews
  • The Internet Public Library (IPL) Guide to Literary Criticism:  http://www.ipl.org/div/litcrit/
  • Gale Literary Index – A master index to every literary series published by Gale (such as Contemporary Literary Criticism, Twentieth Century Literary Criticism, etc.). Search by author, title or nationality.  http://www.galenet.com/servlet/LitIndex

Evaluating sources:

  • Check to make sure the source is relevant and accurate:  Is the source literary criticism or just a book review?  Does this essay contain information about your novel; not just other works by the same author.  This is especially important when evaluating sources from the databases.
  • Check the authority:  Who is writing the essay?  What are their qualifications to review the novel?
  • Check the bias:  These essays will give the author’s opinion about the novel.  Try to find sources from various points of view.

Check for Understanding:

  • During the review of the various sources, students will indicate on a notecard which sources they are going to check first.  Review with a partner how to locate that source and what they are going to do when they locate it.  Share some of these ideas with the class.

Guided Practice:

  • Students will then look for print and digital materials in the school library.  Students will photocopy pages from print sources as well as the page that contains the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data.
  • Once a source has been located, the students will skim and read through the material.  They should try to get an overall understanding of what the source is saying and make sure it contains information that support, compliments or gives new ideas for their thesis statement, for example:    Does the source address some of the ideas you have considered for your paper?  Does the article suggest something about your novel you may not have considered?  Students should also look at the authority of the source and check for bias.
  • For the annotated bibliography, students will need to select three sources.  Students should type out the correct MLA citation for the first source (use MLA handout or www.easybib.com for reference).  Write a summary that paraphrases the points in the literary criticism.  Write the summary in your own words and place it below the citation.
  • Check with a partner or the teacher that you have completed the first citation and summary correctly before moving onto the next step.

Independent Practice:

  • Students should complete the above process for each source.  The annotated bibliography should include at least one print and one electronic source.  Use the MLA handout (linked on Library website) to review formatting of MLA citations.  The annotated bibliography should contain at least 3 sources but it can contain more.  You may not end up using all of these sources in your actual essay.




Objective Exceeds Expectations Meets Expectations Needs Improvement
Locate print resource from school library Student is able to locate multiple literary criticism print sources independently using Library OPAC. Student is able to locate literary criticism print source(s) with assistance. Student does not locate literary criticism print source from school library or only uses electronic sources.
Locate sources from electronic database or website Student is able to locate multiple literary criticism sources independently from Gale or ProQuest database. Student is able to locate literary criticism source from Gale or ProQuest database with assistance. Student does not locate literary criticism database or web sources.
Source Evaluation Student chooses a wide variety of sources to support their thesis statement and is relevant, accurate and has appropriate authority.  They may have chosen materials from varied points of view or from advanced scholarly material. Students choose sources to support their thesis statement that is relevant, accurate and has appropriate authority. Students choose sources that do not support their thesis statement or choose irrelevant or inaccurate material.
Annotated Bibliography Contains 3+ proper MLA citations.  Contains detailed summaries of each source that demonstrates a strong understanding of the material. Contains three proper MLA citations.  Contains appropriate summary of each source. Contains missing or improper MLA citation.  Contains missing or summaries that are too vague, does not demonstrate understanding of material or is copied directly from source.



Lesson #2:  Using technology tools to create “digital notecards”



Students will access an electronic form/spreadsheet to take notes from their literary criticism sources (novel, literary criticism essays, reference material, electronic databases, websites, etc.) to support their thesis statement.

Anticipatory set:

Ask yourself this question:  How can I use the ideas of others in order to support my own ideas? You have already located resources for your essay and have written a summary of the material with your Annotated Bibliography.  Now it is time to carefully read the material and locate quotes, ideas or themes that will support your thesis statement.


Google Apps for Education

  • Each student has a unique Google Apps for Education account that gives them access to an online word processing and a forms/spreadsheet program.
  • The teacher can create a template that students can access for the digital notecards form.
  • The Google form allows you to quickly take notes from each source.  The form includes information such as:  Source title, author, type of source (novel, literary criticism, reference, database, website, other, etc.), topic, subtopic, quote, summary and notes for the teacher (optional).  See sample.
  • The information entered into a Google form automatically fills an adjoining spreadsheet.  The data in the spreadsheet can be sorted by any category (topic, source) which will make the process of organizing and synthesizing the research material much easier.
  • Google spreadsheets can be shared with the classroom teacher so they have access at any point during the research process.  The teacher can open the spreadsheet and write notes or give advice to individual students.
  • The use of the Google form and spreadsheet allows the student to access the same document from any computer, anytime.  This means the student can work on their research from school or home and do not have to worry about emailing drafts back and forth or remembering to save the data on a flash drive or losing 3×5 index cards.  Students access their Google Apps accounts online at:  http://www.google.com/a/lshigh.org.


  • The Librarian should model for the students how to use a Google form to take notes from the novel and from a literary criticism source.  The purpose of this quick review is to help students get an overall understanding of how to use a form, why we are using a Google form and spreadsheet instead of paper notecards and how we are going to be able to sort the data afterwards.
  • Have the students explain to the Librarian how to fill out the sample form using a previously read literature novel.  Repeat the process from a literary criticism source.

Guided Practice:

Accessing the Google form template:

  • The librarian should walk the students through this process step-by-step to avoid confusion on how to create and use the Google form.
  • Log into your Google Apps account at http://www.google.com/a/lshigh.org
  • Go to Create New / from Template.  Browse the list of La Salle Prep’s templates and select:  Digital Notecards for Research Paper.
  • Important Note:  The template opens in Edit view.  The only thing you do at this point is change the title of your form to include your name.  Select SAVE.   Select the link at the bottom of the form to access the “live form”.  This will open up a new tab in your browser with the actual form.  It’s OK at this point to close the “edit view” and template gallery browser tabs.

Entering Notes

  • You will now fill out the form for your first notecard.  Locate the title from your source and type it into the form.  Next add the author and indicate with a check mark whether this source is from a:  your novel, literary criticism, reference, database, website, or other (you fill in the blank).
  • Determine a topic from the source.  You may also want to choose a subtopic.  (Hint:  Relate the topics to your thesis statement, if possible.  The topic might be character’s name; subtopic might be a characteristic of that person).
  • In the Quote section, type the exact quote from the source and use quotation marks.  Indicate a page number if it is a print source.
  • In the Summary/Notes section, write a brief explanation of how you are planning on using this source in your essay.
  • The “questions for the teacher” section is optional.
  • Choose SUBMIT when you are done with the first notecard.  You will see a response after submitting indicating that the notecard has been added to the spreadsheet.

Check for Understanding:

  • Have the students close the form and open the adjoining Google spreadsheet to make sure the first notecard was recorded properly.
  • Students should change the name on the spreadsheet to include their name and class period.  They should select the SHARE button in the top right hand section of the spreadsheet and type the teacher’s Google docs email sharing address in the sharing section, such as:  apukstas@lshigh.org.  Select SAVE.  Now the teacher will have access to the spreadsheet.
  • Important Note:  When the student is ready to access the form again they do it from the spreadsheet!  With the spreadsheet open, go to Form / Live Form to open the form so you can add additional notecards.  Each time the form is filled out and submitted, a new entry is added to the spreadsheet.  It is critical that the students access the form this way – do not go back to the template gallery and create a new form or you will have duplicate spreadsheets.
  • The teacher or librarian should check to make sure that the student is filling out the form and spreadsheet properly before moving onto Independent Practice.
  • SAMPLE FORM  https://docs.google.com/a/lshigh.org/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dG5JLWtyY0Jia2dObW1SWElpS1ZUOGc6MA#gid=0

Independent Practice:

  • Students should complete about 50 notecards for their essay.  About half of the quotes should be from their novel and half from their criticism sources.
  • Note:  Some students might find it easier to type their notes directly into the spreadsheet instead of using the form.  Either method is fine.




Objective Exceeds Expectations Meets Expectations Needs Improvement
Create Google form from template Student is able to create the Google form from the template independently. Student is able to create the Google form from the template with assistance. Student does not create form correctly, or makes duplicate forms from template.
Quality of notecards Notecards have all required information plus detailed explanations of how the quotes will be used in the essay. Notecards have all required information. Notecards are missing important information, summaries are of poor quality, or have not indicated appropriate source or type.
Spreadsheet with notes 50+ notecards are added to the adjoining spreadsheet and the student has sorted the spreadsheet according to source or topic.  Spreadsheet is shared with teacher. 50 notecards are added to the adjoining spreadsheet.  Spreadsheet is shared with teacher. Less than 50 notecards are added to the adjoining spreadsheet, or there are multiple spreadsheets with a few notecards on each one.  Spreadsheet is NOT shared with teacher.


Copy of this entire project (pdf)

Tech integration curriculum ideas

Curriculum ideas for Technology Integration

based on National Technology Standards for Students

Creativity and Innovation:Demonstrate creative thinking and problem solving skills to develop innovative products and processes using digital technology
  • Recording personal memoirs w/ images in iMovie or Photostory
  • Create a website using Wix or Google Site to compare World Religions & embed information, videos, images into a Google maps
  • Use primary source images from Library of Congress to create digital timeline
  • Design a radio program, practice reading poetry or language conversations using VoiceThread, Garageband or Audacity
  • Use Prezi as an alternative to PowerPoint
  • Create a collaborative art presentation and share images through Flickr
Communication and Collaboration: Use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, across the global community, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
  • Have a collaborative writing project using a shared Google document or use it for shared note taking w/ Evernote
  • Use Survey Monkey or a Google form to collect authentic data and then graph the result in Excel
  • Skype with an expert instead of bringing in a speaker
  • Collaborate with another school using a blog to discuss a topic like current events, environmental issues or service learning
  • Participate in a global asynchronous debate where each team records their arguments and then posts them online
  • Set up accts with iGoogle or social bookmarking sites (Delicious or Diigo) for students to share websites and online post-it-notes with each other
  • Brainstorm science concepts or pre-writing activities with Wallwisher or Inspiration
  • Set up microblogging with just your students using Edmodo
  • Set up groups with student’s email for document sharing, project directions and to foster communication
Research and Information Fluency: Select and apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, validate, and use information.
  • Follow inquiry method for authentic research and avoid “bird units”
  • Compare and contrast results from database searches or look for websites that show bias
  • Use specialty search features like wonder wheel, timeline or creative commons search
  • Set up accts with iGoogle or social bookmarking sites (Delicious or Diigo) for students to share websites and online post-it-notes with each other
  • Subscribe to current event or science blogs with RSS for research
  • Set up a collaborative research project with another LaSallian school and collect and share data
  • Have students create a screencast on how to solve an equation with screen capture software or use real photos/movies to determine math equations
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making: Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
  • Collect data about an authentic issue (ie, solar panels & alternative energy) & use data to influence decision making with blog, debate or PSA
  • Use models and simulations to modify data for best results
  • Write formal business letter to Congress or Representatives
  • Use a wiki or shared document to manage group projects, write collaborative science labs or present together
  • Look at discussion forum of Wikipedia to see debate of content
  • Use Google Maps or Earth to discuss and analyze how geography affects migration, population, border issues, etc.
  • Use games or online simulations for role playing, decision making
Digital Citizenship: Understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to digital technology and practice legal, ethical, and responsible behavior.
  • Model digital citizenship skills with a Moodle discussion forum or blog
  • Debate cyberbullying issues or write editorials
  • Create lessons for younger students about online safety and publish as a website, blog or movie
Technology Operations and Concepts: Utilize technology concepts and tools to learn. Select, use, and troubleshoot tools efficiently; Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies. Teach specific computer skills:

  • Word: MLA format, brochure, using Outline view, track changes, letter format
  • PowerPoint:  basic formatting, use speaker notes, action buttons, improving visual design, embedding sound & video, packaging for publishing
  • Excel:  setting up data, writing formula, graphing results
  • Google Apps: setting up accts, document sharing, shared folders, collaboration techniques

Eight elements to great project design

My former Pepperdine professor, Gary Stager states in an article for Creative Educator that “teachers instinctively know that projects are worthwhile, even if they do not understand every facet of a good project or have experience supporting project-based learning”.

I have taken great pains to change my Computer Applications course from a skills-based computer competency class to a project-based approach – using technology tools to further explore topics that aren’t normally covered in a traditional “computer” class.  Yes, we learn technology but we also explore the bigger picture – making the world a better place, evaluating our eating habits, matching careers to our personalities, reducing lunch waste … being a digital citizen.  These topics give us plenty of opportunity to analyze data in Excel, write blog posts, learn mail merge, create posters and present research in creative and authentic ways.

Too often “traditional” computer classes fail to help students transfer the skills learned to other classes.  My goal is to use my thematic units to teach a variety of technology skills but in a manner that is authentic and relevant.  This also gives the other teachers in my school a model of how they can use technology in their curriculum to explore and examine curriculum topics.

I used the backwards planning approach outline in Understanding by Design (Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe) to plan most of thematic computer units.  UbD works “within the standards-driven curriculum to help teachers clarify learning goals, devise revealing assessments of student understanding, and craft effective and engaging learning activities.”

Stager’s eight elements to great project design go hand-in-hand with Understanding by Design.  Just make sure the focus of your projects is student learning and understanding.

eightEight Elements of a Good Project

Purpose and Relevance. Is the project personally meaningful? Does the project prompt intrigue in the learner enough to have him or her invest time, effort, and creativity in the development of the project?

Novelty. Few project ideas are so profound that every child needs to engage in its development in every class, or year after year. In a healthy community of practice, learning continues and knowledge is shared naturally without coerced repetition.

Time. Sufficient time must be provided for learners to think about, plan, execute, debug, change course, expand, and edit their projects. Class time affords students equal access to expertise and materials; projects may also need sufficient out-of-school time.

Complexity. The best projects combine multiple subject areas and call upon the prior knowledge and expertise of each student. Best of all, serendipitous insights and connections to big ideas lead to the greatest payoff for learners.

Intensity. Children have a remarkable capacity for intensity that is rarely tapped by the sliced-and-diced curriculum. Projects provide an outlet for the exercise of that intensity.

Connected. During great projects students are connected to each other, experts, multiple subject areas, powerful ideas, and the world via the Web. The lessons learned during interpersonal connections that are required by collaborative projects last a lifetime.

Access. Students need access to a wide variety of concrete and digital materials anytime, anyplace. Personal student laptops make this possible, but we also need to think about the quality and quantity of craft materials, books, tools, hardware, software, and Internet access that allows learners to follow paths we may never have anticipated.

Shareable. This is the big idea of project-based learning! Students need to make something that is shareable with others. This provides a great deal of motivation, relevance, perspective making, reciprocal learning, and an authentic audience for the project.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulwatson/254286204/

ONE Project: FOUR Formats

In my attempt to embrace more of a constructivist method of learning in my classroom, I allowed students to construct their own career-centered research projects.  After reading about John Holland’s 6 personality traits and how matching your personality to your job results in more job satisfaction, students set out to learn more about one career or careers for their top personality.  I did not direct their learning – but told them they would have to share their learning somehow.   I encouraged students to find the right set of tools to demonstrate their understanding or ones that better suit their personality.

I was pleasantly surprised by not only the variety of tools used, but the level of depth and sharing and explanations that took place during their small group shares. The only requirement I made was that the student use a first-person resource and include quotes or audio from an interview in their project or presentation (so they would see this as real and not just an assignment).

After working on the project for a week, students brainstormed ideas for how we were going to evaluate the projects if everyone’s project were going to be different.  They settled on 3 main categories:

  1. Appropriate use of interview
  2. Quality of content
  3. Use of technology

The “content” area was broken down by the students even more.  When asked, “How do we evaluate the content?”, students responded by using a 1-10 scale for different research areas, such as:  Description of job, Training/ Qualifications, Earnings, Job Outlook and Related Occupations.

I was encouraged that the students recognized that in order to fully explain one career they needed to cover a wide range of topics.  The class constructed a Google form for evaluations.  Brainstorming these ideas and discussing expectations in the middle of the research project helped some student focus their research and provided good questions for the interviews.

Below are some examples of what they created to go along with their oral presentations.

Movie:  Laser Technician


View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: career teaching)


A student-created website about Artistic careers

Glogster Poster

Thematic units in Tech class

I still teach a basic computer application course (as opposed to working with HS teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum) and my goal is to make sure students have the tech skills necessary to be successful in class.  I don’t, however, want to just teach “computer skills” – and teach technology just for the sake of  learning technology.  The past few years I have redesign my computer application course around themes, such as career exploration, teen issues, nutrition/recycling, and CSI (computer scene investigation!)

holland_code.jpgThrough out each theme. we use the tools of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Web 2.0 tools to investigate our topic.  For example, during the career unit we took a personality tests based on Dr. John Holland’s theory that people and work environments can be classified into six different groups:  Social, Artistic, Investigative, Enterprising, Realistic and Conventional.  We created tables in Word to describe the attributes of these personality traits and listed careers for each group.  We collected data about annual earnings, percent of growth and number of annual openings and analyzed the data in Excel and created graphs to display the information.  We made online slide shows, cartoons, and magazine covers using favorite Web 2.o tools like toondoo, polldaddy, photo show and flickr toys.  For a final culminating project, we are designing kiosks (using science board type displays) to display all of our information.  We will host a career fair to help other classmates discover their strongest personality trait and which career options are best for them.

While I feel that the students are much more engaged in the thematic units, it does require careful planning on my part to make sure that all the required skills are introduced, reviewed and mastered throughout the term.

Google Earth & Postcard Geography

Years ago when I taught 4th grade I participated in a classroom exchange called “Postcard Geography”.  My students eagerly awaited postcards that we exchanged with schools all across the US.  We created a large bulletin board with a map of the US and  pinned the postcards next to the city is came from.  It was fun to read about the area around the school and we often referred to our postcards as we studied the regions of the US.

flag41.gifThis summer I was searching the Internet for collaborative projects and I came across the Postcard Geography project again.  I considered doing the project with my 7th & 8th grade computer classes.  I figured with all the online resources at our fingertips, the project would be a lot different than the past.  Little did I know ….

Welcome to the 21st Century!  We received our first postcard last week and the students immediately went to the  Internet and Google Maps to located the town.  As they were zooming in on the small town in Texas, it dawned on me that we could “pin” the location on the maps in Google Earth.  So we switched to Google Earth and found the exact location of the school.  As I read the postcard aloud to the class they zoomed out to locate neighboring cities that were mentioned, commented on the amount of trees by the school and the layout of the town.  We calculated distance to the Gulf of Mexico and followed a river near the city that emptied into the Gulf.

One student suggested that we write the exact longitude and latitude coordinates of our school on our postcards so other schools can find out exactly where we are located.  I opened up the discussion to the students of how they wanted to participate in the project.  Everyone agreed that they still wanted to send the postcards the old fashioned way but also create a digital postcard that could be emailed.  There were lots of ideas of making a movie, taking photos around town and embedding them onto a map, designing original postcards, and making a narrative slide show.

The enthusiasm was endless.  I felt like I just presented an idea to the class and they took hold and went with it.  None of the students realized how many geography skills they reviewed during the Google Earth activity (and in computer class – gasp!) or how many computer skills they suggested for upcoming projects.  I will allow the students to choose how the class will send “digital postcards” to the other school but I also have plans for using Google Earth to create a virtual field trip to “visit” some of the school and teach them how to read a GPS device.

I really enjoyed participating in the Postcard project the first time around but this time around the technology makes this project more authentic and real.

I overheard two students discussing the Texas school while they were viewing the map on Google Earth …

Student 1:  Look how many tennis courts they have at their school.

Student 2:  Well, the weather is nice in Texas (compared to the rain in Oregon) so they probably go outside more.

Student 1:  Yeah, but it gets real hot there.  Good thing they aren’t too far away from the Gulf.

You would swear they were talking about a place they had visited before.  They gathered all this information from looking at a satellite map.  I can’t wait until we receive news from some schools in Australia, Taiwan and Spain.

Teaching for understanding

I am encouraged once again to see the discussion in the blogosphere about making sure we use Web 2.0 tools to support learning and a new pedagogy in the classroom. Chris Lehmann writes about using the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework by Wiggins and McTighe. We need to make sure we are not doing “activities” just for the sake of their newness or cool factor. With such limited time during the day, each of our assignments must be focused on student understanding and our goals and objectives. Lehmann writes:

Understanding by Design… we owe it to ourselves and our kids to step back and ask ourselves questions like:

  • How does the use of this tool contribute to a students’ understanding of the unit / project / class.
  • How does the use of the tool enhance a students’ ability to communicate their ideas / refine their presentation skills?
  • Does the tool change the frame or lens with with students can view their learning process?
  • Does the tool powerfully expand or change students’ learning network?
  • Is the tool more fun than useful? (Not that fun is bad, I like fun, but let’s also acknowledge that, in schools, our learning should be “serious fun.”)

The underlying theme is that we must design our lessons purposefully and thoughfully. I admit it – I am guilty of incorporating a new gadget or tool, or “fun” activity into my lessons just for the sake of the activity – with no real goal or purpose in mind. But after reading UbD, I see now how I could have still used those same tools – but redesigned the lesson in a way that using the tool led to learning and a better understanding of the goal in mind – AND- the students too would know WHY they were doing the activity – a key point that too often we assume they know why (ask them!).

With the school year looming a month away – it’s time for me to pull out my Understanding by Design book and reread sections so my frame of mind is properly set for lesson planning.

You might also want to check out the UbD wiki where you can post your UbD curriculum units.