Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ideas from the Exploratorium

Those who know me know that I am somewhat agoraphobic, even if I balk at the description. I contend I do not fear the marketplace; instead I loathe the marketplace. Despite this, I could not wait to get to the Exploratorium this afternoon.

The exploratorium is like a science fair meets a flea market: librarians and some vendors from all areas of the country and Canada display their best practices in a large hall for participants to browse. Here are some of the best ideas I have taken away from this year's exploratorium.

Paula Griffith analyzed reading interests of middle school students in accordance to the top 25 most popular titles and Havighurst's Adolescent Task model. One of the most interesting aspects of this presentation was clarifying how children proceed from series books (Goosebumps and The Series of Unfortunate Events) to sequels (Alice McKinley and Harry Potter) to stand alone novels. I had not realized the extent of plot development and character changes that separate series from sequels, even though one of the elements I admired the most about the Harry Potter books was how J.K. Rowling made the characters developmentally symbolic of their ages. For example, in The Order of the Phoenix Harry is sullen. This is a very appropriate emotion for a 15 year-old. Griffith's work is summarized at

Daniella Smith presented 10 Tips for Improving Media Specialist Involvement in Schools. Each of these tips is packed with subpoints library media specialists can use to increase their visibility and importance at the school level. For example, under the heading Use Technology, she suggests circulating a library newsletter online and starting an online book discussion with students. Her two-page PDF handout is well worth reading, and the suggested reading list in wonderful.

Barbara Ray presented a display on action research to improve library media practice. Her very simple four-slide PowerPoint presented everything the viewer needs to consider to begin her own action research project. The first slide tells the viewer to consider the "whats" (resources, policies, procedures, and services) and the "whos" (the stakeholders and their effects on the school library.) The second step is to determine what you want to improve, what the experts say about your particular problem, and to decide what questions to ask of whom. What data will be collected?. The third step is to develop a review the findings and form an action plan to improve services.

Craig Coleman's Sticky Note Wiki presentation was wonderful. It is a teaching activity that helps children understand how wikis are made and how they are subject to error. Using this activity, students research a topic and take notes on sticky notes. The notes are posted on butcher paper or some other display area. Students are asked to look for inaccurate information in the posted sticky notes. By doing this, students understand that the construction of wikis are similar in nature and should be subjected to the same scrutiny as the sticky note activity they just completed. This is an excellent resource to help students value verification of information.

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