Thing 9: Databases & Search Tools

I should probably title the post “Searching for info in all the wrong places…. ”  Can’t you hear the song in your head? I am humming along because that is the problem isn’t it?  It is a constant struggle to  persuade students to try anything that doesn’t star with G and end with oogle.  We’ve been long-time subscribers to CERF (which locates information from a curated collection of reviewed web sites).   No sifting through sponsored ads and no worries about evaluating the credibility of the site and yet…there is push-back.  I lure students by showing them one of CERF’s  features:  it will provide a bibliography of selected sites in MLA or APA format.  A frequent lament when I highlight the wonders of databases is “Why can’t they be more like Google?” ” Why do I need to remember a password?”  Students (and grown-ups) want ease of use and the familiarity that Google offers.  I get it!  Who doesn’t want instant gratification (or the illusion of immediate success). If truth be told, I too wish the search process could be easier for students.

When redesigning the library site this year, I kept student concerns in mind. I created a more visual page and included two short videos:  What Are Databases and Why You Need Them and  Searching Databases both by the talented staff of Yavapai College Library. This year, I was happy to revamp my database web page to also include a new “SeeK” button (Harry Chan and his magical staff at OPALS have made searching databases easy for all of us.)  With one password, students can now search all of our databases! 

Although I’ve spent a lot of time this year on database exploration and training, I haven’t devoted any time to learning about new search engines. This was my goal for the day.  As I work with (and research with) students from PreK up, I was especially interested in those search tools for young learners.  I began by reading Phil Bradley’s Children’s search engines; 13 reviewed and assessed  and quickly discovered that he was unimpressed by the roster of tools for children. Undaunted, I continued on to make my own decisions. 

After a variety of searches, using common research terms culled from broader topics (ancient civilizations, solar system, animals, etc), I set out to see if there were tools I needed to add to our library page and in my arsenal of power tools! There were two winners (and I’ve already added them to the page).   Kid Rex, with it’s appealing interface  (who doesn’t love dinosaurs?) and ad-free relevant results was a stand-out for young researchers.  Created using Google-custom search (as so many of the search products are), it will be an easy sell. The second winner is Sweet Search.  I read Richard Byrne’s School Library Journal article Alternative Search Tools: These options to Google will help students become better researchers.  His screencast tutorial highlighting Sweet Search (and it’s sister products) persuaded me to give the Dulcinea Media project another look.  I read  with interest this blog post which offers a comparison of search results between SweetSearch and Google and Bing,   Although the interface is busier and the results are displayed with more text, the searches I tried were met successfully  with relevant,  content rich results.  Sweet Search also plays well with others including EasyBib, Evernote, Facebook, and Twitter.  Students can sync with Google Drive and send the results directly to a Google Doc, With strong search results and bonus  feature, this well-thought out tool will be easy to promote. 

Ultimately, all the databases and search tools I place on the page are just window dressing unless students and teachers persuaded (cajoled, encouraged, educated, bribed…) to use them.  But that will be always the challenge and mission.  Aren’t we all trying to find the ideal way to get the best resources to students? Next step:  tweak and improve database/search engine instruction.  I am in!



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Thing 8: Collaborating, Connecting, Sharing

I jumped into Thing 8 with a very specific goal in mind: I would find one tool that could be used to create a collaborative work space for the librarians planning next year’s regional Battle of the Book competition.  After reading through the amazing resources Polly has gathered (she out does herself each time), I explored a few and then decided to try, described as a “collaborative whiteboard to share notes, sketches, documents, images and more.”  I signed up for use  (free), watched a one minute how-to video, and began creating.  It is incredibly easy to use and the whiteboard features sticky note style text boxes and  shapes and layouts that can be employed to help organize your content.  You can quickly search and import images or upload your own.  I love that you can also import content from your Google Drive or Evernote cloud service.  I’ve created a whiteboard and have added hyperlinked images of the books (high school)  we will feature next year.  I embedded our shared list of titles (from Google Drive) and  can now invite the other librarians to view the whiteboard.  They will be able to add to and comment on the board.   I am keeping my fingers crossed that the board will help to keep us organized.  I am too tired to add the Middle School titles now so will finish that tomorrow.  I would like to then embed the Mural on my school web site.

I’m back.  I spent the afternoon completing my Battle of the Books Mural and then invited the librarians I am working with to collaborate on it.   It is now also embedded in my webpage:

I enjoyed working with and will definitely use it for classroom projects.  Fun!



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Thing 5: Digital Storytelling and Presentation Tools

I’ve been looking forward to exploring these tools and have been saving them like a secret stash of chocolate truffles.  I was happy to discover some familiar favorites on the list as well as a treasure trove of new resources. I decided to start the journey off with revisiting Voki because my previous encounter did not end well.  Earlier in the year I made a Voki for my school web page only to discover that I am unable to post it to the Google Sites page.  Grrrr!  I need to figure out a way around this!

via I just made a new Voki. See it here:.

I love Page’s witchy Voki on plagiarism… creative, fun and memorable.  Would love to run with that idea.

May 28th

I’m back!  Life has been full of surprises but I am determined to finish what I started.  I’ve continued to explore a variety of storytelling tools and I think that I could spend the next year just working on this set of tools.  Some highlights:

  • Storybird is easy to use and I can see the beautiful images being used as inspiration for an original poetry project for a variety of grade levels.
  • PhotoPeach is similar to Animoto.  The free version is easy to use and pretty intuitive. You can upload photos, select musical accompaniment from their library (small representation of musical genres and tempos) and add captions.  If you pay to upgrade to the educator’s version, you can have students sign up without an email address.  Because it is so simple to use, I would have no trouble using it with elementary students.  It would be a good tool for creating booktrailers.   In a matter of minutes, using photos from our annual reading celebration, I was able to create a quick slide show with music:

  • is a terrific for creating interactive posters.  I’ve used it for several years with students 5th grade and up.  Our fifth grade students recently presented their space glogs to third grade classes.  They were able to showcase their research with text, videos, pictures, and hyperlinks.  In the past year Glogster  has updated and revamped their editing tool and that has helped with some of the quirks and glitches previously experienced.
  • I signed up to use Moovly.  I love the look of the videos you can create (common craft style).  I can see students replacing a “how to” speech with a “how to” Moovly.    Check out the one Sarah Jones created:
  • Thanks to Polly’s endless list of useful resources, our students will have another source for CC pictures.  How did I miss PhotoPin ?  I’ve added it to the library web site!
  • I am inspired by the Unquiet Librarian once again!  Check out her students’ awesome application of presentation zen.  I can’t wait to share the philosophy with my students.  Last week, as I sat through a “death by Power Point”  presentation by a professor who should have known better, I vowed not to be a complicit in the creation of another mind-numbing piece.  Both Joyce Valenza and The Unquiet Librarian articulate the philosophy and provide student examples of successful antidotes.  The result?  Both the presenter and the audience are more engaged. Any presentation tool could be used including Power Point but  HAIKUDECK might be an elegant choice.  Oh Yeah!

More tools, ideas, and inspiration await to be discovered next time….



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Thing 4: RSS

WHEW!  So, once again I got swept away by all of the great resources and found myself getting way off track.  Do I have an attention problem?  Hmmm….  I can certainly empathize with my students.  It is so easy to click, click, click the day away.  The Cool Tools for School Netvibe provides RSS Feeds for the group and was a perfect jumping off point for the day.  It allowed me to discover what a diverse, creative group this is and also offered some great ideas.  Thank you for sharing!

I was intrigued by the thought of using Netvibes as a library web page  (AISB Elementary School Library).  I am always on the look out for new ideas for effective pages.  I recently began revamping the RCS Library site and find that I continue to struggle with the balance of graphics, text, and links. Effective, visually appealing, easy to use (and to maintain)…I want it all!

After exploring Feedly and Netvibes, and reading Joyce Valenza’s Dealing with dashboard decisions,  I decided to sign up for an account with SymbalooEdu.  I can see using it both as a resource for students (it would be easy to create a different webmix of resources for classes/topics) as well as tool for them to use to create a PLE.  I was inspired by this video created by a 7th grade science student: I’ve started a general webmix to get a feel for how to create one but it is really just  a trial page  and lacks direction.  I think I need to stew a bit…pick a specific project and create a webmix with focus and purpose.  A task for another day.  The Sand Man calls…


First thing this morning I added an RSS Feed from CNN to the RCS Library page.  I already have a few on our OPAC site but that is not the first stop for patrons so it makes sense here.    It is just that the home page is prime real estate and I want to be thoughtful about what is found there.  More to think about….


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Thing 1: Blogging

On Sunday I fell down the rabbit hole…and couldn’t  get out! My first adventure with Cool Tools for Schools has taken me through a wonderland of online resources but my two-hour time-frame stretched into an all day odyssey. I dutifully followed the breadcrumbs of blogging links but too often I found myself straying from the path as I revisited some old favorites like Joyce Valenza’s NeverEnding Search and Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers.
Of course there were so many new discoveries too and (a bit of self-discovery as well) so the journey was well-worth the time. Here are a few things I want to remember as  I think about using blogging as tool for students and for my library:

  • No blah-blah-blah blogging:   write succinctly and with purpose
  • Blogs are terrific for tutorials:  Teach Thru Tech
  • Blogging is great for collaborative projects
  • Library Blogs can be effective publicity and marketing tools
  • Branding effectively connects all tools (Facebook, web page, blog, etc):  The Daily Dragon
  • Favorite for student and class blogging:  Weebly and KidBlog
  • Get teens to lead  a tutorial session on  Tumblr



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