Social Media Triggers & Algorithms

We have introduced lessons that we’re calling “Upper School 101” that are taking place during our 9th and 10th grade study hall classes. We are focusing on skills and concepts that are important to student success but don’t always fit seamlessly into a content area curriculum — particularly organization and tech skills.

I did two sessions back to back with students on social media. The first lesson was adapted from the content of Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins’ book ‘Developing Digital Detectives’ and the chapter on the lens of triggers. I highly recommend this book for educators who are looking at ways that we can better prepare our students to process and understand information access in the digital age.

Some of the content I shared in the second session was adapted from my reading of ‘Stolen Focus’ by Johann Hari — another really interesting and important read for educators. I have passed this book along to our Learning Support Services Coordinator and I would love to see my school use this for a book study, both for faculty and for families.

The slides I used for these two 20 minute sessions can be viewed below. I tried to make this very practical and discussion based with my students. I also left them with a take away to spend some time considering how their social media use impacts their life. In an earlier session, we discussed time management and looking at screen time, but the final session had them think more deeply about notification settings and how they can change theirs to take back control.

Reflecting on our first semester of Upper School 101 sessions, we got some valuable feedback from students. Of course we got some eye rolls, but we also had a number of students who really used this opportunity to make some changes or at least give more though to the balance of social media in their lives. I think it’s important that they hear from us that we also struggle with balance and time management when it comes to these apps that are designed to suck us in and hold on to our attention.

Cancer Awareness Research Project

This week I’ve been working with one of our incredible Biology teachers on a research project focusing on Cancer Awareness. She’s done versions of this project in the past, but wanted to take it to the next level with an enhanced research component and final product. I was beyond excited to get to work with her and support her students through the process!

The slide deck walks through the steps of the process I’ve been involved in, highlighting the steps we used for research. We used this project to take a very intentional and guided approach, which allows us to focus on specific skills. I walked students through the process of finding and citing a source from our online encyclopedia, a science-specific database, and the American Cancer Society website. We used NoodleTools for collecting and organizing our citations, then they created notecards as the located specific pieces of information.

They exported their References to create an Annotated Bibliography, then synthesized what they learned into a one-page flier to help raise awareness about the type of cancer they researched. I created a Canva template that they copied and customized for simplicity and consistency. Next, they will be working with our academic technology coordinator to create PSA style videos.

This was a great opportunity to introduce our students to APA format, as they typically research and write in humanities classes and default to MLA. It was also great to be able to practice key strategies for research and organization with a fairly straightforward topic.

With our big 9th grade research project on the horizon, this was a great intro for our freshmen in Biology. It was also a solid refresher for our sophomores who did their big research projects last spring.

For me personally, getting a collab going with a science teacher was a goal that I’ve had for a while now, so it was really exciting to finally make it a reality!

Bookish Activities

Over the past few weeks, we’ve done some fun activities during middle school library visits to engage our readers with more books.

7th graders participated in a Book Tasting activity, which allowed them to spend some time reading from different genres. Many of them spent some time with genres that they don’t typically read, but found that they actually enjoyed. Below is the slide deck I used to guide the activity and the “Menu” handout that students used for their tasting.

Book Tasting (Presentation) by Whitehead, Tiffany
Book Tasting by Whitehead, Tiffany

Our 8th graders also had a recent library visit where they started working on Book Talks that they will be recording and/or sharing with their class. The slide deck and template below include two different style options for the Book Talk format. Our amazing 8th grade English teacher already had something in mind for this, so one of them is the adaptation we came up to meet her criteria, which includes an excerpt/quote from the book.

Book Talk Slides by Whitehead, Tiffany
Milligan Book Talk Script by Whitehead, Tiffany

Feel free to use and adapt these resources to make your own!

It’s been a while…

It seems that I’m emerging from my mid-career burnout, post-COVID slump. It’s been two years since my last post, and long before then I was feeling a certain kind of way about things. While I still really loved my work and especially my school, I was just feeling tired and uninspired for a number of years. This school year has been the best start I’ve had in a long time, and we have so much positive momentum going right now that I’m actually feeling inspired to write and share. Or maybe it’s just a new wave to ride. Years 1 to 5 in the library had a pretty significant learning curve. Years 6 to 11 were incredibly busy and productive, with lots of involvement in professional organizations, school leadership, and presenting. Years 12 to 15 required me to take some steps back to improve my focus and perspective — COVID forced us all to have a bit of a reset. This start to my 16th year in the library, which is also my 8th year in my current school, has just felt right again.

Without a doubt, successful collaborations are the thing that has allowed me to get back to this right headspace and mindset. I feel like I need to revive this blog to share resources and projects that are working well for us. We share a space with our Academic Resource Center (formerly the Writing Center) and our shared ability to broadly support our students and teachers has opened up so many doors for collaboration. The idea that the library is for everyone really does ring true, and we are working on collaborations this year with all of the different subject area departments! Here’s what we were able to accomplish just in the first quarter:

A personal goal of mine rolling into this year was to improve our library’s social media presence. Before the school year started, I made myself a schedule and set calendar reminders for everything from posting #TikTokTuesdays and #FirstLinesFridays to updating our book displays and chalk art monthly. So far, I’m sticking to the plan and it’s paying off! A student told me that the library TikTok eats, so basically I’ve won at life. Here’s one I made of a library display swap out:

I’m posting an inspirational message or quote every #MotivationMonday, too:

I’m trying to build out extra content to have at the ready on days where I’m not as swamped so I can keep up with my posting schedule on TikTok and Instagram. We are slowly but surely building our following from students, and we definitely have some of our regular viewers that we really appreciate! And we have some alums who love following our library, too, so it’s always fun to see them pop up in our likes and views. The social media presence is definitely feeling like a win this year — even if our viewership is still on the small side!

First Quarter Success!

The first quarter was a whirlwind, and the second quarter is off to a similar start. This is my sixth year at my current school, and I can finally say that things are shaping up the way I’ve always wanted! I typically tell new librarians that it takes at least three years to hit the sweet spot where you know the school, the people, and enough about your library to really get things moving. Apparently it took me twice as long this time around, but between the 2016 flood and the start of the pandemic (among other things), I’m giving myself grace.

Last year our Writing Center relocated into the library, and that has honestly been the most positive and beneficial move for the library that we ever could have made. We have an incredible partnership with them — the coordinator is fabulous and she and I are able to tag team so many projects. The student Writing Fellows are in a space that has much more traffic than their previous spaces, so they are able to support their peers more often. It’s a beautiful thing, and it just makes sense in terms of being a one stop shop for research and writing.

We put together this infographic to showcase how busy we were for the first quarter. We are still constantly having class visits and the library space is being used as a productive, collaborative work environment for students and teachers — MY DREAM COME TRUE!

I have come to realize that I have to be consistent with my expectations and the use of the space. In years past, our space has been so busy (but not necessarily in a productive way), overrun, and chaotic that is was not the place where students would come to work or where teachers could bring classes to collaborate and research. Drawing some hard lines was hard for me, but it had to happen in order to really get this space to its full potential. As exhausting as this school year has already been, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s ahead for us in the library!