I have been spending the last couple of weeks teaching my third graders to use the online catalog. I reviewed the concept of call numbers by reminding students that the library is like a land with different “neighborhoods”, and explaining that each “neighborhood” has its own special type of “address”. I showed students how and when to do the different types of searches that are available and this week I was ready for them to practice using their new skills by competing in my third grade Online Catalog Search Challenge lesson.
I did this lesson for the first time on Wednesday and it went like a dream. We have been having some issues with connectivity in our district lately, so I literally felt like jumping up and down for joy because things were actually working when I needed them to. I had six laptop stations set up around the library. I divided students into groups when they entered and sent each group to a table with a laptop and a search challenge sheet (by the way, you can find a sample Online Catalog Search Challenge sheet on page 170-171 of The Tibrarian Handbook). The groups worked hard to use the online catalog to answer questions like “List one fiction book written by the author Kevin Henkes.” The team that answered all of the questions correctly first won some stickers and bragging rights. Yay! Lesson success!
Things didn’t go as well today, however…they started off well and we even had a group complete and win the challenge. However, while the winners were choosing their library books, I realized that the other teams were starting to get a bit frustrated. One team called me over and complained that our library didn’t have any books by Kevin Henkes. Being the good Tibrarian that I am, I patiently reminded them that in the library, we like to use author’s last names to organize books. They immediately performed a search using the last name and got…nothing. I tried the search myself with the same result. I started talking to the other groups and realized that all of their searches were coming up empty.
I SAW THIS SCREEN A LOT TODAY!
I looked at the library assistant and heard the dreaded words: “We’re down again.” Oh well, at least we made it through part of the activity before we lost our connection again.
My library’s recent problems with connectivity and my annoyance about these problems has led me to several revelations:
As school librarians, we have been forced to embrace every available technological advancement. We are expected to “change with the times” and use all of the technology with which the school system so generously supplies us. The problem is, these devices, programs, databases, etc. are often under-supported. Our school systems don’t have the infrastructure to handle all of the technology they are adopting. There’s not enough bandwidth, not enough training, not enough knowledgeable support personnel to handle all of this technology. Yet, we are still expected to use it proficiently, creatively, and frequently. I have been teaching my third graders to use the online catalog because that is the most efficient way to locate materials within my library. I don’t have a card catalog to “fall back on”. My students are expected to know how to use this tool, but I can’t teach them to use it because it only works 50% of the time.
So what do we do? Do we give up on teaching the technology? In my opinion, no–we soldier on. We plan dynamic lessons that integrate the technology we have available, but we always have a back-up plan. I have a set of call number search cards ready and waiting on my file cabinet for the day that the catalog is down during one of my third grade classes. I read a story about using the online catalog (How to Find a Book by, Amanda St. John) to several of my classes last week when the connectivity issues struck again. My co-librarian and I created slides with screen shots displaying different aspects of the online catalog (the search box, results list, item record, copy information, etc.) that we can show on our Promethean board when the catalog is not accessible.
Yes, it’s a pain to have all of these extra things ready, but it’s worth it. I get to keep my sanity and know that I am doing everything possible to help my students to learn how to use technology effectively. The Online Catalog Search Challenge went really well the day my students were able to complete it. Students were engaged and using the strategies that I had taught them. If it takes a little extra work on my part to have that kind of session, then I am willing to do it. Maybe someday they’ll figure out the connectivity issues and I won’t have to do the extra work…but I doubt it!
Keep fighting the good fight, Tibrarians! And may the only bananas you encounter be atop ice cream sundaes!