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Media Specialists Across the Curriculum

Our student suffer from library amnesia. Isolated lessons and piecemeal approaches aren't effective. They still ask the same questions.

The solution is a joint voice across the curriculum. Students need to see how information skills can be applied across the curriculum. They need lots of practical experiences using databases, organizing information, and citing sources.

Collaboration is the Key

Embed yourself across the curriculum to support students and teachers.

"Collaboration is a trusting, working relationship between two or more equal participants involved in shared thinking, shared planning and shared creation of integrated instruction. Through a shared vision and shared objectives, student learning opportunities are created that integrate subject content and information literacy by co-planning, co-implementing, and co-evaluating students’ progress throughout the instructional process in order to improve student learning in all areas of the curriculum... Attributes of collaboration identified in the literature such as friendliness, congeniality, collegiality, reciprocity, respect, propensity to share (shared vision, shared thinking, shared problem solving, shared creation of integrated instruction), trust, flexibility, and communication are essential in varying degrees for each models to be effective... Collaboration has the potential for creating a renewal in education by combining the strengths of two or more individuals in productive relationships that can positively influence student learning." -Toward a Theory of Collaboration for Teachers and Librarians by Patricia Montiel-Overall in SLMR

The Common Core standards

"insist that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school." Common Core, Introduction, 4

Start by promoting your skills.

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How are you perceived?
How would you like to be perceived?
What other ways could you describe your skills?
Are you a passive observer or proactive partner?

Nurture Partnerships

Find mutually beneficial projects. Identify common goals, connect content area and information skills, and balance strengths and weaknesses. For instance, you might work on Georgia history and primary source documents and photos using Fulton County Digital Archives.

Some teachers might look at the definition of information inquiry and say, "I assign a term paper, isn't this information inquiry"?

Inquiry-based assignments aren't just essays, term papers, or research papers. Instead, they ask students to become authentic investigators, researchers, and student information scientists.

In inquiry-based learning environments, students are engaged in activities that help them actively pose questions, investigate, solve problems, and draw conclusions about the world around them. Is this plant native or invasive? Why does this matter?

As term-paper writers, students are passive recievers of content. As inquirers, students are independent thinkers, researchers, writers, videographers, and activists.

They do meaningful work that addresses essential questions and important standards. Learners take ownership of the inquiry process and hopefully develop knowledge, skills, attitudes, and dispositions that transfer across the curriculum.

For instance, students might use the infographic How Laws Work to review the process of making a law. Then work through the process with their own idea for a law.

Students may start with a learning experience, then jump into their own inquiry. For instance, students might learn about advertising with Admongo. Then select some aspect of advertising to explore on their own.

Approaches to Collaboration

Start a collaboration by focusing on the Common Core. Look for connections between content area skills and information skills. Then, rethink instruction, assignments, and assessments.

The Common Core puts

"special emphasis on informational texts." One reason for this focus is the "extensive research establishing the need for college and career ready students to be proficient in reading complex informational text independently in a variety of content areas." Common Core, Introduction, 4

Rethink Instruction

First, focus on how you can infused mini-lessons into your classroom that provide focused opportunities to learn skills associated with a particular curriculum-based activities such as how to use particular types of reference books.

Or, provide scaffolding for students who traditionally have difficulty completing activities such as math calculations, locating information in the library, or writing a letter. For instance, Dewey Decimal posters are helpful to get to know parts of the library. Check out the Dewey Posters.

Students are often overwhelmed by the idea of conducting a science experiment or writing an essay. Much of their anxiety comes of an inability to envision the process and their lack of specific information skills. You might hear students say…

I love/hate science, so I can't decide what topic to choose.
When I googled my topic, I got over 2 million hits! Where do I begin?
The websites I found have conflicting information. How do I decide what's right?
I love the concept map I made, but now I have to start over an write a paper. 
I'm not good at writing, can't I just draw a picture?

Use mini-lessons and scaffolding to help students develop their own questions and make decisions about the resources they will use. The key is planning and providing guidance at the teachable moment.

Inquiry-based learning doesn't need to involve a semester-long investigation. Look for every day questions that will intrigue students and build a passion for inquiry. Find or invent teachable moments and model inquiry in your classroom.

Rethink Student Assignments

In addition to rethinking classroom instruction, rethink student assignments.

Begin with an existing unit. Would it be possible to turn teacher directed activities into student centered inquiries? Over the course of the year, you might provide increase opportunities for students to develop personally relevant questions or choose their own information sources. For instance, you might jumpstart a unit with interactive like Life in the Iron Age. Ask students what questions they have about this time period.

Go to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (An NAL Amplified Edition) to learn about an award-winning App that combines a work of fiction with non-fiction elements. Learn more by watching the YouTube App Trailer.

Students might not be excited about reading an article, so get them started listening to articles from a database like Gale Literature Resources. Watch videos from Encyclopedia Britannica and Biography in Context.

Rethink Student Assessments

Teachers often focus on the content aspects of an assignment and forget about the information and inquiry skills associated with the assignment. Be sure to consider the entire planning process, evaluation of materials, citing of sources, and other inquiry-based aspects.

For example, students are examining trade around the world. What's the history of spices, tobacco, guns, and other products? How did they impact culture, society, politics, and other elements. Books like Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos or Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond are examples.

As you work on developing assessments consider how the inquiry process will be evaluated. Were students effective at evaluating sources? Did they cite sources? Were the visuals such as maps effective?

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Organize by subject matter area interests. Then, split into grade level teams of 3-4 people. First get together as teachers. Share the teacher's perspective. Then, put on your media specialist cap. How do you fit? Discuss the collaoration in the areas of instruction, assignments, and assessments.

Eight Embedded Ideas

Let's explore 8 ways to get started working with teachers.

  1. Content Curation
  2. Data Collection
  3. Exhibits
  4. Generators
  5. Interactives
  6. Maps
  7. Storytelling
  8. Visual Organizers

Content Curation

Content is now dynamic. You can add to the work of others or create your own. Both students and teachers need to constantly locate, evaluate, select, organize, and share resources on topics of interest. This is called content curation.

To learn more about curation, go to Joyce Valenza's Curation page.
swirl by swirlYou can organize content for your own use or the use of others.

Weblists are useful when you want students to work their way through a series of pages or you want students to share a list of resources they've identified.

If funding is available, consider a subscription to libguides. This service provides an easy-to-use interface for creating classroom materials and embedding Web 2.0-type materials.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is the format for web feeds. These syndicated works may be news articles, blogs, podcasts, or other types of frequently updated content made available for subscribers. An aggregator known as a feed reader is used to manage and organize collections of web feeds.

You may also wish to organize documents and other materials for your own use of use by others.

Try some content curation using the quality content at the websites below. Find three articles or pages for your students to use as part of a project and create page with links to these resources.


Social Studies



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Try one of the content curation tools.
Add website resources that could be used by students.

Data Collection

Libraries need to be more involved with promoting math. Join the Math Pentathalon. Check out math games and kits.

Involve students to doing their own data collection. Use online tools to organize the results.

Many great online tools are available for creating graphics.

General Data Sets

Poll and survey tools allow participants to share their thoughts and data. Google Forms is a great tool for teachers to collect and organize information from students.

Topical Data Sets


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Brainstorm how data collection tools and online data resources could be used across the curriculum.
Use a survey tool to set up a basic survey.


Create exihibits, diorama, science demonstrations, or other physical displays. Use a tool like Voki to create an animation with audio that can be placed on any page. Check out a Voki example. For instance, you could have small groups each work on a tabletop exhibit for their country. Then use Voki to narrate the exhibit.

Consider using a database like CultureGrams to collection information.

Audio Narration

Use a audio tool to narrative the exhibit.

For exhibit ideas, search online for sample projects you could use to inspire your own museum exhibit.

Consider using QR Codes and URL Shorteners. By including both, you have a human-readable as well as a device-readable link.

QR Codes

lizardYou can download a QR reader to your desktop or use a portable reader.
Go to Lizards Are Cool for an example.

URL Shorteners

URL Shorteners are useful when sharing long URLs in an exhibit.

Topic for Object-based Exhibits

For topic ideas, begin with a news article.

Mix artifacts that students can touch with virtual artifacts.

Teaching Ideas for Primary Sources

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Use Voki or another audio tool. Or, QR stuff to create a QR codes. Or, use a URL shortener to create short URLs. Design an activity that uses one of these two tools in an engaging physical activity in your classroom. Need content?

Or, explore topics for Object-based Exhibits listed above.


Use technology to create a fiction or nonfictions story. Involve students in experiences that help them explore stories, relationships, and patterns. How can we make the virtual world more tangible? What types of "tangible souvenirs" might be possible?

Many online tools can be used for creating projects and communications. Generator tools help users create interesting products with little effort.


For each of the following activities, students build, save the image, and insert into a word processor. Then, write a story, create a problem to solve, or create directions. Design activities that ask one child to work from the creation of another student.

Middle/High School

ReadWriteThink Generators

ReadWriteThink Generators



Looking for more? Go to the Generator Blog.

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Use the generators to create a sample or model that could be used in an assignment. What tools would appeal to your students?
How could you turn a boring assignment into an engaging activity or game?


Make interactives come alive with connected, off-computer activities. Combine a hands-on activity with data collection tools.

Looking for more ideas that connect on- and -off computer activities? Try Thinkfinity activities, Illuminations activities and Science NetLinks activities.

Go to Make Your Verdict. This website explores famous outlaws from around the world. Use the interactive to learn about the court cases. Then, hold a live mock trial.

Go to NASA City. After using the interactive create your own project in the classroom.

Preparing for the Oath is a great interactive that helps people prepare for the U.S. Naturalization Test. Shouldn't everyone have this experience?

The Diary of a Civil War Nurse lets you explore places then and now.


The Arts

Check out the Hand Symphony.

ReadWriteThink Interactives


Go to Smithsonian Ocean. Notice the features.







Look for games and interactives to connect with books and reading.


Social Studies


PE and Health

Check out the Hand Symphony.






Financial Calculators and Conversions

Career Exploration

College Exploration

World Languages




Website Ads and Evaluation


Family, Consumer Science, Health

Child Development: Childhood Milestones

Family Living: PBS Interactives: Families, Interactive Health Tutorials, Teen Girl Health,, Making Sense of Baby

Nutrition and Foods: AllRecipes,

Home Care and Design: RepairClinic,


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Select an interactive. Design an assignment that combines an online interactive with a physical activity as well as informational materials. Spend some time designing a classroom assignment with physical, virtual, and relevant elements into a content-connected activity that involves critical and creative thinking.


Connect physical, virtual, and relevant activities. Connect globes, satellite images, and relevant topics. SIRS Discoverer has great maps on Madagascar and Greenland that will then lead you to articles.

Begin an exploration of Earth with a guided experience. Earth from Space explores specific locations around the world in five categories: living planet, water & air, structure of land, the human presence, and satellite technology.

Or, explore interactive maps focusing on particular features such as This Dynamic Planet and Mapping Life. Try other resources for data associated with place.

Use Google Maps to create your own placemark, description, and URL to share.


Integrate maps and satellite images into the classroom with website like GoogleLit Trips. Learn more at Let's Go! Google Earth & GIS Resources.

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Use Google Maps.
Tell a place-based story involving either fiction or nonfiction elements.
Plan a local history or nature trail. Mark the locations with GPS and find them in Google Maps or Google Earth.


Content needs a context. Use storytelling as a way for young people to connect new concepts with existing content.

Start by reading tall tales by Steven Kellogg, Rodman Philbrick, Julius Lester, Janet Stevens, Anne Isaacs, Mary Pope Osborne, and Judi Barrett. Then create your own with tools like Kerpoof or Myths and LegendsKerpoof has a movie making tool specifically focused on creating tall tales.

Rather than learning individual facts about butterflies, talk about the life of a butterfly. Rather than memorizing facts about a person, tell the story of their life. Students will forget facts, but they're remember meaningful anecdotes. Tell the story will life cycle puppets. Then, review with an interactive.

roryUse costumes to tell historical stories and online storytelling tools to create stories.

Connect cubes and tools. Storycubes. Use Rory's Story Cubes to generate ideas for writing stories. You can also download the iPad app.

Tools are available for all ages who want to create online stories.

Comic tools work great for storytelling:

Animation creators are also good

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Use the Storycubes along with a storytelling, comic, animation, or timeline tool to tell a short story.

Think about how students could create nonfiction stories using these tools.

Visual Organizers

Concept Map Tools

Concept maps are a great way to organize information. In the past, Inspiration software was the first choice. If funding is available, try Webspiration from the makers of Inspiration.

Many times you begin a project from scratch. Look for simple tools for basic maps.

Compare two concept mapping tools. Sitting side-by-side create a concept map categorizing holidays. What tool was easiest to use? What are options for saving and sharing?

For many students it's nice to have a starting point. Exploratree provides wonderful templates to get students started.

Visual Organizers

Word clouds, murals, timelines, and infographics are all great for bridging computer with off-computer activities.

Word cloud tools provide a great way to connect on and off computer activities.

Begin with quality information from a resource such as Gale's US History in Context. Create a word cloud to share findings.

Explore the Lincoln-Douglas Debates word clouds. You can do a Google Images search for "word cloud" to find lots of examples like AustraliaEnglish, and Sewing.

Look for transcripts that can be used such as Presidential Debates.

Print out word clouds and create displays or videos.

  1. Cut them into cloud shapes and hang them from the ceiling, a poll, a coat rack, or a bulletin board.
  2. Cut them into cloud shapes and place them in a book display. Match the word cloud to the book. Check out 10 book examples.
  3. Ask students to create word clouds based on a book. Then, choose a word cloud and write a paragraph without knowing what book it was based on. Finally, find out about the book.
  4. Create word clouds to go with photographs. Involve students in matching peer photos and clouds. Do a Google Images search for "famous photographs" such as Vietnam War.
  5. Create word clouds related to fairy tales. Guess the fairy tales. Create an exhibit with books and word clouds. Guess the story.
  6. Create word clouds to express feelings or attitudes related to a topic such as bullying. Create a silent video using only the word clouds and silent acting. Do a search for bullying word cloud to find examples of word clouds.

Web-based Word Cloud Tools

Murals and Infographics

Start with online infographics. Then, create your own using a mixture of on and off-computer text and graphics. Use a long roll of white or butcherblock paper to create your infographic.


Timelines are great for telling nonfiction stories.

Key Ingredients: America by Food provides a a connection between food and social studies.

Try focusing on a history topic. Some resources are below:

Use the Environment Timeline, the Google Earth infographic, Environment Word Cloud to inspire another earth-based example.


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Compare two of the word cloud tools. 
Use Google Images to search for infographics that could be used as inspiration for bulletin board or mural activities.

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Pick ONE of the EIGHT ideas.
Brainstorm how you might get started working with teachers.

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