Librarian: The Original Search Engine

“Librarian: The Original Search Engine.” Our school Library/Media Specialist, Mrs. Ford, shared this phrase with my high school students during her visit to our class today. She stopped by to offer research assistance for our Jim Thorpe student-created virtual field trip (VFT) projects. As a technology teacher, I valued her expertise and advice in helping better prepare my students for well-focused biographical research. I encourage all technology teachers to share your “tech” projects with your resident library media specialist. As Mrs. Ford reminded us today, “View the Librarian as your ally. We are on your team.”

Mrs. Ford recommended a tiered approach to student research, “Go Local – Go Regional – Go Big!” She advised the students to start local with the questions, “What’s in my house? At school? In the library” about Jim Thorpe. is our school library website. Mrs. Ford started the local search with “Alexandria.”

A simple search for “Jim Thorpe” resulted in 4 titles available from the Howe Public Schools’ library.

For the next step, “go regional”, Mrs. Ford shared the search for “Jim Thorpe” in the Southeastern Public Library database. The SEPLSO consists of 15 public libraries in our region. The broad catalog search resulted in 30 titles. But the great feature of the SEPLSO is the inter-library loan. A requested book can be mailed to a local library to make accessibility much easier for the student.

The student created virtual field trip projects place my students in the “expert” role. They become the teacher. The tools Mrs. Ford shared allow my students to “leave no stone unturned” in the life of Jim Thorpe.

The regional jumping off point of Mrs. Ford’s research suggestions took us to EBSCO Host – Digital Prairie. According to the Lion’s Library website,

Digital Prairie is a production of the Oklahoma Library Technology Network, and is funded with state and federal funds by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Federal funds are provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

EBSCO Host requires a user ID and password. The databases shared are all free and provide information that is reviewed, relevant, accurate and legitimate.

The last stop on the research journey is “go global.” Mrs. Ford discussed her favorite internet search engine – Google. She reinforced to not use wikipedia as the student’s major source, but to look closely at the “notes” on the bottom of the entries to find additional source information on the topic.

For broad topic research, Mrs. Ford suggested starting with EBSCO. Once the teams are more focused on their topic, the internet would be the recommended search tool. She also shared the boolean search operators “and, or, not.” I found this link for “boolean searching on the internet.” This article explains the boolean functions in simple terms.

The simple, yet powerful strategies for research shared by our Librarian today will serve as a springboard to launch the Jim Thorpe VFT project.  Remember your school Librarian, make them a member of your classroom team.

Readers’ Response Blogs on Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac

Mariah spells "b-l-o-g" with her hands.  Pretty clever!Joseph Bruchac’s children’s book, Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path, inspired my first student blog assignment. After reading the book to my class, the students were given the choice to reflect on the following readers response questions from the teacher’s guide provided by publisher, Lee and Low Books. This is the assignment posted in our Edmodo group for this project:

A. Choose one of the following questions to reflect on in your first blog entry. Log-in to your personal blog and write, edit, re-write, edit, proof-read, save and publish. Correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.

B. “Turn In” your blog’s URL Link!

Reader’s Response:
1. Jim Thorpe is given a second name by his mother. How can names make people feel special? Does anyone call you by a special name? What is it? How does it make
you feel?

2. Jim gains confidence while participating in Carlisle’s work program. What kinds of experiences have helped you gain confidence?

3. How do the illustrations add to this story? Which ones are realistic? Which ones are more fanciful?

4. Why is this a sad story? Why is it uplifting?

5. How does this book affect your thinking about prejudice and the way people are sometimes treated by others?

The students’ posts can be found linked in the Blog Roll. Please feel free to offer your comments and reflections. The majority of the class chose #4 as the topic for their blog.

On Friday, January 14 we began watching the film: Jim Thorpe The World’s Greatest Athlete written and produced by Joseph Bruchac and Tom Weidinger. The students 2nd blog will focus on the film.

Finding Jim Thorpe On The Google Timeline

Jim Thorpe Search Using Google Timeline

I enjoy research. My students?  Not so much.  Information Literacy is a vital skill for our students to master.  This evening, I am preparing a lesson to introduce Google’s advanced search tools: Google Timeline and Wonder Wheel.  I was aware of these tools, but have never had a need to use them in my class before.

Based on our Jim Thorpe “Know/Need To Know” activity today, my students have a lot of research to do for their student created virtual field trip projects. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce my students to Advanced Google Search.  The above graphic represents a Google Timeline search for “Jim Thorpe” using the date of his birth 1887 through today.  Notice the spike around 1912.  And another in the 1950’s. What could my students infer from this?  The search can drill deeper and deeper by clicking on specific years, months, etc.

I also used the Timeline tool to search news stories.  I was amazed to find original print articles from the early 1900’s. Check out the news search here:

Google Timeline News Search for “Jim Thorpe”

Wonder wheel is also a great option for advanced searching.  Google defines this tool as a wheel display of relevant search terms.

In the July 2010 Edutopia Blog post, “Information Literacy” by Andrew Marcinek, he writes:

Students were engaged with the news articles and very impressed to see actual, scanned news papers from another time. It brought the reading to life and allowed them to see a real life account of the novel they were reading. After this lesson, I found my students using Google Timeline in other classes and they were able to hear questions outside of my class and apply a skill, a search tool to that question. This is learning. This is information literacy. It is our responsibility as educators to educate students not only on the content but how to filter the content and get to the heart of the question. When we teach students how to seek information correctly and efficiently, we create learning opportunities for life.

I’m wondering how many of my high school students have been using these tools for research. I’ll let you know after tomorrow’s lesson. How do you use Google advanced search tools in your classroom? What other search tools would you suggest for my students’ research? Would love to hear your suggestions!

Lend Your Voice To My Students’ Ears!

Use the Wifitti screen below to text in your suggestions for topics you’d like to see my students blog about.  Perhaps you’d like to read about how students feel about PBL?  Or maybe what it’s like to be in a high school 1:1 laptop program?  What about their opinion on connecting with others around the globe through our schools’ use of videoconferencing, iChat and Skype while in a town of less than 700?

If you have a classroom blog, maybe your students would like to conduct a “blogterview” (I just made up a new word) with one of my newbie bloggers.  Just send us your questions, and we’ll get started!  Thank you!

May 4, 2010 KC3 Press Release

(Note: The following is the press release from last years’ KC3 contest for our entries.)

Howe Student Teams Win First & Second Place in International Competition
“I think this (KC3) was one of the most beneficial things I’ve done in terms of student engagement to the curriculum in all of the years I’ve been teaching”. – 2010 Educator

Howe Public School (Howe, OK) students recently won first and second place in the International KC3 ~ Kids Creating Community Content Videoconferencing Competition. Broadcast Journalism Teacher, Tammy Parks, facilitated both a middle and high school team with their winning entries. Students were involved in every aspect of the research, creation and broadcast of their original programs.

“The Legend of Bass Reeves” brought home first place honors in the Returning Middle School Division. Student presenters included Jaiden G., Brian C., Jenna S., Sarah S., Kayla A., Kelsee W., Stormy J., and Jennifer S. Through videoconferencing the students partnered with a class in Stamford, NY and presented the story of Bass Reeves, a legendary man in Oklahoma history. Born into slavery in 1832 Reeves eventually came to be known as one of the bravest men serving with the US Marshals. The students shared highlights of his life and featured their research from the Fort Smith Museum of History.

Placing Second in the Returning High School Division was the program “Meet the Real Martha Washington” created by high school students Brooke V., Samantha H., Rogelio Z., and Abigail L. and presented to a class from Stockdale, Texas. In June of 2009 Ms Parks and her students were guests at Mt. Vernon and presented a videoconference on the lawn of George Washington’s estate to a workshop at the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference in Washington, DC. After there private tour and extended stay on the grounds of George Washington’s home the team decided to take the knowledge they gained and share it with other schools. Creating the program about Martha Washington was enlightening and challenging as students shared little known facts about our very first, “First Lady.”

Ms Park’s student teams integrated 21st Century technology innovations in their presentations and created websites as well as supplemental resources and hands-on activities as part of their winning 60-minute programs.

This International contest gathered judges from across the US and United Kingdom to evaluate forty student programs highlighting research, content knowledge, presentation strategies, audience engagement, student voice and creativity.

The competition is sponsored by TANDBERG ( and the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration ( CILC is a not-for-profit that supports and advances education through videoconferencing and other collaborative technologies. The KC3 Contest is open to middle and high school teams from around the world engaging students in authentic research based on community topics, presentation skills and technology use.

More information on the contest, as well as videos of the winning presentations, can be found at