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Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Jones, the librarian for St. John’s Preparatory School. Our conversation came just a couple weeks before the hectic start of the school year, and I was excited to speak with her about St. John’s 1:1 iPad Program.
A lot of librarians who use EasyBib and ResearchReady are naturally keen on using technology in the classroom; a 1:1 iPad classroom is the ultimate teaching environment for some. Jennifer talked about her school’s program and how she’s identified the best apps to include on the devices.
How have you and the St. John’s Prep faculty prepared for the 1:1 iPad Program?
“We have been preparing for the program for a couple of years. All faculty have had iPads, and a lot of our own PD has been devoted to that. I was on the committee for the program and had to look at the apps and determine standardization for apps across the board. I’ve personally used Twitter and taken continuing education courses on technology to figure out how I can best make use of them as a librarian.”
There are hundreds of thousands of iPad apps. How did you figure out which ones should be included on
“I look for reviews on Twitter or follow different hashtags, like #tlchat, so when an app is recommended there, I’ll take a look at it. As a librarian, I am all about free and open access, so I’ll download the app and play with it whenever possible (I’m an experiential learner). When I find an app or tool that is useful, I think it’s the most satisfying–and critical–to share those resources with my colleagues.”
Where do your students struggle the most during the research process?
“I focus heavily on the planning stage–it’s the step everybody wants to skip. During classes, I’ll say, ‘Let’s build out some background knowledge and the vocabulary related to their topic,’ and come up with that first.” By starting with inquiry, Jennifer finds that students’ research questions “float up to the surface” for them, and move on to additional steps in the research process afterwards. In order to make this easier for students, Jennifer built an instructional model: P.R.E.P.
The steps within P.R.E.P. are:
Her reason for building this model? “You’ve gotta keep it brief at the start. You can expand [on the additional skills and steps required during research] from these four stages,” she said. To ensure she is addressing the needs of students during each class, Jennifer and her colleagues use Google forms to ask students questions about what they struggle with to ensure they’re making the most of the students’ time in the library.
How else do you adjust your instruction to better your students?
“I’ve been starting to think about that more now that my son is starting to look at colleges. I ask academic librarians what gaps they notice and what do they wish their students knew–they see students having a difficult time distinguishing between types of content (periodical, newspaper, journal) and understanding when do they need to use different types of content.
“Librarians are giant filters to help direct students to the best sources they need. I used to joke when I first started that I felt rushed, that some of the boys wished they had a mouse to make me talk faster. Over time I’ve learned to engage and immerse them in the process–if you can get them hooked on their research question, they are more likely to hang in there with you, and more likely to understand that they need something specific to focus on instead of the first thing they find.