Attending the last AASL Conference in Phoenix, I was looking to enrich my practice with informative sessions presented by colleagues from around the nation and maybe, if I had time, I’d zip through the vendor exhibits. There is always a lot going on in the exhibition hall and my strategy is to walk briskly and see if anything catches my eye. I never dreamed I’d be stopped in my tracks, but that’s exactly what happened when I came across the booth of Scrible, a Google for Education Partner. I was drawn in by the demonstration of what they called: “A Modern research and writing platform for school and work.”
I watched as the presenter used Scrible to save a website article, highlight and annotate it, and add it to his Scrible Library – instantly. I’m fairly certain there was an audible gasp from the group of librarians that had formed at the booth.
Moving closer to the screen, I discovered this was just the tip of the iceberg. Once the article was in the Scrible Library, students would click a tab and a citation form appeared. Click another tab and an outline could be created. Annotations were easily inserted into Google Docs. Perhaps most exciting of all, teachers could view student progress in real time. In a learning environment where students want ownership and teachers encourage critical thinking, Scrible’s research platform was the answer we’d been hoping to find for my district.
Meeting the Needs of Students and Teachers
When my district adopted a 1:1 learning environment, librarians searched for online tools for text-marking, annotating, and saving research sources. The products we found got the job done, but were clunky. Many teachers chose to avoid using them altogether, not willing to give up an entire class period for the time-consuming setup. I knew Scrible could be a game-changer.
Returning to school, I enlisted the help of a creative and dynamic social studies teacher who is also one of our instructional coaches. With her freshman class, she was already implementing creative tech initiatives and Scrible fit nicely. Her research assignment required students to prepare for a class discussion by inserting paraphrased information into a research organizer.
Students set up free Scrible Edu accounts, added database articles to their Scrible Library, highlighted and annotated information, and later inserted it into Google Docs. Going a step further, I color coded the organizer to correspond to the highlighting colors in Scrible. With minimal instruction time needed for Scrible, students were soon happily researching, text-marking, annotating, and using the free Scrible Writer Google Docs Add-On to organize their paraphrasing.
A second opportunity presented itself when a science teacher wanted my help with his freshman biology class. Since some of his students had been in the social studies class, they jumped right into research knowing exactly how to use Scrible for saving and annotating sources.
Having seen success with these classes, our librarians were ready to begin using Scrible with our English classes as they began working on their extensive sophomore year research papers. We requested a pilot of Scrible Edu Pro to explore the full product. For a limited time and minimal cost, we explored additional student and teacher features, including analytics.
I worked with teachers to sync Google Classroom with Scrible and created assignments where I was added as the co-teacher. It was easy to set up assignment requirements, including the number of sources and length of paper. Being able to view analytics to determine which student needed our help that class period was incredibly useful and an efficient use of class time.
Soon, other teachers heard the news and requests for Scrible instruction came pouring in. It seemed not a day went by that another teacher didn’t ask for a Scrible lesson. I’ve worked with English, social studies, science, AVID, and special services. Teachers began sharing with each other. A grassroots movement had begun! As librarians, we know teachers don’t jump on a bandwagon for no reason. Seeing the enthusiasm with which they embraced Scrible verified everything I thought after seeing it at AASL.
Working with classes, I asked students their thoughts on how Scrible compared to other products. Overwhelmingly, they found it useful and intuitive. Some started using the tagging system without any direct instruction on my part. Others found choosing highlighting colors gave their research a personal touch.
The librarians in my district see value in Scrible as “the research and writing platform” for students to seamlessly gather, organize, annotate, and share research while giving teachers the ability to instantly know which students need support and allowing librarians to review sources chosen or citations created. But for me, the proof is in the use. Seeing students use Scrible in classes where it is not required and having teachers ask for it by name… That’s how I know we have a winner.
Author: Rebecca Scott
Rebecca Scott is the Librarian at Downers Grove North High School in Downers Grove, IL.