Reflecting on what I teach

            Whenever I am invited nowadays to teach a class (yes I know I wrote about this last time, but now I am reflecting) about doing online research, I’m conflicted as to what I should teach. On the one hand, I want our students to have the critical thinking skills required for navigating the online world. On the other hand, I want to direct them to sites that I know are reliable and trustworthy.  Because my time with each class tends to be limited to one or two visits, I often go with the latter approach.

            Teaching students critical thinking skills requires more time than I usually have and it also means you need foundational knowledge that many high school aged people are still developing. Take, for example, lateral reading which is a critical thinking skill covered in the Crash Course episode three on “Navigating Digital Information” (1). The idea behind lateral reading is that instead of scanning up and down a webpage for evidence of its reliability, you open up a tab next to the original page and do some research on the source that you were using. 

            First of all, this is an extra step that I know many of my students will not take. Secondly, even if they find a source about the original webpage they were reading, they are still left with the same problem they started with. How will they know if this second page is reliable?

            The problem with this strategy is that many of our students have grown up completely digital and have never stopped at a newsstand or magazine rack (2).  Many of our students are unable to come up with a list of ten print sources. I say this because I have taught lessons where I give students two minutes to list as many newspapers and magazines as they can. I used to give students five minutes, but today’s audiences don’t even need a minute’s time to exhaust their knowledge of paper and ink publications. (We have links to 38 publications in our Magazines page, in case you were wondering where to start) 

            The same can be said about what used to be known as mainstream media outlets. Gone are the days of the three or four major networks along with the local public broadcasting channel, and formats such as a six and 11 o’clock news. I mean, sure they still exist, but most high school aged students I know are not watching these programs to get their information. If recent research (3) is to be believed, then young people are relying more and more on their social network feeds as a means of getting their information about the world around them. (We have links to 20 news outlets on our News page). 

            One of the realities of this development is that most of us don’t care to fact check the information as it spreads since it comes from a “friend”. Besides, many times the ideas are distilled into one-liners with an ironic graphic attached, not meant to be taken seriously, or at least, not quite so seriously that you would have to fact check it. This kind of behavior may be acceptable in social networks, but it’s not what we expect when it comes to academic research.

             Knowing these things about my students nowadays means that I start my lessons about doing online research, by introducing them to the link for our school’s online public access catalog (OPAC), through which they can find a book in our collection. We then talk about the difference between keyword and subject searches, which series of books we have available, and how to read the bibliographic information the OPAC retrieves.  We talk about the call numbers and what they mean in the Dewey decimal language, and how those numbers help us find the books on our shelves. Book in hand, we then discuss how to find the particular subject we are researching by using the table of contents and the index, allowing us to focus on only those pages we need.

            “Why”, I hear you asking, “would your lesson about doing online research begin by showing the students how to find a book?”

            Mainly because I want my students to spend more time researching their subjects rather than researching their sources.  By directing them to books, many of which have multiple writers, I also hope to expose them to authors and publishers they can trust.  Finally, I want my students to be familiar with how the library is organized so that they feel comfortable walking into a stack of books, confident that they will be able to find what they are looking for.

            Once I am finished showing them how to find and use a good book for their research, the lesson can go in many directions, depending on the teachers’ needs.  The next step, however, is usually to introduce the class to our friends at the Haverhill Public Library. They have much to offer our students and faculty, and they are always happy to help us out. Maybe next time I will talk about some of their resources.

             As always, thank you for stopping by and I hope you found something interesting and useful.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2019. All rights reserved


  1. Crash Course: Lateral Reading,
  2. Barthel, Michael. “Circulation, Revenue Fall for US Newspapers Overall despite Gains for Some.” Fact Tank, Pew Research Center, 1 June 2017,
  3. Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N., & Spitzberg, B. H. (2018, August 16). Trends in U.S. Adolescents’ Media Use, 1976–2016: The Rise of Digital Media, the Decline of TV, and the (Near) Demise of Print. Psychology of Popular Media Culture. Advance online publication
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m back (to posting here)

Part I: I talk about coming back

            Happy day-after-President’s Day to everyone. I hope you are surrounded by people you love and make you happy. After a 13-month hiatus from posting here, I am back. I hope to continue sharing not just useful online resources for school, but interesting insights about living and learning. I miss having a place to not just share my thoughts about the work I am doing, but actually documenting the ever-evolving role of the school librarian.  

            With that short re-introduction done, let me begin by saying that I am excited about relaunching this project that I began way back in December 2007. The things that have changed in that decade are huge, yet incremental, and therefore, sometimes difficult to note as you are living through them (see my previous post for some numbers).

            As with the original launch of this site, this is still an experiment in online librarianship. I view this blog as an opportunity to collect and connect. More than ever before, I hope that this page can be a launching point for teachers and students looking for reliable, fact-checked sources appropriate for school projects. Over the coming weeks, I will be rechecking and reorganizing the pages, links and recommended sites found here, making sure that they are all working, up-to-date and still worthy of your attention.

Thanks to the Way Back Machine (also known as the internet archive) there is a digital “snapshot” of what this blog looked like in its early incarnation. The post from October 2008 shows that wasn’t yet a subscription streaming service. How the times keep changing.

Part II: I recommend some Crash Course lessons

            I am always delighted when I am asked, mostly by our English teachers, to come into class to discuss how to do good academic research online. My presentations have changed over the years to reflect the evolution of the web and to address the particular needs of my audiences. No matter how much I may try, I always feel like I am leaving something out … because I have to.

A slide from my 2005 presentation shows that I was still recommending videotapes from our collection. We have since weeded out about 90% of that collection (mostly duplicates and programs taped from television).

            What began as a curiosity and a marginal technology, has grown into a ubiquitous and all-encompassing force in our daily lives. The web is where we do everything nowadays, but it wasn’t intended to be used mostly as an academic tool, and it shows. During simpler times, it might have been enough to look at the website URL, its domain extension and the About Us page to determine the reliability of the site. Things have gotten a little more complicated, nowadays, and I rarely have enough time to really cover everything you need to know to do good academic research online.

A slide from my 2014 presentation reflects my growing concerns with “aliteracy” (people who can read, but don’t) and the growing amount of bad information.

            Enter Crash Course, a YouTube channel I have recommended and talked about in the past, and even include on my Video Resources page here on this blog. In December 2018, they announced that they would be filming a series called, “Navigating Digital Information”, which I highly recommend to my students and teachers. In the roughly two-hour-long series, I expect that they will cover much of the same information I have presented over the years … checking URLs, using primary sources, avoiding sites that don’t credit their creators, references or link to other sites, etc.

            The fact that Crash Course, and their sponsors (which they prominently reveal and discuss), find it useful to create a series about dealing with online information as a student (and a citizen) speaks to the need we have for good online content that educates us about online content. I know, it begins to feel a little like a conversation in Inception, or with Russian nesting dolls (for you older folks in the reading audience). Prior to this release, Crash Course had a whole series on Media Literacy, which I also recommend in general, and specifically episode 4, Media and the Mind. This episode focuses on the relationship between people and their devices, and how we shape our technology and it reshapes us. I especially recommend the video since it discusses the intersection of psychology and technology, two areas of study that play out every day in our schools.

            In the past month, I have recommended these two series of videos to a handful of classes and hope they will turn to it as an online resource. I have also been advising my students to return to the print resources we have available in our library media center (LMC) collection.

Part III: I remind people of the HHS OPAC

            I will use this last part as a public service announcement to remind people that the HHS LMC OPAC (what a string of letters meaning our online catalog) is available at the bottom of our school’s Launchpad. Once you have reached our OPAC’s home page, you will find a simple search engine to look through our collection.

            I always remind students of the difference between a Keyword Search (general) and a Subject Search (specific), but lately, I have also been focusing on the Series Search to introduce students to a very specific kind of print resource. Many teachers have students write a persuasive essay, where they are able to pick a subject that interests them and research a position on that issue or idea. We have a number of book series that have short, pro-con type essays on a variety of subjects and, unlike information students may find online, these articles are all fact-checked, reliable and appropriate for school work. The series titles are:

  • At Issue (160 titles)
  • Contemporary Issues (20 titles)
  • Current Controversies (52 titles)
  • Issues in Focus (24 titles)
  • Opposing Viewpoints (185 titles)
  • Reference Shelf (104 titles)

Part IV: Closing thoughts and Bonus Find

            As you can imagine, I have more to say about doing online research, but I will save that for next time. If I don’t stop writing this post, I’ll never get it online … and that was one of the reasons I stopped posting for a year; because I never knew when or what to write or how much or for who, if anyone, I was writing. But I do like sharing this information, and so I will try to post every other week here, until the end of the school year.

            In the meantime, let me share one last video series I found on YouTube called “Blank on Blank”. This series’ homepage says it all, “Famous Names. Lost Interviews. Animated Shorts.” Amongst my favorites is Aldous Huxley on Technodictators. Enjoy.


Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you found something interesting and useful.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2019. All rights reserved

Posted in Favorite Sites | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

December Post Marks 10 Years

……….In order to officially make it to ten years of writing on this blog, I have to get in at least one more post, and it has to be done this month. It is Sunday, Christmas Eve, 2017 when I start writing this (I won’t be finished tonight). I am home on vacation from a job I still enjoy (most days), with a family I treasure (beyond measure), in a house I purchased nearly twenty years ago with the best friend I have ever had (… I’m the pain in her sash). Those are about the only things that haven’t changed in the world around me since I first started sharing my thoughts and discoveries on this blog ten years ago.

……….A decade is a long time when you really think about it. Ten years ago, I was just entering my forties, the father of two young boys, ages 3 and 7. Back then, I was thinking more about after school meals and activities, than making college visits or having “the talk”. A lot has changed in the world in those intervening 3,652 days. It often happens so slowly, so incrementally, that we barely take notice. Until we stop … and take notice. Below you will find a table comparing a few things that popped into my mind.

2007 2017 % Change
World Population 6.6 Billion 7.6 Billion +15%
Tallest Building Taipei 101, 509m Burj Khalifa, 828m +63%
Price of Gas $3.38 $2.49   -26%
Avg Red Sox Tix $47.71 $54.79 +15%
Median Home           sold in Nov. $249,100 $318,700 +28%
Ounce of Gold $630 $1278.10 +103%
Tuition at Harvard $30,122 $44,990 +49%
Largest Company,     Sales Revenue Walmart, $351B Walmart, $485B +38%
Median Household Income $50,823 $59,039 +16%
Federal Minimum  Wage per Hour $5.85 $7.25 +24%
MSRP Honda       Accord EX $23,145 $30,860 +33%
Wealthiest person Bill Gates, $56B Jeff Bezos, $100.3B +79%
Number of iPhones sold 1.39 M 216.76 M +15490%

……….A lot of things have changed that can’t be measured in terms of money (but still will be by someone, somewhere). I placed the iPhone last on this list intentionally for two reasons. First, 2007 was the year that it was launched and immediately it was hailed as a revolutionary item. Second, even though it wasn’t the first smart phone, Apple’s contribution to the marketplace forever altered our world in ways big and small, good and bad. After the iPhone, no longer were our phones, just our phones … now they were packed with connections to the world, loaded with tools like cameras for video and still shots, teeming with little distractions like puzzles, games and twitter feeds. More than almost anything else that has changed in the last ten years, is the impact that has been made by iPhone and its many competitors on our daily lives, especially in school.

……….When I first started in education, portable phones didn’t exist. When mobile phone began appearing in the late 1990s, most people couldn’t afford one. In the early 2000s, the first affordable cell phones started showing up and our war in the schools against these intrusive items began. In the very beginning, I remember that our school policy was clear that students couldn’t bring their personal electronic devices to school. Back then, you needed a camera for pictures, a video recorder for movies, a music player and headphones for your tunes, a gaming device and a phone. These were all separate items and it was understood that these things were mostly meant for entertainment, and served as a distraction to our students. But little by little we changed our minds (or was it changed for us) and we moved from encouraging students to leaving their devices at home, to allowing them to walk around with one earphone in.

……….As a librarian, I am against most things that discourage you from reading, and by reading I mean long form reading. Having your personal electronic device with you makes it really easy to find a dozen things to do other than read a book. Just having it near you may actually cause you stress. And yes, of course, I understand all the arguments in favor of having your smartphones with you (I wrote about it in 2013), I am not arguing in favor of a zero-tolerance policy. I just wish there was an easy way to convince people to turn off their phones for the school/work day, and when they find themselves with some “free” time, read a book.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.

Thank you to everyone to who has stopped by since 2007. I know you are out there.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2017. All rights reserved

Posted in LMC announcements | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New To Our Shelves, October 2017

Our new books have arrived and they are ready to be taken home. Here’s a preview of nine quick picks from our new additions.

Graphic Novels

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery illustrated by Miles Hyman: One of my favorite short stories, this graphic novel adaptation does not disappoint. For those who are unfamiliar with this material, be forewarned, there is violence involved and the author is masterful and graphic in her understanding and depiction of its raw brutality.

The Imitation Game, Jim Ottaviani: Without consciously trying, I am a huge fan of Jim Ottaviani’s work. In the past, I have purchased two other books by this author, Primates and Feynman, and I highly recommend both. This latest addition chronicles mathematician Alan Turing’s life and his contributions to both computer science and LGBTQ history. Those uncomfortable with complex mathematics may feel confused; those uncomfortable with complex human feelings will feel lost.

Contract with God Trilogy, Will Eisner: Before anyone knew about graphic novels, Will Eisner was doing his thing. Unlike his contemporaries in comic books who were telling stories of mutants and cyborgs and super powered beings clashing with ne’er do wells with almost equal super powers, Eisner focused on the epic tales and toils of common folk dealing with the invisible forces of everyday life.


This Idea Must Die, Edited by John Brockman: Bad ideas are stubborn things, they are hard to get rid of once we have learned them. Still, the only way to make progress is by facing our bad ideas head on, and creating new ways of thinking about old things. This collection of over a hundred short essays will challenge your notions on topics such as the universe, race, human nature, simplicity, IQ and a wide range of other fascinating things you think you understand.

The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar, Matt Simon: Have you ever felt like you are out of control? Like you are doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing? Then you probably shouldn’t read this book because you might realize you are being brainwashed. The natural world is full of chemical hijackers who take over the “minds” and bodies of their prey to use it for their own ends. If you are an ant, perched high on a blade of grass, waiting to be eaten, you’ve probably been hijacked.

A Deadly Wandering, Matt Richtel: Have you noticed how many people are always looking down nowadays? How their attention is focused on the palm of their hands, on a screen streaming something more inviting to the viewer than the immediate surroundings? That’s really bad when you’re in a one ton projectile traveling at 100 feet per second on an icy road. It’s bad anytime, really. But especially then. This book is both a warning and a chronicle about what happens, when we stop paying attention at the wrong times.


Stories of Your Life, Ted Chiang: Believe it or not, the 2015 sci-fi movie Arrival, is based on a short story in this collection. Who knew that such a brilliant and thought-provoking take on first contact with extraterrestrial beings could be accomplished in about 50 pages? Apparently, writer Ted Chiang knew. A mathematician by training & trade, Chiang writes only occasionally, and only short stories, but his stories are original and thought provoking.

Spontaneous, Aaron Starmer: This is one of those books that I acquired for our collection because it sounded like an original twist on an old theme. High school senior year blues mixed with spontaneous combustion, or how I blew up before graduation. I haven’t read this one yet, and while the reviews run both hot and cold, there are many more who find it entertaining and worthy of a read.

Boy Robot, Simon Curtis: Again, a book I purchased for our library based on the number of positive reviews I read. I like books that take unorthodox approaches to asking ordinary questions like, “what is a memory” and “how do I know I am real?” Most reviewers seemed to agree that the characters were interesting and that the book overall was an entertaining read.

Hope you find something worth reading, and thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2017. All rights reserved.

Posted in Book Orders, books, recommendations | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Latest Welcome Back Post Ever

So here we are, September 27th and I still haven’t posted a “Welcome Back” entry. I know that is very bad form, but since I don’t have any readers, no one noticed. That is the nice thing about anonymity, you can slack off because no one is watching.

But 2017 also marks the 10th anniversary of this here blog, and so I wanted to post enough new material this year to make it to December (maybe?), when it will officially mark 10 years of writing … and trying to share information online with my colleagues and students. The first line of my first post was, “Consider this an experiment in online librarianship”.

And the first post of every new school year is usually pretty boilerplate stuff; information for the Hillie Nation about our hours of operation, and such. (Yes, that was a rhyme or at least a bit of verbal syncopation). So, below is just that:

Library Media Center Hours:     Monday – Friday, 7 am – 3:15 pm

Students that want to use the LMC computers or space after-school, do not need to make an appointment. Many clubs, groups and other people book the library for meetings or other events, and students may, on rare occasions, be asked to leave. We can give students a pass for the late bus (T, W, TH) but they are expected to be in the library working, reading or otherwise engaged in a school related activity.

Haverhill High School OPAC:

Anyone can access our collection through the “HPS Library” link at the bottom of the HPS Launchpad. We have a great selection of books for a high school library, that includes an expanding collection of graphic novels, including many which are non-fiction.

Class Visits

Teachers that would like to bring their class to the library can arrange their visits by checking the LMC log kept at the circulation desk. There is no online version of this to book the library. Please call us (xt. 1143) to check if we have room to accommodate you and/or your group if you have NOT already booked a visit in the LMC log. We love to see our space full of students, teachers, aides, counselors and everyone else who makes HHS a great place to work.

 Study Students

Students who would like to use a chrome-book during their study periods can come to the library (with a pass, of course) to borrow one. We encourage them to bring their school IDs with them, but haven’t enforced it as a rule (yet).


The LMC has two computer labs and a chrome-book cart.

  • Lab 1 is one the left hand side of the “pit” and has 20 PCs.
  • Lab 2 is in the right hand side of the “pit” and has 26 Macs.
  • The chrome-book cart has 30 laptops that connect wirelessly, but do not print.

We have one color and one mono printer/copier which both get heavy use throughout the day.

There is a laminating machine for staff use only. Currently we only have 25” wide laminate available.

Copiers, projectors, overheads, etc.

As a media specialist, I am here to get you through some of your frustrating technology encounters. I know how much our faculty and staff rely on copies, printouts and scans to get their work done, so please make sure you call me whenever you’re having trouble with one of our many Toshiba machines. Contact me if your local machine needs its toner or staples replaced, if you’re experiencing chronic paper jams, or if you get an error message of any kind. I am also able to assist you if you still use a television, VCR (what?), DVD player (huh?), overhead projector (why?), CD player/radio (how?), or other antiquated machine that helps you do your thing in the classroom.

 Contact Information

School Extension:    1143

Henry Toromoreno, Librarian 

Melissa Tarpy, Library Aide      

Thank you for reading, and I hope you found something useful.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2017. All rights reserved.






Posted in LMC announcements | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

OMG, it is summer … ideas.

Hello all. The end of the school year came around faster than I expected and I find myself right smack in the middle of my summer vacation! I hope all my teacher friends and my student allies out there are enjoying their free time and making the most of this nice weather.

Our friends at the Haverhill Public Library (HPL) have released their July lineup of free events. Besides encouraging you to continue reading even through the summer months with their reading programs, the HPL also hosts a number of these events to get families out of the sun for a few hours. Below I have highlighted their July calendar for you. Some of these events require registration and I encourage you to contact the library for more details about each of the dates. The HPL can be reached at (978) 373-1586.

Date Time Place Audience




4:30 pm Auditorium


Movie: Fences


2–3:30 pm Milhendler Room



Activity: Teen Crafternoon

8 10:30 am–noon


18 +

Activity: Tie Dye Tea Towels

13 7–8:30 pm Auditorium


Talk: Holistic Health/ Andy Morris

17 7–8 pm


Activity: HPL Photography Group

18 6–8 pm Auditorium


Talk: Healthier Snacking at Work/ Chef Liz Barbour

7–8:45 pm Milhendler Room


Activity: Knit and Crochet Group

22 2–4:30 pm Auditorium


Movie: The Zookeeper’s Wife

26 1–3 pm Auditorium

Ages 14+

Activity: Teen Murder Mystery Party

29 2–4 pm Milhendler Room


Activity: Coloring Club

For more information and an updated schedule, visit All events are free and registrations can be confirmed online or by calling the library.

Among the many projects that I have to keep myself busy, I have been brainstorming ideas for the coming school year. Inspired by my oldest son’s creativity (he made a short five minute video that you can find here … if you have a Facebook account.) I started thinking about hosting a contest for “New Covers for Classics”, or something like that … I am open to suggestions.

Right now I am leaning towards making it a digital art project, that is, the final product must be presented as a digital file of some sort. My thinking on this is that while I love the traditional pen, paper, paintbrush, canvas artwork (as can be attested to in every issue of INKBLOTT, the HHS student arts & literary magazine) I believe that today’s creative types also need to be familiar with the digital tools available to them (and their competitors). If and when I do decide to host such a competition/ contest, I will be sure to announce it on this blog.

In the meantime, below you can find four quick examples that my son and I put together using nothing more than stock photographs from the Internet and free photo manipulating software, GIMP, which I have written about before (see 04/11/09). This kind of project reflects the inclusion of the arts in the STEM movement to transform it into the STEAM movement. While the tools we used to create the final project were digital, our brainstorming and idea gathering were artistic processes that asked us to consider the themes, symbols, characters, motifs and other central ideas of the novels for which we were creating covers. We sketched and took notes using pen, pencil and paper before we moved to our digital tools. (Interestingly, none of our pen & paper sketches looked anything like our final products, but that’s fodder for another post …. Maybe.)

Hope you found something interesting and that you are enjoying your summer. … And Happy July Fourth in advance. Que viva la INDEPENDENCIA!

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2017. All rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LMC Announcements, March 2017

Hello, anyone. Forgive me for not posting more regularly, but time seems to get away from me very easily. With my apology out of the way, let me share some library news with you:

  • Things have been busy as always in the LMC, especially with the addition of regularly scheduled classes in our library rooms. The EMT course, the robotics lab, and the math & tech classes housed in the library have been a great success this year. In no small part this is a reflection of both the teachers’ high expectations and our students engagement in interesting, relevant and dynamic courses.

NAF students with teachers Cliff Ashbrook (left) and Lance Gomes (right)

  • 2016-17 was also the first full year of our new National Academy Foundation (NAF) program spearheaded and painstakingly cobbled together by a team of incredible educators led by Victoria Kelley and Lisa Hunt (whose office is also in the LMC). Below you can view a short video that introduces the program.
Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 12.54.22 PM

One of the courses offered through NAF, 3D printing, not only teaches students how to use the software, but also has the students build the printers from scratch.


  • We’ve had two more great Coffee House Nights in the LMC thanks to Mr. Jordan and the Student Council. This bi-annual event has become a great event to showcase all sorts of talents in a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. Below you will find a few pictures taken by Ms. Caradonna. You can find more pix on her Facebook page.
Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 1.02.46 PM

Lights turned down, all eyes forward as the LMC is transformed into Haverhill’s hippest Coffee House twice a year.

  • Thank you to Mrs. Blaustein and her classes for encouraging me to develop what is becoming our “Technology Museum” in the LMC. Our collection of outdated and obsolete hardware is a testament to the continuing improvements made by scientific inquiry and the application of those discoveries to our everyday lives. Right now, I am still in the gathering and labeling stage of organizing the collection, but eventually I hope to have an interactive, hands-on “museum” that will allow students to handle and even use the equipment, some of which still works.

Cameras, computer mouses, mobile phones, floppy disks … Just a few of the many “old-timey” pieces of equipment on display in the LMC.

  • Lastly, beginning Monday, March 13th, the LMC will have its own Chromebook cart with 30 computers available for in-library use only. The cart can be reserved by teachers to use in the pit or individual computers can be checked out by students, with their school IDs. These laptops are to be used for school work, but will not permit students to print.

Lenovo n22

Thank you for stopping by, have a great weekend, and I hope you found something useful.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2017. All rights reserved.

Posted in LMC announcements, March, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment