Bec in the library

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges

Why kids suck at REALLY using the web (and what we can do about it). September 17, 2013

Topic 6: Improving students’ web use

“One of the tasks of the TL is to persuade both students and teachers that students need to be not just web users but web learners. Improving students’ web use is not a simple task, as it requires that students are taught how to improve their web searching AND this teaching is embedded into curriculum programs across the school.” Module 6

Helpful ways to improve students’ web use:

  • Planning for web use through:
    • Mindmapping, concept mapping, brainstorming before online searching

    • Questioning  – what are they looking for, where might they find it, why that page/enginge, what criteria are they going to look for, what are their key words (based on their concept mapping)
  • Effective search strategies
    • concept mapping what constitutes good searching using
    • give groups of kids different search engines but same key words, compare top ten results
  • Reading for information

How do we teach students to be critical readers not just consumers of the information they find online?

    • Surely this will be taught in tandem with the website evaluation criteria – is the information reliable, current, educationally sound?
    • Teacher modeling of website deconstruction with pre-prepared website and notes!
    • Note taking, skim and scan, referring to list of pre-made questions
  • Reflecting on web use:

Students could ask themselves:

    • Were they effective in locating the information they needed?
    • Was the information useful for their purpose?
    • Did they plan the search well and did they use the correct search engine?
    • Were the keywords correct or did the student need to revise the search terms?


Important other notes gathered from the readings:

Kuiper, E., Volman, M. and Terwel, J. (2008) Students’ use of Web literacy skills and strategies: searching, reading and evaluating Web information. Information Research, 13(3).

Three major components of Web literacy skills:

  • Web searching skills (find the right information)
  • Web reading skills (understanding how text online differs from static text – hyperlinks, multi-modal information etc – and therefore being able to understand the content; most of the content on the web is aimed far too high for our elementary aged students therefore a high level of reading and comprehension is expected and needed; when students do not know how to use the Web in a critical way, knowledge cannot be obtained.
  • Web evaluating skills (able to critically assess the reliability and authority of the author/website)

Tendencies in student web use (why they often suck at it):

  • inflexibility – they stick to one search strategy and one search engine, regardless of how terrible the results
  • impulsiveness/impatience – hopping from one site to another, randomly clicking on “interesting” links, not checking spelling
  • focusing on finding the “one right” answer – making their focus too narrow, omiting good websites because of careless or too broad reading; forgetting that just because the “answer” is there, doesn’t mean the website is reliable or has authority.
  • lack of reflection – no point in having the 3 web literacy skills if you don’t reflect on your web experience

“It is not enough to look at the Web as merely a replacement of print information resources.”

“…when students do not know how to use the Web in a critical way, knowledge cannot be obtained.”

Regardless of being taught other strategies and directed to multiple search engines, students in the study STILL went to Google first and foremost. (As do most of us, c’mon, admit it!)

“the school needs to deal with Web use in earlier school years, when students have not yet fully developed their own Web using habits.”

“At home, students do not learn critical reading and reflective skills naturally. They need others to show them the need for such skills and to learn their specific use. At school, these skills are already part of the literacy curriculum but mostly with respect to conventional reading resources only. In fact, most students learn such skills from print-based methods and do not apply them when using the Web as a matter of course.”


Valenza, J. (2004). Thinking and behaving info-fluently. Learning & Leading With Technology, 32(3), 38-43.

This is a really useful article, giving many helpful “how to’s” and “why should’s” for teaching info-fluency. A great read for teachers too, if you wanted to give them the short version of why and how to get kids better at using the net.

Aimed at G5-12, which is too high for my audience but still useful for understanding the basics. Collaborating with grade level teams to translate this into elementary sized appropriate pieces would be great.

Key points

  • the info-fluent student
  • smart students are not always the best searchers
  • teachers aren’t very good searchers either
  • good searchers have common abilities and behaviours
    • prior knowledge, search choices, research holes, strategies, the process, advances searches, three types of searches, thinking about queries, quality, a sense of inquiry, a plan, mind tools, persistence and fussiness, consulting a professional
  • teachers can encourage better searching
    • create research challenges, evaluate students’ works-cited list, scaffold, create pathfinders with your librarian, create an appropriate search tool page for general student research, ask students to annotate their works-cited lists, use formative assessment to check student progress.

Other readings for Topic 6

Chung, J. and Neuman, D. (2007) High school students’ information seeking and use for class projects. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(10), 1503-1517. Available CSU Library.

Herring, J. (2010) School students, question formulation and issues of transfer: a constructivist grounded analysis. Libri, 60(3) 218-229. Available CSU Library.




The hidden web August 22, 2013

ETL505 Module 3 – tools and systems

Periodical databases

I’ve really enjoyed using the CSU databases for my assignments. I just love the “all in one place” nature of them. It takes away all that “is it worthwhile?” factor of using a random internet search – all the credibility has pretty much been done for you. Truth be told, I also REALLY love that the referencing is also done in-site. Well, the database and BibMe… Hate referencing!

Required reading

‘Periodical databases’ and ‘citation databases’ on page 46 of Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description. London: Facet.


Federated search systems

Do a search on Primo or Trove to see the wide range of sources that are brought together by these federated search engines. 

Hey, WOW, how cool is Trove?! I did a search for Father Bob McGuire as I just love him. I used VERY loose parameters just to see what would get thrown up and, as expected, i did have to do A LOT of trawling but it was fantastic to see all the different hits in different places – lots of varying sources. So interesting. Definitely a place I would recommend for students to use (upper school, not my age group) for research.

Required reading

‘Federated search systems’ on pp. 46-48 of Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description. London: Facet.


Digital libraries

“A challenge for teacher librarians is how to integrate, and provide access to, selected external digital collections through the library to best serve the needs of their school community.”

This is absolutely true at our school. We have subscribed to so many amazing databases and digital libraries but because the teachers don’t have enough knowledge about how to use them, the kids rarely access them. The reall key to utilizing these amazing resources is teacher PD. Hider also makes the interesting point in his section on library catalogues and how they could/should incorporate results from databases and digital libraries when searched. I wonder how this could be possible when the databases are subscription based?



‘Digital collections’, pp. 51-52, of Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description. London: Facet.

Explore ‘The scope of digital libraries’, pp. 7-9 and ‘Metadata: Elements of organisation’ pp. 285-286 of Witten, I. H., Bainbridge, D., & Nichols, D. M. (2010)

. How to build a digital library. Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann. Available from CSU eBooks.

Scootle is an example of an Australian educational digital library for schools.


Searching, searching, searching…

ETL505 Module 2 – tools and systems

Search engines

Regardless of how effective other forms of information organisation and retrieval are, kids still rely on google, first and foremost.

Never mind the fact that our library has outstanding databases that have been thoroughly researched and written to be appropriate, kids still go to what is easiest and what they really do believe is going to be easiest. Grrr!

To be honest, I also blame the teachers! I see how little emphasis they put on our collection of databases and how easily they let kids rely on Mr Google, even without teaching them how to search EFFECTIVELY. We have a long way to go before our students are web learners instead of just web searchers.


Wowsers, spam tagging! I had never heard of that phrase before but it certainly explains some of the very dodgy hits I get occasionally when I use search engines!

Search by image?! Oh. how. cool. is. that?!

Screen shot of my "search by image" in Google

Screen shot of my “search by image” in Google

While my search didn’t bring up anything as cool as the Google intro video, I still love the concept. It would be extremely handy if you wanted to help someone identify a place or animal.

Music search engines

What rock have I been hiding under that I haven’t been utilising Pandora?! Created a “station” using the search tag of U2 and that came up in the playlist caused me to squeal with delight! Maybe I was doing it wrong but I couldn’t see the search box for a specific song, just an artist/genre/composer.

Spotify required me to sign up and while I could access most of the site, my computer lacked some kind of plug in or player to use the site to it’s fullest.

To be honest, if I’m looking up a song, I really like Shazam. Granted, you have to HEAR the song to use the app but at least the result is instantaneous.


‘Search engines’, pp. 53-54, of Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description. London: Facet.


The interweb said what?! August 18, 2013

ETL501 Module 3: Critical evaluation of print and e-resources

‘…TLs will be evaluating websites which, as far as possible, match the learning needs of their students – and obviously, these needs will be different for students in Year 7 or Year 12. Website evaluation, therefore, starts with student needs, and not with websites.”

Barbara Coombes, (2013) module 3


Surely this area is one of the most important jobs we have as TLs – getting the right info to the right kids at the right time.

How best to ensure the quality of the e-resources we guide them towards? Run all e-resources through criteria based on three key areas:

  • educational quality/relevancy,
  • reliability
  • technical aspects

The following questions can help crystalize the criteria:

  • Does the site meet the TL’s or teacher’s purpose?
  • What is the range of reading levels of the student group for whom the website is being considered?
  • Does the site contain activities for students?
  • Does the site allow for differentiation?
  • Will the site extend the learning of the student group?

Useful links – provides very comprehensive criteria to evaluate websites. Not kid friendly but good for TL/teacher use in planning stages. – very comprehensive “think abouts” for website evaluation for teachers/TLs, not helpful for kids.


Readings for website evaluation

Barcalow, T. (2003). CARS: Evaluating websites.

Ferguson, J. (2005). Why evaluate information found on the Web?

Harris, R. (2010). Evaluating Internet research resources.

Johnson, D. and Lamb, A. (2007). Evaluating internet resources

McGraw-Hill. (2001). How to judge the reliability of Internet information.

Porter, J. (2003). Testing the three click rule

Rogers, T. (2013). Eight ways to tell if a website is reliable. 

Schrock, K. (1996 – 2009). Critical evaluation surveys

Schrock, K. (2009). The 5 Ws of website evaluation: For students


Information literacy April 18, 2011

Why have not the understandings and skills that inform information literacy become embedded into the classroom practices of teachers and educational systems? Is it because information literacy is understood as something that is teacher librarian-oriented and not part of the general curriculum?

I feel this is really a key question for me. As a teacher I took it upon myself to teach what I now know as info literacy skills because they needed them to inquire. However, if there was a TL at our school who actually had the time to do this, I would have happily palmed over these lessons to her. As it was, she was far too busy with the secondary students and didn’t seem particularly interested in teaching my little tackers the skills they needed. While that seems harsh, it was the reality – she had the whole school of 600 students to serve and the primary kids just didn’t get a look in when the Diploma kids held sway over the entire school.

I think that teachers somehow believe info literacy skills just appear in our students by osmosis – based on my practice, I admit that I must have! It wasn’t until I was teaching the PYP that I realised how much structure and scaffolding my students needed information literacy to be independent inquirers. I didn’t think of it as IL though, just ‘good research skills’ – critical literacy combined with a knowledge of different modes of information (books, net, human, etc).

What’s our role as TLs, working as teaching collaborators in our school? I believe we are to be used as a starting point, a reference point, a source of PD for our teachers as they embark on the journey as teachers of IL. Much like ALL teachers are teachers of language, I believe ALL teachers are teachers of information literacy. As information is an integral part of all learning, all teachers must take part in equiping our students with these skills. However, teachers can’t just pull these skills out of thin air if they themselves have never explicitly been taught them. That’s where we as TLs come in. We know it, we share it.


Libraries for a post literate society March 4, 2011

Do you agree with Johnson that students, and indeed younger teachers, are increasingly ‘post-literate’ in the manner that he defines and uses this term?


My passionate and indignant thoughts after reading the first couple of paragraphs: What a load of bollocks! “People don’t read anymore” (Jobs); “the ability to read written words, is no longer necessary”. The initial example was totally incorrect – people on spreadsheets, on laptops, on gaming consoles – they are all reading WORDS! Just because people  aren’t reading a hard copy book, magazine or paper, doesn’t mean they aren’t reading/accessing the written word.

I soon calmed down and was immediately intrigued with the concept of linking back to natural forms of multi-sensory communication (storytelling, speaking, debate); much like our pre-reading learners in the lower end of our schools.

I believe that students and younger teacher are as post-literate as we (fellow educators, parents, administrators of schools) allow them to be. In their personal lives, students ARE showing strong post-literate (as per Johnson’s description) tendencies and this is only worrisome if the way in which they ASSESS and THINK ABOUT the information they access this way is shallow. The possible strengths of acquiring information in this post-literate may benefit all learners, especially ESOL and SN students for whom large chunks of text is actually a barrier to learning.

There is no need to stop resourcing the curriculum as it stands, the written word on actual paper is still intensely and intrinsically valuable to all learners. We use need to ADD IN these new ways and means of accessing meaning.


Are school libraries and their collections already adopting the critical attributes that Johnson is proposing?

Wow, Johnson’s list of attributes reads like a teacher-dinosaur panic attack. As a youngish teacher who is hovering somewhere between a “digital native” and a “digital immigrant“, I admit I found the list a little daunting – it really does require a total mindshift when it comes to cracking open those ordering catalogues!

In my role as a LT, I am charged with the responsibilty of gathering resources for upcoming units of inquiry across the primary school. As a teacher, I look at these resources lists through a slighty different lens – I can make sense of a unit planner and see how the resources can be used in multiple ways in order to differentiate for all learners in the classroom. I try to add relevant websites and links to databases we have subscriptions to, as well as the more usual additions of DVDs, audio books, kits and print resources of all kinds including graphic novels. The idea of accessing concepts and content through gaming, and helping teachers find such resources, was an interesting and a little confronting point. Is this just because I am thinking Nintendo rather than Woodlands Maths? What other options are there? Please share!


Other thoughts after reading this article

“Culture determines library programmes; libraries transmit culture” – what does this mean for us as TLs, as humans? Whose culture? As an educator in an international school, does this mean the home culture of China, or does it mean celebrating and resourcing ALL cultures within the community? Or on a slightly different angle, does it mean the culture of LEARNING within the school – the curriculum itself or the framework the curriculum is within (the PYP for example)?

“Our greatest fears can become our greatest blessings”: Another key point for me was Johnson’s take on attitude – it’s up to us as TLs to lead from the front when it comes to becoming PL – show creativity, be a risk-taker, become knowledgeable -hey! It’s the learner profile!!




Using CSU’s library databases March 1, 2011

Excitement plus – my timetable has been sorted and I now have time for making dinner, eating it, putting my baby to bed and exercising for 45 minutes, all before 7:30 whereupon I *attempt* to study for 2 hours! I’m so not a night person so we’ll just see how that all works out…

Topic 1- using the library’s databases

Whilst at work today, I watched the online tute and gained some helpful reminders about language use and general tips to make searching online databases so much easier.

It’s been awhile since uni but watching the tute reminded me of many hours spent slaving away at the Alice Hoy Education Library computers attempting to find journal articles to back up my instinctual thoughts around education.

As recommended by other wonderfully helpful 401ers, I did Activity 3 first. It really did make organising what I found in activity 1 and 2 so much easier!

Activity 1 – searching Ebsco host

At first I was a little perplexed as to why I had to add all the articles first then sort within the folder window – I was thinking,  “is there a short cut I didn’t see?” and then I realised, “ah, computer has a slow connection, see the floating window that allows you to allocate the article to a folder?”. Problem sorted and life is easy again.

I thought the articles outlining the TL role almost had me salivating – the challenges are enormous but the possibilities are endless! I mostly chose articles that were centred around primary education, language and literacy teaching and the TL as part of a team with families as these are all areas I believe are most relevant to my work as a TL in a primary school.

Disappointingly I found the resource based learning search yielded mostly old articles. I refined the publication date but still really only found two suitable articles.

My main gripe with Ebsco is this: why are the search parameters only til 2008 – is there no new research in the last 2 and a half years?!

An interesting little point for me: the first post was not always the most useful – depends on your particular focus; as mine was primary, I sometimes had to search a little lower down on the list. “primary’ as a search function didn’t help narrow the findings either. Mmmm.

Activity 2 – searching Informit

[steepled fingers] Hmmm. Whilst this database had plenty of good fodder up for grabs, I found it to be far less user friendly as it was less modern and more cluttered. Through filtering the articles that my searches popped up, I realised how useful the tags were on Ebsco- helped give me a better idea of what the article was about, rather than just guessing from the title.

Question: where are the folders in Informit?

I did feel that Informit had some great articles I’d like to refer back to (with all my spare time…) but for ease of use, I’m going to use Ebsco as my main database.


loving the learning

continuing tales of a teacher librarian

PE to TL - The Journey Begins!

Reflections and thoughts on ETL401.


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