Bec in the library

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

Finding my way: a reflection on pathfinder creation October 5, 2013

This is Part B of my final assignment for ETL501: The Information Environment, critically analysing the process of creating a pathfinder.


This pathfinder was created to assist Grade 4 students inquire into how environmental changes are connected to human consumption. Whilst students will choose their own personal inquiries into this central idea, expected broad topics under this umbrella, which are covered by this pathfinder, include global warming, climate change, waste management and conservation.

This unit is one of six taught throughout the year, however the only one under the transdisciplinary theme of “Sharing the Planet”. It has a strong social studies component but there are also science and literacy links. The key concepts are connection and responsibility with related concepts of consumption and sustainability. The learning outcomes the students will be working towards when using the pathfinder are:

  •  LAA.CT.4.7 comprehend, respond to and analyze literary non-literary texts.
  •  HUM.GU.4.3 Learners will gather, evaluate and use information.

Throughout the pathfinder creation process, I took myself through the steps I would expect of a student when searching for resources. Based on Kuiper, Volman & Terwel’s (2008) and Valenza’s (2004) observations of effective student searching, as well as the readings from Module 6 (CSU, 2013), I planned my search using a concept map consisting of key words from the unit vocabulary list and a list of questions taken from the unit planner.

Keeping Herring’s (2011) website criteria in mind, I used the librarian created, student-specific search engines, KidsClick and ipl2. I knew it was highly likely I was going to find sites that were technically and educationally sound as well as reliable in terms of authorship and content.

I was absolutely shocked by how high the sites I had chosen had come out on readability tests, there was not a single site that came out lower than Grade 5, even those targeted to K-3! These results certainly rammed home Kuiper, Volman & Terwel’s (2008) assertions about how important it is to scaffold internet use for elementary aged children.

As information about the environment can change rapidly, using the school’s OPAC proved extremely helpful, enabling me to find the most recently acquired resources. A basic search on Google and Bing led me to a Follett comparison tool for texts by the various publishing houses. This clarified the reading and interest age of the resources I had chosen, leading to the discarding and replacement of several choices.

Understanding how to create a pathfinder that would enhance my students’ use of information literacy skills was challenging. Based on my knowledge of how my school’s students are taught interactively through the online world of blogs (heavily embedding files and links), I was creating online curriculum instead of a pathfinder embedded with ILS. The difference between giving instructions and directions baffled me for some time and I was mired in indecision and frustration about how I could make my pathfinder’s emphasis on ILS simple yet effective. This was especially important as our students have had very little explicit instruction in, or practice with, ILS.

Discussing my problem with the school’s two Technology Integrators and re-reading Abilock’s (2004) and Eisenberg’s (2003) ILS work helped guide me in a new direction. I decided adding one or two key skills as dot points to each resource could help students learn and assimilate ILS into their research toolkit in small increments.

The biggest lesson constructing this pathfinder has taught me is that effective research relies on extremely high quality ILS instruction. There is no point making a pathfinder full of pertinent resources if the students don’t know how to use those resources to their fullest extent. The information universe is massive yet very few teachers and students have the time or understanding of how to harness it effectively (Valenza, 2004). Being aware of such concepts as the hidden web, search engines more powerful and specific than Google, and the different kind of reading skills needed to access the right kind of information at the point of need, is absolutely integral to effective access to accurate, current, reliable information (CSU, 2013; Kuiper, Volman & Terwel, 2008; Valenza, 2004). I can now see how pathfinders can help TLs to explicitly and patiently give teachers and students the help they need to understand these concepts.


A clever TL could utilise the hard work of others in order to cut down the time it takes to create pathfinders. This could be done by using the existing unit planners and OPAC Resource Lists as a base for pathfinders. The school’s two Library Technicians (who already routinely create Resource Lists) could be taught how to make pathfinders. Additionally, as part of the reflection process, each grade level could complete a skeleton pathfinder of the most useful resources used during that unit. In the case of the latter strategies, it would be prudent for the TL to edit and flesh out the pathfinder with appropriate annotations and citations. The final step of publishing them on the Grade Level blog home page as well as the Library website would help ensure the pathfinders are used again.


Pathfinders can be a simple and powerful way to provide students with both relevant information and important ILS. I have learnt that regularly creating and updating pathfinders that are used in conjunction with explicit, in person, and frequent ILS instruction by the school TL can contribute to highly effective student research.




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.




iOPAC, one system can do it all. Maybe. August 22, 2013

ETL505 Module 2: Tools and systems

Tools used in libraries for organising information include:

  • Library catalogues
  • Periodical databases
  • Citation databases
  • Image and other special kinds of database
  • Bibliographies and subject guides
  • Online subject gateways and directories
  • Search engines

The library catalogue

Our OPAC, Destiny, is a treasure trove of awesome once people know how to use it. Sadly, most do not. Students and teachers can do basic searches for materials in Destiny Quest – the “kid” interface – but any further than that and they are stumped.

During my time as a Lib Tech, I was often astounded at how much amazing information lay dormat in Destiny just waiting to be used effectively. Teachers had no idea they could search through the “back door” and use the same system we (LT and the librarian) did, thereby getting such better results.

I continue to be frustrated by staff who don’t see why it’s so important to catalogue physical technology resources such cameras, laptops etc through the library catalogue. Why don’t they understand how much easier and more efficient it is to keep track of everything in one place? Accountability becomes  easier, budgeting more transparent and workflow much smoother!

When all resources in a school are catalogued through the library… “audit reports can be generated easily for senior administration and stock takes for all resources in the school can be carried out on a regular basis, an essential process for resource-poor schools which need to get maximum value and longevity for everything they purchase.” (Coombes, 2012)


An overview of the roles a school library catalogue can potentially play in a schools educational programs.

Coombes, B. (2012). SCIS | Practical curriculum opportunities and the library catalogue. SCIS | Schools Catalogue Information Service. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from


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


What do we want? Resources! When do we want them? Now!

Resource provision – ETL501 Module 1

Topic 1: The learning and teaching context of information resource provision 

“Why are the roles of information provider and information specialist important? The answer is that they are important because the TL plays these roles to enhance the learning and teaching that goes on in the school.”

My personal questions brought up by this topic:

What resources are we providing?

(In what format will they be most relevant?)

How do these resources meet the varying needs of our students?

(Multiple intelligences, reading ability, etc)

How are these resources findable?

(Do I literally gather them for them or provide a list of suitable resources for them to choose from – what factors influence this decision?)

Do all teachers want and need me to provide this service? How can I show my worth as information specialist?

My thoughts:

Key factors to successfully providing relevant resource management are:

    • Find out the cognitive needs of the end user
    • Collaborate with class teachers to ensure aligned curriculum goals
    • Skim and scan the resources before sharing them
    • Ensure the electronic resources WORK and are age/cognitively appropriate
  • Ensure a variety of resources that cater to multiple intelligences
  • Use known technology creation/access tools and/or only introduce one new tool at a time
  • Utilize (known) shortcuts such as bookmarking sites, catalogue lists and pathways to help with time management and easy back-referencing

An aside:

A fellow student posted on the forum that her school was “a six thinking hats school, not a Bloom’s school” which made me pause and question her further:

“Does this mean teachers and students are only taught and expected to use one way of structuring thinking and research?

Is the main reason for this to allow students and teachers mastery of a critical thinking framework?

How do you feel about that?”

I would feel both frustrated by the limitations imposed on me but also relieved that I only had to focus on one framework.

At one of my recent (primary) schools, we had a scope and sequence for critical thinking frameworks. In the younger grades, the students were explicitly taught 6TH (and a couple of other, smaller ones) while Bloom’s was used by teachers to devise assessment tasks. In the older grades, Bloom’s was taught and used explicitly (again, along with others) by students and teachers. It was very effective in helping kids and teachers think critically.


The learning context


A new and inexperienced geography teacher has arrived in your school and has been given the task of teaching a year 7 class on rainforests as part of the Global Environments Focus Area. List 3 key types of information this teacher might need and suggest a source of information – this does not need to be exact, such as a URL, but more general such as ‘an article on’ or ‘a website about’.

By types of information, I take it to mean what CONTENT or topics are you trying to find/cover so here’s my thinking.

In an internatonal school such as where I work, these topics would be called “lines of inquiry” and are very explicit so planning for them would be pretty easy.

Topic 1:

Types of rainforests in specific areas (temperate, tropical etc) and their major characteristics.

Resources that could be provided:

  • Various websites
  • printed material such as large maps, atlases and NF texts
  • documentaries
  • Google Earth.

Topic 2:

Human use and subsequent impact on rainforests.

Resources that could be provided:

  • Websites including industry specific pages (foresty, logging) and micro topic specific (farming, deforestation, indigenous people, logging, controlled vs indiscriminate burning, palm oil production)
  • NF texts
  • Atlases
  • documentaries

Topic 3:

Rainforest conservation.

  • In what ways are rainforests necessary to human health?
  • How are people dependent on rainforests?
  • Is there a need for conservation of rainforests?
  • What are some of the ways people can make a positive impact on rainforests?

Resources that could be provided:

  • Environmental activism website and paraphernalia/marketing
  • Social media/journalistic articles regarding conservation
  • documentaries
  • Websites focused on government policy regarding on pollution, human health and deforestation.


 Great resources from this module: – great search engine by readability. – writing Google-proof questions using Bloom’s taxonomy. – new wording for Bloom’s; lots of great links to activities, templates. – wow! FANTASTIC visual guide to apps that support Bloom’s. Will definitely be sharing this with the Tech Integrators! Way too many links to browse but a great resource to come back to when in specific need.

Readings for Topic 1

Pardoe, D. (2006). Towards successful learning: Introducing a model for supporting and guiding successful learning and teaching in schools. 2nd ed., London: Continuum International.(Book in CSU Library).

Pardoe, D. (2009). Towards successful learning: Furthering the development of successful learning and teaching in schools. 2nd ed., London: Continuum International.(eBook in CSU Library).

Pritchard, A. (2009). Ways of learning: Learning theories and learning styles in the classroom. 2nd ed., Abingdon, Routledge. (Ebook in CSU Library)

Johnson, J., Cooper, R. & Johnson, A. (2009). Introduction to teaching: Helping students learn. Lanham MD: Rowan and Littlefield. (Ebook in CSU library)

Arends, R. & Kilcher, A. (2010) Teaching for student learning: Becoming an accomplished teacher. New York: Routledge. (Ebook in CSU Library).



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