Bec in the library

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

Study visit: a truly international school October 12, 2014

Seriously people, you don’t get better than this.

You want to know what a highly functional, beautifully laid out, extremely useful library looks like? Visit this school.

The collection houses almost 100,000 (yes, really) resources in a variety of satellite libraries around the school (ECC, EAL/ESOL, counselling, parenting, guided reading, professional reading) as well as the usual sections in-library (NF, graphic novel, fiction, Chinese, other foreign languages reflective of the student body, magazines, early chapter books, Super Series, New Books, big books, AV and more!)

The library is always packed at break times and the parent body is extremely active, with “Friends of the Library” organising multiple highly successful events through the year, including a Pyjama Party, an international schools book club through Scholastic and lots of mother tongue reading sessions.

I challenge anyone to walk into this library and NOT want to pick up the nearest book and snuggle in for the duration 🙂

Yet!!

And this is a big one for an aspiring TL with 7/8 TL courses behind me and an indignant fire in my belly – the TL doesn’t actually do a whole lot of TLing. My word he runs a magnificent library programme in terms of borrowing, reader development and event management but take a look at the school’s teaching of information literacy and you will find a ginormous gaping black hole.

Why??

This is a question I have asked repeatedly with no satisfactory answer.

My thoughts are:

At the most simplistic level, the maths just doesn’t add up – the TL cannot see every class over the course of a week. There are more classes than there are periods to teach them so it’s a clear logistic issue. (There are a million solutions to this but at this point in time, most of them are not being used. The most obvious one – teaching on request – is used at least once during an inquiry unit and consistently at the beginning of each school year.)

Perhaps the TL has given up trying after years of unsuccessful advocacy for a useable IL scope and sequence as well as an additional TL. There is only so many times you can ask and be told no before you just stop asking.

It’s easier to focus on one thing and do it well rather than trying to be all things to all people. The collection management facet of TLship is extremely successful at this school because that is what is focused on.

 

 

 

Study visit: Regional combined public/high school library August 1, 2014

This really is quite an odd library. Even after being a patron for almost 10 years (very sporadically as I am only there a few times a year while visiting family members), I can’t say I find it a particularly dynamic or interesting library.

The staff are LOVELY, knowledgeable and passionate about their work, but the space is just drab and pretty darn uninviting. As a high school library, I am not sure how it even functions. It is tiny and not conducive to collaboration or even much leisure reading. It screams function only rather than any kind of form or, gasp, reflection.

I appreciated that the library focuses on providing services for the less mainstream patrons, with services to cater for adult literacy learners, the elderly and the print handicapped.

The staff were not willing to be drawn on aspects of their selection policy which was rather frustrating – I mean, why the secrecy? All they would say was that it was “a complex issue.”

It is surely with great relief that the library is seeking an alternative LMS to replace their current use of DYNIX. The frustration experienced by patrons using the library floor DOS catalogue is off-putting in the extreme. Even the more modern interface, accessible for both on and off-site use, is clunky.

The community benefit greatly from free access to special events focusing on children’s literature and local history.

There is a large scale renovation and even relocation on the cards sometime in the next 5 years and I can honestly say it cannot come soon enough.

Most of the furniture and shelving is old and much of the building is poorly lit and difficult to navigate, especially for mobility impaired users. It does not have a “school hub” feeling about it at all – there are only a handful of displays relating to information literacy or reading advocacy/development, none of which seem have any student input. There is a small collaborative space but it is doubtful that a group any larger than six high school students could fit in it at once.

Whilst the children’s story time and various local history events are well attended, the library still doesn’t seem like a vibrant, interesting place to spend time. It’s almost as if it’s well used by accident. It’s very difficult to define my feelings about this library because I would use it no matter what – it’s a library, it gives me free access to the things I love more than anything else in the world (family excepted) so I’d go there regardless.

Hmmm, seems terrible to give it such a shelacking and then not have any concrete ideas on how to fix it…

 

Study visit: Regional private secondary school July 27, 2014

Ohhhh, big kids, scary!

I have always found secondary kids really quite intimidating. It’s why I teach elementary kids! However, after spending a couple of hours in this lovely library in regional Victoria, PERHAPS I could see myself branching out towards older students.

The introduction of a small Japanese language collection is beneficial for the students participating in the programs run between the Grammar and it’s sister school in Japan.

The library’s strategic plan, approved by the school’s Executive, has made it possible for the staff to have a strong sense of autonomy over all areas of the collection.

One of the biggest things that struck me when spending time with the staff at the library was their willingness to learn and give of themselves to the students. As an example, ongoing professional development and the willingness for self-initiated learning for, and by, the staff, has meant that the recent introduction of the LMS Infiniti has been relatively painless.

Additionally, the senior librarian’s hard work at creating an incredible library intranet, in line with the library’s five year, Executive approved, strategic plan, should help achieve the vision of a dynamic online learning environment commensurate with the realities of the digital world.

Occasionally the library receives a grant from the parent body for special, extra curricular events and services such as artists in residence which helps make the library programme more diverse and interesting.

Observation and circulation data reveal that displays of student work and new or highlighted literature are highly successful in promoting reader development and advocacy.

The banks of computers are conveniently positioned near to the non-fiction section as well as the collaborative work spaces.

Part of the NF section.

Part of the NF section.

Information literacy signage

Information literacy signage

Fiction section - love the outward facing titles at the end of each row.

Fiction section – love the outward facing titles at the end of each row.

Word cloud decal helps remind students of the library's purpose.

Word cloud decal helps remind students of the library’s purpose.

A beautiful entryway to the library.

A beautiful entryway to the library.

This lovely display cabinet is one of the many ways the library helps celebrate the culture of their Japanese sister school.

This lovely display cabinet is one of the many ways the library helps celebrate the culture of their Japanese sister school.

This student made invention was a place winner in a state-wide competition, now proudly on display in the middle of the library. Some signage would be helpful.

This student made invention was a place winner in a state-wide competition, now proudly on display in the middle of the library. Some signage would be helpful.

Students can relax here with a variety of magazines and journals.

Students can relax here with a variety of magazines and journals.

The main circulation desk.

The main circulation desk.

The main computer bank.

The main computer bank.

More magazines for student and teacher borrowing.

More magazines for student and teacher borrowing.

Students in the local, regional and state news!

Students in the local, regional and state news!

Displays of current state reading challenges are on dotted around the library. This gorgeous one is in the main entranceway.

Displays of current state reading challenges are on dotted around the library. This gorgeous one is in the main entranceway.

 

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.

 

 

 

The other FaceTime: being visible as a TL September 18, 2013

ETL 501 topic 7 – Information services to staff and students

Teachers in a school have a range of information needs which can be met by the teacher librarian. These needs include:

  • information on curriculum planning;
  • information on a specific subject area (to keep up to date);
  • information on current developments in teaching;
  • information on the use of ICT in the curriculum;
  • information on information literacy;
  • information on relevant print and electronic resources for learning and teaching in their subject area; and
  • information on what the teacher librarian can do for them.

Three key factors a TL needs to take into account before offering information services in a primary school:

  1. What information does the teacher/grade level already have at their disposal for their teaching and professional/personal learning?
  • check their planners
  • check existing resource lists
  • find out how the Tech Integrator’s role is/should be different from the role of the TL
  • find out from grade level leaders and PYP coordinator/principal about Personal Learning Network (PLN) groups and current readings/tasks/projects

2. What are the expected communication norms or Essential Agreements for teacher collaboration?

  • are specialists included in planning meetings?
  • is email the best way to communicate or individual face to face meetings better?
  • how much information/email is too much?

3. What level of classroom teaching involvement does the Educational Admin team expect of the TL and how can that level be scaled up/down?

 

 

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

http://cooltoolsforschools.wikispaces.com/Organiser+Tools

    • 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 http://www.wordle.net/
    • 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 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

http://www.cyberbee.com/content.pdf – provides very comprehensive criteria to evaluate websites. Not kid friendly but good for TL/teacher use in planning stages.

http://kathyschrock.net/eval/pubs/weval_02.pdf – 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

 

 
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