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


Surely we don’t need books anymore! March 8, 2011

Consider if the print format is of diminishing significance and value in school libraries?

In all honesty, I cannot answer this question succintly or with much sense at all as my thoughts just go around and around. After having a vigourous discussion with my husband (Grade 5 teacher of 21 digital natives) about this topic, I still am no clearer. My opinion (“Of course print is not diminishing in significance and value!! Who doesn’t love and need to sit down with a good book/poster/kit/piece of realia?) is emotional and based on my personal history of loving and sharing print with family, friends, peers, colleagues and students. To see, or even contemplate, the decline of print feels like the end of my world as I know it, even as I sit on the bus each day reading the latest novel on my Kindle.

Do we need to focus more on adding digital resources to the collection, and on digital collections, to meet the needs of users?

All learners need multiple access points to information. Whether this means finding information via a picture book, looking though a hard copy encyclopedia, watching a DVD, hearing an audio book, browsing BrainPOP! or reflecting and sharing via a blog – it doesn’t matter – we need a balance of all types of resources in a collection if we are to meet the needs of all users.


Needs analysis: school library collection March 5, 2011

Do you feel the areas of need stated are the appropriate ones school library collections should be developed to meet?

Absolutely. A library and it’s collection are only going to be valued and utilised to their greatest extent when they completely cater for the needs and desires of the community as a whole. Who wants to spend time in a place where nothing holds your interest?

I think the most pressing of these needs is that of mother tongue resources. As an international school, we educate children from all over the globe with many different mother tongues. As educators we know that children always think, analyse and synthesise mostly deeply in their mother tongue so it makes perfect sense to give those students resources that enables that learning. They can then move from internalising their knowledge to sharing and furthering it with others through the medium of English.

How thorough a knowledge do you have of the teaching and learning context and the teacher – learning characteristics present within your school or a school you are familiar with?

As a LT with a teaching background, I have the skills necessary to read and understand planners crafted by our teaching staff. I then transfer this knowledge by creating resources lists to match each planner which include differentiated resources. At all times in my job, I have access to, and knowledge of, our wider curriculum and the framework in which it sits. This allows me to both preempt and further the ways the library can help classroom and specialist teachers help each child develop to their highest potential.

How might data on these areas be effectively gathered?

I think the idea of student, teacher and parent surveys are a great idea. Our school is particularly collaborative and open to new ideas so I believe any requests we have for others to help us create a better and more tailored library would be welcomed.

Our TL already sits in with some planning meetings and is a great networker within the staff. He is very well liked and respected and has an open door policy that makes staff (and students and parents!) feel comfortable offering ideas and suggestions. However, as in most schools, we are all time-poor and making our needs survey a concrete task, perhaps undertaken at a staff meeting, would mean we are more likely to get the information we require in a timely manner.

Points to consider for my school

Even though we have a great (yet developing) teacher reference section, I don’t believe we have branched out to include specific personal teacher education (Masters etc) materials. The school gives individual grade levels professional development money and the autonomy to spend it on what works best for them. To the best of my knowledge, buying materials for personal higher education has never been high on the agenda. Can we perhaps step in and fill that void for teachers?

Our online database subscription library is growing rapidly but I don’t believe it is well utilised by the teachers or students, unless a particular area of a database is highly and personally recommended by myself or the TL. A future challenge for our library is to remedy that. Adding foreign language databases could also be another direction we could try, in order to ‘hit’ those kids whose first language is not English. Strong parental support would be vital here, as to assess the quality and quantity of these databases.

Living in a foreign country with strong censorship and importation tax laws, our school community suffers from a lack of English language text availability – we are a major source of resources for the whole community. (Add all the other languages in our community and the problem is compounded 100%). We have a growing parenting library for our community which is well utilised. Our lending allowances are also quite generous, allowing families to borrow up to 10 books at any given time. We have over 1000 books in language others than English (not including our host language section) which is a great support to many of our families. This is another area in which we can develop, especially


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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