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

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 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?

 

Resources

‘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 http://www.scootle.edu.au/ec/p/home is an example of an Australian educational digital library for schools.

http://www.esa.edu.au/projects/national-digital-learning-resources-network

 

 
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