Posted by: eheino | October 14, 2013

ETL501 Critical Reflection

Creating a pathfinder for the Stage 3 NSW HSIE topic ‘Rainforests’ was an enjoyable learning experience for me. Pathfinders are an excellent way of teaching students information literacy skills in a meaningful way, embedded into other areas of the curriculum. This reflection will discuss my learning journey as I created the pathfinder, my search strategies, and how the skills I learnt will inform my future role as a teacher-librarian.

My Pathfinder

  • Is designed for Stage 3 students because I am primary-trained, but have less experience teaching this age group. These students are just beginning to develop abstract & critical thinking skills (Flavell, 1963), so a pathfinder is an especially important research resource for them.
  • Is based on Rainforests (NSW Board of Studies, 1998) because it is a topic with a vast number of online resources. Students may have trouble ascertaining which sources are most appropriate for their purpose; my pathfinder will make this task much easier.
  • Will help students achieve the Literacy, ICT and Critical and Creative Thinking General Capabilities (ACARA, 2013). I chose these capabilities because they link most closely with the information literacy skills advocated by authors like Kulthau (2013) & Herring (1996). It is vital that today’s students are able to both find and process information effectively. The above General Capabilities address this.

My Search Strategy

  • My initial search strategy was to Google key words. However, I found this inefficient as I had to trawl through sites that had little relevance to my purpose. This reinforced my view that Google is not necessarily the best search engine for all purposes (Boswell, 2010a).
  • I then employed new search strategies I learnt during this subject, such as combining keywords with ‘AND’ or speech marks (Boswell, 2010b). I also added ‘kids’ to my searches in order to find sites that were appropriate for my students. These results were more appropriate.
  • When I utilised Kidrex, a specialised search engine that emphasises kid-related websites from across the internet (Kidrex.org, 2013), I discovered the top results were both appropriate and useful for my students. For this reason, I included this search engine in my pathfinder for my students’ use.
  • I used the University of Wollongong library’s online catalogue to find print resources. This tool was easy to use and I was able to find appropriate resources quickly, both online and in their library.

Information literacy skills

A primary purpose of pathfinders is to enhance student information literacy skills (Kuntz, 2003; Thibault, n.d.). My pathfinder does this in the following ways:

  • A pathfinder is a launching pad for student research. It points students in the right direction by providing them with suitable places to start their research (Kuntz, 2003). My pathfinder provides links to resources that are relevant for both my gifted students and my lowest readers. It also supports different learning styles, providing resources for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners. All my students are thus catered for.
  • The annotations for my resources provide students with prompts to use their information literacy skills. They provide a brief description of the content of each resource to assist students in scanning for information (Kuntz, 2003). I also remind students to use the key words to assist them in this scanning process, and to keep referring to their project sheet to stay on task (Thibault, n.d.). Since my students are still developing these skills, prompts on the pathfinder are particularly necessary.
  • My search engine page provides a link to an appropriate search engine for my students, along with some hints for effective use. Research shows that students do not inherently know how to search effectively (Herring, 2011), and these hints will assist them in becoming effective searchers, an essential information literacy skill.

What I learnt and how it can assist me as a teacher librarian

As a student teacher-librarian, creating the pathfinder enabled me to become practically involved and boosted my confidence in my ability to perform the role.

I learnt through practical experience:

  • Suitable resources for primary students are not easy to find on the internet.
  • Google is not necessarily the best search engine for every job (Boswell, 2010b).
  • How to create a pathfinder that is easy to use and isn’t cluttered with unnecessary information.
  • To have a greater understanding of the needs of colour blind and visually impaired students (Combes, 2013).
  • How to use Weebly.
  • To have a greater understanding of the General Capabilities and how they are relevant to my role as a teacher-librarian.

When I step into a teacher-librarian role, this assignment has given me the confidence to:

  • Lead change in my school as the emphasis shifts to inquiry learning (Wallace & Norwood Husid, 2011). I can demonstrate my new understanding of how to guide students through the inquiry process by showing the staff how the pathfinder puts students in the driver’s seat of their own learning (Kultz, 2003).
  • Design pathfinders for students that assist them to learn content, help them achieve the General Capabilities and build their information literacy skills (Kultz, 2003; Hemming, 2004).
  • Build upon the knowledge I gained creating the pathfinder to design complete pieces of curriculum in collaboration with classroom teachers, in which pathfinders can be embedded.
  • Find appropriate resources for all areas of the curriculum using my refined web searching skills.
  • Become the information specialist in the school, the person who staff and students approach to ask for assistance in finding resources for any curriculum area.

Conclusion

I thoroughly enjoyed creating my pathfinder. It gave me the opportunity to put many aspects of my degree into practice, gave me a more thorough understanding of how I can assist students in developing information literacy skills, and what my role in the school will be.

Reference List

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2013). General capabilities in the Australian curriculum. In Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Pdf/Overview

Board of Studies NSW. (1998). Human society & its environment K-6: Units of Work. Sydney: Board of Studies NSW.

Boswell, W. (2010a). Seven habits of highly effective web searchers. In About.com. Retrieved from: http://websearch.about.com/od/searchingtheweb/a/sevenhabits.htm

Boswell, W. (2010b). Ten web search tricks you need to know. In About.com. Retrieved from: http://websearch.about.com/od/enginesanddirectories/tp/toptentp.htm

Combes, B. (2013). ETL501 web design basics. Retrieved on 23rd September 2013 from: Charles Sturt University Interact Website.

Flavell, J. (1963). The developmental psychology of Jean Piaget. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand

Hemming, W. (2004). Online pathfinders: toward an experience-centered model. Reference Services review, 33(1), 66-87

Herring, J. (1996). Teaching information skills in schools. London: Library Association Publishing.

Herring, J. (2011). Improving students web use and information literacy: A guide for teachers and teacher librarians. London: Facet Publishing.

Kidrex.org. (2013). What is Kidrex and how does it work? In Kidrex.org Retrieved from: http://www.kidrex.org/parents/about.html

Kuhlthau, C. (2013). Information search process. In Rutgers. Retrieved from: http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm

Kuntz, K. (2003). Pathfinders: Helping Students Find Paths to Information.  In Information today, inc.   Retrieved from: http://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools/may03/kuntz.shtml

Thibault, M. (n. d). The student pathfinder.  In Learn NC.  Retrieved from: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/968

Wallace, V. & Norward Husid, W. (2011). Collaborating for inquiry-based learning. California: Libraries Unlimited.

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