My pathfinder was created to assist and guide students and teachers to locate quality resources for Year 9 History focusing on the area of World War 1 (ACARA, 2015b). The curriculum topic examines key historical events in the War, the Australian experience and the impact of war, particularly in Australia, and the significance of the ANZAC legend.
Learning outcomes for the pathfinder are based on the Literacy and ICT General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2015a). The descriptions in the pathfinder were synthesised from a range of Organising Elements; the following is a modified summary:
Students will interpret information that is spoken, written and visual and use strategies to access, understand and organise a range of sources of information.
This was based on Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing.
Students will learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access information and ideas.
This was based on:
Applying social and ethical protocols and practices when using ICT –
- recognise intellectual property
- apply digital information security practices
- apply personal security protocols
Investigating with ICT
- define and plan information searches
- locate, generate and access data and information
- select and evaluate data and information.
CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF SEARCH STRATEGY, TOOLS AND SOURCES
I started my initial search for resources in my school library using the catalogue, keyword searches and simply by browsing the shelves and checking the teacher reference print resources. As these resources have already been selected using library criteria I focused on the needs of the unit set by the teacher and the students in class. My aim was to select firstly relevant texts for the assignments and cater to a range of reading levels.
I selected an encyclopedia on our shelves as a go-to general reference. The main purpose of this choice was to reinforce a culture shift towards seeking reliable sources to gain initial knowledge about topics, and avoiding Wikipedia, to experiment with keywords, and to reinforce the use of print materials in our reference section of the library. Also included are some online general reference sites to ensure that students have access to reference material at home and while working outside of the library on campus.
I found it very difficult to choose a search engine that produced results suitable for reading level and complexity. I rehearsed with a range of keywords how the students would search using Bing, Duck Duck Go and a range of other engines. The results were mixed and I did experience a feeling of frustration, overwhelmed by too much information, a very good reminder how my students must feel without assistance.
My search strategy for online resources was enhanced by my new knowledge of different search engines and advanced search options. After collecting a range of possibilities I applied the selection criteria I created in Assignment 1 to evaluate the sites against educational, informational and technical criteria. As prescribed by Herring (2011) I made sure to focus especially on choosing sites that firstly matched the learning intentions of the teacher and the needs of the target group. Once a site was selected I evaluated it for reading level using the online Readability Test Tool (Simpson, 2014). Effort was made also to ensure that the site fulfilled the requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAC) version 2.0. This was very difficult, time consuming and often not possible.
INFORMATION LITERACY SKILLS
The findings of Valenza (2004) and Combes (2009) that although young people do appear confident of their Internet skills, in reality they do not posses good search strategies and lack critical web evaluation skills are apparent daily in our library. They rely on Google and often do just pick the first result without thought, and without regard to copyright in most cases. In using this pathfinder time will be saved searching for resources and poor information literacy habits and impulsiveness as described by Kuiper, Volman & Terwell (2008) will decrease. With the inclusion of model referencing, students will be mindful of citing all sources of information, and the legal and ethical ramifications of plagiarism and copyright will be highlighted.
MY LEARNING AND THE ROLE OF THE TL
Creation of the pathfinder did make me reflect and refine my search strategies and make clear the importance of the website evaluation criteria to ensure the selection of quality resources that are relevant to the curriculum, reading level and needs of teachers and students. My understanding of the importance of scaffolding the information search process while affording some independence to learners (Valenza, 2007) has also developed.
I did struggle with how much help is appropriate so that the pathfinder did not inadvertently inhibit self-discovery but was guided by Kuntz (2003) who states that a pathfinder should be specific enough to guide the student to the data, but the student must do the work.
Pathfinders provide authentic opportunities for the Teacher Librarian to collaborate with teachers, embed information literacy into the curriculum and support students in Guided Inquiry. They can be used as an advocacy tool for the library and library staff to reinforce relevance and importance of the library to facilitate 21st century skills. As Hansen (2012, p.109) states the first step to gaining support for the library is to provide relevant resources to support the curriculum.
Creating this pathfinder has been very worthwhile and I am now planning to create more. Overall this subject has been very useful and relevant. Importantly is has highlighted to me skills I want to improve, such as: learning the best way to directly teach students website evaluation skills, how to integrate more ICT into the curriculum through more dynamic pathfinders and how to help students with developing search strategies.
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2015a). General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Pdf/Overview
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2015b). History – Year 9. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/humanities-and-social-sciences/history/curriculum/f-10?y=9&s=HKU&s=HS&layout=1
Combes, B. (2009). Generation Y: Are they really digital natives or more like digital refugees. Synergy, 7(1), 31–40.
Hansen, M. A. (2012). Reference knowledge and skills for the school library media specialist: An emphasis on advocacy. The Reference Librarian, 53(1), 104–112. doi: 10.1080/02763877.2011.596076
Herring, J. (2011a). Evaluating Websites. In Improving students’ web use and information literacy a guide for teachers and teacher librarians (pp. 35–45). London: Facet.
Herring, J. (2011b). Web site evaluation: A key role for the school librarian. School Library Monthly, 27(8), 22–23.
Kuiper, E., Volman, M., & Terwel, J. (2008). Students’ use of web literacy skills and strategies: searching, reading and evaluating Web information. Information Research, 13(3). Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/13-3/paper351.html
Kuntz. (2003). Pathfinders: Helping students find paths to information. Multimedia Schools, 10(3). Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools/may03/kuntz.shtml
Simpson, D. (2014). The Readability Test Tool. Retrieved from http://read-able.com
Valenza, J. (2004). Substantive searching: thinking and behaving info-fluently. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(3), 38–43.
Valenza, J. (2007). Ten reasons why your next pathfinder should be a wiki. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2007/06/20/ten-reasons-why-your-next-pathfinder-should-be-a-wiki/