Moving Learning Forward: Improving References Services and Resources

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Libraries today are intended to be dynamic, innovative, and collaborative learning spaces.  Library programs are aimed at meeting the needs of 21st century learners, especially in the development of information skills.  In their Leading Learning (2014) document, the Canadian Library Association envisions the library learning commons as this:

“The library learning commons is the physical and virtual collaborative learning hub of the school.  It is designed to engineer and drive future-oriented learning and teaching throughout the entire school.  Inquiry, project/problem-based learning experiences are designed as catalysts for intellectual engagement with information, ideas, thinking, and dialogue.  Reading thrives, learning literacies and technology competencies evolve, and critical thinking, creativity, innovation and playing to learn are nourished” (p.5).

The vision outlined above is a holistic, exciting, and forward-thinking one.  A key focus of this vision is the ways in which technology infuses library programming; supporting students to integrate its use into their learning, thereby ensuring that they develop the information literacy skills so crucial to navigating their 21st century world.  The CLA asserts that “a myriad of new technologies, the explosion of digital information, and the potential of collaborative working spaces and networks are driving pedagogical changes to school curricula” (Leading Learning, p.7).  Teacher-librarians are perfectly positioned and expertly qualified to provide students with the “…instruction and guidance to become sophisticated users of information and ideas in our complex world” (Leading Learning, p.7).

Furthermore, Ann Riedling (2012) states that “in the technological, global society of today, information literacy, defined as the effective use of information sources in all formats, cannot be overlooked” (p.7).  This statement, along with the CLA’s (2014) that “…honing of information management and literacy skills are key goals of the learning commons” and that “…opportunities to utilize a variety of resources…” (p.15) really resonated with me.  To effectively meet the needs of learners today, students need to access technology to develop their digital and information literacy skills, and they must be provided with a variety of materials in order to maximize their learning.  Print materials are no longer enough to meet the expanded literacies that are the result of our digital world.  Riedling (2012) acknowledges that “it is now an anomaly to use only printed resources in the realm of reference work” (p.14).

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At the time of this assignment, I had begun a teacher-librarian position in addition to my regular part-time classroom job.  This has allowed me to gain insight into the established library program and the current status of the reference services and materials that are offered and provided at my school, and to see how I can move learning forward.  With the understanding that students of all ages need opportunities to engage in participatory learning, require a variety of formats to meet their information needs, and need to access technology to support the development of their information literacy skills, I want to improve reference services to incorporate the use of technology in the form of online databases, with a focus on primary students in particular.  The Leading Learning document provides outstanding guidance for improving reference services to reflect the learning needs of students in the 21st century.

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In my experience as a classroom teacher at the school, technology is predominantly used in the intermediate grades, and sees limited or no integration into the learning activities of primary-aged students.  This is reflective of the present conditions of the reference services at my school.  There are eight primary classes at our school, and about 40% of these teachers take their classes to our computer lab for activities and lessons that are separate from the library program.  One grade 2/3 class has worked with the previous teacher-librarian on a research project this year. Additionally, I recently surveyed teachers to inquire about their knowledge and use of our library’s on-line databases.  The same grade 2/3 teacher says she is aware of World Book databases and has used them in the past, but not this year.  A grade 1/2 teacher is aware of online databases from having been on a district technology committee.  Five of the seven primary teachers report that they are unaware of the databases available through our school’s website.

In considering the use of encyclopedias with primary students, I looked through this section of our print reference collection.  The school library currently has six types of World Book Encyclopedia sets.  They are as follows:

Title Volumes Index Bibliographical

References

Publishing Date
The World Book Encyclopedia 22 Yes N/A 2002
The World Book Encyclopedia 22 Yes Yes 2006
The World Book Encyclopedia of People and Places 6 Yes Yes 2007
The World Book Student Discovery Encyclopedia 13 Yes N/A 2000
World Book Discovery Encyclopedia 13 Yes N/A 2009
The World Book Student Discovery Science Encyclopedia 13 Yes Yes 2006

According to Ann Riedling (2012), encyclopedias should be evaluated based on the following set of criteria: accuracy, authority, currency, format, indexing, objectivity, and scope (p.72).  Riedling indicates a general guideline for the replacement of print encyclopedias after 5 years (p.24).  The Canadian Association of School Libraries (2006) outlines that if “less than 50% of the collection” has “copyright dates within the last ten years”, those resources are considered to fall below their standards (p.33).  At my school, only 33% of the encyclopedias have copyright dates within the last 10 years.  Based on the publication dates listed above, currency of the print encyclopedia in the school library is significantly outdated, fall well below the standards of CASL and Riedling, and therefore raises concerns regarding their use; student learning is compromised when reference materials are so out of date.  Whereas with an online database version of World Book, currency is less of a concern as “electronic updates are provided more frequently” (Riedling, p.73).  In addition to concerns around currency, the format of the print encyclopedias at my school are also an issue.  More than half of the students enrolled at my school are in grades Kindergarten through grade three, and a large percentage of students struggle with achieving grade level reading skills.  These encyclopedias are very text-heavy, have a dated appearance, little visual appeal, and the format is not “user-friendly” as Riedling (2012, p.72) indicates it should be.  She also states that “the format of an encyclopedia should not interfere with the purpose” (p.73) and this is not the case currently.  The print encyclopedias in our collection have a format that far exceeds the reading and interest levels of the primary students in our school.  As a result, their ability to adequately and effectively extract information from the existing print encyclopedias is nearly impossible.  It should also be noted that the cost to replace print encyclopedias can quickly drain a school budget, making the online databases that we already have access to, a preferable and practical choice.

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The Canadian Association of School Libraries (2006) outlines standards for “information and communications technologies” (p.49).  These guidelines are important to consider in terms of students’ ability to access technology in order to use our online databases.  In regards to a computer lab, our school falls within the exemplary category as we are fortunate enough to have a “full computer lab adjacent to and easily accessible from the school library” (p.49); our library shares a door with the lab.  With this configuration, facilitating students’ use of databases in connection to library use and programs is an incredible opportunity and should be capitalized upon.

Through the school’s website, library web resources can be accessed, including seven World Book on-line databases.  In addition to the World Book resources pictured below, we have access to World eBook.

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These databases cover a broad range of ages, including primary, and thus have interest and reading levels suitable to younger students.  Therefore, the scope of the World Book databases is “…appropriate for the age group [they] claim to serve” (p.72).  Digital formats should also “…be functional, clear, and suitable for the audience” and have “keyword and advanced search features” (Riedling, p.72), which the World Book databases encompass.  Additionally, they are user friendly and have immense visual appeal for young learners as the illustrations are engaging and there are plenty of actual photographs.  Thus, they are “…appropriate for the intended audience” (p.72).  And regardless of print or digital formats, one can always be assured of the authority of World Book for “since 1917, [it] has provided accuracy, objectivity, and reliability in research materials for both children and adults” (p.74).  And as the World Book databases are offered through my school district’s database, they have been vetted by ERAC, further ensuring reliability.

As previously mentioned, collaboration is a key part of planning for the improvement of reference services through the integration of technology and the use of online encyclopedia databases.  My survey provides insight that allows me to get a general sense of where primary teachers are at in terms of the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) for change; almost all teachers are presently at the Non-use level and are somewhere in the lower three stages of concern: Awareness, Informational, or Personal, (Huang, n.d.).

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In order to implement the use of World Book databases to support students in the primary grades through collaboratively planned instruction, I have developed the following action plan:

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In moving learning and instruction forward, I will need to ensure that I continually check in and meet with staff members to ensure that our plan is on track.  It is my hope that through collaboration and co-teaching, my colleagues’ concerns will be addressed and that they will move to a higher level of use in the context of the CBAM approach, and that I can achieve the standards as outlined in Leading Learning.  Through focused collaboration that allows staff to initially explore the databases and identify the potential implications for instruction, primary teachers will have the opportunity to plan alongside me for the effective implementation of databases with their students.  In using databases with even the youngest of learners, we will put the wheels in motion for the early use of digital reference sources in an effort to provide exposure to such resources and to establish a foundation for future learning.

As a teacher-librarian, supporting inquiry-based learning and the integration of technology with a focus on increasing database usage into the learning of even the youngest students is an important personal goal in the area of reference services.  In order to achieve this, collaboration with my colleagues is a vital component, and I look forward to cultivating opportunities to work with teachers to support their curricular foci and develop their students’ information literacy skills.

 

References:

British Columbia Teacher-Librarians’ Association. (2011). The Points of Inquiry: A Framework for Information Literacy and the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved from http://bctf.ca/bctla/pub/documents/Points%20of%20Inquiry/PointsofInquiry.pdf.

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). World Book Science Power. Retrieved from https://learn.sd41.bc.ca/index.php/staff-resources/elementary-web-resources.

Canadian Library Association. (2014). Leading Learning. Retrieved from http://apsds.org/wp-content/uploads/Standards-of-Practice-for-SchoolLibrary-Learning-Commons-in-Canada-2014.pdf.

Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium. (2008). Evaluating, selecting and acquiring learning resources: a guide. British Columbia, Canada: Retrieved from https://www.bcerac.ca/index.aspx.

Huang, P. (n.d.) “Levels of use”. Concerns-Based Adoption Model. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/ch7cbam/home/levels-of-use.

Huang, P. (n.d.) “Stages of concern”. Concerns-Based Adoption Model. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/ch7cbam/home/stages-of-concern.

Kulyk, T. (26 July, 2012). The future of school libraries. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKj6NT0KGOo.

Riedling, A.M., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips. Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

World Book Inc. (25 September, 2013). WorldBook 640. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbIgwSN7Zq4.

World Book Inc. (2017). World Book Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldbook.com/.

 

Reference Materials: The Tools in My Information Services Toolbox

In Themes One and Two, we have explored areas of reference services, including research models, the types of services teacher-librarians offer, reference interviews, collaborating with colleagues, the selection and evaluation of sources, and reference collection development and management.  With an overarching understanding of what references services are and what they entail, as well as learning about the extensive and crucial role that teacher-librarians play in information skills development, Theme Three has culminated in an exploration of specific types of reference resources, in both print and digital formats, that can be used to support students.

As in previous lessons, the selection and evaluation of reference resources is a vital and ongoing focus of our work.  In order to ensure that one is choosing information sources that are best suited to the learners we work with, and support and strengthen the practices of our colleagues, one must thoughtfully select the most reliable sources available.  Factors such as space, budgets, and cost often impact our ability to do so, however when these factors do not impede our choices, one must have criteria from which to draw upon to guide and inform the selection of new resources for our libraries.  Likewise, these guidelines are essential in evaluating those reference resources that we currently house in our collections that we may be looking to supplement, weed, or replace.  Fortunately, Ann Riedling (2013), in her book Reference Skills for the School Librarian: Tools and Tips, offers teacher-librarians the following main criteria to guide the process of evaluating and selecting a reference resource:

  • Scope: Breadth and depth of what the resource covers; comprehensiveness; reflects the intention of the source and audience; contemporary (pp.22, 52, 72)
  • Accuracy: Precision, note omissions or biases (p.52)
  • Currency: Up to date, current; “posting and revision dates”; general, average guideline for replacement of many reference materials is 5 years (pp. 23, 24)
  • Format: Functionality of resource; user-friendly; information easily located; workable, easy to navigate interface for digital resources; clear; readability; types of search functions; illustrations clear, current and suit the audience (pp.40, 62, 72)
  • Authority: Reliable resource; reputable, prominent publisher (p.72)
  • Cost: Library budget allotments, variable costs, learning needs, and “frequency and length of use” are considerations (p.23)

I find these guidelines to be extremely valuable, practical, and helpful for me moving forward in teacher-librarianship.  I feel more knowledgeable and confident that I have a solid base from which to draw upon when deciding on and and choosing those resources that will contribute to the development of a strong, well-rounded reference resource collection, and that will best meet the information and curricular needs of the students and staff I work with.

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In Lesson 8, my technology skills and understandings of the web were definitely challenged and broadened.  Through the teacher-librarian diploma program, a significant piece of my personal learning and growth has been expanding my skill set around the use of technology, such as web tools.  Learning about the invisible web and grey literature has not only deepened my awareness and understanding of these topics, but has brought to light how important it is to develop search skills that go beyond relying on Google.  A key part of information skills development is learning how to search effectively due to the vastness of the web and the fact that information is changing and being added at an unbelievably rapid rate.  In order to pinpoint and achieve more precise results when searching for information, one must learn more efficient and specific ways of doing so.  This module has seen the steepest learning curve for me yet, but with resources from La Guardia Community College and Asbury University, I feel better equipped going forward to continue to develop my skills and develop a deeper understanding of doing the same for students and staff.

To learn more about the deep/invisible web, as well as developing effective search skills, visit:
http://library.laguardia.edu/invisibleweb/tools

http://library.laguardia.edu/invisibleweb/teachingtools

http://asbury.libguides.com/c.php?g=65758&p=424014

 

 

The focus on indexes and databases in Lesson 9 bookends our conversation about the invisible web perfectly if my mind.  Considering the web is unfathomably deep and that we typically only access a small portion through our searches, it can be argued that databases provide more focused and reliable searches for our students.  Through database bundles in our schools, students have access to a variety of options to support inquiry projects and allow teacher-librarians to support their information skills development.  Furthermore, as the bundles are evaluated and vetted through ERAC, school staff can be assured that students have access to reputable sources.

The benefits of databases in the reference resource collection are reinforced by Mueller (2017) as he states, “arguably, electronic databases are priority resources in the eyes of users because they are:

  • Electronically accessed resources considered to be more reliable than Web pages
  • Convenient to search because they are in electronic format
  • Intuitive to search because of format and seamless linkages to other Web resources
  • May be accessible from home

As well, they save staff storage space and reinforce important search skills in an information environment [that] students will likely face at university or at work.”

This, then, makes databases a preferable resource for teacher-librarians, particularly in the elementary years, as they look to develop the types of digital skills that are critical for students today.  Databases can bridge the gap to using internet searches in the future by providing a strong foundation with which to develop information skills before making the jump to a broader and more complex resource.

This course has given me the opportunity to learn about the variety of databases available and to explore them more extensively, particularly those offered through my own school’s library catalog.  In doing so, it became quickly apparent that there are World Book databases that span all the elementary grades, and this is a fantastic discovery!  This is because it goes to show that even our earliest learners can and should have experiences learning to access and interacting with databases.  Some may be of the assumption that doing so is better suited to upper primary and Grades 4 to 7, but this is not the case.  As a future teacher-librarian, I can provide information for and support to colleagues to provide insight into ways in which they can incorporate databases into their practice, even at the K/1 level, and to realize that information skills and digital resources should be part of learning at every stage.

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There are often opportunities and a need for students to research information about a specific individual, and this is where biographies become a source for them to answer their queries.  Riedling outlines that fact that there are two sources for biographical information which was new to me: direct and indirect.  Direct biographical sources “…provide factual information about a person…” and indirect sources “…list bibliographic citations leading the student to other works that may contain the information sought.  Typically these sources are indexes to other sources” (p.51).  These sources “…can be further divided into two categories: current and retrospective” (p.51).  Like any other reference resources, Riedling uses the criteria previously mentioned to ascertain the value and suitability of any given biographical source to a library.  Further to this, she indicated that content, vendor, statistical, and technical criteria should be applied to the evaluation of electronic bibiliographies (p.53).

Lesson 10 has been enlightening in terms of increasing my knowledge of biography and bibliography sources, ways in which they should be evaluated, and their value and use in the reference collection and as part of reference services.  While the available digital sources are wide-ranging, I have highlighted the following as tools that I find to be personally relevant to my future in librarianship:

http://www.infoplease.com/people.html

http://www.biographi.ca/en/index.php

http://people.ucalgary.ca/~dkbrown/index.html

http://www.booksinprint.com/Login/Index?ReturnUrl=%2f

Another important focus for me in this lesson has been that of the school library catalog, especially because this has been a foundational part of another course I am taking concurrently, LIBE 465: Organization of Learning Resources.  The overlap between the two courses with regard to the school library catalog has solidified my learning in this area and I appreciate the opportunity to draw connections between courses and the diploma program as a whole.  As we recently discussed the relevance of the OPAC in today’s school libraries, I found the following to be very helpful: “OPACs have improved the library catalogue in many ways including:

  • The consistent use of the MARC format (Machine Readable Cataloguing) has provided standards for catalogue records and this has also allowed records to be shared among many OPACs.
  • Due to computerization, there is much greater speed when looking for records
  • There are multiple access points on an OPAC, including keyword, truncation, Boolean Logic, and finding material is much easier.” (Mueller, 2017).

 

This image from a past post bears repeating!

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I found Lesson 11 to bring us full circle in many ways with the exploration of free citizen-built encyclopedias, as we were asked early on in the course to share our perspectives on Wikipedia and its use in schools.  After reading the articles for this lesson, it was fascinating to learn that Wikipedia is monitored more closely than some might think.  As our discussion posts revealed, I have come to see that Wikipedia does have relevance in our schools and as a reference resource to some extent.  It has been my experience that many are often leery of allowing students to access Wikipedia at all, but it is apparent that it is often a beginning point for research for people to develop their prior knowledge on a general topic.  When we are tasked with developing information skills in our students, including critical literacy, we must ensure that we are not limiting their access to those materials that can assist in attaining the critical skills needed to ably and confidently surf the information tsunami.  Berinstein and Harris’ articles reveal to educators that there is indeed a place for certain reference sources like Wikipedia, as opposed to sheltering students from them.  Furthermore, as Harris (2007) so expertly points out, “…students are just going to use it anyway. My May 2006 column for SLJ “MySpace Can Be Our Space” (p. 30) explored the futility of attempting to ban a wildly popular Web site. Even if you filter Wikipedia and its typically prominent results on Google, students will just use it at home”.  Instead of avoiding its use and burying our heads in the proverbial sand, “it would be much more productive to teach colleagues, students, and parents how to best use Wikipedia”, (Harris, 2007), including the “three ‘rules’ regarding the wiki that also serve to enhance research overall:

1) At least three sources are required to verify research.

2) General encyclopedias like Wikipedia are a great place to get started, however …

3) Serious research projects cannot cite general knowledge encyclopedias”, (Harris, 2007).

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A focus on encyclopedias also gave me the opportunity to explore digital alternatives to what can be a costly acquisition for a library when in print.  At the school where I currently teach as a classroom teacher, our print encyclopedia collection is large, yet severely outdated.  I am of the mind that it would be extremely costly to purchase replacement materials and most likely could not be entertained by the teacher-librarian based on this.  As a result, it is very valuable to pursue digital options with students.  Our district provides access to a variety of World Book databases, as well as National Geographic Kids and KnowBC.  When budgets are tight, as they usually are, databases are a reputable and reliable source to turn to.  Additionally, there are some online options that can be accessed that also provide reliability including Historica Canada.  For additional encyclopedia works visit:  Surf Net Kids.

When considering print and digital sources for students and the reference collection in the library, how does one know how to choose?  Does one have to choose one or the other format?  There are a wide variety of factors that will come in to play, but my general sense after exploring a range of materials in Theme Three is that balance is key.  To develop well-rounded students with a range of skills that meet the information needs of the 21st century, it is incumbent upon us to provide them with a variety of materials and experiences.  Dictionaries are an example of how print and digital versions can serve a purpose in different contexts and both formats have relevance.  Regardless of format, an evaluation of the source must occur and Mueller (2017) notes that “with any print or web based source, examine or explore to determine the following:

  • Organization and format, indexing and navigation.
  • Currency of information.”

Almanacs are another reference source where the pros and cons of print and digital formats is weighed.  Mueller (2017) states that “there are advantages and disadvantages to using both the print and non-print versions of almanacs.

  • Print copies of almanacs contain a wealth of information.
  • Users searching for factual information may find not only what they have been searching for, but at the same time, may have their interest piqued in other topics.
  • Students may find topics of interest that they hadn’t thought about in the past.
  • By searching the almanac websites, students will locate the information that they are seeking, but unless they search for a variety of topics, the general information that is found in this rich source may not be accessed.”

When observing students in my own classroom, Riedling’s comments that “students enjoy facts and trivia; therefore almanacs are wonderful sources for browsing as well as information seeking”, (p.43) ring true.  Over the years at work, and even at home with my own children, kids cannot get enough of books like Guinness World Records and these types of books see high circulation numbers in our school library.  Not only can almanacs support information literacy, they can also be used to promote and encourage a love of reading for enjoyment.  This dual purpose feature is a real coup for the teacher-librarian!

For your trivia and info seekers out there, try these sites!

World Almanac for Kids

Guinness World Records

Farmer’s Almanac

World Almanac

Info Please

Fact Monster

 

In some instances, however, digital resources are a preferable option when currency is of the utmost importance, as is the case when students are seeking information related to atlases and gazeteers.  With our world’s geographical boundaries and place names often being subject to change, the ability to access the most up-to-date information possible ensures students are identifying the most accurate information they can find.

Information about flags of countries

CIA Factbook

National Geographic maps

Google maps

before the web library pic

Over the course of Theme Three and LIBE 467 as a whole, Riedling’s work reinforced for me that “sources included in a school library collection should be based on the students and community served, the types of questions asked, and the number of questions posed in a particular subject area (curriculum needs)”, (p.41).  There are a wide range of materials available to the teacher-librarian, and identifying the needs of one’s community must be at the fore of any decision made: “In practice, as a school library media specialist, these reference sources should be selected primarily because they meet the student’s informational needs—but also because they portray the uniqueness of the school, student population, and community served”, (p.45).  This is sage and essential advice to developing a strong reference collection that truly has relevance to the school, and will have purposeful application in the work carried out by students and staff.

 

References:

Asbury University. (2016, Aug. 16). Finding Information on the Web: Invisible Web. Retrieved from http://asbury.libguides.com/c.php?g=65758&p=424014.

Berinstein, P. (2006). Wikipedia and Britannica: The Kid’s All Right (And So’s the Old Man). Searcher 14(3), 16-26. Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/mar06/berinstein.shtml.

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). KnowBC. Retrieved from https://learn.sd41.bc.ca/index.php/staff-resources/elementary-web-resources.

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). National Geographic Kids. Retrieved from https://learn.sd41.bc.ca/index.php/staff-resources/elementary-web-resources.

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). World Book. Retrieved from https://learn.sd41.bc.ca/index.php/staff-resources/elementary-web-resources.

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2017). Britannica Digital Studios on YouTube! Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reFn373dshI.

Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium. (2008). Evaluating, selecting and acquiring learning resources: a guide. British Columbia, Canada: Retrieved from http://www.bcerac.ca/resources/whitepapers/docs/erac_wb.pdf

Harris, C. (2007). Can we make peace with Wikipedia? School Library Journal, 53(6), 26. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2007/06/technology/can-we-make-peace-with-wikipedia/#.

La Guardia Community College: Library Media Resources Center. (2015). Beyond Google: The invisible web. Retrieved from http://library.laguardia.edu/invisibleweb/tools.

Montgomery, M. (2015, Apr 30). Grey Lit & the Invisible Web- LLIB-1115. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56Uk02hI5Pw.

Mueller, A. (2017). LIBE 467: Information services I. [course notes]. University of British Columbia: Vancouver, B.C.

Riedling, A.M., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips. Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2016). Historica Canada. Retrieved from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/.

Images:

Rielding book: Retrieved from https://www.amazon.ca/Reference-Skills-School-Librarian-Tools/dp/1586835289

There WAS life before the web: Retrieved from https://pt.slideshare.net/NalakaG/surviving-info-tsunami-what-can-librarians-do-11-march-2013

Information tsunami: Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=Teaching&pin=201606520792687786&lp=plp

Because not everything on the internet is true: Retrieved from https://me.me/i/library-because-not-everything-on-the-internet-is-true-bisti-3349868

World Book Early Learning database: Retrieved from https://learn.sd41.bc.ca/index.php/staff-resources/elementary-web-resources.

Collaboration To Support the Effective Use of Reference Resources

secret-of-change

Change is often very difficult, but a necessary part of life and growth.  In education, we are continually faced with reflecting on our teaching philosophy, re-envisioning our practice, and revising our goals.  In our profession today, change is constant and inevitable.  Technology rapidly changes and we must keep up.  As teacher-librarians, we strive to find ways to support and mentor our colleagues to anticipate and adapt to change, and to equip our students with the skills they need to navigate their learning in an effort to be independent, lifelong learners.  These are no small tasks for anyone, but collaboration is a key component of how everyone in the learning community can work together to promote, create, and embrace a growth mindset.

growthfixed

Brain Pickings – Growth Mindset

This is where collaboration and the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) come together to effectively and supportively work with and guide our colleagues through implementing an innovation into their practice.  With a focus on reference services and resources, we can use the CBAM model to determine what colleagues are thinking and feeling about the implementation of something new and making changes to their current practice.  In assessing concerns related to change in the context of professional development, the stages of the model “…point out the importance of attending to where people are and addressing the questions they are asking when they are asking them” (National Academy of Science, 2005).  Indeed “the strength of the concerns model is in its reminder to pay attention to individuals and their various needs for information, assistance, and moral support” (National Academy of Science, 2005).  Recognizing the feelings, needs, and perspectives of others is inherent to collaboration.

As teacher-librarians, a collaborative approach to learning leads to positive outcomes for students, staff, and the learning community as a whole as noted by Ken Haycock:

“Collaboration between teacher and teacher-librarian not only has a

positive effect on student achievement, but also leads to growth of

relationships, growth of the environment, and growth of persons, all

conducive to improved experiences for all members of the school

community” (p.32).

Foundational to collaboration between teachers and teacher-librarians is the need for a “…trusting, working relationship…” in which “through a shared vision and shared objectives, student learning opportunities are created that integrate subject content and information literacy”two-heads-are-better-than-one (Haycock, p.26).  Certainly I believe that a new curriculum in British Columbia and the changing needs of the 21st century learner mean that collaboration is even more necessary and essential for the growth of all involved.  The expression, “two heads are better than one” has never been more fitting.  There is so much to be gained from fostering close partnerships with staff in an effort to maximize learning and resources as we focus on the learning needs of our students.  With the redesigned curriculum, inquiry-based learning comes to the fore and Haycock notes that collaboration can result in “…improved confidence in inquiry and the use of learning resources” (p.28).  Teacher-librarians, through collaborative efforts, can support their colleagues to explore different approaches to learning and resource use.

The idea of mentorship is a significant piece of the process, and of teacher-librarianship as a whole.  As collaborators with our colleagues, one of our roles is to model and demonstrate the effective use of resources, as well as new approaches to learning, as outlined in the Leading Learning document.  Collaboration is an essential underlying theme in Leading Learning to support learners in the 21st century and to achieve standards of practice.

LLcover-791x1024.jpg

For the purpose of this project, I am fortunate to work with a colleague with whom I already have a close working relationship.  Katherine (name changed) is a primary teacher with 16 years of experience in the classroom.  She has predominantly taught at the early primary level in Kindergarten and Grades One and Two, but has a few years’ experience teaching Grade 2/3.  We have been at the same school for eight years and often have had the same grade level classes in the past.  This year we are both teaching Grade 3/4, and it is our first experience teaching at the Intermediate level.  From conversations we have had, I know that Katherine (name changed) had been apprehensive about teaching this grade as she prefers and feels most comfortable with Grade 1, 1/2, or even 2/3.  Additionally, the need to implement the revised curriculum was an added challenge to that of becoming an Intermediate teacher.  When I consider her comments about teaching a new grade in light of the CBAM stages of concern, I know that she is very much at the Personal level where she queries how to manage the challenges of a new grade and comments that “I find this really difficult” and “I prefer the younger grades”.  Katherine has also commented that she struggles with adopting an inquiry-based approach to teaching, and I believe this to be compounding difficulties in relation to the revised curriculum.  While she is open to new approaches or resources in some areas, she largely maintains an overall structure to her teaching that remains constant from year to year, for example daily routines, structured lessons and activities, and pencil/paper tasks.  Print-based materials make up the totality of the resources she uses, though she began to use the school iPads last year.  She indicated to me that she used them about 3 or 4 times last year.  There is evidence of potential to adopt new digital practices or tools here.

My first step in our collaboration was to interview Katherine to ascertain her feelings, experience, and needs in relation to digital resources, in an effort to assess her stages of concern and to determine her current level of use in regards to digital resources.  I created the following questionnaire to guide our discussion and discover the stages and levels:

concernsuse-questionnaire

After speaking with Katherine and completing the questionnaire, it was readily apparent that her experience with and use of resources is limited to non-fiction print books from the school library or materials she finds from internet searches.  Though she is aware of the print encyclopedias in the library, she shared with me that she does not use them with her learners, and she has no knowledge of and consequently no practical experience with using the school’s digital databases.  In considering how reference resources could be used with her students, she identified Science and Social Studies as the main curricular areas that she would focus on, and Science in particular as she plans on covering ecosystems and biomes.

In summary, Katherine’s responses to the questionnaire would indicate that she is at Stage 1 (Informational) for concern and Level 0 (Non-use) in relation to online databases, having used the article “A Measure of Concern” (Halloway, 2003) and the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (Huang, n.d.) Google site as reference.  I identified Katherine as being at the Informational stage of concern because she indicated that she is interested in finding out about digital databases that are currently available at our school.  As previously mentioned, she is not currently accessing reference resources and since there is “no involvement” (Huang, n.d.), she is therefore at the Non-use Level.

In light of the fact that Katherine shows some past interest in incorporating technology into her practice, and because she would benefit from an increase in and expansion of the types of materials she uses with her students, and to develop their information literacy skills, I have created a plan for her to work towards incorporating an online database into her regular instruction.  I have chosen to focus on the use of the World Book Science Power and EBSCO Explora databases in particular because they support and complement many of the learning outcomes associated with the Grade 3/4 Science curriculum.  Additionally, they are user-friendly databases.  Based on this, I believe these databases are excellent starting points for Katherine, and growth in her confidence and usage can be realized quickly.  Furthermore, she had indicated she wants to access resources that she can be sure are reliable.  Considering the databases I will introduce to her are provided through the ERAC bundle, Katherine can have confidence that her reference resources are vetted. As well, be using a database, she can target the specific information she is looking for to support her students’ learning, and does not have to rely on random internet searches. Through various strategies/ interventions, the goals of the plan are to move Katherine from an Informational stage to a Management stage, and from Non-use to Preparation in terms of her level of use of digital databases.


Collaborative Plan for the Effective Use of Reference Resources

Steps in the Plan Strategies/Interventions Intended Outcome
Step 1 As outlined above, complete concerns/use questionnaire To assess and determine stages of concerns and levels of use.
Step 2 Discuss reference resource examples, including both print and digital formats, specifically EBSCO Explora and World Book Science Power databases; discuss the benefits and need for reference resources, breadth of resources, and the use of digital resources To develop awareness of what constitutes reference resources and the various types currently available in the library; provide background information and overview of the Explora and WB Science Power databases; to develop awareness of how reference resources, and specifically digital resources, support the development of information and digital literacy skills
Step 3 Meet to explore databases together; provide walk-through to learn how teacher and students can access databases through school website both at school and from home (username and password required) Collaborative exploration and T-L modelling/ demonstration establish a supportive environment to discuss the databases, their formats, and potential uses/application (e.g. research, building background knowledge)
Step 4 Provide Katherine with time (one week) to explore the databases at her own pace; ensure she knows that in the week we can meet or talk about any concerns or questions that arise. Teacher becomes familiar with the databases, has time to freely use and explore; provide support in the form of being available to help when needed
Step 5 Follow up meeting Share and discuss observations, questions, concerns, issues, potential of databases to support learning; evaluate collaborative process (e.g. enough support?)
Step 6 Look through Grade 3/4 Science curriculum together

B.C. Curriculum

Points of Inquiry

 

Discuss curricular connections and ways in which databases support learning and inquiry around Science big ideas; isolate “ecosystems” and “biomes” as foci
Step 7 Co-teach in the computer lab Team teach to introduce students to databases, how to access through school site and remotely from home, and provide free exploration time
Step 8 Meet to plan how to use databases to build background knowledge; I model use Kidspiration as a tool to record information and assess learning Use of databases to support Connect phase of Points of Inquiry model (background knowledge of ecosystems and biomes); teacher learns to use Kidspiration as a digital tool for her students to demonstrate learning and for assessment purposes
Step 9 Co-teach in the computer lab Guide students to use databases to gather information, build on background knowledge of ecosystems and biomes; increase students proficiency in using a digital tool to record information and demonstrate learning
Step 10 In-service for other staff members at a staff meeting or during a lunchtime meeting To foster a collaborative learning community; informs staff of and promotes use of digital reference resources; to connect teacher with other colleagues who can offer support
Step 11 Meet to evaluate process Evaluate how current collaborative process has supported teacher with using digital databases and how Connect phase went; discuss where to go from here
Ongoing Regular check-ins, monitoring, reflection To offer encouragement, support, discuss a plan for further use/implementation of databases, evaluate collaborative process

 

Conclusion:

By creating a structured, supportive framework that has collaboration at the heart of it, the goal is to acknowledge and make accommodations for Katherine’s concerns, while moving her along a continuum of use so that ultimately she is “…learning the processes and skills needed for successful implementation” (Huang, n.d) of digital databases by reaching the Preparation level.  This plan is strongly centred around moving a colleague from non-use to the beginning stages of use, hence why this plan primarily focuses on the Connect stage of inquiry.  For a teacher who is not using digital databases at all, going from that to the totality of a plan for inquiry is much too overwhelming.  A benefit of my collaborative plan is that I am nudging Katherine towards inquiry as she has expressed that she is unsure about the process; here is where I can be of further help and support.  However, if her concerns are high and intense about how she is going to manage, she is not going to experience success.  Hence, my plan reflects the need to move her along steadily, but in a reasonable and manageable way that keeps her concerns in mind at each step.

Through this collaborative plan, I also hope to realize and achieve two key standards in the Leading Learning document which are collaborating to “empower a community of learners” (p.11) and “cultivating effective instructional design” (p.15).  By supporting Katherine in her efforts to expand her knowledge and use of various reference resources and engage in the practical use of databases, the goal is to empower her as a learner herself.  We speak of the importance of instilling lifelong learning in our students, and there is no better way to do this than to model it ourselves.  In turn, her students will be empowered as their diverse learning needs are supported through the use of an alternative to print materials and broader access to information.  Leading Learning asserts that  “…innovation, and honing information management and literacy skills are key goals of the learning commons” (p.15), and that …opportunities to utilize a variety of resources, technologies and spaces to support learning require collaboration and planning and thoughtful instructional design…” (p.15).  This is exactly what I hope to achieve through the plan I have outlined for Katherine.  I aim to move her forward in her skill set and use of reference resources and the inquiry model so that richer learning opportunities are created for her students.  Thoughtful, targeted interventions embedded in a collaborative partnership will help bridge the gap between her current practice and concerns, and the goals of use we hope to achieve.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-11-00-48-am

References

 British Columbia Teacher-Librarians’ Association. (2011). The Points of Inquiry: A Framework for Information Literacy and the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved from http://bctf.ca/bctla/pub/documents/Points%20of%20Inquiry/PointsofInquiry.pdf.

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). EBSCO Explora. Retrieved from https://learn.sd41.bc.ca/index.php/staff-resources/elementary-web-resources.

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). World Book Science Power. Retrieved from https://learn.sd41.bc.ca/index.php/staff-resources/elementary-web-resources.

Canadian Library Association. (2014). Leading Learning. Retrieved from http://apsds.org/wp-content/uploads/Standards-of-Practice-for-SchoolLibrary-Learning-Commons-in-Canada-2014.pdf.

Haycock, K. (2007). “Collaboration: critical success factors for student learning”. School Libraries Worldwide. 13(1), 25-35. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1023&context=slis_pub.

Holloway, K. (2003). “A measure of concern”. Tools For Schools. Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/docs/tools-for-learning-schools/tools2-03.pdf?sfvrsn=2.

Huang, P. (n.d.) “Levels of use”. Concerns-Based Adoption Model. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/ch7cbam/home/levels-of-use.

Ministry of Education (2015). B.C.’s New Curriculum. Retrieved from https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum.

My eCoach. (2004). “Stages of concern about technology use”.  http://my-ecoach.com/online/resources//Picture_21234567.png.

National Academy of Sciences. (2005). “The concerns-based adoption model (CBAM): a model for change in individuals”. Retrieved from http://www.nationalacademies.org/rise/backg4a.htm.

Popova, M. (n.d.). “Fixed vs. growth: the two basic mindsets that shape our lives”. Retrieved from https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/.

Images:

Bridge graphic. Retrieved from https://eucaps.wsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/731/2015/07/CBAM-explanation.pdf.

Change meme. Retrieved from http://dreamlab.media/content/secret-change-meme.

Growth/fixed mindset graphic. Retrieved from http://big-change.org/growth-mindset/.

Leading Learning cover. Retrieved from http://apsds.org/wp-content/uploads/Standards-of-Practice-for-SchoolLibrary-Learning-Commons-in-Canada-2014.pdf.

Two heads graphic. Retrieved from  http://www.hrmonline.com.au/section/opinion/two-heads-are-better-than-one/.

 

Reference Services and the Reference Collection

 

wave-pic

 

In Lesson 5 we discussed the importance of meeting the needs of students by not only providing reference materials for learning, but by establishing close connections with them.  In the context of the three types of reference service requests that are presented by Ann Marlow Riedling, read-reference, research projects, and readers’ advisory, teacher-librarians have limitless opportunities to “lead the student to appropriate and accurate resources and foster the student’s information literacy skills for socially responsible, lifelong learning” (p.107).  In some ways this statement makes the responsibility of a teacher-librarian in providing reference services appear a bit daunting, and it is indeed no small task.  Yet, when one steps back to consider this awesome responsibility, it is also exciting.  One of the reasons I am eager to become a teacher-librarian is the opportunity to work with students on a much broader scale than I can as a classroom teacher.  The chance to support and impact student learning across a wider variety of grades is an extremely valuable opportunity.

riedling-book

In her guidelines for how teacher-librarians can be attentive to student needs during the reference interview process, the connections between her interview model and the steps in research or inquiry models, such as the Points of Inquiry, resonated with me.  I found it reassuring to read that “a successful reference interview, using the most skilled questioning techniques, may not conclude with the complete achievement of the student’s information needs (full and precise answer)” (p.104).  This complements the goals of the inquiry process where the process itself and the development of the skills along the way are the essential learning pieces.  The end product or “answer” is not the goal: “success should be measured in terms of the acquisition of information skills that are learned during the process” (Mueller, 2017).

points-of-inquiry
Points of Inquiry

I appreciate the emphasis that Riedling places on the importance of making students feel welcoming, appreciated, and supported in her very detailed suggestions and description.  I would hope that this is simply second nature to those of us who are pursuing opportunities as teacher-librarians.  Over the past year in my diploma coursework, it is evident how passionate my classmates feel about the profession and about embracing all that the role entails.  This is an exciting and encouraging prospect for students whose lives will be touched by such an enthusiastic group of professionals!

Something that I feel very passionate about is the need for collaboration when working in the role of teacher-librarian.  While it is so important that our connections with students, our first responsibility, I believe that it is essential that one establish close relationships throughout the school community.  Indeed, with the view that a school library or learning commons is the “hub” of the school, then it is imperative for teacher-librarians to go outside the walls of the library and connect with a broad base of library patrons.  Ken Haycock sums up the importance of collaboration at all levels in the school library in Leading Learning (2014):

            “The role and impact of the teacher-librarian can be synthesized quite

            simply: teacher-librarians impact student learning and achievement by

            forming strong and positive relationships with members of the school

            community, especially the school principal; by collaborating with

            classroom colleagues to plan, develop and assess independent learning

            abilities in students; by fostering a recreational reading culture in the

            building; and by providing informal staff development opportunities” (p.21).

keep-calm-and-collaborate-120

The importance of collaboration is echoed throughout the Leading Learning document and a cornerstone of our job is to work with our colleagues to move the learning agenda forward.  I cannot imagine being able to accomplish the goals of learning in the 21st century, particularly those outlined in Leading Learning, without collaboration being a key component in our schools and without teacher-librarians actively seeking opportunities to co-plan and co-teach with colleagues, in an effort to capitalize on our collective resources and maximize learning opportunities.

When I was young I used to watch Sesame Street.  One of the skits common to the show had an accompanying song with the refrain, “Cooperation makes it happen, cooperation gets it done”.  This song came to mind over the course of Theme Two as, for me, the idea of cooperation in the form of collaboration is what is getting things done in the school library.

 
Lesson 6:

One of the concluding sentences in Riedling’s discussion of supporting students during reference interviews is that “good judgment and exceptional knowledge of resources remains imperative” (p.105) and “without knowledge of the library media center collection, the interview cannot continue; the question cannot be answered” (pp.102-103).  I am learning how imperative if it is to develop and manage a reference collection that encompasses the most relevant and up-to-date resource to ensure the collection effectively supports the reference process and the acquisition of information literacy skills.  Clearly this is no easy feat when budgets are limited and very small in some cases.  By exploring the Achieving Information Literacy document, I have gained valuable insight into the standards that I can measure my future reference collection by.  In being cognizant of the parameters in developing a collection, a well-rounded, current collection that provides a broad range of materials that can be accessed by a diverse range of learners, teacher-librarians are able to expertly and effectively do their job; matching students with the best resources to meet their information needs.

ail

Achieving Information Literacy

Through this theme and Assignment One, I am gaining greater understanding and confidence regarding online resources.  I feel that my experience here is limited as a classroom teacher, though I have the best of intentions and am often researching online options.  But it is through the TL coursework that my horizons are being broadened and for this, I am very grateful.  In Assignment One, I had the opportunity to explore a resource (National Geographic Kids) that already exists in our school library database with greater depth.  As I was looking at it, I thought to myself, “I bet this isn’t used or even known by other staff”.  After asking a few colleagues, my suspicions were confirmed, and I feel disappointed to learn it.  Therefore, takeaways from this lesson include:

  • A strong collection has diversity with both print and digital formats
  • Digital formats are key to students developing the information literacy skills needed in the 21st century
  • Part of collection management is ensuring the promotion of resources and that they are being incorporated into practice; collaboration can help achieve this
  • When money is tight, making good and effective use of online databases is key

In reading over the Greater Victoria School District’s role description list, I continue to be mindful of the need for advocacy of our roles and responsibilities.  I would like to mention how many “collaborative”-type words are used (e.g. partner, cooperatively, network).  We wear many hats and sometimes we may just end of feeling like this: (!)

500-hats

In reading through the GVSD’s list, I was once again reminded of how vital the job of teacher-librarian is, the number of skills we must possess, the incredible support we can provide, and the far-reaching impact on our school community that we can have.

 

Lesson 7:

Last Fall I had the opportunity to complete a community analysis as part of a weeding project and I found it was an incredibly interesting and valuable experience.  We also had to conduct collection mapping, and this aspect of collection management came to mind while working on Assignment One as well because I was disheartened at how many print resources there are in the library at the school where I work, yet they are below standard in terms of currency and look virtually untouched which indicates they are not being used.  As I was looking through them to decide which one to evaluate, I wanted to weed!  But prior to that, I would love to be able to consult with staff to see what they know about the resources and how they use them.  Therefore, this focus in Lesson 7 reinforces how important it is to know the library clientele’s needs in managing and developing the collection.  For the assignment last fall, I referred to this School Library Journal article to develop my community analysis: http://www.slj.com/2014/06/public-libraries/know-your-neighborhood-a-community-needs-assessment-primer/

As I previously mentioned, I see reference materials at the school where I work and think about how important it is “…to determine whether they are meeting the informational needs of students, teachers, and the curriculum” (Mueller, 2017).  As we have learned, the cost of print materials can put considerable pressure on a library budget, therefore teacher-librarians want to ensure that their purchases are effectively supporting the learning needs and practices of staff and students.

When considering access to materials and when reading about the perception of some that librarians are “gatekeepers”, I came back to my strong feeling of how effective we can be through advocacy of our job.  We need to pool our collective efforts and show just how great the impact on student learning is: “Over twenty years of research shows that student achievement and literacy scores advance where professionally staffed and resourced school libraries are thriving. (Leading Learning, p.4).  I believe the best approach is to inform, for as stated in our notes from this lesson, “as information specialists, teacher librarians know that information is power and powerful” (Mueller, 2017).  We are charged with the responsibility of providing materials and services that will develop information literacy skills in our students; so too is it our responsibility to inform our colleagues’ of the multitude of ways in which we manage the library collection and provide reference services.  I think one of the best ways this can be achieved is through consistent promotion, collaboration, and an open door policy.

Here is someone else’s take on the numerous, diverse roles and responsibilities in this day and age:

times-are-a-changin-pic
For promoting and advocating for our role, an article from the BCTF entitled “Put a Teacher-Librarian on Your Team” and the video from Washington (State) Library Media Association: “Teacher Librarians at The Heart of Student Learning”.

BCTF article

 

And just because it is February…another great way to advocate this month, courtesy of the BCTLA!

love-your-library

References:

British Columbia Teacher Librarians’ Association. (2011). Points of inquiry: a framework for information literacy the 21st century learner. Retrieved from http://bctf.ca/bctla/pub/documents/Points%20of%20Inquiry/PointsofInquiry.pdf
Canadian Library Association (2014). Leading learning: standards of practice for school library learning commons in Canada. Ottawa, ON. Retrieved from http://apsds.org/wp-content/uploads/Standards-of-Practice-for-SchoolLibrary-Learning-Commons-in-Canada-2014.pdf
Kropp, L.G. (2014). “Know your neighborhood: a community needs assessment primer”. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2014/06/public-libraries/know-your-neighborhood-a-community-needs-assessment-primer/
Lindsay, Karen. (2005). “Put a teacher-librarian on your team”. British Columbia Teachers’ Federation NewsMag. 18(1). Retrieved from https://bctf.ca/publications/NewsmagArticle.aspx?id=7104

Riedling, A.M., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips. Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Sesame Street (1983). Street Garden Cooperation. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR34PJOl3K8
Washington Media Library Association (2013). Teacher librarians at the heart of student learning. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPTqGnCfoMU.

Images:

500 hats of Bartholoew Cubbins. Retrieved from https://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=http://t2.gstatic.com/images%3Fq%3Dtbn:ANd9GcQixqPR2mU1lli4V23VHMcwo5xlWxesRn0Cmx3y-TftiaQunGAW&imgrefurl=http://books.google.com/books/about/The_500_Hats_of_Bartholomew_Cubbins.html%3Fid%3D0K3xAwAAQBAJ%26source%3Dkp_cover&h=1080&w=794&tbnid=biwDuMYGBiCssM:&vet=1&tbnh=160&tbnw=117&docid=PEtCpAO2JuFauM&itg=1&usg=__De72dJ3S3f0QKLV_yjTcEe_M848=&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjiipuPjp3SAhULs1QKHYQpDsUQ_B0IggEwEA#h=1080&imgrc=biwDuMYGBiCssM:&tbnh=160&tbnw=117&vet=1&w=794
Achieving information literacy. Retrieved from http://www.accessola2.com/SLIC-Site/slic/ail110217.pdf

Information tsumani. Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/source/librarygrits.blogspot.com

Keep calm and collaborate. Retrieved from http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-collaborate-120/
Love your library. Retrieved from http://bctf.ca/bctla/info/advocacy.html
Reference skills for the school librarian.  Retrieved from https://www.amazon.ca/Reference-Skills-School-Librarian-Tools/dp/1586835289
The times they are a changin’. Retrieved from http://mediaspecialistsguide.blogspot.ca/

 

 

Selection and Evaluation

Current Reference Resource

I have recently evaluated the Wildlife and Plants encyclopedia set in our library to determine its relevance and application to student learning in our school.  This 13 volume set is an alphabetical listing of various kinds of animals and plants.  In British Columbia’s revised curriculum, plants and animals are central features of the big ideas and content in the Kindergarten to Grade 4, as well as Grade 7, Science concepts.  As a result, it is a necessity to provide students and their teachers with resources that support intended learning outcomes, and also develop the skills that are a fundamental part of the reference process.

B.C. Science curriculum

This set of encyclopedias includes 13 volumes and an index, and is currently kept in the reference section with the other encyclopedia sets in the library’s collection.  Each book is of a relatively small size, only one centimetre in width, thus the entire set does not account for much space on the shelves.  It is, however, shelved at the very bottom of a bookcase and is likely being overlooked by students and staff.  The pristine condition of every book in the set would indicate very low, or even non-existent, use amongst library patrons over the years.

book-cover

I have developed the following checklist which I used to evaluate the Wildlife and Plants encyclopedias.  Areas of consideration are Curricular Content Scope and Application, Layout and Design, and Learner Considerations:

wildlife-and-plants-rubric

1. Curricular Content Scope and Application

This reference set could support Science concepts covered in the British Columbia curriculum, as well as the needs of teachers and students, but at a minimal level.  While detailed information is provided, the content is not reflective of the current focus for children who are learning about their local environment or more broadly, that of British Columbia and Canada.  As part of this focus, First Peoples perspectives regarding the natural world are absent and unsupported through this resource.  The purpose of Wildlife and Plants is to provide students with detailed information about a variety of species in a manner that makes this resource best suited to providing background knowledge to students as a precursor to more in-depth research.  As it provides factual information about plants and animals, it is best used for ready-reference[1] in the library to give students fast, straight-forward facts about their topic.

With a publication date of 2007, the age of this resource is of significant concern due to the fact that currency guidelines for encyclopedias recommend replacement after five years[2].


2. Layout and Design

Wildlife and Plants has a consistent format that is repeated throughout each topic, providing predictability.  Some text features are present, as indicated in the checklist, and provide some support to readers.  While well laid out, this resource lacks the visual appeal and engagement to draw students in and to enhance learning.  Likewise, the absence of essential text features including a glossary and keywords in each volume limit readers’ understanding of the key terms and concepts associated with the subject matter.  Finally, the very small font and text heavy/low visual support format limits students’ ease of use and more importantly, their comprehension of the subject material.

inside-pic-1inside-pic-2

3. Learner Considerations

 Considering the students who will access and use this resource are predominantly in the primary grades, this reference resource is unsuitable due to advanced technical vocabulary and a reading level that far exceeds that of the target audience.  With this in mind, students and teachers looking to use a resource to explore the Science concepts included above, could not use these encyclopedias to meet their learning and instructional needs. Additionally, the text-heavy, print-only format restricts use to only those students who can access print materials for their learning, and does not provide accessibility to a diverse group of learners.


Proposal for Replacement Resource

I am proposing the National Geographic Kids online database as a potential replacement for the Wildlife and Plants encyclopedias.  This resource is currently part of our district database bundle through ERAC, however in speaking with staff, it has little to no use amongst teachers and students.  At the time of this evaluative review, I was not able to attain individual pricing information for National Geographic Kids despite having contacted Gale representatives and ERAC.  Our district teacher-librarian was also unable to provide individual pricing information, but she states that our district pays $1.00 per student for the ERAC database bundle.  As this resource already exists in our district database collection, it is even more cost-effective since no further funds will need to be invested.  However, efforts need to be focused on the promotion of its use amongst staff and students.

This reference resource is vetted by ERAC making it a logical choice as part of the library’s reference collection; staff can feel confident about the reliability of the site.  In addition to the database, National Geographic has a companion website which does not require password protected access:  http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/.  And some of the books and magazines in the database are commonly available in print form in school libraries.  This is advantageous when the print version is unavailable, lost or destroyed, more than one teacher needs access to titles for research, or when students require multiple copies of the same title.  Through the database itself, teachers and teacher-librarians have access to a topic guide directory which allows them to access all of the subject areas contained in the database:  http://nglibrary.ngs.org/libguidedirectory.  Further information regarding the ERAC agreement and Gale, National Geographic Kids’ vendor, is available at:

 

My evaluation of the National Geographic Kids online database is as follows:

national-geographic-kids-rubric

1. Curricular Content Scope and Application

 As previously mentioned, plants and animals are a focus in the Kindergarten to Grade 4 Science curriculum, and National Geographic Kids supports these concepts by providing extensive information about various species, as well as habitats and ecosystems.  However, the database goes beyond simple facts to cover broader, more current global and environmental issues including carbon footprints, global warming, and conservation, for example.  By covering such topics, students have the opportunity to engage in deeper inquiry, and develop critical thinking and literacy skills.  While the subject matter of Wildlife and Plants is limited to Kindergarten to Grade 4, National Geographic Kids supports learning from Kindergarten to Grade 7, making it a significantly more useful and valuable resource for the grade levels that it spans.  One of the books included in this database is a wild animal atlas which could potentially supersede the Wildlife and Plants set in and of itself.  Additionally, there is also access to two atlases, negating the need for more print versions in the library collection.

Though the database mainly supports areas of the B.C. Science curriculum, it also supports many concepts in the Social Studies curriculum.  With the possibility of exploring global peoples and indigenous groups in the revised curriculum, there are many options for students in the database, however the focus on Indigenous Peoples of Canada is minimally supported.  This is a key area for learning, therefore greater content in the database is essential.  Yet with it being from the United States, there is only general information for other countries included.

B.C. Social Studies curriculum

ng-kids-screenshot

Being an online database, National Geographic Kids affords teachers and students the opportunity to focus on the development of digital literacy skills.  With books and magazines to read, students strengthen the skills needed to read using a different medium.  Bookmarking and citation tools in the database provide students with additional technology and research skills.  In a Learning Commons, students need access to digital materials to support the goals of being able to successfully and effectively use technology and navigate information in the digital world, and to foster new understandings of literacy, particularly information literacy.

In terms of subject matter, format, and medium, National Geographic Kids reflects the currency needed in a library reference collection.  With some material published as recently as 2016, students are utilizing information that is not only relevant, but current and meets the needs for 21st century learning.

I have cross-referenced the National Geographic Kids database with the Science and Social Studies curricula, and have highlighted the concepts that are covered in the database:
science-curriculum
social-studies-curriculum

2. Layout and Design

This database has strong visual appeal and impact, making it an outstanding choice for young eyes and minds.  With vibrant colours, designs, and images, students will be engaged with and encouraged to access this resource for their learning needs.  So too does it provide teachers with an in-roads to hook their students.  Text features are present throughout and extensively used, and for example, keywords are defined within the text thereby supporting students’ comprehension as they read.  Full colour photographs are also used extensively which further supports learning and understanding.  The user-friendly interface allows even the youngest learners to navigate the site effectively and with ease.  This database has appeal for Primary students through to Intermediate, and provides easy access and use for a range of ages.

3. Learner Considerations

The multimodal nature of the online database makes it an exceptional resource for elementary school students.  Each topic search results in video, photograph, book, and magazine options to gather information, and books and magazines provide audio read-alouds.  This allows students with diverse learning abilities and needs, including special needs, equal access to information and learning.  Having resources that all students can use is of utmost importance, and is a hallmark of the selection and evaluation process.  Further to the multimodal format, the audiobook feature allows non-readers to still use National Geographic Kids as a source of information.  The presentation of information, text features, vocabulary, reading level, and the ability to enlarge text provide access for readers at a range of stages in the elementary grades.

While there is much value in this reference resource, the needs of our province’s Indigenous students to see their traditions, beliefs, and ways of life reflected in the material they read is not fully met.  There is minimal information about traditional Indigenous ways of knowing in connection to the environment and the world.  There is opportunity to explore cultural diversity within the database, yet a much larger emphasis on B.C.’s First Peoples is required.


Conclusion

In closing, Wildlife and Plants does not provide the range of access and depth of content needed to support learning concepts in B.C.’s current curriculum.  National Geographic Kids online database is an engaging multimodal reference resource that presents the broad scope of content to the wide range of learners that is required, and does so in a format that supports curriculum and goals for information literacy in the 21st century.  I highly recommend the use of this online database in achieving these goals.

 

References

Armstrong, M. ed. (2007). Wildlife and plants. New York: Marshall Cavendish.

BCERAC. (2017). Nelson-Gale Education. Retrieved from http://www.bcerac.ca/agreements/nelson-education.aspx

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). National Geographic Kids. Retrieved from https://learn.sd41.bc.ca/index.php/staff-resources/elementary-web-resources

Gale, Cengage Co. (2017). National Geographic Kids. National geographic virtual library. Retrieved from http://solutions.cengage.com/national-geographic-virtual-library/kids/

Ministry of Education (2015). B.C.’s new curriculum. Retrieved from https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum

[1]Riedling, A.M., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips., Linworth, Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC., p.139.

[2]Riedling, A.M., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips., Linworth, Santa Barbara, CA:Linworth, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC., p.24.


My evaluation checklist is based on the following works:

Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium. (2008). Evaluating, selecting and acquiring learning resources: a guide. British Columbia, Canada: Retrieved from http://www.bcerac.ca/resources/whitepapers/docs/erac_wb.pdf

 Riedling, A.M., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips. Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

 

For further exploration of the Learning Commons philosophy, view the Leading Learning document at:

http://apsds.org/wp-content/uploads/Standards-of-Practice-for-SchoolLibrary-Learning-Commons-in-Canada-2014.pdf

 

 

 

 

Information in the Digital Age

 

Theme One has reinforced for me that now, more than ever, teacher-librarians are critical to the development of students’ information literacy skills.  Further to this, with the school library being a central and integral part of the school, which many refer to as the “heart” or “hub”, teacher-librarians are poised to effect change, and support staff and students on a broad scale.  In doing so, one must advocate for this essential role.

In Leading Learning, the Canadian Library Association states that “new technologies and evolving methods of communication and sharing drive expanding understandings of literacy” (p.17) and that school libraries have “…a leading role in assisting learners to hone and apply an expanded notion of literacy…” (p.17).  With access to significantly more sources of information, students, and I would argue school staff, need assistance to broaden their definition of literacy to recognize that “the abilities to access, comprehend, use, and evaluate information have become the skills people must develop in order to function in our current world” (Riedling, p.7).  Teacher-librarians are crucial in providing students with the skills to do so through reference services.

austin-powers-library
Over the course of Theme One, I feel that the concepts and my learning have come full circle in regards to the essential role of teacher-librarians in supporting information literacy.  In Lesson One we were presented with several ideas regarding the impact of technology and digital information on teacher-librarians and libraries.  Greater access to web resources has led some to assert that teacher-librarians are less in demand and that “…students, and some teachers and administrators, assum[e] that students need less access to the school library (Mueller, 2017), and these are incredible misunderstandings in my mind.  Ann Riedling echoes this sentiment when she says that “one common misconception is that in the future there will be less dependence on the physical library media center” (p.116).  The need for teacher-librarians is supported in her assertion that “information needs are growing and becoming more complex.  The result is that there will be an increased need for experts, school librarians with skills…” (p.116).  This section of Chapter 10 has strongly resonated with me for not only what it reinforces about the vital role of teacher-librarians in education, but also the need for advocacy in our role.  We must ensure the learning community consistently knows and understands how crucial teacher-librarians and libraries are “…in providing resources and instruction for 21st-century learning” (Riedling, p.116).

batman
Last year I created the following Powtoon which I hope to use in the future in support of advocacy to reinforce “an expanded notion” of the school library and teacher-librarians!

 

References

 


Austin Powers meme: Retrieved from http://blog.whooosreading.org/15-most-accurate-school-librarian-memes/, Jan. 26, 2017.

Batman meme: Retrieved from http://blog.whooosreading.org/15-most-accurate-school-librarian-memes/, Jan. 26, 2017.

Canadian Library Association. (2014). Leading learning: Standards of practice for school library learning commons in Canada. Ottawa: ON.

Riedling, A.M., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips. Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Curation Summation

 

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I feel that in my learning journey through our coursework, my inquiry has come full circle.  I had asked “How can one foster the perception that the teacher-librarian is a leader in the learning community?”, and I feel like all the ground we have covered has led me to deeply realize that this can be accomplished in a variety of ways and on many different levels.  In our first module, the focus was on the library as the heart of the school.  As the course has progressed, I have an image in my mind of numerous characteristics, responsibilities, and features being woven together, meeting in the library.  It is an image that is difficult to describe, but nevertheless the connections that come together in one central place, the school library, are there.  My learning is exciting and encouraging because the glimmer of leadership potential that I had at the beginning has been continually reinforced.  It is not just about leadership as a possibility, it is about what can truly be realized and accomplished.

One’s impact on the learning community and all that can be accomplished through the school library is more than I was aware of initially.  For me, this is where collaboration and advocacy are essential.  I would expect that without the teacher-librarian shining a light on all the potential, others underestimate what is possible.  In my coursework, I have learned so much about the key roles, responsibilities, and impact of librarians and libraries.  Again, more than I first realized.  It is important to share this with and educate others so that libraries are viewed by all as the heart of the school.  I feel well-equipped to pursue a variety of means in order to foster the perception that I am a leader in my position as a teacher-librarian.  As such, my essential question has remained the same.  At the beginning of my inquiry, I webbed some big ideas that I initially had regarding TLs and leadership.  In preparation for this final submission, I have added all of the ideas and connections that we have learned about and that have stuck with me.  They are numerous and I am grateful for how this course has shaped my understanding of teacher-librarians, libraries, and the essential and meaningful work that is taking place.

 

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I feel that in my learning journey through our coursework, my inquiry has come full circle.  I had asked “How can one foster the perception that the teacher-librarian is a leader in the learning community?”, and I feel like all the ground we have covered has led me to deeply realize that this can be accomplished in a variety of ways and on many different levels.  In our first module, the focus was on the library as the heart of the school.  As the course has progressed, I have an image in my mind of numerous characteristics, responsibilities, and features being woven together, meeting in the library.  It is an image that is difficult to describe, but nevertheless the connections that come together in one central place, the school library, are there.  My learning is exciting and encouraging because the glimmer of leadership potential that I had at the beginning has been continually reinforced.  It is not just about leadership as a possibility, it is about what can truly be realized and accomplished.

One’s impact on the learning community and all that can be accomplished through the school library is more than I had initially considered.  For me, this is where collaboration and advocacy are essential.  I would expect that without the teacher-librarian shining a light on all the potential, others underestimate what is possible.  In my coursework, I have learned so much about the key roles, responsibilities, and impact of librarians and libraries.  Again, more than I first realized.  It is important to share this with and educate others so that libraries are viewed by all as the heart of the school.  I feel well-equipped to pursue a variety of means in order to foster the perception that I am a leader in my position as a teacher-librarian.  As such, my essential question has remained the same.  At the beginning of my inquiry, I webbed some big ideas that I initially had regarding TLs and leadership.  In preparation for this final submission, I have added all of the ideas and connections that we have learned about and that have stuck with me.  They are numerous and I am grateful for how this course has shaped my understanding of teacher-librarians, libraries, and the essential and meaningful work that is taking place.