ETL 501. Part B. Critical Reflection

With the abundance of Web information available in the 21st century and the introduction of Web 2.0 tools, students are progressively using digital resources such as Pathfinders for research tasks and to satisfy learning outcomes. Teacher librarians create pathfinders as useful tools where students can use electronic reference guides at their own pace without feeling overwhelmed (Vileno, 2007, p. 435), and in this respect my pathfinder is designed for use by year seven secondary students researching Egypt, as an ancient civilisation in Mediterranean Societies, as the in-depth Topic as part of their History curriculum studies (VCAA, History, Curriculum, 2013).

The pathfinder is designed to integrate the two strands of Historical Knowledge and Understanding and Historical Skills into a historical inquiry research task, requiring students to identify the significant beliefs, values and practices of the ancient Egyptians in their everyday lives (VCAA, History, Curriculum, 2013). The learning outcomes incorporated Literacy, Digital and Information literacy skills, Critical and Creative thinking, and Personal and Social General Capabilities into a historical inquiry framework, where students will use the pathfinder to research, develop and present their findings in a PowerPoint Presentation.

When using the pathfinder students will use information literacy skills to locate, access, select, compare and evaluate a range of website information sources, by working independently and using an iterative (going back and reassessing) process when refining, organising and managing their findings for presentation (Valenza, 2004, pp. 38, 41). They will demonstrate digital literacy skills by using key words, topic areas, or databases as search strategies, critical thinking skills to evaluate and interpret sources for relevancy, reliability, bias, points of view, authority and purpose, besides literacy skills when note-taking, organising, and presenting their research findings as a PowerPoint Presentation for assessment (ASCAR, General Capabilities, 2013). With the inclusion of a reference page in the pathfinder, students will be mindful of citing all sources of information they use, and the legal and ethical ramifications of plagiarism, copyright and Creative Commons considerations (Johnson & Lamb, 2006-12, para. 2).

As an educator using Web 2.0 tools  I chose to use a Wiki format through Wikispaces Classroom (2013) to construct my pathfinder, because it can be easily accessed, edited, updated, and used in any collaborative teaching and learning environment with a variety of topics (Brisco, 2007). I specifically chose Boolify Project (2013) and Cybersleuth Kids K-12 (2013) educational search engines as an alternative to Google,  emphasising to the students there are a variety of search tools they can utilise when searching for quality information sources (Valenza, 2004, p.40). Students need to learn how to effectively filter information sources to locate specific details, and Boolify and Cybersleuth have a built in functionality to help the user broaden, narrow, or refine their search (Thibault, n.d.). In this instance Cybersleuth Kids provided the best format for students to follow, featuring key search elements of headings and subheadings, with the sitemap the equivalent of the index and the comprehensive menu bar the website version of the table of contents (Thibault, n.d.).

By personally using these search engines to find relevant information on ancient Egypt, I was able to identify any concerns with relevancy, reliability, navigation, access, or technical aspects of the websites, and use library selection criteria for websites to select the most appropriate sources for students to utilise when completing their inquiry research (Hemmig, 2002, p.66). I was able to eliminate sources that were considered to be unsafe, too cluttered with annotations, pictures or text, had distracting textured backgrounds, or biased points of view, and eventually selected eight excellent, age and learning level appropriate online sources featuring the daily lives of ancient Egyptians (Hook, 2002, 243).

Online dictionaries and encyclopaedia’s were added to the pathfinder as additional reference sources for students to access and use more efficiently than printed reference texts, with a glossary  containing key topic words enabling students to utilise their information literacy skills. World Book Online (2013) added another alternative reference facility by providing twelve resource links incorporating articles, interactive maps, activities, search facilities etc. Selecting printed non-fiction texts involved choosing three books from the school library with relevant topic information and illustrations, and concise text that was easy to read and use by all students at all learning levels.

By using pathfinders within the library context, teacher librarians provide opportunities for students to become proficient and discerning when searching, locating, evaluating and managing information from online sources (Valenza, 2004, p.38). By continually using information and digital literacy skills, students will become confident and capable when identifying the origin, purpose and authority of websites, together with any security, legal and ethical considerations which frequent our overly abundant information world (Thibault, n.d.). Hopefully, as a future teacher librarian, I will use pathfinders as a resource framework where students efficiently and effectively navigate and access information from online sources as 21st century learning skills, designed to be transferable into life skills within a digital global world.

Words: 820

References: Critical Reflection; Part B.

Boolify. Critical Thinking for Effective Searches. Retrieved from: http://www.web2teachingtools.com/boolify.html

Boolify: Project. An Educational Boolean Web Search Tool. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.boolify.org/

Cybersleuth Kids. K-12 (2013). Retrieved from: http://cybersleuth-kids.com/

Hemmig, W. (2005). Online pathfinders: toward an experience-centered model. Reference Services review, 33(1), 66-87.

Hook, P. (2002). Creating an online tutorial and pathfinder. Library Law Journal, 94(2), 243-265.

Johnson, L. & Lamb, A. (2006-12). Pathfinders: Pathfinder and Social Bookmarking Defined. Teacher Tap. Retrieved from: http://eduscapes.com/earth/informational/path2.html

Thibault, M. (n.d.).  K-12 Teaching and Learning. Learn NC. From the UNC School of Education.  Retrieved from: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/

Valenza, J. (2004). Substantive searching: thinking and behaving info-fluently. Learning and Leading with technology, 32(3), 38-43.

Valenza, J. (2013). Ten reasons why your next pathfinder should be a wiki. Retrieved from: http://informationfluency.wikispaces.com/Ten+reasons+why+your+next+pathfinder+should+be+a+wiki

Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority. (2013(a)). AusVELS. The Australian Curriculum in Victoria. Retrieved from: http://ausvels.vcaa.vic.edu.au/The-Humanities-History/Curriculum/F-10#level=7

Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority. (2013(b)). AusVELS. The Australian Curriculum in Victoria. History Standards and progression points. Retrieved from: http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Documents/auscurric/progressionpoints/AusVELS-Historiographers-2013.pdf

Vileno, L. (2007). From paper to electronic, the evolution of pathfinders: a review of the literature. Reference Services review, 35(3), 435-451.

Wikispaces Classroom (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.wikispaces.com/content/teacher

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