Tweaking our Teaching

Last week’s post explored the importance of teaching students to find and examine sources for reliability.  This is a necessary skill, but I realized while reading this week’s modules on designing inquiry and essential questions, and exploring other articles for this course, that:

  1. We, as teachers, need to redesign our teaching so students ask more questions and learn that always asking questions is okay.
  2. Students need to be able to ask questions before they can begin any search for answers

These two thoughts were inspired by the large amount of reading that I did, my own reflection about the teaching I am currently doing, and how I can improve next year.  Though I read many articles, I am going to focus on two, one by Grant Wiggins, and the other by Barbara Stripling, that should be required reading for all teachers on their path to inquiry.  Though they are not from Modules 7 and 8, both articles connect with using questions and critical thinking to promote inquiry, and are well worth sharing with your colleagues.

In his 1989 article, “The Futility of Trying to Teach Everything of Importance”, Grant Wiggins explains that our curriculum must change because our students are learning what “curricular lobbyists” believe is important, and not really learning the skills that equip them for lifelong learning.  “To subscribe to the myth that everything of importance can be learned through didactic learning amounts to a pre-modern view of learning” (45).  In BC, our previous curriculum did just that.  The binders that existed for each curricular area contained long lists of PLO’s and SWBAT’s as we called them.  The Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs) would include a list of ‘understandings’ that “students will be able to”  (SWBATs) do by the end of a particular grade.  How could an elementary school teacher, who is a generalist and teaches all subjects, be able to teach every single item by year end?  It was impossible, so many of us did the best we could by integrating across the curriculum, and attempting to use inquiry with our students.  My motto became, ‘quality before quantity’.  

Thankfully, British Columbia has implemented a new curriculum in Grades K – 9, with Grades 10 – 12 currently in their draft form until 2018.  Our curriculum has been reduced from multiple page binders to a single page (double-sided in some cases) for each subject.  The focus is now on Core Competencies, Big Ideas, and Learning Standards, which are divided into curricular competencies and content.  We are encouraged to teach through inquiry by creating essential questions.  The BC Ministry of Education website has embedded examples of essential questions within the Big Ideas on the curricular webpages.  Wiggins provides a ‘test’ for the modern curriculum, which “is whether it enables students, at any level, to see how knowledge grows out of, resolves, and produces questions” (46).  This new curriculum has forced us to reflect on our teaching methods, and consider whether we have encouraged our students to ask questions.  It has been a steep learning curve, but as we continue to learn, and “since it is impossible to teach everything we know to be of value, we must [my emphasis] equip students with the ability to keep questioning” (48).

Designing Student Learning

This series of videos by Grant Wiggins discuss Understanding by Design (which was developed by Grants Wiggins and Jay McTighe) and how we need to design our inquiry units to promote student understanding.  This is an excellent series and provides a brief overview, with relevant examples of the UbD framework. Grant Wiggins is an engaging speaker and the 30 minutes of viewing is well worth your time.  

Some teachers find inquiry daunting, and believe that students need to learn skills before they can learn through inquiry.  Grant Wiggins explains that necessary skills are learned as part of an inquiry unit [see the Math Inquiry unit “What is fair?”, Part 2 of 2 in Understanding by Design video above].  Barbara Stripling also demonstrates how to incorporate skills into inquiry in her article, “Using Inquiry to Explode Myths about Learning and Libraries”.  She describes each stage of the inquiry process – connect, wonder, investigate, construct, express, reflect –  in detail and provides strategies and techniques that teachers can use to increase students’ skills, understanding and engagement.   Many of the strategies Stripling mentions are already being used by teachers in their classrooms – making connections, conversations, K-W-L charts, word walls, class brainstorming, quick writes, journaling, note-taking, graphic organizers – and some would not consider them ‘inquiry-based’.  It is not the strategy that fosters inquiry and questioning, but the way the strategy is used with the students to increase understanding.  I think if more teachers gain a deeper understanding of the process of inquiry (Stripling’s six stage version, or The Points of Inquiry from the BCTLA), they would see that only minor ‘tweaks’ are needed (see Fonticharo, 2009) and might begin diving even deeper into inquiry with their students to increase engagement and understanding.

The more I learn about the inquiry, the more I realize there is so much more to learn.  This course has provided some amazing resources that I am excited to share with my colleagues, and incorporate into my own teaching in the library.  As Grant Wiggins says,  “the more you learn, the more you are aware of your own ignorance” (1989, 46).  

Resources I used for this Learning Log:

Fontichiaro, K. (2009). Nudging toward inquiry – Re-envisioning existing research projects. School Library Monthly 26(1): 17-19.

Fontichiaro, K. (2015a). Nudging toward inquiry – Framing inquiry with scenarios. School Library Monthly 31(3): 50-51.

Green, J. & Fontichiaro, K. (2010). Using picture books to jump-start inquiry in elementary learners: The Tiny Seed. School Library Monthly 26(5): 6-7.

Keeling, M. (2015). Backwards design considerations for the 21st-century school library. In School Library Monthly, 31(4): 22-24.

Stripling, B. K. (2004). Using Inquiry to Explode Myths about Learning and Libraries. CSLA Journal, 28(1), 15-17.

White, N. (2010). Nudging toward inquiry – Build a culture of questioning: Add pizazz to the Science Fair. School Library Monthly 26(10): 2.

Wiggins, G. (1989). The futility of trying to teach everything of importance. Educational Leadership 47(3): 54-59.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wilhelm, J. D. (2012). Essential questions. Scholastic Instructor 122(3): 24-27.


But..I Just Know It’s True!

photo credit: Sworldguy Whyte Islet via photopin (license)

My Continuing Journey of Teaching about Research and Reliability

As a parent of three, this journey began a long time ago.  I was a Stay-At-Home parent for 15 years before returning to school to embark on a new career – teaching.  In my BK (Before Kids) life, I was a Legal Assistant.  The ability to conduct research and find reliable information was second nature for me.  Evidence was always needed to support any statement.  When I left the legal world in 1995, the internet was only just emerging, and it was slow.  Even though I was raising children, I maintained my technology skills and embraced the internet when it became readily available for home use.  My children were toddlers at this time, but as they grew, I ensured they understood how to use the internet safely and appropriately.  We discussed, on numerous occasions, the different ways, and places, to search for information, and how to determine if it is true.  Now, teaching three kids these skills is easy,  28 in a classroom is a bit more difficult, but manageable as you are able to reinforce your message on a daily basis.  A challenge arises when you teach 318 students only once a week.  This blog will explore some challenges I have encountered together with some possible solutions.

Challenges and Possible Solutions

My Grade 5/6/7 students are creating independent Genius Hour Projects, and despite my efforts to teach the skills needed to find and evaluate websites, I’ve discovered these skills are notsticking’.   [My primary students in Grade 3 and 4 are learning how to search using or Kiddle.   In many cases, resources have already been found and posted in Google Classroom for the students to access.  This is because they are still learning how to search effectively and our time in the library is limited.  Digital literacy skills are cyclical and progressive, and will, hopefully, continue to improve as  students progress through the grades and build on a solid foundation.]

This video created by ERAC explains how databases are a great resource for students because the information “Sticks Like Gum”.

As a new Teacher-Librarian (TL) at the school, I’m unsure of what has been taught in the past.  I’ve asked teachers about digital literacy lessons, and I know some have been covered, but I’m unaware of the depth. “One lesson a year on the topic won’t transfer to lifelong learning” (Abilock, 2012).   I do know the intermediate teachers use technology regularly for research, but are the students merely searching, and not really finding?  Many students, despite being taught how to do a ‘keyword’ search, still type in their entire question when searching for information.  As William Badke says in “The Convenience Factor in Information Searching”, “Convenience trumps all other reasons for selecting and using a source” (2014). Students have been taught how to use the ERAC databases, but still choose to use Google.  Students do not understand how to conduct a proper Google, or database, search.

This video demonstrates how Google searches for information.

An explanation of how to develop search terms.

The students are collecting all of their information in Google Slides, and are required to provide a link to their information.  When I asked one student why there was no link, she replied, “But, I just know the information is true!”  To which I responded, “When making a statement of fact, we must provide evidence to support our statement.  We have to be able to prove the information is true and reliable.”   I have reiterated this to my students on numerous occasions, and we have discussed how to evaluate information and websites.  Students do not understand the importance of verifying information.

Both videos below explain how to evaluate web sources.

Some students have learned to “satisfice (both satisfy and suffice)” when conducting research, but many have not because they use the first search result in Google, and it’s usually Wikipedia.  I have no issue with using Wikipedia as a starting point, but students must find other sources to corroborate their information.  Many of my younger (Grade 5) students struggle with Wikipedia because they find it too dense to read, so they find other sources, but then claim they are unable to find any information.  The reality is they do not closely read the information on the screen in front of them.  Students have difficulty reading the information and ‘making meaning’ from the text.  [Michael Manderino has written an article that includes some suggestions on how to help students improve their close reading of digital texts.]

Abilock’s Rules of Thumb

Debbie Abilock wrote, “How can students know if the information they find online is true – or not?”, which includes some ‘rules of thumb’ that can be used when judging the truthfulness of information.

Abilock also explains some factors that explain how personal judgment affects our willingness to believe, or not believe, what we read.

  • We need to understand that we evaluate the credibility of data using our gut, or intuition – we believe something because it confirms our existing values and beliefs.
  • Our cultural background also influences our willingness to believe information.
  • Technology also plays a role in our decision – we are more willing to believe Google, because it is more familiar to us than Bing or Wolfram Alpha.

Here are some ‘rules of thumb’, or ‘digital reading strategies’ that Abilock has created to help students, and adults, learn how to navigate the information they find online.  She advises though that “rules of thumb are shortcut evaluation measures”, and it is still important to question a source if you still have concerns about reliability.

  • Who’s weighing in? Peer review is generally how academic articles are vetted, but Google’s page ranking algorithm of clicks and links can provide links to its importance and relevance.
  • Who’s setting the record straight? If mistakes are discovered in a publication, and they are publicly acknowledged by the author or blogger, this is a sign of truthfulness.
  • What do other sources say? Accuracy can be determined by comparing the dates and times of news sources, and comparing three different viewpoints through triangulation -contacting a primary source, finding an original document, and finding a different source to review the facts.
  • Who’s behind the chart? Visual displays can be a helpful way to compare information, but what are the interests of the person who created the infographic?  Data can easily be manipulated.  

These ‘rules of thumb’ are a ‘shortcut evaluation measure’ that can be used to help students find information, which can then be further validated using Kathy Schrock’s 5W’s of Website Evaluation.  If the students begin to question the believability of ‘natural tasks’ they do on a daily basis, such as finding a map, a photo, or a news article, they will, hopefully,  become masters at finding truthful information.  As a TL, I am so privileged to work with the same students every year, so my journey will continue, and as the students progress through the grades, I hope they build a solid foundation in understanding how to rate the reliability of the information they seek.


Abilock, D. (2012). How can students know whether the information they find online is true – or not? Educational Leadership 69(6): 70-74, retrieved from

Badke, W. (2014). The convenience factor in information seeking. Online Searcher 38(6): 68-70.

Bromann-Bender, J. (2013). You can’t fool me: Website evaluation.” Library Media Connection 31(5): 42-45.

Fontichiaro, K. (2012). Recognizing good information: Beyond Wikipedia. School Library Monthly 28(6): 50-51.

Manderino, M. (2015). Reading and Understanding in the Digital Age. Reading Today, 32(4), 22-23.

Schrock, K.  (2016). The 5W’s of Website Evaluation. Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything.  Retrieved from


The Path to Inquiry

My Synthesis of Modules 1 – 4

As a way to synthesize all of the information in Modules 1 – 4, I grabbed my fine-tip markers and some paper, then got creative.  Well, maybe not creative, but certainly colourful, with keywords and quotes from the readings.  Module 1 provides the reasons and research for using inquiry in the library/learning commons, and classroom.  The quote from Barb Stripling’s 2008 article,  “Inquiry: Inquiring Minds Want to Know” succinctly defines inquiry.  Module 2 explains the most common models, while Module 3 explains the components needed to create an environment of inquiry.  Finally,  Module 4 outlines the necessity of collaboration between Teacher-Librarians (TLs) and teachers to create a learning culture that encourages participation, co-planning and communication.

While creating my synthesis, I had a AHA! Moment.  I am an adult who has completed many years of schooling (and continues to learn on a daily basis), is an extremely proficient reader, and able to synthesize information quite readily, but taking this information and writing a brief, interesting and enjoyable blog post, proved a Herculean task on a warm, sunny day.  So, I wonder, do my students feel this overwhelmed when I explain the inquiry process and teach them the lessons needed to move through the cycle?  Inquiring more deeply into inquiry will hopefully provide some strategies to clarify the process, for myself and my students.  So, what path will I need to follow to better understand inquiry?

Why Should I Use Inquiry With My Students?

Inquiry allows students to explore questions about topics that connect to their own world, and when students can connect learning to their world, they are more engaged, and learning is more meaningful.  During the process of exploring their questions, students are gaining necessary multi-modal literacies to become independent learners able to function in our global society (LLED 469, Module 1, Page 2, 2017).  My goal as a TL is to ensure my students understand ‘how to learn’ about information.  In today’s digital world of Google and Wikipedia, finding information is not an issue, it is understanding what to do with the information when it is found.  Marlene Asselin and Ray Dorion’s 2008 Meta-Study, Towards A Transformative Pedagogy for School Libraries, determined that in order for students to be successful in our ever-changing global world, that we need to ensure our students master new literacies, which include the following skills:

(Asselin & Doiron, 2008 – As quoted in LLED 469, Module 1)   [*An interesting observation is the close connection between these multi-modal literacies and the Core Competencies outlined in the new BC Curriculum, but that is for a future blog post.]

Which Inquiry Model?


In previous courses in the Teacher-Librarian Diploma program, I have discussed different inquiry models [See 2016/10/10, 2017/01/28].  Previously, I used the Scholastic Inquiry Process with my students.  It was simple and easy to follow, and the questions helped guide the students during the process.  Upon further reflection, I prefer the simplicity of the Points of Inquiry.  [I also prefer the Points of Inquiry Collaborative Planning Guides.]  This is the model that I will use for creating my Inquiry Plan for Assignment 3, and the one I will use with my students during the next school year.

Michelle Wright’s ‘The Model of Inquiry’, is based on Barbara Striplings’ Process of Inquiry, as is the BCTLA’s The Points of Inquiry.  I like the simplicity of her video and will share this with my staff as I know some struggle with how to implement inquiry in their classroom.

What Next?

In order to create an inquiry mindset and encourage a collaborative environment for planning, collaborating and co-teaching, it is important to have a firm understanding of the inquiry process.  I have been using the Scholastic Inquiry Process with my students for the last two years with some success, but I feel there are still some components of the process that need tweaking and improving,  particularly the ‘Express’ and Reflect’ points. I am comfortable with expressing my learning and reflecting upon it, but this is a skill that needs to be taught to my students.  Currently my Grade 5, 6, and 7 students are working on Genius Hour Projects. We have completed the first three points – connect and wonder, investigate and construct – and are going to present their projects soon.   I plan to teach students how to give constructive feedback to their peers, and then teach the students how to reflect upon their own work, comments from myself, and their peers.  As I am in the midst of the inquiry process with my students, I can use this experience to reflect upon my own understanding of the Points of Inquiry, and use this knowledge when creating my Inquiry Unit for Assignment 3, and using inquiry in the future.


Promotion, Advocacy, Promotion, Advocacy…

Content made or found by Andy Woodworth, librarian extraordinaire

As I reflect on the eight courses I have completed in the Teacher-Librarian program,  I realize the most important job for a TL is to promote ourselves and advocate for our school libraries.  It saddens me to hear comments ranging from, “Oh, you have lots of time to manage ‘your books’ because you don’t have to do report cards” (other teachers), to “Really? You teach kids?  I thought you only took care of books? (public)” There is this stereotype that we sit behind a counter all day with books, and our job isn’t the same as a classroom teacher.  It’s not the same, but it’s no less important.   As Teacher-Librarians, we need to promote ourselves and our skills, and ensure that our colleagues know how we can support them and the students in our school community.

So, yes, this course did focus on reference services, but these services do not exist unless we share our knowledge of our resources with our colleagues.  Ann Riedling, in Reference Skills for the School Librarian says that “successful reference services for school librarians consist of three components: 1) knowledge of the library media collection, electronic information resources, and tools; 2) effective conversational skills (communication); and 3) competence in selecting, acquiring, and evaluating resources to meet students needs (4).   My weak areas, and this is not based on any evaluation tool but my own reflection, are 1 and 2. Throughout this course, I have learned how to ‘select, acquire, and evaluate resources‘.  As a relatively greenTeacher-Librarian (7 months),  knowledge of my print collection continues to grows on a daily basis.   The digital resources – District databases –  are readily available and I have used them with the students, but I am still becoming familiar with all of the options available.  My ‘conversational skills’ are effective with the students,  but what I have realized is I need “to ensure that everything possible is done to keep the channels of communication open and flowing” with all of the staff (99).  This term, I have connected with four staff members (Grade 1, 2, 3 and 5), and have made plans to extend their classroom curriculum in the library.  Many of the staff will approach me regarding fiction and non-fiction resources, but I believe they are unsure about how my role as TL can support them in the classroom.  Perhaps this video below, which I created as my final advocacy project for LIBE 477 can provide an overview.


Share, share and share some more – weekly  newsletters, library website, staff meetings, posters, lunch learning – I need to do this because if teachers are aware of the resources available, where to find them and how I can help students find them,  the library will be used on a more regular basis for research purposes, and student learning will improve.


In Term 3, my intermediate students are beginning Genius Hour projects. I’ve discovered that many students  struggle with independent research because they do not know where to find the information.  Despite our lessons about District databases, their first choice is Google.  Lessons during Term 1 and 2 did focus on how to do an effective Google Search,  but students choose the first site,  give it a cursory skim and claim they cannot find any information.   I need to share information about reference sources – both print and digital – with my colleagues so they can reinforce the use of these resources in their own lessons.   I believe that by sharing and collaborating with my staff, that students will learn strategies to become more efficient in finding reliable information, and improve their digital literacy skills.  Before I outline my next steps, here is a TED Talk by Doug Belshaw that outlines the eight elements of essential digital literacies.



Teacher-Librarians are a valuable and necessary part of every school.  Our role is evolving, and becoming even more important as newer technologies become commonplace in our libraries and classrooms.  We need to ensure that our voices are heard and that our students, colleagues, administrators and parents understand that our libraries are a learning hub, and a warm, caring and safe place for ALL of our students.  Teacher-Librarians have the privilege of connecting with every student in the school, learning their name, what they enjoy reading, and what they are learning in their classrooms.  I loved being a classroom teacher and spending my day with 24 students, but I love being a TL even more because I get to share my love of books and technology with every person in my school.  Share your passion and tell others why you love libraries and Teacher-Librarians.  On Twitter, use the hashtags #bctla, #tlchat, #librarian, and #library.  There are many others, but these are a great place to start.


Riedling, Ann, Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips, (Third Edition). Linworth.

All other references have been hyperlinked within this blog post.


How Do We Choose?

Sketch by Carl Richards, CFP

Theme 3 provided us with a large amount of reference resources, both print and digital – the deep web, indexes, databases, encyclopedias, bibliographies, directories, dictionaries, almanacs, yearbooks, maps, and atlases.  How do we decide what to use?  In our effort to find the most reliable resource, we spend hours searching and reading.  What do we achieve?  Perhaps the resource is useful, but the following week, we find another resource on Twitter.  We receive catalogues and e-mails from a variety of vendors encouraging us to preview their product.   Though Carl Richards’ sketch was referring to the plethora of financial choices available, his sketch can easily apply to a number of topics.  In our case, the more reference choices we have, the more time we spend searching, and the less likely we are to find something reliable to share with our staff and students.  This has been one of my challenges in my first year as a Teacher-Librarian, how do we narrow down our choices?  I will attempt to answer this question by using the Big 3 Questions from Spirals of Inquiry: For Equity and Quality by Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser.

What are you learning?

Theme 3 provided 63 links to online resources, some require subscriptions, but the majority are free.  Many more resources are listed by Ann Riedling in Reference Skills for School Librarians, and we also encounter new resources on a daily basis, especially if we use social media.  In an effort to wade through all of this information, I’m learning how to evaluate these resources, and decide whether the tool is useful.  Riedling provides checklists for evaluation and selection of a variety of sources, but the checklist I created in Assignment 1,  is an amalgamation of these checklists.

Since creating this checklist for Assignment 1, I have added a section for authority.  This is because a large majority of the reference resources provided in Theme 3 are online, and require a higher level of critical thinking regarding reliability.  Subscription paid databases and online encyclopedias such as ERIC, World Book Online, Gale, and Encyclopedia Brittanica have an established reputation for authorityy, but should still be evaluated using the checklist to determine their currency, relevancy, purpose and curricular connections.

How is it going?

I’ve discovered a variety of sources of information that might be useful for staff and students.  The difficulty is determining which ones are useful for an elementary school, but even if the resource is too advanced for the students, some staff members may find it useful for expanding their background knowledge.  This raises questions of how to determine relevance, but if I feel the staff might benefit, I will share it through FirstClass and provide a link.  Teachers have the option of exploring the link,  or ignoring the e-mail.

The discussion boards were helpful during Theme 3 as I learned about different resources, and the various ways the resources were used in my classmates’ libraries, and by the teachers in their schools.  Collaboration with other Teacher-Librarians, and Classroom Teachers, is helpful in determining relevance and usefulness of reference resources.

Where to next?

As a first year Teacher-Librarian, I am learning about the importance of the reference resources in my library, and the best ways to assist my colleagues and students in finding information.  “The problem is finding ways to discover the optimal information from among the heaps of data (Riedling, 109). It is vital to know when to turn to print resources, when to use the Web, and when to avoid them all in favour of consulting an expert in the field (Riedling, 113).”

My next steps include using my evaluation checklist to create a Symbaloo of resources on my library website.  This is a job that I plan to undertake soon, and it will continue to evolve and change throughout the school year, especially as new resources emerge.

Assignment 3 will outline my next steps for reference services in my library.


Halbert J., & Kaser, L. Spirals of  Inquiry: For equity and quality.  BCPVPA.

Riedling, Ann, Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips, (Third Edition). Linworth.


Keep Moving Forward


This quote from Walt Disney is one I aspire to live by, especially as an educator.  Reflection about our practice is necessary, but if we dwell for too long on our past failures, we become frozen and struggle to move forward.  The new inquiry-based BC curriculum allows us the opportunity to be curious and try new things, with our students, and with our practice.

In my role as Teacher-Librarian, I am privileged to work with all 14 divisions in my school – students and teachers.  My time with each division is limited, but I try and make an effort to collaborate with each teacher so that I can connect my library lessons with the classroom.   I have recently embraced a larger role within the school and I’m now working with primary classes for two extra blocks per week.   I’m using this time to teach the students, and the teachers, ways to integrate technology more effectively for learning and assessment.


A small group of teachers has expressed an interest in learning more about ways to use technology, particularly G Suite for Education.   Weekly lunch meetings have provided an opportunity for some teachers to “take the initiative to learn more about the innovation” by exploring Google Drive,  Google Slides, and Google Docs, and asking questions (Level 0I. Orientation of CBAM, Loucks-Horsley, 1996).   After our ‘Google Group’ sessions, a few teachers expressed an interest in creating “definite plans to begin using the innovation” (Level II. Preparation of CBAM, Loucks-Horsley, 1996).    A few teachers have asked for assistance in finding ways to integrate technology into their classrooms.   Though this assignment does specify working with colleagues about ‘reference resources’,  I feel that by helping teachers become more comfortable with purposefully integrating technology (iPads, Chromebooks, and MacBooks) into their practice, they will feel more comfortable accessing the databases available in our District.


I like using the SAMR model to provide teachers “a method of seeing how computer technology might impact teaching and learning” (SAMR Model).   Many teachers are unaware of the SAMR model, so this brief video by John Spencer provides background.

This video with Dr. Ruben Puentedura provides a more detailed explanation of each level of the SAMR model, and includes classroom examples of how simple assignments can be transformed to move through each level of the model.


Now that we have an understanding of the benefits of including technology in our teaching, I have created plans for two teachers – Teacher A and Teacher B – to introduce and increase their use of technology and reference resources into their teaching.

                             Teacher A

Teacher B

AN  experienced primary teacher, who is willing to learn and adapt their teaching to include new ideas and technologies.   Their preference is to become very competent and comfortable with a topic or technology before using it with their students.  This can be a bit of a limitation as it restricts the ability for students to explore new topics. An experienced Grade 5 teacher who has taught a variety of grades, both primary and intermediate.  They are very comfortable with technology and brings others into their classroom to improve both their, and their students, skills.  With the implementation of the new curriculum, they have embraced inquiry in their classroom and encourages students to follow their passions.
·      5 iPads in the classroom, and scheduled access to MacBooks

·      uses print reference resources and non-fiction books from the library to teach information skills in the classroom

·      is unfamiliar with online databases

·      is willing to learn how to incorporate G Suite for Education, and other online reference tools, into their classroom

·      willing to ask questions and expand their knowledge

·      7 iPads in the classroom, a shared Chromebook cart with another intermediate class, and scheduled access to MacBooks

·      uses print reference resources and non-fiction books from library to teach information skills

·      is learning how to use online databases and wants to incorporate them into their practice

·      is incorporating G Suite for Education and online reference


·      Through our collaborative inquiry into animals, assist this teacher in finding more ways to incorporate technology into their teaching

·      Incorporate the use of online reference databases in the classroom

·      Through our collaborative teaching of the inquiry process, where students will be pursuing independent projects, Teacher B will learn about online databases and best methods for helping students find information


Teacher A and B have made efforts to learn more about G Suite for Education and are willing to explore resources that will assist their students.  My experience with many teachers and technology has been that once students have learned how to use a tool, and teachers see what the students can accomplish, the teachers will ask how to use it in their practice, and then it will slowly be introduced to the classroom.  This is a slow and steady process and will take some time for teachers to fully embrace using online reference resources, and technology, with their students.

Students have recently created their Google accounts in anticipation of learning how to use Google Slides in Term 3.  Google Slides will be used to showcase their learning during our study of Burns Bog, and though not a reference resource, it does demonstrate what they found using the reference resources.

As these students are only in Grade 3, some of the online resources, websites and databases,  will be provided, which students will access using QR codes.

Students have been learning how Google searches, how to conduct a proper Google search, how to determine the reliability of a website using the 5Ws, and how to access the databases in our District.

In Term 3, Teacher A and I will be collaborating and co-teaching this independent inquiry project together. This will provide an opportunity for Teacher A to learn along with the students as I teach further information skills using the online databases.


I feel that the online databases available in our District are not being fully utilized in our building.  My plan is to create posters using QR codes for ALL divisions that will directly link staff and students to the database home page.  This will allow easy access for all students as every class in our building has iPads for student use.

The Grade 3 – 7 students regularly use the Chromebooks in the library.  I am showing all of the students how to bookmark the District database page on Google Chrome, as well as adding the link to the ‘About’ page in each of my Google Classrooms for library.

This strategy cannot ensure that Teacher A and B will embed the use of the online databases into their practice, but a constant reminder on their classroom wall will hopefully spark their memory these online reference resources are available.

Print reference resources are an important part of libraries, but as technology has improved and become more accessible, the ability for libraries to purchase resources such as encyclopedias is becoming more difficult.  It is far most cost-effective to purchase a subscription to online encyclopedias and databases. As we have learned in our discussion of the deep web, these resources are only a small portion of the information available online.  Our job as Teacher-Librarians is to teach our colleagues, and our students, how to access this information and use technology for learning.  By working closely with Teacher A and B, through co-teaching and collaboration, my hope is these teachers will see the benefits of using technology for teaching and learning, and ultimately incorporate the tools into their practice.


Technology is Learning, SAMR Model, , retrieved on March 4, 2017, from

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything, SAMR and Bloom’s,  retrieved on March 4, 2017, from

Puentedura, R., How to apply the SAMR model with Ruben Puentedura, retrieved on March 4, 2017, from

Spencer, J., What is the SAMR model and what does it look like in schools?, retrieved on March 4, 2017, from



References and Resourcefulness

As a classroom teacher, I spent a large majority of my time searching for resources, for both my own professional learning as an educator, and for resources that I could use with my students in the classroom.   The Teacher-Librarians (TL) I have worked with in the past have been helpful, but I found myself not regularly utilizing their knowledge.  Now that I am a TL, I have been making efforts to connect with the staff and students to provide resources and skills, that will help them find the information relevant for their needs.  Though I have made an effort, I still have a long journey ahead as I continue to learn the intricacies of how to manage a reference collection.

Theme 2 has provided many valuable resources that will be extremely useful on my journey to improving my reference services and collection.  The resources used during Modules 5, 6, and 7 – Achieving Information Literacy: Standards for School Library Programs in Canada, Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for Library Learning Commons in Canada, and Evaluating, Selecting and Acquiring Learning Resources: A Guide – will be documents that I refer to often in my role as a TL.  Theme 2 focused on the promotion, through collaboration, and management of reference materials.  What is my role in these areas?

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-12-48-12-pmThe promotion of reference, or personal, reading materials is my first role, but to do this effectively, it is necessary to establish the needs of my staff and students.  Ann Riedling, author of Reference Skills for the School Librarian, recommends the ‘Reference Interview’, “to determine efficiently and productively the nature, quantity, and level of information the students requires, as well as the appropriate format” (99).   Though Reidling mentions little about collaboration with teachers, it is imperative that TLs spend time connecting with all staff about available resources, and cooperative planning, which improves student success.   “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” (Haycock, 2007).

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-3-00-22-pmConnection must come first, but to promote resources during collaboration, a TL must have thorough knowledge of their collections.  I’ve only been in my library since September and I continue to see new resources, so learning the collection well will take time.  The more I interact with the resources, the more familiar I will become with the 13,165 books.  As I have been using the materials, and taking this course,  I am questioning whether all of the titles are still relevant.  Do I need to replace some items due to age or damage?  [Check out The National Library of New Zealand weeding web page.]  Since September, I have heavily weeded print reference materials, damaged books, and parts of the ‘easy’ fiction section.  One of my goals is to use a portion of my library administration time to start weeding more regularly.

Weeding is not done in isolation, but in conjunction with the addition of new resources.  TLs are the resource managers of the school and therefore must ask: what new resources – print and digital – are available and align with the new BC curriculum?  Are these resources ones that the teachers would find useful?  Where will they be stored so everyone has access?  Part of my role is to find these resources, and evaluate them using the ERAC Evaluation Document.  Once evaluation is complete, I need to consult with staff and ask for input.


Once weeding is complete, and we have decided on potential resources to add to the collection, budget must be considered.    According to BCTLA 2012/2013 Working and Learning Conditions Survey, the average library budget for elementary schools was $3,288.  My budget is about 1/3 of this amount, and therefore requires a large amount of creativity when acquiring resources.  I’m thankful that we do have access to a large number of online databases, and these are being promoted heavily within the school.  All other resources are my responsibility, as well as any book repair materials, furniture or other improvements I wish to make to the library space.

A TL has many roles within the school, and we may wear many hats.  I feel there is a  very steep learning curve in this position, but my TL colleagues remind me that baby steps are necessary.   Sometimes it feels as if a lack of time, and money, can limit our abilities to expand resources and programs.  We must consider the value of our role in promoting a joy of books, reading, and learning media literacy skills to our students, and our staff.   Our willingness to collaboratively plan units and choose resources with our colleagues creates an environment where we are all learners, and that can only improve learning for our students.

Content made or found by Andy Woodworth, librarian extraordinaire

Content made or found by Andy Woodworth, librarian extraordinaire


Asselin, M., Branch, J., & Oberg, D., (Eds). Achieving information literacy: Standards for school library programs in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Canadian School Library Association & The Association for Teacher-Librarianship in Canada.

Canadian Association of School Librarians, Leading learning: Standards of practice for school library learning commons in Canada, 2014, pages 21-24.

Evaluating, selecting and acquiring learning resources: A guideEducational Resource Acquisition Consortium (ERAC)

Haycock, K. “Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning” School Libraries Worldwide 13.1 (2007): 25-35

Riedling, Ann, Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips, (Third Edition). Linworth.

Evaluating Reference Resources – A Checklist

Resources are an integral part of all libraries.  In a school-based setting, the job of the Teacher-Librarian is to ensure that the available resources are tailored to our unique setting, which includes staff, students and the community learning goals.  My library contained a large amount of reference materials that were rarely used and out of date.  A considerable amount of time was spent weeding over a period of approximately four months, which resulted in the removal of a set of outdated World Book Encyclopedias, a large amount of videotapes, and other resource materials.

While deciding which materials to remove from the collection, I reviewed a variety of materials regarding resource evaluation.  A checklist that is used frequently to review reference materials, both print and digital, is the CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) Test created by the librarians at California State University, Chico.  Another resource that appears useful, and could be the basis of teaching lessons to students regarding resources, is Evaluating Reference Resources, from the Idaho Commission for Libraries.  The purpose of this assignment was to create a rubric or checklist to evaluate “a significant resource” in my library collection that considered ‘relevancy, purpose, currency, curricular connections, and efficient use of library space’.   I created a checklist, adapted from the CRAAP test, that I will use to evaluate the World Book encyclopedia 2005 (which was recently removed from my library),  and I will also use this same checklist to evaluate World Book Online.  The completed checklists are linked below.



I created an ‘Evaluation Reference Resources – Comparison’ chart to provide further explanation for each section of the checklist.  This chart also includes a ‘cost comparison’ and ‘conclusion’ section.   Based on my review of the two resources using my checklist, World Book Online is a better option for our school population, and it is also more economical as the cost of the subscription is paid for by the School District.  The largest factors influencing my recommendation for World Book Online are based on the diversity of information available in the databases, and the ability for all of our students to access the resource.

This was a valuable exercise as it caused me to consider the questions that should be answered before purchasing a reference resource for the library.  Print resources can be extremely beneficial, but a thorough analysis should be done, especially as a large majority of information is available online for little or no cost.  Of course, we must examine the currency, relevancy, and purpose of any information – print or digital – before considering its use in our libraries, and with our staff and students.


 Asselin, M., Branch, J., & Oberg, D., (Eds). Achieving information literacy: Standards for school library programs in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Canadian School Library Association & The Association for Teacher-Librarianship in Canada.

BCDC. (2017). Retrieved 5 February 2017, from

Riedling, Ann, Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips, (Third Edition). Linworth.

Tutorial for Info Power. (2017). Retrieved 5 February 2017, from


Using Inquiry to Teach About Sources


I love information, that’s why I became a Teacher-Librarian.  I love seeking out information and sharing it with my students and colleagues.  I have no preference for print or digital, as I find both sources to provide the information I seek.  I do admit that I am learning more towards digital sources though, as the reference section of my school library is lacking in some areas, particularly reference materials such as encyclopedias and yearbooks.  These materials were weeded earlier this year as they were very dated (1990s to 2003), so online sources, particularly the databases subscribed to by our District, have been our reference section.  There is value in having print sources available, but due to budget restraints and the inability to keep these sources current, they will probably not be replaced in my library.

If our main source of information is digital, then learning digital literacy skills is a necessity for my students.  Early in the year, I begin with digital citizenship lessons that focus on safety, privacy and respect. A great resource for lessons are Common Sense Media and Media Smarts.  Check out this blog I wrote earlier this year with some videos I have used with my students.  Once my students understand their online responsibilities, we begin the process of learning how to properly search for information.

Once students understand how Google searches for information from their own index, we have a discussion about the function of a search engine, the information contained in each result, and the most popular search engines – Google, Yahoo, and Bing.  We then discuss why keywords were used in the video, and not an entire question.  I demonstrate to the students the difference in results when using an entire question versus the keyword, and the differences in the number of results.  Students then work independently completing searches for questions and keywords we have created as a class. [A great resource for learning about questioning is the Right Question Institute.]

I use these lessons as an introduction to our independent inquiry projects using the Scholastic Inquiry Process.   It is much easier to teach information skills in the context of a project rather than as independent, separate lessons.  Our inquiry project always begins with lessons on questioning.  We begin by choosing a topic, and then brainstorm a list of questions.   Once our list is complete, we divide the questions into categories based on question topic.  The goal is for students to understand that one topic contains many different subtopics, and it is impossible to answer all of our questions in one inquiry project.  Students begin to understand that categorizing questions is a method used for narrowing down a topic, which can help create a focus question for an inquiry project.  After we have completed this process as a class, students choose their own topic and do this process independently.  Step 1 of the process is the most difficult and time consuming.  Once students have developed their question, we begin the process of searching for information, online and in books from our library.

Using Online Sources

It is always interesting to begin teaching students to do online searches.  Many persist in using questions rather than keywords, despite instructions otherwise.  They also think the answer will magically appear on the results page.  We are just entering Step 2 of the inquiry process where we begin our search for information.  Step 2 begins with requiring students to break their questions down into keywords, as keywords generally provide more accurate search results.  This is my first time working on independent inquiry projects with a large variety of students so I have the privilege trying different strategies to see what works best.  Our next steps will be to determine the reliability of websites and information.

This week, I began this process with the Grade 4 class when I asked about the reliability of the following two websites:  Pacific Tree Octopus and Dog Island.  I asked two questions: How do you know if these are real websites?  Where did you check to see if they are real?  I’ve only just posed the questions and not all students have answered in Google Classroom, but two of the students are adamant that Dog Island is a real place.  We shall have an interesting discussion next week when we discuss how to evaluate websites.  Students will use the 5Ws of Website Evaluation from Kathy Schrock, which utilizes a familiar strategy that students can use to determine usefulness of websites.

As Teacher-Librarians, we are responsible for providing a wide variety of reference sources for our staff and our students.  Technology continues to evolve, and the number of digital resources continues to increase.  Print resources are an important part of our libraries, but budgets are restrained and it is expensive to keep print sources current, hence the move towards online databases and resources.   We, TLs, are information specialists and our role is to teach our students, and staff, valuable media literacy skills that allow them to use digital, and print, information successfully.

Read this great article written by Julie Todaro, ALA president, Will Librarians Be the Overseers of the Information Age?, where she discusses the importance of teaching information skills because “the internet is a mile wide, and an inch deep”.


Asselin, M., Branch, J., & Oberg, D., (Eds). Achieving information literacy: Standards for school library programs in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Canadian School Library Association & The Association for Teacher-Librarianship in Canada.

Riedling, Ann, Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips, (Third Edition). Linworth.

A Learning Summary

themorethatyouread2c0athemorethingsyouwill0aknow2c0athemorethatyoulearn2c0athemoreplacesyou27llgo0a0-defaultAlmost a year ago, I wrote a post reflecting on my learning in LIBE 477, and contemplated what I would do with my own library.   A year later, I am now a Teacher-Librarian, reflecting on my learning in LLED 462, and my first term in the library.   Report cards will be going home with students shortly, and as teachers write their report cards, this post will be my communication of my learning as a student.

Essential question – Summary of learning

Our first learning curation for this term asked us to create an essential question.  My professional inquiry question was “How can technology support the teaching of the inquiry process across all grades?”   I created a plan to teach the inquiry process using the Scholastic screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-5-47-20-pmPoster (left), through the use of technology.   The students are learning inquiry by answering the questions:  “What is a story? ” and “How do our actions affect the story of our community?”  The progress towards meeting our learning goals has been slow.  Access to technology is limited as our school only has 27 working laptops that are shared among 14 divisions. There are only 3 blocks available for library use.   I do have 5 iPads for use in the library, but the District has implemented a new, very finicky, management process, where apps are downloaded from one server.  There have been issues with apps being pushed out to all iPads, and some apps not appearing at all.   Another obstacle is that classes only have 30 to 40 minutes in the library on a weekly basis.  In this short time, the focus is on promoting literacy, helping students find books, and checking them out.  My time with the students is limited.   I have also been working on school-wide initiatives with the principal as I have the privilege of seeing every student.   I feel my first term in the library has been a huge learning curve, and I have accomplished many things (especially with the physical space), but I am struggling with accomplishing all of my goals.  How can I focus on literacy, school-wide initiatives, and teach them inquiry at the same time? How do I set priorities?

Evolution of Learning Curation

My learning curations focused on inquiry, questioning, technology, student-centered learning, and social justice.  Initially, I believed that my learning was only connected to the prompts in each module.  On reflection, each curation, and Assignment 3, collectively contributed to answering my essential question: How can technology support the teaching of the inquiry process?   Questioning is step one in the inquiry process, so learning how to ask good questions is necessary.  Technology has many different uses – learning, citizenship, entertainment, presentation, curation, networking, social justice – so understanding the possibilities for teaching through technology is necessary.  A student-centered library allows students a choice in their learning (and voice), and how their learning space is organized (space/place).   Allowing students a variety of choices to reach their learning goals, is an integral part of the inquiry process and is embedded in the new BC Curriculum.  screen_shot_2016-11-27_at_10_50_31_amAs I reviewed my Learning Curations, and all of the Learning Modules for LLED 462, I began to create a web using they keywords from each module.  The Wordle below is a visual representation of topics I have encountered in this course, and in the library.


Each one of my Learning Curations has connected with my role as Teacher-Librarian, and did collectively work towards answering my Essential Question, though not in the way I envisioned.   Though this course is now complete, I will continue to work through the Spiral of Inquiry until I am satisfied with the results.

As a reflection on my first term as a new Teacher-Librarian, I focused on building partnerships with staff,  and connecting with the students.  My focus has been on learning the new ADST curriculum and exploring how I may be of value to teachers in implementing this in my library, and in collaboration with teachers in their classrooms.  “The most valuable resource that teachers have is each other.  Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspective”. ~ Robert John Meehan

Plans for the future

I have a huge ‘To Do’ list that I created in August, when I first entered the library.  Slowly, things have been crossed off, but there is so much more to do, both with the physical space, and the digital space.  I take pride in the compliments I receive about the changes that have occurred in the physical space.  Students are wanting to spend time in the library.  I have also made an effort to support teachers in the classroom with implementing G Suite, and creating a weekly lunch hour ‘Google Gathering’, where we discuss (and learn) the different ways to use technology with the students.  There is still so much more to do….

Advocate  – I have approached the District for a crate of 15 Chromebooks for my library, and have suggested that every library in the District should have dedicated technology.  How are we to teach 21st century skills to our students when we have no tools?  The PAC in my school has gifted 5 iPads to the library, for which I am very grateful, particularly to my Principal, who asked not once, but twice on my behalf.  I will now have 10 iPads in my library that I can use with all of the students.  I am so fortunate, but what about other schools? Districts?

As TLs, we are short of resources, technology, time and support.   I am learning, very quickly, that TLs need to advocate for more time.  Our roles have changed, and we cannot effectively promote all forms of literacy, collaborate with our staff, maintain our collections and libraries, and create a warm, welcoming, and safe space in our reduced schedules.  Now is an important time for us to advocate, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling in favour of the BCTF regarding class size and composition.

Learn – As a new Teacher-Librarian, I am still learning the breadth of responsibilities required in my role.  It is daunting, and just as we learned while on our teaching practicum,  we do not truly understand the demands of our jobs until we plunge, head first, into our own library.  Here is what I need to learn:

  • The best methods for management of the students, staff and physical space.  A library is very different from a classroom, in size and function, and I want it to be a place of tranquility, with a slight hum of engaged activity, not chaos.
  •  Time is of the essence in the library.  I have each class for 30 – 40 minutes once per week, and I have a specified amount of time for administrative tasks.   In the classroom, you can simply carry activities through to completion, but this can be more difficult in the library.  I will learn how to be more efficient with choosing learning tasks, and with management of the library.  There has to be a more efficient way to manage check in/out of books…

Embrace – I never truly understood the role of the TL, until I became one in August.  I love working with all of the students and staff in the school.  At times though, I feel disconnected.  I am not always present at Staff meetings or Professional Days because I am only at school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.   The staff always make an effort to keep me informed and ask my opinion.   Though my time in the library has been short, I have embraced the position, the staff and the students, and will continue to learn and collaborate with everyone in the building.


Photo by Clay Junell    Some rights reserved  screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-1-27-53-pm