QUT Masters of Education – CLN650 Blog

This blog was originally created as a course requirement for QUT’s ED79 Unit CLN650Information~Learning Nexus, and documented the author’s ‘information search and use’ process as she studies Information Literacy and Inquiry-Based Learning during implementation of an inquiry-based research project in a primary school setting.

Earlier posts are for this purpose alone.

The blog title refers to learning theorist George Seimens’ (2004) conclusions about learning:

The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.

Categories include:

  • Personal Reflection:  my periodic responses to the SLIM questionnaires and other observations about my own “information learning” journey
  • Information Search:  documenting my online searches for literature pertaining to Information Literacy and Inquiry-Based Learning
  • Learning Project:  posts relating to the Research Project on which I am basing my report.
  • Literature Review: my response to literature, both set readings and material I find during my own searches.
  • Resources:  useful online tools and websites that are discovered on this journey.
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Reflection #3

SLIM Questionnaire 3

1. Thinking about my topics (Information Literacy and Inquiry-Based Learning).

How long is that piece of string?  I thought I had a good handle on IL but I now realise how shallow and primitive my definition was.  Definition? hmmm.  If the experts can’t agree on that, who am I to try?  Obviously, there is great variance in the literature, from a narrow, easily digestible litany of skills pertaining to a process of locating, analyising and using information.  Then there are the postmodernists! (and everyone in between) and let’s not forget the classroom teachers at the coal face who are designing the learning activities and all have their own understandings.

I’m finally getting a grip of the depth of rebellion against the ready-mixed, boxed-up, scope-and-sequence picture of such a living, breathing, organic thing (like IL) that is constantly evolving to meet the demands of the “information age” in a global community where neat lines of society and culture are so blurred.  Jury’s out.  By the time we get a snapshot that everyone’s happy with (is that even possible??), IL will have shape-shifted to accomodate some other form/mode/influence/version of “literacy” and “information”.  But what a wonderful, scintillating time we’re all going to have on that journey!

Learning through inquiry moves beyond regurgitating facts, and with very good reason – this industrial, assembly line model of education is simply not relevant today.  IBL grants more autonomy to the student, meaning they can take control of their learning process  rather than the teacher holding all control.  This approach give the learner a means to achieve lifelong learning.  If I lay eyes another graphic model of Inquiry, I think I’ll burst at the seams!  These come in all shapes and sizes, and most seem to have their origins in a few ‘defining’ models like Kuhlthau’s ISP which was based on research.  Stripling and Pitts developed a whopper 10-step model but the age of the students I’m working with necessitates a less daunting approach.  No one model is the “be all and end all” of inquiry.  Selecting the most suitable model will depend on the particular information need.

2. How interested are you in this topic?

A great deal.

3. How much do you know about this topic?

A great deal more than I did at the start.  Rather, I’ve corrected some mistaken assumptions and expanded my perspective, but I have this innate reluctance to select the “top of the scale” option – there’s always so much more to know!

4. Thinking back on your research project, what did you find easiest to do?

Procrastinate.  That was my most exemplary skill.  Other than that, armed with so much new learning about search strategies (thank you Maureen Henninger!) and fabulous tools at my disposal, the actual searching was easy.  Locating sources that initially seemed relevant, reliable and usable worked so well, I was making a rod for my own back by collecting so many.  Once I had a clear plan / direction for my essay, the drafting part was relatively easy as well.  Trimming it to a reasonable size was harder, as this involved rejigging the flow of some sections.

5. Thinking back on your research project, what did you find most difficult to do?

I had most trouble at the Sorting/Organising information stage.  I had such a volume of relevant information that making connections was time consuming in the extreme.  The brain-stretching that was required to filter and sift the most relevant information, and arrange it in some sort of order that flowed logically, was almost a tangible feeling!  Strategies that helped drag me out of this mire were tactile and physical actions like highlighting and colour-coding, physically arranging piles, listing main ideas/topics.  These behaviours assisted in the cognitive organising of my thoughts.  I was surprised that my digital mind-mapping strategies weren’t as useful to me this time (they don’t physically make monitors that large!).  I did try constructing mind maps but found the process became unwieldy and confusing (perhaps I didn’t spend long enough in each ‘session’?) so when time pressures began to cause me stress, and I needed to feel the sense of progress being made, I resorted to the above strategies.

6. What did you learn in doing this research project? Please list as many things as you like.

Gosh, so many things…
Apart from the above content- and skill-based learnings, I have gained personal insights into my behaviours and tendencies during the research process.  I have a growing toolkit of good resources for implementing student inquiry projects.  I have gained confidence in my own information seeking abilities and in managing classroom inquiry.  I feel a veil has been lifted (that I didn’t even know was there!) on my understanding of information literacy and how the expectations of our role as educators has changed to meet burgeoning global information access.

Students’ prior knowledge of the topic has a bearing on how well they cope with a given inquiry task. (How many years have we been “activating prior knowledge through brainstorming” and erecting “knowledge walls” with ample sticky notes provided?  Though this is something teachers already or instinctively know, my attention has been drawn to the research and studies which prove this, and also the importance of engaging students’ interest in the topic (or giving them the freedom to choose their own)!

I’m also spending time thinking about the National Curriculum in the light of all this learning.  Recognising that we cannot teach information literacy without the enveloping sociocultural ‘layers’, we must strive to make these layers transparent – a kind of “meta-teaching” is called for.  I do feel it’s important that students, while developing a critical literacy, are educated within some cultural, historical and social context.  Content is important, but we must acknowledge the context (first becoming aware of it ourselves!), and we must acknowledge the validity of other sociocultural contexts in other places, as equal to our own.

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[Off the Record] Triple Antidote

Absolutely extremely ALL (can you tell I’ve been reading too much Lauren Child?) of the inquiry models I’ve laid my eyes on have included Evaluation in some form right at the”end”, or at least at some point along the cycle just before entering again into a Questioning / Wondering / Tuning In phase.  So here’s my quick ‘look back over the shoulder’ before signing off – a purge of all the things I should have posted and didn’t, the things my peers have included and I have neglected, and a brief self-evaluation in the light of another read through the “BlogBible Guidelines”.  This is my triple antidote to blogenvy, blogguilt and blogdeficiency.

Did I say Copyright free? That may be a teensy weensy little lie (Charlie)...but this one is absolutely my favourite and my best.

The reader may notice that I have been scrupulous about using only copyright free images throughout this blog (except for the teensy little one above), and attribution is tirelessly given as per the particular Creative Commons license.  I am not entirely sure of the exact protocol for this but certainly, I would hope the reader would have no trouble locating the original source of the image used – at least not in the short term.

One popular element glaringly absent from this blog is a screen shot of a wonder wheel search.  To be honest, I didn’t find Google’s latest graphic animated interactive search refining tool all that useful in my own quest for articles on IL and IBL.  My students however have found it reasonably useful (or at least a whole load of fun!) in their ILA information seeking.  Obviously, the Wonder Wheel aids some searches more effectively than others.  In my experience, the simpler and broader the initial topic the better.  Then again, maybe I just didn’t pass my license exam.  Nevertheless, I have taken a personal oath not to bow to peer ‘blogpressure’ and include a belated 11th-hour wonder wheel search…. sooooooooo

here is my substitute:

Flickr Image by wallyg

(ooooh cringe, I’m just feeling so brave and principled and OUT THERE… ooooo scary!)

…um, which brings me to acknowledging the elephant in the blogroom…
Last week I was tidying my MacBook, shifting a few files, arranging the desktop and I noticed the following (like a slap in the face) during a quick re-reading of Mandy’s Blog Guidelines:

“Firstly, it needs to be written with an audience in mind. You should consider your audience to be your colleagues, including your employer. The blog is not a stream of consciousness or ‘dear diary’ style, it is a scholarly document.”

Audience? Check.  My colleagues and employer well know my voice and are so used to sifting through the colloquialisms, mock stage directions and attempts at self-deprecating humour that they have been deaf to them for years.

Not a “Dear Diary” stream of consciousness? (oooops)  In my defence – there is just something so intimate and natural about blogging – it’s like the practice conversations you have in the bathroom (ahemused to have – when you were [cough] a teenager!), gesticulating wildly and authoritatively with the toothbrush as you lecture the towels.  One can so easily forget there’s a global audience out there, potentially, and probably more importantly just now, a lecturer poised with her digital highlighter and criteria sheet.

Scholarly document? Right.  Well.  Not much defence possible here.  I believe the requirements of “scholarly” have been more than adequately discussed over several lengthy Elluminate sessions and as a result I am most acutely aware of the relative thickness of the skin on my teeth.  So.  I do hereby solemnly promise to become more succinct and scholarly as a blog author.  Indeed, I shall endeavour to transform myself, in …er …my very last teensy weensy post for the final SLIM questionnaire.  I have simply had a whole load more unanticipated nonsense to purge from my blogconsciousness than originally expected.

…And just to disprove the reader’s rapidly forming theory that this particular post constitutes nothing more than one massive piece of inconsequential fluff, I will insert another image, for your viewing pleasure:

Internet Inquiry Process, from the TES Internet Inquiry Toolkit

Voila!  I do believe I’ve finally found an inquiry graphic model that almost nearly matches my own search process.  I love this one – so often have I envisaged spirals and eddies when documenting my search process, and this model deftly incorporates both – with layers!  One can easily imagine looping through the Searching stage any number of times before moving through Assessing.  Similarly, many subsequent cycles back through Gathering and Planning are possible before spinning off the comet trail of Communicating.  Thank God Kuhlthau I did manage to get off that train eventually.

In terms of the ISP, the Presentation Phase is finally, firmly behind me.  Phew!  There is relief, sure – almost overwhelmingly so.  I also feel the satisfaction of a job done to the best of my ability, though reluctant to revisit or revise lest I find something overlooked or wanting.  The actual searching persisted until the bitter end.  Even in the most final stages of editing and polishing, I was still following search leads and re-reading articles to check the accuracy of my understandings and assumptions, and to discern any links and correlations I’d hitherto missed.  Sadly, though Part A is posted, there is little of the much-anticipated sense of closure.  This is unexpected.  Granted, there is Part B to come, but I surmise that this sense of ‘threads hanging’ and a ‘continuing journey’ has more to do with the evolving nature of the topic.  I imagine I will revisit that thought in the upcoming SLIM Reflection.  Stay tuned.

Looking ahead…

My next Pipe post will be my last (sob*).  But rather than mourn the passing of what was my very first foray into blogdom, I may yet conjure a revival, a rebirth – Prepare Ye the Way of – ummm…. “Future-Incarnation-of-The-Pipe

[fanfare gradually fades]

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The “Internet Inquiry Model” is from the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Internet Toolkit by CAST (Centre for Applied Special Technology)

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11th Hour Post – Open Minds?

The end is nigh!  My Literature Review has been submitted complete and “The Pipe” must shortly follow suit.

As this blog (in its current iteration) enters its golden years and adopts the walking frame and ‘blue rinse’ look, I discover I’m not entirely ready to put it out to pasture…  Today, during a completely unrelated Google search (that I’m not even going to bother trying to reconstruct!), I chanced upon this blog (“The Bamboo Project”) post: “Information Literacy and Habits of Mind”.

”]Aaaarrrrgggggghhhhh!  There it is – that IL term again! How ironic that only hours before, I had uploaded my Literature Review for assessment, and here in my lap lands a perfect thread to follow in the development of my arguments on “historical evidence”.  Sigh.  Shall have to toss this idea in the discard pile alongside Visual Literacy and Kapitzke’s (2003) argument for a multimodal, socioculturally transparent meta-hyperliteracy and once again lament the speed at which that thousandth word always comes flying down.

Ahem  …The blog post cites an article from ScienceDaily (July 2, 2009) describing results from 91 studies of over 8,000 information seeking participants, which basically demonstrate our overwhelming tendency to filter out information that does not match our own views, particularly in the areas of religion, politics and ethics.  Apparently if you are not overly confident in your own point of view, you are even less likely to want to hear an opposing one.

Now I find these results astounding, but then I’m that pathetic, ungainly sponge stuck in the middle of the tidal creek, that ends up changing direction with the tide… under most common circumstances.  In terms of my information seeking on Information Literacy and Inquiry Learning, I’ll console myself with “open-mindedness rulz”.

There are apparently “certain factors” which induce people to actively seek out contradictory points of view.  I guess I am fairly constantly within the category of people who have something to gain from finding out why people might oppose them, like politicians.  Is this a common position for teachers (and parents!) to find themselves in, perchance?  Today I resolve to turn on the metacognition switch when faced with information that counters my beliefs, to critically reflect on how I feel compelled to act.  Will I discount that information as unreliable, biased or from a dubious source?  Will I change my open chasm of a mind without a flinch?  Aaaahhh.  Shrug.  Live and let live. Until someone scoffs at my iTunes Top 20 playlist – LOOK OUT!

I’m almost tempted to conduct further research to extend the parameters of these findings, by springing it on the students at our very next ILA session, that they must immediately swap their strongly held verdict (on the preferred ‘image’ of their outlaw to be preserved in future folklore) to the precise opposite viewpoint.  “Sorry love, I must insist that you now start collecting evidence to prove your beloved hero Ned Kelly, as a dastardly, bloodythirsty, thieving lowlife cop-killing villain, and re-draft your essay accordingly.”  Hmmm.  I  expect the displays of ISP-collection-phase-angst would suddenly register off the scale!

Incidentally, I also learned from Michele Martin‘s blog how to correctly acknowledge a CC photo in the caption… that’s assuming she has it right!

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Kapitzke, Cushla. (2003). Information literacy : a positivist epistemology and a politics of outformation Educational Theory, 53 (1), 37-53.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2009, July 2). People Sometimes Seek The Truth, But Most Prefer Like-minded Views. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 12, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/07/090701082720.htm

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Needles and Nuggets

So… what of the “needles in haystacks” I have unearthed during my information seeking, and the “gold nuggets” they may have led to during subsequent searches.  …And which of the “needles” have turned out to be “nuggets” in disguise?

Nugget and Needle

Here follows a quick showcase of my needles and nuggets – far from an exhaustive list of sources, but a selection of the articles I have referenced in my assignment (CLN650‘s “Research Project Part A – a Literature Review on Information Literacy, Inquiry-Based Learning and Guided Inquiry”).

From the “Information Literacy” pile:
Moore, Penny. (2005). An Analysis of Information Literacy Education Worldwide.  School Libraries Worldwide.  11(2). 1 – 23.

Served as a good overview of the topic.  The approaches to information literacy (and explanations of the varying understandings of the term)  in different countries was interesting, though I skipped the large sections on teacher education and government initiatives as this information was not pertinent to my primary school context.

From the “Inquiry Learning” pile:
Kuhlthau, Carol C., Heinstrom, Jannica, and Todd, Ross. (2008).  The ‘information search process’ revisited:  is the model still useful?  information research.  13 (4).

I’ll admit, that much of my respect for Kuhlthau’s 20+-year-old ISP and my confidence in its currency and validity for a 21st Century environment have come from reading this article.  Beginning with a comprehensive literature review, the authors examine recent research in applying the ISP model, including its application to digital environments, and its use as a diagnostic tool.  This article also reports on a study of an inquiry project in a school setting and demonstrates the continuing relevance of the ISP, and its importance as a research and diagnostic tool, despite the changing information environment.

From the “Inquiry in SOSE” pile:
Government of Tasmania, School Education Division. (2004). Teaching for Learning in SOSE. “Learning Through Inquiry”

Having found this “article” via a Google search, and the fact that it is clearly a website (with no obvious ‘author’ noted), and presented as such (along with many dead links!), led me to initially doubt its authority and validity.  As it turns out, this site is published by the Tasmanian Government School Education Division, and the reference list is substantial.  It is an easy read, and presents a very unbiased overview of constructivist theories and their implications with concrete examples.  A variety of teaching approaches is advocated, but the overarching theme is the importance of inquiry in the SOSE classroom.  Common sense points about questioning and the development of critical thinking, but a useful source.

Home Page - SOSE @ TASed

Having stumbled across the TASed site, I was prompted to seek out a similar resource from our own State…

Gordon, Kathleen. (2000). Inquiry Approaches in Primary Studies of Society and Environment Key Learning Area. Occasional paper prepared for the Queensland School Curriculum Council.

This article stresses the importance of inquiry as an approach to SOSE education, outlining the roles of the teacher and learner in the inquiry process in terms of Queensland Syllabus documents.  Three inquiry models are presented (Integrating Socially TELSTAR and Action Research) and along with recommended strategies and sample unit plans.

From the “Using the Internet in Inquiry” pile:
Bass, R., Rosenzweig, R., & Mason, G. (1999). Rewiring the history and social studies classroom: Needs, frameworks, dangers, and proposals. Journal of Education; 181(3), 41-62.

Despite the focus on teacher professional development in the concluding sections, this article was probably one of my most valuable nuggets.  Though the explanations and historical descriptions are a little long-winded for my requirements, and the study is resoundingly American, it offers a water-tight basis for using inquiry, and more specifically technology in social studies.  Recognition of the challenges involved is thorough, though recommendations for the effective use of technology are clear and positive.

Bowler, L., Large, A., and Rejskind, G.  (2001).  Primary school students, information literacy and the Web.  Education for Information. 19. 201-223 IOS Press.

This Canadian study follows an internet research assignment in three year 6 classrooms so the relevance to my own ILA context is as high as I could have hoped for.  The initial literature review describes children’s search strategies in earlier studies, and offers a background in information literacy and learning theory.  The detailed report on students’ information-seeking behaviours as they proceed through each stage of their project was immensely helpful in preparing me to implement my ILA.  The issues that emerge for use of the Web in the classroom were also comprehensively described.

Lassiter – suf-fer, mate!  At least I get to KEEP my nuggets!

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Dig In – Entering the “Feedback” Phase

Whatever you choose to call it…

(to name but a few!), I have entered the “Feedback” Phase of gathering feedback from my peers.  Within the context of CLN650 (QUT’s Information Learning Nexus), we are fortunate indeed to have this immensely valuable opportunity – to “try before we buy” by posting a draft of our assignment for the perusal of the cohort prior to submitting our final presentation.  I have now received feedback from my lecturer and peers, and can plot a way forward to improve my draft, mainly by reducing the word count and refining it to be more specific to my Information Learning Activity (ILA).

ThinkQuest

In terms of my ILA, by utilising the online project space of ThinkQuest, I can offer the students this same opportunity in their own cycle of inquiry.  They will post their draft essays onto their web page and include a “Message Board” for peer and teacher feedback.  Hopefully, they will find the process valuable as I have.  Not only in using others’ feedback to refine their own work, but also gaining insights (including a better understanding of the task) from the process of offering feedback to their peers.

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Eureka! – a Diamond in the Pan

Wow, speaking of “Panning for Gold” (Bruce et al, 2006 – see “Filtering the Maze of Gold Needles” posted Sep 5th, 2010) – even with the prospect of finding the occasional lucky piece of platinum, there is yet another level of lucky searching… I have just managed to turn up a diamond in the roughpan!  Literally five minutes before I was due in class yesterday, to continue my ILA, I was casually setting up my Firefox tabs for the initial 15 minute “online search” demo, and guess what turned up:

"How to Do Research" by The Kentucky Virtual Library

The most brilliant, useful, research helper for students I have seen to date.  Why?  It’s colourful, engaging, straightforward, interactive, animated (with sound), beautifully designed – looks and feels exactly like playing a board game.  The proof was in the pudding – they LOVED it, and found it very useful. Here are some more choice features of this tool, for your perusal:

Step 1 - Planning

Step 3 - Taking Notes

Step 4 – Using Information

Unfortunately many of the tools featured here in “Step 2 – Search for Information” are password-protected and only available to Kentucky students (and other subscribers):

Featured online Resources

…but there is enough other useful information to keep my students busy learning, such as:

Searching the Internet

So how did this diamond turn up? …So glad you asked!  I was performing a (supposedly straightforward) Google Image search for the “Alberta Inquiry Model” as I wanted to show this (boring, black and white) image to the class during my lesson… Here are the results:

Image Search Results "Alberta Inquiry Model"

The (thus far unfamiliar) “Inquiry Cycle” (see enlarged image result) caught my eye (mainly, I’ll shamelessy admit, due to the colouring – just looking through the students’ eyes, of course!).  So, feeling slightly intrigued and adventurous, I followed that link instead…  Here’s the page I was led to:

The "Diamond in the Pan"

WOW!  How could I possibly have missed this precious gem, in all my searching for student online research tools??  Er… I might just keep quiet about this for now – as it is clear evidence of much wasted time in inefficient and ineffective trawling – my confidence took a big enough battering yesterday when this event occurred! Thank you Kentucky Librarians, you are amazing and clever and obviously are valued enough to have loads of time on your hands to create incredible resources like this!!!

Conclusions?
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch?  Never say die??  Your search is not over til the fat lady sings?  Maria is a ditzy, duncey dodgy searcher after all?  To be fair (on myself), I later tried a retrospective search for this tool and as it turns out, it is not referenced by many internet sources.  How do I know? I repeated my Google searches using various combinations of terms like:

  • research
  • tool~
  • students OR children OR kids
  • web OR internet OR online
  • “how to”

Then, I repeated the search adding “Kentucky” as a search term and compared results.  Performing a “Find” on the first page of results for “Kentucky”

Find function: Ctrl+F (Win) or Command+F (Mac)

will highlight those sites which include the search term.  Only those that matched sites found without the term count.  There are precious few.  Here’s an example:

Squidoo's Top 12 Research Websites for Kids

and unless you thoroughly scour the results (KVL is #10 on this list), Kentucky Virtual Library’s “How to Do Research” is actually quite a difficult one to find!

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