Out of the Fire Swamp…

The Fire Swamp
By Samstokes80, licenced under CC-BY-SA from https://princessbride.fandom.com/wiki/FireSwamp

So, metaphorically I have been feeling like I’m in the Fire Swamp.  It’s not a great place to be.  The expectations upon teacher librarians (at least from our subject coordinators) seem insurmountable.  We are expected to be all things to all people.  We are expected to be excellent and outstanding leaders right from the word go.  We are expected to maintain a wonderful collection, in a welcoming environment, while helping teachers, collaboratively teaching and having every single class in the school for an RFF lesson.  It’s just not possible.

I also had (particularly last year) serious misgivings about Guided Inquiry.  The demands of that specific model and they way it is being promoted are inaccessible for most schools, certainly the ones I have contact with.

Between these two issues, I really felt like uni was driving me away from the profession I was training for.

And then…

Assessment Two.

Believe it or not, this assignment has restored my faith in the profession.

Firstly, in the process of writing a vision for the school library in my assessment, I was inspired to think about what libraries could truly be like.  Secondly, in the process of researching one of my strategic focuses, I was led to this article which gave me a lightbulb moment! We can have inquiry learning without guided inquiry and we can most definitely have inquiry learning without Guided Inquiry Design! I don’t need to avoid inquiry learning just because I don’t like (and have serious issues with) one particular model.

Types of student inquiry
(Courtesy Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt)

Crisis of confidence averted! On with the show (and that final assignment!)

A serendipitous moment!

Maybe it’s been there the whole time and I’ve never paid attention, or maybe it’s new.  But today, I stumbled across a really useful feature of the primo library interface CSU uses.

The Primo interface with "related titles" to the right

When searching for an article (actually I had the article open, I was looking for the journal website because “Access” is a great title for a journal unless you’re trying to Google the website…) for my assignment I noticed the “related reading” column on the side of the screen.  This pointed me to another related article (that’s the point!) that I had read last year and forgotten about, but as soon as I saw it in the list I knew it would be perfect for what I wanted to say! This little column helped me so much and I have no idea if it’s been there the whole time – if it has, I have obviously ignored it!

Reflective Practice ETL401 Assignment 3 Part C

Part C – Reflective Practice

Throughout this subject it has been fascinating to learn about information literacy and the newer, upgraded model of digital literacy.  Before this subject began I would have told you that literacy was all about reading and writing, but I have learned that literacy is far more complex than simply reading and writing (Parnell, 2018a, Parnell, 2018b).  Course content and wider reading has lead me to engage deeply with the notion of literacy as contextual, and ask some tough questions particularly about first nations and colonial theories of literacy (Parnell, 2018c). 

In our modern, information-rich environment, it is necessary to learn information literacy skills in order to work more efficiently (Big 6, n.d.). Information literacy, while having a multitude of definitions, essentially boils down to the capable location, use and reuse of information (Wocke, 2018).  Information literacy is contextual, and so it is never fully conquered, it is a matter of lifelong learning (Belshaw, 2014). As such, information literacy models are all closely related (Eisenberg & Berkowitz, 1999) while having their own distinct voices and features (National Library of New Zealand, n.d.a).  In keeping with literacy as being contextual (Belshaw, 2014, Simon, 2018), it makes sense that different information literacy models work best in different situations (National Library of New Zealand, n.d.a).

I engaged deeply with Dr D Belshaw’s theory of Digital Literacies (Belshaw,  2014), which challenged me to think about the many different aspects of digital literacy (Parnell, 2018a) and what makes someone truly literate – both in a digital and in an analog sense.  Dr Belshaw’s theory (Belshaw, 2014), and other reading (CILIP, 2018) made me realise that literacy involves ethical reuse, an aspect that I had not before considered.  I am still uncertain as to whether I agree with Belshaw’s (2018) conclusion that the pinnacle of digital literacy is the remix. 

Throughout my studies I also engaged with the notion of privilege, especially as it relates to libraries (Parnell, 2018d) and Guided Inquiry specifically (Parnell, 2018e). I struggle to reconcile the level of support and resourcing recommended to support Guided Inquiry with what is available in schools, in my experience (Parnell, 2018e). Inquiry learning has a solid research basis, and is compatible with my early childhood training.  I understand that Guided Inquiry does work, and is also backed by research (Torrington 2013; Scheffers & Alekna, 2015), but I have been unable to come across any studies of it working, as intended, in poorly resourced schools with large classes and insufficient funding.  Any inquiry process assumes a certain level of resourcing, both on staffing and informational levels, (Parnell, 2018f) and that level of resourcing is not always available to schools in low socio-economic areas.  

Another challenge to implementing inquiry learning in a school is the low status of teacher-librarians.  Studies in Australia (Lupton, 2016, House of Representatives, 2011) have shown that school executives frequently do not have an understanding of the role of the teacher-librarian and how a teacher-librarian can enhance the educational program, through resource selection, collaborative teaching, curricular support, reader advisory and the many other roles a  teacher-librarian fulfils (Parnell, 2018j). There is more than sufficient research to prove that a qualified teacher-librarian makes a difference in a school (Hughes, 2014), but not everyone can see that.

Inquiry learning benefits from collaboration between teachers and teacher-librarians, but collaboration must be supported at the executive level for it to work (National Library of New Zealand, n.d.b; Parnell; 2018g; Parnell, 2018i).  Principals need to be sold on the benefits of collaboration (Parnell, 2018l), in terms that support the schools aims and goals (Bonanno, 2011). Teachers, in their pre-service training and in their professional journals, are not encouraged to collaborate with  teacher-librarians – the articles supporting teacher-librarian/teacher collaboration are almost exclusively printed in teacher-librarianship journals (Parnell, 2018h).  Feedback from the field indicates that funding and executive support of collaboration for inquiry learning is in short supply (Softlink, 2015). 

After not being satisfied with guided inquiry as an appropriate model for my circumstances, I investigated a wide range of information literacy models (Parnell, 2018j).  Some I investigated thoroughly before eliminating as an appropriate model while others I struggled to find sufficient, convincing information about.  For example, I read Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono (2000) but felt that while Six Thinking Hats was a good model for metacognition it was not adequate for information literacy (Parnell, 2018j). I read about Herring’s PLUS model but couldn’t find sufficient information about it, and found the lack of predictable flow in this model to be confusing (Parnell, 2018j).  As a result, I chose the Big 6 Model.

The Big 6 Model is the most widely used Information Literacy model in the world (National Library of New Zealand, n.d.a, Big 6 website) and therefore has the greatest chance of being reinforced across all educational venues a student might attend.  It has a proven track record, having been used in schools for over twenty years (Eisenberg & Berkowitz, 1999).  It combines six key stages, each with two substages, to cover the whole of the information search process, no matter the age of the student (Big 6, n.d.).  Younger students need only learn the six stages (with the sub stages informing the teacher’s practice) and the method has been modified to three stages for the youngest of students to begin learning information literacy as early as possible (Eisenberg & Berkowitz, 1999). 

The simplicity of the Big 6 model is what attracted me, as well as the modification by Franklin and Chow (2009) that provides students with a mnemonic using common verbs that describe the six stages, to assist them in recalling the six stages, which will increase transferability (Herring, 2011). The ability to transfer this information across subjects and situations is critical to developing information literacy (Fitzgerald & Garrison, 2017) and our students will benefit from a unified, consistent approach to information literacy in order for them to internalise the process and transfer it across these different situations (Herring, 2011) . 

The teacher-librarian, as an information professional, is uniquely positioned to teach information literacy, and make connections between different subjects (Mitchell, 2011).  Teacher-librarians have a lot to offer schools, and need to advocate passionately at every level for support to prove their worth.


Belshaw, D. (2014). The essential elements of digital literacies. Retrieved from <http://digitalliteraci.es> 

Belshaw, D. (2018, Mar 22) The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies (Startklar?! March 2018)

Retrieved from: https://www.pscp.tv/w/1MnxnenoyPXJO

Big 6 (n.d.) Big 6 Skills Overview. Retrieved from http://big6.com/pages/about/big6-skills-overview.php

Bonnano, K. (2011) ASLA 2011. Karen Bonanno, Keynote speaker: A profession at the tipping point: Time to change the game plan. [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://vimeo.com/31003940

CILIP (2018) CILIP Definition of Information Literacy 2018 [pdf file] Retrieved from www.cilip.org.uk/resource/resmgr/cilip/information_professional_and_news/press_releases/2018_03_information_lit_definition/cilip_definition_doc_final_f.pdf

De Bono, E. (2000) Six Thinking Hats. London: Penguin. 

Eisenberg, M. B. & Berkowitz, R. E. (1999) Teaching information & technology skills : the big 6 in elementary schools. Ohio: Linworth Publishing Inc.

Fitzgerald, L. & Garrison, K. (2017) ‘It Trains Your Brain’: Student Reflections on Using the Guided Inquiry Design Process. Synergy,    15/2

Franklin, G., & Chow, S. (2009) Big 6 Posters. [pdf file] Retrived from http://big6.com/media/files/Franklin-Chow.Big6Posters.pdf

Herring, J. (2011). Transferring information literacy practices: implications for teacher librarians and teachers. Scan. Vol 30. Retrieved from https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/professional-learning/scan

House of Representatives. Standing Committee on Education and Employment. (2011). School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=ee/schoollibraries/report.htm

Hughes, H. (2014). School libraries, teacher-librarians and student outcomes: Presenting and using the evidence. School Libraries Worldwide, 20(1), 29-50. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1543804965?accountid=10344

Lupton, M. (2016). Adding value: Principals’ perceptions of the role of the teacher librarian. School Libraries Worldwide. 22(1), 49-61. doi: 10.14265.22.1.005

Mitchell, P. (2011) Resourcing 21st century online Australian Curriculum : the role of school libraries. FYI : the Journal for the School Information Professional. v.15 n.2 p.10-15; Autumn 2011. Retrieved from http://slav.org.au/publication/fyi/

National Library of New Zealand (n.d.a) Approaches to inquiry learning. Retrieved from https://natlib.govt.nz/schools/digital-literacy/supporting-inquiry-learning/approaches-to-inquiry-learning

National Library of New Zealand (n.d.b) School libraries and inquiry learning. Retrieved from https://natlib.govt.nz/schools/digital-literacy/supporting-inquiry-learning/school-libraries-and-inquiry-learning

Parnell, E. (2018a, April 10) Information literacy module 5 ETL401. Liz at the library. https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/10/information-literacy-module-5-etl401/

Parnell, E. (2018b, April, 10) Literacy. Liz at the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/10/literacy/

Parnell, E. (2018c, May 1) Illiterate? Liz at the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/05/01/illiterate/

Parnell, E. (2018d, April 26) Module 6 reflections and a four activity. Liz at the library. https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/26/module-6-reflections-and-a-forum-activity/

Parnell, E. (2018e, April 10) Guided inquiry – unicorn or reality. Liz at the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/10/guided-inquiry-unicorn-or-reality/

Parnell, E. (2018f, April 10) Information literacy instruction. Liz at the library.  Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/10/information-literacy-instruction/

Parnell, E. (2018g, April 9) Guided inquiry – challenges. Liz at the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/09/guided-inquiry-challenges/

Parnell, E. (2018h, April 8) Inquiry learning and teacher-librarian/teacher collaboration. Liz at the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/08/inquiry-learning-and-teacher-librarianteacher-collaboration/

Parnell, E. (2018i, March 18) Principals and teacher-librarians. Liz at the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/03/18/principals-and-teacher-librarians/

Parnell, E. (2018j, March 15) The roles of the teacher-librarian. Liz at the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/03/15/the-roles-of-the-teacher-librarian/

Parnell, E. (2018k, April, 11) Information literacy models. Liz in the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/11/information-literacy-models-plus-some-personal-reflection-a-work-in-progress/

Parnell, E. (2018l, April 9) Guided inquiry – challenges. Liz at the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/09/guided-inquiry-challenges/

Scheffers, J. & Alekna, G. (2015) Scaffolding for success: Support students’ amazing journey with guided inquiry. Scan. Vol 34(1). Retrieved from https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/professional-learning/scan

Simon, M. (2018, May 2) Reflections on information literacy – complexity, context and transfer. Mrs Simon says. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/mrssimonsays/2018/05/02/reflections-on-information-literacy-complexity-context-and-transfer/

Softlink. (2015). What’s trending? [pdf file] Retrieved from https://www.softlinkint.com/assets/img/banners/whats_trending.pdf

Torrington, J. (2013). Using guided inquiry in a year 3 classroom. Access, 27(4), 22-24. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1461359038?accountid=10344

Wocke, G. (2018, April 26) Information literacy – a commentary. Gretha Reflecting. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/grethaw/2018/04/26/information-literacy-a-commentary/

A Reflective Practitioner

From the Readings

This statement from Dr Todd struck me as important in the light of our learning about information literacy.

The destination is not an information literate student nor even an information literate school community, but rather, the development of knowledgeable and skillful students who demonstrate mastery beyond the library.

(Todd, 2015, p. 67)

We need to be focused on teaching students to search and learn so well that the no longer need us.

And from Dr Gordon

While many schools enjoy dynamic libraries, constraints of time, place, and funding inhibit information and inquiry skills instruction to all students and collaborative professional development opportunities for all teachers. These constraints limit the instructional impact of the school library at a time when it is most relevant to a 21st century education.

(Gordon, 2014, para 2)

These three issues (and particularly time and funding) need to be solved so that teacher-librarians can get on with what they are trained to do.

A Library Story

Joyce Valenza’s A Library Story (2013) is a compelling statement about the importance of school libraries.  However, it is not enough.  Local (Australian) evidence-based research is vital, due to global differences in terminology and level of qualification needed to be a teacher-librarian.   A Library Story is an excellent starting point for advocacy, but it needs to be followed up with statistics and proven facts to support the role of teacher-librarian, and supply the library with adequate funding.  For support in this, I recommend Dr Gordon’s 2017 article Making Your School Library Essential: An Advocacy Guide for Teacher-Librarians.



Gordon, C.  (2014)  The next generation of school library.  Synergy, 12/1

Gordon, C. (2017) Making Your School Library Essential: An Advocacy Guide for Teacher-Librarians.   Synergy. 15 (1).

Todd, R.J., (2015) Evidence-based practice and school librariesKnowledge Quest, 43/3, 8-15

Valenza, J. (2013) A library story. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/82208025


Module 6 – Reflections and a forum activity

Libraries are not neutral and they are not safe for all – a reflection

Twice in these module’s readings I came across the concept of the library being a “safe” place.

The library is one of the few spaces in the school where students can feel safe


a safe haven for students


(Fitzgerald & Combes, 2018, Module 6)

However, I have come across much that disputes the idea of the library as a “safe” place for all.  At GLAMSLAM18 one of the speakers (I believe it was Marcus Hughes) spoke about an indigenous community who, when invited into the library, asked if they were allowed to touch the books.  It seems 50 years prior, as children, the older members of the community were told that they were not allowed to touch any books in the library and that message had been passed down through the generations.  The library was not a safe place for that community.

Libraries are not neutral and are not safe spaces for everyone.  If you want some meaty, challenging information on the subject then try nina de Jesus’ 2014 article Locating the Library in Institutional Oppression or Joshua Beatty’s companion piece Locating Information Literacy Within Institutional Oppression. If you want something equally challenging, Australian and an easier read, try Nathan Sentance‘s Your Neutral is not Our Neutral. Libraries and other GLAMR institutions are not neutral.  They are not safe, sacred spaces for everyone.

Module 6 Activity

In Forum 6.3 briefly discuss

  • the tensions between the information specialist and the teaching role of the TL; and
  • how you think you might cope with these tensions.

Are you excited or apprehensive?

As discussed in a previous post, the Role of the Teacher-Librarian is complicated and varied.  Digital literacy and the role of the teacher librarian is also something I investigated for my literature review.

The exact balance of information professional to teacher is going to vary from position to position and school to school.  A school with a large team of teacher librarians will be different to a position where library technicians are employed which is different to a position where the teacher librarian is the sole staff member in the library.  Flexibility will be required to make each position work as each position will provide its own challenges – such as meaningful learning in a school environment with fixed library scheduling (Stubeck, 2015).  Collaborative potential in each environment will vary also, pending the support of executive and teaching staff (Abbott, 2017).

As a mature age student, the basics of time management, negotiation and conflict resolution (content in Module 6) are not new to me.  My challenges will be more around leadership and finding the appropriate balance between developing collaborative peer relationships and valuing my expertise and training as an information professional.  Personally, I feel both excited and apprehensive although part of my apprehension is around how to get everything done at a good standard and how to balance a career (since I’ve been out of the workforce for a long time now) with family commitments.


Abbott, R. (2017). Teacher-librarians, teachers and the 21st century library: relationships matter. Synergy, 15(2). Retrieved from http://www.slav.vic.edu.au/synergy/volume-15-number-2-2017/perspectives-local-/697-teacher-librarians-teachers-and-the-21st-century-library-relationships-matter.html

Fitzgerald, L. and Combes, B. (2018) Module 6. Introduction to Teacher Librarianship.  Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_34577_1&content_id=_2060440_1

Stubeck, C. J. (2015) Enabling inquiry learning in fixed-schedule libraries. Knowledge Quest. Volume 43(3).

Information Literacy – Module 5 – ETL401

Activity – Reflective Practice

What are your thoughts after reading about the term literacy? Write a definition of literacy and add it to your notes.

Your thoughts: Do new formats and delivery modes or multi-modal resources require users to have different literacy skills to make meaning or is this just an extension of the traditional literacy definition above?

Belshaw (2014) talks about how literacy in our culture is seen as ‘shorthand’ for saying the ability to read and write, however it disguises the fact that literacy is a spectrum, rather than a binary concept.  It has also become a kind of shortcut for saying the ability to do something well, containing both tool-knowledge and content-knowledge.  Using literacy with another word always involves a degree of ambiguity. To quote:

‘Zeugmas’ are figures of speech that join two or more parts of a sentence into a single noun or verb. These figures of speech, these zeugmas, involve the omission of words and leave the reader (or listener) to fill in the gaps.

As soon as we add a modifier to literacy — ‘visual literacy’ or ‘information literacy’ or ‘digital literacy’ — we’re in the realm of zeugmas. We’ll consider ambiguity in more depth in the next chapter, but for now it’s enough to note that there’s a lack of clarity in using such terms without further explanation. Is the emphasis upon the ‘digital’ aspect of ‘digital literacy’? (making it a prozeugma) Or is the emphasis upon ‘literacy’? (making it a hypozeugma). Which is the adjective and who gets to decide?

(Belshaw, 2014, p. 17).

So, my definition of literacy would be a spectrum of ability in a task.  Literacy is always contextual to that task.  For example, I am a highly literate person, however if you ask me to read a jargon-filled journal article on architecture, physiology or engineering I would struggle.  I can interpret some basic HTML code, but show me some C++ and I haven’t a clue. Also, I am someone who is fluent in English, has basic literacy in Spanish, functionally illiterate in German, and completely illiterate in Cantonese.  Also, someone can be clearly literate – they can read and write well enough to fill in forms, read the newspaper or a novel, but not be able to build understanding when reading a university level text (in any domain). As a further example, I have a friend who is from a non-English speaking background, although she grew up in a country where she learned English in school.  She is fluent in spoken English and reads well enough in English to read the Harry Potter novels, but sometimes gets caught out with idiomatic Australian slang, such as when it was “mufti day” at school.

My definition: Literacy is a spectrum of ability within a specific context, from completely unable to perform a task (illiterate) to the ability to fully understand the meaning and create knowledge (fluent).


Spectrum of literacy
Spectrum of literacy

New “literacies” are not all that new.  They are taking the building blocks of print literacy and reinterpreting them to other contexts. To examine Belshaw’s (2014) essential elements of digital literacies, they can all be interpreted for print literacy, academic literacy, workplace literacy or anything else. Literacy has always been contextual, we have just broadened the context.

The Eight Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
The eight essential elements of digital literacies. Licenced under Creative Commons Zero licence (Belshaw, 2017). Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ugnOTDQ9wGBl3DeGNvpFS3aBQ80GCuXdv2z4ZAi0ks8/edit#slide=id.g35464f8dbf_0_168

Information LiteracyDefinitions of information literacy

Wordle representing the common words in information literacy definitions

This Wordle was produced by entering in the above definitions for information literacy in full.

Information Literacy and the Teacher-Librarian

As I have previously alluded to, I completed my literature review assignment on digital literacy (which is intricately linked with information literacy and I would say has information literacy as its foundation and then applies it to the digital environment). The above definitions and Belshaw’s (2014) work remind us that information literacy and digital literacies are contextual, they involve attitudes towards learning and values and they are more than a tick the box skill set, but work on a continuum.  All this being well and good, how as teacher-librarians do we measure? How do we assess? How do we provide the evidence of our worth?   We need to provide evidence of the work we are doing and of the work students are doing.  Valenza (2015) suggests exit interviews with students, but quality answers from students requires them to be able to reflect on their own practices and how they have changed, something not all students are able to do.  My biggest question from the readings is how do we prove that we are improving the information literacy of students if it’s about quality and values, not behaviours?  In many ways, we have switched from verbs (search, discover, create, produce) to adjectives (effectively, ethically, collaboratively, efficiently).  In the long run, I think the impacts of our deeper information literacy training will be evidenced through an improvement in students work and, ultimately, test scores (such as NAPLAN) (Softlink, n.d.).


This Tweet appeared in my timeline about CILIP’s new definition of Information Literacy



Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (2004) Australian and New Zealand information literacy framework: principles, standards and practice. 2ndEdition. Retrieved from http://www.caul.edu.au/content/upload/files/info-literacy/InfoLiteracyFramework.pdf

Belshaw, D. (2014). The essential elements of digital literacies. Retrieved from <http://digitalliteraci.es>

Information Literacy Group (n.d.) Definitions & models. Information Literacy. Retrieved from https://infolit.org.uk/definitions-models

Kozlowska, L. [LizaKozlowska] (2018, April 6) Information Literacy is not only for those who are so fortunate to go to university, but it affects everybody in our society. So I think the ‘new’ CILIP definition of IL 2018 might cover it al 🙂 @infolitgroup @LILAC_conf #lilac18 @CILIPinfo pic.twitter.com/tyzQNgPzE9

Softlink (n.d.) The 2017 Softlink Australian and New Zealand School Library Survey Report. [pdf file] Retrieved from https://www.softlinkint.com/downloads/2017_Softlink_Australian_and_New_Zealand_School_Library_Survey_Report.pdf

Valenza, J. (2015) Evolving with evidence: Leveraging new tools for EBP. Knowledge Quest, v43 (3) p36-43 Jan-Feb 2015



Express your thoughts on redefinition of literacy skills  and on methods of teaching literacy

The world has changed, and our understanding of literacy needs to change with it.  Literacy basically means a capability with something, broadening from the past perspective of reading and writing.  Literacy when added to another word means a certain skill or capability level in that area. So, for example you could have:

  • Visual media literacy – the ability to interpret visual media such as symbols, images and artwork.
  • Digital literacy – the ability to interact with digital technologies at the level of ethical contributor not just consumer.
  • Outdoor literacy – the ability to take information from the environment to understand what is happening.
  • Musical literacy…

And so on.

Technology has become a part of our every day lives and it is essential that every student learns to use technology appropriately.  However, it could be that we are pushing digital skills and digital citizenship far too early.  Why do Kindergarten kids need to be using computers?  Pushing early technology competencies only enlarges the digital divide, when an assignment produced electronically can be worked on at home by students with a home computer and internet access, but can only be worked on in assigned school lessons by a student without that access at home. We should definitely be teaching soft skills – communication, critical thinking, collaboration and so on – at a young age but not so much the digital side of things.  At 5 years old it is ok to be literate enough to write your own name on a piece of paper, and read and write basic words.

Digital Literacy

Dr Doug Belshaw (2014) sees the “remix” as the pinnacle of digital literacy skills (p 77). I have learnt a lot from Twitter user @wragge, aka Tim Sherratt, and @BonnieWildie who recently won ALIA student of the year.  In the last month or so I have produced several Twitter bots that retweet content from Trove, remixing code developed by Tim Sherratt. My twitter bots can be found at @RemixHistorical and @PenrithPictures  I also remixed a guess the headline game. These were fun side projects, and something I would consider should I ever find myself teaching a high school class, but not something a seven year old needs to be able to do.

I’ve also used Tim Sherratt’s instructions to “hack” the ASIO website – note the image at the top left, and also the bottom left of this screenshot.

"Hacking" the ASIO website
“Hacking” the ASIO website

And I can use Google’s x-ray goggles! Below is further hacking of the ASIO website with X-Ray Goggles.

Hacking ASIO again


Belshaw, D. (2014). The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. Retrieved from <http://digitalliteraci.es>

Information Literacy Instruction

Share your ideas  and experiences about the following:

  • How might the TL help the school move towards integrated information literacy instruction?
  • What challenges lie in the way of such instruction?


Why would a TL advocate for guided inquiry? I honestly don’t know.

ASLA (2016) provides support for information literacy to take place in a meaningful context, so as to be integrated with what students are learning, rather than being meaningless lessons in searching skills and copyright.


Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2015, p 150) recommend a three person staff team to implement and assess guided inquiry.  Principals would be understandably reluctant to fund the staffing on such a project and with conferences and observation requiring this intensive staffing and being a key component of assessing guided inquiry (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2015, p 151) guided inquiry does not seem a feasible option in most schools.

I have already written about other challenges to collaboration and other challenges to guided inquiry here and here.  The more I read about it the less I see it as an time-effective teaching method.  Yes perhaps students do learn a small amount of content well and they develop some skills in the areas of information literacy and critical thinking, but this seems a time and labour intensive way to do it.


Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2016) ASLA statement on information literacy

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2015). Assessing and evaluating pp149-161. In Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. 2nd edition (pp. 149-161)  Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.

Guided Inquiry – Unicorn or reality?

Guided Inquiry?

I am really struggling with the concept of Guided Inquiry at the moment.  Well, I’m not having trouble understanding the process or the research base for it.  I’m struggling with the logistics of it.  The practicalities.  The reality.  Because right now guided inquiry seems like a unicorn.  At the very least, the guided inquiry is steeped in privilege.


Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2012) who literally wrote the book on guided inquiry say that ideally a class needs three staff members/adults to make this work.  The staffing (and therefore financial) resources that are required to do that exceed the capacity of all the schools in my local area.  Support classes notwithstanding, each classroom has 20-32 students with one teacher, and depending on the needs of the students in that class, sometimes have the support of an SLSO for anywhere between a few hours a week and a few hours a day.  Any library time the students have is RFF for the teachers, and so the students still only have one staff member with them during library time.

Edited to add: Torrington (2013) cites that with a year three group (which is roughly where I am aiming for my unit of work) it required four staff members to manage guided inquiry – the classroom teacher, teacher-librarian, teacher’s aide and a practicum student.  This is not sustainable for all but the most affluent of schools.

Fixed Scheduling and Technologies

Fixed Scheduling is also an impediment to implementing inquiry learning, although not an insumountable one (Stubeck, 2015). There is evidence that it does work, however the emphasis is on using digital technologies to enable the process in the absence of long sessions to work in or multiple staff members always on hand (Stubeck, 2015).  My local school has no digital technology in the library, save for the computer used for cataloging and circulation purposes.  The library is not well equipped enough with resources that a whole class could come in and research the same topic, even if the class was in groups of 3-4 (requiring 8-10 books on the same topic).  The school is not equipped with iPads.  They have a computer lab, that the students can access for one fixed session per week with an ICT teacher (also providing RFF for the teachers). The school has no facilities for students to conduct adequate independent research while on the school premises.

Collaboration and staffing

I have written before that teachers are not encouraged to collaborate in their tertiary studies or professional publications (Parnell,  2018).  Teachers also do not have the time to collaborate, and quite frequently neither do teacher librarians (Abbott, 2017). A significant proportion of libraries don’t employ a teacher-librarian and many of those that do, only employ a teacher-librarian on a part-time basis as revealed by a recent study in the Gold Coast where roughly a quarter (22%) of libraries didn’t have a teacher-librarian, and a third of the schools that did (7/21) the teacher-librarian was only employed part-time (Hughes, Leigh, Osborne, Fraser, Kahl, & Reynolds, 2013). I am fairly certain that my local school employs a librarian, rather than a teacher-librarian, and regardless of her educational status, she definitely fits the stereotype of “dragons in pearls” (House of Representatives, 2011).


The support of the principal for both collaboration and guided inquiry is vital (Abbott, 2017), however I do not see evidence of this in our local schools.  Principals who are innovative and performing well get snapped up by the private sector, leaving the public sector without the innovators it needs.  Guided inquiry requires a shift in educational philosophies and a change in the curricular expectations (Markham, 2013) which just isn’t happening.  The Australian Curriculum is fairly new, so the government are not going to invest in a new curriculum any time soon and NSW (where I live) has its own iteration of the Australian Curriculum which is even less conducive to inquiry learning as it is more content and outcome focused (in contrast with skills and capabilities).  Anecdotally, I’ve heard of well-resourced schools in affluent areas with reasonably cooperative staff and executive who still couldn’t get inquiry learning off the ground.

In Summary

Guided inquiry comes from a position of privilege.  The Australian schools that have published their experiences with guided inquiry have generally been private schools from wealthy areas that have a greater pool of resources.  The schools where I live are tackling poor literacy beginnings, children who come to school not having eaten breakfast, families who cannot afford to buy the correct school uniform, and supporting a disproportionate number of students with diagnoses of disabilities, mental health issues and behavioural problems.  My local school does an incredible job of teaching and supporting students, however they have chosen to spend their resources elsewhere – they have not invested in vast amounts of technology and the additional staff they have are used to support children with disabilities, behavioural issues and learning difficulties, not supporting an experiment into inquiry learning.


Abbott, R. (2017). Teacher-librarians, teachers and the 21st century library: relationships matter. Synergy, 15(2). Retrieved from http://www.slav.vic.edu.au/synergy/volume-15-number-2-2017/perspectives-local-/697-teacher-librarians-teachers-and-the-21st-century-library-relationships-matter.html

House of Representatives. Standing Committee on Education and Employment. (2011). School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=ee/schoollibraries/report.htm

Hughes, H., Leigh, T., Osborne, M., Fraser, S., Kahl, C., Reynolds, H. (2013) School libraries, teacher-librarians and literacy at Gold Coast schools: Research findings. Synergy. Volume 11(2). Retrieved from https://www.slav.vic.edu.au/synergy/volume-11-number-2-2013/research/331-school-libraries-teacher-librarians-and-literacy-at-gold-coast-schools-research-findings.html

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2012) Guided Inquiry Design. ABC-CLIO: California.

Markham, T. (2013) The Challenges and Realities of Inquiry-Based Learning. Mindshift. Retrieved from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/29714/the-challenges-and-realities-of-inquiry-based-learning

Parnell, E. (2018) Inquiry learning and teacher-librarian/teacher collaboration. Liz at the library. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lizatthelibrary/2018/04/08/inquiry-learning…er-collaboration/

Stubeck, C. J. (2015) Enabling inquiry learning in fixed-schedule libraries. Knowledge Quest. Volume 43(3).

Torrington, J. (2013). Using guided inquiry in a year 3 classroom. Access, 27(4), 22-24. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1461359038?accountid=10344

Module 4 ETL401

I’ve really struggled with this module, largely because a lot of the reflection exercises assume that you are already working in a school to be able to answer them.  Also, I read the 90 page OECD-UNICEF paper on the School as a Learning Organisation and while it all made sense, I struggled to find it relevant.  Partly because this is an organisational level change which would need to come from the principal or higher up. Also, I think I struggle with the concept of the teacher-librarian as leader.  I’ve never been in a proper leadership position in the workplace, and was hesitant to take on that role when there wasn’t a clear expectation of that being my role.  I also feel like my distinct lack of experience would hamper my attempts at leadership, but that is something I will have to grow into.

Are the acquisition of 21st century skills and the focus on accountability mutually exclusive?

Students who are excellent critical thinkers, who can be creative and who can collaborate will be better prepared for their future careers (van Laar, van Deursen, van Dijk, & de Haan, 2017).  Ultimately we want to teach students to learn, and long-term this will stand them in good stead.  It could, possibly, have a short term negative impact on standardised test scores, but I believe that long term their scores will improve because they have learned how to learn and not just regurgitate information.

What issues might stand in the way of collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians to carry out inquiry learning?

I have answered this in another post on collaboration.

Use the skills you learned about searching the CSU library databases in Module 1 and search for full-text articles on the topics of ‘inquiry learning’, Guided Inquiry and Project Based Learning.. You could also undertake a simple web search to identify further papers on constructivist learning approaches including inquiry learning.

I have a collection of links to posts on inquiry learning here.

Choose either of the [ASLA Evidence Guides], and consider ways in which you might use it to further your understanding of the role of the TL, or to inform your practice.

Personally, the biggest difference these will make on my practice is the evidence I will collect. Todd (2008) and Valenza (2015) have given me plenty of ideas as to how I can collect evidence of my practice and the ASLA evidence guides have shown me why I need to keep evidence.

Interesting Link

I felt this related to the OECD-UNICEF report I read.



Todd, R. (2008)  The Evidence Based Manifesto for School Librarians. School Library Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.slj.com/2008/04/sljarchives/the-evidence-based-manifesto-for-school-librarians/

Valenza, J.(2015) Evolving with evidence: Leveraging new tools for EBPKnowledge Quest. 43/3, 36-43

van Laar, E., van Deursen, A. J. A. M., van Dijk, J. A. G. M., & de Haan, J. (2017). The relation between 21st-century skills and digital skills: A systematic literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 72, 577-588. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2017.03.010

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