Theme 3 Reflections: To Boldly Go…

Into The Deep Web…and Beyond (Weeks 8-13)

I have enjoyed each week of theme three. The weeks have been filled with important content that I hope to incorporate into a future teacher-librarian position. To avoid memory loss and to increase retention, I have organized and summarized my key learnings as my blog reflections.

In week 8, I explored the ‘deep web’. Before this week, I was vaguely aware of the plethora of information available on the web but I really didn’t have a solid understanding of what the deep web was or how it differs from the visible web. Boswell (2016) describes the visible web as “the web that you can access from search engines and directories” and the “information in the invisible web as [that which is] not visible to the software spiders and crawlers that create search engine indexes”.

In her article, “Search the Invisible Web: 20 Resources”, Boswell describes the pros and cons of several different mega search engines and databases that you can use to search the invisible web. The ones that caught my eye as potential ones I might use are:

-Clusty (when I searched further, I found that was bought out by

-Internet Archive

-www virtual library  (to test this one out, I searched for science fairs and it took me to links to all science fairs in the US and Canada)

-Wolfram Alpha

How to Use Wolfram Alpha 

You might be wondering, what is the difference between Google and Wolfram Alpha? As described in this video, Google finds links but Wolfram Alpha finds answers.

As I read further about the differences between search engines and data bases, I was reminded that search engines such as Google are only able to retrieve a small percentage of information on the internet. This is understandable considering that the internet grows at the astonishing rate of 7.3million new pages per day! Because search engines are limited in their scope, it is recommended to use the “right tool for the job”. In other words, if possible, use a search engine that specializes in a specific subject. For example, use for searching for science related topics. (Colley and McDonnell, n.d.)

To search for educational lessons and resources, try using  This is a great search engine to introduce to staff!

As I perused the topic of how to search effectively, I came across a slide show presentation, On this site, online courses are offered to teach you how to become fast and efficient at searching the internet.

Wikis and Tweets

On reading one of the other tutorials I learned how to search through wikis, blogs, videos and twitter more effectively. (Valenza, 2010). Use or Google Wiki to search wikispace. I did, however, find that some of the links offered were outdated and no longer working.

For a helpful tutorial to guide students step by step in how to set up and use a Twitter account, have a look at this link.

How Set up a Twitter Account


Bibliographies, Biographies and Directories

What are they and what is their purpose?


  • List that provides author, publisher, date of publication and price
  • Gives details of where this work can be found
  • “brings order out of chaos” (Riedling, 2013, p. 29)
  • Subject Bibliographies list materials related to specific topics to help users research specific areas of interest
  • Current Bibliographies and library catalogs “list works close to the time at which they are published” (p. 29)
  • Retrospective Bibliographic sources list “materials published during an earlier time” (p.29)

Library Catalogs:

  • “list works located in a given library” (Riedling, 2013, p. 29)
  • Union catalogs list the materials held in more than one library (ex. WorldCat, Library of Congress)


  • helpful in selecting and purchasing materials
  • allows user to locate works
  • allows user to locate materials related to specific subjects
  • some bibliographies also provide recommendations and evaluations about the materials

Select bibliographies for the school library to suit the needs of the school and student population.

Examples of online bibliographies that could be helpful as a selection tool:

One bibliography to keep in mind is “A to Zoo” (2006) by Rebecca Thomas. This book guides teachers to pictures books on certain subjects. I wish I knew about this resource earlier in my teaching career!

A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books


  • “used to locate and verify names of phenomena, as well as match individuals with organizations” (Riedling, 2013, p. 38)
  • useful for locating “people, experts, organizations, and institutions through addresses, phone numbers, zip codes, titles, names…” (p.38)


  • College Net ( can be useful when applying to colleges worldwide
  • Encyclopedia of Associations (published by Gale Research) lists more than 20,000 associations and organizations


  • “tell about what people have done or what they are doing, whether it is their occupations, dates of birth, major accomplishments, or their lives in general” (Riedling, 2013, p.51)
  • Two types: direct (gives factual information) and indirect (lists bibliographic citations to direct students to other works)


Internet Sources:

Dictionary of Canadian Biography  This is a great resource as it focuses on Canadian historical figures and is easy to navigate. I enjoyed looking through the section for Educators with lessons on Champlain and Cartier.

I was reminded through this week’s lesson of the importance of evaluating each reference source. As suggested by Riedling, directories, biographies and bibliographies (both print and digital) need to also be carefully evaluated according to their accuracy, comprehensiveness, ease of use, currency and cost. When selecting the best one to fit the needs of your school/community, it is important to consider these factors.



The skills to effectively search and navigate databases are critical for developing excellent information literacy skills. Before I can teach these skills, I must be fluent and adept in searching! Learning to search by natural language (how we speak), by key word or by controlled vocabulary is a first step in the process. Another part of the process is an increased awareness of websites and databases. The following were introduced in this week’s lesson:

  1. Open educational resources (OER)- freely accessible and useful for teaching…
  2. Government publications (useful for secondary students) ie. Members of Parliament…
  3. Pamphlets-offer brief information on a topic or organization (newsletters, brochures, flyers…)
  4. Grey Literature: “any documentary material that is not commercially published and contains technical reports, business documents, conference proceedings…” One needs to consider authenticity and reliability as there may not be control and may be difficult to identify.
  5. Blogs
  6. Listservs
  7. The Deep Web (resources not indexed and difficult to find with search engines)       (Theme 3, Lesson 10, LIBE 467)

As I had not really explored several of the websites and databases listed above, it was a worthwhile exercise to delve into each one. During my searching, I also looked up a few places for lesson plans on searching the internet can be found on Google’s Education site or on Finding Dulcinea.

Google Education Lesson Plans

Finding Dulcinea Education Site

Lesson Plans

Through exploration of various databases and a more thorough look at Google as a search engine, I learned it is important to “use the right tool for the job [and] do not use a general search engine when you know there is one that specializes in a specific subject, for example the law, newspaper articles or photographs” (Pedley, 2009).  To search for science related topics, try using database to search by keyword.

Another great discovery from Theme 3 were the various databases and indexes available through my local public library website. I had no idea all that was available to me; definitely something I plan to highlight with my students and colleagues.

During Theme 3, some of the discussion posts centred around the merits of Wikipedia as a valid resource. The posts were enlightening and broadened my perspective. I began the course with the mindset that Wikipedia was not valid and had no merit. However, through discussion, readings and exploration, I can see how Wikipedia can be used to teach information literacy skills and as a starting point for a research inquiry. In the chart below, I summarized the comparisons from Berinstein (2006) and Harris (2007).

Wikipedia Britannica
Contributors -volunteered; motivated by community spirit or public interest

-unsigned articles

-may have hidden agenda (personal bias)

-may write out of interest, hobby or learning experience

-selected and paid

-signed by author

-tend to be experts in their fields

Audiences -anyone and everyone (general audience)

-in many languages

-knowledge and information seekers; students, professionals and lifelong learners
Mission -freely licensed (can be copied, modified and redistributed)

“to create a free, democratic, reliable encyclopedia”

-“definitive source of knowledge” and “the most authoritative source of the information and ideas people need for work, school, and the sheer joy of discovery”
Scopes -“large and diffuse”

-can the information be verified?

-“finite and well-defined”

-argue that Wikipedia’s large number of articles develops a source with “a high level of inaccuracy, sloppiness, and just plain poor articles”

Wikipedia Process -register as a user and then anyone can edit an article so the premise is that the community at large will edit and revise any errors or misconceptions that are posted; system based on community

-writers are supposed to write without bias





Dictionaries, Thesaurus, Almanacs, Yearbooks, and Handbooks

I taught grade 3 for many years and only recently made my way back up to middle school. As a grade 3 teacher, I spent considerable time focusing on spelling, punctuation and grammar. When I was in elementary school, I remember loving a game we called “The Dictionary Race”. Of course, I taught this to my students and it too, became a favourite activity of grade 3. To play the Dictionary Race, each student has a copy of the same dictionary. I call out a word (perhaps a spelling list word or one from our thematic unit). The children then ‘race’ to be the first to find the word and report the page number. It was an effective way to reinforce the skills needed in using a dictionary. (besides, the competitive nature of a race emphasized the need to become adept at these skills!)

However, as I read, edit and mark middle school essays, I now wonder if middle school students even remember what a dictionary is and how to use one. Learning to alphabetize, use guide words, and decipher dictionary entries are important skills to include in a school’s scope and sequence for information literacy skills.

In chapter 6, Riedling (2013) explains the differences between various types of dictionaries.

  • Descriptive dictionaries: entries show “how the language is actually used” (p. 61) and is based on the premise that languages are ever changing and the dictionaries should reflect that
  • Prescriptive dictionaries: entries tell “how [languages] ought to be used” (p.61) and is based on the philosophy that dictionaries set standards to “prevent corruption of language by jargon and slang” (p. 62)
  • Unabridged: “attempts to include all of the words in the language that are in use at the time the dictionary is assembled” (p.62)
  • Abridged: “are selectively compiled” and are “created for student use” (p.62)

One of my favourite courses in my undergrad degree was on the etymology of the English Language. Each new word was like a treasure chest of history and intrigue. (How did that word come into the language? Why? What was its intended meaning and how has it changed over time?) I loved it!

Throughout the readings, discussions and independent research, two main points were often repeated. When evaluating sources for my school, I need to carefully consider factors such as currency, authority, format, and accuracy. When selecting sources, I need to choose wisely “based on the particular needs and requirements of the school, student population, and community served” (Riedling, 2013, p. 64).

Maps, Atlases and all things Geographical

In the course content for this week, the author (Aaron) suggests we could make a globe in a makerspace. Several years back, I had my grade 6 students make a mini globe out of an orange. We were investigating plate tectonics and how the continents fit together like a puzzle. Using a sample map projection, a sharpie and an orange, students created a ‘globe’. It was a cool project! Check out the video demonstration. (mind you, I taught this long before Youtube became a sensation!)

When questions arise during a reference interview that relate to geographical information, it is important to understand what information is needed. In chapter 7, Riedling discusses several differences of ‘needs’ that students may face when researching geographical information. Keeping these in mind will help the teacher-librarian to better guide the students to the most relevant information.

  1. Levels (depth of information):
    1. Uncomplicated level- example, “where is the country…located?”
    2. Sophistical level that requires information related to relationships between environment, history, climate and political boundaries
  2. Sources:
    1. Online
    2. Atlas (current, historical, or thematic)
    3. Individual map (designed for different purposes: physical, topographical, satellite…
    4. Gazeteers (provide information regarding geographic place-names)
    5. Travel guides
    6. encyclopedias
  3. Time:
    1. Current and up-to-date (no more than 5 years old)
    2. Historical (in this case, age is no longer a primary factor for weeding)

(Rielding, 2013, p. 79-81)


Berinstein, P. (2006). Wikipedia and Britannica: The Kid’s All Right (And So’s the Old Man)Searcher 14(3), 16-26.

Boswell, W. (Aug. 3, 2016). “Search the Invisible Web: 20 Resources”. [web blog]. Retrieved from

Evans, S. (Dec. 2, 2013). Orange Globe . Retrieved from

Harris, C. (2007). Can we make peace with Wikipedia? School Library Journal, 53(6), 26.

Pedley, Paul. “Finding the Hidden Treasure.” The Future Just Happened: Black Holes in Cyberspace: The Invisible Web. Annabel Colley and Matthew McDonnell. BBC News. 2001. Web. 26 Jan. 2009. <>.

Riedling, A. (2013). Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips (3rd ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth.

Sellors, Wendy. “Dig into the Deep Web: Going on a Treasure Hunt.” Slideshare. March 2008. Web. 21 Jan. 2009. <>.

TechnoBuffalo. (Nov. 1, 2009). “Wolfram Alpha is Your On-Call Genius”. . Retrieved from

Wavechaser91. (May 19, 2009). “Google Vs. Wolfram Alpha- CNET.” . Retrieved from

Valenza, J. (June 17, 2010). “The New Invisible Web: on Searching Wikis and Tweets and Blogs and More.” [web blog]. School Library Journal. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “Theme 3 Reflections: To Boldly Go…

  1. Fantastic post! Your exhaustive and extensive post explored many new resources, references and potential sites that can support the expansion and evolution of the role and space of a school library learning commons. Your discussion was insightful, balanced and supported with excellent examples and anecdotes. Your passion and engagement are infectious! Great stuff.


  2. Thank you. I have found these reflective blog posts to be a great place to summarize (and remember for future use) all that I have learned. I also enjoyed practicing the skills of putting together a website and creating posts.


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