LLED 469 Inquiry-Based Pedagogy in School Library Programs

Learning Log: (Assignment 1)

Digging for Gold

September 7, 2017

I love the phrases from the course description “inquiry into inquiry” and “choose your own adventure”. I find the idea of searching for valuable articles, information, techniques, strategies and resources that will guide me through the process of developing my skills as teacher-librarian similar to that of a prospector digging for gold. My treasures will not be nuggets of precious metal, but nuggets of valuable knowledge and skills.

Digging for Gold

Through my inquiry process of “digging”, I hope to keep track of the following:

  • the process of my learning (how does my journey take shape and what are my affective responses through the journey)
  • my connections with the readings
  • articles, books and resources that may be useful in the future  (Literature Review Page)

Log 1.1  Modules 1-4 (due Sept. 30)

Module 1: Why Inquiry?

In the 21st century context, teachers are no longer by the primary source of knowledge. With the explosion of the web and increased access to information, today’s learners need to be able to access information, draw conclusions and then communicate their findings  with others. I refer to the old adage: “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”  Through inquiry, I have the opportunity to teach my students how to be fishermen/women of knowledge (or simply put: life-long learners).

Learning [is then] a journey of inquiry and personal growth” (LLEB 469, Module 1, p. 3) rather than a curriculum imposed on a blank slate.

Follow up discussion question:

  • “What challenges have you experienced or might you anticipate experiencing in using the inquiry approach in your teaching or in participating as a learner in a teacher inquiry?”

When I have attempted to design an inquiry based project or lesson, I was struck by the push back from some students. These students were so accustomed to the traditional way of learning and were expecting to be spoon-fed via the teacher or the text book. Inquiry takes work on the part of the learner and some struggled with the rigours of thinking for themselves, questioning information and digging for resources. I realized that I needed to guide these students along the process and model the skills of searching, digging, questioning and processing.

As a teacher,  I find it difficult to design an inquiry process when teaching a new subject/topic that I have not covered before. I find it helpful to first play around with the content, familiarize myself with the material in a more “traditional” way before I have the confidence and the background knowledge needed to guide the students in a more inquiry based approach. I look forward to learning the skills of how to implement inquiry based approach especially through topics and content that is new to me.  As I was digging through some of the readings, the following caught my eye “Encourage teachers to use inquiry in their own learning; discourage the idea that you must know the answer before you begin” (Coatney, 2013, p. 7).

References

  • Coatney, S. (2013). Zeroing in on inquiry. School Library Monthly 29(4): 5-8.
  • Stripling, B. K. (2008). Inquiry: Inquiring minds want to know. School Library Media Activities Monthly25(1): 50-52.

Module 2: Parameters of Inquiry

I appreciated the introduction to this module that states, “inquiry is not new”. I remember one of the first days of my first practicum in the Teacher Ed. Program at UBC. I was paired with a wonderful gr. 1 teacher at a Catholic School in Vancouver. She encouraged me to go ahead and try teaching the class and gave me the support to do so. I love to bake so I thought of introducing these little 5-6 year olds to chocolate truffles. Wow, the process was definitely messy!!! The best way to mix the oats, butter and cocoa is with your hands. So, the children dug right in. What I didn’t consider was the very white uniform shirts on these little bodies. Oops! Although the children left with chocolate smudges all over their uniforms, they chatted excitedly about their baking experience. It was definitely a risk, but well worth the effort. That foray into messy learning set the course for me.

I have used both the Big 6 Model and the Points of Inquiry model in my grade 7 class. Both lay out the inquiry process clearly and guide the learners through the process. At curriculum planning staff meeting last spring, I raised the question of choosing one or two models to focus on as a school to build a ‘shared vocabulary’ among the grades. It would be helpful to have a teacher-librarian who could provide consistency through the grades and collaborate with teachers in various inquiry units. I must admit that the Points of Inquiry appeals to me the most as the vocabulary is clear and accessible to children across the grades.

I found the following resource to be very helpful in planning my inquiry.

http://bctf.ca/bctla/pub/documents/Points%20of%20Inquiry/MiddlePackage.pdf

In Module 2, (page 4), criteria is listed to guide educators in the planning of true, authentic inquiry experiences. These criteria include:

  • “Is the learning process student-centred or teacher-directed?
  • Is the learning authentic and collaborative?
  • Are the inquiry question and the process grounded in students’ prior knowledge and experiences, as well as in the literacies, in critical thinking, and in meaningful reflection?
  • How meaningfully are the learning and the processes of learning assessed?  That is, how is evidence of what they know and of what they know how to do derived and assessed?
  • Is the “inquiry” asking students to find a “right answer” or to fill in the blanks?
  • And so on.” (LLED 469, Module 2, p. 4)

Hmmm, in reading this list, I began to question my own teaching and some of the projects I thought were inquiry based. Did they measure up to these standards?  I think I would like to make a “cheat sheet” of this list of criteria to keep handy while planning my lessons/projects to double check my pedagogy!

Have you heard of the program called “Smart Reading” developed by Susan Close?  Several years ago, my school embraced this. One of the emphasis of Smart Learning is accessing prior knowledge. Points of Inquiry reminded me of Smart Reading/Learning. On the Smart Learning website, educators can find some great handouts and resources.

http://www.smartreading.ca/

Another resource I have found helpful in my own quest for inquiry and in planning/teaching for students is:

Mongtomery, B. (2014). A Case for Browsing: An Empowering Research Strategy for Elementary Learners. Knowledge Quest, 43(2), E5-E9. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/NovDec14_OE2_Montgomery.pdf

Thoughts on Module 2 Readings:

http://bctf.ca/bctla/pub/documents/2014/SL2LLC_ReviewingCopy.pdf

I have reviewed this document on several occasions. Each time I open it up, I seem to find more nuggets of gold. This time, page 9 really caught my eye. The checkpoint list is very timely as I am beginning the process of collaborating with my vice principal in setting up our new LLC.

In reading Fontichiaro (2015), I appreciated the encouragement of the value of the old method of cut and paste (sort index cards).(p. 50). Each year, I do walk my students through at least one research project in which I insist on using paper, pencil and scissors for gathering and sorting research. I want to teach my students research skills, instead of an over-reliance on digital technologies such as copy/paste.

Fontichiaro, K. (2015). What’s inquiry? Well, I know it when I see it. School Library Monthly, 31(4), 49-51.

Module 3: the inquiry mindset

As I travel through LLED 469, I find myself looking for opportunities for inquiry in as many lessons as possible. For example, I left work on Friday thinking about my next lesson in Applied Design Skills and Technology (gr. 7). I was stewing about how best to teach digital law and the differences between Creative Commons, Copyright, Fair Use and Public Domain. My first inclination was to present a lesson differentiating each and the implications of the law. But, this sounded boring. So, what if I turned it more into an inquiry type of search in which the students needed to dig around different resources and see if they can figure out the differences and when each situation comes into play. Hmmm…that sounds a bit messy!

Here is my plan for next week:

  • Provide links for various sites (include a few videos as well for those who prefer auditory learning)
  • Give time for students to skim and scan and glean some information
  • Brainstorm inquiry questions as a class
  • Set to work finding answers to some of our class questions

I realize this is not a complete inquiry cycle, but I am testing the waters with the inquiry process. My goals are to engage the students, think deeper beyond ‘googleable questions’ and gain experience with research methods.

The resources I uncovered and will provide include:

Bussell, S. (July 5, 2014). . Copyright and Plagarism for Kids. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ngKGGoqFKTI

Common Sense Education. (Sept. 5, 2014). . Copyright and Fair Use Animation.

CyberWise1. (Feb. 3, 2015). . Creativity, Copyright, and Fair Use for Ethical Digital Citizens. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/h7QmSKHCQoY

Edutopia. (Dec. 2, 2015). [web blog]. Five-minute film festival: Copyright and Fair Use for Educators. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/film-festival-copyright-fair-use

Electronic Frontier Foundation. (n.d.) [web blog]. Teaching Copyright. Retrieved from  https://www.teachingcopyright.org/

Faden, E. (n.d.). . A Fair(y) Tale. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/CJn_jC4FNDo

Google. [website]. Find free-to-use images. Retrieved from https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/29508?hl=

Yikes, I got lost in cyber world digging around for resources and just realized an hour has passed. I still didn’t find helpful definitions or quick sheets written in language that would suit my middle school students. Perhaps some of my 469 classmates have resources to share.

After my foray into Cyber World, I continued with my own reading and digging for gold. I liked the descriptions of the Seven Learning Dimensions that enhance teaching and learning from Module 3 and spent a bit of time reflecting:

  1. Curiosity and a sense of wonder: this dimension is often lacking as children have lost the ability to think and wonder. Too often, they are shuttled to and from various lessons that occupy their time but leave little time for free exploration. Remember the days of building mud pies and playing with sticks in the forest?
  2. Creativity (I loved how this references to the importance of creativity in one’s lesson plans; I have been so fortunate to work with administrators who value the creativity of their teachers. I have always felt encouraged to take my passions and run with them! This has led to some crazy field trips and experiences in the classroom but so much fun.)
  3. Motivation: when engaged, students will certainly be more motivated. I remember an art project last year. I introduced textiles to my gr. 7 classes. I asked if they would be interested in learning how to hand sew a stuffed animal of their own creation. The response was overwhelmingly positive. I loved seeing my 12-year old boys asking to stay in during lunch so that they could sew!

My son’s gr. 8 social studies teacher is a great example of the quote in this module “Try to enjoy teaching as much as possible” (Module 3, p. 2). He told the class that he has never worked a day in his life because he loves his teaching job and doesn’t consider it work. In O’Keefe’s (2014) article, the following quote reiterated the importance of motivation.

Taken together, interest matters more than we ever knew. It is crucial to keeping us motivated and effective without emptying our mental gas tank, and it can turn the mundane into something exciting (p.12).

  1. Critical Thinking: so important to teach how to think, how to analyze and how to problem solve
  2. Reflection: I have found the move towards more self-reflection in the BC Ed Plan to be quite difficult for some students. Building the skills of self-awareness will take time.
  3. Openness: students who are receptive to new methods and tools will have the courage to try new things and to go beyond what is simply expected
  4. Interdependence and independence: The “Employability Skills 2000+ and Innovation Skills Profile” fits in perfectly with the Career Education (Gr. 7) course. This coming week, I will provide my students with links to several such websites. Their goal is to explore the lists and create their own list of strengths and abilities that describe themselves. From this list, they will learn how to create a ‘wordle’ or ‘word cloud’ that will become part of a resume/e-portfolio we will build throughout the year.

Other good sites to check out for generating lists of strengths include:

  1. https://www.thebalance.com/resume-strengths-list-2063804 (list of strengths)
  2. https://www.thebalance.com/interpersonal-skills-list-2063724 (interpersonal skills list)
  3. https://www.thebalance.com/list-of-the-best-skills-for-resumes-2062422

Additional Thoughts on the Readings:

Sir Ken Robinson (2013) in the TED talk “How to escape education’s Death Valley”, suggests education must focus on a curriculum that celebrates their broad talents, inspires curiosity (which is the “engine of achievement”), and recognizes the impact of creative teachers.

Gainer (2012) emphasizes the need to teach critical thinking skills so students will be able to analyze, discuss and apply their knowledge (p.16). These digital literacy skills are so important, especially with the immense amount of material available to students. I appreciated Gainer’s suggestion to use newspapers and current events to stimulate conversations and to build these skills.  Knodt (2010) emphasizes the importance of creativity. She states that “although creative, innovative thinking has always moved our culture forward, today this type of thinking is seen as especially critical” (p.41). As I plan and teach the new ADST curriculum for gr. 7, I love the emphasis on creativity and the need for ‘out of the box’ thinking. The risk free, playful environment that she suggests is a welcome relief from the ‘talking head’ type of education of the past. In my class, I have a poster that states FAIL is a first attempt at learning and it is what I hope will happen. I explain that we learn the most when we make mistakes and try a new way. One aspect that was not mentioned by the other authors is the need for ‘real world relevance’ as suggested by Moreillon (2001) et al. When students see a purpose to their learning, the motivation is certainly increased.

References:

Conference Board of Canada. (2015). Employability Skills 2000+ and Innovation Skills Profile. Education and Skills Products. Ottawa, ON: Conference Board of Canada.

Gainer, J. (2012). Critical thinking: Foundational for digital literacies and democracy. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 56(1): 14-17.

Knodt, J. S. (2010). Teaching for creativity: Building innovation through open-inquiry learning. School Library Monthly 26(9): 41-44.

Moreillon, J., Luhtala, M. & Russo, C. T. (2001). Learning that sticks: Engaged educators + engaged learners. School Library Monthly 28(1): 17-20.

O’Keefe, P. A. (2014, Sept. 12). Liking work really matters. The New York Times, p. 12.

Module 4: Collaboration and Participatory Culture

I love the quote “Librarians’ roles are not to get someone a resource but to engage that person in something new and in active learning” (Module 4, p.1).  Last week, I was carpooling with another parent from my son’s soccer team. He was asking me why I was taking these library courses. In his words, “isn’t working in the library boring?” I then had the opportunity to explain all the exciting learning that happens in the library and through the school as a result of collaboration with the TL. He admitted that he had no idea how the library could be instrumental in supporting student learning.

One of the biggest reasons to take my Master of  Arts at SFU was to focus on curriculum with the purpose of coordinating professional development and collaboration. I then saw what an impact a TL could have throughout a school in fostering this culture. So, here I am!

I really appreciated the advice Fontichiaro (2009) gives to foster a culture of inquiry. She wisely cautions teacher librarians from completely overhauling a teacher’s existing unit or project as this would hurt the teacher’s professional pride. Instead, offering a “tweak” could help to motivate change and to build a trusting relationship (Fontichiaro, 2009, p. 18).

As I began to make my way through the Module 4 readings, I was delighted with all of the great resources and tips to use when deliberately teaching research skills, such as note taking.

Some of my favourite tips include:

  • use a digital tool for note taking (Inspiration and Wallwisher.com) (Fontichiaro, 2011a, p. 9)
  • use highlighting tape strips to help isolate keywords or phrases (Fontichiaro, 2011b., p.13)
  • use the Note page in Power Point to take notes, write summaries and keep citations (Fontichiaro, 2011b., 13)
  • use exit slips or one minute essays on note cards for quick reflections (Fontichiaro, 2009, p.19)

Fontichiaro has a large amount of helpful articles to support my work as a new teacher librarian. I continued digging for gold and enjoyed reading many additional articles.

In Hamilton’s (2011b) article “The school librarian as teacher: What kind of a teacher are you?” essential conditions that lead to a participatory culture are described (p.35). As a teacher librarian, I hope to foster a culture of collaboration shaped by

  • the creation and sharing of lessons and units in which all feel empowered by their contributions
  • mentorship
  • social connections

References:

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

Fontichiaro, K. (2011a). Nudging toward inquiry – Let it rest: Reflecting on instructional practice. School Library Monthly 27(8): 8-10.

Fontichiaro, K. (2011b). Nudging toward inquiry – Extracting relevant information and note taking. School Library Monthly 27(4): 12-14

Fontichiaro, K. & Oehrli, J. A. (2014). Nudging toward inquiry – Turning the tables on collaboration part I: Planning for success. Library Media Connection 32(4): 36-38.

Hamilton, B. J. (2011a). Creating conversations for learning: School libraries as sites of participatory culture. School Library Monthly 27(8): 41-43.

Hamilton, B. J. (2011b). The school librarian as teacher: What kind of a teacher are you? Knowledge Quest39(5): 34-40.

Oehrli, A. & Fontichiaro, K. (2014). Nudging toward inquiry – Turning the tables on collaboration part 2: Reflecting on success. Library Media Connection 32(5): 34-35.

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