Saturday, September 4, 2010

Case study research into information literacy

Welcome to Ms Koppen's Librarian Probe

The following postings are on the topic of information literacy and the research that I undertook as part of my Masters of Education in Teacher Librarianship in 2010 with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The aim of this site is to add to the growing bank of information seeking for librarians around the globe and to assist educators in enhancing students' understanding of the infinite information on the World Wide Web.

The topic of information literacy has produced multiple models of guided inquiry, relational approaches, research cycles and phenomenological considerations for information seekers.


I embarked on information literacy search strategies with a trial class in Brisbane, Australia. I found that students could offer their own strategies, which was shared with the rest of the group.

An research task based on the Australian curriculum was given to the students with the question "What was life like in Brisbane last century?" The students explained what they already knew on the topic and then posed their own questions to begin their research.

Once the students had researched their historical topic on the World Wide Web and had interviewed past generations to confirm their findings, the students went on an excursion to a historical village. They immersed themselves in activities of the past such as weaving, blacksmithing, fossicking and going on horse and cart rides with some elderly volunteers from a historical association. From this real life interaction, the students create role plays to synthesise this information and will perform their new knowledge of the topic to a school community.

I found that my classroom practice was reinforced by the literature. Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2007, pp.62-74) recognize that Howard Gardener’s (1983) multiple intelligences explain, that each person has some combination of eight different kinds of ability.” They see that school libraries, the World Wide Web, museums and community resources enhance guided inquiry learning. They see that school library as an inquiry laboratory” where a “powerful learning synergy” is created. (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2007,p.74).

This “powerful learning synergy” was evident during the Information Search Process (ISP) and subsequent activities with the trial class as the students became a "community of designers" that experimented with searching and gave feedback with a series of questionaires. The Student Learning Through Inquiry Measure (SLIM) Toolkit (Todd, Kuhlthau, & Heinstrom, 2005) was used.

My research report entitled "Building A Community of Designers in Primary Schools" aims to provide educators with ideas to design learning activities that require students to locate, interpret, organise and share global information on the World Wide Web.


The "Building a Community of Designers in Primary Schools " Report found that inquiry based learning principles appear effective in facilitating transformational learning outcomes for middle childhood students.

Scaffolded learning appears effective in providing middle childhood students with both the structure and emotional support they need to maximise their learning.

It appears that the rate of learning achievement is effected by factors not directly addressed by the ISP model. If these factors are linked to linguistic competence, cognitive power, cultural influences then inclusive class structures may result in performance at variance to that predicted by the model.


There needs to be recognition of the special needs of learners and thoughtful graduated evaluation throughout the learning cycle.

By working together, as a "community of designers" guided, motivated and supported by their teacher, the architect of their learning plan, students will build their own path to attaining information literacy.


Large, Bowler, Beheshti & Nesset (2007) coined the term "community of designers"

Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008) "Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices" Peter Lang Publishers New York,NY.

Koppen, I., (2010) "Building a Community of Designers in Primary Schools" report (unpublished Masters Degree report, QUT)

Kuhlthau C., Maniotes, L & Caspari, A (2007) "Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century" Libraries Unlimited Westport, CT.

NOTE: To view more posts continue to scroll down.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Information Literacy Resources

Literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all Key Learning Areas (KLAs) of curricula and learning environments.

Information literacy strategies enable learners to become self-directed and assume greater control over their own information seeking.

The following resources are useful for educators to use with their students to utilise information literacy strategies as an active process in their life long learning.

1. The Big 6 site for teaching information and technology skills in the 'Big 6' model

2. Internet and Technology Lesson Plans for primary/elementary school students

3. Information literacy - DISCOVER model

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What about critical literacy?

Shapiro, J. & Huges, S (1996,p.31) see that the term "information literacy" is "but a dangerously ambiguous concept" and they suggest that consumers of the digital world will need to think critically about the "entire information enterprise and information society." They propose information literacy as a "new liberal art" that would extending from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the social, cultural and philosophical context and impact.

With this notion of critical thinking in mind I embarked on a search on the QUT Database to use the Boolean terms of "information literacy" AND "critical literacy." I used EBSCO host/ERIC and with my first search results came 8 entries:

1. McLeod J & Vasinda, S (2008) "Critical Literacy & Web 2.0: Exercising and Negotiating Power" where the authors describe Web 2.0 as tools that have increased the urgency for students and teachers critical literacy skills.

I noted on the abstract of hit 1 that upon my first reading the details of the listing recorded that ERIC did not have full access to the text so I "googled" and the article appeared through with a pay option to access the article. I went back to re-read the entry at the EBSCO host/ERIC page and saw on the left hand side (previously missed) a QUT Fulltext option and was able to access the article freely.

This got me thinking about a) the importance of re-reading and scanning for all the information on the page and b) times when I have searched on academic databases and could not access the full text of the article that I was interested in. The general Google option and Google Scholar will usually locate the article but at a cost.

The other entries were interesting and informative articles such as:
2. Morrisette, R. on "What Do They Know?: A Strategy for Assessing Critical Literacy"
3. Elmberg, J. "Critical Information Literacy: Instructions"
4. Kapitzke, C " Information Literacy: Changing Libraries"
All of these are relevant, recent and topical for educators who are searching for practical strategies on how to activate critical thinking for themselves and their students.

During my search process with Year 4 students, I was struck at the varying levels of critical knowledge with regards to the World Wide Web. When I discussed different search engines available, a student came forth with information on using punctuation marks to narrow down using terms and using plus and minus symbols to add or delete information. The student demonstrated this to the class and we all tried his method which on this occasion yielded the same results without punctuation because the topic which was the name of the local suburb plus history turned out to be only suburb name in the world!! Another teaching point! When you are searching with students with certain terms, the students will find that the term will have global implications! We then continued searching for information using different phrases for the local suburb that the students had formulated. Many real estate records came up and we then discussed the information results which may have been fact but were used for advertising real estate in the area. Another great teaching point for honing in on critical literacy!!

Currently, world wide the digitisation of library records is undergoing change in order to keep up with the "cherry picker" (Bates, J. see Obiwankenexus blog) nature of trying to contain Web 2.0 metadata records. The RDA Toolkit is being released world wide and it will be interesting to see how this takes shape.

All of these innovations require critical thinking and knowledge to understand the workings of an information loaded society so that we can filter what information is important to us.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Academic searching for Literature Review on Information Literacy

The term "information literacy" has engineered a proliferation of models and approaches. The creation and use of models are the approach of choice in contemporary efforts to frame the teaching of information literacy skills. We have a number of models to choose from, and I have chosen Kuhlthau's (2007, pp 16-25) "Information Search Process" (ISP) when conducting my own academic search for information.

Kuhlthau C, Maniotes, L & Caspari (2007) Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century Westport, CT, USA. Libraries Unlimited Inc.


1st stage: LOCATE information and do a preliminary search

EMOTIONS: excited and apprehensive

I went to the QUT Library Database - Chose "Education" database because I want to see what is on offer in this area. I choose the "Science & Technology" option because I believe that library sciences might be in this category. I find "Library Science & Information Management."

EMOTIONS: YAY! I am on the right track! I want Australian and recent.

I scan the options and choose "ALISA-Australian Library & Information Abstract (via Infomit Search) because it indexes current Australian library practices. In the ALISA Search Querybox
I choose "information literacy" AND libraries in the "All subfields" box which means subject.
84 records are found on the first page containing 7 records that are immediately pertinent to what I want to know and write about in Assignment 1.

EMOTIONS: "Yes! I am on the right track!"

2nd stage: EVALUATE and look for expertise, accuracy, currency, perspective and currency

ALISA is a credible database because it is peer reviewed, current and the authors are academics with Australian and New Zealand universities.

PROCESS: The article that piqued my interest was Langford, L (2010). "Information Literacy: A Clarification. The Educational Technology Journal, 4 (1), 59-72 because the author says that there "appears to be a gap in the literature between the theory of information literacy and the everyday classroom practice."

EMOTIONS: "What? I don't think so!"

PROCESS: I decide that I will use this to argue against in my literature review for Assignment 1

Other articles that are relevant include:

  • Number 7" Mc Millan, D. "Taking up the challenge: can public libraries help to develop information literate children?"
  • Number 25 Henri, J. & Bonnano, K ed "The information school community: best practice" with 20 indexed papers with various academic authors. I recognise Karen Bonnano's name as a Queensland librarian and recipient of the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Citation Award of 2001. I had come across her blog in first semester when doing CLN 646 and upon "googling" her name that she has a school library management business at

3rd stage USE: Deciding what is enough and forming a focus on the ISP

EMOTIONS: "YAY! Lots of great hits!"

I decide not to try any other combinations of Boolean logic such as "OR" or "NEAR" because my initial choice of terms "information literacy" AND libraries along with my selection of the categories of "Science & Technology" and "Library Science and Information Technology" lead me to ALISA which proved to have plentiful results in the topic that I sought.

EMOTIONS: "Good stuff! Now I have a greater understanding of ISP and this will make me a better teacher who can coach students who have trouble with searching!"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Searching..searching..the processes involved for educators and students

Web Searching for “Information Literacy” and Web searching for children’s content with a view to Session One at Site School

After reading Maureen Henninger’s The Hidden Web: Finding Quality Information on the Net – chapters 6 & 8, I was armed with new knowledge such as: Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky Feature” button uses link analysis that may deduce the most relevant document if you are searching for a document whose title you know. It introduced me to a new search engine from France called Exalead in which you can use Boolean and proximity queries. It made me aware of the Australian context search engine

Exercise 1: to utilize search engines on the web for the term: “information literacy.”

I used the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on Google and was directed to Wikipedia definitions.

This was the definition offered:

Several conceptions and definitions of information literacy have become prevalent. For example, one conception defines information literacy in terms of a set of competencies that an informed citizen of an information society ought to possess to participate intelligently and actively in that society (from Wikipedia page).

The American Library Association's (ALA) Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, Final Report states, "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information" (ALA 1989).

I wasn’t expecting to be directed to Wikipedia so I reverted back to Google and used the “more” option which took me to “Scholar” and more suitable material was found. I noticed that the “even more” button took me to Web 2.0 applications such as “Picasa”, offered “e-mail alerts” and how to find blogs of interest.

“Scholar’s” first hit was “The Seven Faces of Information Literacy” by C Bruce 1997 and I read about the 7 steps to “Wisdom” when understanding information literacy.

Other hits included an interesting article by JJ Shapiro and SK Hughes entitled “Information Literacy as a liberal art” where the authors reflect on historical turning points in human history such as the Enlightenment period of the 18th century where thinkers began to confront the relationship between scientific progress and the emergence of a free society.

This snippet outlines their premise:

Jeremy Shapiro & Shelley Hughes (1996) define information literacy as "A new liberal art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and philosophical context and impact." (from p6)

I can see that the digital revolution as a critical time where information literacy is paramount to conquering the complexities of a powerful technology. I would suggest that this technology is all consuming, addictive in some cases and that it does have the capacity of enslave us therefore powerful technology requires powerful thinking.

Exercise 2: To use children’s search engines to find information on the topic of: “Life in the Past 1900’s and Local History.”

I decided to do this because I wanted to simulate what kinds of sites come up when the students search for this topic. It is problematic in that many of the sites have American history, advertising, distracting videos that would easily cause students to go off track.

For example: and "one key" are cited as student friendly resources but came up with hundreds of American history sites. We required Australian local historical sites. eg.

Search Results

You searched for: life in the 1900s

Results on the Web

Results 1 - 9 of 222

1. Ancestors in the Americas: OverviewAncestors Americas: Overview Ancestors Americas Series Overview Ancestors America is designed as first major television series to offer general

So I attempted to go for Australian content on but it was littered with advertisements and property guides such as the example below:

Results returned for jamboree(6622) heights(223546) history(2719857) in(-1) 1900(107699) s(-1) - searchtime=185mS, [32262990 Australian pages indexed]

Did you mean, jamboree heights history in w s

Beechworth Accommodation for hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, self contained and caravan parks ommodation.htm

Water Tanks Melbourne, RainWater Tanks, Garden Pumps, Water Features and More Water Tanks - Water Tanks and Pumps :: Garden Pump -and-pumps/pumps-and-water-tanks/tank2tank-pump-brass-connect ion-kit

After wading through the advertising, I found the second site (see above: which did have relevant and 'kid friendly' material on Australian history including the Turrbal Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Brisbane site with one page of useful information, a PBS kids site with a TV documentary series of The 1900’s House and some accompanying information pages on technology of the 1900’s.

Searching for local content and historically relevant information will need to be scaffolded with direct website references as in Kuhlthau's (2007) ISP model: "Locate, Evaluate and Use" p. 80.

For the searching exercise and for the sake of guided inquiry I will enable them to random search on The Learning Place or Google using the Wonder wheel option. We will discuss what happened and how to narrow down searching to suit the purpose of the discoveries about the subject matter of “Life in the Past and the Local Area.”

This will be an interesting exercise which does require monitoring, as I did come across advertising, marketing videos and commercials.

I am glad that I did a test drive of searching from the student’s perspective as in the "co-learner" ideal expressed in Callison, D & Preddy, L (2006) p.4, so that I can offer tips and go through some of the pages with the kids to see if they can guess what the link would be about eg. Advertising, real estate, a government website etc..

Callison, D & Preddy, L (2006) merge the terms coined by Kuhlthau C (2007) into "information inquiry" where meaningful questions are posed to activate the higher order thinking skills and then identify and prioritize "usefulness of resources" (p.3). The challenge to educators is to harness this process and to bring inquiry into the learning environment.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Theories of Information Literacy

Refer to Reading "Practising information literacy: bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together" by Mandy Lupton and Christine Bruce.

Our Unit Leader has done an admirable job with her colleague in documenting the models of Information Literacy from Luke & Freebody 1999 and their "rich tasks" dappling in "New Basics Curriculum", to the social perspective of cope & Kalantzis 2000 and coming up with their own model of GeST with the "generic window" of "cognitive skills", "situated window" of "contextualised information practices" and the "transformative window" with the "range of information practices used to transform oneself and society (p15 Table 1.6)."

This model shows that literacy is transformative once one has mastered the generic literacy and suggests that curricula "should attend to the full complexity of the literacy experience(p6)."

I have seen curricula come and go and come back again! In the 1990's, shared book experience, invented spelling and writing was the rage and luckily I had learnt grammar in high school German so was able to cope well when functional grammar hit the Millenium and I see that the National Curriculum cheerleaders traditional grammar.

As for as information literacy models, there was the classic Bloom's Taxonomy, Media Education which emphasised critical thinking models, The Four Resources and rich tasks of Luke and Freebody and more recently the Science based approach to guided inquiry involving questioning techniques throughout the inquiry process.

Whatever model is in at the time, I opt for balance using the beneficial elements of models that best suit my students, context, situation using a variety of teaching styles and utilising multiple intelligences that integrate throughout the various disciplines.

The requirements of CLN 650 is to explain how I search on the Web on the topic of information literacy and to fill in a questionaire. I will do this on my next post.

My team buddies are Bernadette L and Bernadette H. We are all full-timers. GO B & B!!

Week 3 Readings Democratic Ideals in Education

I have found some comrades of similiar minds in the readings of McKenzie, J (2005) "Learning to question to wonder to learn" and Powell R, Cantrell S & Adams (2001) in describing a school project entitled "Saving Black Mountain: The promise of critical literacy in a multi-cultural democracy."

Firstly Jamieson McKenzie asserts that "Questions and questioning may be the most powerful technologies of all (p.15)." After all we are humans grappling with a new invention that has been overtaken with corporate interests and multinational control (Powell, Cantrell & Adamsp.772). Humans can use their "mindware" to overcome the plight of "MentalSoftness" by asking "smart questions" in the Smart State(McKenzie 2005)!

Full marks to Powell, Cantrell and Adams for advocating teaching as a "subversive activity (McKenzie 2005) as I have been doing this in my twenty years of teaching experience. Writing, e-mailing, petitioning, filming, photographing for real life literacy practises that capture socio-cultural awareness of young adult's pursuit of knowledge and action.

For over 20 years, I have been involved in various forms of “rich tasks” (Luke 1999) with my primary school students. From writing letters to government and corporate agencies about local, national and global environmental issues, filming debates on whether "To Zoo or not to Zoo" to investigate the pros and cons of preserving endangered animals, to simply propagating seeds and planting them in a school garden or community organisations. In 2010 I produced a DVD in conjunction with the Pullenvale Environmental Centred entitled "Nurturing Nature in the Diginative Age" documenting a Storythread Project espousing Values Education and the Children in Nature Movement. Many teachers and students in our state schools are actively involved, immersed and synthesising information to become information ‘literati’(I made that up?).

Now for the "digirati" ( Spender 1995)! The divide between the information rich and poor is highly visible when comparing Australian public school resourcing with the private school system which also benefited from recent government funding for schools. Maintenance of technology infrastructure in state schools is poor. Contract technicians are assigned to up to 4 schools resulting in once a week visits (Site 2 school visit 29-07-10).

Powell, Cantrell and Adams recognise that democracy is endangered with the schooling system held hostage by economic aims of governments and corporations resulting in a performance based agenda where teachers are forced into training mode and teaching to tests.

The American example of 4th graders defending a Kentucky mountain top from strip mining, easily translates to Australia's coal mining obsession, and the 2010 contamination of Kingaroy's water supply due to the mining industry, the expansion of coal mining in the Hunter Valley resulting in cancer clusters of local residents and there are endless examples of this happening here and now in Australia.

Bring back the notion of a democratic education process where literacy is used for "democratic aims (Powell, Cantrell & Adams)." McKenzie offers some useful strategies to use with students in classrooms and I will emulate his ideas below with my initial information literacy search lesson with my trial class.

Jamieson McKenzie’s website: has some practical strategies for students to use when researching a topic of interest. He coins the term “prospecting” for navigating through the Web’s infinite sources.

While schooling in the 19th and 20th centuries was primarily about students mastering processed information - the core curriculum - it is likely that schooling and learning during the next century will be characterized by far more prospecting - the purposeful, skilled, but sometimes haphazard search for insight and truth across a complicated information landscape.

There are three stages to prospecting:

Locating reliable, high quality sites

Creating bookmarks for future visits when necessary

Creating a flow of information when possible

Power to the people!