“Fake News”, social media and critical thinking


BBC iReporter

This is a fantastic online resource created by the BBC which puts players in the heart of the newsroom to explore sources and make journalistic decisions and attempt to discover what is real and what is fake news.

You are a new reporter for the BBC social media team, and you have to meet your bulletin deadlines through the course of a day.

I tested this out this morning and was impressed by the very slick format full of interactive technology and immediate results.  Players gain points for accuracy, impact, and speed – all of which are crucial in any real news setting.

Links to the New Zealand Curriculum:

This activity meets all elements of the key competencies – the capabilities for living and lifelong learning (which is what we’re all about in the school library business!)

  • Thinking – critically, creatively, and metacognitively thinking while making sense of information, experiences, and ideas to become active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge
  • Using language, symbols, and texts – understanding visual, oral, aural and written language cues to make swift decisions
  • Managing self – being resourceful and resilient while employing strategies to meet challenges under time constraints
  • Relating to others – interacting effectively online while coming up with new ways of thinking and becoming informed decision makers
  • Participating and contributing – in a digital, global environment while understanding the balance between rights, roles, and responsibilities to contributing to online communities

It also contributes to digital citizenship, information and digital literacy skills programmes, and is particularly relevant to Social Studies, English and Media studies teachers

BBC i-reporter

A big thank you to UK teacher and editor of UKEd Magazine, Martin Burrett for posting about this excellent, interactive tool, with potential to have high student engagement.

Professional Reading Choices

Here are links to some of my favourite professional reading material.

Peer-reviewed journals

il_logo-trans.pngInformation Literacy Journal

Articles in the Information Literacy Journal are written by presenters from the Librarian Information Literacy Annual Conference held in the UK in March or April each year.  Excellent range of articles around all aspects of information literacy in an education context.  I attended the Glasgow conference as a presenter in 2012 and it remains a highlight of my professional experiences to date and marks my introduction to the rockstar Professor Tara Brabazon!


alberta2Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Journal

I discovered this Evidence Based Practice journal when exploring what gathering evidence in my own professional practice could look like following the 2012 SLANZA workshop on Evidence Based Practice with the redoubtable Dr Ross Todd.  Not all of the articles are pertinent to a school library setting, but they all demonstrate how and why we could collect evidence as an advocacy tool.


New Zealand based professional reading

SquareGreenLogo_400x400SLANZA Collected magazine 

Published two or three times a year, each issue of Collected tends to have themed feature articles along with a variety of shorter articles and regular features including book reviews.



Library Life has recently had a facelift. It is a regular monthly newsletter with plenty of topical issues across library sectors and provides New Zealand food for thought for informational professionals.


HMWEVE Magazine 

A yearly publication from the Heroes Mingle stable which takes a fresh approach to thinking about librarianship, what inspires us and how that inspiration can make a difference.  Watch out for their next offering in the latter part of this year.


What are your favourites?  Would love you to share them in the comments!




The Epic BYOD Toolchest (51 Tools You Can Use Now) | Edutopia

Great list of apps to consider using in your BYOD classroom

Edutopia blogger Vicki Davis shares a wealth of apps and platforms that can facilitate teaching and maximize learning within a BYOD classroom and school environment. She counts 51, and these are just her favorites!

Source: The Epic BYOD Toolchest (51 Tools You Can Use Now) | Edutopia

Scaffolding Research and Guided Inquiry

Yesterday was a big day for me!  About a month ago I had been invited to speak to student teachers studying at Otago University in Dunedin about the process of scaffolding research and guided inquiry as part of their Literacy Across the Curriculum paper. I was a little nostalgic and it felt even more surreal walking into a lecture theatre I had sat in during my year at teachers college back in the early 1980’s, only this time I was the one standing at the front talking to students, some of whom had already completed degrees and were now training to go into classrooms as teachers.

The time allocated just wasn’t long enough! There was so much to tell them, share with them and discuss with them.  I easily had enough content to spread across two sessions, but we were constrained to one and so I made the best of it.  My hope is that our short 50 minutes has only just opened up potential discussions as they all contemplate graduation and beginning in their own classes next year.  To that end I have invited them to join me in the new Scaffolding Research and Guided Inquiry Group on the Virtual Learning Network.  I hope we can continue to discuss what guided research and inquiry can look like in classrooms, as these skills are relevant to all subject disciplines in all schools across every year level.

Q.U.I.C.K method for Evaluating Websites

Weighing it up

Dr Susan Sandretto from Otago University gave a stunning keynote address at the recent SLANZA Conference in Wellington on Planning for Critical Literacy. She is an engaging speaker and able to communicate well the need for us as teachers and librarians to create opportunities for teaching students about critical literacy and have them explore what it means to analyse text critically.  I have been fortunate enough to hear Susan speak on two previous occasions and she has been pivotal in giving me the necessary skills to design these two lessons, which help students grasp this concept in a digital environment.

This is the poster I developed using information Susan gave in hand-out form at her workshop I attended about two years ago.   I had several teaching colleagues also attend this workshop, and these posters were ultimately displayed in classrooms throughout the school.  I even saw it on the wall of my friend’s home office when I was visited her recently – she also happens to a former teaching colleague!

Critical Literacy Poster

Lesson 1: How to Evaluate a Website – Q.U.I.C.K

Searching the NetThrough observing typical 12 and 13 year old students’ behaviour in using computers to research, I realised they needed a lot of guidance to achieve effective results.

As part of developing an embedded programme towards achieving this aim, I designed this lesson to get Y8 students thinking about how to decide whether a website they are looking at is a good choice for their research needs.

I would typically teach this lesson after having already taught the class about keyword searching and selecting websites from their results.

The Quality Information Checklist is a great resource to engage students with how to evaluate websites and promote discussion in small groups about why it’s important to do this.


Lesson 2: Evaluating Websites

I have designed another lesson activity that I typically teach in either Year 9 or 10 where I remind them of the Q.U.I.C.K steps and get them to use as many as necessary to evaluate an assigned website. Here’s the lesson plan and a link to the Livebinder resource:

Evaluating Websites - Hoax lesson

It really brings home the message to students that just because a website looks slick and has lots of bells and whistles, doesn’t make it appropriate, relevant, correct or even true.

Why I need to be in the library and not the office!

So yesterday I had to take up a position at the circulation desk instead of the library office.

SBHS Circulation Desk

Today I’m still there, and here’s why:

In the course of an hour this morning I had three separate conversations with three different teachers that I wouldn’t have had if I’d been in my office.

  • Conversation No. 1:  A Science teacher who was booking in her Year 10 class to use computers to research common contemporary myths, such “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight”, for scientific accuracy and proof of validity.  As we discussed what her expected outcomes are and a possible approach to guiding her students in a meaningful way, I shared with her the Quality Information Checklist website to illustrate for students the types of questions they need to ask themselves to validate information for research.  As a consequence, I taught the first part of this lesson …. today! …. for her class and she is going to share this website with other science faculty who are also teaching this unit.
  • Conversation No. 2:  A Health and Wellbeing teacher who had booked in at the last minute with his Year 10 boys to use computers.  After chatting with him about what they were doing I found out they were researching sexually transmitted diseases, a fun and challenging assignment to research with a class of red-blooded 14 & 15 year old males! I asked him how that was working and showed him the EPIC database, Health and Wellness Resource Centre which is tailor-made for this type of research and presents no problems with filter systems.  One of the features I love about this resource is the comprehensive table of contents which helps guide the students to the information required for them to answer their questions.
  • Conversation No. 3: Teacher number 3 had brought a couple of her Year 12 Media Studies students into the library to look at newspaper headlines as she was getting them to create their own.  I asked “Have you seen the Newspaper Clipping Generator? It might be just what you need.”  Half an hour later the same boys came in to show me what they’d created.

View into Library OfficeLibrary Office Desk

As you can see from the photos above, my office is tucked behind a wall, out of the way and while I have plenty of glass (still a barrier) that only gives me a view of half the library.  I can’t see people arriving, and more importantly, they can’t see me!

As a consequence of being “front and centre”, I’ve had more spontaneous conversations with the boys as they move through the library in the past two days than I have in the past two months!

Now …. to devise a plan to have us all working in the library and not the office!

Memory Game – a Step in the Programme

I just love those days when a colleague shares something and it sparks off an idea that makes your brain fizz and pop!



Yesterday was one of those days for me. It all started when the wonderful Desna Wallace shared a link to the Stylist list of 100 Best Opening Lines from Children’s Books

I just love the way it looks and works, with the pictures of the books and then hover over the picture to read the first line of it.  So it got me thinking …..


I am currently working on creating a set of resources to support a new Y7 & 8 library and research skills programme that I’m developing at my new school.  I have an absolutely fantastic group of teachers to work with here and the junior school staff are so willing to collaborate with me, welcoming me into their classrooms.

So when I saw this post I was immediately struck by how cool it would be to design a memory card game, using the covers of the books on one set and the corresponding first line from each book on another set.  The students could then play the game by either matching the pairs correctly, or have them working in groups to decide which bo0k went with which first line.

In a slightly simpler version, I will use the same concept with book covers and authors names.  Both of these ideas still require some fine-tuning and tweaking, but it’s simple, relatively easy to make and fun for the students, with the potential to incorporate a competitive element into it that all boys love.

So, a big thanks Desna and I would encourage everyone to keep sharing.  It’s gold!

Sometimes it’s the little things ……

So Term 4 has begun and even though we’re only at the end of week 1,  I have to say I’m very happy that Labour Weekend is ahead of us and with it a welcome three day weekend!

2012 might not be quite done and dusted yet, in fact quite a bit still remains to do before I can say that, but I already have my 2013 Ideas Notebook open…..

……..and entries being made for consideration for next year.

One of the ideas I played around with and ended up adding yesterday was thanks to a link and an idea Michele Coombridge posted on the SLANZA Facebook page.

The Catalog Card Generator is a neat little tool which is fun and very easy to use.  It is similar to the Newspaper Clipping Generator that’s been around for several years and some of you may have seen and used it.  The Catalog Card Generator allows you create an old-fashioned manual card for any book you want to, complete with scribbles on it for a little authenticity.   Michele’s great idea was to use it to promote a book which has just a black cover.

I wanted to know what a generated card would look like so I grabbed the book that’s sitting on my desk at the moment (which happens to be my new favourite read for this year!!) The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, an absolutely brilliant debut novel, a treasure and a fortunate find.  So I whipped up a catalog card for it in less than a minute, printed it out, and here’s what it looks like:

This visual highlighter will work nicely with some of our ideas for promoting specific books next year.

Some of our ideas include:

  • Pick of the Day – This will be selected by one of our Library Team and will have pride of place on the main desk so visitors can see it when they come into the library
  • Odyssey Book of the Week – this relates to a new reading initiative I’ve been working on this year.  It’s being trialled this term and will be part of our English programme from 2013 (More to come on this in a later post)
  • Highlighting Non-Fiction – We have some great non-fiction reads on the shelf that we need to market to the students, who would enjoy them but might not necessarily find them.  This could be a great way of making these books stand out

Sincerely, a big thanks to you Michele for sharing this simple but great idea – and not just the link! With the overwhelming number of links and emails I receive each day it’s impossible to explore them all so the links shared that actually have a suggested use or a “this is how I use it” story means I’m more likely to take a look at it.   The great ideas don’t always have to be the big ones.  Sometimes they are the very simple, easy but extremely effective ones that have already worked for someone else.

Resources for supporting the Tertiary Prep Unit

While trawling for great resources to use in preparation for my Tertiary Prep Unit I came across some really fantastic information available online from a variety of tertiary institutions.

For the sessions on note-taking and note-making I shared a great resource put together by Otago University Libraries Student Learning Centre about how to take and make good notes  and from the Higher Education Development Centre at Otago they offer this handout about making the most of your notes.

Otago has also designed equally good resources for managing learning which I shared when discussing study skills with my groups.

Another idea I introduced to the Tertiary Prep guys was the idea of using Study Groups as a way to revise and prepare. Otago has also created great resources to assist with this.  This handout describes how to get the best out of a study group and this one is about their P.A.S.S system (Peer Assisted Study Sessions.)

The Otago University Higher Education Development Centre is a great resource to tap into, and I recommend you take a look at what they do and what they offer.

When running my sessions on Bibliographies and Citations, I shared some great resources created by Waikato University which has good explanations about referencing as well as useful examples for each citation style.  This one is for APA.  What I really love is the drop down boxes they have to give specific examples of each type of reference.  Waikato also has a great list of how-to library guides.

Last, but by no means least, is one I came across recently from Boston College University Libraries which is a comprehensive glossary with definitions of library terms.  Not only does this help students get their heads around what each term actually means, but would also be a great resource for students of information and library science who are also grappling with terms we take for granted as practicing professionals.

If anyone has found anything equally useful, I’d love you to share them!

Tips for Searching the Internet

Power Searching with Google: We all want to get better at “finding stuff” on the internet – and those of us in education really want to become as skilled as possible in finding the “good” stuff so we can teach our colleagues and students to also become proficient finders and users of information based on their needs.

I was peripherally aware of the buzz around these Google sessions a few weeks ago, but just didn’t have the time to follow up on them so I was very pleased to see a link to the series of lessons via Google Research on Twitter.  Now that I know where to find them I’ll work my way through each lesson over the next few weeks, noting down anything new I can highlight in my searching the net lessons.

I’ve recently developed two new posters for students to use when searching the internet.

Poster for our Junior Campus – Year 7 & 8 students:

Poster for our Senior Campus – Year 9 & 13 students:

These work very well and students seem to like using them.