Reflections on electronic pathfinders


My reflection in Assignment 2 said it all really …

To begin this task, it was important to interpret the purpose of the pathfinder and how, as a curriculum resource, it would enhance the learning of this particular group of students.  From the readings it became clear that the pathfinder should, not only be a pathway for students to access appropriate, mediated resources relevant to topic but also, be a resource that clearly supports the cross curriculum outcomes and standards for the year level as outlined in the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority, 2011). Further development of the pathfinder consequently required careful consideration of the Australian Curriculum General Capabilities (ACARA, n.d.). As a student, with little knowledge of the Australian curriculum, getting to know the curriculum guidelines became an edifying and driving part of the process. Serious consideration of student learning outcomes gave greater purpose to the pathfinder.

Herring’s (2010, p. 37) statement that teacher librarians have a professional and ethical responsibility to provide the best information for their students resonated strongly at the commencement of this task and throughout the process of locating and selecting resources for the pathfinder.

When initiating the search for online resources it was difficult not to revert to old habits and simply perform a basic Google search. Modeling best practice became the catchphrase and Herring’s (2010, p. 32) recommendation that TL’s acquire effective web searching skills charted the course. Working through the module activities only confirmed this pledge, proving the need to abandon old methods and endeavor to develop a personal, more effective search strategy. Most of the online resources were located using the advanced search features of search engines, particularly Google and Dogpile. The ability to set limits such as region, site or domain and reading level provided the option to obtain more targeted results. Learning to apply Boolean logic more effectively was challenging but thinking about the choice of keywords, use of search terms and order of importance generated greater results. Some libguides were useful when you could access them; many potential guides were password protected.  Storing search results, by bookmarking and tagging them in Diigo, was a time saving practice and simplified the selection process. Selecting images to use in the pathfinder was challenging and sometimes confusing. Planning to engage visual learners by including relevant images in the pathfinder was the intention however choosing what to use and publish confidently became an ordeal. Ultimately, modeling best practice overruled and only images on the public domain or copyright free were used and direct links to sites like Trove were added.  It became evident that further consolidation and understanding of creative commons is required and something to spend more time on in the future. Making a conscious effort to devote time applying and using the website evaluation criteria, developed earlier in the session, was valuable to the selection process. The task of deciding what not to select was simplified by using the checklist. Reading for information, focusing on educational merit, creative commons and suitability for purpose were guiding factors in choosing quality resources to add to the pathfinder.

According to the School Library Association of South Australia (SLASA, 2008) one of the key roles for a teacher librarian is to provide students with an effective information service. A pathfinder serves this purpose by providing access to relevant resources selected to meet the information needs of students. However, after reading the literature provided in the modules it became apparent that a pathfinder, created as a curriculum resource should offer more than just provision of resources. As curriculum resources, pathfinders can contribute to student learning by providing information literacy guidance. As mentioned previously, in order to bestow greater educational purpose to the pathfinder the consideration of projected student learning outcomes is valuable. According to General Capabilities to investigate with ICT by independently accessing, locating, analysing and evaluating information and to apply critical and creative thinking to identify, explore and clarify information are key skills for students to acquire (ACARA, n.d.).  The process of embedding information literacy advice and guidance into the pathfinder became necessary with these outcomes in mind. Suggesting strategies for searching for information, providing worthwhile advice for using the resources, reminding students to be critical readers of websites, to think about where they are in the information search process, to use the information literacy model and website evaluation criteria taught in the school became important elements of the pathfinder.

The task of creating a virtual pathfinder using web 2.0 technologies has been illuminating. It has generated new thinking about the tools we use today, but most of all, the process has shed new light on the significant, pedagogical role of the teacher librarian. The description of the pathfinder as a curriculum resource or “learning website” (Herring, 2010, p. 92) was new and different. Previously, pathfinders were simply viewed as quick guides, created and provided by librarians, to find resources; a service that corresponded well with the recognised role of librarian as information services provider. Identifying the pathfinder as a curriculum resource suggested so much more, it highlighted that a teacher librarian can be a creator of a learning resource not just a provider of information. O’Connell (2008, p. 51) asserts that school libraries have always made a difference to student learning and provided pathways to information and knowledge by promoting information literacy skills and processes. This perfectly describes the purpose of creating a digital pathfinder. Teacher librarians can use web 2.0 technologies as teaching tools to enhance student learning; to provide subject content, as well as provide access to purposeful mediated resources; to provide information literacy guidance and skill development; to provide opportunity for student participation and above all, to teach students to be “critical web learners” (Herring, 2010, p. xiii) in an expanding web 2.0 community. The decision to use a wiki to create the virtual pathfinder was driven by the tools collaborative potential. That students and teachers are able to contribute; to share ideas and information is a wonderful way to enhance the content of the resource. A wiki also provides opportunity for teacher librarians to collaborate with teachers, to advocate their role as collaborative partners as well as information specialists and service providers. Valenza (2010) describes wiki pathfinders as “the ultimate illustration of exploiting new tools for authentic and highly useful purposes” but most importantly as “another opportunity to showcase the work of the critical efforts of teacher librarian in the 2.0 educational landscape”.

In summary, the process of creating a virtual pathfinder was highly beneficial to the learning objectives of this course subject. The process introduced new ideas, provided opportunity to use new technologies and to improve personal information retrieval skills and, the process stimulated new thinking, consolidating understandings of the role of the teacher librarian. Above all, creating the pathfinder reinforced the fact that teaching and learning is fundamental to our function.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2011). The Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from

O’Connell, J. (2008). School library 2.0: new skills, new knowledge, new futures. In P.
Godwin & J. Parker (Eds.), Information literacy meets Library 2.0 (pp. 51-62). Retrieved from CSU Library eReserve.

School Library Association of South Australia. (2008). SLASA Teacher librarian role statement. Retrieved from

Valenza, J. (2010). Ten reasons why your next pathfinder should be a wiki. Retrieved from



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