Developing One’s ICT Skills and Pedagogy

This week’s inquiry post associated with my teacher-librarianship diploma explores pedagogy, ICT, and professional development as an elementary school educator.  I’ll also discuss some of the strategies, tools, resources and networks I use to deepen my understanding and knowledge of my new as a teacher-librarian.

Power of Mentorship
I am lucky because teacher-librarians in my school district have a long-established culture of collaboration. As teacher librarians, we meet bi-monthly to discuss a variety of issues and share our successes. Each meeting is held in a different library in the district so it also presents a unique opportunity to check out someone else’s library for inspiration. In addition, my district also offers mentor/mentee opportunities for anyone who is looking for support. I have just taken advantage of this service and I look forward to spending time with my vastly experienced TL mentor. One of the first things I plan to do is invite him into my library to critically evaluate the collection and suggest where I should be focusing my energy, as I look to improve the collection.

Professional Development
I believe that professional development is a personal endeavour and can be a frustrating experience if you leave it up to someone else to plan, organize, and direct. It has never been easier to tailor professional development to suits one’s needs. I’m excited to attend my first British Columbia Teacher-Librarians’ Association (BCTLA) conference later this month. I am looking forward to the two sessions I signed up for, a discussion group on the topic of media and digital literacy, and a session in the afternoon title, Starting Strong – Strategies and Support for New Teacher-Librarians.

The Power of Social Networks
Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have been influential in my development as an educator, and as I am a bit of an introvert these platforms have enabled me to make connections with people I wouldn’t normally have connected with.

A recent example of the power of social networking that comes to mind occurred at the end of the last school year. In the closing months of the 2018-2019 school year, I secured my first teacher-librarian position. I knew that I would have to negotiate a very steep learning curve, so in preparation, I tried to anticipate some of the questions I would need answering and started to write them down. I then compiled them into a Google Form and shared it with the rest of my colleagues in my district. They were more than happy to offer insight, but I felt like I needed to hear from more people, so I shared the form on some of my preferred social networks using hashtags such as #teacherlibrarian #teacherlibrarianlife

I use social media as a tool to deepen my understanding of my role, strengthen my instructional practice, share my learning, and reach out for help. Primarily, I use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I am most comfortable with Twitter because I have been using it for quite some time and understand it more than the others mentioned, but I’ve shifted to Instagram lately, especially when checking out other people’s book reviews. I have bought plenty of books of my own based on Instagram book reviews and I’m sure I’ll use it just as much when I order books for my library. I follow many libraries and librarians, as well as those directly and loosely connected to education. Some of my favourites include:


There are many digital tools I access that help me be more efficient in my job.  Both at work and at home I use cloud-based productivity tools like GSuite for Education and Office 365.  I prefer the Google product, as I find it simpler to use but at work, I have to use Office 365.  If and when I stumble across something online that I want to use at a later date I use the social bookmarking app, Pocket.  I like that I can save, categorizing and curate my links.  When I’m sharing links I like URL shorteners especially when I’m working with students as they are easier to remember.  I usually use for shortening my URLs but there so many to choose from.     

One area of ICT I’d like to utilize more is that of Connections Based Learning and virtual field trips. 

We now have the digital tools to take advantage of these opportunities to connect students to their passions outside the walls of the school and beyond geographical boundaries.  My goal this year is to encourage my admin to invest in the hardware to make connections based learning a powerful tool.  


We live in a time when educators can take full control of their professional development.  Educators need no longer wait for their school districts to offer something that aligns their needs and pedagogy.  Instead, they can harness the power of ICT by using tools like Twitter, MOOCs, and Open learning platforms such as Coursera and OpenEdx. Ultimately, maintaining a practice of self-reflection is critical in order to determine one’s needs before thinking about professional development.

Fostering A Reading Culture In School: a quick peek around.

The next few posts on my blog are going to be dedicated to discussing a few broad topics that pertain to Librarianship, as well as uses of new media and technology to assist in developing programs, pedagogy and ICT in a school library context.

Before I share my learning this week, I wanted to take a moment to discuss one of the amazing ways my school and the school library foster a culture of reading.  One of the highlights of the year occurs in January when we launch our One-School-One-Book program. Before rolling out One-School-One-Book each year, we sit down as a staff to select an appropriate book that is suitable for the whole school to read.  We use the Read To Them website to help select books.  Each family in the school receives a free copy of the book to take home and complete assigned readings and weekly activities.  A movie adaptation is often shown in the gym as a culminating activity if one is available.

While thinking about fostering a reading culture in my school, I found several interesting resources.  One of them is called Storyline Online.  Storyline Online is a website that uses SAG-AFTRA Foundation members and well-known actors, voiceover artists, broadcasters, and dancers to read books aloud in a video format.  These videos are available on their website or on YouTube. Many of the primary teachers in my school would love this resource. More suited to the older grades in elementary school, Here Comes The Garbage Barge by written by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio and read by Justin Theroux is one of my favourites.  I think it would be good hook when discussion waste reduction.

“Here Comes the Garbage Barge read by Justin Theroux” by Storyline Online is licensed under Standard YouTube license

I also came across an article from the Australian Journal of Education titled, Building a school reading culture: Teacher librarians’ perceptions of enabling and constraining factors.  I was initially attracted to it because it was published this year, but as I processed it I found it quite interesting.  The article, which tries to determine whether Australian schools actively foster reading cultures that are supportive of reading for pleasure was determined by interviewing 30 teacher-librarians from Western Australian schools.  As I read the introduction the following statements made me wonder about my own practice and development as a new teacher-librarian:

  • “professionally trained librarians and information experts can provide children and young people with the transferable skills required to achieve throughout life and develop a lifelong love of reading” (The Scottish Government, 2018, p. 7)
  • At a classroom level, recent research suggests that children in upper primary school may not view their teachers as avid readers (Merga, 2016)
  • Regular reading may also be associated with mental wellbeing (Clark & Teravainen-Goff, 2018)

The conclusion that researchers came to after interviewing the librarians was that:

  1. School administrations play a vital role in developing and maintaining a school’s reading culture
  2. Adequately funded and resourced school libraries support a reading culture
  3. If the administration at the school are readers themselves, then the library is likely to be better funded and resourced
  4. Staff who are active and engaged readers act as role models for students.
  5. There is a need for increased parental support in fostering powerful reading habits.  A reading culture is stronger when there are reading partnerships between the school and home.


StorylineOnline. (2017, November 6). Retrieved September 28, 2019, from

Merga, M. K., & Mason, S. (2019). Building a school reading culture: Teacher librarians’ perceptions of enabling and constraining factors. Australian Journal of Education, 63(2), 173–189.

LIBE 477 Reading Review Part B – Keyword Identification

As a new teacher-librarian, I would like to strengthen my understanding of information literacy and all is subsequent parts. Below is a list of resources that I have found useful.

Some of the keywords I used included:

  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Digital literacy 
  • 21st-century literacy
  • School library

Before searching for relevant information on the topic, I first need to be able to better define the term information literacy.  The Austrialian School Library Association has a very clear definition of this term, which I found helpful: 

“The ability to locate, manage and use information to create information products using a variety of inquiry methods is an essential component of any information Literacy program.”   

Link –

After some additional research, I found that the term information literacy is the overarching word used to describe important skills such as media and digital literacy.  MediaSmarts has some useful content that helps to define information literacy and also produces teaching materials for educators seeking to deepen their students’ understanding of media and digital literacy.

Link –

A brief YouTube search for ‘information literacy’ returned an extensive playlist from US media awareness organization, Common Sense Media. There are lots of useful short videos that can be used as hooks to lessons on topics such as media and digital literacy.

Link –

The Virtual Learning Commons offers a broader definition of information literacy by breaking the term up into categories such as visual literacy, library instruction, cultural literacy, and computer literacy.  It acts as a repository for all things information literacy related. 

Link –

Lastly, a UBC library search covering the last 5 years returned two interesting hits.  The first was an article written about how different schools around the world utilize their libraries to improve literacy, and the second was a book written by Denise E. Agosto titled, Information Literacy and Libraries in the Age of Fake News.  In Agosto’s book, she covers topics ranging from fake news and information literacy in society to combating cultural misinformation on the internet.



LIBE 477 Reading Review Part A – Topic Identification

During the next several weeks, I will be posting about my learning from my LIBE 477 course as part of my teacher-librarianship diploma.

In this particular post, I’d like to share some of the areas of education and learning I’m most passionate about. When I think about professional development concerning my new position as a teacher-librarian in a k-5 school I get excited about the endless possibilities. There are so many exciting and interesting areas of education that fit well within the parameters of a library learning commons.

I am interested in deepening my understanding of information literacy and all its intricate components. We are surrounded, often bombard, with a constant flow of information in our digital lives. Being able to make sense of that information, evaluate it, and extract meaning is an important skill and one we should be sharing with students in schools from an early age. We have to acquire the skills to question the mass of information we are exposed to more than ever to ensure we don’t contribute to the spread of misinformation.

In addition to information literacy, I am fascinated by the idea of connections-based learning. I would like to continue to explore the power of the latest digital technologies to reach outside of the walls of our schools and make meaningful connections with our local and global communities. Projects such as Exploring By The Seat Of Your Pants and Microsoft’s virtual field trips can help students experience events that would otherwise not be feasible.

Student-led learning is also important to me. I’ve witnessed the incredible achievements of students who have been allowed to direct their learning. I am always looking for better ways to scaffold this process for students by helping them narrow down a topic of interest, collect appropriate resources, and capture their learning more efficiently and effectively. Over the years, I have developed my own framework for this that I call C.H.O.I.C.E – Children Have Ownership In Choice Education. It’s a work in progress that needs developing and refining.

Lastly, as a new teacher-librarian, I have a desire to transform my school library into a library learning commons that represents a place of inclusion, innovation, compassion, and creativity. A library learning commons has no specific standard that defines it but I would like to take the time to see what others are doing in their libraries. Ideas that are at the back of mind including moving away from Dewey into the bookstore model, researching the necessary hardware and software to enable quality virtual field trip experiences, creating a makerspace, and finding creative ways to engage our most at-risk readers in the joy of reading.

Morning Classroom Routines

My students and I start our day by sitting in a circle with the specific purpose designed to connect, learn from other, and develop a sense of community.  Sometimes, we meet in ‘circle’ for close to an hour and I think it’s where the most powerful learning happens.  The inspiration for my morning routines is firmly fixed in the mindset of restorative practices. For many years now I have been an admirer of restorative practices in schools. In fact, I’ve tried to implement restorative practices in every school and classroom I have worked in because I believe they honour the building, maintaining, and rebuilding of relationships, and in schools relationships are the currency in which we all prosper.  Each morning, I try to include a different activity.  This year I’ve been working on refining the activities detailed below, and I wanted to share them with you.  Please feel free to let me know what you think, or if you’d like more information on a particular activity.    


Day 1

Daily Wonder

Image courtesy of Apple iTunes Store 

Developing strong oral language skills is an important part of improving students’ social-emotional skills.  The Daily Wonder app, is an affirmation app that provides a precept (quote) for each day of the year celebrating goodness and strength.  It’s based on the book 365 Days of Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  I have a split class so one week I ask my grade 5’s to tell me what the quote means to them.  By using the language ‘means to them’ it takes away any pressure that there is one correct answer.  The next time we display a quote in the circle the grade 6 students have an opportunity to share. At the end of each sharing session, I open it up to anyone that is keen to share.  Some of the thinking and connections students have made to the quote has been deep-thinking indeed.


Day 2

Eyes On Math

Image courtesy of Amazon Canada 

We often get caught in the cycle of computation in math, but there should be so much more to our math curriculum; math is visual, math is about noticing and identifying patterns, and finding reasons and rules to patterns.  One way I have tried to open up my math curriculum is to start the day looking at @marian_small’s book, Eyes on Math. This is a great way to stimulate mathematical teaching conversations around key K–8 concepts. Each picture comes with recommended guided questions.  This activity is also graet for building mathematical thinking and vocabulary.


Day 3

Daily Picture

Image courtesy of The Learning Network by The New York Times

We use the New York Times’ What’s Going On resources, which involves a series of intriguing weekly Times images stripped of their captions.  We invite students to look at the picture for one minute without discussing with a partner, then give them another minute to discuss the following questions with an elbow partner.  What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you think this way? What more can you find? The last step involves sharing with the rest of the group. This resource fosters an environment for critical and creative thinking, and provides an opportunity to develop students’ curiosity about news, current events, and cultures around the world.  Each Monday, a new image is released without the explanation and every Thursday the details of what actually happening in the picture are shared.


Day 4

Classroom Debates

“The Power of Debates” by Christopher Lister is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Holding small casual debates in class helps to develop powerful listening and speaking skills.  They also develop empathy, understanding, and introduce students to a variety of worldviews. Perhaps the most powerful part of class debates has been the way in which students have developed the ability to maintain different ideas/opinions without feeling judged or personally attacked.  


Day 5


“Students in Circle” by Christopher Lister is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Circle time, especially at the beginning of the school year, needs to be fun and lighthearted.  Students who don’t feel safe taking risks or being vulnerable with their learning tend to go through the motions in the circle.  It’s like they are viewing the events of the circle through a window but don’t have the social-emotional skills to step through and activity participate.  One way to combat this is to make students feel safe. I do this in a variety of ways including dance, sharing of jokes, practicing rhythms, stimulating students’ imaginations, and playing games.  


These links may be useful:

Circle games we play –   

Dance playlist –

Circle questions –

Rhythm games –


EDCI 569 Learning Project Summary: Inquiry Learning

“Inquiry Learning Word Cloud” by Christopher Lister is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

This blog posting reflects a summary of my learning on the topic of inquiry learning for the EDCI 569 #learningproject assignment.


Starting point:

I attempted to introduce an inquiry learning block into my weekly schedule last year and it did go well.  I did not scaffold the process nearly enough to ensure all my learners experienced success.


Making connections:

I needed to understand how other k-12 educators were incorporating inquiry learning:


Theoretical frameworks:

All classroom decision should be made based on evidence-based research.  Inquiry learning falls under the overarching learning theory of constructivism.


Understanding the cycle of inquiry:

Before blindly jumping into an inquiry project it is important to know where you plan to take your students learning.


Important questions around inquiry learning:

When introducing inquiry learning into the classroom there will inevitably be stumbling blocks along the way.  It is nice to get ahead of the curve and learn from others.


Models of inquiry:

Exploring Spirals of Inquiry by Halbert and Kaser helped me understand the need for this type of student-centred learning.


Scaffolding the inquiry process:

Helping student understand and define inquiry learning is important.


The importance of self-regulated learning skills:

Time is needed to make sure students, embarking on a journey of inquiry learning, have the necessary learning skills to be successful.


Variations of inquiry learning:

Game-based and simulation-based learning lend themselves well to the pursuit of inquiry learning.




My Diigo bookmarks on the topic of inquiry learning:


Twitter Chats associated with inquiry:

#InquiryChat – Biweekly on Thursdays at 6pm PST

#GeniusHour – First Thursday of every month at 6pm PST


Key BC educators involved with inquiry learning:

Hugh McDonald @hughtheteacher

Neil Stephenson @neilstepenson

Gallit Zvi @gallit_z

Linda Kaser @lkaser

Judy Halbert @JLHALBERT




I have just started to collect and curate my own content on the topic inquiry learning and look forward to continuing to explore this in the future.


Self-Regulated Learning Skills: A Prerequisite for Inquiry Learning

“Faces of UVic Research: Allyson Hadwin” by FacesOfUVicResearch, University of Victoria is in the Public Domain

Lately, I have been reflecting on my practice, and on the development of inquiry-based learning (IBL) in my elementary classroom.  This post is a continuation of this theme and asks the question of whether, true, inquiry-based learning can occur in classrooms where too many students lack the necessary self-regulated learning skills to be independent learners.


When I talk about self-regulation skills (SRL), I refer to the Canadian Consortium for Self-Regulated Learning research-based perspectives on learning:

  • Learning is a reflective and social process that covers flexible thinking, motivation, and emotion, not just behaviour.
  • Learners are active and present in their learning, and can work towards self-determined goals.
  • Learning is a complex procedure and needs to be supported by all stakeholders including, students, peers, parents, community, and school.
  • Self-regulated learning skills are a set of procedures that are essential to developing lifelong learning in and out of school.


Inquiry-based learning has many definitions, and its core components exist in similar student-centred pedagogies such as discovery learning, constructivist learning, and problem-based learning.  I like Maaß & Artigue’s, (2013) definition of IBL, which refers to a student-centred way of teaching where students create questions, explore problems, and develop solutions:


“Inquiry is a multifaceted activity that involves making observations; posing questions; examining books and other sources of information to see what is already known; planning investigations; reviewing what is already known in light of experimental evidence; using tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data; proposing answers, explanations and predictions; and communicating the results.”


There have been several classroom occurrences that have led me to question whether, true, inquiry learning is suitable for all learners.

Students who say, “I don’t know what to do!” after spending weeks discussing what inquiry is and is not, developing plans, and deepening their understanding of questioning, lack the necessary skills to be successful in this environment.

Students who cannot find suitable resources on a chosen topic, document their learning, work towards an end goal that may be several weeks away, or synthesize learning in the form of a presentation, are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to inquiry learning.

Within any given class, there must exist a ratio, a magic number, which indicates whether or not true inquiry learning can take place in a classroom.  If the number of students who lack the self-regulated learning skills of organization, motivation, questioning, recording, and observing are too great, then learning shifts from student-centred to teacher-centred.

My goal next school year is to target the development of student’s self-regulated learning skills before engaging in inquiry-based learning.  This will ensure an increased number of students will have the necessary skills to be successful in this area.



Canadian Consortium for Self-Regulated Learning.  What is SRL?  Retrieved March 14th, 2015 from

Maaß, K., & Artigue, M. (2013). Implementation of inquiry-based learning in day-to-day teaching: A synthesis. ZDM – International Jo

Game-Based Learning In An Inquiry Framework

gbl im kindergarten
“gbl im kindergarten” by elisabeth, 24.04.2009 – Projekt “Digital Game Based Learning” is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

For my literature review, I have been struggling to find a focus within the overarching topic of inquiry learning.  One area of inquiry learning I keep coming back to is game-based learning (GBL) or simulation-based learning (SBL).  These two areas of inquiry learning form the basis of my reflection this week.
If the goal of inquiry learning is to foster student discovery, then gaming provides unlimited opportunities for learners to make discoveries and experiment.  Mark Hawkes, BC Ministry of Education, has been super helpful with providing contacts and information supporting the use of GBL and SBL in classrooms.  According to the 2011 Horizon Report:

Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games. Those at the first end of the spectrum are easy to integrate into the curriculum, and have long been an option in many schools; but the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration and engage students deeply in the process of learning. Once educational gaming providers can match the volume and quality of their consumer-driven counterparts, games will garner more attention.

–NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition

Video’s supporting the use of GBL/SBL in schools:

Katie Salen on Learning with Games by Edutopia


Jane McGonigal Speaks On The Skills Students Are Learning From Games by Knowledge Works

A Case for GBL and SBL Use In Classrooms:

  1. Whenever I get together with other educators at workshops and professional development opportunities, I constantly hear the rhetoric that students don’t take risks and are afraid to fail.  I think games and simulations create safe environments for students to take risks, fail, and learn from their experiences in ways that do not exist in many classrooms.
  2. GBL and SBL allow users to experience essential 21st century skills and social practices such as collaboration, problem-solving, team-building, and different ways of being and doing.
  3. Good game designers scaffold and differentiate their tasks and objectives well, and this mirrors the techniques many educators are trying to replicate in the classroom.


As I continue to develop my understanding of GBL/SBL please feel free to share your experiences on the topic.


Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., & Haywood, K. (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Media (Vol. 2010, p. 36). doi:10.1002/chem.201001078


Scaffolding An Inquiry Question With Kids

Informing a bunch of rowdy 10 and 11-year-olds that you are going to create space in their weekly schedule, and allow them to follow their passions, is easy.  Nurturing a sense of wonder and helping students generate deep-thinking questions to guide their inquiry journey is entirely more challenging!


I had the pleasure of attending an inquiry session on the topic of #geniushour with Hugh McDonald in Chilliwack on Friday.  Through this session,  I learned the importance of scaffolding inquiry questions with my learners.  I’ve tried to engage in inquiry learning without guiding questions, but I found that my learners lacked focus.  This week, my learning centers on scaffolding the process of generating questions to guide inquiry.


Generating Context:

Videos and books are two great ways to generate context around inquiry thinking.

Sharing videos that depict people engaging in their passion are always very helpful.  I like Caine’s Arcade by Nirvan Mullick because it clearly demonstrates the creativity, grit, determination, and passion on a regular nine-year-old kids – something that I hope my learners can connect with.

‘Caine’s Arcade’ by Nirvan Mullick


I also like Moonshot Thinking because it emphasizes that ordinary people have and will continue to advance social change in positives way.

‘Moonshot Thinking’ by Google


The last video I’ll use to provide context to inquiry learning is Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap because I love his enthusiasm and the scientific lens through which he approaches his inquiry.

‘Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap’ by littlepythagoras


Picture books, which highlight creative forces at work can also be helping in providing context for inquiry learning.  Some of the books I’ve found include:


Helping Learners Find Their Passion:

I found last year that students whose parents were actively engaged in their child’s school experience were able to find their passions much sooner than those who did not.  There are those students I encounter every year who are internally ‘driven’ and have no problem identifying and describing their passions, but the majority of my learners need time and a little help discovering their talents.


Below are ways to help the majority of your learners find their passion.  Ask students to make a list of:

  • Five things you love to do
  • Five things they are good at
  • Five things they like to do outside of school
  • Things you do when nobody is telling you what to do


Thinking is Driven By Questions:

I value the literacy work of Vancouver educator, Adrienne Gear and her series of Reading Power Books.  In particular, I have found her nonfiction work on questioning to be extremely useful.  I used to think that my learners should be able to generate thoughtful questions surrounding the work we do, but I’ve learned that to ask deep-thinking questions is a skill that requires development.


My students ask a variety of different types of questions.  Many are examples of simple questioning; questions that identify information they already know about the topic – redundant questions, and questions that do not move the inquisitor to a deeper understanding the topic – distracting questions.

According to Gear (2008), deep-thinking questions:

  1. Take time to answer
  2. Help to deepen understanding of the topic
  3. Usually have more than one answer
  4. Lead to more questions

When embarking on classroom inquiry projects, it is important to spend the time helping all learners find their passion.  This process can begin by asking simple questions about what learners do when they are not in school.


Gear, A. (2008). Nonfiction Reading Power. (K. Mototsune, Ed.) (p. 160). Markham: Pembroke/Stenhouse.


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