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EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council on Overseas Schools)

Teachers' Conference held in Manila, Philippines, March 29 to April 2, 2006


Official website of the conference -- some presenters' handouts can be downloaded from there

Notes on:


Dr. Ross Todd was obviously the main attraction for us teacher-librarians -- and guided inquiry and evidence-based practice were the main focus of his presentations.


So I'll start off by citing Guided Inquiry: A framework for learning through school libraries in 21st century schools by Dr. Carol Kuhlthau & Dr. Ross Todd on the CISSL (Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries) website -- as well as the OELMA (Ohio Educational Library Media Association) site about the well-known study they did there: Student Learning through Ohio School Libraries : The Ohio Research Study 


If you are a member of SILCAsia, you can download Ross Todd's Powerpoint slide presentations here. Otherwise you can access these PDF scans of Ross Todd's Powerpoint printouts:


-- Information Technology and Learning in the Information Age School

-- Information Literacy and Inquiry Learning: The Heart of the School Library

-- Guided Inquiry: A Framework for Learning through the School Library

-- Implementing Guided Inquiry in the School

-- Evidence-based Practice and Charting the Learning Outcomes: Overview of Research and Strategies



One-Day Pre-Conference: "Guided Inquiry: A Framework for Learning Through the School Library"

presented by Ross Todd


Ross was quite funny about his insistence that we "step out of libraryland -- step out of information literacy land" -- "It's not about finding stuff anymore -- it's not about doing Dewey -- The annual library tour and Dewey babble is all a waste of time." -- "Get Over It!" was a repeated message.


"I see appalling things going on," he said. "Very basic types of learning are going on and what comes out at the other end is very little -- and that's why I do research. The focus on knowledge and knowledge construction is what Guided Inquiry is about..."


-- How can we as educators build learning?

-- What we have to get over is the discovery of resources -- what we want is the discover of knowledge... School libraries need to change from finding stuff to finding new knowledge...

-- Students need to confront alternative perspectives -- we must put them in touch with conflicting ideas -- so, yes, we must make available diverse and conflicting information resources....

-- Kids tend to highlight what they already know -- so often note-taking is about confirming and stockpiling what they already know.

-- Evaluating websites can be overdone -- instead we need to shift to helping kids interrogate the stuff.

-- We as school librarians don't celebrate the development of knowledge enough. We need to stress the "Food for the Mind" concept...

-- Kids are often abandoned once they have found some stuff -- abandoned at the most critical stage where they should be interrogating what they've found (with the abandonment usually justified in the name of 'independent research'...)

-- Knowledge construction, not information finding is key ; knowledge construction not product construction...

-- Deep knowledge occurs in the interrelationships of themes and ideas -- in the development of personal positions -- finding 'where I belong' in this sea of ideas -- and it involves EVIDENCE and ARGUMENT...

-- Kids rarely get beyond representation of what they already know.

-- Knowledge in (or via) conflict is what's really important.... which means not all kids will come out with the same understanding -- and that's to be expected...

-- "Where do you position yourself on the spectrum from INFORMATION <-------> KNOWLEDGE?"

-- Guided inquiry is a staged process and MEDIATION is where you step in...

-- Intervention is about identifying what the kids need and figuring out how to get them to the next stage....

-- In terms of Kuhlthau's ISP (Information Search Process) -- i.e., Tasks / Initiation / Selection / Exploration / Formulation / Collection / Presentation -- kids usually jump from Initiation to Collection and start shaping their product. What's being overlooked most often is the Exploration stage.

-- How can you get kids to own the learning experience? to get focused and stay focused....

-- The Selection stage is just about getting enough of a background sense of knowledge...


The "50 Facts" Activity: to help kids practice organizing and structuring information they've collected:

Give a group of kids an envelope containing 50 pictures cut out of magazines.

Ask the group to sort them and group them in some fashion in order to then construct a story about them. It's about getting them to cluster ideas and themes in order to weave a global coherence.

The "Conflicting Facts" Activity: to help kids deal with problematic knowledge:

Take a historical incident like the shipwreck of the 'Batavia' in 1660. Brainstorm what the kids know about and then have them come up with some questions a reporter might ask -- so they come up with a list of Who, What, Why, Where, When, How questions and put these simple factual questions in a chart with eight columns after each questions. Then divide the class into 8 groups and give each group a different information source, e.g., an Australian encyclopedia, a historical encylopedia, a historical society website, a tourist website, an academic textbook, and a tourist guide. Have the groups fill in the chart with their respective answers -- no matter how conflicting. Then have kids discuss and argue how to best judge which are the "correct" answers. Let them negotiate the conflicting knowledge. This is an inquiry lesson -- and only secondarily a library lesson on authoritative sources...


-- Documenting your sources is part of the knowledge experience -- it shouldn't be a library lesson.


The "Cut and Paste" Activity: to help kids construct their own knowledge:

Take a help organization like the Red Cross or Amnesty International and tell the kids the goal is for them to come to a personal understanding of that organization.

Make a chart with four rows and five columns. In the left-hand column put 4 imposed questions, e.g., "what are the aims of the organization?", "what are the strategies of the organization?", "what are some notable activities of the organization?", and "what are some achievements of the organization?".

Have the kids find 4 websites about the organization, including the official one.

__Stage 1__: go to the websites and "cut and paste" answers to the questions -- so there should be four "answers" to each question in the "Stage 1" column.

__Stage 2__: the 1st Transformation: take the 4 "cut and pasted" paragraphs and have the kids write a 50-word single statement of prose containing the common ideas (with no repetition of ideas) in their own words.

__Stage 3__: the 2nd Transformation: take the 50-word prose statement and make 1 claim or argument supported by 3 bullet points.

__Stage 4__: the 3rd Transformation: tell them to make a 1 or 2 minutes Powerpoint presentation and present it to the class.

[NB: Never tell them ahead of time that there is a final Powerpoint product -- otherwise they will jump to that without having gone through the transformations...]


-- Important to construct a compelling situation -- building inquiry about a task with meaning to the students...

-- Giving students a choice of products is also important -- as well as ensuring they do a range of products over a period of time...


The "Representing Knowledge in Multiple Forms" Activity:

Give the kids a 100-word statement about something like the volcanoes of the Philippines. Tell them the goal is for them to think about how this knowledge could be transformed and represented in multiple ways, e.g., via a concept map, a bullet point summary, a painted picture, a clay model, a debate, a skit, etc. Then talk about and be critical of how the knowledge actually IS represented in each of those forms.


-- "Get off the Information Literacy pedestal. Guided Inquiry is back-door Information Literacy."

-- Outcomes are about the curriculum standards -- not information literacy. You bring information literacy expertise to help the students learn -- to help them do their tasks -- to help them be successful in the curriculum standards. That's where / how you intervene.

-- Think outside the information literacy box. Think about what intellectual scaffolds you can provide.

-- You shouldn't have library skills or information literacy standards separate from the curriculum standards. Information literacy is a secondary, derived standard. Look at the curriculum standards THROUGH the information literacy lens. Show how integral you (and your information literacy expertise) are to the curriculum standards.


The 8 Models of Meaningful Research Assignments

(see Ross's Powerpoint slides on each -- in Implementing Guided Inquiry in the School)

(1) __Background to Question Model__

The R (review)/ V (view) / L (listen) / Connect quadrant: where students fill in four sections, i.e., "I didn't know that!", "Questions I have???", "I agree / I disagree", and "I wonder...".

It's about discovery and conflict and the beginning of personal focus -- as well as the "so what?" and "what if?" questions. The idea is to foster disagreement.

(2) __Advice to Action Model__

Crafting a research task where kids will provide expert advice, which involves the kids creating a hypothesis about possible advice, then assessing what the 'experts' in the gathered resources say -- so it involves evaluation of sources (i.e., information literacy)-- as well as reflecting on information, and eventually proposing a solution to the problem.

(3) __Compare and Contrast Model__

A sorting and organizing activity -- where the most important thing the kids do is to generate the criteria for the comparison of items. E.g., give kids 50 facts on different countries and have them sort them into categories. E.g., ask how are dinosaurs similar to and different from large animals that live on the earth today?

(4) __History and Mystery Model__

Build a case for solving a history or mystery problem. This involves information literacy at the point of analyzing the evidence. The kids need to construct their own argument as well as giving voice to counter-arguments.

(5) __Take a Position Model__

Helping kids to identify possible positions on an issue and then build evidence in order to take a position.

(6) __The Re-Create Model__

(7) __The Reinventing a Better Way Model__

(8) __The I-Quest Model__


-- Fundamental question to ask yourself: "did they learn anything?"

-- Avoid PFS and LHC ("petty fine syndrome" and "loans harrassment complex"!)

-- All along build into your Guided Inquiry how to show evidence of what you've done

-- Re school library websites: no one needs to see "library RULES" first! -- want to see evidence of the learning going on -- put your rubrics up on your website

-- Told story of one librarian who got kids to write in big felt pens "This is what I really learned..." (i.e., the story of their learning) on pieces of paper -- then she analyzed and made bullet points summarizing their learning which she distributed to the teachers, and she also posted all the kids' statements on the corridor walls leading to the staff room. "I let the students do the walking and talking."

-- The same teacher-librarian also celebrates the teacher she collaborated with whenever she publishes the learning results in the bulletin and on the website. Great PR.

-- It's all about using data strategically.

-- Need to get kids to move Vertically through the Sea of Information -- i.e., going deep -- rather than Horizontally (skimming the surface)

-- Evidence of building knowledge will emerge in student statements showing implications and value judgments -- while evidence of "finding information" will indicate the gathering of facts, more gathering of facts, and more facts (descriptive rather than analytical).


Workshop: "Information Literacy in the Library"

presented by Ross Todd


-- Info Lit is about intellectual scaffolds

-- Info Lit has a new destination -- new knowledge and new understanding

-- Ohio Study looked at schools with "best practice" and collected data from students

-- Wanted data from perceptions of students of how libraraies contributed to their learning

-- NB: none of their survey questions/statements had the word "librarian" in it -- yet the outcome was that students repeatedly mentioned "my library teacher" was helpful

-- Also emerged that schools are extremely stressful places and that the school library often functions as a critical "coping mechanism" for learning

-- School Librarian ==> Information-Learning Specialist

-- The Library as Information Place and Knowledge Space

Workshop: "Information Technology and Learning in the Information Age School"

presented by Ross Todd


-- The burning question is, how can we build the infra-structure so kids can learn in this technological landscape?

-- Has the promise of this technology (just like many other technical innovations in the past, e.g., the slate, the pencil, the ballpoint pen, and now the computer) been fulfilled?

-- Yes, kids know a lot of surface knowledge about the internet, but...

-- A major problem is that teachers aren't being taught how to apply technology to their teaching

-- Positive achievement can happen, but it depends on the context

-- We're only beginning to see positive results with technology when instruction is embedded in the process

-- It's all about thinking about instruction...

-- Unfortunately technology all too often used to passively give kids more "stuff" rather than engaging them constructively with hands-on learning

-- The assumption that kids are gurus blinds us..

-- Visual literacy is now of critical importance -- more than ever

-- Kids are favoring websites with pictures

-- Being able to distinguish between information, disinformation, and misinformation

-- Need to fight superficiality

-- The issue of kids having to judge multiple genres (e.g., ads embedded on webpages) on one website

-- Kids have a "pre-disposition to play" -- kids are distracted by ads and other flashy elements

-- We need to start dealing with the seductiveness of technology

-- The complexity of instructional design must deal with all this

-- Not much movement in the research results on how effectively kids are at finding and selecting information

-- Kids are selecting information that gets the job done fastest -- not the best answers

-- There is a huge problem of the default start with Google -- need to teach analytic search strategies -- and part of that is the management of the task given to students

-- How is it that kids can possibly "judge" a website in 1 to 3 seconds? (Do we do that as well??)

-- When devising a search strategy, need to get kids to avoid starting with "aboutness" (e.g., typing "how do birds sing" into Google) -- the first task should be to think WHERE to go to find reliable information -- that is how to find the best answers faster (e.g., go to the Audobon Society to get reliable info on birds)

-- The issue of false websites, e.g., the Martin Luther King site that is a front for Stormfront.org (the largest white "hate" society) -- need to get kids to ask "What is the functional context of this website?"


Workshop: "Critical Thinking, War & Terrorism"

presented by Richard van de Lagemat


Inthinking -- his educational consultancy

Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma -- the textbook he's written, published in November 2005 by Cambridge University Press


-- Started off by asking difference between education and indoctrination (e.g., educare = 'to draw out' while indoctrination derives from 'putting in')

-- It's impossible to totally eliminate bias in life, so it comes down to a matter of degree

-- Thinking is subversive.

-- Critical thinking is getting kids to:

: ask questions

: support their ideas with evidence

: look at both sides of a question

: make judgments about different situations using criteria

: reflect on their own biases

-- It's not our job to tell kids what to believe -- it's our job to tell them HOW to believe.

-- The internet is a good tool to teach kids to question, e.g., conspiracy theories and internet rumors -- whether 9/11 conspiracies, Nostradamus, landing on the moon, Princess Di's death, etc.

-- Kids must learn to use inference and plausibility to judge the validity of items on the internet -- we need to push kids to use criteria about what they see, hear, read on the Internet.

-- Things must appeal to "coherence" -- to the way we know the world works.

-- Conspiracy is very appealing to the human pysche.


Sample Internet exercise:

Ask kids to bring in 3 texts found on the Internet: one you believe, one you don't believe, and one you're not sure about.


-- There are four kinds of bias exerting pressure on us:

-- (1) Belief Bias -- which is believing something because you like it -- because you want to

-- It's good to use reasoning to produce conclusions -- it's bad to start with conclusions you prefer and work back by rationalising... Humans are good at this (e.g., the Fox & the Grapes, and "what have the Romans ever done for us?" in 'Life of Brian')-- we all do this, but it's important to be suspicious of beliefs that appeal to you -- and beware of the Prison of Consistency (being afraid to change your mind once you've taken a position)

-- The difference between uncertainty and ambiguity -- there is no absolute truth -- rather things that are more or less plausible...

-- The point of critical thinking is to loosen certainty -- the goal is to get kids to tolerant uncertainty...

-- (2) Confirmation Bias -- passively dismissing things that don't match your beliefs -- we are very good at finding patterns and generating hypotheses -- and NOT good at testing them. Example: the belief that "this always happens to me!"...

-- Example of the number 11 identified as 'significant' by Uri Geller (9/11: 9 + 1 + 1 = 11; September 11 = 9 letters + 2 digits; 9/11 = 254th day of the year where 2 + 5 + 4 = 11; etc.

-- The message to kids should be to look for disconfirming evidence

-- Stereotypes come out of confirmation bias (we tend to see people who confirm our stereotypes) -- they tend to be negative and based on emotion -- the remedy is to actively look for counterexamples.

-- Generalizations are a necessity

-- Note that a stereotype is more resistant to change than a generalization.

-- All the interesting things are fine distinctions...

-- (3) Significance Bias -- the tendency to believe significant events must have significant causes -- "important people must die in important ways" (e.g., Princess Di)

-- (4) Hindsight Bias -- after something has happened, it's easy to be smart

-- Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." -- e.g., the "cock-up" theory of history

-- Perception is problematic -- you will find contradictions in eyewitness evidence for all kinds of events

-- "Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Havrard uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe. Initsereg!!"


-- Loaded questions: the joke about 2 Catholic priests who asked the Pope about praying and smoking at the same time -- one asked if it was acceptable to smoke while praying -- and the answer was no. The other asked if it was acceptable to pray while smoking - and the answer was yes.

-- Risk Analysis -- e.g., why are people more frightened of flying than driving? -- you're 37 times more likely to die in a car than a plane... After 9/11 people opted to drive more, and so more died.

-- Kids need to appreciate statistics.


NB: In all this talk of critical thinking and the need to get kids to evaluate what they find on the internet, there was no mention of the role of school librarians and information literacy....


Workshop: "Writing - Developing Comprehensive Teaching Approaches in Writing Instruction"

presented by Alison Davis


Theorists referenced: Roger Beard (Univ of Leeds; involved with the National Literacy Strategy); Lucy Calkins; Ann Lieberman; Dorothy Stickland; Vygotsky;


-- Purpose and Audience are the two most important elements in considering writing

-- Strategies -- are the things that learners use and control

-- Approaches -- are what teachers use

-- Metacognition is about when students know what and how and when they're learning -- especially if they know when they're NOT learning and what to do about it, i.e., how to fix the faulty cognition

-- Students shouldn't consider 'genre' and 'text structure' first -- they need to start by thinking about the PURPOSE of their writing; e.g., the purpose of "describing" could be effected via several different genres and text structures

-- To get the idea of different AUDIENCES could ask students to write excerpts for different audiences (or assign different groups to write for different audiences)

-- Need a balance between PROCESS (having them learn to be writers by writing) and DELIBERATELY TEACHING

-- The benefits of having students write for 100 minutes a week

-- Formative assessment -- should be part of the way we teach -- it's about 'data on the hoof' -- to tell kids what we're trying to do

-- Need to help kids make decisions about their writing -- at the word level, the sentence level, the paragraph level, and the whole picture

-- Sutdent Knowledge & Strategies for Writing:

(a) build a visual image

(b) develop and sustain their purpose

(c) order and develop key ideas

(d) link to your own and your reader's prior knowledge

(e) how do you prepare to write?

-- Major approaches:

(1) Modeled -- the teacher publicly writes the text, using 'think aloud' strategies, as the students watch -- to have teachers write in front of kids is one of the most powerful things you can do;

-- The teacher doesn't ask the kids for any ideas or vocabulary in the beginning, though she might ask students to take 5 minutes and re-write her first sentence.

-- it's good to model a mistake, e.g., a spelling mistake

-- After teacher begins, students might write independently, re-write, write another intro, do a follow-up sentence to give readers a better image or to give readers a prediction;

(2) Guided -- is when kids go off and work (writing) -- and teacher is working with one group as a guide

(3) Shared -- is when the teacher leads the group of students as they compose a text -- teacher is writing but students are giving the ideas; links are made to comprehension strategies through think alouds (e.g., Teacher: "I need one more sentence -- can you throw out a 'feeling' sentence?")

(4) Interactive -- teacher and student take the pen. Both are involved in writing and developing -- can involve inviting students up to the flipchart to write the next sentence -- can be writing a "pick-a-track" book together (where each student writes a possible ending) --

(5) Independent -- daily writing -- with teacher conferencing with students -- can be a group conference -- but it is about talking with purpose

(6) Paired writing

-- Need to evaluate which students need -- surface or deep help

-- Surface features = the stuff that stitches writing together (punctuation, grammar, spelling) -- proof-reading is a surface activity

-- Deep features = personal voice, mood, tone, message -- editing is a deep activity

-- "Editing/proof-reading cards" -- create a set of cards of prompts for students to use in checking their own work -- e.g., "Have I got my full stops in the right places?"

-- "Topic box" -- cards of topics for which kids can be told to write three different sentences showing different ways to start the topic

-- Other activities: cut up cause & effect cards; labelling; writing questions; read explanatory texts; cloze task (delete link/signal words); write a glossary for subject-specific words; caption writing; label writing; peer writing on study texts; brainstorming; ...

-- Groupings -- do 2/3 of the time by ability; 1/3 of the time by social groups

-- End the class by having kids do storytelling or acting out their writing

-- Readers' Theatre on the kids' own writing

-- Write your own book -- with 4 sentences per chapter

-- The Planning process is the hard part -- and involves 1) brainstorming, 2) a graphic organizer; and 3) vocabulary

-- State your Learning Intentions when you start and when you re-visit what you want the kids to do -- e.g., "We will be able to..." and "We will be successful when..."

-- The success criteria come from you marking the kids' work, from knowledge structure and features, and from exemplars (start collecting exemplars -- take a 1st or ending paragraph of a novel and take up several lessons discussing it with kids) -- ask kids what exemplars show good writing


Keynote: "The Sense of Humor"

    • by Jim Winter**


-- Teachers are great improvisers because they:

: need to be "in the moment"

: play at the top of their intelligence

: bridge conflict (i.e., need to stay in agreement)

: heighten and explore another's gift

: work without a script

-- The need to stay in agreement is essential in improv -- whatever another actor offers you, you must "accept" that reality -- it's always a "yes and" situation (never a "no, but") -- this is in effect what a teacher should always be responding to a student with .... "Yes and"....

-- In improv every player in the scene with you is a genius and you take their gifts and enrich them...

-- DeBono once said, "Humour is by far the most significant activity of the human brain."

-- Humor -- especially lateral and divergent -- engages higher order thinking skills

-- Humor counteracts the grasping nature of the ego

-- Comedy (where enemies become friends) vs. Tragedy (Aristotle)

-- Humor jump-starts productivity ("As we get older, we suffer hardening of the categories.")

-- "We learn best in a state of moderate arousal." -- John Cleese

-- www.aath.org = association of applied and therapeutic humor

-- www.worldlaughtertour.com

-- Highly recommended: "License to Laugh -- Humor in the Classroom" by Richard A. Shade


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