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Kiran Gawali's Design Narrative:Learning about the Tree Octupus and Information Literacy

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Kiran Gawali
28 March 2013


Learning about the tree octopus and information literacy



I work as a Learning Resource Centre Manager in a comprehensive secondary school with a student cohort of 1700 pupils.



As part of the Personal, Health, Social and Citizenship Education (PHSCE) curriculum delivery I was asked to hold some lessons in information literacy for Year 7 students. The Learning Resource Centre (LRC) has two sides a “bookish” side and another which is more of an ICT suite with 30 computers and additional work desks in the middle of the room all facing a interactive whiteboard.


The lessons were scheduled after the first halfterm for six consecutive weeks. These lessons were on top of the 10 minute induction all Year 7 students get at the beginning of the year. Most students were therefore familiar with the LRC and me.


PHSCE is held during Tutor time e.g. one 50 minute lesson per week. Tutors may not teach the students otherwise, hence see them only during morning registration, assemblies and to sort disciplinary issues.


These lessons were delivered by me and the tutor (teacher) were in a supporting role (opposite from the norm).



I sought to achieve several things through the lessons. I hoped to lay a foundation for information literacy skills; like evaluating sources, researching, presenting findings, ethical use etc. At the same time I wanted to showcase some of the online resources the LRC subscribes to. It was also a way to market my department to the tutors/teachers.


The skills were measured through questionnaires, before and after the lessons. I also planned a classroom discussion, allowing for verbal feedback after the last lesson and would hope to receive positive feedback.  If the students carried on using any of the online resources and user statistics increased I would see that as an indicator of success too.


I also did a questionnaire for the tutors seeking general feedback. If tutors decided to come back and have subject specific collaborative lessons with me that would be another indicator of success.



I began with rewriting some of my lessons and adjusting them to a slightly different level/topic range as my previous lessons were not intended for secondary students but sixthformers.

While designing the lessons and activities I used CILIPs IL model, English and ICT curriculum assessment criterias, The Big6 model, The Scottish education Information Literacy framework to find the level for secondary students.


I also had to create some hand-outs and PowerPoint presentations, as this would allow me to introduce the lessons and give an overarching framework for all lessons to the students.


Students had to fill out the skill questionnaire before coming to the first lesson.


Lesson 1: This was initiated with a research task on sites like the Tree Octupus followed by unveiling of that the sites were spoof and moving on to ways to detect this and judging sources. This covered reliability and validity on the web.


Lesson 2: Students researched their names’ origins, meanings and others with the same name. This covered using a variety of sources on the web, including interviewing people and the Oxford national biographies database.


Lesson 3: Students researched an animal and used books as a reference to present their findings in Wikipedia. As becoming a contributor of Wikipedia became an issue/time consuming this lesson was changed to a wiki on the School VLE. However it did highlight to students that Wikipedia had to be used cautiously.


Lesson 4: Students had to find the sources of an extracted article, an image and a journal on Aretha Franklin using subscribed resource Britannica Online. I amended the lesson to direct them to Brittanica straight away due to time contraints. Initially I deliberately let them search Google knowing they would not find the sources. I instead pointed out the “hidden web” fact to them verbally.


Lesson 5: Students were asked to create podcasts using Audacity. They could choose to review a book or a music video in groups of 5.


Lesson 6: Assessment questionnaire, group discussion/feedback.



Students varied a lot both in terms of language /understanding terminology and IT competence. Some of the questionnaire questions that were supposed to assess skills were not up to the mark as students were not aware of what was being asked. Retaining interest and student attention on the task at hand was the most difficult thing. There were also login issues, which meant some students were not able to take part as much as I would have liked. Some students struggled with finishing the activities and were not keen on getting the activity as a homework. Some tutors also never did the pre lesson questionnaire which meant that lesson 1 became rushed as some time had to be devoted to that. Working in collaboration with tutors and teachers brought there own issues. Some ( few)tutors had problems not being in charge and acting as a support, they acted awkwardly or deserted the LRC.


In terms of the outcomes students did overwhelmingly rate the lessons as excellent. Lesson 3 got the lowest rating and Lesson 1 got the highest ranking which was surprising. The questionnaires show that around 80% students did become familiar with terminology/ search processes after the lessons. All Year 7 students become aware of the fact that the LRC did subscribe to certain online resources like Britannica. However there was very little increase in the use of subscribed online resources, which made it difficult to credit the lessons with any significant contribution to that usage.



On reflection I would allow more time for activities and maybe carry over some for two lessons. I would also have a chat with the tutors, prior to the lessons and go through with them what I wanted to achieve and how I wanted to be supported. Some of the teachers were not familiar with the tools we were using hence it made it difficult for them to support students as well as grasping things themselves although I find the tools very straight forward. The feedback I received from students was encouraging as I was concerned that they did not see the point of earning information literacy. I learnt that it is useful to have a contingency plan- no matter how much you plan things can still go amiss. I also think although it is harder to motivate students to work during PHSCE lessons because they can’t make a connection to a subject it also gives a lot of freedom. In future I would like to give students more choice in terms of researching a topic of there own choice.



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Linda Addison
9:37pm 28 March 2013

I think finding you didn't allow enough time is something that often happens with inexperienced teachers....  students (at any level) need time to absorb stuff and maybe practice it.  You learned a lot from that  lesson!

I liked your use of the Tree Octopus!  You might like this one  -  I think it's even more convincing:

Amanda Everitt
4:00pm 1 April 2013

I find it amazing that some teachers are not familiar with information literacy, for me it should be one of the cornerstones of modern education. Perhaps that understanding will come with time. 

I wonder if the LRC made some links with what students are currently studying across the curriculum, this might have helped strengthen their use of subscribed online resources for example. Perhaps teaming up with one of the subject teachers to deliver a subject and creating cross curricular links with info literacy may help? However I know this can be difficult. What are your thoughts? 

stephen cope
8:07am 9 April 2013

I think it is refreshing to see that information literacy is being address as such a young age; after all we are living in the information age. 

I am not familiar with the design models you used to design the lessons and activities as I don’t work in this type of environment, however your narrative is well structured and logic in its progression and is easy to understand.

Kiran Gawali
1:34pm 16 April 2013 (Edited 1:41pm 16 April 2013)

Hi there, 

Linda  - thanks for your comments and suggesting the Dropbear it's a good one. :-)

Amanda- You make a valid suggestion. We do infact also have subject specific sessions/lessons where as the resources are an integral part of the teaching. All our resources are chosen / trialed with teachers. These lessons were different as they a) were taught with no subject link as such b) taught to a younger age group.

Stephen- Thanks again for your comments. I'm glad I made some sense and do believe that the earlier we start teaching information literacy the better. 


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