Dr Ross Todd – inspirational mentor – his legacy lives on

It seems fitting to dedicate this last post to Dr Ross Todd as his influence over teaching and learning at Broughton has extended over many years through his mentoring of our practice of Guided Inquiry and Evidence Based Practice. (This blog is moving to a new site within our school domain so this will be my last post here but the new address will be published when it is established soon. This site will remain as it stores so many results and examples of Guided Inquiry in practice.)

The two people in the image above have inspired and mentored me over my professional life as a teacher librarian. I met Dr Lyn Hay as a lecturer when completing my teacher librarian Master’s degree and she inspired me, and continues to inspire me, to extend myself and experiment with using technology in my role as a teacher of information literacy across all ages and integrated into curriculum areas.

In 2008 I met Dr Ross Todd when I attended a conference in Sydney and he totally inspired me to encourage student participation and voice in their learning through research-based units of work called “Guided Inquiry”. At that conference another teacher librarian, Lee Fitzgerald, demonstrated a unit of work she had completed using Guided Inquiry the previous year with her senior students at Loretto College. (She also continues to be an inspirational colleague.) One teacher and Year 7 class at Broughton worked with me that year to initiate a Guided Inquiry unit with very positive outcomes both from students being engaged in learning and in their meeting curriculum outcomes in content and information literacy.

During 2009 the Association of Independent schools (AIS) offered grants for teacher librarians to undertake action research into Guided Inquiry as a pedagogical practice. Together with nine other schools in NSW, I took up this challenge. Dr Ross Todd came to Australia and closely mentored us through the process of using Guided Inquiry, and the AIS mentored us in the action research process.
We were all astounded at the results of the research showing how much our students appreciated having a say in choice of topic areas for research within curriculum areas and in how much they learned overall from their research and from sharing learning with their peers. Their engagement in their work was obvious. In 2010 I undertook a second round of action research with AIS. Students excelled, not only in the engaged learning of subject content but also in extending their information literacy skills.

In 2010 I was invited to present my action research findings at another Syba Signs conference in Sydney at which Dr Ross Todd, again, was the Keynote speaker. I took with me two students who gave examples of their work and discussed the research process, inspiring other teacher librarians to use Guided Inquiry to integrate information literacy with content learning through Guided Inquiry research units of work. (This process s now called Guided Inquiry Design (GID.)

Broughton took up this practice of guided research across many classes, from Year 2 to Year 11, until 2019, with the occasional collaborative participation by a few teachers and classes since then. This blog stores many examples of practice in the drop-down menu.

Dr Ross Todd constantly spoke of “Evidence-based practice” (before this became a commonly used term) and promoted the use of action research upon which to base all teaching and learning.

Dr Ross Todd always had time to mentor – either through emails, over a meal or afternoon tea when he came to Sydney. To hear that this inspirational mentor, to all teacher librarians globally, has passed away has left us all devastated.

Please take the time to read about his incredible achievements, always willing to share research, knowledge and expertise.

The ever changing role of the Teacher Librarian

Every year I am amazed at the way in which my role somehow changes and morphs around how I am needed in the current teaching and learning situation. The basic role of managing resources both physical and digital remains the same but the scope and vision of my role changes as teaching and learning needs arise that can be met by the school library and teacher librarians.


The American Association of School Librarians has developed “National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries” (AASL Standards) which build on the already adopted AASL Standards Framework for Learners. The teacher librarian plays a vital role in supporting learning within these standards.





Scott Beck, in his recent post on the National Association of Secondary School Principals blog (NASSP) entitled The nonnegotiable role of school librarians, quotes Ted Dintersmith and Tony Wagner from their 2016 book Most Likely to Succeed about the skills needed in the 21 Century.

        • Critical thinking and problem-solving
        • Collaboration across networks
        • Agility and adaptability
        • Initiative and entrepreneurship
        • Effective oral, written, and multimedia communication
        • Accessing and analyzing information
        • Curiosity and imagination

He goes on to say that:

“School librarians are the resident experts in the development of these skills. Accessing and analyzing information, collaborating across networks, cultivating curiosity and imagination—this is the life blood of an outstanding school library. More importantly, these are the skills that will allow our students to become thoughtful and engaged citizens equipped to navigate a world full of increasingly complex information.”

‘Fake News’ or ‘False News’ and the need for skills to deal with it

Adults have problems deciphering truth from falsehoods as information is twisted and changed to compete with different ideologies and competing voices. How much more do our students need to be skilled in discerning truth from fabricated or twisted information. This is where information literacy skills need to be embedded into all aspects of the curriculum and practice given under guidance. It is the role of the Teacher Librarian to assist in this.

Some good ideas for initial activities to make students aware of how easy it is to believe false news are given in this article in the NY Times: Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News by 

This New Yorker Cartoon by  says it all!

Evaluating the quality of online information

In her post on the Edutopia Blog, Julie Coiro, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Rhode Island, suggests ways to develop skills in adolescents dealing with online information.

“An essential part of online research is the ability to critically evaluate information. This includes the ability to read and evaluate its level of accuracy, reliability and bias.”

Four strategies are outlined to assist in developing these skills of discernment.
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An Information Literate School Community

Did you know the Teacher Librarian can wear up to 500 hats? Barbara Braxton is working her way through a description of each and today’s ‘Hat’ is both informative and challenging. Read about The Information Literacy Hat on her blog 500 Hats.

Info LiteracyAn ILSC is one that “places a high priority (policy, benchmarking, funding and evaluation) on the pursuit of teacher and student mastery of the processes of being informed,” (Henri, 2005, p12). ..

…Students will need to be able to survive and thrive in an information-saturated and technology-rich environment, and be independent, creative thinkers, making informed decisions based on careful evaluation and interpretation of available information, developing expertise through experience, and be lifelong learners. They need to be information literate.

Google search tips

Students have a lot of difficulty composing search terms to find relevant information at the top of the list. So many students these days just type a question and expect a full answer.

This post on the Educators Technology blog explains many tips for searching. They have used the tips from Lifehacker.com to make a poster that I will certainly use for the Information Skills seminars for our students next week.
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Year 3 share their Guided Inquiry experience with their parents

Last Friday afternoon two classes of excited Year 3 students came to the IRC with their parents to show them their work. After the teachers spoke of how the Guided Inquiry process had worked for them in practice, some of the students’ Vokis were demonstrated on the whiteboard. The parents then spent time with their child looking at their bookwork, their PowerPoints and their Vokis.

The students had used the Guided Inquiry process, with Teacher Librarian support, to investigate their personally selected aspect of the human body. Besides learning about the Human Body they also learned a lot of reading skills, writing skills, thinking skills and ICT skills.

Books were the main source of information as our IRC collection has so many good books suitable for this age group. The students read a lot about the human body before selecting their favourite aspect to study. Writing their own questions was a lot of fun and some fabulous ideas emerged!

The practical science experiments for this unit were also suggested and created by the students!

Finally after they had investigated and written answers to their questions, they made a PowerPoint to teach the other students about their work. Then, for fun, they made a Voki summary. This also incidentally taught them a lot about spelling and punctuation as they tried to make their computer generated avatars ‘speak’ their presentations.

Cardboard projects of the past cannot be compared to this exciting learning process!




Social Media – like you’ve never had it explained before – visually!

Social Media Explained Visually by Say it Visually! This entertaining, well constructed explanation of social media is worth a visit.

In explaining Social Media :

“Its basically this unpredictable worldwide network of conversations that’s just exploding! They cover big topics like news and events and the little things that mass media missed and all that mass media content is getting pulled into these conversations. We are getting more and more information and entertainment from each other.”

21Century Skills Framework for Project Based Learning

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) is dedicated to improving 21st Century teaching and learning throughout the world by creating and disseminating products, practices and knowledge for effective Project Based Learning (PBL).

This skills framework contains definitions for each skill and sets them against the focus for which it needs to be developed. Project based learning has much in common with the Guided Inquiry approach we follow at Broughton and these definitions assist in making some of the 21C skills ‘jargon’ clear as more teachers learn new pedagogues.

Critical Thinking Skills – Evaluating information under the surface

This series of video clips by technyou were funded by the Australian Government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

Training to think critically can be carried out through the integration of Information Skills across the curriculum. The Teacher Librarian plays a major role in enabling this by teaching collaboratively with teachers across curriculum areas and integrating critical thinking skills into the synthesis of information to build new arguments and knowledge to share creatively.

Critical Thinking Part 1: A Valuable Argument

Critical Thinking Part 2 : Broken Logic

Critical Thinking Part 3 : The Man who was Made of Straw

Critical Thinking Part 4 : Getting Personal

Critical Thinking Part 5 : The Gambler’s Fallacy

Critical Thinking Part 6 : A Precautionary Tale