Pathfinders are lists of resources which librarians put together for their users. Valenza (2008) suggests that today’s pathfinders in school libraries should be in the form of a wiki and provides reasons such as ‘Wiki pathfinders allow you to link with ease. Link to your style sheet, your other wikis, to specific websites, to media in all its glory and all its formats, to e-books, audiobooks, wikibooks, subscription databases, etc. (If not for my pathfinders, my e-books and my databases would go unused!)’
What are pathfinders? (Valenza, 2008)
Pathfinders lead researchers through information jungles. They make sense of the huge variety of information buckets.
They can suggest keywords and tags and call numbers. They can suggest books and journals to browse. They link researchers to critical readings, websites, blogs, wikis, portals and databases. They suggest strategies for searching and for documentation.
They make sure that student researchers know about the very best tools in their information toolkits. Pathfinders allow us to intervene in ways that offer learners the independence they crave.
Why pathfinders should be wikis! (Valenza, 2008)
· You can decorate wiki pathfinders by uploading beautiful, public domain images / copyright free images
· Wiki pathfinders allow you to link with ease. Link to your style sheet, your other wikis, to specific websites, to media, to e-books, audiobooks, wikibooks, subscription databases, etc. (If not for my pathfinders, my e-books and my databases would go unused!)
· Wiki pathfinders allow you to easily upload documents. Your pathfinders can now host your presentations, handouts, rubrics, organizers, and models of student work.
· You can easily create a wiki index to keep track of your growing collection of wiki pathfinders.
· Wiki pathfinders are organic. You can edit them anywhere, on the fly, whenever you discover a new resource.
· Wikis require no knowledge of HTML code. My favourite wiki creation tool is Wikispaces for teachers. The folks are Wikispaces give teachers free, ad-free wiki sites. Just remember to click on the button that identifies you as a K12 educator to remove the pesky ads.
· Wikis are collaborative documents. Wikis allow you to invite individual collaborators (teachers or students or mentors or experts). You can easily track edits and changes. (It’s all very 2.0.)
· Wikis will allow us to build together if we choose to.
· And, speaking of 2.0, wiki pathfinders are the ultimate illustration of exploiting new tools for authentic and highly useful purposes. Our wiki pathfinders might just be another opportunity to showcase the work of the critical efforts of teacher-librarian in the 2.0 educational landscape!
What is a pathfinder?
A Pathfinder is a guide to locating a range of suitable resources that may be online and/or offline. It guides students through these resources for a specific subject area or topic to achieve a successful learning outcome (Hayes, 2011).
Teachers use pathfinders when students need to locate resources in the library or on the Internet to achieve specified learning outcomes within or across Learning Areas (Hayes, 2011).
In a school, a Pathfinder may be prepared by teacher librarians in consultation with teachers to support students researching specific topics set by the teacher to achieve a number of identified outcomes (Hayes, 2011).
It is a path guiding students as they navigate the complex world of the information age. It provides a starting point, a launching pad (Kuntz, 2003). It’s available 24/7 (Kuntz, 2003).
Pathfinders can be used as a tool for TLs to share their vision and mission with staff and students (Eisenberg, as cited by Kuntz, 2003):
· To teach essential information and technology skills
· To guide and promote reading, books, media, and technology
· To provide information and technology services, systems, resources, and facilities
The intent of a Pathfinder is to present a selection of resources—print, electronic, and non-print (Kuntz, 2003).
Students can create their own pathfinders. Information and communication skills identified in Learning for the 21st Century, published by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, include “analyzing, accessing, managing, integrating, evaluating and creating information in a variety of forms and media.” These skills are integral to developing a pathfinder. Depending upon the instructional goals of the pathfinder assignment, you may assign a simple list of resource citations or require a variety of media formats and annotations. The pathfinder may be the final product or just a step in the research process, either way the students are locating, evaluating, and managing the information to meet a specific need. Students think critically (Thibault, n. d).
Like other collaborative information efforts students use online, a pathfinder collection will model the process of building information, a process that is increasingly dynamic. The idea that student work may contribute to a resource base to be utilized by many classes over the years helps to create a non-competitive atmosphere where information is shared and everyone comes out a winner. Collecting student-created pathfinders is a good way to launch a knowledge commons at your school’s website. Besides, encouraging students to create a product worthy of sharing in a print or web-based format will improve the end product because the students are writing for an authentic audience — their peers (Thibault, n. d).
Assigning students to develop a pathfinder pay assist with time management because it will require students to locate the available sources early. If materials are only available at other libraries or in microforms, the students can plan their project timeline accordingly. An additional benefit of getting sources early is students have time to adjust their theses if the sources don’t support their stance (Thibault, n. d).
If the goal is to teach students to be discerning information consumers, then the pathfinder may include opinions or ratings — when a student explains why they chose a resource for this assignment, they are demonstrating understanding of the evaluative process (Thibault, n. d).
More on benefits of students creating their own pathfinders see http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/968
What can you link to your Pathfinder?
· Blogs (Hamilton, 2010)
· Wikis (Hamilton, 2010)
· Widgets for databases (Hamilton, 2010)
· Useful apps (Hamilton, 2010)
· Google Earth (Hamilton, 2010)
· Books from the library (Hamilton, 2010)
· YouTube clips
· SlideShare where you’ve placed a PDF of books available from the library (Hamilton, 2010)
· Web resources (Hamilton, 2010)
· Google Books (Hamilton, 2010)
· Travel sites (Hamilton, 2010)
· Travel series (Hamilton, 2010)
· Wikipedia articles (Hamilton, 2010)
· Links to movie databases such as Clickview (Hamilton, 2010)
· Online encyclopaedias (Kuntz, 2003)
· Magazine articles (Kuntz, 2003)
· Community resources (Kuntz, 2003)
· Links to interactive bibliography assistance sites (Kuntz, 2003)
What can a pathfinder contain?
· Keywords (Kuntz, 2003)
· Helpful hints (Kuntz, 2003)
· Plan of action (Kuntz, 2003)
· Appropriate materials at a variety of ability levels (Kuntz, 2003)
· An effective Pathfinder provides a short, descriptive list of relevant, developmentally appropriate Web sites (Kuntz, 2003)
· Links to interactive bibliography assistance sites (Kuntz, 2003)
Creating a Pathfinder
By using a basic template, students and staff can rely on the consistency of format and become confident information consumers. A common template also makes it easy for those less comfortable with creating Web pages: They can copy and paste from a word-processing document (Kuntz, 2003).
· An effective Pathfinder provides a short, descriptive list of relevant, developmentally appropriate Web sites. Briefly describing the content of each site listed helps students to develop their information-seeking strategies (Kuntz, 2003)
· Web sites are dynamic and subject to change, so Pathfinder creators must regularly check all links for functionality and appropriateness, replacing them if a more pertinent, useful link is available (Kuntz, 2003)
· Google Docs is an online publisher that allows online publishing (Lamb & Johnson, 2006-2011)
· Use Wikispaces, PB Works, Zoho are wiki tools.
· LibGuides is a subscription service which provides tools which assist in the creation of pathfinders (Lamb & Johnson, 2006-2011).
Resources/Ideas/Useful Links for Pathfinders:
Valenza’s Spartan Guides: Databases & Pathfinders http://sdst.libguides.com/content.php?pid=175173&sid=1718907
Australian Primary http://librarypathfinders.weebly.com/
Pathfinder Swaps http://pathfinderswap.wikispaces.com/
Libguides by Australian High School http://blackfriars.libguides.com/homepage
The pathfinders for worldwide information. Fantastic http://www.ipl.org/div/pf/
Annette Lamb’s Site – some good links, many dead http://42explore.com/
Share your thoughts about the usefulness of pathfinders. Forum Posting
Pathfinders are very useful tools for students because they:
· Can be accessed 24/7 (Kuntz, 2003)
· Guide students through useful resources (Hayes, 2011)
· Provide research advice, strategies and hints (Kuntz, 2003)
· Provide a starting point for research (Kuntz, 2003)
· Provide links to authoritative, accurate, useful sources of information at varying levels selected for them by the TL (Kuntz, 2003)
· Teach essential information and technology skills (Eisenberg, as cited by Kuntz, 2003)
· Guide and promote reading, books, media, and technology (Eisenberg, as cited by Kuntz, 2003)
· Provide information and technology services, systems, resources, and facilities (Eisenberg, as cited by Kuntz, 2003)
· Develop skills in information and digital literacy when students create their own pathfinders (Thibault, n. d)
Hamilton, B. (2010). Touring an unquiet library research pathfinder. In YouTube. Retrieved on October 1, 2013 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sa1o8Pubzqo
Hayes, D. (2011). What is a pathfinder. Life in the library. Retrieved October 1, 2013 from http://www.lifeinthelibrary.org/pathfinders.html
Kuntz, K. (2003). Pathfinders: Helping Students Find Paths to Information. In Information today, inc. Retrieved on October 1, 2013 from http://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools/may03/kuntz.shtml
Lamb, A. & Johnson, L. (2006-2011). Pathfinders: Pathfinders creations and collections. In Electronic materials for children and young adults. Retrieved on October 1, 2013 from http://eduscapes.com/earth/informational/path4.html
Thibault, M. (n. d). The student pathfinder. In Learn NC. Retrieved on October 1, 2013 from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/968
Valenza, J. (2008). Ten reasons why your next pathfinder should be a wiki. Retrieved October 1, 2013 from http://informationfluency.wikispaces.com/Ten+reasons+why+your+next+pathfinder+should+be+a+wiki