From information overload to streamlined searching: Hawera High School's story

The problem: students experiencing information overload

A question often asked today is, "With 24/7 access to information via the Internet, what is the role of the school library?" Here's a story of how curating online content has led to changes in student searching behaviour, with improvements in their digital literacy and confidence as researchers.

Hawera High School, in Taranaki, is a thriving decile 5 secondary school with a roll of approximately 800 students. The school library is a hive of activity with staff always looking for ways to develop students as confident researchers. In particular, staff wanted to increase students’ success when searching for information. It had been obvious that students, who traditionally use Google as their first search point, were suffering from information overload.

From small beginnings to school-wide uptake

Inspired by Services to Schools professional development, Hawera High School library staff began to curate information for senior history using the content curation tool Pearltrees. They then provided access from their school library website.

The success of this curation prompted the development of a second curation on Search tools, this time suitable for use across the school. The Teacher with Library Responsibility promoted the search tools curation to all heads of department along with an offer to set up subject-specific curations for every department.

Outcomes: results after 2 years

  • Year 9-10 students, using the Search tools curation, now easily find useful information and are more quickly ‘on task’.
  • The original Pearltree has been expanded to include ‘Pearls’ for every department.
  • Teachers and the library team collaborate to identify, assess and recommend sites for inclusion.
  • Priority learners can quickly access appropriate information without being overwhelmed by the volume of sites available.
  • Use by all departments, including those which are not traditionally heavy library users, is increasing.
  • Staff and students have 24/7 access to curated information via the library website. There have been just over 9,000 views in the two years since development.
  • Students are using sites from the library Pearltree to develop their own personalised curations.

This school library’s first step towards making information accessible for all learners has morphed into a school-wide initiative, with strong support from Senior Management. It sees teachers and the library team collaborating to increase student achievement and develop students as confident, independent researchers.