Assisi Catholic College introduced LearnPath at the beginning of 2018. In this video Laurel shares her experiences with getting started, her process for creating guides, and tips for using LearnPath.
Laurel, could you start by giving us a little bit of background on yourself and your school?
Yes sure. I’m a full-time teacher librarian at Assisi Catholic College on the Gold Coast and we are part of Brisbane Catholic Education. We are a co-educational P to 12 College, and we have one library that caters for the whole school community of around 1400 students.
And when did LearnPath get implemented at Assisi Catholic College?
We started using LearnPath at the start of 2018 so it’s just over a year ago now that we’ve been using LearnPath.
What role does LearnPath play in your school?
For us, LearnPath is becoming a really integral part of the research process. And we’re essentially seeing it as a curated springboard into any kind of research project that students are looking at.
It’s a starting point really. But also, it’s a place that the students can easily come back to for that extra help in that whole learning anywhere, anytime model.
It’s not the only tool that the students and teachers can use. But it’s a really wonderful add on that provides a really rich set of information and skills for the students.
Great. And how did you find getting started with LearnPath? Were there any difficulties? How did you overcome those?
It was actually quite easy overall, to get started, the first step was just contacting Softlink.
To get it set up, I think there’d been an email that was sent out. I read one of those, contacted, and then just had to arrange a time for some online training. And that was really easy to do.
Setting up my first guide I had a few little, you know, challenges there doing the first one, not being sure how to do a few little things. But if I couldn’t work something out it was really easy just to contact one of the LearnPath team and I got really quick and clear answers from them.
There’s also some great written instruction guides that I had access to that I could just kind of look up really quickly as well.
Perfect. And how did you go about getting engagement from teaching staff?
Once I worked out how to set up an actual guide, I contacted a teacher who I knew would be amenable to using it. That was actually our History Head of Department.
So, I sent her a link to the practice one I’d started and I said “look, I can create one for a task that you’re doing at the moment.” She was like “yep, I’m in, I’m immediately in.”
I asked her just to send me a copy of the assessment task and then I designed a guide specifically for that task.
Now she asks for LearnPath around once a term just to complement any research tasks that her students are doing. She then spoke to the head of English who also approached me to set up a guide for her.
So really, it started with that whole word of mouth.
I then asked our leadership if I could speak at a staff meeting and do a short presentation, it was literally like 10 minutes. That was really successful. Straight after that lots more teachers were requesting guides.
We do tend to target the subject areas that are more research based like your history, religion, English. But we also have guides set up for food tech, drama, media.
Also, as a P to 12 school, we have guides set for a lot of our upper primary classes for their units of work.
Then another thing I do every now and then, usually near the start or the end of term, I’ll send out an email just reminding teachers that it’s a service I can give them. That usually gets a few responses as well.
One thing I think is important to note about the way I’m kind of running it here, is that I’m creating the guides for the teachers. I know there is an option in LearnPath where you can give your teachers permission to create their own, individual permission. I prefer to do it where I’m doing it for them. I know it’s a little bit time consuming, but honestly, the workload is really manageable.
And besides, it allows me to have that deeper hands on involvement in the curriculum. It also helps inform my resourcing because I’m really seeing what everyone’s studying, which is all part of that TL role.
So, if I’m to summarise the answer to that question, it’s the combination of word of mouth and doing a bit of self-promotion and advertising, emailing, that kind of thing.
That will garner the interest from your teachers and, I think for them, anything that helps curate information for students in a really easy and integrated way is a bonus. So really, what’s the not to like?
Right, exactly. So, what is your general process for creating a new guide?
Once I’ve got a request from a teacher, I ask them to send me a copy of the task or an aim for the guide, because basically not all guides have to be directly connected to an assessment task.
For example, one of our English teachers wanted a guide that gave a really general introduction to Shakespeare’s life and Elizabethan theatre. That was more of an information guide.
But once I know what the aim of the guide is, I then use all my available resources to curate links into each one of the information boxes on the guide page.
If it’s an assessment task where students have to research say, the Cold War, I usually start with an information box on the top left that gives a short overview of the task. Then my next step is I go to all about online databases that we’ve got subscriptions to and I’ll try and find a couple of articles that will help get them started.
I’m not there to put everything on the page for them that they need. Like I said before, it’s a springboard. But I’ll find some articles, and I’ll link each article to a related image and put it inside its own information box. Then I just hyperlink the heading of the article.
If you don’t have any online database subscriptions, you could do links to Google Scholar articles. Or, if your students have access to council library sites that have information databases, you could have links to those as well.
Another thing I always put on my guide page is, I always include a slider that shows any print books that we have in our collection that are linked to the topic. So for year 6 Natural Disasters, I’ll have a slider about all our natural disasters books so the students can also see that they can get print books as well.
Then I have a look at what AV links we can use. We have ClickView so it’s really easy to go to ClickView, find some related videos, and then embed the links to those in your media boxes on your guide page. Or you can get links from YouTube or Vimeo, etc.
Also, sometimes I’ll include an information box on the guide that has a curated list of websites or just general links to our databases. I always keep going back to the task, just to try and make sure I’m covering all the areas. And then once I feel like it’s complete, I email the link to the Head of Department or the class teacher, they’ll embed it in our LMS.
We use Moodle, so they’ll embed it in Moodle. Our primary uses Seesaw, so they’ll put it into Seesaw as well. And then I’ll often also email a link to the guide page directly to the students if they’re the secondary students.
The beauty of it is I can always go back and add things, or delete things, or as the task evolves over the years you can find new resources. So yeah, it’s just really flexible.
Do you have any tips about creating guides, anything that you wish you knew earlier?
Yeah, one thing comes to mind, I started with a view that the guides would mostly be used for connections to assessment and specific tasks. But like I said before, I figured out that it’s also just a fantastic way to create a curated page of information for just about anything.
So last year I created a page of ideas for Book Week costumes and emailed the link to students.
I’m also starting to work on guides that explain and promote referencing and bibliographies and around the busy times of terms, I’ll send that link to students as a reminder so they can, you know, check on the rules.
You could create guides for things like author visits or novel studies, or Readers Cup, and so on. My kind of tip is don’t just use it for assessment guides, it’s a lot more versatile than you think.
Excellent. What is your design philosophy when you’re creating a LearnPath guide?
Okay, so this also kind of relates to your previous questions of things I wish I’d known earlier or little tips I can give.
In terms of colour, I really think you need to have a plan before you start creating your guide. I did not and now I need to go back and fix a lot of my design stuff that I did early on.
I was kind of just you know, adding colour ad hoc all over the place. My advice would be to choose two or three colours, that are based around your school colours, and stick with them for that whole kind of overall look of your page. It just makes everything look more uniform, more professional, less distracting.
And if you look at any of my old pages, yeah, I definitely have to go back and I’m all over the place. Now that I’ve refined it a bit more, you can see the massive difference. So my tip is once you’ve chosen your perfect colour shade from the colour wheel for your boxes, I think you can see that on the screen, then you can write down a specific colour number, like it gives you an actual number.
I have the colours that I’m going to use on post it notes at my desk and, you know, recorded down in my diary and everything, so I use the exact shade I want from. I had a palette of green, blue, and yellow. So instead of trying to find that exact, and going over the wheel, I just type in the actual shade number, and it’s all done perfectly, and everything looks so much better. So that’s my big design tip.
That’s a good one. And what has been, in your view, the most positive outcome from implementing LearnPath at the school?
From my point of view, I love that we have a really secure, uniform approach to the curation of information. In the past, we had tried various kind of Pathfinder software which was really complex to use. Then I think we moved to something like, we were using Pinterest, but then they made everyone need an account to look at Pinterest.
That was no good for our students. So we’d actually been looking around for a curation tool that was data secure, that integrated into our LMS’s and into our systems, and LearnPath has just ticked all those boxes for us.
I really love the way it brings students back to Oliver. So, if they’re looking at a slider and they want to look at a print book, it’s taking them back into Oliver, showing them the location of that book. And it’s giving them skills they need for study after they finish high school.
It’s been a really positive experience for the teachers and the students and for me.
Wonderful. Laurel, thanks so much!
Thanks for having me. It’s been great chatting.