Friday, February 26, 2010

The happy life of teacher librarians: the best book, miss

What do these two have in common?

Today, I had two kids come to see me, entirely separately, just to tell me that the book they'd borrowed from here was 'the best book I've ever read, miss'.  Just lovely to know that, to know I'm choosing books that are finding friends; and good to get a heads-up on ones with which I'm less familiar.  One excellent part of the happy life of teacher librarians.



GIFSL* 50: The COOL clock

Most school clocks are plain and functional, and there's nothing wrong with that.

But when you're a school library aiming to present an exciting environment for learning, reading, working, being...

...and you go to somewhere like Target when they have one of their semi-regular 40% off all clocks sales...

...which means that for less than thirty dollars you can have a clock like this behind the borrowing desk...

Oh, you'd like a better view?

I know, a plain 'school clock' would do the same job.  So does a plain vanilla anything vs a snazzy version.  But we've had a lot of (spontaneous) positive comments from kids and teachers, for such a simple change (and if you're wondering about the previous one, no clock goes to waste in a school where they're needed for exams as well as on walls).  It adds sizzle to the library for not many dollars and not much time/effort (just keep an eye on those discount store catalogues, or take a look around half-yearly sale time).  Maybe some years down the track it might look dated, but right now it looks modern and has a nice energy to it, with the interlinking design.

If you'd like to explore some fabulous clocks made from recycled junk by Pixelfish  (I only found this Etsy seller after buying our clock), take a look at these:

(screenshot from Pixelfish's store - click this link to see the current selection)

They're fabulous.  Every one a conversation starter and statement of style and panache!

And the day after I drafted this blog entry a colleague came by, commenting on the clock and on the hunt for an interesting/cool one for her husband's birthday - I showed her the Etsy site and her eyes  lit up.  Ha!  The flypaper mind I have proves its worth again... it just amuses me how things coincide, sometimes.



PS. Will I admit that the fact that you can't tell the time on our new clock to the exact minute is a little bit handy when you've had an extraordinarily busy lunchtime and you want to call pack up time a minute or two early without a charmingly pedantic kid pointing out that you ARE calling pack up time early?  Dunno.  You might think less of me.  But I'd rather tell you the truth... Which is why I didn't make up some ridikkulus guff about the design representing the library linking you to information, or whatever.  Could've - but nah. 

PPS: FIFTY IDEAS FOR SCHOOL LIBRARIES! How cool is that!  Got any particular favourites?  Let me know in the comments...

*GIFSL = Good ideas for school libraries

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bookmarks: Valentine's Day and Olympics

Valentine's Day bookmarks: We also photocopied this bookmark design onto pale pink cardboard, but they were all shy of the camera...  One set of words, but a different font for each of the eight per sheet on one side, with a piece of prose I wrote last year; and the cheerful 'your library' ditty on the back of each one.

One side of the Olympics bookmarks features a quote from Pierre de Coubertin.

The other side features the Olympic motto, in Latin and in English, because I dunno about you, but even if I could guess Fortius as being about strength, I'm not confident that I'd have guessed Citius as faster...

The little box with the library credit burgles a slogan/vision statement a teacher librarian pal uses all the time at her school. do your best.

She didn't mind my borrowing it.  I adapted it to be the library-promo piece.

You'll notice that, for these, the design is the same on each bookmark and I've done the variety thing with relevant colours of cardboard.  Easy.

We hand out a bookmark to each borrower when they borrow.  I've blogged about them before, why as well as other designs I've created (check out the 'bookmarks' tag from the tag cloud over on the right).  The short version is less about Keeping Books Noice and more about a moment of helpful generosity to each borrower, something useful; and a piece of informative advertising to remind them of this library each time they use it.

A year or more after we started doing the bookmark thing, the borrowers expect it; a few sweet crazy kids collect an example of each new design... and they haven't cost us a bomb in either software or cardboard.  Every school has a program like Microsoft Publisher.  Every school has coloured cardboard... it's not hard to design your own...

The Olympic bookmarks are generic you may notice; nothing about the specific/current games, which means I can use them again.  Same thing applies to other themes; many can be annually revisited, rather than designing new each time.  Sure, I'll probably tweak, but it's also good when your're busy-AS to fish out last year's bookmark design for this theme and just print up bookmarks.

I've seen some beautiful bookmarks in other libraries, colour printed and so forth; because we hand these out with every loan, we go through rather a lot, which is why most of ours are like the ones above, theme-related and photocopied onto coloured cardboard.  Inexpensive, but not ineffective.



GIFSL* 49: Winter Olympics 2010

Following on from Valentine's Day, our next theme for bookmarks and entry and banners relates to the current Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The banners were ones we had made last year; they suit the winter idea, but we used them before and will use them again because the design on the fabric is intriguing, somewhat surreal, full of stories.  For the Winter Olympic thing, it has snowy mountains, and the cool blueness - but these banners are definitely getting other outings.  The fabric is Annamoa in blue, from Ikea.  Some mad crazy fabulous illustrations on the various colours in that range (each colourway has different illustrations on it).

The world time clocks in the foyer include Vancouver time.

On the noticeboard behind the desk, we feature (rather plainly, but you cain't do everything spiffing all the time) the Olympic motto and a quote from Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, along with the Vancover logo.

And there you have, in some respects, why I've used the Games; the ideal of doing your best, and the idea of doing, the attempt being more important than the win.  Not a bad idea to promote.

The bookmarks feature these two quotes and the Olympic rings, and golly gee, nothing about Vancouver 2010 specifically - so I'll be able to roll 'em out next Olympics.  Economy of effort!  As usual, printed on coloured cardboard - red, blue, yellow, green and white - reflecting the colours of the Olympic rings (in the case of the last one, the black on the white, which is vastly cheaper to do than the reverse!)

Hey, did you notice the allusion to the Olympic rings on the bookcase?

The top shelves?  Colours are in the right order, too.  Aren't coloured spines handy for decor???  Just yesterday I had some lovely junior girls say how they liked the Olympic rings on the bookshelves (they spotted it without prompting), and how the library has different themes and always looks nice.  Which was lovely to hear, since we do it for them.

Always happy to read your comments...



*GIFSL: Good ideas for school libraries

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

GIFSL* 48: Valentine's Day 2010

I know, I'm sorry, too late for you, but hey, bookmark this or bung it in your Delicious list or save it in your reader, and you can use it next year.  And the year after...

Valentine's Day is a convenient starting 'theme' for the school year - being nice to others, in the most general sense, combined with 'love reading'.

We had bookmarks, featuring the prose I wrote last year (read it here).  Cardboard colour choices? Pink and red.  A bookmark for every borrower, library PR, useful for the borrower and summat for nuffink that the kids appreciate.

We unpacked last year's Valentine banners (featuring a quirky fabric marrying hearts and skulls, just the thing to appeal to teenage taste).  Read all about how to make them here.

Note the bookcase selection: pinks and reds and a few purples, and while the pinks give it a girly cast (there are not a lot of uber-boy books with pink spines) the reds mix it up so there's something for every browser/reader/borrower.  Books picked on a colour theme can be rather handy at helping the kids find books they might not have found before, too.  Apart from the obvious purty factor.

Hey, did you notice something else on which I have not yet commented?  Up in the air...

Ah, God bless Ikea's little cotton socks for having a heart theme for Christmas 2009.  These wooden hearts, sold two to a pack, were severely reduced after Christmas and I snaffled them up.  Perfect for Valentine's Day; and their scale good for this purpose, as they don't get lost.  It's awfully worthwhile checking our holiday decorations after the event and seeing if there are bargains to be had that can be deployed in your school library.

If you wanted to do something similar, you could try heavyweight cardboard, painted, or even balsa wood cut to shape and painted.  Neither one immensely difficult nor immensely expensive.

I'm also very grateful that, while we have a high ceiling through most of the library, we do have lowish ones in the small foyer area, which allows us to do things such as hanging these hearts.

What did the kids think?  Cool, miss.

It was a nice mood and way to start what's proving to be a hectic, busy, cheerful year.



*GIFSL = Good ideas for school libraries

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tomorrow When the War Began - Australian release date

According to this site, the release date for the film/movie Tomorrow When the War Began in Australia is September 2010.  I'll post a trailer on this blog when one is available (leave a comment with a link if you spot one before me).

Our library has multiple copies of this John Marsden series, and they're perennially popular - most kids who start will read the whole series.

A film still from the blog Persnickety Snark, which obtained them from the Telegraph; this is Homer and Ellie.



Monday, February 22, 2010

The happy life of teacher librarians: working in a castle

One of the teachers brought her primary age son to school today for a couple of periods, one of those in the library.  This library.  Only it isn't a library.  He told me, with big eyes, having read a Where's Wally book, sat on a sofa (with a happy sigh of relaxation) and explored all three levels (not disturbing others, he was very good)...

this is a castle!

So, I work in a castle.  Lucky me!  Just one day in the happy life of teacher librarians - always fun to get a kid's eye view (he's looking forward to returning).



PS. If you don't know the book by Libby Gleeson, Uncle David, it has kinda this storyline and is rather charming. 

What makes a great teacher?

In the busyness of each day of the working week, it's hard to take time to step back and think about the Larger Questions such as this.  We've had such a busy start to the term that just getting through each day effectively and cheerfully has been a reasonable goal.  I do see myself as a Teacher Librarian - both roles, one job, both aspects important.  (In the government education system in which I work, the teacher librarian has to have teaching qualifications, unlike some where library qualifications may be sufficient.)  We've got some new teachers this year, and I've been working with them and their classes, so this question has been in my mind.

One thing I've learned over my years of teaching is the importance of my own attitude - the fact that I am happy to be in the classroom/library with the kids, taking an interest in what they need, helping them to succeed - all that counts.  It amuses the dickens out of me when kids say, "Why are you so cheerful today?" and I reply that it's because I'm in this classroom/library with them.  They then look baffled.  Sure, I need to know my stuff, have the lesson organised and so on, but the attitude counts as much as my knowledge base, experience and preparation.  I can't speak for primary age students, but certainly I hear over and over from high school kids that they get treated with suspicion/hostility by adults far more often than is warranted; and I have had many adults say, 'high school? I couldn't spend all day with teenagers, I don't know how you do it' over and over.  Mostly, the kids are great - and I've been doing this for over two decades.  They grow up, too, so even the most awkward ones to deal with eventually travel onwards in their lives, carrying, one hopes, useful things from their time at school.

Greg Whitby in his blog Blueyonder discusses this topic here

Surveying his own colleagues, here is the list he came up with:

■passion / fun










He was partly inspired to discuss it by Amanda Ripley's recent article in The Atlantic Monthly (find it here - click on the printer format link on the page to read it on a single page).  This article includes four videos from the Teach for America program showing four teachers each with a successful teaching style - the Motivator, the Manager, the Connector, the Tour Guide.

Find those videos and more on the Teach for America website here

On the left of the site, in the greyed area, are six important points highlighting ideas about effective teaching.

One thing Teach for America has been doing is research into what makes teaching effective; what is replicable, rather than alchemy.  As Ripley said in the Atlantic Monthly:

Parents have always worried about where to send their children to school; but the school, statistically speaking, does not matter as much as which adult stands in front of their children. Teacher quality tends to vary more within schools—even supposedly good schools—than among schools.

But we have never identified excellent teachers in any reliable, objective way. Instead, we tend to ascribe their gifts to some mystical quality that we can recognize and revere—but not replicate. The great teacher serves as a hero but never, ironically, as a lesson.

Teach for America has provided a new opportunity/angle for research into what makes teaching effective - the program wants to recruit those who will be effective, and wants to see classroom results.  Read the Atlantic Monthly article to find out more.

Race to the Top is the US funding program to improve teaching and learning - there is a speech by Education Secretary Arne Duncan about great teachers here.

All this is informing/influencing education policy in Australia (eg. the MySchools website).

Author John Marsden has his own insights into what makes a good school, in a Sydney Morning Herald article here.

There is a Teach for Australia program.  Find it here.



Friday, February 19, 2010

E-books and print books: lifespan thoughts

Following on from yesterday's entry about Book 1, I came back to something that had been occupying a far corner of my brain for a while, a print book/e book question.

When I buy a physical/print book for the school library, theoretically I am buying an infinite number of reads/loans.  I can lend it out as many times as I like.  Realistically, I am not.  The most popular books get read to death, fall apart from the love, the wear and tear, the realities of library shelves and school bags and the handling of different readers and so forth. (While those I have misjudged, or which just don't find readers, remain sadly pristine...and end up being culled).

And so, in the case of popular books, one buys another copy to replace the one that is beyond repair, and so the author gets another royalty, as is more than reasonable, since they've written something that has found friends.

Pixels and digital files, however, while they have their own potential wear-and-tear (file corruption? hardware failure?) are not subject to the same physical limitations as print and paper.  But in the case of e-books and audiobooks (digital audiobook files, rather than physical housings such as CDs or audiocassettes), we kinda sorta expect to buy once and have it forever.  So whether it's thumpingly popular or resoundingly ignored, the author's return is the same.  Not entirely fair.

Perhaps this has all been canvassed elsewhere (do leave any useful links in the comments), but my mind has ticked over to wondering what is a reasonable equivalent.  How many loans do I reasonably expect from a copy of, say, Tomorrow When the War Began, or Twilight, or [insert your own popular title here]?  Thirty?  Fifty?  I'm not counting accidents (the rainstorm, the leaking drink bottle, the younger sibling with a felt pen) that can shorten a school  library book's life rather quickly.  But a paperback (and most fiction is paperback, and the most popular books in the library are often fiction) does not have an endless life, as a library book.  If we buy an e-book in a form that permits lending, how many 'loans' should that one purchase permit before we should/need to buy another licence for that title, so the author gets recompense for their popularity?

Hardback books, of course, generally have a longer life since they have a more durable construction; and nonfiction, in our library, has a lot more hardbacks than paperbacks.

So in terms of e-books and libraries, I wonder if what we can arrive at is a two-tier system, kinda equivalent to hardback and paperback.  Title X can be bought in 'hardback', which allows more loans before the file expires/needs renewal; or 'paperback', which allows fewer loans before licence renewal.  This would also mean that if you weren't certain of a title's likely popularity, or knew it was a niche purchase for a relatively small group of students (eg. a specific senior course) you could invest at the lower rate and be able to spread your budget across more titles.  Rather important, given the limited funds available to most school libraries.

I know I'm ignoring the whole question of e-book readers, e-publication formats, e-book lending logistics for school libraries and so forth.  Plenty of discussion around on that.

But why don't you go find a couple of your most popular library books and see how often they've been read (and estimate how many more loans they will survive)?  What do you think, then, is the average reasonable lifespan, in terms of number of loans, of a school library book, a paperback and a hardback?  Do leave a comment - it will be interesting to compare people's thoughts. 



PS in relation to e-book textbooks, right now the rental/annual subscription rates publishers are offering do not seem to comprehend the reality of faculty budgets.  I know they have costs to cover, but from discussion I've heard, head teachers find the prices out of reach.  Which can't help the publishers, since they presumably want customers.  For print textbooks, a $X investment in print books means a number of years of use; when a publisher wants even half of $X per year for an e-book textbook subscription, faculties just don't have it.  I watch, with interest, to see how this develops.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More of Book 1...

We've had increased business this year (yay!) - in particular, a lot of junior classes in the fiction area.  After the first busy week, when lots of kids borrowed, I found myself (not unexpectedly) a tad short in the Book 1 department in favourite series. 

Lots of kids like to read a series (der! - but stay with me, I'm not going to stick with the bleeding obvious).  They like (as do adults, as it would be polite to admit) to know that if they enjoyed this book, this lot of characters, this style of writing, this world, this story - well, there's another one to go on to, more fun to be had.  And why not?  If someone has written something so engaging, it's comfortable and welcoming and pleasurable to revisit and journey on.  We humans are creatures of habit, and you see this pattern not only in reading.

So enthusiastic teacher librarian hand-sells Book 1 of a series to kid A, and then, after a week of junior classes borrowing furiously, finds a certain shortage of Book 1 in several popular series.  And, with most YA series, the novels are sequential, so you need to read them in order and you need to read Book 1.  I do do reserves in this situation, but that's not always good enough.  If it's a sequential series, kids generally (and unsurprisingly) want to read it in order.  I don't enjoy seeing books 2 onwards languishing on the shelves while one student has Book 1 (esp. when as sometimes happens it's in the hands of a student who forgets they have it, forgets to bring it back, renews it three times...)

So I've been gradually adding a second copy of Book 1 in popular series.  My wonderful local independent bookshop recently had Artemis Fowl for only $6.95 (I bought two).  Other series with doubles include Temeraire, Ranger's Apprentice, Pendragon, Percy Jackson, Twilight, Tomorrow When the War Began and, oh, if you've been a teacher librarian for more than five minutes I'm sure you could compose your own list - there are many more.

Part of my logic is that not every kid will stick with every series, nor read at the same pace of course.  But if they get Book 1, and it hooks them, then they can tag-team through the rest if they are not the only current enthusiast.  It's a way of encouraging more readers to read the whole series, to ensure later books find friends too.  Not every kid who reads Book 1 will go on to read the rest; but the more who read Book 1, the greater the percentage who will.

For a few series (Tomorrow When... would be the classic example) I have at least two copies of each book in the series.  With that one, some kids read it all the way through in one go, others read a couple then come back to read a couple more, and in my ten or so years at this library I've bought the whole lot at least once, as some copies were loved to death and fell to bits.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Temeraire book 6: Tongues of Serpents (+ extra links)

image from
Here's the US Del Rey hardback cover for Temeraire book 6, Tongues of Serpents, by Naomi Novik.  Release date is July 2010.  I haven't yet found an image of the UK cover online (I will admit a sneaking preference for the mainly black/white UK covers, for their graphic impact and woodcutty charm).

It's not just me; I've infected (ha!) a goodly number of our readers with Temeraire enthusiasm, so there will be a queue for this one when it comes out.

The HarperCollins UK website summary at present doesn't add much to what is already known - Laurence and Temeraire are found guilty of treason and deported to Australia to start a new life and have many new adventures.  If you look at the official Temeraire website, however, you can find an extract from the book here.  I'm always a bit conflicted about reading extracts before publication - sometimes I do, sometimes I regret it, sometimes I just steer clear and wait to have the whole book.

If you try the search term "temeraire" on my blog (use the search window top left) you'll find other entries about the books and the film (now slated for 2011, but it looks to be early days in production terms, so I wouldn't hold my breath...).

There is a fan-maintained Temeraire Wiki.

If you'd like to entertain yourself (or your kids) with a live webchat between two excellent authors, Suvudu has Naomi Novik and Scott Westerfeld conversing here.

See? There's Skerricks for you - not just the basic poop, but a couple of extras too!!



Monday, February 15, 2010

Magnum photo archive

Magnum agency photographers are responsible for some of the most iconic photographic images, and their roster has included many renowned photographers.  The New York Times has an article about how the physical prints in their archive have found a new home at a university in Texas, highlighting the historical significance of these photos and "their role in helping to create the collective photo bank of modern culture".

Much of their archive has been scanned and is available to view online here.

There is also a 'photo of the week' blog which you might like to put in your blogreader (eg. Bloglines, Google Reader) to see what appears which might be useful for school.  Find it here.

One to share with your teachers of History, Visual Arts, English... and an alternative to Google Images for kids to know, too.



Friday, February 12, 2010

USBstick/flash drive bracelet & hub (but cute)

A flash drive/nerd necklace/USB storage stick, call it what you will, has become pretty much essential to everyday work, hasn't it?  If you're not the nerd necklace sort, or all your work outfits don't boast pockets, or you don't carry about one of those HUGE teacher lanyard+keys+flash drive bundles, another option is a silicon bracelet USB stick/flash drive.  Smiggle has them, in bright colours or sober black (on which you could use a black texta to make the brand name disappear, if you wish).

You can buy them online here or at Smiggle shops.  They are only 2GB for $24.95; but that's enough for daily working, and the convenience factor is part of what you're buying - I know some of my flash drives have had tiny lids, very easy to lose .  An idea for kids, too (and don't forget to remind them that the only copy of their brilliant work shouldn't be on a flash drive and nowhere else - they are transit devices, not permanent storage).

The other Smiggle electronic item which combines cute with useful is their hub.  Most USB hubs are drably functional.  How about a turtle hub?

$19.95.  Buy them online here, or also at a Smiggle shop.



PS. This is not a paid editorial. 

PPS. You can blame the gadget gene that runs in my family.

PPPS. Also that I am bored with trying not to lose tiny flash drive lids from cheap flash drives.  I know, I should get the ones with attached/swivelling lids.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Does your library greet those who come in?

If you look carefully, the word "Hello" is shaded in grey down this print.  $25 for a decent sized poster (16in x 20in, or 41cm x 51cm), $9.95 for shipping (all prices $US) and does it have graphic impact?  Heck yes!  You can buy from MadebyGirl (and if you get together with a couple of TL pals, or you really want triple impact, postage for three posters is only a couple of dollars more than shipping one). 
Image is from the MadebyGirl site.

Hello in lots of languages - educational too!

There are so many excellent online craft businesses, and plenty of poster ideas that aren't what you see everywhere and which compare favourably in price with the standard 'educational poster suppliers'.  Take a tour through the search engine on Etsy, for example, and see what you can find to make your library special, exciting, a great place to be. 

Framing can be expensive, but one option to consider is the single large piece of matte board with the poster laid on top, framed in a frame (like this one from Ikea, which is less than $10).  Much better than either laminating or blu-tak.  And, if you want to rotate posters through the same frame, you can.

I found the Hello poster via the design blog decor8.  Here's another poster source from decor8: The Poster List.  Certainly some ideas there worth thinking about for your school/library - modern, cool ideas and images.  Or why not use this to challenge your vis. arts students to come up with images to display in the library?



PS. I haven't bought yet, because I'm not sure where I'd put it.  But I am tempted - I do like this sort of use of typography, a bit bus-blind in style.  Love vintage bus blinds!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

GIFSL*: 47. The library is not a milk bar, but...

Last year, we started a hot chocolate draw with classes coming in to read in fiction on a regular basis (you can read about it here).

Well, right now it's summer, and hot/sticky/humid as February so often is.  We have a bunch of classes coming in regularly to read (more than last year! yay!), and nobody in their right mind would particularly savour hot chocolate.

An iceblock, though...

I know, I know, no eating or drinking in the library.  And the general rule still stands.  But I can break 'em if I want to.  I've not yet had any kid spill a hot chocolate or drip an iceblock.

Plenty of supermarkets sell those long iceblocks in plastic tubes.  Freeze 'em up, and it's an inexpensive treat (I pay for these out of my own pocket, in case you wonder - not from any school-provided library budget.  Some of the teachers also contribute for their classes).  Summer is definitely cheaper than winter.

I've improved the method for selecting the lucky recipients, too.  Was getting the teachers to note the names of students Doing The Right Thing (reading silently).  But that takes time and a bit of effort, and at the start of the year teachers don't necessarily know the name of every student.  Plan B: a class list and a random number generator site (eg. this one ).  Randomly generate a number between 1 and 30, see which kid is at this number on the class list, teacher decides if said kid has been doing the right thing, (all kids start off in the draw, but if they misbehave, they have rendered themselves ineligible) and it's done.  Happy kid collects iceblock, classmates see random reward for virtue...

OK, they don't Need a reward.  But it's all part of our library marketing.  The library's a place where you can be comfortable.  Where treats happen.  Where good things are found.  A nice place to go, a good place to be, somewhere to look forward to, somewhere to enjoy.  Doesn't that sound like somewhere you'd like to visit?

It's not necessarily going to happen every lesson, but then again it might, the students don't know... everything that gets them in and settled and reading is useful to their progress.



*GIFSL= good ideas for school libraries

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bargain planners (for my mentee kids)

One of my Visible Teacher Librarian roles in the school is to mentor senior students.  At my school, all senior students, and all teaching staff, are offered the opportunity to participate in this program.  How you work with your student/s is up to you (most people take on one or two students).  Since I elected to take three Year 11 students last year, and was requested by four, I took the four, but decided I needed to be more systematic in working with them - especially, to see them all together for regular meetings, so this extra involves one period per cycle, not four.  I also thought the synergy of the group, sharing their own ups and downs, would benefit them.

The topics we've covered have been partly decided by me (based on what's going on in the general school timetable, eg. exams) and partly from student suggestions - how do I do this? get organised? work out a study plan? etc.  I've also shared my worksheets on the school intranet so other staff can use them with their mentees if they wish

Planning and organisation have been consistent themes.  My first meeting with my now Year 12 group (I've farewelled my last year's HSC mentees and have not yet acquired this year's Year 11's, although I've had two students approach me so far...) is today.  I was so pleased, yesterday, to happen on this bargain at Smiggle (a shop full of funky mad stationery - they have physical shops and a website).

A year planner is a great tool for students to have in their room at home, and this one from Smiggle, reasonable at its original price of $4.95, but better still at its current bargain price of $2.50, is just the ticket.  I bought some (of course!).  You can (fingers crossed) find them at your local Smiggle shop (they were available online here but have sold out).  Might also be handy if you want a library year planner (I use the teachers' credit union freebie in my office, as it has NSW government school terms/hols etc).  If you miss out this year, worth remembering for next year.

I was going to fossick about online for a year planner for them, but that would have to be printed on A4 and put together, so this (which has some colour) is excellent.  We will be sitting down with various coloured highlighters and pencils and the assessment schedule, so each student will make this planner their own.  Then they'll have to take a photo of it on a wall at their home, just to show me that it's doing its Visible job...



Friday, February 5, 2010

Safer Internet Day 2010: 9 February

This is an international cybersafety event, with the theme of 'think before you post'.  It's organised by InSafe, and international organisation for internet safety, and supported in Australia by ACMA.

The link above has more info, including a poster to print, tips for kids and teens, and this YouTube video:

Why not compile a quick email to send out to students/parents/staff?



Thursday, February 4, 2010

The 3 settings every Facebook user should check now

From the New York Times, The 3 Settings Every Facebook User Should Check Now - based on recent changes to Facebook and their impact on privacy/personal information.

Read all about them here.

It's one of the challenges of the internet, the balance in social networking between sharing and privacy, and many students, I find, are less careful than they ought to be about personal information.  I'll be sharing this link with our staff and our students.



Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When I'm reading, I do one thing...

The blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is a most useful source for information and discussion about e-books and e-reading devices.  In a January entry, Sarah said this:

But when I'm reading, I do one thing and one thing only...

...and while that may seem bleeding obvious, it's also pertinent, relevant and insightful.  When the kids we teach are accustomed to - expect to? - do multiple things at once, enabled by computers and technology and the internet and so forth, reading remains something that requires focus and attention.  Strikes me that this has usefulness beyond the fun/pleasure of reading: it gives kids a different experience, an opportunity to learn a different skill.  Another skill, along with multitasking.  Getting lost in a book - always excellent.  Being able to focus, also useful.

Here's an extract from the entry, Reading, Writing and Technology: Changing Readers and Reading:

If Cashmore is correct in his predictions for multifunction devices, and if, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - and Flannery O’Connor - insist, everything that rises must converge, the possibility of more functional programs targeted at diverse activities meant for a single device means that readers will have a lot to choose from when they actually sit down to read. As new multi-function devices are appearing in the realm of nearly possible and almost on sale like ships on the horizon line, I find myself looking again and again at how I read, what I read, and whether it’s changed at all.

The following aspect of my reading habits has not changed: reading is one of the very few times I do Only One Thing. Anyone with a uterus knows what I’m talking about: I multitask. Most of the time, I’m researching, writing, using Twitter, writing email, and listening to music. Or, I’m washing bottles and plates, making lunches, serving and preparing dinner, talking to Hubby, refereeing fights over Lego Sir Topham Hat, and possibly also snacking. I never do just one thing at a time... 

But when I’m reading, I do one thing and one thing only because I can’t read and focus on anything else.

For that reason, I adore the comfort and simplicity of a dedicated electronic reading device. I don’t want to have things beeping and alerting me and tempting me to Google whether the price has dropped on that giant thing I wanted. I want to do the one thing that restores my mental batteries and gives me the utter mental isolation and thoughtful peace I crave when I’m exhausted: just reading, nothing but reading, and only, exceptionally reading.

One thing we've been working on in relation to this in our library is the creation of our reading lounge areas, so kids can relax, be comfortable and get lost in reading.  We now have enough comfortable, soft seats for every student in a class of thirty to be sitting in one.  A few still prefer the floor, and we still have the floor cushions; but with every student seated comfortably, they settle down, relax and read far more effectively.  See? It's not just 'decorating'.   Comfort is a tool and a strategy.

At break times, I'm a bit of a mean cow: the reading lounge areas are for [book] reading - the laptoppers are welcome to settle at the tables/desks, but I move them on from the reading lounges, so the screens and moving images and (often) discussions are not a distraction.  (It's also ergonomically a bit smarter for the laptoppers, too).



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The happy life of teacher librarians: spaghetti and meatball cupcakes

A while ago I told one of my Visual Arts colleagues, a cupcake enthusiast, about the blog Not Quite Nigella.  Apart from pretty/elegant cupcake recipes (yup, they're all edible), the blog also includes Halloween ideas (Blood Clot and Brain Cupcakes, anyone?). (Yup, there are links at the end of this blog entry).

For morning tea today, my colleague brought in Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcakes.

What's not to like?  Apart from the fact that your mind and eyes are trying to co-ordinate the apparently impossible/odd....

They tasted great.  In case you wonder, the meatballs are chocolate/coconut confections, the sauce is based on berry jam and the spaghetti is a kind of candy 'string' you can find at Ikea (and it now comes in red/strawberry as well as brown/caramel).  The base cupcakes are vanilla.

And in case you think this is all foolish diversion, it also has relevance to Visual Arts and Home Ec, in relation to perception.  But in the happy life of teacher librarians, it was also rather good fun!



I've blogged about NQN's fine work before, especially her Halloween cupcakes.

Not Quite Nigella home page
Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcakes
Blood Clot and Brain Cupcakes
NQN also has a bunch of other cupcake recipes, recipes for a wondrous variety of other things, restaurant/cafe reviews and more.

Monday, February 1, 2010

50% off e-books (less than an hour more today)

SmartBitchesTrashyBooks has an e-book discount coupon that's valid still for just under another hour.  50% off at and

The rules: You will receive 50% off on all titles purchased on and through this weekend if they use the code SBTBARe1.

The discount will only appear once the code is entered in the shopping cart and the “Calculate Discount” button is selected. This offer expires at midnight 31 January 2010, 11:59 PM Mountain Standard Time.

Before you start sniffing, (if you do start sniffing), think on this:

Evernight by Claudia Gray $6.99 -50%
1000 Art Journal Pages $29.99 -50%

1000 Artist Trading Cards $29.99 -50%
A bunch of graphic/comic novels

There's fiction, bodice-ripping if you want that, but plenty else if you don't, and nonfiction too.  Haven't yet read Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series (on which the TV series True Blood is based?).  Buy one or more.  Dead Until Dark is the first in the series ($6.99- 50%).

All prices in $US, but the exchange rate is pretty good for the AUD right now, it's hovering around 90c.

There are various formats available for various titles, but most I've looked at seem to include a secure Adobe format which should be readable through Acrobat Reader (check the site FAQs for answers to your own particular questions on this), so you don't need an e-reader or iPhone, a computer will do - desktop, laptop, netbook, whatever.

If you haven't tried an e-book at all, or only a plain vanilla free download from somewhere like Project Gutenberg, why not try one from here?  You can try a novel for under $5.  What about being an art teacher and being able to fling open a page of the artist trading cards book (which weighs a bit in the real world, with its quality paper to reproduce the images)?



Film: The Eagle of the Ninth

Rosemary Sutcliff's wonderful historical novels got spiffing new covers a while ago (and have certainly been borrowed LOTS more than the old editions), and although there was a TV series of The Eagle of the Ninth some years ago (1977), it's now being filmed for cinematic release some time in 2010.

No release date as yet on the IMDB entry, but check back in a while...  The image above is from here, where you'll find more pictures.
Hmmm.  Think I'll use these for my next Trailer Time, until I have a trailer to show... It's a film/movie I'll look forward to.
There's a really extensive article about Rosemary Sutcliff here - life, working methods, books, bibliography.