Thursday, May 27, 2010

What is Evernote and why would I use it?

Evernote's on my horizon, but not yet part of my daily practice (when you can't install applications on work computers, it does have an impact).  But it might be... and this blog entry has a comprehensive look at how it's useful for collecting and sorting information.



Found via Twitter @willrich45

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In praise of teachers...

Feeling like it's hump day, Wednesday, a bit teacher-weary?

Read this entry on the Alien Onion blog.  It's fabulous.

If I was making my own list:

Mrs B, who let the school choir sing the latest cool music, like Fernando by Abba.  Even if it was transposed up so we had to screech in some sections.  And who taught me the soprano descant for Silent Night.  I can still sing it.

Mr B, who loved putting on school musicals, so we got to be a part of that wonderful experience - yay for Oklahoma!

Mrs A, the fiercest, most uncompromising PE teacher ever - and the one we most wanted to have

Mrs B, (a different one) who showed me a little of the beauty of mathematical equations.  I bought a calculator after my HSC and have never looked back, but still remember that aha! moment.

Ms B (a third one!), who made 3 unit English a joy - Romeo and Juliet, Ted Hughes - still some of the best literature study I've experienced

Mrs ?? whose name eludes me, but whose weekly coloured chalk illustrations from children's books made her term as primary teacher librarian when I was in grade 5 utterly memorable

Mrs E, who taught Ancient History with style, verve, and many handwritten purple fordigraph sheets: I've never forgotten that Alcibiades won the trifecta.  Or that scent of metho from freshly-produced fordigraph sheets...

At tertiary level:

WC: best English literature tutor ever.

MH, who inspired me to be a teacher librarian.  Thank you.

Who would be on your list?



who once had one of my Year 12 students say how much she remembered my salad sandwiches.  Right.  You never know the impact you're going to have...!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Have you discovered Instructables?

Recently, I needed origami instructions for a dead simple box (a Year 7 class assignment had the class members voting on each other's work, and so each kid needed a box for the raffle ticket 'voting slips').  Googlegooglegoogle and this box from Instructables is perfect - simple, fast, works with any rectangle of paper/cardboard.

Instructables (Make, How-To and DIY), if you haven't come across it, is an almost inexhaustible supply of how-to, from the sublime to the Unusual, and every byway in between.  Here, for example, are some of the links from the home page when I looked at it recently:
And so it goes.  Usually step by step pictures with instructions on the tools and materials you need, sometimes video tutorials as well.  A cornucopia of ideas.

One to share with a whole lot of faculties - Science, Industrial Arts, Design and Technology, Agriculture....

Once again, no pics because Blogger won't play nice.  Sigh, again.



PS The science teacher who points out the absence of science-y entries on this blog can note that's two science-relevant entries in two days...!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Better Health Channel - excellent, reliable health info

If your students (or teachers eg. in PE or Science or Home Ec.) are after reliable health/medical information from an Australian source, try the Victorian government's Better Health Channel website.  Fact sheets, patient info, image library, quizzes, medical dictionary, medicines guide, a whole kit and caboodle of stuff that's a safer bet than Wikipedia (where, apart from the issue of veracity, you sometimes run into techno-vocabulary that's beyond the scope of school kids). 

The site will often come up high in Google searches, but why not direct the kids straight to a good site, rather than letting them loose in the wilderness that is health info on the internet?  The language level is accessible and clear for kids to understand, and the fact that it's Australian is important (if you're in Australia) - recipes reflect local ingredients, medicines have their correct local names, further links to support groups etc aren't going to recommend a fabulous organisation in Idaho or Yorkshire...

I was going to include a graphic (the site logo), but Blogger didn't want to play. Again. Sigh.



Friday, May 21, 2010

What is in books? And libraries?

Every week in the Good Weekend magazine that comes with the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald, there is a page/article called Favourite Things.  I haven't found it on the SMH website, so I can't give you a link.

Favourite Things features someone showing their three favourite things.  It's an intriguing way to get an insight into someone, and likewise the array of favourite things ranges from the sublime to the bizarre, with every possible byway in between.

Last weekend the subject was Chris McAuliffe, Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art (in Victoria).  Among his favourite things, three wooden signs: "Easy Books", "Reference Only", "Adult Non-fiction".

Succumbing to the attractions of the second-hand, McAuliffe scopped these signs at a NSW garage sale.  Originally from Ballina Public Library, they help order the McAuliffe's country Victorian home, where thousands of books threated to overwhlem.  "My ideal abode would be a library with bathroom and kitchen attached," says McAuliffe.  "I counted all the books we had lying around recently and we had 250 books on the floor, on a table.  Anywhere you turn you've got an idea, an encounter, a voice.  Minimalist living doesn't appeal.  "If I go to someone's house, I will get on my hands and knees and go thruogh their record collection.  I prefer an overt display, an admission of interests.  That's what makes people intriguing."

My favourite part of this (apart from the library signs, which I covet):

Anywhere you turn you've got an idea, an encounter, a voice.

That's what's in books.  And in libraries, in various forms and formats.

It could be an interesting idea for a library display - defining someone/people by having three of their favourite things on display.  Maybe a competition?  Book Week idea?  General library promotion idea?  

tick tick tick goes the brain....



Thursday, May 20, 2010

Heads-up! TedXSydney this weekend.

If you don't know about TED, you should.  If you want to experience TED, TEDXSydney is on this weekend - you can go to the Carriageworks, or view the live webstream.  Brief talks on a fascinating range of subjects from an extraordinary range of speakers.

TedXSydney has the program and all you need to know.  If you want a flavour of TED, click on the TED tag at the end of this blog entry for some earlier entries where I've highlighted TED resources for schools.



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Facebook privacy options

While going through our DER laptop student responsibilities with Year 9 last Friday, I touched on social networking and privacy.  At present, they can't access social networking on their DER laptops at home or at school, but this may change in the future; and right now, they certainly are using social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

Facebook Privacy: a bewildering tangle of options is a New York Times article with a detailed graphic illustrating just how many privacy options there are - and where - in Facebook.  On the one hand, it's complex enough to make lots of people (including students) toss up their hands and run in the other direction.  On the other hand, if you do, then the choice is letting far more information than you may wish or realise become public.

One to share with students and staff.

Added later, from Twitter:



Friday, May 14, 2010

Fascinating reading: govt inquiry into Australian school libraries

If you're interested in school libraries and teacher librarianship, now and into the future, find a comfy seat, make yourself a cuppa and set aside some serious reading time to spend with the transcripts of the hearings associated with the Australian Government inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools.  For example, the Sydney hearings on 28 April.

For the inquiry's home page, where you can find more links to hearings transcripts and submissions, click here.



Thursday, May 13, 2010

DER laptops Year Two & Digital Citizenship

After a delightful time at the Mantle conference in Newcastle, it's been full steam ahead at school on the technology front, as our Year 9 Digital Education Revolution laptops are being distributed this week.  I've fished out my seven things to try week 1 list and will be going through that and the revised Student Responsibilities part of our school's laptop policy at a staff meeting.  Tomorrow, with the Year 9s, they get to Experience my PowerPoint on Student Responsibilities in period 1, before the handout begins.  I wonder if their eyes and ears will function? - they can't wait to get their laptops.

Word is that the NSW DER team are preparing teaching materials on digital citizenship which will be available next term, so if that's an area your school is looking at, it's good to know that resources are on the way.  If you need resources now, there's LOTS of digital citizenship material around on the net: eg. the nine elements at, BrainPop's animations and activities, and the Australian Government's Cybersmart website.



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mr Picasso Head

Some things just have to be shared, don't they?

For your viewing pleasure, Mr Picasso Head.  What's not to like?  Tell your Visual Arts teachers, too, and watch them be appalled.  Or delighted.  Or both!



Found via

Monday, May 10, 2010

How to link/embed YouTube videos into PowerPoint 2007

Our DER laptops for Year 9 will be distributed at the end of the week, so I'm busy putting together the PowerPoint for the first period, on school rules/policy reminders.  The laptops will then be issued, period by period, and in the last period of the day, I've been asked to address the whole year group (200+ kids...)again, on 'stuff like copyright and things they need to know'.  So that's another PowerPoint, with the slightly more formal title of "Digital Citizenship".  (Rumpestilskin, where are you??? - two major PowerPoints to prepare in under a week...).

However endlessly entrancing I may find my own voice, and however utterly brilll-y-unt I may be at holding an audience of 200+ year nine students for nearly an hour... (twice in one day!) I know that there must be some great things out there on digital citizenship, cybersafety, copyright and so forth to add different voices/change the pace/keep their interest.  And there are.  I'll share some of them this week on the blog.

Having found some useful YouTube videos, my next challenge was working out how to put a YouTube video into a PowerPoint, because I haven't done that before.  Google google google and here's the most useful set of instructions I found.  It's from Clay's Blog, and specifically refers to PowerPoint 2007.    The Captivate animation to show you how has a broken link on the above page (it's his new site) but works on his old site - click here to see how-to, step by step.

My one variation is that I paste the original URL into the Note section of the PowerPoint slide for future reference, then paste it again to edit it as the instructions outline (I can delete this second one once it's in the Properties - the Properties Movie window where it has to go is teenytiny).  If this makes NO sense, read his instructions/watch the Captivate demo and then it will.

You still need to have the computer showing the PowerPoint being connected to the internet during the presentation - this links rather than embeds.  It still means that you don't have to clunk out of the Presentation and over to a browser, but just instead click on a Play button.

Hey! Something new I've learned how to do, and something to share with colleagues and the kids.



Friday, May 7, 2010

Whatever happened to the book?

OK, this isn't one to give half an eye over a cup of coffee while six kids ask you six entirely different questions, from photocopier operation to the third Melissa Marr book (it's Fragile Eternity, and the next to be published is called Radiant Shadows - there's a book trailer for that on her site, too).

Where was I?

Mark Pesce has written a long, thoughtful analysis of e-books, e-texts, hypertexts, digital texts, what reading means in the context of these: he covers a whole bunch of stuff in an intellectual discussion that's definitely worth reading and digesting.  Whatever Happened To The Book?



Discovered via @RossJTodd on Twitter.  Read another blogger's post about this at Darcy Moore's blog here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

An author on e-books and the future of reading.

Author Anna Quindlen writes about the future of reading for Newsweek - print books, e-books, reading itself.

The conclusion of her article:

As Kafka once said, "A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us."

Reading is not simply an intellectual pursuit but an emotional and spiritual one. It lights the candle in the hurricane lamp of self; that's why it survives. There are book clubs and book Web sites and books on tape and books online. There are still millions of people who like the paper version, at least for now. And if that changes—well, what is a book, really? Is it its body, or its soul? Would Dickens have recognized a paperback of A Christmas Carol, or, for that matter, a Braille version? Even on a cell-phone screen, Tiny Tim can God-bless us, every one.

Cheers, and more cheers for the axe and the candle

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

75 vampire books and counting...

The US National Public Radio program, All Things Considered, recently did a program on vampire fiction.  Including a list of seventy five vampire books read by Margot Adler.  Read her article and list, For love of do-good vampires: a bloody book list, or you can listen to it at that link too.  It's an interesting historical analysis of the vampire genre in fiction and on film and television - why they intrigue us, why this genre, constantly reinvented, sustains its appeal.

Not to be picky or nuffink, bu she misses the best one (as I note was pointed out in at least one comment at the end of the article):

Sunshine, by Robin McKinley.  My absolute favourite.  I've blogged about it before, and re-read it every year or two, to savour it again.  Wonderful writing, fabulous world-building, great characters.

From a school library point of view, the list isn't specifically compiled for a teenage audience, so don't assume all the titles are Safe For The Young and instant school-library-adds.  But it's a great resource.



PS. found the link via the blog at

Monday, May 3, 2010

Teacher librarians: news reports, govt inquiry

Thought I'd collate a few reports/links here, for your reference and mine.

Recent news reports:
  • Faithful few left to keep Dewey alive in a download world by Natalie Craig in the Sunday Age, May 2, 2010.  It begins: Rudd's billions are building thousands of school libraries. But, who will staff them?...More than 90 per cent of teacher-librarians in Australia are believed to be over 40, compared to half of teachers generally. Many teacher-librarians also retire early because of a lack of promotional opportunities.  Meanwhile, there are just four tertiary courses nationally to train them, from a peak of 15, and only about 100 graduates a year.
  • Teacher librarian numbers in 'death spiral'.  Posted April 30, 2010 13:03:00 on  It begins:  There is concern over a massive decline in the number of teacher librarians in Tasmanian schools.  A Parliamentary Committee hearing in Hobart has been told there are just 29 qualified teacher librarians across Tasmania's 215 primary and secondary schools.  That figure is down from 109, 15 years ago.

Australian Government inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians.

Death spiral?  Faithful few?  I started work as a teacher librarian in my twenties, and now find myself in that 90%.  Current research shows over and over again the positive impact on learning that teacher librarians have.  It will be most interesting to see the outcome of the Australian government inquiry.



Internet safety: Teaching about the web includes the troublesome parts

There's some discussion of this going on around the traps internet safety, cyberbullying, the dangers of the social networking online.

Teaching about the web includes the troublesome parts by Stephanie Clifford in the New York Times

Common Sense’s classes, based on research by Howard Gardner, a Harvard psychology and education professor, are grouped into topics he calls “ethical fault lines”: identity (how do you present yourself online?); privacy (the world can see everything you write); ownership (plagiarism, reproducing creative work); credibility (legitimate sources of information); and community (interacting with others).

Here's a link to the (coming soon) curriuculum documents - there is a preview of the privacy unit. 

Edited by Howard Gardiner: Young people, ethics and the new digital media (link to a free pdf).

 Cyberbullying report from the ABC's 7.30 Report:

In a recent study one in four teenage students said they'd been bullied in the previous few weeks. A conference in Melbourne starting later this week will examine why schools aren't able to properly tackle the problem, and whether bullying itself should be made a crime.

This report spends time on teacher unfamiliarity with social media, and teachers' lack of training, as being part of the reason for the problem.

I am not abrogating the role schools and teachers can play in educating to reduce/eliminate cyberbullying, but surely it's not down to schools alone to solve this (if indeed it can be entirely eliminated/solved)?

I've done a short presentation on cybersafety at the Year 11 Crossroads program these last few years, so it will be good to incorporate material from these resources.