Monday, February 28, 2011

Need to Want: brilliant flashcards

One of my most consistently useful Twitter contacts is @brainpicker.  I'm often bookmarking links from those tweets.  The associated blog, Brain Pickings, is also worth delving through for gems, ideas, inspiration.  For example, this entry on Erin Hanson's Need to Want series.
I enjoyed Brain Pickings' analysis of these.

The ones I've chosen for here are the ones that most caught my attention as being of use for the study skills program I'm doing for Year 11 this term.

It's not what the kids will expect: always a good way to grab their attention and get them learning in spite of themselves.  I suspect this next one won't be the most popular with them, though.

Find the whole set here (source of these images), and the philosophy informing it:

And can buy prints of these from the artist at her online shop here.  (if you can't see the one you want, convo her (that's Etsyspeak for contact via Etsy email)).


Friday, February 25, 2011

Free images for education

If there is a better list of images for educational use (that are free) than the one assembled and blogged on Edubeacon, let me know.  But I suspect not.  Don't forget to share this one with your teaching colleagues.



Thursday, February 24, 2011

GIFSL* 57: Display banned books

Another infographic from, this time on the most controversial books in the US.

Interactive mage linkArticle/info link.

If you want a longer list, try the ALA site section about banned/challenged books.

One creative Australian teacher librarian of my acquaintance set up a display of banned books in her school library - To Kill a Mockingbird etc - items readily available in her library but which had been subject to censorship/challenge historically/currently.  They were borrowed with great alacrity, and all sorts of interesting discussions ensued, in her student reading circle and beyond.  I haven't tried this one yet, but it's on my list... Maybe a co-operative venture with the English staff?



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

App of the Week: Hipstamatic

(oops, I missed a couple of weeks for apps.  But this one's brilliant!)

Shortly after acquiring an iPhone, I was told in no uncertain terms that I MUST buy Hipstamatic.  Essential.  Brilliant.  A mere $2.49AU for the basic app (you can add Hipstapaks for around $1.99 each).

What does it do?

It adds another camera option to your iPhone or iPod Touch.  You get a variety of lenses (I use John S the most) and films (my faves at present are Kodot and Float).  Choose a lens and a film (by clicking through your choices within the app), and take a photo.  As opposed to the plain vanilla of the iPhone's ordinary camera, Hipstamatic adds mood and a different look - vintage, textured, not at all plain vanilla.

iPhone camera image of our library's entrance:

and here's a Hipstamatic version of the same:

I was in Sydney recently, and took this Hipstamatic photo at Circular Quay (it's with a different film to the one above):
Moody, broody, and a different look without fancy photo-editing.  Walked past the head office of the Department of Education (my employer), which is one of the beautiful historic Sydney sandstone offices, and here's how it can look:

So how can you use it for education?

Take photos.  Not just for art, but for all sorts of other things.  One of our English teachers wanted to use the images from a book of fantasy landscapes to inspire his senior students in their creative writing.  Sure, we could have just scanned the images from the book for a photo slideshow; but take them with Hipstamatic, and they acquired another level of mood and inspiration:

Photo from Drawing and painting fantasy landscapes by Rob Alexander and Martin McKenna

But it's not a serious camera, is it?

How about featuring in a Visual Arts major work selected for inclusion in Art Express 2011 (click for more) and currently on display at the Art Gallery of NSW?

Yup.  All those portraits were taken with Hipstamatic.  Find these two images on the Art Express website here.

I've barely scraped the surface of what I might try with Hipstamatic, but it's an app I've been enjoying, for myself and for its educational possibilities.  If you'd like to see more images, there's a Flickr pool with thousands of Hipstamatic photos here.  Would a 'serious' photographer use Hipstamatic in preference to 'serious' camera gear?  New York Times photographer Damon Winter used it to illustrate a story about the Afghanistan war.  Read all about it by clicking here.

Find Hipstamatic in the App Store; the Hipstamatic website is here.



PS. Disclaimer: Laura Buchanan, who created that artwork, is a relation.  And she was the one who told me to get Hipstamatic.  With the evidence above, why argue?  She's clearly an expert!  We're very proud of her.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Film trailer: I Am Number Four

Exciting a certain amount of interest among the kids is the book I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (Pittacus Lore is the pseudonym for the writing duo James Frey (author of "A Million Little Pieces") and Jobie Hughes).  The film which was in previews in Sydney cinemas this weekend might have had something to do with it.... I've put a couple of articles from Empire magazine and elsewhere (there was a whole page in last Friday's SMH Metro section)  in our display cabinet by the stairs, and a number of the kids have stopped, read, and asked for the book (it's now got a waiting list). 

I've been using the trailer as one of several in a lesson about adventures that I've been doing with Year 8 English, and it's one that gets their attention:

YouTube link:

Neither Roger Ebert nor the New York Times reviewer think particularly highly of the film (click on those links to go to the reviews) but that is unlikely to dampen enthusiasm....

The film stars Alex Pettyfer, who also stars in the remake of Beauty and the Beast, Beastly, based on the book by Alex Flinn (click on that link to my blog entry about Beastly; the release date of Beastly has apparently been delayed to see if Alex Pettyfer's performance in I Am Number Four can up the box office appeal of Beastly. still shows no Australian release date for Beastly; its US date is 4 March, hard on the heels of I am Number Four).  Beastly official site: click here.

The I Am Number Four book's publishers are keen to set it up as a series with a following: there is an 'official home' (click here)  and it has also generated at least one fansite.  Find the official film site by clicking here.



I am Number Four sourced from the NYTimes review linked above. Beastly film poster from, linked above.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bloom's Digital Taxonomy

Find the original here.  I discovered it via Twitter.  Another image to share with my senior students when discussing study skills.  Maybe a task that gets them to work out the hierarchy?......  And of course one to share with my teaching colleagues.



Thursday, February 17, 2011

21st Century Learners

and this
are both by Peter H. Reynolds and can be found at here.

Wonder what the kids would say about themselves?   Hmmm, that could be an interesting task for the Year 11 study skills program...



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

16 things kids should know about social networking

Useful list from Deb Ng on the Kommein site of tips about social networking.  No harm for some adults to review them either.  I remain astonished at what people choose to share, and how trusting some are.

OK, so you and I can read this.  And then what?  Why not find several ways to share it?  Email to students, put on your school/library website with other resources on online safety, make a few points into a library poster (that you don't display forever, because then it becomes invisible...).  This is as much a wakeup call to me, to use all this stuff I am finding as much as possible.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Powering a lightbulb: Infographics

Are you looking for some dandy graphics to explain ideas to your students (or are your teaching colleagues looking to you to do this??)? has some useful transparencies, including this one.  Site linkImage only.
Share this with your Science, Geography, Maths etc teaching colleagues, then investigate what else you can find on the site to share among their infographics (some fairly US-centric, but not all).



Monday, February 14, 2011

The happy life of teacher librarians: Today I... (a late Day in the Life)

Today I...
  • supervised the library before school and at lunch, and throughout the day
  • worked with a teacher during roll call to ensure all her class had books (and buried the 'lost library card' excuse) - we had lots of great books out on the tables and they all found something to read.  One in particular was very happy to get a brand new copy of I am Number Four - film out soon.
  • helped a teacher set up the digital projector
  • introduced a Year 8 class to adventure fiction book possibilities and found novels for individual students
  • met with the Principal and SAM regarding library SASS staffing and discussed same with my head teacher
  • discussed a future lesson combining adventure fiction and film study with an English teacher, revamping a lesson I created last year for her class, which she liked and wants to repeat this year
  • bought fundraising Valentine's Day jellybean bags (and gave them away to eager students)
  • because I'd baked Valentine's Day chocolate brownies for my staff
  • copied the file of last year's school photos for the computer co-ordinator (who ate a brownie with considerable enthusiasm)
  • discussed a work issue with another colleague
  • ate lunch with my library staff colleagues (we also ate brownies)
  • watched a short "Batman safety video" that was an obsession of one of my students.  You must watch this, Miss!  Hmm, I still prefer the so-bad-it's-good shark scene from the '60s Batman movie
  • was the recipient of three sheets of perspex from a staff member who knows I was after some (I'll show you why in a later post) - she found a cheap source and only wanted a can of Coke in return - and then was more than happy to settle for a brownie (brownie diplomacy is fine fine work!)
  • added a Jeff Kinney article to the display cabinet with book and film reviews (usually of books from films - I added a bunch of new pieces there last Friday)
  • lent and reserved and discussed books with students
  • helped some lost Year 7 kids out with a late note
  • calmed down an agitated Asperger's kid who was worried about why the book he wanted had gone from where he left it on Friday (it's called borrowing, honey, but we can reserve it for you...)
  • asked the general assistant to trim a couple of pieces of MDF for our new bookcases
  • admired the bookcase my school assistant had assembled (will show you soon when all three are done, they're FABBOBANANAS! - photos soon!) and helped put it in its planned location, where we all admired it again
  • reminded seniors of the distinction between 'study periods' and the no-go concept of 'free periods'
  • organised a student who's doing a short volunteer project with us for his Work Studies course (will post about that, too - it's a very very handy list!)
  • discussed the senior study skills program with one of my colleagues, saw her presentation draft and helped with image/Flickr/Powerpoint advice for slides with impact
  • organised the duplication of study skills materials
  • planned the worksheets needed for my study skills presentation on Thursday (topic: Ethical Assignments, a revision/reminder of HSC All My Own Work)
  • discussed/demonstrated Hipstamatic (iPhone camera app) with several people
  • shared some brownies with our wonderful cleaner
  • got to the end of the day and wondered about how fast the day had gone!

Today, I am sure, this list doesn't represent everything I did; but it's a reasonable, representatively varied and busy if inevitably incomplete, day in the life of a teacher librarian.  And tomorrow will be different again.  All the fun of the fair!  I wasn't at school during the sixth round of Library Day in the Life (I'm number 93 of about 250 on the wiki here), but figured I'd get to a reasonably representative day sometime. 

How did your day go?



Water for Elephants: film / movie trailer

As a lot of teacher librarians have probably read the book...

If that doesn't work, find the international trailer for Water for Elephants by clicking here.

Happy Library Lovers' Day!



Friday, February 11, 2011

GIFSL* no.56: Valentine's Day 2011

What's a teacher librarian to do to fancy up the library for Valentine's Day? (note: as ever, not just for pretty's sake, but to change the space, add excitement and buzz and encourage reading, to get them through the door.)

Cast your peepers over this idea:

That's made from free stuff, folks.  Catalogue/magazine pages.  The tutorial (and source of the picture) is here  but it's not at all a hard idea to play with.  Is it?  Maybe you've got kids who'd like to help?  Maybe you could have some with the names of favourite books/characters on them?  Maybe...

Go play.  Have fun.  Make your library special for your kids, so they say WOW and love being there.  Isn't that how it should be? And won't that be fun for you too?



*GIFSL = good ideas for school libraries

Thursday, February 10, 2011

So what are they doing better in Finland (in education)?

Teaching less and learning more.  Read an excellent overview with handy graphs and a video in Less is More. Teach Less, Learn More by David Truss on Connected Principals.

“This creativity aspect is very important because in Finland we believe that risk-taking, creativity and innovation are very, very important for a society like ours. And particularly working in this global and globalized world it is more important than what you actually know and remember, it is more what you are and what you are capable of doing.” ~ Pasi Sahlberg

Worth reading the whole piece - click on over.  We seem, here, to be using the UK and US as our educational models, far more than places like Finland, even though the Finnish approach is more successful.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Joy of Statistics

For all the dross and muck and pointless stuff on YouTube, there are also gems.  Here's one to share with your colleagues in Maths, Science, Social Science, and anyone else teaching students about statistics - a one hour BBC documentary with Dr Hans Rosling.  Free and available on YouTube.  Bargain.

EDITED: Hmmm.  YouTube playing games; this seems to have gone 'private' since I drafted this blog entry.

You can find the video embedded here:
and it played when I just checked it.  Other related videos on that page, too.

Original YouTube link here:

Remind your teachers to load this ahead of the lesson, so they're not waiting for it to load as they show it.

Found via the Laughing Squid.



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What is a Library? (1)

Libraries are about books, but they're also about much more than books. They're about ideas and invention and imagination and play and curiosity and wonder and hope. Yes, libraries are all about hope. They are houses of possibilities.

Phil Shapiro, Towards a National Transition Plan for Libraries, in PCWorld
So, each one of your working days you and I walk into a house of possibilities.  So what can you (and I) do today to make it so, and make it better?

Think I might find a way of displaying this quote in my library (could be handy for one of my library pieces in the regular school newsletter, too).  I notice, on reflection, that some of the words are in my word walls already - imagine, wonder, hope.  Good.

In this article, Phil Shapiro is canvassing ideas about public libraries in the future - what they're for, how they might look, design considerations.  Worth reading.



Monday, February 7, 2011

I was NOT looking for this website!

...I swear to goodness, I wasn't looking for this.  It came up quite incidentally when I was researching something else entirely.  But when, at 5.45pm after a long day at school when you tried (and failed) all day to compose and send one (long/comprehensive/program-planning) email (although a whole lot of other unplanned things were sorted out/helped with/encouraged etc); when you trip over this site, and you end up snorting Diet Coke because it's funny and sad and OMG-worthy...

...well, there's nothing to do but share it.

Click here.  Enjoy.  Be appalled (or inspired?!).  Maybe even snort Diet Coke too, as you chuckle.



PS One of the last examples includes Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy, in a font that's already old hat, if not old old antique hat.  But it's there forever.  I liked the accurately snarky comments about it....

Quote: Mark Twain

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

— Mark Twain
Found this one today.  Not sure how I might use it in the library, but it has potential for sure...

GIFSL teaser: what's this for?

Just why did I utter little cries of joy and invest in this fabric at Ikea (it's one colourway/design of Monalis, item no 70175082) to the tune of 5 metres @ $9.99/metre? For my school library?

The colours are perfect!  Look, bird houses, and subtle pink birds, and tree trunks!  Squeee!

Guesses in the comments welcome! (I'll answer, and show you, soon...)



Friday, February 4, 2011

Rap: I'm reading a book

Forwarded to me by one of the senior executive at my school:

Find it here if the above doesn't work for you:

Which I'm sure I'll find an opportunity to show!



Hunger Games film news

The Hunger Games and its two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay (how often was I asked for this before it came out???? - a gazillion times!), are rarely on our shelves, and when they are, their thumped and thumbed appearance (we have multiple copies) shows the popularity of this trilogy by Suzanne Collins. 

Don't hold your breath just yet, but a film of the first book is in production.  Release date for the movie is 2013.  The director is Gary Ross, who directed Pleasantville, one of my favourite films.  There's a bit more news about the film here from the Wall St Journal, and this is the IMDB page for The Hunger Games.

Think I might put the WSJ article in my wall cupboard, to alert the kids. 



Thursday, February 3, 2011

Measuring your use of time

Toddling about the internet, collecting resources and ideas for the senior study skills program, I came across this article: "I shipped in 2010 - you can too" by Doug Johnson on his Blue Skunk blog.  While his main focus is on the extras he did related to his work, such as conference presentations, papers and articles, one sentence jumped out at me for its use with students.

I personally measure my days not whether they were happy or unhappy, but whether they were productive or unproductive.

One aspect of my work as a teacher is talking with students about their work.  They sit in my office and tell me their successes, failures, concerns.  Sometimes, tissues are involved. It's always been part of my work, not only through mentoring programs etc but also just because I'm findable, there, a listening ear. Thinking over what they say, often enough it is about happiness - "I feel terrible" "Nothing is working" etc - stuff related to feelings/emotions.

The rest of the paragraph reads like this:

Did I have a fruitful conversation or meeting? Did I get something finished? Did I write something worth sharing? Did I read something challenging? Did I do an hour's worth of physical activity? Did I clean up a mess, revise an article, or organize something for the future? Did I do something that made my own life or someone else's just a tad better?

Looking at this idea, it's one I plan to try with students, and see how it can be worked into the study skills program, too.  Refocusing from emotions (so much trickier to wrangle) to more measurable activities/achievements that can be done/replicated and from which positive feelings can flow seems like a useful idea to play with.  I'm not saying that feelings aren't important, but rather that this is a way to get from the tissues/tears/frustrations/sense of impotence/being stuck that some of those students have when they plonk themselves in a chair in my office, and help them onwards.  From a study skills program perspective, it also points a way from the emotional to the measurable, helping students to progress.



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Valentine's Day ideas for your library

Click on the link below for some Valentine's day ideas from our library in words and pictures.  I like Valentine's as a start of year theme because it's friendly and happy for our new kids (esp. Year 7).  Our SRC or Year 12 also use it for fundraising, so our displays support/promote that too.

The banners are back,

the posters are up (printed on reds and pinks this year),

Please note this is my original and copyright wording.  You're welcome to use it in your library, but it's not for commercial use.  Copyright © Ruth Buchanan 2009.
our entrance ceiling is awash with hearts

and the bookmarks are going out the door with every loan. 

I have some pink heart-shaped post-it notes and ideas about using them...more on that another time.  Oh, and our bookcase is loaded up with pinks and reds (which includes adventure books and so forth, not just love stories or girl-oriented stories).

Read all about these ideas at the links you'll find here:



Outfitting a teacher librarian for the 21st century

If yesterday's blog entry was lowering to your spirits, here's an alternative view: Joyce Valenza on the skills needed by a teacher librarian in the 21st century:

Always handy, lists like these, so you can give yourself pats on the back for the stuff you know and new directions to explore in the things you haven't yet tried.  Doesn't just apply to teacher librarians either, but all teachers...



Tuesday, February 1, 2011