Monthly Archives: March 2010

Aha! Publishers respond to changing trends. But when will we see files borrowed from libraries?

The UK branch of Dorling Kindersley presented this at a sales conference, but decided to release it publicly after the response they received internally. They commissioned Khaki films to produce it and you can read about the process on the Penguin Blog (USA).

I see young people at my school continuing to read voraciously. Not all of them obviously, but we do have readers who go through five or more novels a week. One of our challenges is to keep the new fiction up to their requirements! We have three Kindles, and will begin lending them out for a week at a time next term. We’ve decided to not invest in more of them and are awaiting the release of the iPad to see how that looks. But really, the reader device is not our big issue. I don’t see us purchasing these devices in bulk and borrowing them out. I see our clientele having a device (their own computers can fulfill this purpose!) and we as a library lending out a file.

Our big issue is, how is the publishing industry going to respond to the rollout of a device like the iPad, and how will we as Libraries be involved? My personal opinion is that I think the iPad is going to be the start of the revolution that will see an ereader device have a major impact on the way people read. But the tricky question for libraries will be, how do we become a part of that revolution??

Unless I’ve missed something somewhere, I’m not seeing this essential question being answered in the networks I inhabit or by the publishing industry. I did discuss it with the developer of the library system we have just moved to, and he was talking about having the ability to encrypt files so that they could be transferred to a device, but they would only remain on the device for a two week period. When that time was up, they would once again appear as a file available for borrowing. Now that made sense to me; in fact, it was the first time someone had presented an idea that I thought was even feasible.

The same issue relates to audiobooks. One of our students had a wonderful conversation with me last week about the great things she can access on iTunes. She’s not an able reader, and her mother had suggested she download the audio version of the text they are studying at Year 10 to her iPhone. She has been listening to it on the bus on the way to school and was telling me how she was now able to understand and contribute to class discussion. This was just wonderful; I was so thrilled for her because I know she struggles with English classes. She suggested that we download the book and share it with students. I had to explain to her that we would have to ensure that we loaned it out as a file, but only one student at a time could access it because of copyright considerations. Now, how do we go about doing just that? How do we ensure that the file we loan isn’t copied and transferred to someone else? How do we enable producers of content to receive their rightful royalties for the work they have produced?

Are there answers out there to these questions? If there are, point me in the right direction, because I want to make my library relevant to the kids we teach. I want to see them able to borrow files like these and not have to fork out money to pay for everything they want to read on an ereader or listen to on an iPod or other MP3 device. I want my library to fulfill the function libraries have been performing for the last century or so; ensuring access to information.

The way information is accessible is changing; the way Libraries lend content will change with these new ways of receiving information. Let’s work out how we’re going to go about doing it.

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ACER’s Digital Education Research Network launched

For quite some time, I’ve been of the opinion that those of us pushing boundaries with our use of technology in education are in need of the support of the research community. Too many of us seem to be up against school administrations who are not willing to allow teachers to push their classrooms into online spaces and use the communicative potential of the web. We share our stories and successes with one another in our networks, but they can be viewed as anecdotal and pushed aside or disregarded by those unwillingly to open their eyes to new ideas. It seems to me that administrators trust the findings of researchers, particularly an organisation like the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER). That’s why I’m excited about the launch of the Digital Education Research Network. (DERN)

But first, full disclosure. Gerry White, Principal Research Fellow in Digital Learning for ACER, invited me last year to join a Reference Group helping to inform ACER about the establishment of this network.  I was very impressed to see ACER reaching out to a grassrooots educator who could provide some perspective of informal online networks, and the efforts educators in this area are making with new and emerging technologies for learning purposes.

The site has just been launched. Here’s what it’s about from the front page;

Digital Education Research Network (DERN) is a network of researchers interested in research about education and the use of digital technologies to improve teaching and learning. It focuses mainly on Australian research although not exclusively. DERN is looking for research evidence about good educational and learning practices. Please join us to share your insights into and knowledge of research into teaching and learning using digital technologies.

The network allows you to sign up but you will need to wait for your membership to be approved. This is a big move for ACER, an organisation that forms the basis of much of the education research coming out of this country. The site contains links to research organisations worldwide, and will be peppered with articles to support all of us in our understanding of the types of research we can draw on to support us in our  efforts to validate the work we are doing with our students. There exists the ability to contribute your ideas through discussion tabs and posting comments on blog posts.

It’s not as intuitive as a Ning site, but I’m impressed that outreach has been initiated and there is acknowledgment that teachers who have accrued knowledge are welcome;

“Users of DERN may be experts in ICT, media, pedagogy, emerging technologies and related areas and are probably well briefed in the area of elearning research, as well as scholars seeking details about what research has been done, possibly for their own research purposes.”

(DERN’s About page)

I’d encourage you to sign up and read Kathryn Moyle’sBuilding Innovation: Learning with Technologies‘. Those of us who have been talking about the need for systemic change will find this paper written for the Australian Education Review illuminating. The foreward is written by James Bosco, Professor Emeritus in Education Studies at Western Michigan University. I practically stood up and applauded when I read James’ words;

Teachers, principals, and other school personnel who have acquired new techniques, and who function within the existing structural context of schools, are often discordant elements – aberrations. If they are sufficiently motivated and persistent, they may be able to make good use of their capability, despite incompatibilities with the existing situation. But to expect them to move the school system into harmony with their preferred practice is to expect too much. Their good work may last only until they burn out or move on.

Hear, hear! Kathryn’s paper addresses how our education system can respond to emerging technologies and their value to assist the learning process. Kathryn says;

“Including technologies in teaching and learning requires a reconceptualisation of the curriculum and how it can be taught. Using technologies to simply replace blackboards with whiteboards and pens with computers and word processors does not constitute a reconceptualisation of teaching and learning, nor the nature of school education. Such an approach will not support students to ‘learn, unlearn, and relearn’.” (p.4)

Kathryn makes very interesting observations regarding proprietary software and the hold it has within our education systems;

“Almost all Australian schools provide Microsoft Office® on their computers. Individual schools and most of the Australian state and territory departments of education have signed contracts with the Microsoft® Corporation for the provision of operating systems and other software. The recurrent costs to taxpayers, for school students to simply boot-up a computer at school is, nationally, millions of dollars each year (Moyle, 2003). This widespread deployment of Microsoft® products establishes a ‘commonsense’ view (Gramsci, 1971) of the necessity for its products. At the same time the company receives legitimation and authority through the state for its products, given they are considered suitable for use in Australian schools. This acceptance of the commonsense value of particular software products over others then puts pressure on parents to have and maintain compatible software at home: the marketing strategy is circular, complete and self-sustaining.” (p.18/19)

Kathryn makes the case for a shift to open source alternatives, saving schools thousands of dollars, and potentially freeing up money that can be dedicated to the professional development of our teaching communities to enable teachers to respond to new ways of teaching and learning with emerging technologies.

In Section 4, Student’s uses of Technologies, Katherine identifies a high quality 21st Century education dependent upon;

“allowing students to discuss their learning with other students, to network and communicate with each other, to share their ideas and solutions to problems they are trying to collectively solve. Networking between students and teachers in different institutions can enrich the curricula and increase the transfer of generic and subject-related knowledge and skills between practitioners.” (p.38)

Validation for the use of a Ning environment in schools right there!

Honestly, there is so much in Kathryn’s paper you just have to read it. I couldn’t sleep the night I read it, and I think it was because I had so many ideas running through my head I was incapable of rest.

This is why a network like DERN will be worthwhile. Here we will find the research we need to read; research that will help us all to make the case for systemic change in our school systems. Change that will ultimately benefit the students in our charge and prepare them well for their future lives in a knowledge economy.

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School’s out Friday

I think we need a good Flash Mob to end our week on a high. Beach goers at Bondi Beach in November 2009 were treated to this dance extravaganza while sunning themselves on what looks like a perfect Spring day.It was organised by DJ Dan Murphy and stars one of Australia’s most famous drag queens – Joyce Maynge. I love it, just like I love all flash mob events where people let their guard down and have fun entertaining the unsuspecting public.

School holidays are finally here for those of us teaching in Australia. Two weeks of Autumnal bliss. I just hope the perfect weather we’ve been having will hold out and we can enjoy the sun (and the odd Coffee shop or two). The ACEC Conference is fast approaching so I’ll be a tad busy putting together three presentations I am delivering there.

Enjoy your weekend. Make the most of whatever comes your way. : )

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School’s out Friday

OK. This is seriously quirky. It’s Marcus Brown’s reading of Hugh McLeod’s tweets. And he’s doing this while sitting on a toilet. There are a whole series of these on Vimeo, and I could see how you could become strangely addicted to them. Another person out there making a name for themselves, in an albeit interesting fashion!

Very happy to see the weekend appearing. The weather in Melbourne this week has been wonderful, and I kept thinking of lazy days sitting at coffee shops, soaking up the sun and just chillin’. Instead, I was spending every spare minute helping Year 9 students with their first big essay! Hopefully I’ll be able to hit a coffee shop sometime in the next 48 hrs. Think I deserve it!
Enjoy whatever comes your way. : )

more about "School’s out Friday", posted with vodpod

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Liana’s second guest post – The Sustainable Table

Liana Gooch teaches at Toorak College with me and is one of the hardest working people I know. She was part of our PLP group and has really tried to embrace new technologies into her teaching practice. She holds the position of Academic Enhancement Coordinator, and goes out of her way to try to create interesting learnng opportunities for the students at our school. I asked Liana to share with you the inquiry project she ran at the end of last year with our Yr 8 students. It was called ‘The Sustainable Table’ and I can vouch for the fact that it had our students immersed in a learning experience in the final days of the school year (and we all know how hard it can be to hold their attention at that time, when reports are written and there are no assessment tasks to complete!). This is Liana’s second guest post; it’s wonderful having a colleague willing to share her work with others.

So, take it away Liana!

The Sustainable Table – creating a recipe for the future

It may not be so apparent but your dinner table is the reflection of how well you apply the sustainability of food resources.  Have you ever wondered how far that apple that you’re eating has travelled or felt guilty about the amount of food we waste?

The two questions above were just part of the collection of thoughts Year 8 students at Toorak College have considered over the last two years in the highly successful inquiry ‘What does the sustainable table look like’?

Motivated by the global food shortages and related price hikes in 2008 which saw desperate people in developing countries such as Haiti resort to rioting, we were keen to develop an inquiry which not only informed students but developed some practical strategies which they could apply to their own lives.  There were two key objectives of the inquiry:

- How can we shift our students’ awareness and understanding of sustainability as being a practice not just being observed at a global or national level, but one that can occur in their individual lives as simple as changing some of their practices in the kitchen?

- Just as important, how could we as teachers ensure our delivery of the concept of sustainability is both inspirational and engaging so that students would be keen to adopt these practices from a young age?

The answer came in the form of an inquiry which would culminate in a sustainable afternoon tea which would not only demonstrate the students’ understanding and application of sustainable cooking practices for their guests, but would create an innovative platform for them to inform the wider school community about their findings.

The inquiry involved a successful partnership between several disciplines – Food Technology, Humanities, English and Science.  In the past we had conducted many inquiries between English, Humanities and Science so it was exciting to bring Food Technology on board. We wanted a project which students could get their teeth into, and the work conducted on cooking sustainably in Food Technology classes proved a perfect stage to initiate the project, and then merge with the concept of sustainability from a Humanities perspective. Students had been working with Giselle Wilkinson’s book ‘The Conscious Cook’ which provided students with  a range of insightful and practical approaches, ideas and recipes to assist with becoming more sustainable in the kitchen.  Students have been extremely fortunate to have had Giselle Wilkinson present ideas about food sustainability in the launch of the inquiry. Students acquired formal writing skills in their English classes in the preparation of invitation for guests to attend a sustainable afternoon tea.  During the introduction, a Science teacher explored the idea of food wastage experienced from paddock to plate.

Blended through this project was the commitment to the Toorak Attributes in which students were developing and demonstrating the ability to become more Community minded and Communicative and Innovative in their inquiry work.

Running over two days, students were initially exposed to a variety of ideas which they would then explore through their own inquiry depending on their choice of topic.

  • There are different cultural attitudes towards the choices of food we make.
    • The choices of food and cooking methods we apply can have a huge environmental impact
    • There are some sustainable choices to be made related to cooking which can reduce their environmental footprint.
    • There are a number of issues related to social and environmental sustainability and food.
    • Individual small actions can still make a huge contribution to sustainability.

Some examples of topics explored by students were: genetically modified food, feeding the world, food miles, fair trade, animal rights, food waste, pesticides, water sustainability, greenhouse warming.

Students became enthused about their inquiry upon discovering what their task entailed over the two days:

  • The preparation of an annotated page of recipes for a recipe book to inform people about strategies to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle in the kitchen.
  • The creation of a placemat related to their inquiry to inform people about sustainability and food.
  • The organisation and preparation an afternoon tea which is composed of sustainable snacks made by the students.
  • Preparation of an oral presentation about aspects of their inquiry to their guests.
  • The development of an appreciation for sustainability.
  • The development of literacy and communicative skills.

The scope for developing leadership and communicative skills was enormous. Each group had to work industriously and creatively to not only inquire about their topic but also to prepare invitations, recipes, place mats, an oral presentation as well as a themed table setting (following a demonstration by the Food Technology teacher of some creative and innovative approaches). Careful consideration had to be taken in the selection of their materials used for their table setting and meals.

The morning of the afternoon tea saw students cooking up a storm of activity. The rooms were filled with an array of inquiry products receiving finishing touches, coloured serviettes, clattering trays, food goods being transported to kitchens, flower arrangements and fluttering tablecloths.

The fruits of the students’ labour could be seen in the form of some inspiring presentations and products created for their inquiry. A real sense of achievement was sensed as guests wandered around the room and was seated to enjoy their afternoon tea while learning about sustainability.  Finally, the students were able to take a copy of all of the groups’ annotated recipes to continue applying the concept of sustainable living in the kitchen at home.

All in all, both students and teachers thoroughly enjoyed this engaging and thoroughly practical experiential approach to inquiry.

I hope you can see the effort and commitment shared by everyone involved in this project; teachers and students alike. Perhaps you can take some of this and adapt it for your own school. Liana would love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment if you can. : )

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Melina Marchetta – a passion based learning success story

I visited the State Library of Victoria with students from my school today to hear Melina Marchetta talk about her latest novel, ‘The Piper’s Son‘. It was a discussion session, artfully facilitated by Penni Russon, a young adult writer (and blogger!). Thanks go to The Centre for Youth Literature for organising the event.

What was most fascinating for me was Melina’s revelation that she did not complete secondary schooling. She left at 15, feeling intimidated by higher achieving students. She said she felt ignored as she lingered in the middle, neither here nor there, but certainly not a favoured student, not recognised for having talent. A remarkable revelation from an award winning Australian author who now writes for a living on a full time basis.

What she did do when she left school was to read voraciously, explore what she was passionate about, and begin the writing of what would become ‘Looking for Alibrandi‘, a hugely successful young adult novel that has adorned many a school’s book lists and been made into a motion picture.

I teach students who I know want to become authors. Our English curriculum in the early secondary years caters for their creative talents, but later on, we’re in the game of fine tuning essay writing skills and ensuring they can analyse issues. Somewhere along the line, we lose sight of nurturing the creative writing talents of many of our students. We lose sight of allowing our students to explore the passion they might hold for something that really interests them, be it manga drawing, or movie production, or jewellery making. And that, my friends, is a darn shame.

Melina also discussed her work as a teacher for a ten year period. Obviously, she did not let her inability to complete secondary schooling stop her from pursuing an academic career. I often talk with my students and discuss the fact that there are many pathways you can take to the achievement of a goal; an enter score is not necessarily the be all and end all of one’s existence.

Lots of food for thought from Melina today. She embodies a great deal of what is occupying my mind of late. More on that in another blog post to come!

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School’s out Friday

Two students from my school presented at a conference held at my school yesterday. Both were students who participated in Sleepout for Schools last year. They were explaining to the participants how you go about using the tools of social media to communicate with others and perhaps get others to join you. They used ‘The Girl Effect‘ to finish their presentation. I was really pleased that they’d found this themselves, and knew that it was going to be something that really helps to illustrate how social media can convey a strong message.

And because this is School’s out Friday, I just had to include ‘The Boy Effect‘, a parody of ‘The Girl Effect’ made by Alex Fropple for a Geo project. Another example of someone using social media in an interesting way! Alex is quick to note in the description on YouTube that he doesn’t want to belittle the message of the original video, and nor do I. But it is funny, and worthy of School’s out Friday.

It’s been a full on week, even with a public holiday on Monday. My dog went missing on Wednesday and that didn’t help matters. Thankfully she’s home now, and we’re $130.00 the poorer for it!

Have a great weekend. Sunshine all round here in Melbourne. Lovely Autumnal weather. Warm days and cool nights. Just right!

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