Monthly Archives: January 2012

First day, 2012

I’m home.

Tired.

Just tweeted that I felt overwhelmed.

It’s the first day back.

No kids, just meetings.

Laying out the year ahead.

Thinking about all that needs to be done.

Overwhelmed.

Tomorrow, more meetings.

I’ll be overwhelmed.

 

Wednesday will be different.

Kids will be there.

I won’t feel overwhelmed.

I’ll be invigorated by a smile.

I’ll be touched by a ‘hello’.

I’ll be lifted by excited voices.

I’ll see people at their best.

I’ll feel connected to something important.

I’ll see purpose in my work.

I’ll be home.

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School’s out Friday

This is the winner of the 2012 Chevy Superbowl competition, designed to outsource production of a commercial that would appear during the American NFL Superbowl final. Interestingly, one of the comments in the YouTube comment thread was this,

“Ok, I counted at least 24 occurrences of the US Flag in the background. How many did u count?” Bmbhere

It made me go back to watch it again as it was something I hadn’t picked up on when I first viewed it. I bet you take a second look too!

Beautiful weather here in Melbourne at the moment. A glorious weekend awaits, as does a return to school on Monday. That’ll be a bit of a shock to the system after what has been a wonderful and restful holiday break.

Make the most of your weekend. Hope the sun shines on you. : )

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Contextualising life

Watching an episode of Modern Family had me thinking about the importance of being able to have a context for understanding of so many things we are confronted with on a daily basis. Cameron, the big gay guy, was wandering the streets looking for Stella, the lost dog Jay adores. As he shouts out ‘Stella’, he realises he is wearing a tshirt very like the one worn by Marlon Brando who played Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee William’s, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire‘. His cries for Stella become more impassioned as a result. For me, the joke was obvious, but my two children, having no context, had to ask why was I laughing.

Today, I was reading an answer on Quora, and it made mention of Alexander the Great and Bucephalus. I was immediately taken back to my obsession with all things Ancient Greek in my first year at Teacher’s College. But once again, it had me wondering. How many times a day do we not entirely grasp the full intentions of information we read or view, because we don’t have enough context to understand it in it’s entirety? How much does our formal education play a part in our general knowledge base, and is that determined by the teachers you had or your ability to ferret for information yourself?

In Victoria’s VCE English curriculum, Area of Study 2 requires students to study a central theme or idea, and be inspired to write from a variety of texts, be they print or visual. I’m teaching Year 10 English this year, and we are beginning our course with a thematic study in a similar vein to what the student’s will encounter in Area of Study 2 in VCE. In past years, students have created a hard copy folio of stimulas material, but this year, we are going to have our students use Storify for the same purpose. Storify is a fantastic curation tool, and is currently being used by individuals, corporations and news organisations around the world to report on current events.

I can’t help but think that the students with a broad general knowledge base have the advantage over others when it comes to formulating a response to Area of Study 2. Hopefully, the use of a tool like Storify will help our students comprehend the importance of reading widely and accessing a variety of sources to help formulate understanding.

I know that when I introduce this topic, I’ll be talking about the importance of being well read and able to contextualise life. School’s purpose is not just to get students through the final exams of year 12 with a decent enough ATAR score to get them into University courses. We’re helping to prepare these young people for the rest of their lives, and we want them to know how important it is to have context for understanding. I think I might just get Cam and Marlon to help me make my point.

 

 

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Freedom vs Control – important lessons to be learned

Cyber crime expect Mikko Hypponen delivered a talk at the TEDxBrussels event that has made it this week onto the TED site. If you’re at all interested in conversations surrounding privacy in this digital age, then it’s 10 minutes well invested.

As teachers, we need to understand the implications of our use of the Internet and we should be helping our students understand it too. Mikko makes the comment in this talk that he believes you are more likely to become a victim of crime in the online world than in the real world. How many of us think about whether or not trojan viruses have infected our computers after visiting a site? Do we ever think that our keystrokes may be being monitored by a criminal hoping to gain password or credit card details?

How many people have any understanding of what a https site is in the first place and how you know if a site has an extended validation certificate? If you’re unclear, head over to “20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web“, a really helpful guide written in easy to understand language that won’t befuddle you. It was published by the Google Chrome team in 2010, and is a very handy reference point for anyone wanting to know more about the code, browsers, security risks, and a myriad of other eye opening details about how the Web works. I teach a Yr 7 Information Technology class and I’ve found it very helpful to support my understanding, and the understanding of the students I teach.

Mikko identifies three types of online attacks threatening our privacy and data. Criminals, looking for avenues to steal our money, hacktivists, (groups like Anonymous) who hack as means of protesting, and Nation States, who are apparently willingly infecting suspected citizens computers in order to collect information about them. Worrying, huh? I think so, and I believe it’s important that we as teachers impart this kind of information to our students. We need informed citizens who are capable of making decisions and defending their rights.

Mikko ends his talk stating the issue at hand is ‘Freedom vs Control’, and speculates whether we will spend the next 50 years wondering if we are able to trust our Governments. He’s got me thinking, I can tell you. I bet your students would find it fascinating too. We need to find avenues in our curriculums today to teach these important understandings that have implications for all of us.

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School’s out Friday

IKEA Heights from DaveAOK on Vimeo.

If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, look no further than Ikea Heights. This is a melodrama shot entirely in the Burbank California Ikea Store without the store knowing. My daughter and I were in hysterics last night watching the drama played out with the cast using the store as their set and regular unknowing customers and Ikea staff as extras. There are seven parts available on Vimeo. Here’s part two to keep you going until you hit the Vimeo site. (Thanks go to JoKay and Lucy Barrow for sharing the link on Twitter last night)

Ikea Heights (Episode #2) from DaveAOK on Vimeo.

In my later high school days and early College years, during holiday periods and free days I found myself drawn to daytime television. Days of our Lives was the soap opera that consumed me. These were the days of the Salem Strangler, and it seemed like most people I knew were watching and talking about this drawn out plot line. I even remember the College Cafeteria having a television screening it, and there was silence as we watched, punctuated by collective gasps as the next plot turn was spelled out. What was always a constant, was the fact that you could miss a run of episodes, and the next time you tuned in, it was like nothing much had transpired. Incredulously, looking at the website today, it seems that plenty of actors from those days are still in the show. I’m pretty sure if I tuned in, I’d be up with the current plot line in no time!

For those of you who harbour similar memories, here’s a stroll down memory lane with some classic emotions on display from Dr. Marlena Evans.

Holidays are in the process of evaporating quickly here. The shock of returning to school was tempered today when I made what was going to be a quick visit into a four hour stint! Next week will be occupied with preparation for the start of the school year. Best make the most a sunny weekend I figure!

Enjoy your weekend. I hope it’s a good one. : )

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SlideRocket, I offer you my thanks

sliderocket

Image by virgosun via Flickr

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I use SlideRocket to prepare presentations for conferences. I got an invite to the beta product in its early days, and I was so impressed I willingly stayed with it when it came out of Beta and eventually decided to pay for a pro account at a cost of $240 US dollars a year.

Many out there would baulk at paying for presentation software, but there are definite advantages to using SlideRocket from my point of view. Probably the most useful feature for me is the ability to search flickr for creative commons images from within the software. For me, using creative commons images is a must; you need to practice what you preach. People viewing my presentation online can hover over the image and the attribution for the person who took the shot is visible. I’d prefer it if a link was provided as well, as this would take people to the creator’s work. They now enable you to search for YouTube videos from within the software, and this is something else I’ve found to be very useful. What’s incredibly insightful is the access you have to the analytics of your presentations. I publish my presentations online in public spaces, and the analytics enable me to know when a presentation has been viewed, how long it was looked at, and what city and country the person looking at it originated from. It’s fascinating, especially when I have seen my work being used rather extensively in university environments around the world.

Are you wondering yet why I’m offering SlideRocket my thanks?

On January 5th, I was watching the twitter stream pass me by, when I saw tweets from the SlideRocket team being sent out to people who have scored a gig to present at the SXSW Conference. They were offering them access to a free pro account to put their presentations together. Being the forward person that I am, I thought I’d be a bit cheeky and send them a tweet.

I really didn’t expect a reply, but I got one. @SlideRocket asked me to send them an email with my request so I did. Lo and behold, the very helpful Sogol listened and organised for me to receive 6 months free access to a pro account. I was looking at renewing my subscription at the end of this month, but now I won’t need to until August.

So, there you go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as my Mother would say.

Thanks very much SlideRocket – well worthy of a blog post!!

 

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Overdrive – downloadable ebooks and audiobooks: now a part of our Networked School Community

Overdrive Logo

Image by South Carolina State Library via Flickr

I wrote this in March 2010.

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.

…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.

I don’t know how long it was after writing this post that I started reading about Overdrive,  a company providing an option for libraries to lend ebook and audiobook files that will stay on a device for a specified period and then return to the library’s collection for borrowing again. I do know that what I was reading held my interest. Here was a company doing what I had envisaged as possible.

What I did do was discuss Overdrive with our Library team and the school’s Technology committee. Every discussion I had was met with enthusiasm for the idea that our students and staff would be able to download ebooks and audiobooks to their computers and ereading and listening devices. But still, I hesitated. I asked myself questions like:

What if a better option presents itself?

Is it sensible to tie ourselves into platform delivery for ebooks and audiobooks?

Will this company become the frontrunner as an ebook/audiobook borrowing solution?

I think they were good questions, and I thought about them long and hard for at least 6 months. I looked out for other options, but nothing as fluid as Overdrive had presented itself. I was reluctant to tie us into a platform for delivery, but I did want to see our school library move into the ebook/audiobook arena in a serious way. We’re a 1:1 laptop school, and we have some voracious readers who absorb content at a rapid rate. I wanted to see us have an option that would allow a student sitting home at 7.30pm, thinking they might want to read a book, be able to sign into our system and download it to their device. I still don’t know if Overdrive will emerge as the frontrunner as the library ebook/audiobook solution. Nobody knows the answer to that question. Eventually, after more discussion with our library team, we decided to make what we think is going to be a significant and positive change for our library, and we subscribed to the service.

We began working with Overdrive in July 2011, and the system was launched with our staff at the end of the 2011 school year (that’s December in my hemisphere). We probably could have got things going earlier, but if your library is anything like mine, plenty of things get in the way, not the least of which was the work that was going into the development of the Information Fluency program I outlined in my Moving to a Networked School Community post recently. We also decided to begin working with Libguides at the same time (I’ll write another post about that soon) and that took up time as well.

If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts questions about how Overdrive works, their Frequently Asked Questions page is worth reading. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the system fees; I’ve found that’s what most people want to know first. Here’s the answer to that question (from their FAQ);

System Fees

How much does School Download Library cost?

Pricing for the School Download Library service starts at just $4,000 per year (including $2,000 worth of eBooks and/or audiobooks) for an individual school or a district of up to 2,000 students. For pricing for a larger district, please contact the OverDrive Sales Team at 216-573-6886 Ext. 4, or sales@overdrive.com.

Here’s what the Toorak College site looks like.

We were able to customise the header and were grateful to our Media Studies teacher who helped us come up with a design we were happy with . We’re using the same header for our Libguides site, but that is entitled ‘Library’ and not ‘Digital Collection’ (obviously!). The tab on the Digital Collection site for TC Library will take our students to the Libguides site. We had to make decisions about the look and feel of the site, and what terms we were going to use in the check out process of a book. We opted for using the term ‘My Cart’ for the check out process, because we thought it was a term commonly used on sites and would be familiar to students and staff, even if it does sound like they’re shopping. They are shopping, but the books coming to them are free!

There are some things you need to be mindful of. We are a dual platform school, supporting both Macs and PCs, but the vast majority of students in Yrs 5 – 8 have Mac computers. Many of the audiobooks that are available will not be available to download as an MP3 file on a Mac computer. The vast number available are WMA Audiobook files, and need to be downloaded to a PC before they can be transferred to an iPhone, iPod or iPad. We are going to set up and Overdrive Download Station in our school library to assist students who don’t have access to a PC at home.

Another thing to take note of is the fact that not everything published is available to add to your library content. Publishers make a decision to work with Overdrive, so you’re limited to publishers who have made that decision, and to the content they are offering for  purchase as a digital file. There isn’t a huge raft of Australian content, and hopefully we will see more titles make their way to their marketplace store in the future.

I’ve spent time over this holiday period downloading titles to my iPad via the app they have available in the iTunes store. It’s been incredibly easy. I even managed to impress my hard to impress daughter one morning when she said she’d like to read a book. I got the iPad, opened the app, accessed our library, found a title, added it to my cart, proceeded with checkout, and downloaded it then and there. Within a minute or two she had a book to read. She raised an impressed eyebrow at that one, and that’s no mean feat!

We are going to have to do quite a bit of work with our students when we return to school educating in them in how to use the platform. They’ll ‘get it’ easily, I have no doubt. They need to sign up to Adobe Digital Editions to use ebooks, and download the Overdrive Media Console to use audiobooks. I created a couple of screencasts to demonstrate the steps they need to follow on a computer and through an iPad, and they will be uploaded to our school intranet to help them out. We found a very helpful document created by Adelaide City Council City Libraries explaining the process of downloading audiobooks to PCs and Macs, and how to transfer these books to ereaders and other devices like iPods and iPads. Natalie, our wonderful Library Technician, morphed it to suit our library  - I hope the Adelaide City Council is OK with that!

Our budget has been designed this year to reflect purchases for a print and digital collection. We will still be purchasing printed fiction, and there will be duplication in our print and digital collections. Obviously we will need to monitor usage, and see what the adoption rate is like for the digital collection. It’s going to be interesting to see how things pan out.

I feel comfortable with the decision we have made to go down this path. We have made contact with other school libraries in Australia who have purchased Overdrive, and it’s been extremely helpful knowing that some advice from others in our country is only a phone call away. I’ve been pretty impressed with the support offered from the Overdrive team. Obviously they are in the United States, and the time zones aren’t all that friendly, but our questions are usually addressed in a 24 hr turnaround. They have provided promotional material using our Library header image, and we’ll be circulating that around    our Library and in classrooms on our return to school.

What it comes down to is that we are providing another avenue for our students to access fiction and non-fiction reading and listening material. This year is the National Year of Reading here in Australia, and we aim to do whatever we can to help our students discover the joy that can come from immersing yourself in a good book. We also see this as part of our Networked School Community model. We are providing our community with a way of accessing our collection from anywhere, at anytime. That’s got to be a good thing.

I’ll keep you posted as to how things pan out as the year progresses.

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School’s out Friday

Jim Gates shared this video on Twitter earlier in the week, and I knew instantly it just had to be the focus of School’s out Friday. I worked in a bookshop from the age of 15 through to 22, and I can’t imagine the hours it took to create this stop motion video. Sean Ohlenkamp and his wife own Type, a bookshop in Toronto Canada. They, and 25 volunteers, spent quite a few sleepless nights it seems reorganising these books to create the effect we see above. I love the little touches, like the textas and plastic figurines getting into the act too.

I’m sure a video like this evokes a response in people who love reading. Some will see it as a homage to the printed book, and the bookshops that are facing troubling times as we see  ebooks begin to make inroads into the way we consume reading matter. I think it’s a very clever marketing tool for this bookshop, and with over a million views on YouTube, I do hope the owners are seeing an increase in foot traffic to their store. They should do, it’s also been featured in the Toronto Standard and The New Yorker.

I’m in the process of writing a post about our school’s decision to use Overdrive, a platform for downloading borrowable ebooks and audiobooks to devices. I’m sure there are many out there who see the move to files for borrowing as a threat to libraries, but I’m very comfortable with what we are doing. Look out for the post. I hope to have it up in the next couple of hours.

We’ve seen a few grey days here in Melbourne this week. The prognosis is for a sunny weekend. Bring it on I say! It’s my husband’s birthday tomorrow – we need some sun so we can crank up the barbie for family and friends.

Enjoy whatever comes your way this weekend. : )

 

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Lean back 2.0 – new media demands new approaches

Andrew Rashbass, Chief Executive for The Economist Group, has shared a fabulous presentation called ‘Lean Back 2.0‘ to SlideShare. In it, he presents a case for what he calls ‘Lean Back Media’, a new age of media consumption typified by the way people use tablet devices for reading and browsing. His presentation makes a case for changes to the way The Economist Group approaches its business model, and it is required viewing and reading for any publishing company in the throes of rethinking their operation.

I’ve been using an iPad for 15 months, and it’s definitely changed my reading habits. I haven’t read a paper (dead tree) book for quite some time, and prefer instead to download titles to iBooks, or the Kindle app on my iPad. I haven’t moved to subscribing to journals through apps on my iPad as yet, because I find that quite a lot of longform journalism that interests me is shared through links on Twitter or through Zite, the personalised iPad magazine. Readership of  publications from The Economist Group would be in the higher demographics of our population I’m figuring, and their close analysis of the reading habits of their target group seems a very sensible approach to ensure they stay solvent in what are challenging times for newspaper and magazine publishers.

The real dilemma for newspaper and magazine publishers, is how they sustain profit given that the advertising model that was successful in print media does not translate in digital media. As Andrew notes in the slide below regarding advertising, “The Lean Back digital model is unproven and the transition will be treacherous.” The coming year or two will see who can come out still solvent, and quite possibly even thriving.

Andrew concludes his presentation with the big questions they ask themselves at The Economist Group. If you’re part of a media organisation today, hopefully you’re asking yourself similar questions and are planning for inevitable change. Interestingly, I think you can apply these questions to education. Look closely at them and see if you have any answers.

Thanks Andrew for a thought provoking presentation that goes a way towards envisaging what the future will look like for the publishing industry. Special thanks for opting to share through SlideShare, and making your company’s thinking processes available to people outside your organisation.

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School’s out Friday

My daughter mentioned this video from Kina Grannis, In your arms, to me as we were driving home today. She’d seen it featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Apparently it went viral on YouTube back in November, but it escaped me until now. This is a true labour of love. All of the backgrounds are made from Jellybeans. Yes, that’s right, jellybeans. They were donated by the JellyBelly company – smart move on their behalf. Over 4 million views on YouTube is some pretty good marketing for any company, and their only investment was the donation of bucket loads of their product. (288,000 Jellybeans, to be precise!)

Digital Journal has an article discussing the process. Here’s an excerpt from what they had to say,

“The project took 22 months to complete and a behind the scenes look at the process can be viewed on YouTube (shown below). It took 1,357 hours of hard work and a ‘jelly bean animation team’ that consisted of over 30 people. Add two ladders, one still camera, a producer, director, writer, concept artist and 288,000 jelly beans and the finished product is a new creative video featuring one of Grannis’ popular songs from 2010.”

Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/article/313983#ixzz1ifzFfQ2B

I hope the director, Greg Jardin, has garnered some work from what was a labour of love for him. He deserves whatever comes his way. The ‘making of’ video is well worth watching, and is great for any teachers out there helping students understand the art of stop motion filmmaking. This was a frame by frame shoot.

In the spirit of things, I created a bean art portrait of myself with help from the bean art maker tool on the JellyBelly site.

Nothing like immortalising yourself in Jellybeans!

Have a great weekend. Indulge in some jellybeans perhaps. : )

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