Tag Archives: iPad

The demise of Netbooks – what are the implications?

I read a post from The Guardian yesterday entitled ‘Sayonara Netbooks: Asus (and the rest) won’t make any more in 2013‘. I know that the iPad has had a profound effect on the computing market and we probably all should have seen this coming. Looking at the stats of US sales presented in the article, I can see why manufacturers have decided to cease production and perhaps put their focus into the tablet market. For schools however, this decision has major implications for those who had chosen to run 1:1 programs with Netbooks as a cheaper option compared to running with full priced PCs or Macs.

At my school, we have netbooks in our K -4 classrooms on a 2:1 basis. Obviously, the demise of Netbooks is going to have implications for the program we are running. While I have already been thinking that tablets are a more user friendly option in Junior classrooms, the management of these devices leaves a lot to be desired. We have a class set of iPads in our Senior School, and Natalie, one of our Library Technicians manages them. It’s no easy task. The recent Volume Licensing agreement that now applies here in Australia has made things easier, but you still need to be adding and synchronising apps across multiple devices and updating apps and the operating system whenever new updates arrive. It’s time consuming and requires someone with a dedicated eye on it. Classroom teachers have enough on their plates and really don’t have time for the management of devices like this. There’s no doubt that tablets are designed as personal devices and not as shared ones.

I’m interested in taking a look at the Microsoft Surface, especially considering the fact that it has a USB and SD card ports. A device that enables easy transfer of whatever has been created on it is a lot easier than the current iPad set up that requires you to use cloud services or to email a finished product to another computing device for access. Looking at it’s price point (Windows 8 Pro will cost $US899 for a version with 64 gigabytes of memory, and $US999 for a 128-gigabyte model. Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/business-it/microsoft-surface-with-windows-pro-to-go-on-sale-in-january-20121130-2akts.html#ixzz2GopsYpqd) makes it a very pricey option, coming in close to the price of Macbook Air at $1099.

I don’t think we’ll be needing to be making any decisions until later this year, so I’m hoping to see further developments in the Tablet market that might make them more user friendly both with price points and as a shared device, but I’m not pinning too many hopes on that. Maybe I’m wrong in my assessment of tablets as shared devices being problematic. If there are schools out there finding this an easy process, I’d like to hear from you and find out what you’re doing that might make our management of these devices easier.

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School’s out Friday

This was the brief advertising firm D1gits was given;

The iPad act was a custom creation, made to be performed in the Stockholm booth at MIPIM trade show in Cannes. It was commissioned by lovely bureau Step2 Communications and the brief was to create a visual, magical and striking presentation about Stockholm using modern technology.

I think they filled the brief pretty well, don’t you?

A long weekend ahead in celebration of the Queen’s birthday. A monarchist I am not, but I’m happy to take the holiday break right now. I’ve got plenty of work to do, so this weekend will be heads down with fingers taped to the keyboard I’m afraid. I’ll try and squeeze some time with family and friends in, provided I keep myself on track and knock over as much as I can for two presentations and some school report writing . I know, you’re brimming over with envy right now, aren’t you? Who could resist such a tempting weekend’s activity? Me, for one, but I’ve got to commit or I’ll be mightily stressed this time next week!

I hope your weekend sounds more promising than mine. Enjoy whatever comes your way.  :)

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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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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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New additions to our library – including iPads as OPACS

We recently made some purchases for our new library that have helped to make the space feel more like our original plan for a comfortable, welcoming centre that meets the needs of our student population. I thought I’d share a few pics here.

We originally planned on having traditional computers as OPACS, but earlier in the year I saw a post on a listserv talking of how a school had used iPads for catalogue searching, and I redirected the planned funding to the purchase of four iPads. We have mounted an iPad cover to the end panels and insert the iPads in them every morning, and take them out for charging at the end of each day. Because they hold their charge so well, they last most of the day with the image fixed on our library catalogue. We have been really surprised at how much use they have had. There’s the novelty factor that kicked in early, but that’s worn off and they are getting consistent use as a search terminal. They’re a definite winner!

We made some purchases from Dare Gallery of couches and ottomans for the area we have coined the conference room space. It was full of flip tables and chairs, and even though it was easy to reconfigure for different occasions, it wasn’t part of the vision we had for the space. Even though Dare Gallery sent the wrong colour furniture (these couches and ottomans are supposed to be purple and lime! – they are sending replacements for us) their inclusion in the space has transformed its use. It feels so much friendlier, and class groups using the space gravitate to the couches. Teachers have commented on the changing feel of the room, and have recognised that we are moving closer to the vision we originally articulated.

Here’s a picture of a working library- messy circulation desk and all! The blue chairs aren’t part of our vision, but the vinyl lettering was, and using some key words on places like this desk and walls has added warmth and interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are a 1:1 laptop school, so there is not a pressing need for banks of computers throughout our library. The addition of this row of four Mac computers has made a difference to this space though. They are getting frequent use from students who come in during breaks without their laptops, and by students who have computers in for repair.

This ZigZag bookshelf and ottoman were other purchases from Dare gallery. It’s a cute little nook and we are planning to display new fiction, non fiction and magazines. It’s anice focal point when people enter the main library space, as you can see from the picture below. In the background, you can see a silver screen. These are tri panelled. We have purchased two of these and can see them being moved around to create private spaces for small groups.

The placement of this orange couch in front of our tiered beanbag room has helped to create another area for students to relax. They have really appreciated the inclusion of more couches into our library space.

We’ve been really pleased with the snake lounge (our term for the winding purpose built lounge that snakes through the main library space and defines areas) and the functionality it affords. At the end of term we used its benchtops to display holiday reading options for staff and students.

Our library is making its way to the original vision we had for the interior fit out. Hopefully our budgets will allow us to fulfill more of the vision we have for it in the coming year.

 

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School’s out Friday

I’ve seen some Facebook in real life videos before, but this one tickles my funny bone. (Excuse some of the language within it – I try to steer away from videos that contain course language, but a couple of words are contained within this one). It makes you think a bit, doesn’t it? Why are some people comfortable sharing some pretty personal details with an audience of hundreds (sometimes thousands or more!) in an online space like Facebook, but baulk at the idea of revealing any details to people in face to face settings? Interesting facet of human nature, and no doubt one we’ll be analysing more as we see social media become mainstream.

I had a lovely day today at Ringwood Secondary College. They hosted the Vitta Mobile Technologies conference, and it was an opportunity to catch up with Clare Rafferty, Tania Sheko, Jo McLeay, Jenny Ashby and John Pearce. I even got to meet Roland Gesthuizen for the first time, although I’ve ‘known’ him on twitter for quite some time. Lots of talk today about iPads and their use as 1:1 devices, something I’m not sure that I’m sold on. I think that should form the basis of a blog post, given the feedback generated through twitter when I posted that thought this morning.

Time to trundle off to long awaited sleep now. I’m finding the weekends are just too short at the moment. No sooner has it been Friday night and then I find myself confronted with Monday morning!

I hope your weekend lasts an age. Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it.

(And just to make sure you do, take a read of this post, written by a woman who worked in palliative care situations. I bet it makes you think.)

 

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Creating a Library for the future

Well, that’s what we hope we’ve done. Created a Library for the future, that is.

When we started planning Toorak College’s new Norman Carson Library, we knew this would be a space that had to meet the needs of a school population into a future that will see a physical collection change as society becomes increasingly comfortable with digital storage and usage. The space needed to be flexible and able to accomodate our book collection, but we didn’t want the books to be the predominant feature. We realise that fiction will be with us for some time, but our non fiction collection we see as a shrinking collection. We needed to find a way to make it inviting, but able to be transformed with changing times.  You get one shot to get things right. Our students return next week, and we can’t wait to see their reaction to the space. It will be their usage of the spaces that will let us know if we’ve hit the mark. I thought I’d share some pictures here to demonstrate the thinking behind the design.

The non fiction shelving in our large learning commons space. We wanted to utilise the wall as much as possible so that we could hopefully accomodate two classes in this space. We will have to see if it is possible once our furniture arrives.There are three break out rooms at the back of the learning commons space. We see these as small group work spaces, meeting spaces and private study areas. Each room has it’s own LCD TV to be used for presentations by students and staff. A divider separates two rooms so that we can create a larger space for a small class if necessary.

Room divider

This is the large conference/work/relax space at the front of the learning commons area. This room has a large divider (see below) that can provide us with a large room for Year level presentations. It has a projector and very large screen for this purpose. (see below) We aim to provide flexible furnishings in this space that can allow for it to be transformed for different purposes. This vista of this space is simply beautiful. It looks out to our Edna Walling designed gardens and historic Hamilton Building.

High pitched ceilings give the library a feeling of additional space, and louvre windows will help with the release of heat when the air conditioning is not being used.

Here is the circulation desk, opposite the entrance, with the library workroom behind. It divides the two spaces of the library and allows for visibility to the learning commons space and the reading and multimedia spaces.

The library workroom is centrally located, with windows all around giving visibility to all areas.

This is our Multimedia room, that will be fitted out with Mac desktops. It adjoins our fiction/reading spaces.

This is our Fiction collection, looking out to our reading space. We are going to replace a standing double bay with wall shelving to help us maximise space.

Our reading space. We intend to make this an L Shaped space, once we have the wall shelving in place.

Opening doors at the rear of the reading space open to this deck, making this an indoor/outdoor reading space. The tree behind has had its canopy trimmed since this photo was taken, and it looks even more picturesque.

This tiered room, for chillin’ out and relaxing, or for presentations to groups, adjoins our fiction/reading space. It’s my favourite room, and has a very high ceiling giving it an interesting acoustic quality.

It is so exciting having the opportunity to help plan and realise a new learning space for students. Like I said, the proof of its effectiveness will lie with student usage. Seeing their reaction to this space when they return next Monday will be something to savour I’m sure. There are floorboxes with data and power dotted throughout the space for our power needs (we are a laptop school), and we will have netbooks and iPads available for student use when their own devices are not with them.

Our next step is furniture, and this is exciting too. February will see the first installment with more to come in a second stage. Flip tables are being used, as are ottamans, colourful chairs and what we are calling a snake lounge, and that will be the signature piece of the Library space.

Hopefully this will be a space that will meet our students needs well into the future. We wanted it to be welcoming, and it certainly has a homely feel when you enter it. It has been enthusiastically embraced by staff, and I expect to see the same reaction from our students, maybe an even more effusive one. I’ll let you know how it’s received.

 

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Reinventing our Library space – what did we do?

Tomorrow, I return to work. It’s an early start for me, and that’s because the new library that has been under construction is completed. It’s very exciting and something I have alluded to over the last year. Our library, and the staff who work in it, have been located in temporary accommodation for the past twelve months so we are very much looking forward to moving into a spacious environment where we can realise some initiatives we have planned for the 2011 school year. I haven’t written a post outlining the process we underwent planning this construction, and I thought it might be useful for anyone facing either remodeling or building from the ground up.

Our original brief was to remodel an existing building, but the eventual outcome was the demolition of our old library, and the construction of a new building on the same site. We had very little time in the planning stages to come up with a design, but after working in a library that had functional issues, I was already convinced of the changes we needed to implement to make for a more functional space that would meet the needs of our learners, and the people who work in the building.

Our old library had already seen a change in usage as a result of changing seating options. Over a two year period we invested funds into couches and cushions, and we strategically placed them in and around traditional table and chair configurations. What we saw was an almost gravitational pull towards the new seating options. Classes that were booked in would float to those spaces rather than the traditional areas. At recess and lunch breaks those spaces were fully occupied with students working on their laptops, reading and talking. We also had become more flexible about eating arrangements. I know this will not suit many, but we allowed our students to eat in the library, provided they were respectful and cleaned up after themselves. I have always struggled with break periods like lunchtime, and restricting student use of the library until they have finished lunch. For many students, the library is a refuge, the one space in the school that is always supervised and can provide them with a place to belong. Those kids need the library, and eating lunch by yourself can be a very solitary pursuit. At least in the library they are in a group atmosphere. I think it helps them. I’m not sure how we will approach eating in this new space. My feeling is that we will be very precious about it to start with, and probably will ask students to eat before they come in, but I feel we will need to gauge this and see how our ‘refuge’ students react.

We had always struggled with poor design that meant our workroom was located well away from the main traffic areas. It led to a dislocation of staff and an inability for some staff to see when times were busy and more hands were needed on deck. We made sure in our new design that our workroom was centrally located with visibility to all parts of the library. The reality of any library is that we are service providers in our school; students and staff needs come before all else, and we need to be responsive.

I’ve included a floorplan of the new library below. I used an online program called Floorplanner to help me insert furniture, and I used Jing for the annotations. The furniture is not necessarily as it will appear in the new space and there may well not be all of it either. It will very much depend on what the space looks like when we walk into it! The picture below was my thinking based on what we envisaged might be possible. We have tried to put most of our non-fiction shelving along a wall, so that it doesn’t compromise what could be a learning space, but we have found that we will have to have some shelving spreading  into a learning space. The ‘snake lounge’ as I’ve called it, is actually a very large piece of furniture that will be the defining piece of the large library space. I can’t wait until it’s installed- it’s going to be a stand out piece. It won’t be in until mid Feb at this stage. I’m excited about the portable IWBs that we will have in the space (there will be three of them) because we intend to allow student use of these. I’m interested to see what use they make of them.

Right throughout the flooring are floorboxes containing data and power for students to power up devices. This was a crucial part of the design process- there are not many desktop computers- they exist only in the multimedia lab. Our students bring their own laptops to school and we provide netbooks (and iPads as of this year) for student use within the library if their device is not working.We are a wireless networked environment, but we have factored data points for cabled connection into the floorboxes for moments when the wireless may be down.

Another exciting addition is the presentation space. It’s a room off the fiction/reading /relaxation space that has  three rows of tiered seating – a reverse amphitheatre type arrangement. All of the tiers have power outlets within them, so that our students can lounge there and plug their devices in when necessary. We envisage teachers will book this space for presentations and will be using one of the portable IWBs that can be rolled in to allow students to hook up their computers.

The conference room at the front of the very large learning commons type space is exciting too. It has doors that can be remotely closed making it a self contained space. It will have a data projector and very large screen installed for presentations. If your school is anything like mine, you will know how hard it can be to facilitate large groups like a year level for a presentation. We think this room is going to see a lot of traffic, and we are planning flexible seating arrangements so that it can be reconfigured to meet changing needs quickly.

We will be sharing the space with our IT Department and this will be located in the back of the building. Both the library and IT department welcome this. We work very closely together facilitating technology needs of our students, and a closer physical working arrangement is going to be an added bonus.

We won’t have all of our furniture installed from the start of the school year. It will be a partial fit out to start with but we envisage the place to be totally functional from May. It’s going to be a bit messy and very busy for the start of the year, but it’s going to be exciting too. I’ll post some pictures of the completed building in the coming days.

Our Library- close to end of construction

Busy days ahead!

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School’s out Friday

It’s actually Christmas morning here (1.36am to be precise!), but it’s still Friday in parts of the world so I’m feeling justified, if not a little bit crazy, for getting School’s out Friday out at this time. This is North Point Community Church’s iBand, playing Christmas tunes using iPads and iPhones. Just imagine if a group of kids could do something like this for a school music concert. There’s another thing to dwell on for the 2011 school year! Thanks Allanah for sending me this link tonight. You saved me a lot time searching for something. : )

Christmas Eve party is over, dishes are done, presents are wrapped. Time for bed methinks!

Merry Christmas to you all, loyal readers, whoever you are. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season. : )

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ISTE 2010 reflection

ISTE 2010. So, what were my impressions. In a word, big. Really big. Probably overwhelmingly big. The scale of a conference this size (17,000 or so attendees!) really is hard to comprehend from the outside, and difficult to comprehend from the inside too. There are acres of people and it’s a struggle to get into sessions. I was shut out from quite a few I wanted to attend as were countless others. You weren’t allowed to sit on the floor to get into full sessions, although this was relaxed in a couple of rooms where the numbers occupying floor space were too many to usher out.

You need to be organised, and I have to confess, I wasn’t. I’d been occupied with reports and end of term happenings, and then spent the time before I left getting the MICDS and ISTE presentation organised. I didn’t give myself time to study the conference program, and I should have. Note to self: do this before attempting a conference of these diminsions should you ever attend another one.

Edubloggercon: A great day, and a nice way to start a conference like this. Steve Hargadon chairs the day, but sessions are determined by participants. There was a session about the changes/monetisation of Ning networks. A representative from Pearson publishing was present to discuss the free networks that are only available to North American educators. I don’t think he was expecting to see an international presence there. Both myself and Julie Lindsay (who teaches in an international school in Beijing), expressed our concerns about the lack of support for teachers outside of North America. To his credit, the representative has sent on our concerns to Pearson and has said he will remain in email contact. Let’s wait and see. Interestingly, Adam Frey from Wikispaces sat in on the discussion. I use Wikispaces all the time, and appreciate the support they give to educators with their product. He spoke to me at the end of the session and said he’d talk with Ning about the concerns we were raising. I hope he does so.

Lots of discussion at Edubloggercon about the iPad and it’s usefulness as a device for schools to consider. There were people there talking of it becoming their 1:1 computing device and a lot of push back saying that it doesn’t have the ability to be a creation tool. It seems that people are relying on the developer community to create apps that are going to make the iPad more adaptable to the needs of students. Many people spoke of the benefits of the battery life. I can attest to this. I took an iPad with me to the conference and was amazed that I could use the device all day without having to look for a power outlet to recharge. I was anticipating that I’d use it rather than my laptop. It’s great as a web surfing device and handling email, but I was hoping to be able to edit Google Docs along the way and take notes that I could access from my Mac later. I was really surprised to see that I could access my Google Docs, but I couldn’t edit them. Talking with conference participants throughout the coming days, it seems that an app called Office HD for $7.99 is something that can allow you to edit your documents. People were pretty happy with how it works, but reviews on the App site suggest there are some problems with it crashing.

The best session for me at Edubloggercon was run by Monika Hardy and her students from Loveland, Colorado. They are doing great things at their school with an innovationlab project they are running from August onwards. Students will have time in their school day to explore the things they are passionate about and will be using whatever tools they need to get their message out there and contacts made. The students were inspiring to listen to. They are in good hands with Monika; she is a passionate educator who wants to do the best for her students. She is enacting in her school what many people talk of doing. Keep tabs on Monika’s progress. I would love to see my school make some connections with this program and do a similar thing.

Dean Groom ran a session about how you go about creating an iPhone/iPad app. It was very well attended and Dean presented in a no nonsense way how you access free code out there (and something called The Kitchen sink!) to assist in creating a app for the iTunes store. He made it sound achievable. It got me thinking that something like this would be a great inquiry week project for the students at my school. I’m going to need to find time to immerse myself in the process first to see if I can get somewhere with it so that I can support the students with their learning. Hmmnn…wondering when I’ll be able to manage that!

The Conference itself: There’s a bit of ‘Razzle Dazzle’ at a conference like this. Keynote presenters are introduced with a band playing music that doesn’t always coincide with the message being transferred. In Australia, we just clap. I found myself in a couple of sessions where speakers were evangelical in their ‘call to action’. I found it a little ‘full on'; maybe it’s a cultural thing. I haven’t been to conferences here in Australia that are like this. Early in the peace, David Warlick was asking how this conference differs from Australia. I said I felt like I was at Disneyland; I felt like I was being entertained. (I feel a need to explain this; I’ve noted David has indicated ‘ISTE as Disneyland for teachers’ as a possible post and I presume he is referring to my comment). Please don’t take this the wrong way; the presenters were relaying important messages that educators should be listening to, it’s just that it was full on, and maybe that’s just their style of presenting. And that comment was based on a microcosm of the conference; at that stage I’d only attended the Keynote and a couple of sessions. Let me preface that as well by saying the the keynote speaker was not providing ‘entertainment’, but the opening music on his entry was!

It’s probably a reflection of the sessions I chose to attend (and being a Teacher-Librarian you won’t be surprised) but there was a strong message coming through that we need to focus strongly on digital literacy skills and understandings. Howard Rheingold had the best term that I’d love to be using at school, but I can imagine some would feel it inappropriate. He calls it ‘The Art of Crap Detection 101″. Thankfully, you can view this presentation online.  (and you can visit here, to see other presentations ISTE has released for public viewing) I missed it as I was involved in my poster session while it was being delivered. Howard seems to have partnered up with Microsoft, who have created a very useful guide for teachers called ‘Critical Thinking in the Classroom‘ that you can download as a PDF. You can also access lesson plans and handouts from the site. They have worked closely with American Teacher-Librarians  and students in the process of creating this, and it looks useful. Some of their examples are US centric, and I brought this up in the session. They acknowledged that they do need need to put on a Global hat when they are creating resources like this so that they can be useful everywhere, in all school systems. The session made me think more about using Bing with my students; it looks like they are doing some interesting things in their labs.

It was great having the opportunity to catch up with Joyce Valenza again at this conference. Joyce is visiting Melbourne in July and is presenting for SLAV. I would encourage you to send your staff along, and not just your Teacher-Librarians. Joyce is a dynamic presenter who has a raft of advice to offer about how you integrate new ideas into teaching and learning.I was able to help with the backchannel at the ‘Learning Tools Smackdown‘ that was hosted by SIGMS (Special interest group Media Specialists). The wiki supporting this session is a fabulous resource, as is the Twitter hastag #SIGMS where you will find the resources referenced collated as live links. It was really wonderful seeing Teacher-Librarians and Ed Tech integrators sharing what works for them in their schools. All of the presenters had put so much effort into the wikipages they have created. I can see this being a very useful resource to take back to my staff.

And that brings me to probably the most valuable resource at this conference. Twitter hashtags. Whether you were there in person or attending virtually, the hashtags supporting the conference are a veritable mine of information that can act as your professional development opportunity in the coming weeks. Hashtags to search via Twitter include #iste2010 and #iste10. You should also check out the Diigo group, ISTE 2010; many educators have been adding links there that you will find useful. One of the problems with any conference is that you are just one person and you can’t go to everything. Being able to access information post-conference like is invaluable.

I had a great time meeting people from my online community. Some I’d met before, and some were people I was meeting for the first time. Meeting Jeff Agamenoni was a highlight. Jeff is such a nice guy, both online and in person. I shared a really fun night out with Jeff, his family and Dean Groom. Thanks for your hospitality Jeff and Joanie, and for driving me back to my dodgy accomodation! I shared a great conversation and was so pleased to meet Richard Byrne who writes ‘Free Technology for Teachers’. Richard’s a very nice guy who is doing great work to support the teaching community across the world. I really enjoyed catching up with my PLP friends, Sheryl Nussbaum Beach, Will Richardson and Robyn Ellis . Once again, thanks Sheryl for your hospitality.

Sue Waters and Frances McLean were rocks for me. I loved sharing time shopping, eating and laughing with them. Frances and I even managed to see Toy Story 3 together! Dean Groom, Judy O’Connell and June Wall were also fun companions to be around. Thanks for sharing time with me. I do think we all tend to gravitate to one another because we’re Australian; you look for the common thread in unfamiliar surroundings, and the accent and shared understandings are connective glue.

I ran a poster session on the last day of the conference. I wasn’t too sure about the format, but it was worthwhile. I spoke to many people who were interested in applying Ning environments to their school settings and who seemed to appreciate the fact that I’d embedded the presentation into a wiki and had added a voiceover to help them with their understanding. Hopefully people elsewhere will find it useful too.

Denver is a beautiful place, and a conference like ISTE is incredible. It’s an experience to be had, that’s for sure!

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