Tag Archives: Toorak College Mount Eliza

Something old, something new…

There are changes happening in my life. For those of you who jump to conclusions, yes, I do suspect that I’m approaching the dawn of menopause, but that’s not the change I’m talking about here.

The something old is that I’m not changing schools – I’m still going to be at Toorak College.

The something new is that I am changing jobs at Toorak College in 2013. Starting next school year, I’ll be taking on the position of Director of ICT and eLearning. This is a new position at our school, one that will embrace and help to realise our school vision and mission statements.

Vision

Achieving excellence, inspiring future lives.

Mission

We lead excellence in education and provide innovative learning opportunities for individuals, to strive to achieve their ambitions in a connected, welcoming environment.

While I am genuinely sad to be leaving my position as Head of Information Services, nothing will change the fact that I am, and always will be, a Teacher-Librarian. I will be taking all of my skills as an information professional to this new position, and the Library at Toorak College will continue to be a driving force implementing change and the integration of new ways of utilising the Web as a powerful tool for connection and learning purposes.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead change in what is an Executive level position at my school. Not only that, I am very proud of all that I have done as a self directed learner to have the skill set to take this position on. The following tweet that found its way into my Twitter stream today embodies my story, and what I hope I will be able to do for the staff at my school.

I have only been at this game seriously for the last five years. But what a five years they’ve been. I’ve got a pretty steep learning curve ahead of me I know, but I feel well rehearsed in the learning stakes to take the challenge on.

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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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Creating a Library for the future – Part two!

Recently, I wrote about our new library and how we had tried to create a library for Toorak College that would meet the future needs of our school. There are lots of photos in that post, but most were taken before our furniture had arrived. I thought I’d provide an update with more pictures and discuss some of the furniture choices we made.

Making spaces flexible was always a motivating factor behind our choices. We have flip tables on castors in our large conference space. The chairs are incredibly comfortable and are on a sled base. (We are still waiting for our full complement of chairs. In the photo above you can see some loan chairs that will be replaced with the orange 3D chairs once the next shipment arrives) The sled base makes them really easy to move around. We are constantly reinventing this space to meet the needs of large groups and special functions, so easy movement of the furniture is important. It’s not back breaking work sliding chairs and wheeling tables away! You’ll notice a portable interactive whiteboard off to the side in the picture above. We have three of these in our library and they can moved to where they are needed. Floorboxes dot the floor and have power and data points within them. They are constantly in use as our school is a 1:1 laptop environment and access to power is critical. There are large sliding doors that can close this room off, and we are finding it’s getting constant use.

What we’ve been really excited about this week was the arrival of what we call our ‘Snake Lounge’. This is a very large signature piece that winds its way through what we call the Learning Commons part of our library. It’s been enthusiastically embraced by students and staff alike. Seeing people’s reactions to it when they see it for the first time is incredibly rewarding. We are thrilled with how our vision was translated by the furniture craftsman, Abbas, who listened to what we described and built something that probably has surpassed our expectations. Judge for yourself from the following pictures.

 

It is beautiful! Watching the students use it is so gratifying. Today, during lunchtime, every part of it was being used. Some students were relaxing and talking while others were working at both the attached tables and the benches. The ottomans serve as both stools and tables for laptops and books. Once again, they can be easily moved around -the ottomans that is! The Snake lounge isn’t going anywhere -it’s a permanent fixture. I’m not about to go breaking my back moving that one!

Our Multimedia room has been fitted out with desktop Mac computers.

I included this picture in my last post about the library, but it remains one of my favourite spaces, although it’s probably tied with the Snake Lounge now! We called it the Presentation Room, but our students have coined it the Beanbag room, and that name has stuck. It gets constant use, both with classes and as a relaxed space for students during recess, lunch and after school.

All of these spaces require teachers to rethink their use of the library. Our previous building had clearly designated class spaces that mimicked classroom configurations of the traditional classroom. This new library is very different, and students find spaces that work for them. Quite often a class is not contained in one space; they spread out and use breakout rooms, couches and tables. We are seeing our senior students gravitate back (they have their own senior centre) and they especially enjoy the small breakout rooms that allow them a quieter space for study. (You can see the breakout rooms behind the Snake lounge in some of the pictures above). That’s another thing I am pleased about having; the quiet spaces that we never had in our previous library. There are some who crave quiet, and others who are content with ambient noise.

I am so pleased with how this building has turned out. We still need end panels for shelves and some more relaxed seating options. The end panels will arrive in the coming weeks, but other new furniture options may be on the backburner for awhile. Vinyl lettering and designs for our walls is something else we are putting thought into. It’s exciting to be involved in a project like this, and truly wonderful to walk into work every day and see a vision realised.

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Toorak Continuous Professional Learning Seminar

I work at Toorak College, an all girls’ school in Mt.Eliza. One of the initiatives being driven here at the moment is the growth of a professional learning network for both the teachers within our school, and those further afield.

Continuous Professional Learning is an online network for our teachers (powered by Ning), and other teachers who are keen to join and share their insights about issues related to our profession. Coupled with this is a series of seminar workshops that will be run at Toorak College throughout the year. The first of these sessions is being run by yours truly (that would be me!).  Toorak College is an hour from central Melbourne, and we are hoping to provide educators from the South Eastern suburbs with professional learning opportunities closer to home. If you are a teacher from Melbourne, and know some teachers who would benefit from the workshop I am offering, please direct them to the site and download the flyer.

Sounds like a bit of an ad really, doesn’t it? It’s a departure from what I usually post about, but it is an exciting development at my school and I am hopeful that anyone who chooses to attend my workshop will leave with more knowledge than they started with! Hopefully they’ll have some strategies for their own personal learning and how they make it happen in their classrooms.

If you want to explore the CPL community, join the site and share your ideas. We’d welcome your presence. : )

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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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Learning happens

I’ve spent the last eight school days participating in a ‘camp’ program at my school called Creative Communication. I’ve had the pleasure of working with 21 very special girls who have all made an effort to extend their thinking and contemplate how we communicate in today’s world. They’ve been exposed to actors like Brian Nankervis (or Raymond J Bartholomuez to those of you who remember one of his stage names) and playright Joanna Murray Smith (a former old girl from Toorak College). They’ve listened to me rabbit on about social media and how it can make a difference to their lives, and we’ve skyped with Karl Fisch to discuss the origins of ‘Did you know? – Shift happens‘, and Garr Reynolds, who helped them to understand the value of communicating effectively when presenting your ideas. (I may elaborate on Karl and Garr’s sessions over the weekend). It’s been full on, and culminated in them working on a project idea that would reflect some of their thinking.

The above video, made by Kate, was a link featured in Passionfruit, a magazine published by one group using ISSUU.

I hope you visit their publication, and appreciate that they got this together in just over a day. They were originally thinking of doing a print publication, but decided to go with an online version knowing that it had the potential to reach an audience much wider in scope than just the school community. Another group produced a great video about the effect of technology on student lives, and will be posting to YouTube. I’ll definitely feature it here when it goes up. Others started blogs about things they are passionate about, and most said they think they will try and sustain them.

I do hope that this experience has helped them to understand the significance of sharing their work publicly. Yesterday we watched Chris Anderson discuss Crowd Accelerated Innovation in his TED Talk, and I tried very hard to get them to understand that these ideas apply to them. They don’t have to wait until they finish their university degree to get themselves noticed. As Garr Reynolds told them, we can all make a dent in the universe if we go about it the right way.

(By the way,  thanks to Derek Wenmoth, I’ve just been scanning the latest Horizon Report focused on Australia and New Zealand. Reading this confirms my belief that helping my students understand the value of sharing their work in online spaces, and making connections with experts and others interested in their passions, is what I need to to be doing. Stuffing content down their throats might help them pass an exam, but it won’t teach them the skills they need to be successful in today’s world.)

Thanks girls, it was a pleasure sharing this time with you. Hope you felt the same way. : )

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