PostSecret – a favourite of mine

If you haven’t yet discovered PostSecret then you should follow the link and check it out. People create postcards on which are written secrets that they reveal to the world anonomously through this site. It’s kind of like peeking into the secret lives of others, but I think it’s reassuring as well. It helps to know that others find situations difficult. It makes you realise you are not alone and that people everywhere are grappling with finding their place in the world. Sometimes the postcards are confronting and not something you’d put up on the interactive whiteboard, so approach with caution if you are thinking of using it as a teaching resource. Nonetheless, I know quite a few adolescents who regularly visit this site and find it fascinating and helpful. Personally, I think it’s very helpful for students who feel like they don’t fit in or are grappling with difficult times. There’s comfort in discovering you aren’t alone. The postcards have the ability to evoke a myriad of emotions. Here’s a few from this week.

This one made me laugh (probably because I used to think that my cat was trying to communicate with me telepathically when I was a teenager!)

This one made me reflect on the choices we make in life,

And this one made me cry. I have a 9 yr old son.


It’s powerful stuff. Visit PostSecret. Be prepared to see some postcards that are a little confronting, but also be prepared to be touched by the experiences of others.

Lauren O’Grady has decided to take an idea from the PostSecret site and have it grow amongst the educational community. She’s asking for 6 word memoirs that you can contribute with a picture or film. Take a look at Lauren’s site and help make it grow. I haven’t posted mine yet but I will!

New views from Viewzi

Giovanni, from Viewzi, sent me a tweet (from Twitter), about a new view available from his Search engine. I’m still getting a kick out of the fact that Search engine developers are coming to me to tell me about new features. Obviously they want to get their product out there and have people write about them. I’m dutifully doing that right now, but only because I think what they’re offering may have educational benefits. If I thought it wasn’t useful I wouldn’t bother. Trust me.

Giovanni knows that Twitter is a great tool for optimising the coverage his search engine gets. Take a look at these tweets he posted on twitter this afternoon (evening his time).

I’m not criticising, I think he’s smart to be recognising the potential of the microblogging tool that twitter is. If I had something to sell I’d be doing it too!

Anyway, back to the new views Viewzi are offering. First up is news view. It’s been around for a few weeks now. News sources they use are USA today, The New York Times, CNN, Reuters and Yahoo. A fairly heavy US concentration so be aware of this. I did a search for Stephanie Rice, an Australian swimmer who picked up a gold medal this morning at the Beijing Olympics. Of the nine results that feature on the first of the results pages, three were specific to Stephanie and the other six had Michael Phelps as their focus. Perhaps not the best news search engine choice if you’re looking for Australian content. I did another search for Georgia Russia given the troubles emanting from this part of the world and got returns that would be useful for students investigating this situation. I like the way the results are delivered; you get the headline and the opening paragraph and can click on read more to redirect you to the source article. At the bottom of the page you get an indication of the amount of pages Viewzi has loaded delivering returns for your search query.

The newest ‘view’ they have offered is timeline view. This, I think, could be a handy view for educational purposes. Here’s the result for Georgia Russia that I did this afternoon;

You can see the concentration of results that are a response to recent happenings. Ealier results in the timeline would be interesting for students to look at to track the development of the crisis. Great for classes studying international events. I’ll be remembering this view so that I can point students to it when they are investigating issues in the news.

Viewzi is an interesting search engine. There is so much choice, perhaps a little too much. It’s a search engine you need to spend time investigating so that you can use it to its best potential.

School’s out Friday

Is it Friday again! Of course it is, and what’s more it’s that special date 08/08/08. Olympic opening ceremony day. I’m sitting here watching and marvelling at the wonder that is China. I’m returning with my school to do an 18 day trip in late October/November. I did the same trip last year and my perception of China and the Chinese people was transformed by the experience. Such wonderful people and such an interesting country full of many contrasts. Before I make this trip I will be visiting a part of China I haven’t experienced before – Shanghai. I’m going to the Learning 2.008 conference in September. What a great learning experience this will be. A chance to meet many of the people I have formed connections with throughout the course of this year and an opportunity to attend sessions run by people of note in the Web 2.0 world. I feel very fortunate.

Couldn’t resist searching YouTube to find what people had uploaded from the opening ceremony already. With the accents I’m gathering it’s from Greek TV – it may not last long on YouTube. I noticed a couple had been taken down from YouTube already for copyright reasons.

Hope you enjoy the weekend and immerse yourself in some of the connective spirit that feeds out from the Olympic games. I love watching and feeling that sense of world unity. Let’s hope it’s a peaceful time.

Mary Manning- a beacon in the Teacher-Librarianship world

I’ve just returned from a dinner meeting of our local SLAV (School Library Association of Victoria) group. Mary Manning was our guest speaker. She was talking about library spaces and design and was making reference to Susan La Marca’s book ‘Rethink’. But she was doing so much more than just that and I don’t know if she knew it.

Mary is an engaging and ‘real’ person.  She’s the kind of person you feel comfortable around, and that’s a compliment. Mary speaks from the heart and makes you feel comfortable about the direction Teacher-Librarianship is headed in. At least, I felt comfortable about it, I can’t speak for all. She provides the wake up call we all need. The understanding that we have to be proactive and move with where education is heading and our libraries have to reflect this in all ways. Our spaces need to be comfortable and inviting; let’s face it, with so many online resources who needs to visit the library for research purposes? I love the Chip and Dan Heath term, ‘sticky’. We have to make our libraries sticky so that people want to be engaged with the learning we can help to provide. We are trying to do this with connective activities that make our kids feel positive about the library environment. Comfy couches, knitting, quizzes, Book Club. We’ve even got our interactive whiteboard hooked up to TV reception so that the Olympic games can be viewed by our students over the coming two weeks. I have a wonderful staff who work hard to enable so many of these activities to happen. (I even have a wonderful Mum, experienced knitter Barbara, who has been coming in over the last couple of weeks to help our girls learn the finer points about knitting!)  

Much of Mary’s talk tonight was laced with the need to respond to technology and how it can help to transform learning. SLAV have been running the 23 things program with Library staff around Victoria and are going a long way towards helping make the shift happen in our schools.  I had an engaging conversation after the event with teachers about Powerful Learning Practice, the initiative developed by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson that I am helping with here in Australia. We are setting up a global cohort and Australian Schools will be involved. These teachers could understand the capacity building model this program offers. It’s like the extension of the 23 things program; it offers teachers the opportunity to become immersed into learning communities, enabling connections and transformative learning opportunities for students. They were excited by it and so am I. I feel a bit like an evangelist right now – I’m so excited by the possibilities and want everyone else to catch the fever! I realise it’s going to take time, but with people like Mary speaking to Teacher-Librarian groups in Victoria, we’re headed in the right direction.

Google Street View – now in Australia

Was watching World News on SBS when I saw a report about Google Street View. I’d never heard of it, but the reporter was saying that your house’s street view could be visible in a Google Maps search if you selected street view. Just had to check that out! Typed in my address, clicked on street view and next thing you know I’m looking at my front fence and driveway -the image you see above! Freaked me out a bit I have to admit. It seems a little intrusive somehow.

Andrew Ramadge, from wrote an article about Street View explaining what it is and how the images are collected;

Google Street View is an online tool that lets users take a virtual tour of landscapes from their computer by perusing an interactive database of millions of 360-degree snapshots.

The snapshots are taken by a fleet of cars fitted with special cameras that drive across the country, capturing images on every street corner and along every highway.

   He goes on to address security concerns that have been expressed and how Google hopes to overcome them;

In response to security concerns raised in the US, Google said last year its Street View service would not identify faces or license plates in Australia.

The company has recently introduced an automatic face-blurring technology designed to obscure the identities of people caught in the lens of Street View. Mr Shilkin said that the low resolution of images would prevent vehicle number plates from being identifiable.

Users can also report any Street View images they believe to be inappropriate through a link on the website. Mr Foster said it would take anywhere between a few minutes to “a day or so” to remove to offending images once they were reported.

Google have created a video explaining Street View for Australian audiences. I have to admit that after viewing this I warmed to the Street View concept. Good marketing Google! I like the fact that I and my students are now going to be able to visit places of interest and ‘walk’ our way around them. Imagine a class where you’re explaining the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or Opera House- you can take your students there to navigate your way around its surrounds.  If you have to find your way from one place to another you type in your start address and your finish address and the program will step out for you the course you need to take.  Geography classes just got a whole lot more interesting I think! Watch the video and make your own mind up about Street View.

(If you want to see how the camera works that took the street view pictures take a look at this popular mechanics article. Thanks to Simon Brown for tweeting about this)

US election made simple thanks to Commoncraft.

Despite being at the bottom of the world (depending on which way you look at things!) and probably not even factoring in the consciousness of many American citizens, we in Australia are pretty interested in the American political process.  What America does matters to us; we are so heavily influenced by the culture, and decisions that the American Government make have ramifications for us. Just look at Iraq – Australian soldiers were deployed there almost immediately and have only just been withdrawn thanks to  the change of Government in our latest election (Labor now holds power).

That’s why this latest offering from the Lefevers at Commoncraft is going to be useful. I recently had a fantastic conversation with my Yr 7 students about the race between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democrat leadership. They are very aware of who the people are but are not so aware of the processes that get them into Government. Electing a US President in Plain English explains the election process that will take place when the Democrat candidate faces the Republican candidate. They do it well. Make sure your tell your teachers about it. It’s a plain simple explanation that makes plain sense!

Very recent – the ‘buzz’ search engine

Tom Churm commented on this blog recently about what I assume is his search engine, Very Recent. It’s an interesting idea. It’s a search engine that searches for information on sites like Twitter, Google Blog Search, Technorati, Yahoo News, Digg, FriendFeed and Flickr. So what you’re getting when you search is the latest ‘buzz’ from people making comment and producing content in this networked world.  

How useful it will be for education is something to ponder. There’s always the risk that the returns will be potentially inappropriate – we are, after all, dealing with social networking sites where people offer relaxed commentary. However, I could see the benefit of this search engine for finding information about world events as they happen. It’s often the social networking sites that are buzzing with info straight away. If you operate in a network like Twitter you will know that the links people provide are often good.  I searched for Beijing Olympics and found some interesting information and some great photos from Flickr. You could set a task for students to find what the latest buzz is surrounding this world event. By going to a Technorati link I discovered that protestors in Beijing must give 5 days notice and ‘not harm China’s vaguely defined “national interests” ‘.  Let’s see how that goes!!

You don’t get a lot of detail about what is listed there- just the title of the blog post, article or YouTube video etc. Hard to know if there is any relevance for what you need. Phil Bradley recently wrote about it and you might like to read his take on it. It’s an interesting idea though, and Very Recent is a search engine I’ll be remembering the next time something big happens and I want to see what the world is saying about it.

School’s out Friday

So hard to choose this week because I’ve had two suggestions from my students for this week’s dose of School’s out Friday. I love it that the kids I teach want to be involved in the process. They love the School’s out Friday post and often ask if they can watch them in class. I have them during last lesson on a Friday so as a treat they sometimes get to watch the previous week’s post just before leaving school for the weekend.

Can’t disappoint them so there are two funny vids this week. The first is a quickie – a mother panda who gets a shock from her newborn’s sneeze – guaranteed to put a smile on you face. The second is two Australian comics, Lano and Woodley, who did a farewell tour when they decided to part company. This is Frank Woodley and his song explaining the origins of everything including their meeting, career togehter and decision to part. And all in one and a half minutes!

Hope you have a great weekend.