Everywhere is here – is that the school library of the future?

This is Guy Adam Ailion’s animation, an introduction to his Architectural Masters Thesis called EVERYWHERE IS HERE. He has posted it to YouTube and has included this explanatory text to accompany it;

What is a library when ‘everywhere is here’? This architectural animation explores the question of the role of the public library when digital information is everywhere and is everything. What happens to the spaces of books? and how should traditional spaces of information change for a digital world? Even better… in the developing world, how could the library nurture an information society, when people don’t have access at home? Could the future of the library be an urban information bar? or a theatre of knowledge? and what does that really mean anyway?

These are question not just for public libraries, but for school libraries too. I like his ideas. Thinking of libraries as ‘Urban information bars’, or ‘Theatres of Knowledge’ conjures images of busy bustling centres for all. Just the kind of environment that is equally important in a school setting. It’s important that students have a space where all are welcome, where everyone can congregate and share ideas, where everyone can ‘fit’ without worrying about cliques and social strata.

These are considerations that will occupy my thinking over the next six or so months. Our school has received funding for redevelopment of our School Library. While we have the exterior building design pretty much sorted, it’s the interior design and functionality of space that has me excited. As a library staff, we are looking to create something special that will meet our needs for the long term. We want comfort, a space that that is welcoming and creates a sense of belonging for our school community. We want to find new ways to utilise space, creating learning nooks and relaxing recreational areas. We want to be creative with signage and we want to rationalise our collection to meet the changing needs of our community of users. 

These are ideas we have been knocking around, but I think we need to go to our users and ask them what they would like to see happen in the space. We have a large display board, circa 1960’s I’ll have you note, and I’m going to create a banner to adorn it asking;


I’m going to invite our students to share with us their thoughts and post them on this display board. I’m interested in finding out what they see as important.  They’re a creative lot, it’s more than likely that they will generate some ideas that we haven’t contemplated. What would be great would be if they could be really creative and produce designs for us to contemplate. I’m sure we could come up with a competition idea to support this with a prize or two that will help to get some creative juices flowing. Our kids learn how to create design briefs in their design and technology classes so we might as well give them a real life scenario to work towards. Perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised and find that they meld with our thinking or we may be even more surprised and find that they take our thinking to new places.   

Thanks to Marianne Lenox for pointing me in the direction of Guy’s animation. 

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School’s out Friday


How could today’s School’s out Friday be anything but Michael Jackson. His death today shocked the world. Despite the controversy that dogged him over the last 10 or so years, he was the consummate showman when he graced a stage.

I know, because I was lucky enough to go to his concert at Olympic Park here in Melbourne in 1987. It was the concert that coincided with the the Thriller Album. I’ll never forget the opening sequence, as the stage opened up and the zombie like figures made their way up stairs onto the stage.

Another unforgettable part of that concert was the figure dancing in the rooftop turret of Government House. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know if he or she was a random person who had access or if they were strategically placed there, but I’ll never forget their shadow dancing to the music. It was mesmerising.

This song, Man in the Mirror, is my favourite Michael Jackson song. Personally, I think it was when he was at his best.

Deepak Chopra has written a tribute to Michael Jackson on the Huffington Post. It is worth reading. It reveals a man not many of us saw in the media maelstrom that haunted him wherever he went.

Listen to some of Michael’s music this weekend.  I have no doubt we all hold memories of good times spent listening and maybe even dancing to the songs he penned and performed.

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Digital literacy lessons for all- me included! Glad you’re alive and well Jeff!

I woke today to the news that Michael Jackson was in hospital and it was suspected that he had died. I didn’t go to my computer, just followed the mainstream media on Channel Nine here in Melbourne for awhile. Eventually news broke that he had died.

I went to the computer and opened Twitter where the story was being discussed by all. Then Richard Wilkins on Channel Nine’s Today Show  announced he had just received a report saying that Jeff Goldblum had fallen from a cliff in New Zealand while filming and was dead. Now hearing it on mainstream media led to me sending out a tweet about it. That led to a series of retweets that spread like wildfire while I tried to verify if the story was true.

Some tweets came through pretty early on suggesting it was a hoax. The links wouldn’t open.  I went to Wikipedia and saw interesting developments take place within minutes. Jeff Goldblum’s page was open when I first visited. I refreshed not two minutes later and the page was locked to users who were new or unregistered.

Editing of this article by new or unregistered users is currently disabled.   

That led to me getting suspicious that something was up, be it truth or hoax. Right after this Richard Wilkins announced that New Zealand police were investigating the death of Jeff Goldblum from a fall while filming. Rightly or wrongly, I tweeted this, just as I had been tweeting about changes to the Wikipedia page. I searched the web for verification but the page that would have confirmed the hoax wouldn’t open. Later in the morning, Ann Van Meter sent the link that opened to Top Stories, a site that generates stories like this one.     

Refreshing the Wikipedia page was interesting over that period. At one stage they had information saying the reports of his death were likely a hoax. I tweeted this. At another stage this information was no longer on the page, but they had after his name his birthdate and death and referred to him in the past tense. Not soon after this the page was updated again with this information missing and he was once again discussed in the present tense.

Wikipedia page not long after mainstream media announcement.


Hoax detail.


Past tense reference to Jeff Goldblum.


(Using the history tab in Wikipedia enabled me to grab these screenshots of the relevant pages) 

At around this time, The Today Show’s, Karl Stefanovic, mentioned on Channel Nine that Twitter was reporting the story as a hoax. I tweeted this too.  I then started to read tweets about ethical behaviour and the like. I felt like some of this was directed at me. (Maybe that’s paranoia!) Here’s some of the flurry in a screen capture;


I’m prepared to admit that I feel pretty bad about putting out the Tweet in the first place. I trusted mainstream media. I honestly did not think Richard Wilkins would report something that had not been properly verified. The Today Show had been quite insistant earlier in the morning about saying that the reports of Michael Jackson’s death were coming from TMZ, a gossip website.   But I do think I was making a concerted effort to get verification from other Web sources.

It’s a lesson in Digital literacy for us all.

Should I have searched first and tweeted later? Probably.

Would this have been a good lesson to use with students as it happened? Absolutely.

Will I be using this post with the classes I teach? You betcha.

Have I learnt a lot this morning?  Too right I have. Snopes slipped my mind just when I needed it! 

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Gmail ninja tips – I need them!

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

I had my children in 1996 and 1999, so my time in schools during this period and in the years up to 2004/5 was a bit patchy. I worked, but some of it was as a relief teacher and a large part of it was in a part time capacity. It’s been interesting because I wasn’t in schools in a full time capacity when computers really started making an impact.

I missed some essential learning as a result. I have no idea about spreadsheets and using programs like excel and my management of email leaves a lot to be desired. Just ask the IT Manager at my school who despairs because I don’t manage my folders well and I clog up the system. Much, in fact all of my learning re driving a computer, has had to be self directed. I’ll never forget the embarrassment of having to ask people how to set up a folder or how you cut and paste. It’s one of the reasons I try and help people as much as I can without making them feel inferior. I know only too well how difficult it can be to admit that you don’t know how to do something.

So I was pretty happy to discover Google has provided some tip sheets about how to become a Gmail Ninja.  Tip sheets are provided for White Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt and Gmail Master users. Just reading the White Belt tips has pointed me to tips I should be applying to my management of my Gmail.  For those of us who still need to hang onto something in print, there’s a printable guide available. I just might need that!


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Aha moment – ever had one of those?

Ever had an ‘aha’ moment? An experience where revelation comes to you suddenly. I had one of those when I started writing this blog. Writing my first post and waking up the next morning to see a comment posted was a real ‘aha’ moment for me. Everything I had been reading about in terms of connections and the ability of the web to bring us together seemed to coalesce in that moment.

I really like ahamoment.com, a site dedicated to sharing the aha moments of the people who chose to share their stories. Thanks go to Tony Hollingsworth who alerted me to its presence on the Web via a tweet. I like how they describe an aha moment;

Aha moments come in all shapes and sizes. We know from the real people featured on this site and with those to whom we continue to speak, that aha moments are personal. They have been described as, “magic,” “enlightenment,” and, “that moment of clarity when all the pieces fall into place.” They’ve told us that having an aha moment is like, “getting hit by a bus,” and that it just “hits you.”

I’m intrigued by the research they say has been conducted into aha moments and what happens physiologically before they happen;

“In 2004, researchers at Northwestern University wanted to discover the physiological responses that lead to the breakthrough moments known as aha moments. What they discovered was that a split — second before having an aha moment, we experience a burst of electrical brain activity… kind of like a big light bulb going off in your brain.

Another study in 2006 by the same research team found that aha moments tend to occur more often in the “prepared mind.” In short, if we’re open to change and maybe even looking for some kind of change — an aha moment is more likely to happen.”

A part of me believes very strongly in the 2006 study. I do believe we create our own situations to some extent. I think you have to work it, but if you visualise where it is you want to be in life you can find yourself there.

I could see this site being useful in school settings. People sharing insights into what has sparked a new direction for them could help inspire our students and could be the basis for writing or digital media tasks. Perhaps our students could upload their own stories to the site. 

My only concern is that the site is run by the Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company. I’m wondering what their motivation is for running a site like this? It looks like a clever marketing ploy to me; run a site that’s interesting and plug a few products like life insurance, retirement solutions etc. This could be another interesting educational exercise- part of the digital literacy learning our kids should be aware of. Get your students to visit the site and find out who is running it by having them scroll down to the bottom of the page and check out the detail that you find in the links there.

Interesting from many angles. Exploring the site was a bit of an ‘aha’ moment in itself!


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Students are doing it for themselves.

(sing the title to the Pointer Sister’s tune!)

I haven’t updated of late about the Year 9 Ning running across our four classrooms at Toorak College. Mostly that’s because life has been crazy for me and I haven’t had time to feed it to the extent that it needs in order for it to be a rich environment. One of the things I’ve learnt is that a Ning needs a leader to constantly drive momentum. It can’t survive with just a leader, the community needs to be plugging away too, but leadership is an essential component.

I wondered how things would go now that we are on school holidays. My prediction was that it would be quiet. We’ve been focused on assessment and end of term careers week and we didn’t get class time to prompt student involvement.  I figured this would translate into next to no activity.

Well, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. To start with, a fellow teacher uploaded a discussion about ‘Mid year holiday English fun’ and asked the students to reply to this;

What will you be up to during the winter break that is related to English?

* I’ll be curling up in front of the heater with a cat on my feet, cocoa with marshmallows in one hand, and a book in the other.
* I’ll also be visiting my local library to check out their new books
* I’m going to write in my diary
* I might go to see a play or a comedy show
* I’ll certainly be watching lots of movies!    

And yes, kids have been replying.

And then today, I got this email from one of my students;

My dad sent this to me and it is english related… i have also put it on the ning.

Now this is a student who was not particularly interested in the Ning at the start of the year. Here’ s what she posted as a discussion;

UP. A little word with a lot of meaning.



Lovers of the English language might enjoy this. It is yet another example of why people learning English have trouble with the language. Learning the nuances of English makes it a difficult language. (But then, that’s probably true of many languages.)

There is a two-letter word in English that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is ‘UP.’ It is listed in the dictionary as being used as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?
At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends and we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.
At other times the little word has a real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this up is confusing:
A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP !

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP , look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP,you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets UP the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on & on, but I’ll wrap it UP , for now …….my time is UP , so time to shut UP!

Oh….one more thing:
What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night?

U P 

Well, it’s made my day. It made me smile and it made me realise that the kids are connecting with this forum. The fact that a student who was disinterested in the beginning, now makes the connection between something her Dad sends her and the learning environment we have created at school is pretty darned impressive in my opinion.

I’m feeling UP about the Ning right now. Let’s see if the Ning can remain UP at the forefront of my students’ minds over a three week break.

School’s out Friday

Thanks to the generosity of my husband’s cousin, last night we saw Pink in concert at the Rod Laver Arena here in Melbourne.  This excerpt on Youtube is from the opening number. The concert was part of Pink’s, ‘Funhouse tour’ and it was incredible. It was one of the 54 shows she is performing in Australia over a  period of four months. Her athleticism and amazing voice outstripped the spectacular staging. You were focused on her performance from beginning to end. Far and away the best concert I’ve ever been to. To top it off, we got to watch it from a corporate box. Free and luxury surrounds. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Hope your weekend treats you well. School holidays have begun for me so rest and relaxation will be the order of the day – make that days!

Twitter Search in Plain English

The Lefevers are at it again. This time it’s ‘Twitter Search in Plain English’ . It’s a very useful explanation of how you would use Twitter to gain insight about news and trending topics. Especially useful for educators. This is one of the ways we can explain to our students how to use social media to keep abreast of what people are thinking and where they are sourcing their thinking from. The links that are fed through Twitter are examples some of the most useful filtering taking place by users of the web. For breaking news it’s very hard to go past Twitter. I know that I am aware of big topics a long time before the television news media have got their act together.

Thanks once again to Lee and Sachi. You make our teaching lives a whole lot easier with the work you do.

What do friends mean?

A tweet came through today that pointed me in the direction of a post on The New York times site. Interesting that I should be influenced by a post from New York, when I should have been tramping the streets of that city today. I’m not, and nor will I be attending the NECC conference in a couple of weeks.  Life’s been throwing me some curve balls of late and that’s why the post I’m discussing held such relevance for me.

June 15, 2009, 5:41 am

<!– — Updated: 5:41 am –>What Do Friends Mean?


Today’s idea: The rise of social media and the downturn in the economy have people thinking long and hard about the value and meaning of friends — psychologically, socially and economically. Upshot: confusion.

That was the opener.

Over the last month or so I’ve had cause to consider the meaning of friendship and the importance it holds in our lives. I’ve come to the conclusion that good friends are good friends, be they physically close or far away. And I’ve realised  that the friends I have made online who truly care about me are good friends in the true sense of the word.  

I’m not confused, as the above post suggests. I’m firmly grounded in the belief that there is good in the world and when you need it, the true nature of friendship reveals itself. That has certainly been my experience.  Surprisingly, it extends from unexpected quarters too and new friends reveal themselves.

So, my answer to the question posed? What do friends mean?

A heck of a lot. Thanks to my good friends out there. You know who you are.

Google Translate- is this changing the nature of LOTE teaching?

LONDON - APRIL 13:  (FILE PHOTO) In this photo...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I was involved in a session the other day with Yr 9 students. We were exploring techniques for searching the web to find the information you need. We spent some time looking at Google Scholar and this led to an exploration of some of the other applications Google offers. When we touched on Google Translate you could see this ‘look’ appear on the students’ faces. It was like I’d uncovered their hidden secret.  

What emerged quite clearly was that the students were using Google Translate to assist them with their LOTE classes. Obviously they were under the impression that the teaching staff weren’t tuned into the wonders of Google Translate and all it offers.

If you haven’t used it yet, you should check Google Translate out. I’ve had to use it recently when I had comments in Russian left on this blog. I thought they might have been Russian spammers, but they were legitimate comments.  It helped that I work with a Russian colleague who was able to verify that the returns I was getting from Google Translate were close to the mark. I can only imagine that the students at my school have discovered this as a pretty effective tool for handling homework easily. I’m just left wondering whether the LOTE staff are onto it.

If they’re not, they should be, and so should all the LOTE teachers out there. Hopefully people are finding ways to make it an effective tool to support the learning of students. All you need to do is place text into a box, select the language you want to translate to and hit enter. Check out the screenshot below.  


Using it has made me think about travel and how handy Google Translate would be if you were overseas and had an internet enabled phone. You could use this as your translation tool to navigate your way through  non- English speaking countries. I know that when Iwas in Shanghai by myself last year, I had moments where I felt completely vulnerable due to my inability to communicate.  Google translate would have been a  lifesaver, especially for those moments when I was trying to hail Taxis and have them take me to my hotel when all I had was the hotel name written in English. You can imagine the difficulties I had. All I can say is, you live and learn!  

Interestingly enough, it’s made me consider the Tower of Babel story from Genesis. When I was in my first year of Teacher’s College,  I had to write a 3000 word essay about the perception of God based on the Book of Genesis.  I had enormous difficulty finding references as I was presenting  the viewpoint that God had it in for man. I literally had to hole myself up in the State Library of Victoria for a period of time, as the only book I could find that went anywhere near supporting my viewpoint was one by Erich Fromm that was only housed there. 

How do I bring this anecdote to my discussion of Google Translate?

It’s a leveller. It enables collaboration across cultures distanced by language. And unless the almighty disables the internet to divide mankind, the use of a tool like this will help to faciliate the  abilty of cultures to work together to communicate and maybe, just maybe, work together to solve the problems that plague this planet.

In the meantime, LOTE teachers, get yourselves up to speed. The kids you teach might be just one step ahead of you. 


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