School’s out Friday

If you’re a heavy duty computer user, and you’re the owner of a cat, then I’m sure you’ll relate to the behaviour of Simon’s Cat. I’m frequently tapping the keys over the top of a cat that’s decided my lap is prime real estate they are occupying, whether I like it or not!

Yet another week where I haven’t had time (nor energy) to get a mid week post written. It’s a plight those of us who are busy classroom practitioners face. I’d like nothing more than to set time aside in my working life to tap something out, but the reality of busy school days doesn’t allow it. I’ve been launching student blogs, teaching kids about our Overdrive platform, spreading news about EasyBib, creating Libguides to support our Humanities curriculum, teaching my English class etc, etc. All good stuff, and important too. Sometimes you feel like you’re not achieving much, but when you take stock and think about what you’ve been involved in, you realise these are all small steps in helping your school community make big moves towards understanding new ways of accessing and using information.

Open Day at my school tomorrow. That means working on Saturday. No rest for the wicked, as they say. I think that bottle of wine chilling in my fridge will be under threat tomorrow night!

Enjoy whatever comes your way this weekend. Find some sun and soak in it. : )

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.

School’s out Friday

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

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

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

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

Enjoy whatever comes your way this weekend. : )

 

Learning with the New South Welshmen (and women) at the AIS ICT Technology Integration Conference

My mind has been buzzing after attending the AIS Technology Integration Conference 2010 last week. The conference had around 200 participants; a really nice number. There are opportunities for discussions and connections to be made when you aren’t overwhelmed by huge numbers. Maybe it felt good to me because my Keynote was over early (great relief!) and was received well. If I’d tanked maybe I’d have been less positive!!

What I was impressed with most of all was the energy that was palpable amongst the educators present. It felt quite similar at the Leading a Digital School Conference here in Melbourne recently. It just might be that there’s a growing acceptance that we really do need to accept that new technologies are becoming ingrained in the way we and our students lead our lives, and we need to respond by integrating new ideas into the way we teach.

Some useful takeaways. If you’re a music teacher, you must take a look at the work being done by Samuel Wright. He writes a blog called Wright-stuff music, and it’s a plethora of resources that any music teacher or student would find useful I’m figuring. I attended a session run by Samuel where he took us through some of the resources on his blog. I was so impressed by his passion for what he does; if a child of mine was in a class run by Samuel I’d be a very happy parent indeed. Do yourself a favour and visit to see what Samuel is up to.

Therese Kenny ran a really informative session about Overdrive, a download solution for Audiobook and ebook content that is used widely in public libraries. Loreto Normanhurst are the first Australian school to take it on board, and Therese and the team have done us all a favour by potentially ironing out some of the problems so that any of us who run school libraries might be able to embark on the journey with more confidence. Overdrive is something that I am seriously looking at for the 2011 school year. I don’t know if it’s the solution I think is possible, but right now it represents what is available. I think we need to explore it. I don’t want to embark on something that potentially might not be the way to go, but I do want to see how students will react to downloading files and using them on their own devices. I don’t think the solution to ebooks lies in purchasing multiple kindles or iPads for borrowing. It lies in being able to lend out encrypted files that will disappear off a device after a set borrowing period. Overdrive does this. Until we are able to download files as a matter of course from publishers, we are going to have to do it through hosted sites like Overdrive. Therese has very kindly allowed me to embed her slideshare presentation here. It’s very thorough; an enormous help to all Australian Teacher Librarians who are contemplating what to do. Thank you so much Therese and Loreto Normanhurst for your generosity in sharing with us all.

June Wall presented a session about embedding digital literacy in the curriculum. She outlined the process her team at St Ignatius Riverview has gone through to determine a model that they feel will enable them to make technology integration meaningful in their curriculum. It’s something my library staff and I are working through as well at the moment. I was interested in some ideas being shared by Martin Levins. Martin was discussing the SAMR model, the process of the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition method of evaulating learning experiences. A Google Doc was worked on in a Sandpit session on the Thursday. It’s worth looking at. It models how we can look at existing curriculum and reshape it to integrate technology, and make the learning more interesting and challenging for the students we teach. This is something we are going to be looking at for next year. This is challenging work for many of us, not necessarily because we don’t know how to do it, but because we need to move people along with us who may be uncomfortable with change. (Thanks Martin for sharing this work; I was running a Twitter session for teachers new to the idea of it and was unable to attend the session. I have found the Google Doc and your SAMR page on the wiki very helpful)

Jeff Utecht delivered an inspiring Keynote on the second day. Jeff moves around and his enthusiasm is infectious. He had us working on Google Docs, in a backchannel chat, sourcing pics from flickr and tweeting out through Twitter. He demonstrated how you can use these tools in your classroom to focus kids and ensure detailed archives of sessions are kept. Jeff also had us stopping at intervals for chat time, so that we could process some of the ideas being presented with the people around us. You can access the audio of his presentation from his page on the wiki. Do so. (I have to admit to getting a real kick to be able to be on the same bill as Jeff as a Keynoter. Jeff really inspired me in my early days of blogging when I would tune into SOS Podcast for inspiration.)

The Sandpit sessions on the second day meant that people could immerse themselves in something that interested them and get a handle on it in the hope that it will become something they could take back to their schools. Take a look at some of the pages created by participants. You can see the learning that was taking place. As I said earlier, I ran a session for some teachers who wanted to understand Twitter. I hope to see them become active contributors and participants in that vital network.

John Clear, Melanie Hughes, Pauline Lewis and members of the organising committee did a wonderful job of bringing this conference together and ensuring it ran smoothly. I so enjoyed getting to catch up with Chris Betcher and June Wall, and to finally meet Mira Danon-Baird,  Carmel Galvin, and Henrietta Miller. Thanks go to Colin who got me to the conference each morning!