Edublog Awards 2010 – my nominations

Nominations for the Edublog awards close tomorrow, so I thought I better get my act into gear and nominate some of the wonderful people out there who make learning happen for me. Not only for me, but  for countless others out there who find that the best professional development they receive these days comes from the people who are willing to be transparent about their thinking, and willing to share the resources they find that make them better at what they do.

It’s not easy. There are far too many great blogs, tweeters, and resource sharing sites out there, but I’ll give it a go. There are a ton more that deserve mentioning- wish I had the time to name them all.

Best individual blogJohn Connell: The Blog.   John always make me think. Especially when he’s fired up about something. I’ve been reading John for as long as I’ve been involved in the edublogosphere, and his quality posts that appear on a consistent basis, are one of my always go to places on the web.
Best individual tweeterAlec Couras.   Whenever I see a tweet from Alec appear in my Twitter stream, I take pause to read it. Alec shares some wonderful links, as well as giving us insight into the way he goes about his work, and how he lives his life.
Best new blogLiv to Dance. OK. I teach Liv, so I’ll be up front and admit bias. But I love Liv’s enthusiasm and how she’s working at building audience as she writes about dancing, her passion.

Best student blogStyle Rookie I don’t know if this qualifies as a student blog, but I’m guessing it does. Tavi is still at school, is blogging about what she loves, and making a reasonable dent in the universe while doing it. She impresses me, and she impresses my students also.
Best resource sharing blogPhil Bradley’s weblog. Phil finds the new stuff that’s out there and lets us all know if it’s worth looking at. If Phil thinks it’s good, then I’m sure to be checking it out.

Best teacher blogBrave New World.  Tania Sheko’s blog is well worth reading. Sometimes resource sharing, sometimes reflections on the need for change in education, and always how she is trying to make this happen. Quality writing too.
Best librarian / library blogBright Ideas I just love what SLAV and Judith Way are doing for Australian Teacher-Librarians, and Librarians the world over. Bright ideas is a place where Teacher Librarians can post what they’re doing in their own schools. It a vehicle for many who don’t have a web presence to get their great work out there for all to see and learn from.  It’s also a great resource sharing blog.
Best school administrator blogDarcy Moore’s Blog. Darcy is a Deputy Principal in New South Wales, and he pushes my thinking. I love that a Deputy Principal sees the value in blogging and wants to be part of the change process. Darcy is one of our great role models who the NSW Department of Education better hang onto!
Best educational podcastEd Tech Crew. Tony and Darrell do a great job of interviewing people who are exploring new ways of doing things. They share some great resources along the way too.

Best educational use of a social network –  Instructional Rounds – Best Teacher practice – The E5 Model PLN.  Nina Davis and Jenni Byass have set this up to support their teacher professional leave project, but along the way they’ve managed to attract school administrators and teachers from many parts of the world. Updated regularly and a supportive environment.
Lifetime achievementBill Ferriter. I’ve been to the United States twice this year and unfortunately did not get to meet Bill. His blog ‘The Tempered Radical’, is that really nice blend of a teacher modeling really good classroom practice, ideas for using new technologies for meaningful learning, and gutsy posts that get to the heart of current issues facing educators the world over. Bill is @plugusin on Twitter, and to me, he’s a real human being, sharing what matters. I don’t know how long Bill’s been at it, but he gets my vote anyway.

Voting ends Tuesday 14th of December.

Death to Encarta – Wikipedia 2.7m vs Encarta 42,000

Microsoft Encarta
Image via Wikipedia

Microsoft have announced the demise of Encarta which will be effective from 31st October 2009. The company  has said this on a FAQ page they have set up explaining the decision;

“Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.”

Yes they do.

 I only have to look at the bibliographies produced by students at my school to see that Wikipedia has taken over as the encyclopedia reference source our students go to first. With 2.7 million entries vs 42,000 in Encarta it’s not hard to see why. We try and impress upon our students the need to cross check information but we certainly don’t dissuade them from using it. 

I saw the power of Wikipedia unfold when the American airbus crash landed in the Hudson River. As the incident unfolded the Wikipedia page started taking shape. At that point in time, this method of participatory media was the best source of information about what was happening.  

We have recently made the decision at my school to unsubscribe from Encyclopedia Brittanica. We are retaining our subscription to World Book, but despite our best efforts, find it difficult to get our students to use it as their first port of call. Subscription databases are expensive and from an economic standpoint you have to look at usage vs cost. I’m waiting for the day when these subscription database services wake up and realise that they would be better served offering their services for free. They could move to accepting advertising on their sites to generate income to sustain their costs.    

Thanks to Phil Bradley and Stephen Abrams for alerting me to this in their posts. 

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I want to – 1,000 apps in a list!

I’ve mentioned Phil Bradley many a time. He writes a very helpful blog, is extremely knowledgeable and  has a sense of humour.  I sense he does, anyway, from the way he writes.  I like writers whose personality shines through, especially humour. There can’t be enough of it as far as I’m concerned!   One of the things he does is maintain a site called ‘I want to’.  Here’s what it’s about from its front page;

I want to:

“I want to…” or “I need to” or “How do I?” These are all questions we all ask all the time. This is a small collection of resources that will help to answer those questions. It is not complete, nor will it ever be. I will be adding to this on a regular basis, so feel free to bookmark it and come back and visit. Now listing over 1,000 applications.

Web 2.0 applications and resources to help collaborate, communicate, discover, email, laugh, generate images, podcast, use multimedia, store photographs, use RSS, internet search, shop, create start pages, store information, time management, train, teach and do things with webpages and websites.

This is a fabulous resource. Phil keeps it updated so the links are live and if something goes belly up he’ll let you know. It’s organised into categories and sub categories and a brief explanation accompanies each link so you have some idea of what the app is about. Like he says, this is one to bookmark and one to use in PD for staff.  Pointing our students in the direction of this  wouldn’t hurt also! 

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Google things to do.

I have to admit to really liking the services Google offers. I love Google Docs and the flexibility they offer for working collaboratively and for storing documents online. I still find myself defaulting to Google as my search engine of choice even though I know there are other search engines doing a great job delivering results in interesting ways. Phil Bradley referred to this page on the Google site in a post recently and I found it pretty cool. It’s called Google things to do.


On the page are 52 things to do. They include ‘Watch your favourite YouTube clips in high resolution’, ‘Make your homepage YOUR homepage’, ‘Read a newspaper written in a language you don’t speak’, and there are 49 others for you to check out. What you do is click on the title of the thing to do and you will find a prompt redirecting you to YouTube video or one will appear in the text box on the page. Other options include a Google search box pop up that enables you to search for the answer to life, the universe and everything.

I think this would be fun to use with kids, provided you weren’t hampered by a firewall blocking YouTube!! Imagine setting the task to find a new thing to learn and present back to their peers after a set period of time to demonstrate what they’ve learnt. I think I’d find that a pretty interesting lesson. Just wish the firewall didn’t exist so that I could actually do it with the kids I teach.

New search engines

I’ve mentioned it before on more that one occasion, but it’s worth saying again. Phil Bradley writes an informative blog and is a valuable source of information for Teacher- Librarians. He created the above  picture for a presentation he gave and made it Creative Commons for others to use. Great sharing Phil – I love the picture as it encompasses the newer search engines now available. I (and I’d have to say the majority of students at my school) continue to default to Google as do the vast majority of the population. I was pleased to hear a staff member say today that she gets her students to use Mooter after I introduced it to her last year. She thinks the students can make greater sense of the results with the clustering technology it employs.

I’ve read about a couple of new search engines via my google reader that may be useful. Phil highlighted Green Maven – the green search engine for people interested in looking for websites focusing on green issues – sustainability and the like. I searched for light globes and my return focused on the energy efficient kind. Phil’s take on it was this;

It works well if what you want is in that subject area – if you do rather more general searches the results start to get a little bit flaky.  

Jane Hart highlighted another quirky offering aimed at the K-12 audience. It’s called Boolify and uses a drop and drag of pieces that resemble a jigsaw to teach kids the importance of boolean logic in their searches. I can see the appeal for younger kids but think secondary students would get frustrated with the time it takes to formulate a search. It could be good to use when teaching kids explicitly about boolean operators however, particularly in the junior end of secondary schools. It’s worth having a bit of a play with. It’s creator, Dave Crusoe, has said this about it;

“So, we’ve worked with a team of librarians and others to develop something called Boolify, a graphical search tool meant for K12 use.   It pulls results from Google’s SafeSearch (Strict), so it’s reasonably classroom-safe, and we get the best of both worlds: a great way to understand and build searches, as well as great results provided by Google.”

How Do Ya? Thanks Phil.

Phil Bradley is a Librarian and he writes a really useful blog that highlights many new applications that Librarians should be aware of. I have him to thank for my interest in the Web. When I returned to Teacher-Librarianship in 2002 (after many years working as a classroom teacher, holding various positions of responsibility and having two children!) I was instantly mesmorised by the new landscape of information. I had to figure out how to get around it and a book about internet search techniques written by Phil helped me to do this. I learnt how search engines retrieve results and techniques for exploring the Web in greater depth. He made me realise that I was skilled and should remain working as a TL. People can have enormous influence on you without them even realising it. Phil has been poorly of late – he wasn’t posting as frequently which was unusual. I posted a comment inquiring about his health as I was concerned – I think it’s important to express humanity even in a digital environment. To my way of thinking, life is all about relationships and our interconnectedness with others. Phil sent me an email thanking me and then posted on his blog about the kind expressions of interest he had received from readers. Pleased to know you are feeling better Phil – your blog is a must read.


That brings me to the point of this post. Phil has pointed out a new search engine called How Do Ya? The search box has ‘How do you…’ already inserted, and you then put in whatever it is you want to know how to do.  Some of the examples appearing on the front page include plan a wedding, write like Kurt Vonneget, paint like Pablo Picasso and fly a plane. Phil tells us that;

“The engine goes off and finds pages that give you that sort of information, and it also provides various ways of narrowing the search down, such as ‘what do you need, who can help, why do it and where should you go’. ” 

It is powered by Exalead, a new search engine that Phil recommends in another post. I had a look at Exalead and it looks pretty good. I like the fact that your search results page provides you with thumbshots of sites and allows you to load a preview. Phil points out numerous other features so make sure you read his post. I have to admit to being overeliant on Google – it’s habit and I do like my iGoogle page. I do think it’s important to explore and be aware of other search engines, particularly when you are teaching students to be discerning users of the Web. Give Exalead a go. 

(Picture – accessed from

The empire strikes back!


Google has responded to Microsoft’s bid to takeover Yahoo. David Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer for Google has posted a response on the Official Google Blog, and they’re not happy.

According to David, Microsoft’s hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It’s about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation. 

He goes on to to say;

Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies — and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.

Could it also be that Google sees the merging of these two companies as a threat to the dominance they now exert over the Web?

I don’t know if we’re seeing a Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader battle here, or if there are any bad guys at all. What will be interesting is what could possibly happen if Microsoft is successful. No doubt new tools to play with and a Google fightback. Interesting times we live in. Thanks to Download Squad and Phil Bradley for alerts to this post.   

*For those who read my previous post -pleased to report car keys found by kind citizen and returned to me today. To Lynne, who did the good deed and refused a reward for her kindness, my hope is that karma comes around and serves you well.

Googlebomb – new term for me

I spend a fair bit of time reading about how search engines work (particularly Google),  but I have to admit that I came across a new term today via Phil Bradley’s site. The term is Googlebomb. According to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, this is what a Googlebomb is;

Technically, a “Googlebomb” (sometimes called a “linkbomb” since they’re not specific to Google) refers to a prank where people attempt to cause someone else’s site to rank for an obscure or meaningless query.

A better explanation (I think) appears at Google Blogoscoped;

A Googlebomb means a lot of people get together to link to a specific site, often an “enemy site,” using specific e.g. funny link text. This way, the target site will appear ranked at #1 in Google for this text, making for an embarrassing effect.

According to Blogoscoped, the Church of Scientology have been Googlebombed when the search terms ‘Dangerous Cult’ are used. Their site comes up as the first result, even though the homepage at this time contains the word “dangerous” but not the word “cult”…  There’s no doubt it is embarrassing for the Church of Scientology and Wikipedia already have it covered in their page entitled Google bomb;

As of January 29, 2008 Google bombing during Project Chanology has caused the main website for Scientology to appear as the first result when searching “dangerous cult”, as reported by Jason Lee Miller of WebProNews.

Something to use when teaching students about how search results can be manipulated when people know what they are doing.