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Thursday, April 2, 2015

#BigRockTrip Reflections on providing Internet Services to remote communities

One of the aspects of our big trip that has been quite obvious has been our reliance on the internet and also the lack of this essential broadband service in the outback.

We found this sign in "the" pub in Maree. The only cold beer that the pub had was in a bottle and they were awaiting their ice delivery for the week.

Granted it would cost the government a fortune to provide fast broadband to everyone in Australia, the reality is that Australia has many remote communities, indigenous and otherwise. Getting them connected to a reliable internet broadband service will change their lives forever. Not just from an education point of view but also from a health, financial and community point of view.

As a country we need to start to think creatively about services to ALL communities, rather than saying that it is all too hard and withdrawing support to these communities. It has been interesting to see how the influence of thinking outside the box has revealed tourism opportunities to facets of the outback that were long forgotten

Increased services brings increased opportunities, and perhaps it is a socialist ideal that every school and community should have access to the same services. As a country we have the resources to do it. We are a rich nation who pays not enough tax for what we actually have. Our GST introduced in 2000 has not risen from 10% although an increase on services has increased. 

Like it or not, the traditional industries that Australia relied such as farming and mining are dying. The knowledge economy is what will make this country strong. Remote schools should have access to more than the School of the Air to prepare their students for life in the 21st Century. Communities shouldn't have to shut up shop and move to the big cities to get these services.

Imagine if indigenous communities had the ability to converse in their native tongue between communities? Or perhaps they had the ability to share their culture nuances online with the world? What windows of opportunity would there be if we looked upon our first people as a blessing rather than a burden?

Monday, March 16, 2015

5 ideas for celebrating St. Patrick's Day in your #learningcommons

Making your library space dynamic and changing displays is important to encouraging interest in the space and collection. St. Patrick's Day is one of those celebrations that can be easily put together and decorating your learning space shouldn't take any longer than an hour at most.

Here are a few ideas for decorating your learning space.

1. Bunting

What would the world be without Bunting? All you need is some string, some colour printouts and a hole punch and voila!

Brother have some lovely Lucky Shamrock Bunting to download for free. The other option is to use green scrapbook paper and cut into triangles or squares and punch away!

You could even use green pom poms or green felt shamrocks to create a point of interest.

2. Shamrocks

Print off and cut out some shamrocks by hand or there are many online stores that sell Shamrocks that have already been cut out in paper and also felt.

Alternatively, invest in a Silhouette Cameo and cut them out yourself. I love what this person has done with the story of St. Patrick.

3. Book display

Goodreads have a list of some popular Irish authors and there are some great articles out there about some must-read Irish authors.

Encourage discussions about some of the more prominent Irish authors such as Oscar Wilde, Yeats and Maeve Binchy. You might even have a lunchtime spoken word event where someone reads out an exert from "The Picture of Dorian Gray".

We were hard pressed to find an adequate amount of authors in our library so we had a combination of stories about Ireland, Irish authors and every green book we could put our hands on ...

Another option is Irish Non-Fiction and links to articles which talk about the successful commercialisation of St. Patrick's Day.

4. Food

We set up a bowl of green lollies for students who are borrowing! We came up with Spearmint Leaves, Green Aeroballs and Green M'n'M's.


There are some lovely free printables out there. I like the bookmarks which acknowledge the foundations of the day and also Irish sayings or blessings.

Some of these bookmarks can be enlarged on the photocopier and become wall decorations.

Enjoy your celebrations!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Flipping Classroom

I had the opportunity of watching Andrew Douche strut his stuff at a Professional Learning session a few weeks aback about the Flipped Classroom.

He was engaging and inspirational presenter who used many of his own classroom examples to engage and carry his audience through the journey of designing curriculum to meet the needs of his students. During the presentation he also demonstrated how some of the newer software tools could be used to present material in an engaging way.

In a former life I worked at Methodist Ladies' College in Melbourne in their (Information Technology Learning Centre) and during that time I team taught with two other wonderful Information Technology teachers. We were doing team teaching, flipping, differentiation, formative assessment. All the good stuff before it had it's own #hashtag.

[source: Wayback machine]

Teaching for 20 years, you notice "good teaching practice" being re-packaged and re-branded again and again.

Flipping the classroom is more than just sending kids home with a video to watch. It is intentionally seeing the "out of class" time as an opportunity to continue learning and comprehension of what is happening in the classroom. A classroom without walls.

But what if your sports commitments are five nights a week or what if you have to go home to take care of your younger siblings? In an ideal world, students can go home and study or continue their learning. But often we don't know what their home life is like. As teachers we don't understand that perhaps the only time they have to engage in structured learning is when they are at school.

Flipped learning can work well for some units of work but not necessarily others. And in that case, isn't it just good teaching practice to integrate opportunities for students to continue to develop their thinking outside your classroom?

Some links to get you thinking ...

Monday, February 23, 2015

How to improve your blogname

I am working with some classes at the moment setting up blogs to document student writing, so that students can create and share their writing with a more global audience.

Rather than using a common nickname, Sheryl123, that you have used with other social media sites, establishing a more "grown up" name might be beneficial for students in the long run as they learn about Digital Citizenship and establishing a responsible online presence.

If you find idea generation a challenge, it might be useful to use some of the random generator web sites out there.

This web page throws out suggested names every 10 seconds. Clicking the option can give you further control over the randomness of the page. Names like CubicStack or FunLunatic might not mean much, but might provide some inspiration for a generic blog that can evolve with you over the years.

Another site that provides you with name suggestions based on

Hipster Business Name Generator
Even though it is generating business names, it might come up with a good name for a blog. Names like "Feather and Grass" might be a generic name to use for a blog name.

Random generators are great to use for names, writing ideas and blog post topics.

How do you generate your name?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Writing Opportunities for students

Young Writers are spoilt for choice with a wide range of opportunities and competitions that they can contribute to.

[source: via Centrum]

Letters to the Editor
Do you feel passionate about an issue, submit a concise summary of your position on an issue to the editor of The Australian, , The Age or the Leader Newspaper in your local community.

Contribute to an interest area
Do you have an opinion on a new Album or movie? Send your thoughts into Beat Magazine 

Oz Kids in Print
Provides students with the opportunity to submit their work for publication into their quarterly magazine and they publish a Young Australian 

Express Media
There are a number of publications that young writers can contribute to:

Look Locally, what is your local council doing?
Dandenong Ranges Autumn Writers Festival has writing opportunities for all students and also adults throughout May. Many Municipalities have writing festivals which give students the opportunity to submit their writing and you don't need to be a resident of the municipality.

Charlotte Duncan Award 2015 opens on 1 February 2015 and closes 30 April 2015
Award for a short story for young readers aged 9-12 years. This award has been established in the memory of Charlotte Duncan to raise funds for the neo-natal unit at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital. Entry fee: $9.90 per story. 1st prize - $75, 2nd prize - $50, 3rd prize - $25. Winning entries will be published on the Celapene Press website.

2015 Dorothea MacKellar (National) Poetry Prize opens on 1 March and closes 30 June 2015
Available for all students, they can submit up to three poems EACH.
Many schools do poetry in Year 9 and this is, an excellent opportunity for students to get published. Schools pay equivalent of $1-2 per entry.​

2015 Short and Twisted Anthology
Lots of opportunity for poetry and short stories to be submitted. Free to entry.

Enjoy your writing!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mater Christi Learning Commons

I was fortunate to have a tour of the Mater Christi Learning Commons late last year.

Their recreational reading section looks across the Dandenong's and there are various different styles of furniture for students to sit or lounge on.

I can imagine that  this space might get hot in summer but the large window is beautiful.

The study space mean be booked by teachers and can have two different classes in this space. A lot of these tables are used by staff after school for meetings and often you can see students studying while staff members are talking pedagogy.

Again, there is a range of furniture that the students move around to suit their study needs, be that group work or independent study.

A suggestion book is maintained to encourage students to make the learning space theirs. Students request books, physical changes or opportunities for events.

A Senior fiction and staff fiction reading session is maintained, growing with the needs of the Learning Commons clientele.

A few as more points struck me as being conducive to establishing and developing a learning commons. Students can borrow as many books as they want and they are encouraged to take books home over the summer break to read. At lunchtimes the students use the space in which ever way they want to. Study, socialising, game playing, making things. The philosophy that it is their space to use and develop is reinforced by this attitude.

It should be interesting to follow Mater Christi College as they continue to develop this site and push the boundaries of what a library could be.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

5 free printable bookmarks for your circulation desk

I came across some lovely printable bookmarks that might work well for the school library. Yes I know that eBooks are the way of the future but kids love it when you put a bookmarks into a book that they have borrowed. Make it easy for them to start reading the book straight away!

Picklebum's has so much great stuff on their site, especially if you have small children running around.

I found this next one on Tumbler, so I am not sure who own's copyright over it. But if your Year 8's are going nuts over John Green, then this collection is for you. I'd love to print off the John Green bookmarks and get the kids who have read the book to make their own. It could be a good Library Week activity.

via Tumblr

I love these bee bookmarks -  so cute! The site is great as well, worth a meander through! I love the article on Interesting and Fun bookmarks.

I thought that these ones were rather cute. Some of them could be used for Library Lovers Day which falls on a Saturday this year.

And of course, ALIA Library Lovers Day is happening again this year.

via ALIA

And of course, don't forget those creative souls that just want to make their own bookmark. Design your own bookmark is a free template that you can use.

I would print these off on the thickest card that you can afford, or take the files to one of the small business print shops and they will print them and guillotine them for you as well.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Graduation Day at CSU

It has been such a whirlwind of a year and I am not sure how I managed to get everything finished on time. But I know that I could never have done it without the support of my gorgeous husband and my supportive family.

Finishing this degree marks the end of my life as an Information Technology teacher and the start of my career as a Teacher Librarian (I am sure we can come up with a better name). I decided to make the trip up to the main CSU campus in Wagga Wagga to participate in the graduation ceremony. The grounds are so spacious compared with the institutions that I am used to in Melbourne. One of my lecturers, Roy Crotty, was telling us that it used to be the Wagga Agricultural College.

One of the things that I love about graduation ceremonies is reading about the new Ph.D students and what they have been researching. My husband would shoot me if I continued my study at the moment, but that doesn't stop me from being interested in what others have researched and achieved.

Julia Bale received her Ph.D at the same ceremony and her research looks at the Information-Seeking Preferences of Secondary School Teachers. Her presentation on the ALIA web site looks interesting and I am hoping to learn more about the implications for her research.

Jacob Wallis received his Ph.D with the title "#digitalactivism: networks, new media and political action". Another Ph.D that would be interesting to look through. We joked that perhaps after the graduation ceremony he might have tweeted #iamthedoctor

After the graduation ceremony we had dinner at the Golden Season in Wagga Wagga. Reminiscent of Smorgy's in the 80's, the restaurant was decked out in 70's cane furniture, Mediterranean pictures on the walls and all you can eat chinese buffet. Most strange. Once we all had a bite to eat, we had the opportunity to chew the fat with the fellow students and lecturers and thank them for their care and guidance throughout our journey.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

We love Neil Gaiman and his wisdom on writing

I came across this web page with quotes from famous writers and it got me thinking about how I love Neil Gaiman quotes on how to write.

For students there is a fear of putting yourself out there, for writing something and opening yourself up to the vulnerability that is scrutiny.

But before you start worrying about what people will think about your writing, you have to actually write something. And when you finish writing a piece, it is just the beginning of the process not the end.

Further reading:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Using Hemmingway with students to improve writing

I came across Hemingway Editor and thought that it might be good tool to use with students who are still developing their writing style.

It has a rather simple interface and I like the way that it uses colour to identify areas that need further drafting. Students could use the tool by writing into the web site or doing a cut/copy from MS Word. The information gleamed from the Editor would prove useful for further analysis.

There are lots of ways that you could incorporate this into the English classroom.

I quickly wrote the following text in reaction to this provocative article that crossed my path. Can't our teachers be trusted to dress appropriately and it identified several long and complicated sentences and also the reading level of the piece.

"The issue of the professional dress policy is an interesting one. On one hand, it is important to define the acceptable dress for everyone within the schooling environment, but on the other hand it needs to be done in such a way in which it does not marginalise one gender or the other. 

For the policy to single out that identify that female staff members should not wear provocative clothing, assumes that female staff members hold some power over both students and colleagues alike. "

I copied this paragraph (above) into Hemingway Editor and it identified the reading level of my work and also suggestions for improvement.

I would imagine in an English Classroom that you could then deconstruct the paragraph and talk about how you might improve the writing.

Further reading:


Did you find this useful?
Let me know!