Gaming @ State Library of Victoria

Xperience XBOX
FRI 17 JULY, 6.30 – 9PM
Come in and experience some of the best XBOX 360 games with an evening of modern, multiplayer, and online XBOX 360 games, such as Guitar Hero: World Tour, Halo 3, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Street Fighter IV, and Sacred 2. There’ll also be giveaways and opportunities to win major prizes*, including an XBOX 360 & games pack. All funds raised on the night will be going to benefit the Royal Children’s Hospital. So engage with XBOX 360 gaming and help others at the same time! Presented in association with OzBoxLive.
State Library of Victoria
FREE [Bookings required] *$5 payable per ticket for the prize raffle
Phone: 03 8664 7099
Online (via Eventbrite):

Teen Librarian

British website Teen Librarian (no, our colleagues are not getting younger before our very eyes, it’s for librarians who work in young adult settings) provides some excellent resources for those of us who work in schools or public libraries.



The site has book trailers, book reviews (and I love that the book the website author is currently reading is Melbourne’s Lili Wilkinson‘s Scatterheart), event ideas, information on graphic novels, ‘films of the book’ and more.

The monthly newsletter, although includes some content specific to the United Kingdom, has some interesting author interviews and book reviews. Well worth a look!

The Publisher’s Office

Penguin USA has developed a very interesting website, that adds value to their publications. The Publisher’s Office.


From the website comes the following information:

At Penguin we know that readers have a wide variety of interests and that finding an in-depth look at a particular author or subject can be difficult, if not impossible. From the Publisher’s Office makes it easy to learn more about your favorite authors-and to discover a few new favorites in the process. We hope you’ll watch, listen to, and read the programs found on these pages.

WATCH! In the Screening Room you can watch shows produced by us on a wide range of topics-from whether hypnosis really works to what Jon Scieszka, Ambassador for Children’s Literature, thinks about when he’s sitting down to write. From how an author and illustrator collaborate to create beloved characters to a look at what vampire romance fans are after now.

LISTEN! In the Radio Room you can hear editors at Penguin Classics interview scholars about enduring works, get tips for running a great small business, learn how following your passion can lead to professional success, and peek inside a poet’s process.

READ! In the Reading Room you can read early excerpts from a soon-to-be-published novel and read articles from some of our biggest nonfiction authors. Be sure to come back to chat with the author in one of our scheduled live chats.

 The Young Adult Central section sees videos of author interviews conducted by young adults.

YA Central
YA Central

A wonderful website for anyone interested in books, and the adult section could be useful for schools where literature is taught. YA Central has much to offer teenagers and the school libraries that cater for them. It would be lovely to see Penguin Australia add some Australian content or even start their own version of The Publisher’s Office.


LearnCentral is an online, social learning network for teachers and is affiliated with Elluminate, the online conferencing system featured here previously.

LearnCentral homepage
LearnCentral homepage

From the FAQs page comes the following information:

What can I do on LearnCentral?
Use LearnCentral to:

  • Connect with your peers worldwide
  • Share ideas, discuss issues, solve problems
  • Meet with colleagues in real time
  • Develop and share standards-based curriculum
  • Access a library of peer-rated resources
  • Discover relevant content for your classroom
  • Improve skills and increase effectiveness
  • Create and maintain a portfolio of learning content
  • Join and create groups
  • Collaborate on projects and best practices
  • Mentor and be mentored
  • Increase visibility of an academic institution
  • Conduct professional development training
  • Attend events with thought leaders in the education community
  • Participate in a global dialogue to help transform education

 What is LearnCentral?
LearnCentral is a new social learning network for education. More than a social network or a learning community, this open environment enables those who are passionate about teaching and learning to improve their education experiences and inspire others do the same. In addition to social networking tools that allow you to connect with others and share content and best practices, LearnCentral gives you the tools to meet in real-time virtual rooms and even hold and attend events.

Why is LearnCentral unique?
LearnCentral is a social learning network with a mission. Similar to the familiar No User Left Behindproduct philosophy for Elluminate, the rallying cry for LearnCentral is No Educator Left Alone. Here you can begin to make the connections you need-peer to peer, classroom to classroom, school to school, country to country-to form a collective wisdom that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Who can use LearnCentral?
If you are part of the global education community, LearnCentral is all about YOU as participant, contributor, and partner. Not just for Elluminate customers, LearnCentral is for ANYONE who is passionate about teaching and learning and wants to connect with like-minded colleagues to share, inspire, and be inspired.

Why should you join LearnCentral?
On the surface, LearnCentral is your opportunity to connect, share, and inspire on a global level, enabling you to be more productive and effective. At a deeper level, it’s a call to action to help bring about positive change within the education community worldwide. LearnCentral is about shared conversations and inspired collaborations, forward thinking and forward teaching, real-time dialogue and real-world results. Elluminate believes that the power of community has the power to transform.

What is Elluminate’s role in LearnCentral?
We think of ourselves as a facilitator or guide within the LearnCentral environment, much like a teacher in the learner-centered classroom. As part of the global education community, each of you has something to contribute and something to learn. Elluminate’s role is to provide an open online environment where this can happen freely and easily, including providing the enabling technology for real-time meeting and live events.

What is the philosophy behind LearnCentral?
At Elluminate, we believe that 21st century education calls for 21st century solutions. We understand that the learning landscape must evolve into what we call EDU 2.0, an environment in which Web 2.0 tools come together with traditional and virtual classrooms, physical campuses and distance learning programs, learning communities and social networks to transform education. The way we accomplish this is to be always learning-together.

Why was LearnCentral developed?
We listened to those in the academic community who told us they wanted a destination for education, a way to connect, collaborate, and learn with others on a global level. As a result, Elluminate has partnered with Edtuit, a free social collaboration site co-founded by a former developer of the Yahoo! Teachers community, to create a new kind of online environment that combines a social network, learning community, and grassroots movement to improve education.

As we continue to build our online, worldwide networks, LearnCentral seems to be one source that we should consider including. Thanks to Camilla Elliottfor the tweet on LearnCentral.

The Role of Reading in Guided Inquiry: Building Engagement and Understanding

Following on from a previous post about the excellent professional learning session delivered by Dr Ross J Todd from the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey; his colleague Dr Carol A Gordon presented an interesting session last week to School Library Association of Victoria delegates.

The Role of Reading in Guided Inquiry: Building Engagement and Understanding was the second presentation  of the day. If you are interested in the link between effective reading and the resulting effective researching, please view and consider this engaging, relevant and thoughtful and presentation.

The notes below are a record of the session:

Carol Gordon – The Role of Reading in Guided Inquiry: Building Engagement and Understanding

  • Reading with older students; learning phonics for 14 year olds in demeaning. Research came up with what did work. These are strategies that came from evidence-based research. Context is inquiry.
  • Can use information search process as a framework for these strategies.
  • “Children reading for Gilad Shalit” YouTube video shows real engagement even though students were previously struggling readers.
  • Need commitment, emotional attachment and engagement for the students to learn to research well.
  • We want the whole Blooms. Creating, evaluating, analysing, applying, understanding and remembering.
  • Authentic learning tasks such as this one based on Anne Frank: “A bit of outrage is a good thing that helps them engage with the task.” This is asking kids to be historians rather than journalists. Historians want to know the truth. Use primary documents and artifacts and interpret the evidence as they see it. Deep understanding of what history is, what historians do and the questions that they ask. Task to a high academic level. Problem solving, decision making, display and share their work. Choices about how they present; radio broadcast, write a news story, etc. Interdisciplinary applications. Methodology needs to encourage kids to use the new information in another way; relate to other situations; Blooms, variety in tasks. Keep a journal of blog to see how they are doing. Opportunities to work in groups and revise their work. Use rubrics to show students what good, average and poor looks like. We give them opportunities to reflect. Time is a pressure, but they need time to think. We must build that time in. Show them an exemplar of what a good news story looks like. Self assessment and peer review. Get kids to evaluate the task for you. How did it go for them? You will learn by asking them. You can then change this for the next time this is taught.
  • Formative assessments are based on journals, rubrics, portfolios, peer review, self-evaluations, Graphic organizers, Mapping, Checklists, Statements of intent, Rough drafts.
  • Reading skills are thinking skills. Our role in reading is much more expansive.
  • Free choice is the most important thing in terms of reading engagement.
  • Book; “Strategies that work” by Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey is worth looking at.
  • How is reading digital text different from reading print text? “Are we losing the deep culture of reading?” is a more pertinent question rather than “is the book dead?” Better for kids to print out rather than read from the screen as an intermediate step. Graphic organisers and concept mapping and Wordle are not enough. Use printouts to analyse notes so that you know what they really mean and you can work out what is important and what you should use. Hard copy is really important. Passive kinds of approach to reading is not getting kids where they need to be. Encourage them to annotate and gather, sort.
  • Never give a child something to read that is at instructional or frustration level if you expect them to read it independently. Need help with this at school.
  • When comprehension breaks down, many students skip sections or words that are confusing and pick the text up again where they can understand it. The problem is, they have lost valuable information and opportunity to improve their own reading. 
  • Activating Prior Knowledge (GNR) Emotional attachment needed. Prior knowledge is who you are; your experiences, your emotions. Tap into this to help kids read well.
  • o Establishing prior knowledge, or what the learner already knows, is critical to helping them read better. Research shows that there is no difference between the recall of good and poor readers when their prior knowledge is the same. Therefore, prior knowledge can be instrumental in improving reading comprehension.
  • § Here is an example. Mrs. Clark announces to the class that they are going on a nature walk. They go outside and walk across the street to a county nature park. They walk about a half-mile and stop. They sit down and Mrs. Clark asks the class to imagine that they are lost. She asks the students to help her come up with some ideas about how they can figure out where they are, and how they will get back to school. One student suggests backtracking until they recognize where they are. Another student suggests walking until someone recognizes a familiar tree or flower as a landmark. Another student suggests that Mrs. Clark use her cell phone to call the park supervisor to come and find them.
  • § Mrs. Clark relates each of the answers the students give to clarifying what you are reading.
  • § Backtracking is similar to rereading material when you realize that you have lost your way in the story and do not know what is happening. Looking for familiar landmarks is similar to readers activating prior knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax (Hackey, et al, 2003). Calling the park supervisor on a cell phone relates to referring to outside resources, such as dictionaries or atlases. The students begin to understand that pretending they are not lost is not going to get them out of the woods, and pretending to understand what they are reading when they really did not will not enable them to fully understand the reading assignment.
  • § When the class arrives safely to their classroom, Mrs. Clark gives the students a reading assignment and a pad of sticky notes. She models reading a short passage and marking words or concepts she is not quite sure of with the sticky notes. Students then practice reading independently and highlight any words or concepts that they do not understand in the text.
  • § The next day, they write the words they marked on the board. Mrs. Clark models ways to determine the meaning of the words, such as using a dictionary, using keywords surrounding the unfamiliar word, using picture clues, and rereading. The students are comforted to realize that many students wrote the same words on the board. This helps them to build a community of learners and helps Mrs. Clark to identify vocabulary words that need further explanation.
  • Kids pretend that they don’t have the breakdown in comprehension and they get more and more lost and disengaged. Kids need to be taught to ask questions.                                                                                             
  • o Brainstorming. Developing a purpose for reading.
  • o K-W-L chart.
  • o Using Visuals to assess prior knowledge. Why pictures? They inspire questions and interest. They provide a tangible element when focus blurs and clarity is elusive. Offer a starting point. Offer support of a group working with similar themes, situations. Record in a reflection sheet (done as a group).
  • o Use Wordle to create a reading/writing summary. Words that evoke images? Good self-analysis tool for peer assessment.
  • o Wordsift analyses text. More sophisticated. Concept map and mind maps are different. Asking kids to explain why topics/words are connected. These helps kids that are on information overload.
  • o Voicethread uses voice. They can create their own book talks. Naugatuck HS on VoiceThread. Authentic learning.
  • o Determining importance, All information is not equal. Get rid of what is not important. Illustrations are important; they can represent data in a table, graph, etc. Use these tools to elaborate on an idea. A quotation is an illustration. They need to elaborate on it and link it to one of their ideas.
  • o Statement of Intent with research question. TL must sign off on it. Passport to continue.
  • o Information circles. Idea of Literature circles and adapted to informational text. Group kids by topics they are interested in. Break up tasks. Students have roles (leader, illustrator, vocab guru).
  • o Different types of questions. Some info is literal, some is inferred. Give them ‘what if’ questions.
  • o Sticky notes or Diigo.
  • o Graphic organisers are very good for analysis. We don’t give kids the tools to process the information that they find. Graphic organisers give kids the ability to process and analyse notes.
  • o Kidspiration/Inspiration
  • o Inferring and predicting are just as important for informational text. Read with higher interest.
  • o Blogs effective with helping with reading, They read each other’s work. Get kids prepared for class. Framework for thinking about pre-reading. Many kids will read a blog rather than a book. Their absence is visible from a blog.
  • o Best books for visualizations: Visualize This: Books about the Arts, Notes on a Page: Books about Music, Into the Past: Books about History,
  • o Theories and Revelations: Books about Math and Science, Challenges and Change: Stories of Politics, Identity, and Understanding, Seriously Surreal: Tales of (Im)possibility, Over-the-Top: Sly and Sophisticated Humor, All Cracked Up: Fractured Fairy Tales and Fables
  • o Double entry journal. Quotes/My thoughts about quotes. Forces kids to interpret. Do I understand what I have read?
  • o Kids have to make connections with their reading text, eguse graphic novels for visual alternatives for stories
  • o 16 Steps to Monitoring and Regaining Comprehension
  • § 1. Reread.
  • § 2. Read ahead.
  • § 3. Stop to think
  • § 4. Try to visualize.
  • § 5. Ask a new question.
  • § 6. Make a prediction.
  • § 7. Study the illustration or other text feature.
  • § 8. Ask someone for help.
  • § 9 figure out unknown words.
  • § 10. Look at the text structure.
  • § 11. Make an inference.
  • § 12. Connect to background knowledge.
  • § 13. Read the author’s or illustrator’s note.
  • § 14. Write about the confusing parts.
  • § 15. Make an effort to think about the message.
  • § 16. Define/Redefine the purpose for reading the text.

 The School Library Association of Victoria should be congratulated for providing such transformational and important professional learning sessions. Thanks to Rhonda Powling for supplying Bright Ideas with some photos from the session.

Once upon a digital time

A very interesting article on e-books was published in The Age on Sunday (the headline of the print version was E is for eye-pod):

 Once upon a digital time


Christina Bell, of Mitcham’s Central Book Services, browses her e-reader over coffee.
Photo: Pat Scala

Liz Porter
June 21, 2009

MOST evenings Mandy Brett curls up on her couch to read a new Australian novel on her Sony e-reader, an electronic device that stores up to 350 books and allows her to “turn the page” with a flick of her finger. The senior editor at local company Text Publishing, Brett, 46, switched to e-reading 18 months ago because lugging manuscripts home was giving her a sore back.

A self-described “gadget head”, she is already onto her second e-reader, having recently upgraded to a newer version of the device. If she’s stuck waiting for a friend in a cafe, she’ll whip out her iPhone and read a few pages of Let the Right One In, a novel by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist.

For Brett, the e-reader means work. When she reads for fun, she sticks to paper books. The current embryonic state of Australian e-publishing makes it easy for her to keep her dual reading lives separate. As yet, she says, there are still too few local e-books available for download. While all major Australian publishers, including Text, are preparing for digitalisation, the only locals already selling e-versions of their titles are Pan Macmillan and Allen & Unwin. The only book chain marketing them is Dymocks. And the only bookshops where would-be customers can inspect an e-reader are Dymocks’ main Sydney store and Melbourne’s Reader’s Feast.

If Brett were in the US, she could have a $US359 Kindle – a wireless e-reader launched by in late 2007. Without going near a computer, she could use her device to download any one of many thousands of titles – and pay only $9.99 for the privilege. And she would be one of a growing mainstream crowd doing so. For every 100 “hard” book copies ordered on Amazon, an additional 35 Kindle editions are now being sold.

For more than 10 years, the e-book has been hyped as the “next big thing” in world publishing – a prediction usually underpinned by dire prophecies about the imminent death of the conventional “hard” book.

Now, more than a decade since the launch of the first clunky, chunky, expensive e-readers (one of which lost its stored information when the batteries were changed), the e-book era seems finally to have dawned, at least in the US.

E-publishing was the hot conversation topic among the 1500 publishers and booksellers gathered at last month’s BookExpo America in New York. American publishing association figures for the first quarter of 2009 had just revealed that e-book sales comprised 1.6 per cent of US publishing sales – a formidable increase, given the fact that, pre-Kindle, they were languishing at about 0.2 per cent. Moreover, e-books were the only book industry sector showing any kind of sales surge amid the global financial crisis, rising 131 per cent during that period.

Sydney bookseller Jon Page was at the BookExpo and says the buzz about e-books was real, offering proof that “the reality (of e-publishing ) was starting to outpace the hype”.

But when will the e-book revolution hit Australia? For many individuals, it is already here.

Melburnian Christine Bell is working in the midst of it. The manager of the technical helpdesk at Mitcham’s Central Book Services, which supplies the readers that Dymocks and Reader’s Feast sell, she says there are two groups of e-reader buyers. Twentysomething students love them. And so do 50-somethings, who have the time to read and explore the new world of digital reading – and the money to buy one of the five different e-readers that her company supplies, at prices ranging from $569 to $1600.

Herself a keen e-book reader, Bell owns a $569 Hanlin V3, containing free out-of-copyright classics from, along with Matthew Reilly’s Seven Ancient Wonders, which she bought from the Dymocks-Pan Macmillan site. A regular on the internet e-book forum, she also organised a meeting of 14 e-book buffs in a CBD cafe last weekend. All brought their different e-readers, including one Kindle.

“One woman came from Sydney for it,” she says.

The e-book revolution has also arrived for 40-something Melbourne communications manager Lisa Bigelow, who was thrilled to find that her iPhone came with the Stanza book-reading application. She promptly bought a program containing 40 classic novels, including Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.“It’s something you can read when you are waiting somewhere,” she says. “It saves carrying a book around.”

Meanwhile, the e-reading revolution has been slowly emptying the bookcase of Sydney-based accountant Charlie Perry, 31, who bought his Sony PRS-505 e-reader (the version before Mandy Brett’s PRS-700) for $450 on eBay in January last year. “That’s about half the price of buying an iRex iLiad (the e-reader Dymocks launched in December 2007),” says Perry, who happily uses his e-reader on the bus.

“I am a big reader – and I like gadgets. The e-reader weighs about 300 grams – about the same as a hardback book.” But he still reads paper books because, as with all Australian e-book fans, he is stymied by the comparative unavailability of Australian e-titles. He is also thwarted by the fact that many overseas book sites “lock out” buyers with Australian credit cards because they only have the rights to sell books in their particular territories. E-book fans, he says, share tips on “fooling” overseas sites into selling to them (by giving a US address for example), while gift vouchers allow Australians access to US sites.

His 18 months of e-reader ownership have transformed Perry’s attitude to book ownership – prompting him to give “hard” books away once he has read them.

“I’m determined this year to get my backlog of unread books down to zero, clear my bookshelf completely and move entirely over to digital reading. You come to value the experience of reading far more than you value the object. This, I suspect, is going to become a major issue for booksellers. The cost of reading a book must be cheaper than the cost of owning it – and significantly so.”

When publishers and booksellers speak of the arrival of the e-book revolution, they mean a visible, measurable and profit-making phenomenon. That phase, they agree, will probably begin in the next year or so, and will be kicked along by the launch in Australia of the Sony e-reader, expected in the next 12 months.

But opinions vary on the preconditions necessary to kick off a local e-book boom.

HarperCollins marketing director Jim Demetriou says his company has plans to offer every new title in e-book format, expanding its range to 1000 over time. But he believes e-books will only hit the mainstream when Australians get something like a Kindle. The launch of the Sony PRS-500 was the first breakthrough, he says.

“Before that, people were reading books on Palm Pilots. When Sony launched, sales doubled. But what drove sales in the US was the Kindle,” he says. “It quadrupled sales overnight.”

Others, such as Text’s Mandy Brett, or Australian Booksellers Association CEO Malcolm Neil, say lack of a sufficient breadth of “content” is the problem.

“Forget the Kindle and the Sony reader,” says Neil. “We can get hold of those. We can’t get hold of the books.”

E-publishing will remain “a world trend still waiting to happen in Australia” until all publishers, not just Pan Macmillan and Allen & Unwin, make their titles available in e-book form. According to Neil, Australian booksellers are watching overseas e-publishing growth with increasing frustration. Not because they are worried about competition with e-books, but because they want to be part of the e-publishing action.

“Our biggest concern is that if publishers hold off too long on developing a market and partnering with booksellers, we will be too far behind the game. This will leave our marketplace wide open to someone from overseas to come in and exploit it – and we will lose control.”

Pan Macmillan’s digital marketing manager, Victoria Nash, and Allen & Unwin’s digital publishing director, Elizabeth Weiss, have much in common. Their companies are the only two Australian publishers actually producing e-titles, with Pan Macmillan offering online versions of 300 British and 308 Australian titles, and Allen & Unwin fielding more than 1200, most of them Australian and available on the Australian website And both have looked on with envy at the sales generated by the customer-friendly Kindle system.

Weiss says there are also lessons to be learned from Sony’s launch in Britain late last year, in which the e-reader was introduced to old-fashioned book buyers in the familiar environment of the giant Waterstone’s book chain.

“All evidence indicates Australian readers are ready to use e-books on a larger scale than is currently the case,” she says. “It’s a matter of devices, availability, pricing and promotion.”

Richard Siegersma, executive chairman of Central Book Services, says that e-book reading needs to be made easier for Australians.

He won’t give sales figures for the various e-readers his company supplies, but says the electronic devices remain “an emerging market” because there are too few Australian titles available.

His company will soon set up its own e-book website, carrying 70,000 international titles, and will also launch a new, cheaper e-reader, the Eco-reader, costing less than $500 and linked to the website.

But will the inevitable boom in e-books mean the death of the paper book in Australia? Here, according to the most recent BookScan figures, 2008’s $1.214 billion book sales represented a 2 per cent increase on the previous year.

Sydney book seller Jon Page dismisses talk about the death of the book that he heard at last month’s New York book fair. At best, he says, e-books are predicted to eventually take up about 10 per cent of the book market, but with many sales concentrated in business, instructional and educational books.

Mandy Brett is also confident of the future of old-fashioned “hard” books. “People who love books and reading are very attached to the experience of paper.”

But e-books offer people an alternative experience, with e-readers allowing them to take 20 (or 40) books on holiday. Don Grover, chief executive of the Dymocks Group, says that his e-book website sales exceeded his two-year projections in its first six months, with current sales topping 2000 a month.

He sees digital book sales enhancing hard-book sales, with e-book formats allowing bookstores to hold up to 2 million titles and do “print on demand” versions of any book. He is also excited about new software from local company DNAML, which will allow film and video footage to be embedded in a e-book.

“Imagine: you’ll be able to watch an author explaining to you what a book is about,” he says.

Grover says reports of the death of the book are made by “people with no understanding of the consumer”. “Our research is clear: readers still want the smell and touch of a book.”

In his view, people who fuss about special e-readers also miss the point that many people read e-books on laptops.

Sherman Young, acting head of the department of media, music and cultural studies at Macquarie University and author of The Book Is Dead (Long Live the Book), says that this year the e-book has finally begun to move out of “geek territory” and into acceptance as an inevitable publishing development.

But the academic believes that the e-book will not kill the paper book until the experience of reading one is better, cheaper and more convenient. “An entire electronic book ecosystem needs to evolve – involving publishers, retailers and readers,” he says. So far, he says, Amazon’s Kindle store is an early version of that ecosystem, but still confined to the US.

“It will happen in my lifetime,” predicts the 43-year-old, who has the new Sebastian Faulks-penned James Bond novel on his iPhone.

“The paper book will eventually die. Or there will be a repurposing of it. The analogy I like to use is digital photography. Overnight – it took 10 years – nobody has a film camera any more and most people browse their photos on computer. But people still print some photos – and they still get photo albums.

“With books, a similar thing will happen, with most reading done on some sort of electronic device. Then people will turn to print for really nice photo books or gifts.”

Late last week California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called for publishers to replace textbooks with their electronic equivalent. Publishers Weekly posted this article  about the book industry’s response to his plea:

Pearson Answers Schwarzenegger’s Call for E-Textbooks

By Craig Morgan Teicher — Publishers Weekly, 6/18/2009 7:46:00 AM

Last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed replacing school textbooks with e-books in order to help plug a state budget gap. Now, textbook giant Pearson has responded with digital content to supplement California’s programs in biology, chemistry, algebra 2, and geometry.

In a statement made recently, Schwarzenegger said, “Kids are feeling as comfortable with their electronic devices as I was with my pencils and crayons. So why are California’s school students still forced to lug around antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks?” But easing the strain on students’ backs was not the Governor’s main reason for putting out a call to developers to create electronic textbooks. The current budget gap in the state is estimated at $28 billion.

Peter Cohen, Pearson’s CEO of North America school curriculum business, said, “We believe it is important to take these forward steps toward an online delivery system and we are supporting the Governor’s initiative, recognizing there are numerous challenges ahead for the education community to work through,” including “how we ensure that low income and disadvantaged students receive equal access to technology; how we address the needs of English language learners; and how we protect the intellectual property rights of content and technology creators to support future investment and innovation.” 

According to the official Web site for California’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative, e-books must “approach or equal a full course of study and must be downloadable.” The site also offers instructions and links for publishers of e-books to submit books for consideration for use in California schools.

Pearson is the first major company to respond to Schwarzenegger’s initiative, which garnered an array of responses from the media, from speculation in the U.K. that others will imitate the project, to others who point out that e-books in school are not more environmentally friendly than print textbooks.

This all provides ideas for thought and discussion for schools and libraries now and into the future.

The future starts now:e-books and everything

Curriculum Corporation and the School Library Association of Victoria present a joint conference, The future starts now: e-books and everything, on Friday 14 August 2009 at ACMI, Federation Square, Melbourne.

What IS happening around the world in e-book publishing? How are these emerging technologies finding their place in school classrooms, libraries and IT systems? Will changes in information and book format delivery impact upon student engagement and achievement? Hear up-to-the-minute reflections on these matters by authoritative presenters and receive advice on your school’s copyright responsibilities. A $150-value ‘Desktop author software’ license is included free in your registration. Experiment for yourself.

Registration details available at:

Tania Sheko’s English wiki

Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko has been busy! She has also created a wiki for the English class she has been working with.

Tania explains how the wiki came about:

The English wiki was created to support a particular English class but with a view to sharing resources with all English teachers. It’s in its very early stages, and will continue to evolve with time, according to the needs of the English class.

There is a variety of information and resources, including resources and ideas to support teachers (lesson ideas, rubrics, warm-ups), support for students (brainstorming ideas and research), ideas for using technology (cool tools, using multimedia, videos, Voicethread – podcasts are still coming), ideas for units of work (digital storytelling, using picture books), resources for ESL and VCE, and links to English blogs and wikis. Some pages have only one example, and others (lesson ideas, picture books, videos and Voicethread) have a longer list of resources.

Recently I’ve created a NING, which is a virtual learning community, and this will house the wiki, as well as providing a space for individual student blogs and countless discussions and groups.  At this stage the NING is a closed community.

The wiki and the NING are both in their early stages. I’m learning how to construct it as I go, and I’m using people in my own PLN (personal learning network) to help me. It’s great to be able to ask questions at any time, and receive replies from people all over the place. The best part of being a teacher is being a learner.

Tania is more than happy to have people join the wiki and make contributions.

Thanks Tania for sharing your hard work and ideas with us. Congratulations on the development of all your ICT tools.

Powering Up Minds and Powering Up Machines: Guided Inquiry, Reading and Web 2.0

Dr Ross J Todd and Dr Carol A Gordon from the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey presented two vital presentations this week to the Planning Learning Perspectives: Guided Inquiy Masterclass held by the School Library Association of Victoria.

Powering Up Minds and Powering Up Machines: Guided Inquiry, Reading and Web 2.0  is the first presentation and an exceptionally vibrant one. If you are interested in supporting students right through the researching, writing and presenting stages of assignments, you must experience Dr Ross J Todd’s powerful presentation.

The notes below are a record of the session.

Ross Todd – Powering Up Minds and Powering Up Machines: Guided Inquiry, Reading, and Web 2.0

  • Guided inquiry is not about ‘finding stuff’ but creating something with that stuff!
  • When classes come to the library, there is intensive information finding, printing, downloading, then we stop them coming to the library and send them off on their own! We abandon them at the most critical time of knowledge building.
  • We need to walk with kids on the information to knowledge journey. We must intervene instructionally along their journey. We can’t just assume kids can do these things on their own. We must support kids in ways that we’ve not traditionally done.
  • Guided inquiry is a partnership with teacher librarians, teachers and students.
  • Students often feel that they are doing research projects against their will.
  • The information world is not all safe and secure nor accurate. We have to get students to see this.
  • “Libraries should be cesspools of intellectual discontent”.
  • How do we really develop kids as critical thinkers?
  • Cut and paste article from Wikipedia and run it through Wordle. This gives them the vocabulary of the topic.
  • Run school library information policy through Wordle. What does it say? Run research assignments through Wordle. Are they superficial? Describe/list? Or Bloom’s higher order level? Examine intellectual capacity of what you are asking kids to do.
  • We need to get over define, locate, select. This contributes to plagiarism because they don’t know what to do with the stuff that they find. Yes important, but we need to construct ideas.
  • Carol Kuhlthau’s research model. Frameworks and structures that are built on research.
  • How we use the Web 2.0 tools to build deep knowledge. How do we support them all the way along?
  • Plan deep and rich inquiry based projects.
  • Kids begin with limited, vague knowledge. This is okay. All our kids begin searching with Google. Let’s work with it. Google, Wikipedia(quite reasonable) this is helping them get their head aroundthe topic. Don’t stop this as they are trying to build a knowledge picture of their topic. These notes should only be for background knowledge. This is where the research process goes wrong. We must give kids choice. This model gives three levels of choice. 1st  choice: selection stage; pick the topic. Must let them build background knowledge first. Wallow in their choice and allow them to get a foothold in it. General resources such as Wikipedia play a role here.
  • 2nd choice: formulation. Kids encounter differences in the background material. Here is where students develop their focus questions that they are going to explore. What makes them curious, what intrigues them? Do this with guidance. Deep knowledge and understanding. This is only developed after they have a background understanding of their topic.
  • Collection stage has 2 important meanings; Background knowledge then move into a secondary set of resources that enables them to ask complex questions. Away from elemental stuff to a higher level of resources. How do I now construct my knowledge?
  • 3rd choice: presentation. How am I best going to represent my deep knowledge? What is the structure going to be? Who’s going to listen to me? As a journalist reporting? As a scientist making a report to a govt body? May need instructional interventions. Don’t abandon them.
  • VELS and guided inquiry. E5 model fits nicely with the research based inquiry model.
  • How do we use Web 2.0 tools to help develop tools for inquiry? Raft of tools that foster production of content. Generate deep knowledge. Shift to community act of personal engagement with topic to create. Platform gives provision of information, production and sharing information.
  • 45% of 9-12 year olds have online profiles.
  • How do we use ToonDoo and Voki to develop deep knowledge and understanding? We need them to foster thinking and creativity? Important criteria before we select the Web 2.0 tools to use in our classes.
  • How am I using this tool to think? How are kids using this to foster deep thinking? Meta cognition? Do they help kids think? Or just another toy? How do they develop kids reading environment? The way information is structured? Does it help them use language and to read? Need to develop other critical competencies. How do we use them safely? How do we engage and participate? How do we manage the content? Beyond traditional information literacy skills. 
  • How do schools deal with ethical issues? They shut them down. How do we use these environments to deal with inappropriate stuff?  John Dewey. Learning by doing and experiencing. Engage them in safety in some of these environments.
  • Does it promote critical thinking? Where does it fit in the inquiry process?
  • Blogs for blogs sake is a useless experience. How do blogs support inquiry? What are we saying in the blog? What is the message? What’s my response? Provide 5 facts we didn’t know about topic. Sources. Explain something. We need to direct them to learn how to craft a response. Are they being used in an analytical way? Collect and craft responses. Engage critically. Use the blogging space to teach and intellectual ability. Look at the responses. What do you conclude? Sustained and intellectually sound position statement. Reflective response. Thinking process and Personal Learning within VELS. How this space becomes a thinking space for the kids.
  • Uses wikis for groups of students working in one space. A living document. People work together to generate and maintain the document. Wikipedia is the best example of this. Social construction of knowledge; community watchdog, a group of people negotiate meaning. A group’s best effort. Teaching kids how teams work together, how to deal with conflict (others edit entries), negotiation skills, managing documents. Construct a picture of prior knowledge.
  • Use Wikipediastrategically. Fabulous for building background knowledge. Go through an article with them. If there are errors, edit it and fix it. If kids write a fantastic piece about a specific topic, get them to submit it to Wikipedia. That their ideas are worthy of giving back to the universe of knowledge. Formative and summative assessment. Use a wikispace for drafts of their work. PQP. Praise, Questions, Polish.
  • Wonder wheel. Connections and relational documents. Timeline shows primary resources. creates a topical matrix. Great for building background knowledge. Gives kids a way of building topics selection, choices. Away from constant writing of meaningless facts.

Dr Ross Todd is an energising, transformational educator. If there is ever an opportunity to attend professional development sessions with him, do everything in your power to be there! What an amazing person!