Zotero available for Chrome and Safari users


Good news for users of Zotero, with the service now available to users as a standalone program. For those unfamiliar with Zotero, it is a free online bibliographic management tool. It enables you to collect and organise your resources (books, images, journal articles, newspapers, videos, websites, etc.) and helps you put together a bibliography – plus it’s really easy to use. There is also an opportunity to create an online community to share and collaborate.

Up until this point, Zotero was only available through the Firefox browser. Now the service has been updated to a standalone program with plugins for Google Chrome and Apple Safari users too. All you need to do is download Zotero version 3.0 on either Chrome, Safari, or Firefox browsers.

You can find more information about this new enhancement at the Zotero blog.

To install Zotero 3.0 go to the download page

To learn about the functionality of Zotero, watch these short videos.


The Curator’s code

Back when the internet was largely a static collection of web pages, many web sites consisted merely of lists of links to other pages. At one stage it seemed that the internet was just an infinite loop of links between pages with little new content being created. This trend was unsustainable, and the efficiency of search engines (which are in many ways just automatically updated link pages), seemed to remove the need for these curated links pages.

The popularity of blogging and the incredible flood of content that came with it led to a new need, with services such as Twitter allowing people to filter information and share links that might not be so easily discoverable with search engines. In the past couple of years we have seen the rise of the ‘curator’ and an increase in the popularity of tools that allow people to collate links.

This raises the issue of how to not only correctly reference the original source, but also how to give attribution to the intermediary who shared the source. If a person you follow on Twitter shares a great link, do you need to provide attribution to them if you then share that link somewhere else? What happens if the sharing chain is even longer than that?

In an effort to address the issue, Maria Popova set out to establish the Curator’s code, which outlines the use of two terms (and specially created symbols) that Popova hopes will clarify attribution issues. ‘Via’  can be used to indicate a direct link, while a ‘hat tip’ signifies an indirect link, inspiration or a story lead.

After Popova explained the process of creating the code a good deal of debate developed, not just about proper attribution but also about the impact of curation on content creators. Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, dismissed the code as unecessary, and raised the point that attributing the sharer of a resource is not that important. In his post I’m not a curator he claims that people who share resources should “just consider good story links as a free resource that we all pull from and that doesn’t belong to anyone.”

Others made the distinction between services like Twitter or Paper.li which actually drive traffic to the original site, compared to some curated websites that have been accused of essentially repackaging another site’s content and stealing advertising revenue. Respected journalist David Carr addressed this point when discussing the Curator’s code at SXSW.

Are ‘curators’ providing a useful service or merely building their own reputations using the work of others? How important is it to provide attribution to the work of people who filter and share information online? After the debate began, Popova set out to clarify some of her beliefs about the importance of curation and attribution. She describes curation as ‘a drive to find the interesting, meaningful, and relevant amidst the vast maze of overabundant information’  and labelled this skill as ‘an increasingly valuable form of creative and intellectual labour.”

Free image editors from Pixlr

If you are looking for powerful yet free online image editors then you will find what you need in the range of services offered by Pixlr. The Pixlr suite offers a comprehensive range of tools and no login is required to use them.

The Pixlr Express service features simple photo editing tools like crop, filter and red eye reduction. There are also a number of borders and filters to edit your picture. The site is an excellent alternative to the popular Picnik editor which will be closing in April.

For more complicated editing tasks, the Pixlr Editor service is very similar to Photoshop. It has a number of high- end editing functions such as layers, filters and brushes. Images can then be saved or uploaded to online services like Facebook, Flickr, or Picasa.

Both services use Flash, so at this stage you can’t use them on an iPad. However, the free Pixlr-o-matic app  is available for Android, IOS and in your browser. It allows you to add retro filters to your pictures and share them online.

Find out about the full range of Pixlr editing and storage services

PLN update

This year’s Personal Learning Network (PLN) course is underway, and we’ll bring you updates to refresh the memories of alumni and perhaps update your own web toolbox and PLN community.
The 2012 intake began simply, with discussions and reading about the idea of PLNs, creating a Google account and Reader subscriptions, and a couple of tasks to introduce some bright ideas early on.
Participants posted a message on Wallwisher about what they hoped to achieve in the course, and placed themselves on a Google map: both tools that can be used to collaborate with colleagues and in libraries or classrooms. It also gave participants a means of sharing information and reading about other people’s hopes and fears.


Image of Wallwisher wall

The next task was to set up a PLN blog, a huge task for people who’ve never done such a thing before. The blogs are coming in thick and fast, with some great posts and designs already. Take a little look here.
A web conference including a discussion with Miffy Farquharson (Mentone Grammar) and Celia Coffa (St Luke’s, Blackburn) introduced people to the Elluminate/Collaborate software and allowed us to connect and talk.
This week, people are launching themselves into social media, signing up for Twitter, facebook and testing out Skype.
The VicPLN facebook group is part of the course but also an ongoing PLN community to which you are all welcome.


Image of Google map

A number of PLN participants have asked whether there are any classes or schools out there who’d like to connect through Skype or blogs.
Any takers?

An apple a day…

The latest model of Apple’s iPad is now on sale in Australia, with several stores opening at midnight for the launch. Much has been written about the improved display, faster processor and better camera. However for the education sector the greater impact may be on the pricing of the older model.

The iPad 2 has now been reduced in price, with the base model starting at $429. This places it much closer to the price of a netbook or low powered laptop computer. With educational discounting available, along with the recent announcement of Apple’s move into digital textbooks, it seems that Apple are making an even more concerted push into the education market.

The difficulty of managing multiple devices has been seen as one of the barriers for the introduction of iPads in a classroom setting. Apple look to be addressing this concern with the launch of a free utility for Mac called Configurator, which allows administrators to manage a class set of iPads. You can read CNet’s early impressions of the Configurator utility here.

For educators considering the introduction of iPads in the classroom, there are a number of useful resources available. The iPads for Learning website features details of the Victorian iPad trial. The trial details the implementation of iPads in ten educational settings throughout Victoria. You might also like to watch a video reflection by teachers and students at Epsom Primary School, one of the schools involved in the trial. The Slide2Learn website also has some great resources for educators looking to use Apple devices in the classroom.

Lastly, for anyone who is lucky enough to have picked up a new (or older) iPad you’ll probably want to buy some apps. Make sure you visit Gift Cards on Sale which keeps track of discounted Itunes cards.



Closing the book on the printed encyclopaedia


The New York Times has reported the the Encyclopaedia Britannica will no longer produce a printed edition as content will now only be available digitally. The decision ends a 244 year tradition and signals a significant shift by the encyclopaedia’s Chicago publisher.

While many have predicted that the rise of easily updatable websites like Wikipedia would see the end of the printed encyclopaedia, this might not mean the end of the printed book as others are touting. The encyclopaedia may well have been the form of printed book most threatened by the increasing reliance on digital content. The relatively slow process of editing and publishing means that many entries can be out of date before the volume hits the shelves.

Is this need for constantly updated information- with an emphasis placed on the speed of updating rather than rigour- a worrying trend? Surely it just further emphasises the importance of being able to critically analyse a source for reliability and accuracy. Maybe it will lead to an even savvier generation of readers who constantly question the reliability of information and evaluate their sources.

Perhaps the greater concern for many (apart from any door-to-door encyclopaedia sellers still out there) may be that we may no longer have printed copies that document the prevailing knowledge of our time. Older encyclopaedias like the Nuremberg Chronicle provide an insight into the accepted beliefs of a time period, or at least the accepted beliefs of the writers and editors. Surely this move to digital content raises even more issues surrounding digital archiving and preservation. Maybe people will be visiting libraries and museums in a hundred years to pore over archived copies of Wikipedia.

Should we be concerned about this shift to digital, or is it time to accept that the printed encyclopaedia can’t compete with the wealth of constantly updated content available?


Love and Devotion education resources


Today sees the opening of the Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond exhibition at the State Library of Victoria. The exhibition features a number of rare Persian manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford. The State Library of Victoria education team has produced a resource for teachers that examine the manuscripts and the stories told within.


The resource includes several inquiry units and activities that can be used to explore the famous tales. Templates have been provided which feature characters from the manuscripts, so your students can create puppets or make their own comic. There are a number of picture files including characters and backgrounds that can be downloaded and used to create digital comics in programs such as Comic Life.


The exhibition is free and is open until July the 1st, 2012. Information about bringing school groups can be found here. Teachers are also invited to a special evening viewing of the  exhibition on March 20th from 5.30-7.00pm.



Library guides at the State Library

Librarians from the State Library of Victoria have been putting together Library guides on various subject areas to help people with their research tasks.

It’s essentially a cheat sheet that guide you through the research process by wading through the array of resources available to you.

Here’s a sample of what’s been created:
1. Aboriginal people & the law
2. Adoption & forgotten Australians
3. Bushfires
4. Companies in Australia
5. Court cases in Australia
6. Early Australian census records
7. Finding Australian legislation
8. Finding book reviews
9. Finding music scores & popular songs
10. Finding poetry

Image of research guide on census

There are 28 more guides on a range of topics but you can see the entire list here.

It’s commonplace for universities to have library guides, so do check them out for other subject areas, especially for senior students. Or you can create your own easily and quickly, in LibGuides.

Let us know if you’ve already created some LibGuides – we’d love to hear about them.

Social media and new online behaviours

Seth Godin’s written a short blog entry about social media’s ability to spout and scout. By that he means:
Spout: to talk about what we’re up to and what we care about.
Scout: to see what others are spouting about.

Godin also points out that up until now this information was pretty much private, and our activities were not commercial. Now we are seeing a flourishing of sharing activity – access to information about our interests and passions has never been easier.

For example, it has enabled like minded people to pursue their interests together, collaborating with strangers, or learning more about our friends; and has enabled new ways of doing business – such as self promotion via blogs, and businesses gathering information about ourselves to better customise their products to name a few…

You can read more of his thoughts here.

If this then that






Many of us rely on a variety of web tools to stay in touch with new posts, keep track of links and then share valuable resources. While some of the more popular services allow you to link your accounts together and share with one click, what can you do if two of your favourite tools don’t work together at all?

If this then that (IFTTT) allows users to create rules that link online accounts together. Using a simple trigger (if this) and action (then that) format, you can automate an action based on an event. For example, you could automate a task so that whenever you favourite a tweet then the link will be automatically added to your Delicious bookmarks. You might want any links you post on Facebook to automatically be added as a new note in your Evernote account, or have any photographs you upload to Instagram appear in a new Tumblr post. There is a full list of supported tools on the IFTTT website and developers have indicated that more tools will be added over time.

Any rules you create can be shared as ‘recipes’ for other people to use, and there are a number of pre-made recipes that you can add to your own account.

Here’s the way you can get started and make your first automated task.

  1. Create an account at If this then that
  2. Visit the channels page and activate the accounts you want to use. You will need to provide your username and password for each service.
  3. Visit the tasks page and click Create new task. Click on IF THIS and then select the account that will be the trigger.
  4. Choose a trigger related to the account. For example, a trigger from Twitter could be if you send a new tweet, or you retweet, or you send a tweet with a particular hashtag. Choose your trigger and click create trigger.
  5. Now choose THEN THAT and choose the account that the event will be created in. Then choose the action that should occur.
  6. Depending on the account you are using, you may also be given further options to customise the action. Once you are happy with the action click Create action.
  7. The task should now be active, and If This Then That will check for new activity every fifteen minutes. If you’d like to share the rule you’ve created then click on the mortar and pestle icon to create a recipe that can be used by other IFTTT users.

Does it all sound a bit complicated? The video below runs through an example of creating an automated task.