Sovereign Hill Education Resources

Our guest post today comes from Sovereign Hill Education Officer Stephanie Rosestone. The Sovereign Hill team have some great free professional development opportunities and resources for teaching history.

This year Sovereign Hill Education is running free webinars offering professional learning opportunities for teachers. In Term 2 there will be two webinars: How to find good resources for teaching history (Thursday 3 May) and Innovative history teaching in practise (Mon 14 May). For more information and to register visit here.
If you’re going to be teaching Australian History, Sovereign Hill Education has a number of free online resources to support your programs. Our Education Website is a great place to start. Here you will find a Teachers section that includes Bibliographies of Resources, Teaching Kits, VELS units and upcoming PDs (including a one day conference AusVELS History in the Primary Classroom in July). There is also a section called Talking about Learning that includes videos of teachers and students talking about their experiences of teaching and learning history. The Students section of our website includes images, research notes and audio files retelling excerpts of primary source documents.
We look forward to being part of your Professional Learning Network. You can find us on Twitter @GoldfieldsEd or you can follow our blog where we will be sharing resources, news and ideas.


Featured post: instaGrok

Today our featured post comes from Bev Novak, writer of the fantastic NovaNews blog. Bev’s post is about the new educational search site instaGrok, which looks like a very promising tool that includes elements of Google’s now defunct Wonderwheel.

instaGrok – a winner for those who loved Wonder Wheel!
The value of social networking is profound!   I’m sure that without it, it would have taken me a while to discover instaGrok
instaGrok – an interactive learning tool provides an expansive array of returns for each search.   Producing a spiral visual graph on the left pane, numerous links are simultaneously generated on the right hand panel and are neatly categorized under headings: key facts, websites, videos, images, quizzes and concepts.   With a tab to moderate the level of difficulty of results returned, this tool really has enourmous potential as a teaching tool. The ‘about’ tab on the homepage, also tell us that instGrok
  • finds age-appropriate educational content on any topic presented with interactive multimedia interfaces
  • generates quiz questions based on student’s research activity and skill level
  • supports creation of research journals and concept maps for learning assessment
Just take a look at this short video which appears on the instaGrok homepage:
For those of us who lamented the disappearance of Wonder Wheel – that great tool which simply vanished from the Google suite of tools about a year ago –instaGrok sure looks to be a winner!


You can find the original post here. Make sure you also have a look at Bev’s Book Blog, which features news and reflections on literature and books. Thank you Bev for sharing your work with us.


Guest post: Just teach the normal way, she said

Today’s guest post comes from Kate Mildenhall, Education Officer at the State Library of Victoria and a participant of the 2012 Victorian Personal Learning Network. The post was written in preparation for Unit 5 of the PLN, which poses the question ‘Which comes first, pedagogy or technology?’  Kate’s post following a conversation with her niece is a fascinating insight into the thoughts of a student about the role of technology in the classroom.

“I have to take a moment to get down a conversation with a year 9 student (also a niece) I had last weekend. Let this stand as a prologue – or perhaps an aside – to my thinking that will happen with Unit 5. Around a restaurant table laden with an Indian feast, I asked my niece (let’s call her C) how school was going and what was happening in her life. C has always been a conscientious kid; precocious, with two much older siblings, engaged in the world, passionate about injustice, an all-round lovely person to spend time with. So I take with a grain of salt some of her tirade against teachers in general and put some of it down to ‘year 9′ness’ and a general need to buck the system, nevertheless, her attitude towards school, education and teachers in general was a bit of a shock to me.
The best classes, she said, were those where the teachers were careless enough just to leave the kids alone so they could get on Facebook and Tumblr. Ah yes – Tumblr, I said, I use that a bit.  She looked at me blankly when I asked how she was using it with her mates and guffawed loudly when I asked if she would consider using it for ‘school’ stuff. Nah, she said, our mates just use it to post videos and stuff we like. Oh, I said, that’s basically what we do too – probably what a lot of your teachers are doing with blogs. Yes, she said, but when a teacher asks us to use it, it just makes it completely uncool. They’re trying too hard. Just leave us alone with the technology stuff and just teach the normal way.
My eyebrow raised inadvertently as I asked what the normal way might be. You know, she said, like projects and stuff. Our conversation trailed off in to how the most successful graduate from her school would be the kid who sorts the proxy for Facebook and hacks the network regularly.It’s an understatement to say it left me thinking. Are we stuck in a catch 22 in schools at the moment? How many kids feel like this? Is C struggling because she is bored and unchallenged and unengaged or is the system such that it can not work for her in its current model? Ironically C is about to head off to a place at Alpine School for a term and said she was really looking forward to the challenge of being without her phone and uncensored internet and communication. Is there a backlash from kids about the way technology is fed to them in the classroom – too slow, too controlled, too directed? Hmmmmmm – I leap in to Unit 5 and 21st Century pedagogy with so many questions!”

Shelflife: Harvard Library Innovation Laboratory

The Harvard Library Innovation Laboratory has piloted a number of projects looking at how their collections are accessed online. One of the most interesting is the Shelflife/LibraryCloud project.

LibraryCloud  aggregates collection and usage metadata from a number of different libraries and feed them into Shelflife, a sample front end for how this kind of information might be viewed and used by library patrons.

Main features of the interface include:

  • use of the visual metaphor of a book shelf (Stackview) to help people browse popular titles trending at libraries across America
  • all books appear in context and have their own page with recommendations and tags

At this stage Shelflife is a testing environment which is best introduced by taking the online tutorial, although you can also explore the site independently.

Ten meta-trends from the Horizon Project

The New Media Consortium (NMC) is an international community of experts on technology in education who produce an annual report known as The Horizon Report.

Horizon reports highlight key trends in technology and education for the year to come, with an emphasis on innovation and adoption of new devices into schools and higher education.

In commemoration of the tenth year of the project, the NMC will issue a report highlighting key meta-trends in technology and education. The top ten trends have been released:

  1. The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.
  2. People expect to work, learn, socialize, and play whenever and wherever they want to.
  3. The Internet is becoming a global mobile network — and already is at its edges.
  4. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based and delivered over utility networks, facilitating the rapid growth of online videos and rich media.
  5. Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information — is moving from a trend to a value for much of the world.
  6. Legal notions of ownership and privacy lag behind the practices common in society.
  7. Real challenges of access, efficiency, and scale are redefining what we mean by quality and success.
  8. The Internet is constantly challenging us to rethink learning and education, while refining our notion of literacy.
  9. There is a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities and training.
  10. Business models across the education ecosystem are changing.


CYL turns 21

The Centre for Youth Literature has come of age this year, reaching the ripe old age of 21.

In celebration, the Centre is hosting two events, one for library professionals and another for students on Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd February respectively.

Authors involved in both days’ events include Melina Marchetta, David Levithan, Michael Pryor, Alison Goodman and Simmone Howell.

For more information, visit the Centre’s blog Read Alert.

Here’s to another year of Bright Ideas

As the year draws to a close we come to the last Bright Ideas post for 2011. It’s been a wonderful year of sharing and collaboration and a big thank you goes out to all of our guest bloggers and contributors who worked with us this year. Thanks especially to Rachel, who did such a fantastic job with the blog early in the year.

Most importantly, thanks to all of our readers who make our community vibrant and exciting. We’ve welcomed many new followers through programs like the VicPLN and the work of SLAV, who do such an amazing job in supporting educators everywhere. The strength of Bright Ideas is the wonderful sense of sharing and community that exists amongst our readers, who constantly inspire us with their willingness to help each other.

From all of us at the Bright Ideas, we wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday season. Enjoy your break, recharge those batteries and we’ll see you back here in 2012.

How connected are you?

Connected: the film

Hamish Curry, Education Manager at the State Library of Victoria, explores his feelings about the film Connected:

It was back in early September at a Gathering ‘11 event organised by David Hood that I first watched ‘Connected’, a film about “love, death and technology” by Tiffany Shlain. The film stimulated a whole bunch of complex thoughts and ideas I’d been having around the ways in which we relate to one another, and the tools of technology we’re using to help improve these relations. A tweet response from Tiffany afterwards, along with some email networking led me to organise the State Library’s own screening of the film on November 23. I’ve seen Connected four times since September, and each time something new resonates. I love the shock value of Albert Einstein who said that “if honeybees were to disappear, humankind would be gone in four years.”

Connected weaves a myriad of personal, historical, and global issues and challenges together, showing us that patterns are emerging amongst these random pieces. From the evolution of language, to our reliance on machines and the demands we’re placing on the hemispheres of the brain, humans are making more and more rapid decisions, connections, and discoveries. The film’s premise is that while technology is changing the way we communicate, relate, work and consume, it is having unintended impacts on our well-being and that of the planet around us.

I think all of us familiar with technology sense this, and no doubt all those who have been involved with the VicPLN program experienced various levels of anxiety and excitement around the tools of the web as well. Yet the film also highlights how technology is enabling us to make better and faster connections to issues confronting us and to the people who share our passions. Technology has helped us visualise data, trends, thoughts, and images in new ways. As such, the film promotes deeper thinking and reflection. There have been some great posts from people like Judith Way and Jenny Luca. Some see Tiffany’s story being quite self-indulgent, others see her experiences as being symptomatic of our struggle to connect.

For me it has stirred up a passion around a radical rethink of how we approach education. The traditional system broke learning down into disconnected but measurable chunks and pieces, which mirrored our thinking around literacy, numeracy, and sciences. Now more and more educators are realising that we’ve reached a point where we need to put these back together, creating an integrated, blended, and connected education system, where the school is simply a node in a much bigger community, both locally and internationally.

Another big node is libraries. They are at cross-roads too. Their ability to be hubs of information and community connections is beginning to be leveraged in new and exciting ways. It’s a nice time to be part of libraries and education; change is an expectation. So in closing, I’ll leave you with a Connected thought for 2012 from John Muir, who said “when you tug at a single thing in the universe, you find it’s attached to everything else.”

PLN for 2012

Personal Learning Network website

The next Personal Learning Network (PLN) program will run for 12 weeks beginning 5th March 2012. For more information visit State Library website page or email

The program, run by the State Library of Victoria in association with SLAV, is part of a network of inspired and inspiring people embracing technology and social media in schools around the world.

This self-paced, online learning program developed by and for teacher librarians, teachers, and school library technicians features practical how-to sessions and online mentoring.

Anne Fraser, a recent alumni of the program created this Prezi – PLN Learning Network using comments and feedback from her new network, discussing the program itself but also using her PLN to do it.

Poetry mash up: Leanne Hampson

The Resourcehound

Leanne Hampson (aka The Resourcehound) from Brauer Secondary College recently completed the PLN program and is experimenting with web tools in her library and classroom. Her guest post today talks about how to create poetry mash ups with students.

Recently I was studying poetry with my year 9 English class, mainly focussing on analysing particular poems. Most students seem to find it difficult to create their own poetry and I certainly find it very difficult to assess (poetry is such a personal thing, don’t you think?). Then I happened across a Bright Ideas post about the Phat Poetry site and although I couldn’t seem to get the mash up function to work (more investigation required!), it was the spark I needed.

One thing I have discovered is that while students can use some computer programs well, they needed a lot of guidance and suggestions on how they might present their mash ups. Whenever I promote a particular web tool or program I like to demonstrate it to the students as well (the old, ‘and I expect yours to be much better than mine…’). This meant creating some mash ups of my own. This was quite addictive and I spent far too long on my ‘demos’ when I should have been writing reports…oh well.

Students used two texts with a similar theme but they could choose these themselves. I recommended they select song lyrics they felt strongly about and then we went to the library and searched the poetry collection for something that matched. Then students had to take lines from each text, find images and music to match the feel and atmosphere and then decide on a program to create their mash up. I recommended to students that they use either Photostory, Animoto, Movie Maker or Glogster. All of these have the capacity to combine text, images and sound together. I made examples in Photostory, Animoto and Glogster to show them.

Some issues we had were that Animoto tended to ‘eat’ their internet quota pretty quickly and its ability to add text is limited. But it does come out looking absolutely smashing! Glogster is also simple to create but I did struggle with how to let students share their work. I think this was because I was unfamiliar with the new Edu Glogster though, rather than a limitation of the site. Photostory was very straightforward and was probably the most successful of the three. We worked together to solve issues and had a great time in class looking at everyone’s work.

Overall the students were very engaged. They loved using their computers and the final products were impressive. It is amazing how effective the new texts were. One student used poetry written by her grandmother and even the ‘I hate poetry’ boys got enthused. I also used Rubistar to create an assessment rubric for the task (if you’d like a copy, contact me via my blog, The Resourcehound, or Twitter, @LHampso).

Here is an example I made using Animoto. It features ‘Been Caught Stealing’ by Jane’s Addiction and the poem ‘Stealing’ by Carol Ann Duffy.